Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Break and Frightful (or Delightful) Weather

I finished my first college courses on Monday. The last thing I had to do was write two research papers, and in the process I ended up with a rather scholarly-looking stack of books. It's not really what it looks like--I didn't use all of these books and I only needed small portions of them, but it was funny to have such a big stack of books in my room. Anyway, it's nice to be on Christmas break now, and what a Christmas break it's been!

The weather suddenly got rather arctic last Sunday, and it's been fun to watch it this whole week. Living near the mouth of the gorge means we get some violent, howling winds in addition to the snow. Right now the wind is blasting the snow down the street and rushing around the house. Our family enjoys exciting weather, but I know it's unpleasant for many. It's nice to have snow, since it's so unusual around here.

We've also been watching the birds a lot. You would think they would nestle down somewhere in the woods and wait things out, but they've still been at our feeders. It seems like it would be difficult to eat when you're trying to cling to a swinging feeder for dear life.
And then there's the hummingbirds. We have a window feeder for them, and amazingly, they've been out there through all of this weather. The nectar freezes and snow covers the top, so we thaw it out, and they keep coming back. They look so pathetic, though!
I've been taking some Christmas tree pictures, so I'll post a few of those.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Washington, D. C.

After New York, our next destination was the Washington, D. C., area to visit Uncle Dan and family, and Uncle Don. We stayed with Uncle Dan's family outside of D. C. on the Virginia side. We felt very welcome, and we had a great time with them. It was nice to spend all of Sunday with them, and to have the opportunity to go to their church for morning and evening worship. We had blocked out Monday for sightseeing around the National Mall. We got a fairly early start and headed into the city on the Metro. After picking up tickets for the Washington Monument, we walked around the Capitol. We couldn't go in, because you can only go in on tours, and the tours for the day were already filled up. Walking around the outside was fun anyway.

There's a directory with phone numbers for all kinds of people at the Capitol just standing next to the sidewalk.
From senators... the Capitol plumber.

They were doing work on the windows of the Capitol. Looks like an interesting job.

Here's Christina in front of the House of Representatives side of the building.

The Supreme Court Building

Union Station, where we had lunch. All the nice restaurants are in the pretty part; then there's all the fast food places in the basement part. We ate in the basement.

We visited the Museum of Natural History (no pics of that), and then split up to see two more museums. Mom and Dad went to the Air and Space Museum, and Christina and I went to the National Art Gallery.

The Art Gallery has covered courtyards surrounded by the actual rooms where all the artwork is. This is one of them.

This is the main hall at the center of the building.

After that we walked from the Washington Monument down the side of the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. On our way we passed the new World War II Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial

Looking back from Lincoln Memorial towards the Washington Monument.

We ended by going up inside the Washington Monument.

This statue was next to the elevator to go up to the top. While we were waiting for the elevator, we also noticed that the floor was covered in beautiful mosaics.

At the top you can look out in all directions at the D. C. area.

Looking towards the White House.

Down the Mall towards the Capitol.

Towards the Jefferson Memorial.

Christina and I agreed that in order not to look like tourists, one must show no excitement about being on the Mall. So here's me trying to look the part.

We left the Mall and met my Uncle Don not far away for dinner at a nice place called Old Ebbits Grill for dinner. It was a good end to a long day in downtown D. C.
We left D. C. on Tuesday for another good but brief visit, this time with Uncle Dale and family in Pennsylvania. Then Wednesday we drove back to Newark and flew back home.

New York City

Our first stop was New York City, where my Aunt Nancy lives.  Because of weather delays, we didn't land at Nework Airport until about 2 a. m.  We crashed in our hotel room until later that morning.  This was the view from our hotel room window on the eigth floor--a train yard and Jersey City (I think).           
We decided that though we would not go to the island it's on, we wanted to at least see the Statue of Liberty, so on our way to Aunt Nancy's in the Bronx, we stopped at Liberty State Park.  It's on the New Jersey side, but it's right next to the water, so you can see across to Manhattan, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty--her back, that is.  It was cloudy that day, so things look a little dull.     
Below is Ellis Island.  The bridge is some sort of access bridge to the island--but not for tourists!  There were security guards there to make sure no one got on the bridge who wasn't allowed to.   On the far right of the picture is the Statue of Liberty.
The skyscrapers rising up in the background are Manhattan. As you can see from this picture, the park was pretty big.     
After that we met up with Aunt Nancy, who took us on a tour of the New York Botanical Garden.  It was really beautiful, and much more expansive than I had imagined.  It contains acres of gardens and forest that have been preserved for about two hundred years, so it's a kind of oasis in the city.   
I was fascinated by the black squirrels that seemed to be everywhere.  I had no idea black squirrels existed!  They were really pretty.  This one looks kind of scarry, though, with the light reflecting off its eye like that.   
This is one of the beautiful, historical buildings in the graden.
We ended the day by having dinner with Aunt Nancy and family at their apartment.  It was great to see everyone again.     

