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Day 4: Part 1--Parque Nacional Carrasco
March 31, 2008
I really wanted to post this weekend but the writing muse had left me and instead I worked in the yard and did some chores. I got a haircut, a massage, ate at Panera, went to Walmart and did just about anything but write. I really wanted to paint or scrapbook but that never got done either. I did trim up a lot of plants that were out of control, started some onion and okra seeds and mowed. I have spring fever! This week is already shaping up to be busy, but I am going to try to make time for some creative work.

Also, over the weekend I updated my
Etsy shop. I have more tomato seeds to add and that will take a few days, but I also put up the art work I recently finished! So, someone out there in internetland...make me happy and buy my first piece of artwork for sale! ;) I promise more will eventually be on the way, but I plan on making April the month of finishing projects I started earlier this year. That means no painting until I finish two blankets and a scrapbook that is overdue. Alas, we'll start day 4 in which we travel to a national park.

We started the morning around 6:30 am and made it to the breakfast porch area to eat some bread and fresh juice. Sometime around 3am it started pouring and I woke up worried that we were going to have our day ruined. Luckily it had stopped raining by the time we got up and it was beginning to shape up into a beautiful day. Eliana had coordinated with Luis, the vet at IWY, and he had set up a taxi and 'guide' to pick us up at 7am in front of the hotel. Sure enough, they were on time. We weren't sure if they'd show up on American time or Bolivian time. We piled into the taxi and began our journey through Villa Tunari and outside of town to a little village of Paracti and then down a left turn onto a cobblestone type road that was lined with butterfly ginger. Smelling that through the windows in the early morning was fabulous! Slowly we wove into a more tropical, junglesque type setting and before we knew it we were at the park entrance. There wasn't anything super official, but a building that was built over the road so that cars could pass underneath. We waited downstairs while the 'guide' went to find the park ranger so we could register and pay.
After going upstairs to sign in, use the restroom and slather ourselves in bug spray we went downstairs to the entrance area. The ranger showed us a live coca plant. Oooh, ahhh.
Then we walked down a slight path to where we'd get on the little tram across the river.
First, the ranger had to hoist himself onto the line and pull himself across to where the cart was, in the middle of the line. This is how they used to cross all the time!!
And then he hand pulled himself across, back to us so that we could get on.
Going across was really cool! It went so fast and I couldn't savor it as much as I wanted.
On the other side we couldn't stop oohing and ahhing at the trees and ferns that were growing. It was truly amazing!
Like any park in the US, you try to leave no trace. The locals are allowed to collect certain things from the park because that is what they've been doing for decades (centuries).
There's a second local line that was being used. The guy, his two dogs and several family members crossed the river the same way!!
We were thankful that the path was mostly flat and easily managed. The guide spoke no English, though he may have understood a few things, but Eliana was our translator again. We understood certain words and I started figuring out what he was saying by his gestures and where we were standing. Otherwise we mostly walked along quietly, taking it all in and snapping as many photos as possible.
Chris and I would ooh at any plant we'd recognize from the garden trade. Yes, we're geeks. ;) It is certainly awesome, though, seeing something in the wild that you grow.
It was just one large jungle. The entire area is relatively unexplored. They are finding new orchid species yearly and the ranger had been on a three month expedition with one of the researchers who came to study the area. He said it was pretty awesome and so much is unknown.
I wish we could have meandered and taken our time.
There was a huge termite nest...
beautiful palm canopies...
funky bugs...
and exotic fungal growths.


We came upon some swift looking tables and chairs that were covered in moss. It was like a dreamland playground.
Chris loved all of the anthriums on the trees.

Next, we went into the first of two caves. This cave housed bats! Eliana and Marc went in first because it was a short cave and not big enough for many people. It also had some narrow footwork in order to maneuver around a giant crevice that one could easily fall if they weren't paying attention!
We couldn't use flash so the photos came out blurry, but you can see the shapes of the bats. They were very cute!
A creek flowed from the cave and the scenery was relaxing. It would be a nice place to sit and read for the day since it was slightly cooler in that area.
My favorite part of this area were the ferns that grew out of the rock face. Water trickled down the sides, making the conditions perfect.

Our next cave was the oil birds. Not much is known about the oil birds. The ranger told us that they ate a particular palm seed and they were able to process the immense amount of fat from the seed into their bodies. The locals, a long time ago, realized that the bird held this fat and they would process the birds just for their fat to use in cooking. As a result the birds eventually became severely endangered. Now, they are bouncing back, but they still don't know where exactly they migrate to. Again, funding plays a larger role in this. You could tag them, but then where is the money for that going to come from?

You can hear them making noise in this video.
There were quite a few feathers on the rocks and the ranger was nice enough to let us take a few with us. They have a brown base with black stripes.
This is the only photo from the trip that had us all together! And I should have taken the flashlight out of my pocket.
I really wanted to explore this cave more. It had potential for some interesting finds.
Before I knew it, we were heading back towards the river.
We did have to stop for a giant leaf,
sweet looking seeds,
and badass palms that grow like mangroves!!!
Sadly, we returned to the park entrance. We had such a good time in the park. As we were leaving Eliana realized that our 'guide' hired with the taxi guy hadn't done anything at all. She talked in Spanish for awhile, negotiating the tip and cost of the trip. Why did we have to pay so much for the 'guide' if he didn't do anything at all? The ranger had talked the entire time, known all about the area, and finally she negotiated the guy down and we gave a nice tip to the ranger. I think he was surprised a bit and thankful.

I'm breaking this day into two parts. It's just too long to blog everything at once. I hope I'm not boring anyone to tears. I've also left things out, I know. I do want to focus more tomorrow on IWY and my feelings on the place, so I think it's appropriate to stop and break it into two.

Day 3: A Puma used me as an itching post!
March 28, 2008
Before we begin today, say a few good thoughts and prayers for my dad, a faithful reader of this here blog. He had two stints put in his heart today to help repair some failing bypasses from 1994. He's already talking golf and work from what I hear, but you know, still. *thanks*. love you dad!!! :)

This photo is from the night before and I just didn't see it yesterday to post it. This is the eating area and where we were hanging out waiting for our dinner. You can see I am slightly annoyed in this one. Marc is pretty tired, tired enough to lay on the hard bench.
And this, my friends, is what happens when you don't put your animal friendly bug spray on and go au naturel instead. This is the result of sand flies. Wretched things. I put Benadril on them the first night and they went down but as soon as I got home it seemed to come out again and my legs are really eaten up. There are other bites elsewhere on my body, but not as bad. Needless to say, the citronella spray did its job afterwards, but I still paid for that first day.
I didn't take a really good photo of the inside of the hotel but it was much nicer than the one in Cochabamba. Like I said, we could have stayed for a few days.
We woke up the next morning and hung around the main building while we waited on the taxi and checked out. Chris was an early bird that day and decided to walk down to the river and check out what was going on down there.
I wish I had gone, but then again I was very tired and it was good to lay in bed for a few extra minutes.
Chris informed that this was actually an orchid. I thought it was a bromeliad at first. Super cool!
Chris thinks this is a nocturnum orchid, similar to or possibly the same one that exists in Florida.
This was just a cool fern that I thought I'd throw up here. For some reason crocodile fern is crossing my mind, but I'm not sure on the common name. Once the taxi came we moved all of our stuff over to the new hotel that was across from Inti Wara Yassi. La Querencia was the name of the hotel and it had a similar set up to the other hotel in that it has a kitchen area with a covered eating area and then a two story building with the rooms. There was also a pool and very nice landscaping. The landscaping was so attractive that the hummingbirds came regularly. Chris tried to capture them on camera but had a difficult time and didn't succeed at the hotel. After we were settled we walked across the street to Inti Wara Yassi. The cook were making breakfast and I ordered a pancake and some eggs. The pancake was super thin and flat, but warm and sweet in my stomach. I ate some bread as well and tried to chew down the eggs but ended up giving half the eggs to Eliana and Marc. Once our bellies were full of food we met up with Jonny, another vet, who gave us a short tour of the quarantine area by the clinic and then we began walking down the trail in order to see the oscelot and puma's. The walk down the trail skirted some narrow spaces and we'd have to be careful not to misstep and slip.
The views were fabulous on the way.
This is the kind of hiking I wish I could do on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Florida is just too flat sometimes.
We came to the first of our small rappelling adventures. This one was easy to tackle as there were little foot steps eroded into the rocks.
The next one was more difficult. The rope wasn't the best help; it would make you slide away from the footholds instead of helping you. Marc ended up slipping a little and banged up his knuckles a bit. Then we had to carefully walk along a rock face/washout area. That was pretty awesome to see. You can see this area from the bridge across the river when you walk into town. The volunteers who take care of the ocelots and pumas travel this way daily, so imagine a fairly good hike. You can really get winded!
We went climbing up very muddy paths, latching onto tree roots and hanging limbs. By this time everyone is starting to feel the burn in the legs.
Of course you are always rewarded with magnificent views. The cliffs are where Carrasco National Park is located and where we will go tomorrow.
And then it is downhill again, working the knees and giving us a bit of relief on our lungs.
At last! We meet Millie! Before we approach her we all have to say, "Hola, Millie!", so that she knows who is coming and is familiar with our voices. Millie is an ocelot that has a bad urinary infection at the moment. Her volunteers walk her and keep her company and make sure her large cage is comfortable and fitted with the things she enjoys. She is on a sort of line that lets her roam into the vegetation a bit and get away from everyone. I really wanted to pet her but she is not the friendliest cat and she didn't even like Jonny the vet too much.

:( Poor Millie.
To work with the cats you have to commit to at least a month of volunteering. Change can stress the cats out and having a constant support group is vital. The volunteers all stay at their stations throughout the day, coming down to eat lunch or take breaks as needed and they even stay in the rain. Most have a tarp of some sort to sit under when it rains, but it seems like a very peaceful setting, watching the cats. As we were about to leave the volunteers began to take her for her walk. It was more of a lead, as they were being pulled by the very fast paced Millie. At one point they over took us and we had to move to the side as she came up behind everyone, racing up the steep trails! Can you imagine doing that every day? It was pretty cool to see her overtake us, too.
The next stop was a good ways away and so we hiked for quite awhile, stopping to breathe and take a few photos as we went along.
It was really cool seeing wild begonias growing everywhere.
Eliana ended up so hot she poured creek water onto her head. I opted out of it, but it might have been refreshing!
Finally, the long hike led us to Gato. My friend....
Open wide!
Mr. Yawny Pants was very curious and walked by us newcomers, sniffing and smelling and purring.
He was very friendly and a beautiful puma.
Jonny gave him a nice pet,
and then he decided my leg was perfect for rubbing his face.
At first, I was a little worried. Sharp claws, sharp teeth. Oh my! But then he turned into my little Leo cat, rubbing his face, purring, drooling and shedding hair all over my pants. His fur was soft but thick and it was all I could do to not give him a big kiss!

You can see the video!
Then he decided to let Eliana give him a good head scratch. I went to join them but I think two people was a bit much and he snapped at me. :( I was heartbroken that my little fur ball friend had turned against me! Ok, not really, but two minutes earlier I was his favorite face itching post!
Then we began heading down the mountain, through what I would imagine to be very slippery rainwater runoffs when it rained.
As much as I wanted to pay attention to the vegetation around us, we had to watch our feet so that we didn't slip and fall.
We came back down to the monkeys and stayed for a few minutes.
The capuchins were being mighty troublemakers that day.
Pre Monkey Pee
We started off happy, me and the capuchin. Posing for pictures, making nice.
Monkey Pee I
And then there was something warm.
Monkey Pee II
Apparently I am the perfect receptacle for monkey pee! Go me! I got the little booger off and decided that I'd just let it dry and rinse the shirt out when I got back to the hotel. After that debacle it was time to wander down to see the baby pumas! Now, I was thinking they'd end up being juveniles, but no, they were two months old!
Two cuties
The puma babies were new to the refuge, having been dropped off by someone who said their mother was killed. They believe the person who brought them probably killed the mother and either didn't know she had babies or maybe thought about taking the babies to raise. They are now at the refuge and under the care of several volunteers who have to see to them 'round the clock, including sleeping with them so they don't get into mischief.
It was all I could do not to touch them, but only the volunteers that were handling them and the vets could touch them because they are under quarantine. They also had chronic diaheria and it was suspected to be caused by the human baby formula they were feeding them. Cat formula just isn't available and trying to find another cat to nurse two puma kittens just isn't going to happen. Otherwise they were doing good.
Marc and the babies
Marc took a good look at them to see if he could find any problems on the outside, but without any major tools it was difficult to really find out. I believe they did do a fecal sample the next day and Marc didn't see any worms or problems that might be causing their rumbly tummies.
There was one rascally fella that kept trying to run off the bed. Their eyes were open but they couldn't see yet so it was best that they stayed put with their momma volunteer.

After saying goodbye to the pumas, and doing so rather reluctantly, we walked over and had some lunch. This time it was pasta and super fabulous again. I needed to change my pee shirt and so we all headed over to the rooms. Chris I laid down for about thirty minutes when Eliana came knocking on the door. They were going to take the donations over to the clinic and asked if we wanted to come. We were so zonked that we said we'd just take a nap and come over in a few hours. Besides, they had to show the doctors a few tricks and techniques and we didn't want to be in their way the entire time. The nap was a nice 2.5 hour nap that refreshed us, but we could have stayed asleep longer. There was no air conditioning, just open windows at the front and back of the room and bathroom as well as a supplemental standing fan that made a lot of racket and wouldn't stay plugged into the outlet. After our nap we decided to take a walk down to the river behind the hotel. There was a small trail that was a bit steep and an overflow ravine to explore.
We found a black trunked banana tree,
ferns and other tropical vegetation,
and the river. Across the river there were several large machines working to harvest the river rock, I suppose for the roads and other building needs.
It would have been nice to pull up a chair and relax for a few hours, while watching the water go by. There was quite a current going under the bridge and someone said it was a Class II rafting river.
It was peaceful and calming to walk after our nap.
Water Spider
I did see this cool spider at the last moment. Surprisingly I didn't see many spiders on this trip. I expected to see ginormous ones and never did. We decided to meander across the street and found Eliana and Marc still in the clinic. We were hungry and didn't feel like waiting all night again so we walked across the bridge and into town ourselves. A few of the volunteers had given us recommendations on a few restaurants and I only saw one of the recommendations, but we walked a block or two before deciding on another place called La Querenceria. We sat down at a table and the owner/waitress brought us a menu and we told hold that we spoke little to no Spanish, but we were able to order fairly easily. Chris ordered fried chicken and I the chicken milanese and we split a large bottle of Fanta. It was quiet and only a few other patrons were in the place. A large stero system was playing Spanish music and the back of the restaurant looked like it fit enough for a large party or reception. The food came and there was a lot of it. Rice, salad, the main portion, fries. Whoa! We gobbled down the food and it was very tasty. I picked at my salad because I had heard all sorts of things about eating the vegetables because of what kind of water it might have been washed in, but it wasn't too bad at all. We were able to pay, finally, you have to flag down the waiters in Bolivia because even if they can clearly tell you are sitting there full and ready to fall asleep, they'll keep on walking by you. The bill was only about $6-7!! That huge amount of food! We waddled back down to the hotel and Eliana and Marc were still over at the refuge because they were having their bi-weekly meeting, but we just wanted to get some shut-eye so back to the room we went. I left a note at the door telling them to let us know if the time changed for the morning, we were going to a national park, and we'd see them then.

Day 2: Through Cloud Forests and Into Villa Tunari
March 26, 2008
We woke up on Wednesday morning and went in search of breakfast. We ended up walking to Dumbo again, however I woke up feeling a little off. My stomach felt a bit queasy and I wasn't sure if I could eat much, but I was really hungry. I'm more of a bagel or English muffing type person and what was at Dumbo wasn't quite as appetizing as I was thinking and hoping for. We ordered more juice and I ordered French toast, which was good but so sweet that I couldn't handle it. I tried some of Marc's ham but it was such a different tasting ham that I immediately couldn't handle it. Since we are under the teachings of Eliana we kept all of our leftovers for the homeless. When the waiter brought the to-go bags for some reason that triggered the barf button and I hustled to the bathroom. I felt better but I needed some bananas to settle my stomach. After we left and walked down the street we found an older woman with a child to hand the food to and though I didn't see it, Eliana said the kid immediately gobbled down what was given to him. We finally made it to the small market that was starting to set up in the street and we were able to purchase some bananas and water. Also for sale were a large bowl of dried shrimp. That did not look appetizing. Needless to say, Bolivia has no ocean border.

After packing up we grabbed a taxi and went to the area where the micro's are. Micro's are mini-van type cars that are a faster trip than a bus and go medium distances, like the three hours to Villa Tunari. The micro area was really busy and packed with cars and people, and while Eliana went to negotiate a micro the three of us watched our bags like a hawk. Once she returned with a fair price we also negotiated to pay for the rest of the three seats on the back for our luggage. They were carrying a lot of donations and so we were luggage heavy on the way. It ended up being 20Bolivanos per person and for the three extra seats 50B's total for the seats. That equates to about $3 a person and $7 for the three extra seats. This area was the only time I think we all felt a bit unsafe. The entire time one guy was watching our bags and us like a hawk, focusing on where we were moving and what we were doing. Once we got into the minivan and was waiting on the driver we locked the doors so that he couldn't run to the bag and open the door to grab our bags. We were relieved when we were finally on our way.
The ride out of town was busy and not very remarkable, though we did see the
highest and tallest Christ statue in South America. We never actually made it there and so our glimpse from the road would have to suit us.
Just houses along the road
and I ate my banana while trying to feel better.
Heading out of town the views were fabulous. To the north was Parque Nacional Tunari, which we missed because of our shortened trip. I've seen photos online of beautiful views of Cochabamba from the park. We rolled past more eucalyptus...
these little platts of land that had been fenced off with stone and crops of flowers planted.
This would be your typical middle of nowhere village, with shanty houses and everyone working in the field. We wound around the hills before coming to a small town, still very much poverty stricken and where we had to pass through one of the several toll booths along the way.
Pigs and dogs would be tied up near the homes and trash would be scattered here and there.
Selling things from the street is very common, foods mostly. Usually the women will approach the car when it stops at the toll booth and ask if you want various pastries or fruits.
Slowly we began saying goodbye to the highlands.
Next, we came upon Lake Corani, which was dammed at one end. You can read on the link about it being articifical in order to supply power to powerplants nearby. In this area is where the temperature changed to slightly cooler and it began getting cloudy.
The next thing we knew the vegetation changed and became more tropical, with ferns and bromeliads beginning to line the tree limbs. We were in a cloud forest.
This is when Chris and I started oohing and ahhing at the plants and how awesome it was becoming.