East Coast Trip

We returned late Wednesday night from a quick trip to the East Coast to visit some of Mom and Dad's siblings. We had a great time, though we were all pretty tired by the time we got home. We flew out to the East Coast last Thursday and made a quick loop through New York, the D.C. area, and Pennsylvania. We were really thankful for the time to catch up with family. Everyone was so kind to host us or take time out of their busy schedules to see us. In addition to visiting family, though, we got to do something a little different this time. We actually went sight-seeing. Imagine that! We weren't able to do that much, but it was fun. I'll be primarily posting on that part of the trip.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Alpaca Photo Shoot

Last week I had the opportunity to do a photo shoot for a friend. She raises alpacas and I agreed to try to get some pictures of them, so we headed out there and spent almost two hours snapping shots of them all. In case you're not familiar with alpacas--and I'm sure you all are!--they're a smaller relative of the llama. They're really cute, kind of funny-looking things. Mostly they didn't pay much attention to the camera, but sometimes they would get curious. If I got too close, though, they would shy away.

First we did the the females and babies (called crias). The crias were really cute. It was fun trying to catch action shots of them running and jumping around the pasture.

I loved getting up-close face shots. Their expressions are so hilarious! These were some of my favorites.

After that we took pictures of the males. We got some wide shots, and as well as some nice up close shots.

It was a lot of fun. Thanks, Mrs. Miller, for the great opportunity. Hopefully the pictures will be useful to you!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

In Case You Noticed

I've had a blog color crisis. :) I tried changing templates tonight. Well, one thing led to another, and now I will have to decide whether to leave it as it was, or change it. In the mean time, I hope you don't mind the different colors and altered layout.

The Love of Books

Life slows down, and so do the posts. When you do pretty much the same thing everyday, there's less to say about it. A large part of what I've been doing lately is reading of various sorts. My Whitefield courses involve a lot of reading, mostly of a theological sort. While Berkhof and Pink and other theology books are good for me, I have to say it's not what I love to read. Some things we do because we have to, and others because we love to. What I really love is fiction. So, while I've been pushing myself through my school books, I've been devouring a novel in my spare time. Most recently I read A Tale of Two Cities. It's bad, I know, but I hadn't read a Dickens novel before, so I didn't really know what he was like. I was pretty impressed with him, from what I saw in this novel. I really liked the way he developed the characters--by the end you really feel attached (or repulsed) by the different ones. Some parts are rather gruesome, though, so it's not exactly family-friendly.

Before Two Cities, I was re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Our Grandma Grove read them to us when we were younger, so I've had fond feelings for them for a long time, but I never re-read them on my own before. I love C. S. Lewis's other novels, and I enjoyed going back through and picking out the deeper themes that I hadn't caught when I was younger. I also found myself trying to picture how the later books would look as movies. I'm starting to wonder if the movie makers will really be able to do the whole series. I'm pretty sure they will not be able to catch Lewis's vision in them, even if they do.

Well, I hope that wasn't too boring. Maybe I'm feeling an unconscious need to continue writing the book reports I had been writing for years. Anyway, now you know what I've been doing instead of blogging.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lavender, Bees, and a Skipper

I have a weakness for up-close flower pictures, as you can probably see from my other posts. A week or so ago, I started experimenting with lavender pictures, and tried to get ones with bees in them. I also got one with this skipper on the lavender, which came out amazingly well for my camera.

Fall is here

It's amazing how suddenly fall comes. It seems like one day we're all outside in flip-flops, and then the next day we're bundling up in sweaters and getting back into our school-year routines. At least, three of us have school routines in our family. Christina and I are both doing courses with Whitefield College (check out their website if your not familiar with it). Now that she's done with teaching me, Mom's studying to be a counselor, so she's doing "school," too. I'm only taking two courses, so I still have half the day to do other things.

Our family took a last camping trip of the season this past weekend. We went to Paradise Creek, one of our favorite spots. It was cloudy, which turned out to be a blessing, because otherwise it might have been really cold. Instead, the temperature stuck around 58 degrees. Here's a few shots I took around the creek and the campground.

We found this sulphur shelf fungus near one of the campsites. (Thanks for looking it up, Caitlin!) I find it amazing what wild colors these things come in.