Watch the video for a shot of the drive
At one point the clouds hung really low to the road, or maybe we were just high up in the clouds?
We crossed many rivers and streams, each one remarkable in its own way.
And even went through two tunnels. I can't imagine trying to make a tunnel.
The massive tree ferns, well, we just couldn't get over them. I mean, we grow one in a pot on our porch!
The sun started coming out as we descended the mountains. Every so often on the road would be a sign stating "Unstable Geological Area", and then there would be a dirt part of the road and in some spots you could see where mudslides had occurred. This is one of the particular places. It seems to have fairly frequently, or at least it isn't uncommon.
The rivers were begging to be rafted or kayaked.
It was so green and beautiful that I'd forgotten all about La Paz and Cochabamba. Just outside of town at another toll booth, Eliana bought a bag of peeled oranges from one of the ladies who came to the car. She then showed us her super-secret trick to eating (drinking) them.
First you bite the top off and then start sucking and squeezing the sides to get the juice out. This is the no-mess way of doing it.
Chris caught on and started doing it,
as did I, but
Marc tried to do it the American way and made a mess on his hands!
At last!! Villa Tunari!
We drove through town...
Over Rio Espiritu Santu and past Inti Wara Yassi and to our hotel. We'd decided on Hotel El Puente and it was several km's outside of town and then about 2 more km's down another road which the micro driver didn't want to take us down. Eliana argued with him for awhile stating that the arrangement had been set up back in Cochabamba. He finally relented and we went down a very bumpy rock road, the rocks from the river nearby. Lining the sides was butterfly ginger, it also lined the main road too, and it smelled heavenly with the windows open. Soon enough we made it to the hotel and we were very pleased.
The hotel is owned by a tour operator and had a main house and eating area with several cabana's located on the property. It was landscaped but there were butterflies, hummingbirds and other birds using the grounds. I think this place was $30 a night.
Of course we met a friendly cat who acted a bit like our Leo.
Unfortunately we could stay only one night as there happened to be a big group coming in the following day. It turned out for the best since the hotel was so far from where we wanted to be. I could have easily sat and relaxed for the next several days with not many worries.

We called back another taxi so that it could take us all to Inti Wara Yassi, and as much as I tried to imagine the place it wasn't what I imagined. It was lunch time when we arrived and the volunteers were beginning to gather at the cafe area. There was a picnic table out front and some handmade wooden chairs and a small table. Eliana went in to ask the cooks where Luis the vet was and we soon wandered through a small doorway area around the corner that explicity stated that only those who were working in the clinic could come through. We got questioned by a volunteer because, obviously we looked out of place. We got through and inside found Luis who was happy to see Eliana and the rest of us. Eliana and Marc brought several suitcases full of donations that they had asked local friends, vets and other businesses to either donate or pitch in some money. I realized the need as soon as I stepped into the vet clinic.
The actual operation/treatment room is very small and poorly lit. They have some supplies but only what they can afford on their meager budget and what they can find in Bolivia. Some of the things that Eliana and Marc brought were a blow gun so that they could tranquilize a few monkeys to move them and some good clippers along with all sorts of miscellaneous items that could be needed. On the last day there I asked if they even had lab glasses, and they didn't. The simplest things are unavailable to them. It is just so hard to explain, but I will try my best throughout the posts.

Afterwards we went and had lunch at the cafe. There are several cooks, who are either paid very poorly or don't get paid at all, and they make breakfast and lunch for all of the volunteers (about 65 at present). There is a little book that everyone writes what they take from the kitchen and they pay up at the end of the week or their stay, so we wrote in some lunch for us. It was a super yummy vegetarian stir-fry that I gobbled down since I hadn't had much for breakfast. We got questions from the volunteers. Were we staying to volunteer? What were we doing here? How long were we staying? There were several European people around and most explained that they were traveling throughout South America and this was just a stop along the way. Some stayed for two weeks, the minimum, and some stayed longer and stretched their stay into months depending on how much they fell in love with Inti Wara Yassi.

After lunch Luis gave us a tour of the area down the 'tourist trail'. This is the trail that visitors can come in and walk on. Most of the tourists are local, but you do get foreigners as well. Since the entire operation is volunteer run they can only handle so much in between taking care of all of the animals.
The start of the tourist trail is peaceful and it is lined with river rocks.
A lot of the land is considered part of the town's land and so they town and Inti Wara Yassi has let a woman and her family live in this building in order to sell handmade items to tourists. I'm not quite sure the details of the arrangement.
There are some signs telling visitors of what they will encounter and what they can and cannot do. You have to check your bags into a locker inside the visitors building and take all items out of your pockets. Why? The monkeys. They are s.m.a.r.t.
We encountered our first monkey that decided to wander a bit out of his range.
More spider monkeys were hanging out along the trail as well as
several tortoises. We found out the monkeys are quite mean to them and sometimes will flip them over on their backs!
The spider monkeys were very friendly and would follow you around. The little boogers were actually the capuchin monkeys. Those are the sneaky Pete's.
At our destination we found several volunteers holding monkeys and sitting under a small shelter. The monkeys hopped around from person to person looking for love and a nice pet. I think this one was interested in photography...
One monkey, the one sitting next to me, had some nasty little bites on its chest. At first Eliana told me that they looked like nipples and squeezed "milk" out of it. Later we realized it was a horrible mistake and it was actually a bot fly wound and that was the juice from the larvae!!!
Bot fly larvae.
EWWWWWWW! That is the larvae that I think the vet got to come out. The poor baby though kept messing with it and it was obviously uncomfortable to them. We also mistakely thought the other monkeys were trying to make her better by licking the wound and we found out they just liked to lick because it was salty!! Double EWWWW!
Spider Monkey
I really like this shot that Chris got. Chris was Mr. Rebel and I was Ms. Fuji the entire trip. I didn't take a single Rebel photo.
The volunteers get creative with their toys for the animals and use recycled bottles from the cafe and put various items inside. This is a little capuchin devil. ;)
After our monkey appetite had been sated we headed over to the bird area. Most of the birds are inside large cages, but some are free 'flight'. Many of the birds cannot be released because their previous 'owners' broke their wings and they are unable to fly again. The bird area is where the bugs started getting really horrible. I didn't put on my citronella bug spray that afternoon and my legs subsequently were eaten up by sand flies.
Pretty bird...
yawning Quirqui
The best part of the day was going over to see Quirqui the puma. Poor Quirqui has arthritis and cannot walk well, but because of that she doesn't have to stay on a leash. She walks around and lets you pet her and is probably the friendliest puma.
Eliana and Quirqui
See? Good kitty! I wasn't too afraid to pet her but I was a bit worried she'd play too hard and forget she has big teeth and claws.
Chris gave her a good scratch and I could tell he wanted to rough house with her a bit!
So soft
Her fur was soft and thick. She also has her own little house and I was sitting on the sloping entry to it and she got up and started walking toward me. I jumped up and all she wanted was to lay down on the cool concrete inside.
We went to one of the bird quarantine's next and that was interesting. Marc talked for awhile to the vet about various things that the birds needed and since Marc specializes in exotic pets this was up his alley.
We did get to see toucan as well but unfortunately it was in a cage and difficult to photograph.

This was the end of the day for the animals and by this time it was nearing dinner time. I hadn't emailed anyone to tell of our delay and to say how we were doing so we walked into town to the internet cafe.
It was about 6b's an hour for the internet, which is less than $1. The 'net was rather slow and people from IWY and town were checking their mail and surfing the net. Eliana went in search of more oranges, because she's addicted, and when she returned we had more oranges.
Orange Girls
I felt fairly safe in Villa Tunari. We walked the streets in the dark on the way back and no one bugged us. Eliana tried to nab a cat so she could neuter it but it ended up being a female. She talked to the owner for awhile, who owned a small shop where Chris picked up a drink, and we went back to IWY where dinner was supposed to be awaiting us. Dinner didn't make it until almost 10pm and I was not a happy camper. The food was delicious and I felt bad for being cranky but I was hungry, dude! It was a special thing and only for about 10 people, us and the vets and a few volunteers.

We managed to get a taxi back to the hotel and turned in for the night.

This is extremely difficult to blog! There is so much to say and it is very time consumming. With the weekend coming up I should be able to spend more time on it and whip more of the story out. I hope you have been able to stay awake through the reading of this! For the rest of the photos click here and here.

Day 3 is a hiking adventure, meeting Millie and Gato and two of the cutest kittens ever!!

Day 1: La Paz and the Bus to Cochabamba
March 25, 2008
On Friday March 14th, we prepared for the trip the entire day, spending the day running errands, packing and making sure the house and the cats were ready for us to be gone for 9 days. We had our last dinner at Quizno's and were excited as we drove down to Miami to meet Eliana and Marc at their house so that her sister could drive us to the airport. At the house we were all excited and packed the 7 suitcases into the back of the white Jeep and off we went to the airport. It was very thrilling lining up at the international line with everyone else, heading to countries all over the world. Chris and I go to the ticket counter and the agent looked over our passports. She stopped short, did a double check and said that Chris' passport wasn't going to be valid. We asked why and she replied that it had to be valid for at least six more months, rather than the two that were left on it. We said, we had the visa and why didn't that mean anything? She pondered for a minute and was confused and then said that it specifically said in her computer that it was a requirement. Hrm. We argued politely for a minute and then she went and asked someone about it. While we are twiddling our thumbs Eliana and Marc are already checked in. The agent comes back and gives us the bad news. We ask to speak to two managers. Still a no-go. If they let us through the Bolivian government would turn us away and send us back and we'd lose our ticket and the airline would have been fined. I'm crying at this point and incredibly pissed off. We reschedule the flight for Monday and hope we can get an appointment to get a new passport. After leaving Eliana and Marc to fly off to La Paz, we get back in the car with her sister, who had to come back to get us, and drive off down the road. On the way home Eliana called from the airplane after they had boarded and told us she had a friend who could take us to the airport if we needed to. It was incredibly sad to hear the flight attendant over the phone telling everyone to get buckled etc., and we were quietly driving down 826 on the way home. Once we got home we got onto the passport agencies website and found the phone number to get an appointment. After about a thirty minutes of frustration, Chris passed the duty to me and I sat on the phone and finally got a human. He was able to get an appointment at 11am.

Waking up Saturday morning was depressing. We should have been in La Paz, though it was was nice to be in our own bed again with the kitties. We were determined to pretend we were still on vacation and not let the thought of our trip being completely cancelled, depress us. We went off looking for swallowtail kites and snail kites and drove around for awhile in the Everglades. In the afternoon Chris came home and reworked his flower bed out front (looks nice!) and I took a nap and watched movies. I was very listless. I should have been in another country instead of at home. There were no plans. On Sunday we went to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Mounts Botanic Garden, had Mexican food and went to two other small nature parks in West Palm Beach. It was a nice day taking photos of birds, raccoons, marsh rabbits and other birds. We never unpacked so we were basically ready to go and on Monday morning we packed everything up and headed down to the passport agency downtown. I couldn't go in with Chris so I walked around Flagler Street for several hours, killing time in Macy's, reading a book at Barnie's coffee and we finally had lunch after the first part of the processing had happened. He had to return at 2pm to get the passport. 2pm came and he had to wait another hour or so to even pick up the passport. Finally by 3pm we had a new passport in hand and decided to kill more time hanging out at our friend JC's house because it was close to the airport. After another 'final' meal of Mexican food we went to the airport.

Check in this time went easy, peasy. It was a bit weird having the two passports, one to show the visa and the other showing the validity of the passport, but we made it through security and boarded the plane on time at 10:30pm. I went to sleep almost immediately and drowsed in and out of sleep for the next two hours. For those two hours we sat on the plane, not going anywhere. The plane had too much fuel and it had to be removed. I remember taking off and a few moments of twisting around to get comfortable, but the next thing I knew I woke up at around 6:30 am to the sunrise over South America. The clouds below were fluffy cotton ball like. We finally were able to see some bits of land when the clouds broke.

When we landed there was a long line to go through customs. They were checking everything and you had to fill out your customs form. Once we got to the window we were very glad that we had gotten the new passport. They were very thorough looking through to make sure you had your visa, that the passport was valid and that the yellow fever shot was there. We got our passport stamped and picked up our luggage and headed for the next batch of security where they checked your customs form and you walked through the security gate. Unfortunately we marked that we had our camera and realized that it was only for things you were going to sell and even though one guy understood and helped us fix it, we still got held up by some guards who weren't around when the other guy helped us out, so we had to have our bags looked at a bit. Nothing big, but it was still a bit worrisome. Then, finally, we walked around the corner and amidst the crowd was Eliana and Marc!!! At last! I was so excited to see them and it was a relief that they were there and had waited three days in La Paz for us. We got a taxi and wound down the mountain from El Alto to La Paz.

My first impression of La Paz was that it was sort of like Panama City but completely different. Large, poor, and different. There were women sweeping the streets, even on the very crowded highway, kids and adults standing on the sides of the roads waiting to hail a taxi or bus to get to school and work. The drivers were pretty insane, weaving in an out and giving honks here, there and everywhere for whatever reason or seemingly no reason. Eliana was the guide and sat in the front seat so she could tell the driver which hostel they were staying at. We drove down hilly side streets with boarded up doors and windows and some that were open for business. People were selling all sorts of goods in the street, the women making food at various food stalls and everyone was gathered for breakfast. We made it through a very busy traffic circle and finally up the street to our hostels. I wasn't sure what I was expecting but it turned out better than I thought!
Estrella Andina was the hostel's name and inside it had a slight herbal smell. I wasn't able to place the smell, but it was one of the better ones during the trip. Since I wanted to shower we had to lug our suitcases up several flights of stairs. Now, normally this is not major feat, but when you are at an altitude of 12,000 feet above sea level it becomes a major task. After the first flight dizziness ensued and breathing became hard. Holy cow! We finally made it up to their room and I was pleasantly surprised.
Hostal Estrella Andina
All of the rooms here had a mural painted of a Andean scene. While I got in the shower Eliana and Marc walked down to the bank to exchange money for us since the airport in Miami didn't have Boliviano's at the time we left. The shower started off very warm for about three minutes and I hurried to suds up and get the plane off me. Then it turned bitterly cold! It was nice to be clean though!
Chris shot this of Eliana and Marc as they were coming back from the bank. You can see the other woman in the photo and how that is their traditional clothing. Not all of the women dress like this, mostly just the indigenous people. Afterwards we had breakfast which was very good and consisted of fresh bread, juices, quinoa and a puffy cereal, and various teas as well as coca tea. Many people walk around chewing coca leaves all day and coca tea is very common and legal to have you just can't do the processing of the coca leaf. I tried some of the tea and it was just a grassy, fresh taste and didn't really do anything for me besides warm my belly. Once breakfast was over we lugged all of our suitcases down and hailed a taxi over to the bus station so we could catch a 7.5 hour bus ride to Cochabamba. At the bus station it was very busy with vendors trying to get your business. Eliana and I went in search of a ticket while the guys watched the bags. We got inside and were immediately confronted by several women and they proceeded to negotiate a price with Eliana in Spanish. They kept getting closer and more into our personal space and we'd keep on moving back. Finally we made a deal and it was $2 a person for the bus ride. She'd negotiated down from $8 a person! It was really quite hilarious! We grabbed the bags and some water and waited by the bus to have our bags put underneath. Finally, we got on and it wasn't too bad at all. Unfortunately, we later found out the bathroom didn't work, which for my bladder was not a good thing.
We started out of La Paz and I was feeling great.
We made stops however, picking people up and dropping people off. Marc and Eliana had their GPS out to track where we were going and to get the elevation. When I started feeling dizzy, nauseous and like I was going to faint we had climbed to 13,000' or so. We stayed there for at least 10 minutes and all the while I was focusing on my stomach and my head and praying not to throw up. Chris started feeling bad at this point and we both eventually fell asleep. I think we slept a good hour or longer and then we woke up somewhere far outside of La Paz. It seemed like we had come down in elevation because we both felt better and it was rather flat with some hills and mountains in the distance. The road was two lanes and buses would regularly pass us. People would be working in their fields of whatever crops they were growing and we'd pass these small adobe like houses in the middle of nowhere.
For some reason the bus driver decided to play this really bad horror movie that was dubbed in Spanish. It was this wretched slasher/goblin movie and when one of the TV's went off they kept the sound on so all you heard was Spanish and screams. At this point Eliana was dying to use the restroom so bad she asked the driver to stop on the side of the road so she could pee. Marc went with her and I did see a few people leaning their head out to see what was going on. I had to pee, but I hadn't gotten that desperate yet. An hour later we finally arrived at our mid-point stop. It was this very small town that I don't even know if it is on the map. There were some restaurants and you could tell that the buses make this their regular stop. We got out and headed straight for the bathroom. Now, this was probably the worst bathroom I've ever seen. First, I didn't realize you had to pay. I thought you had to pay for the toilet paper and I had some so I just walked on by. Oh well, I'm sure some other gringo's have done that before. You had to walk through the restaurant out the back door, weave around the building and I had no idea what kinds of liquids I was stepping in. There were toilets but I wasn't going to sit, so I did my hovering pee and then couldn't figure out how you had to flush. I said screw it, was pee and walked out. Then I figured it out. You had to get a bucket of water to wash it down with, however I wasn't quite in the mood to go back and do it and I just feigned ignorance. I was starving and breakfast had worn off already so we all ordered some food. My chicken sandwich came with a nice black hair, courtesy of the chef. I picked it out and pretended that I hadn't seen it and ate some of the chicken off of it. Eliana gave the leftovers to the dogs outside who were happy to get some food, but weren't pleased with the vegetables. One thing I learned on the trip is that dogs and homeless people in Bolivia will eat whatever you give them. We boarded the bus again and continued on the rest of the trip.
Since Chris and Eliana were by the window they took turns taking photos. It was beautiful, almost desert like.
The trees most common were eucalyptus trees and the rest was either fields of flowers or grass. I kept seeing flowers that I swore were fields of snapdragons and I even saw some hollyhocks growing in some 'yards'.
As we started winding up the hills Chris and I both started feeling bad again as did Eliana. I think Marc felt some tightness but not like we were feeling.
At one point I had my eyes closed and was focusing on the knot in my stomach and on my breathing and praying not to throw up. Unfortunately Chris lost his lunch and luckily it went into a Ziploc bag we had brought on just in case. Poor baby. :( It was all I could do to turn away and not retch myself. Shortly afterwards we found out that the GPS said we had been at 14,600'!! No freakin' wonder! Afterwards it was downhill and we started feeling much better.
We could actually 'enjoy' the bus ride again and we were ready to get into Cochabamba and a hotel.
If you look across you can see the other buses on the road ahead of us.
It was a gorgeous view and you could see for miles. We spotted Cochabamba in the distance and it seemed like we should be there quickly, but the bus ride still took a long time and I ended up dozing some more.
When we finally pulled into town the bus made more meandering turns and stops to drop people off near their homes. I was itching to get off the bus after a day of travel, as well as the flight. At last, we made it to the bus terminal and had to wait in line for the luggage. Eliana went around the back way to get to the bags and found a guy peeing on the side of the bus! The bags made it out and we walked to the street to get a taxi so we could head to the hotel we'd picked out from the book. The first taxi didn't offer a good enough fare for us so Eliana turned him down and we headed to a very busy side street where she was finally able to hail a taxi. After figuring out the cross streets we started into Cochabamba through tight one-way cobble type roads. A lot of honking went on again. We eventually saw it, Hostel Florida. They had rooms and we walked up the stairs to the second floor. Cochabamba is only about 10,000' and so it wasn't as bad to lug the bags up the stairs.
There was a quaint open courtyard that I thought would be quiet but we did heard quite a bit of traffic from the street.
Our room wasn't too bad, an ok mattress and it had a toilet and shower. Eliana and Marc's room apparently had a sewage type smell and they rated it not good.
Eliana is good at making faces! :) You can get an idea of the room from this photo. After we got settled we walked down the road looking for dinner. We'd been told by the manager of the hostel that Dumbo was a good place to go. Yes, it is Dumbo the elephant and the restaurant was probably a quarter to a half mile walk and had an open storefront to the street with customers lined up for pastries, cakes and ice cream. We walked in an had a seat. I would compare it to a TGIFriday's here in the US, but it had more of a home cooked South American food feel. Shakira was on the large screen TV behind us and Eliana kept watching her fellow country-woman singing. Juice is very common to drink there so we we ordered some fresh juice. Now, I can't remember what we had, if it was orange or mango or something like that. We had leftovers and had planned on giving them to one of the three women that we saw along the way but they were nowhere to be seen and so we opened the to-go boxes and left them for the dogs or even a human.

On the way to the restaurant I kept smelling various smells. The smell of the cars and trucks, the unfiltered, polluted aroma that brought back memories of my first trip to C and S America 10 years ago, the sewage smell, and then I kept smelling acetone. I just couldn't figure out what on earth would smell like acetone. I asked my coworker today, who is from S. America, and he told me that it was the acetone that is used to make cocaine. oooooohhhhh! Isn't that lovely?
Yes, this is a showerhead. The water is heated through it. But the fun part was the nice electrocuting shock I got when I tried to turn off the water in this hotel. The wiring was super sucky. I had to turn it off with one of Chris' socks, of course after I dried off so that I wouldn't get majorly electrocuted. We turned in for the night, thankful that we could finally rest up!

Phew....that is really long!! I'm glad I am writing it all out like this so that I can remember it. I wrote most of it down in my travel journal but there are always things that I forget. Tomorrow will be more photo heavy and there will be some videos. Day 2 start in Cochabamba and ends in happiness at Villa Tunari.

Home from Bolivia
March 24, 2008
We are home! Our adventure in Bolivia is over. It was a fantastic experience and I would love to go back someday and explore more of the area. There is so much to tell and write about but I will be brief tonight. Our journey was supposed to start on March 14th, but we had a passport mishap and didn't make it into La Paz until early morning on March 18th. Snafu aside, it was a wonderful experience and I am amazed at the beauty of the countryside. I'm not a fan of the larger cities, but the smaller town that we were in, Villa Tunari, was very nice. Here are a few snapshots of what I will go into more detail over the next week or so.
La Paz, Bolivia!!! Finally made it.
I made this super cool little sign that we could take our photo with on the original date and didn't get to use it. I finally pulled it out that morning once we go to Eliana and Marc's hostal and took a shower. You can see a snippet of La Paz in the background. This hotel was fairly nice and we stayed there again on the return.
Me and Quirqui
This is Quirqui. She's a puma and very sweet. Yes, she lets you pet her, but you do have to be sensible. ;) She has really bad arthritis and has a hard time walking. She's so spoiled, she has her own little house and bed!
Monkey Thief
You better not have anything in your pockets or the capuchin monkeys will take it!! Seriously!
The spider monkeys are so sweet and loveable. They will cuddle up with you. The little one here is actually full grown. It is two years old but it was anorexic for awhile and its growth is stunted because of it.
Eliana and Me with the spider monkeys
Eliana and I loved sitting with them. You could sit for hours, which some of the volunteers do, and talk and watch monkeys in action (and by action, I mean "action").
Somewhere between La Paz and Cochabamba. Really high up.
This is a view of somewhere between La Paz and Cochabamba. The elevation here was as high as 14,600 feet. Insert altitude sickeness *here*. Beautiful views though!

I'm going to do it day by day, I think, so tomorrow we'll start the journey.

It is good to be home, but do we have to go back to work????

A Little Daring
March 11, 2008
I did something a little daring tonight. I made tomato soup. For me, inventing recipes can go either way, good or bad. Usually it'll go slightly south. I took some tomatoes to work yesterday, but I think I've tomatoed everyone out and no one took any home. Not wanting to let them rot and ruin I brought them back home and did a little experiment. My coworker/carpooler gave me the idea last week, briefly describing what he does to make tomato soup. I put olive oil in the bottom of our good soup pot and two heaping spoons of garlic and let it sauté while I started chopping up tomatoes. I threw the tomatoes in the pot for a few minutes and then transferred everything over to the blender. Once it was all nice and chopped up I put it back on the stove and added herbs de Provence, sage, salt, McCormick's seasoning and some other Italian herbs. I also through in some lemon juice and red-wine vinegar for good measure. Oh and I forgot, a can of tomato sauce to thicken it up a little. I let it cook while I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher and it was ready. I put in feta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese and voila! Tomato soup! I was hesitant at first. I tasted a sip before I sat down just in case I needed to run out and get something for dinner if I had royally screwed up. Nope, it was yum-o! I'm so glad I thought to do this. Now that we are overloaded with salsa, I can do tomato soup when I have a lot of tomatoes. You could probably put it over noodles, too, but it would be a little runny.

Phalenopsis 'Baldan's Kaleidescope'
I took these the other day. This is my favorite, ok one of my top five, of our orchids. Phalenopsis "Baldan's Kaleidoscope". We picked it up a few years ago at this nursery somewhere in the Redlands. It is hidden away and the only way we found it was an orchid sale sign on the side of the road. I think it might have been $20 and already in bloom, which isn't a bad price for some blooming orchids.
Phalenopsis 'Baldan's Kaleidescope'
I've been able to tell it out of the crowd of other orchids if I see it in odd places, like grocery stores in other states. I saw it at the conservatory in DC, too. It is such a gorgeous flower. I'm happy that it has two spikes on it, which means it will bloom for awhile.

Tonight, a little art. A little chores. I'm itching to work in the yard some, but it was raining when I got home and mowing when the grass is wet isn't good. I'm also itching to wander around the book store, which I may go do for an hour. Chris is out at Little Slough checking up on the ghost orchids. I feel bad for him, because he was all gung ho about taking the Rebel and then I realized here it is sitting on our desk while he is out there with a backpack full of lenses. :(

Ocean Photography
March 10, 2008
365 058: March 8, 2008
Look at that adorable face! That cute little mug got me into the Explore pages on Flickr on Sunday! WOO! While I would have thought some nature shot would make it, apparently really cute cats are worth lots of comments and faves. I've been wishing, and hoping and crossing my fingers that I'd make it to it and on Sunday I checked because Chris said a lot of people had commented on it and voila....there it was. I doubt I'll be back up there anytime soon. But, it was cool while it lasted!

Water...warm up!
I did make it to the beach after some cleaning and shopping. The water was a little nippy. I got my feet in and subsequently my jeans, and it was tolerable.
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I shot with the 100mm macro most of the time. Probably not the best idea for the birds, but I didn't feel like switching everytime I turned around. Plus, there were mostly seagulls and no super interesting birds. I like how you can see the crystal of the sand in this one.
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There were several little channels that were carved out along the beach. I went to John U. Lloyd State park in Dania Beach. I like going there because it is quiet, there aren't condos and it isn't "groomed".
Who you staring at?
The seagulls were photogenic, even if they kept running from me.
Nope, this wing ain't broken.
This one appeared to have a broken wing, but was rather friendly anyway.
Oops, I meant this way.
The wind was blowing rather fiercely from the north as the cold front had come through overnight.
File fish
A file fish, which was identified by Chris for me, had washed up on the beach. I like this photo. You can see the scales and the color, faded as it is.
Mmm, this file fish is tasty!
And this one was in for a meal. There is a bit of red on the beak and I was thinking that it was blood from the fish. But then I thought more and wasn't so sure because the fish was fairly dead and I couldn't see that there would be a lot of blood still in it.
Cleaning between my toes
Of course you have to wash up after eating dinner.
A lot of coral washes up on the beach. The reefs aren't very far off shore. I should have nabbed this piece, but we already had baskets full of shells and coral.
I did some slight photoshopping to this one to get the colors to pop. The seafoam was tricky to shoot. It was close to the edge of the water and I was risking getting a nice soaking if I stayed huddled over for too long.
Mom and I used to collect these shells in Melbourne a lot so that she could make a shell wreath. I gave up on my wreath because the hot glue just wouldn't stay on. So, now I have a basket full of these shells in shades of red, grey and white with some speckled ones thrown in for good measure. I wish there had been some pelicans on the beach. I will have to go again when I return from Bolivia.

Happy first Monday of the time change!!! Enjoy the extra sunlight, even if you are cursing the darkness when you wake up!

Oh and please pray for Robin's kitty, Russo. He was diagnosed with cancer. :(

Hello Spring!
March 8, 2008
Ok, so spring isn't for another week or so, but it really feels like it here. We had a mild cold front, the one that dumped 8" of snow in north Texas a few days ago, but it still feels so very nice out. It was my first weekend home for awhile so I enjoyed it by sleeping in and doing errands and Chris took off to Delray Beach to do some photography. Apparently the birds think it is spring as well. All the little nests are full of chicks!
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Yes, this momma anhinga is engulfing the babies! They are feeding! Isn't that the cutest, and slightly grossest thing?
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Apparently momma is storing the food wayyyyy back there in her crop.
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The little baby blue herons are trying to walk too.
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And this gorgeous purple gallinule with humongo feet! Or, in the word of my friend JC, humongodongo. :)

JC, by the way, drove home with four 10-15' tall royal palms, a sausage tree, java apple and lychee in his Mustang convertible. We'd just dropped my car off to get some tires that had nails in them patched, and an oil change, when he called Chris to tell us of this blowout sale at a nursery in Pembroke Pines. We're talking large, rare palms for under $100, and smaller ones for $15. Things you just cannot find anywhere. And I'm sad to say, very nice rainbow eucalyptus for $50 that we had to leave behind because I just can't bear planting it when I can't take it with me. We did end up with three bromeliads, some $1 crown of thorns and a "Regina" apostle's iris. What can I say? The spring air made me do it???? Anyway, it was a sight to see JC loading his car with all of these huge trees and I can't even imagine how he drove down the road to get it home. What's even more hilarious is that this was the second time that day he'd been there! Let me add, he is 22. (23???) He's insane, but loveable. It's always good to have enablers in the gardening world. We tried to get push him into the eucalyptus so that I could visit it at his house, but he decided against it. For shame....

Countdown to Bolivia has already started. We're inching closer to leaving for our trip. Tonight we met Marc and Eliana for dinner to discuss the trip and talk about things. This is the start of a very busy rest of the year for them. They leave for Grenada about two weeks after we get back and are staying there for three weeks. Then when they return they are heading off in their new (old) VW van to drive the Central American highway. We are mostly settled on what we are doing and where we are going. The biggest thing is when we decide to leave La Paz and head toward Cochabamba. No one seems to want to hang out at 12,000 feet for too long. I just want to play with monkeys and see orchids! I'm getting excited! I cleaned my closet out tonight and some of the clothes are going to Goodwill but I have a pile of jeans that I can't wear anymore (wish I could say they were too loose-hrmph), and I think they will be needed at Inti Wara Yassi by the volunteers or any of the other places we plan on visiting. Eliana already has three suitcases full of donations to take!

Tomorrow is chores, yard work, a little shopping and I am going to be the photographer and go to the beach. I'm hoping it isn't too windy!

The Pumpkin Tomato
March 6, 2008
the pumpkin tomato
I bought some new Winsor and Newton inks tonight with a 40% off to Michael's, mostly because I've been playing with some black ink quite a lot. I grabbed one of the tomatoes in the kitchen and did a little still life in one of my sketchbooks. It looks more wobbly and like a pumpkin, but you know, I like it.

So, here's to wobbly pumpkin-tomatoes! *clink*

March 5, 2008
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Christine and I are both at a loss as to what kind of hawk/raptor this is. Anyone?
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Julia butterfly, I believe.
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Regal osprey, Bear Island.
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The bumblebee and the thistle. Both are ouchies.
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Can't find the butterfly book, but some sort of metalmark on Bidens alba.
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Grass pink orchid. Begging to be painted.
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If you look at a larger view of this you can see the pollen stuck to the legs of the bee. *loving the macro*
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Palamedes swallowtail having lunch at The Thistle.
Cyrtopodium orchid, aka: cigar orchid. Been watching this one on a private property location at work.
It's nice to see some color in the forest of green.
I counted six spikes, full of flowers.

Thanks for the recent comments. Or, rather any comments. :) Love reading them.

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You've made it now
~ Lyrics from "Falling Slowly", Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.

Daily Lessons
March 4, 2008
Everyone learns daily. Little things. Big things. Silly things. Smart things. Apparent things.

  1. Only grow as many tomatoes as you can eat or give away. Don't grow so many that they rot on the vine or make you go insane. The Little Tomato Farm is slowly withering and I am trying to breathe some life back into it. We've lost too many to fruit flies and other bugs. But I'm going to spend more time outside soon.
  2. We need election reform. What the freakin' deal is with all of these states having different voting rules. Florida: the DNC decided that the Democratic votes didn't count because they wanted to punish Florida for moving their election date up. Texas: You people (and you know who you are!) that voted for Hillary because she has a weaker chance of beating McCain. Well. That just shouldn't be allowed in some states and not in others. Make it fair. Plus, you don't know what you are missing with Obama.
  3. Apparently South America wants to start a war just when we're about to go there. Ok, just the idiotic parts, as in Chavez in Venezuela, picking a fight with Columbia.
  4. Juno is the movie that Napoleon Dynamite should have been. I was stoked that Diablo Cody won best original screenplay and when I saw the movie I loved it even more. Here are two music videos from the movie.
  5. Once is awesome, too! I rented it and only watched about a quarter of it before having to leave for DC. I then had return it, but the music is fabulous. They won best original song, too. It's nice to see the unknowns get something deserving.
  6. The writers strike must have been saving up some good comedy on late night. If you don't like the "F" word, don't watch these next two video's. Sarah Silverman and Matt Damon, and Jimmy Kimmel and Ben Affleck. Hilarious! I can't believe all the celebrities they got to do the last one!
  7. The park service sucks. Ok, not entirely. Last Friday I called Chris from Tucson to see how things were going. I got a panicked Chris who was upset because he'd gotten a nasty letter from a park ranger at Big Cypress. Apparently we had to cease and desist our event because we didn't get a special use permit. Now, the park service and their special use permits are ridiculous. It isn't just this, but other cases I've had to deal with them at work. Now, geocaching isn't allowed in any National Park or Wildife Refuge, but there's nothing that says you can't get together and have an event and pick up any temporary "caches" that would even be there. Nor does it say on the camping website anything about having to get a permit for a group of people. Even telling this ranger that we'd had this three other years in the past, with park rangers driving by each year, sway his view. I almost called the park superintendent, but didn't. I do plan on writing a letter. One of the lame excuses was that it was turkey hunting season. Ok. Big whoop. What if I wanted to go hiking as a single person out there? Are they going to freak out and cater only to hunters? That is one thing that just irks me about Big Cypress is that they are really relaxed on their ORV rules. I know from taking out full tracks and buggies at work that unless you stay on a trail, you can still tell a year later where you went. It is not very good for habitat. So, we still had our "event", but spread everyone out and I think most people were too scared to come after we posted the note. Isn't that sad? Too scared to come out and enjoy the outdoors? Why would you want to try to prevent people from using a park. Highly irritating. I love hoop jumping.

Chris did get some good photos from this weekend though.
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The eagles on the Fakahatchee boardwalk are nesting. Supposedly there are two chicks, but they didn't poke their head up to say hi. They are probably 500 feet off the boardwalk, high up in a cypress tree. We saw one swooping over Tamiami Trail while we were about to park.
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I really love this one of the sunset at the campsite. Not sure what bird that was.
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Here are a few of the cachers that came out to see us. If you look in the big, green spaceship, I'm there sleeping. ;) The main four are the Dive Duo and then LJ (Lois) and Christine. They all went after our cache, The Ghost Orchid, but to no avail.

Well, I'm off to do a little scrapbooking.

Cactus: In varying shapes and forms
March 3, 2008
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The saguaro cacti are really cool plants. They have the most unique little formations, most of the time looking like they are holding their "arms" out for someone to come in for a hug, only to bite them really hard in the process.
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I was surprised to see some red, other than the dirt.
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I really liked these cacti. They let the light reflect off them in a very majestic way.
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We met a nice group of tourists, like us, who took this shot of me and dad. :) We wanted to climb up another rock opposite us, but we decided we didn't have the right shoes and clothes on for that. It would have been fun, though!
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This gives you an idea of how they were dotting the landscape. We looked high up on some mountains several miles away and I thought they were on the peaks of those as well, but we weren't quite sure.
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On Tuesday we went to the west side of the park and drove around for a bit. We tried to duck into "Old Tucson" where they shoot movies sometimes, but it was ridiculously overpriced and so we filled up our water bottle at the restroom and went on our merry way. The scenery over there was much different and it was less crowded than the east side. It was a bit hazy to the west and I tried to capture that look, but it didn't come out quite like I thought.
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I wouldn't want those thorns in me!
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We took a one way dirt road through the mountain. The gate said it closed at sunset and so we didn't tarry too long on the road. Didn't want to get locked in with only one bottle of water and just my sweater to keep us warm in the cold desert nights!
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But, we made it out just fine, and even passed a few cars on the way that were taking a little too much time driving. I liked the pink spot in this, so I thought I'd share it. :) It sort of makes you thirsty.
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If we'd had more time it would have been nice to hike to the tops of some of the hills, dodging cacti on the way.
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This was the sunset on Thursday evening from my hotel room. The hotel was brand spankin' new and opened in January. On, I think Tuesday morning, I saw two javelina walking between the hotel and the trailer park that was about a quarter mile behind us. Pretty cool, even if the view wasn't quite the best. It was better than the other side which had a view of the airport.

I think that's most of the better photos. You can view the rest over at Flickr if you want.

swallowtail kite
I've been waiting for months for my favorite bird to return. I absolutely love swallowtail kites. They are beautiful, swooping, graceful birds. We saw two on Wagonwheel Road in Big Cypress on Sunday and I saw another today out on Tamiami Trail in front of my work. WOO! *love, love, love!* I had seen them as early as November in previous years and when I hadn't seen them yet by January I looked online and found out they don't usually migrate back here until February. Well, it is finally March and they are here!
Chris took this photo with our new macro lens. He used our tax refund to get a super cool macro for our Bolivia trip. I must say, I'm smitten with the quality of it. Ok, it's hard not to be smitten with the cute little mug in that photo. This is Aidan. The adorable, albeit slightly trouble making, little squirt of Christine. I remember when he was a baby, starting to walk, talk and now he's nearly four. Heheh! She also saw her first panther this weekend and has a super cool cigar orchid blooming outside of her office at work! How cool is that???

I am the only one who is absolutely happy that spring is around the corner? That daylight savings time is back on Sunday??? More time outside after work, more time for running, gardening and sitting. I just wish hot-as-hell June wouldn't arrive too soon. I'm already batting the monster mosquito's away (literally. have you seen horse fly sized 'skeeters before? These have tiger stripes!).

Home Again: March!
March 2, 2008
This past week really felt like a month. It didn't hit me until 11pm on Friday night while we were driving home from the airport. From the airport that didn't have my luggage. Yeah. I'm waiting for it now, as I type. It was supposed to be delivered yesterday but we were out at our camping geocaching event (that wasn't), and I told them that today at 5pm we'd be home. It's now 5:09 and no bag. This happened because we left Tucson late, actually landed at DFW on time, but sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes before we went to a gate (*insert exploding bladder here*) and I had to rush to my connection in another terminal and barely made it. But, apparently it was just too far for my bag to make it. *sigh*. And so, I sit here pictureless because I took my computer cable with me, hence the photos from Texas, and now I can't show you super cool saguaro cacti.

Tucson was interesting. First, it is full of dirt. Dust. Dirt. Lots of it. It is also full of something that made me sick, either someone with a virus who passed it along to me, or the nice air pollution that they have. Either way, I came down with a nice cold that I am slowly recuperating from. When Dad and I got there on Sunday afternoon we hit
Saguaro National Park on the east side to take a little loop drive and do some hiking. We oogled over all the cacti and found some to take photos of, saw a roadrunner!!!, and a super cool jackrabbit. Awesome!.

Well, it is now several hours later and about 6pm the bag came! WOO! So, I now have photos to share!
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This was one of the first stops on the Cactus Forest Road. We were so eager to get out and explore!
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Dad walked down a "trail" in search of a good saguaro to take a photo in front of. They are super tall!
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One of the few colorful things out there!
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Though I did stop the car when I saw these on the side of the road!
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And just as I had said I wanted to see a roadrunner, we saw one! You can't really tell here, but it is in the middle on the branch that is right above the prickly pear cactus. I thought that was cool until we saw...
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Mr. Jackrabbit!!
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And then it decided to run off!

I'm zonked. I have more photos but I think I'll leave you hanging. You can always cheat and look via Flickr, but I think it's more fun to wait. ;)

Off to get some rest and get rid of this cold. See ya tomorrow and have a good week!

Here, There, Everywhere
February 23, 2008
I meant to get something up a few days ago but I've been a bit busy. I'm on travel again with a short layover in Texas where I'm spending the weekend visiting my family. I'm heading to Tucson for the rest of the week and my dad is coming along for a few days to golf while I'm in my class. Then it's off to our geocaching event and maybe next Monday you'll see me again! But, I thought I'd share a few photos from today.
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My parents cat's, Red and Yoda were actually out and hanging around.
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We went over to visit with my grandfather who is getting a few plants ready for a little veggie garden. My mom is going to be job free in a week so she is already planning on helping him out!
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He has a neighborhood cat that was hanging around with brilliant blue eyes. Unfortunately it didn't want to come hang out.
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I always loved this truck. It used to run well, and it might still. He had the hood up like he might have been working on it a bit.
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I don't see dandelions too often in S. Florida so I was having fun looking at them because they are the only color showing up right now.
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He owns a little over an acre in E. Ft. Worth and it used to be full of vegetables and animals. I remember riding my only horse ride there and eating onions right from the ground. I think there is a photo of that somewhere.
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My grandad's housekeeper had been picking wild garlic from the yard. We set out to find some only to think that what we pulled up was onions. Well, we left the plants in the car for a few hours only to realize that yes, it was garlic!
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The garlic/onions growing wild.
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We went and hung out with my brother and the mom of my future niece or nephew and their farm animals.
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My brother decided to dance with Biff the golden doodle. He is such a goofy little dog.
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They are a match made in heaven!
Future Parents: August 18th, 2008
We went and had Mexican food like we normally do whenever we're in town. Or really, just any normal week or month of a Texan.
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Mom and me after we've had a margarita. :)

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And finally, I finished this drawing yesterday. It needs a bit more blending and tweaking when I get home. I'm very happy with it so far. The photo doesn't reflect the true "color" of it all so I will have to use the Rebel and do a bit of photoshopping to reflect the true color. What do you think???

See y'all in a week or so.

Learning to Fly
February 19, 2008
A few weeks ago a Myspace profile in the form of my class of 1998 reunion committee asked me to be their friend. Can it really be 10 years this summer? No. I don't think so. And yet, it really is. I don't know if I will be going, even though I really want to. I'm hoping it is in August around the birth of Baby Whitlock so that I can be around for both. The music on the profile is really rockin' and has me reminiscing a lot.
Profile here. Music from the Smashing Pumpkins, Depeche Mode, The Toadies (loved them!), Blind Melon, Blur, 10,000 Maniacs, Oasis, The Presidents of the United States of America (I'd forgotten about them!), and much more that isn't on the profile. So, yesterday and today while I have been working on my drawing I have been thrown back 10+ years ago. I dug out a few photos and scanned them, laughed and kept some hidden away because they are nutty.
I'm not sure what year this is, but we're all at my friend Stephanie's house (steph is on the left). Michelle is in the middle. I'm not quite sure what happened to her. Stephanie has even lost contact with her and they were freshmen roommates in college.
One of our pastimes, playing with hair. Notice the dolphin earrings....
This is French class at the end of 10th grade. My hair was blonde, blonde, blonde and holy tan! And the bangs! I sometimes wonder how I stayed sane with them. I saw a photo of them quite flat and I know that would have made me very neurotic.
Actually, they look a bit flat here. This is sophomore art class. We took Polaroid's of each other so we could do a self portrait of sorts. Mine turned out...ok. Hah!
As you can see we had fun with makeup as well. Look at my dorky belt wrapped around itself. And the shirt all tucked in. Hehe.
I especially like this one of Rockstar Stephanie. Really, she should be on Broadway!
And this isn't me in high school, but my dad on his 40th birthday. I liked it. I miss your beard!! He used to grow it out in the winter and shave it in the summer.

I suppose one thing that stood out when looking through the photos is that I have aged. Ok, no craggily skin or anything yet, but even though my mind feels young (on most days!), I don't look that young anymore. I really should carry around a photo of me at 18 so that I can show everyone who cards me.
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Alas, to keep young we all must work out on a regular basis. :)

Big Cypress Explorations
February 18, 2008
We're sort of run into crunch time this year with our Camping in the Glades geocaching event. We only had this weekend to set up some of the events out at the Bear Island Campground where we hold it every year. It was a nice, warm afternoon and a great day for some hiking.
Welcome to the Swamp
We first found this little swamp to put part of the event out at. hehehe, if you are coming to the event, prepare to get a little dirty! We didn't see any orchids in this slough though.
Stop taking pictures of me!
Somewhere along the line Chris has decided to be camera shy. But, I don't have many non-posed photos of him so I try to sneak in what I can get, despite his protests.
What doesn't belong?
In the swamp we saw this nice little rusted out barrel. GRRRR! Who knows how long it has been out there. What gets me is that it is fairly close to the campsites so I don't understand why the park rangers haven't seen it.
Itsy Bitsy Lubber
There were baby lubber grasshoppers everywhere.
Female Downy Woodpecker
On our way back from putting one of the stages out we heard a woodpecker. Actually, we saw two differenet ones probably a half a mile apart, but this one is the same. We id'd them to be female downy woodpeckers. Both of them were very nice and let us get fairly close for a shot. I had no clue they nibbled on sable palms. We also saw several red bellied and pileated woodpeckers, though we never got a shot of them.
Stately Red Shoulder Hawks
There were lots of hawks hanging out and being very stately for us. After we left Bear Island we stopped at the Fire Prairie Trail on Turner River Road. We've stopped here before but have never made it the full hike. I told Chris that it would be a good spot to do a small overnight backpacking trip because it isn't that far to hike, maybe three miles, but then we could have time to wander around and take pictures and explore. Maybe in April we can get out there.
Fire Prairie Trail Butterflies
I was able to get these butterflies, a zebra long wing and a common buckeye (fairly sure on that one) but there were plenty others flitting about.
Pink on Fire Prairie Trail
There weren't many flowers blooming but the thistle is starting to pop up everywhere and we found this grass pink ground orchid. We would have walked further into the prairie where more of these orchids bloom but my toes were getting blisters and it was beginning to hurt to walk.
Baby Lubber City.
We found a zillion more baby lubbers hanging out on the trail, too.
Crinum Diptych
We stopped at Clyde Butchers gallery to see our photography friend, , recent additions to the gallery. He has several nice orchids photos for sale in the gallery now. I saw this crinum in the little marsh outside the gallery and thought it needed to be photographed.

Then we were crusing along Krome Avenue, a two lane road, on the way home when we came upon this.
Car Fire on Krome Ave
A jeep was on fire. We came up probably a few minutes after it started and were the second car in line. A cop was already blocking the path. Not too much later a fire engine came and put out the fire. It was interesting because the car horn went off in the middle as well as some loud popping noises like fire works or maybe gun shells. It was put out pretty quickly, though, and we waited only about 30 minutes. No one was hurt, luckily, as we saw the car owners get out of the cop car after it was over. Then, probably five or so miles down the road we saw a wreck that had just happened and later we deduced that the car in front of us was part of the wreck and the other car had probably spun out going the other direction! Krome Avenue is a horrible, horrible, road. When it rains water pools up on the side and everyone tries to drive near the center of the line, or they just keep on speeding down the road like any other day. That road sucks. And I drive it, or rather carpool on it, daily during the week.

Today I am just enjoying my coffee and taking it easy. It's a nice day off from work and other than a few chores I plan on doing a run and some art work. I'm getting close to finishign my drawing and want to get it done this week. I hate that I am soooo slow. I need to get in the zone and get a few hours into it. I won't be able to start anything new for at least two weeks and I have an oil painting I have to start now so it is dry by the summer when it goes to someone that requested it. I am patiently waiting for something cool to speak to me over at Kal's tiny art collection. I'm silently hoping for sea turtles to pop up, or a tortoise. Or fish. I would really love to buy something big from her, but that would require saving money and right now my money is going to Bolivia. Hah.

Well, off to be productive and relaxing at the same time!

It was cold
February 16, 2008
D.C. was cold. Not as cold as last year, but cold enough that on Tuesday the rain turned to ice and there was traffic and wrecks everywhere.
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Cold enough that I went out and bought a scarf since I forgot mine at home. Dur. Most of the time I was in meetings for work but I did get out and roam around the town a bit. I always love taking the Metro. It's just so, what's the word, cool??? It's easy, no worries, and wa-la. Though you get some weird people on the Metro, but what can you do?
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This was the view from my hotel room. I thought that was the Pentagon, but now I'm not sure. It is in that direction but it might be off to the right some.
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On Wednesday I had the afternoon off so I met my friend Meghan who lives in Maryland and we hung out for the day. We met at the Smithsonian stop and walked through the Smithsonian castle. It was pretty cool! Then we decided whether or not we wanted to hit the Museum of Natural History of the Native American museum, which is new. We hit the latter, though it was a half a mile walk and it started spitting rain on the way. The museum was very interesting, but we didn't get to see it all. That was mostly because we were so tired from standing that we went and got a snack in the cafeteria and talked for awhile. Then we realized we were right by the Capitol...
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and saw that there was a conservatory nearby and decided that it would be much warmer there than outside! So, off we went. We walked in and our noses were filled with the most delicious scents from...
daffodils and hyacinths. Mmmmmmm....
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We went in and found out they were having an orchid exhibit. Cool!
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A Phalenopsis.
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The Ballet Dancers
One I don't know the name to, but they look like ballet dancers.
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There were bromeliads...
Green loves White
Agave/succulent thingy-ma-bob's...
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Sculpture flowers that had various scents to smell...
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And amaryllis that were blooming.

We didn't get to stay long because it was closing time, so we walked about a mile back up the Mall and then stopped midway near the Smithsonian stop and took some photos.
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The Washington Monument at sunset.
The Twin Trees at Sunset
I like these twin trees.
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And then down to the Capitol again. I was joking last week about wanting to see Hillary or Barack, and little did I know it could have been possible. The Potomac Primaries, as they were called, were going on so the candidates were in Virginia and Maryland all week.
Tree Silhouette at Sunset
And then the sun really started setting so we hightailed it towards a restaurant. We ended up at Elephant and Castle, a little English pub.
Two Chicks Drinking Wine and Eating Bread Pudding.
I got a pot pie which was fantastic and we drank wine and had bread pudding for dessert. mmmmmmm! We finished off at Barnes and Noble and sat in the cafe reading through creativity and craft books. Then, the idea for a Flickr group was born. We finalized the name in the Metro waiting for our respective lines (going the opposite direction), The Divine Sisterhood of the Glue Stick. Ok, so maybe a bit too much wine was had, but were were so excited about the group. We're looking for more creative women who will share critiques and ideas and are willing to share their own work too. It can be scrapbooking, painting/drawing, photography, etc.

Other than that it was mostly a work filled week. Nothing too exciting going on. I was pleased with myself for working out four days while up there, and I count all that Mall walking on Wednesday so that would be five days. This weekend we're setting up some Camping in the Glades IV" event stuff and I have Monday off. WOO!

Samson gives a bit Merooowww to everyone. ;) Yes, he has "r's" in his meow's.

We're going to...
February 15, 2008
Chris and I are going on our first trip since our honeymoon. It's been in the making since mid-December and it all finally came together this week. Our friend Eliana asked me if I wanted to go on a trip with her. At first I was like, Europe, baby! and then realized I was insane. Plus, that wasn't what she had in mind. Instead she wanted to take me to a third-world country, the poorest country in South America. Bolivia. I first brought it up to Chris and he was hesitant and thought I was insane. But, I was smart and ruminated on it for a few days before I brought it up and had some of it planned. We had Christmas money from family and bonus money from work as well. Plus, the most expensive part was getting there. I also only needed to purchase 3,000 miles to have enough for a "free" ticket (that ended up costing $140 in the end). Then we had the matter of what we needed to do to get there. My passport expired this month. I needed to change my name as well. So, off I sent for my marriage license copy, got a new passport photo and amazingly once I had all that, from dropping it off at the post office to having my new passport in my hands, it took only 9 days. How's that for an extra expedited fee? Then came the longest part of the process, sending off for the visa to enter into Bolivia. There were all sorts of new requirements that weren't enforced when Eliana went with her friend in September. Yellow fever shots ($250 together!), the visa fee and application, photos, letter of welcome from where we are going and an itenerary. Finally, on Monday we received the visa. Unfortunately I was in DC during that time so we had to wait until tonight to buy our tickets. But....we're offically going to Bolivia in March!!!!

We are super excited! There are five of us going: me, Chris, Eliana, her boyfriend Marc and her friend Anastasia. All of this started because Eliana and Anastasia went in September to take donations to this group
Inti Wara Yassi. These two did a whirlwind trip and because Eliana is about to embark on a six month road trip through Latin America with Marc, she needs to take more donations to them before she goes. Chris and I have ideas in this too. We want to see some kick ass plants and animals! We are hoping to explore a national park that is nearby while we are there as well as see the cities. We have a lot of preparing do to in the next month, but I think it will be a total blast! So, these past few months have been anxiously hoping that we aren't wasting our money on shots, passports and other identification we needed. Now, unless the country goes to pot in the next month, we're going to Bolivia!!!

If you click through on the IWY website there are some needs that are listed. If you know me in S. Florida and have something you would like to donate, please let me or Eliana know and we can arrange to pick it up. If you are a reader and are interested in donating something, Eliana said they really need carabineers. They are easily mailable and they would be much appreciated. One of the things that I want to do when I there, even if I don't have time, is to at least paint one of their buildings, inside or out. They spend so much time caring for these animals that they really don't have time for other maintenance issues.

So, that is that!!

A Lazy, Rainy Day
February 9, 2008
Today's Rain
It rained today.
It didn't start off that way. It was rather sunny and nice to begin with but around 3:00pm it started thundering. I'd laid down for a nap with Chris, he'd been sleeping for awhile, and when I heard the clap of thunder I got up because Samson had been on the porch for several hours. He was waiting at the door, meowing to be let inside. Poor lil' buddy!
Cookies before they are cooked.
I decided I wanted to make some Valentine cookies for Chris this week, so he can eat them while I'm in DC. I used this Martha Stewart recipe and it worked well. I made up the batch of dough and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours and then when it was rainy out I started the cookies.
Pile o' Valentine's.
They are really good, too! Chris ended up getting up when the cookies were half way done and made some salsa.
Then, most of the day I was working on this little piece of weird but fun-ness. I decided to do weekend creative challenge but I kind of turned it into my own thing. It's goofy, but I had fun. It was entertaining at least! I'm thinking it's more for a kids nursery... ;)
leo whiskers
Leo was good and let me shoot some photos of him. He was just jealous that he couldn't go outside.
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Look at his beautiful eyes. He's such a doll. And troublemaker.

I am going to be in DC for the week and I doubt I'll be blogging from the road. I'm taking my work camera, the 40D, so I'll be sure to take some awesome photos of the Mall and Capitol. Maybe I'll see my man Barack somewhere (hahahah!). He's going to be campaigning. :( I was telling Chris yesterday that I'd *almost* forgot Bush was President. With all this voting and campaining we've not heard much from him and then I saw his photo while he was touring the tornado devastated areas and was put back into reality. Gah. My office has been enamoured with this and most everyone is a Democrat, some are of the "I don't care which one gets in as long as they beat a Republican" group, some are of the "McCain over Hillary" and some are "meh". I'm finally invigorated again with politics!!! WOO! I like McCain for who he is but I don't agree with a lot of his politics. He's tolerable. Hillary I agree with a lot of her politics but can't stand her as a person. Barack, I like him and like his my vote is for him!

Have a happy weekend!

Pink is my Favorite Color...
February 8, 2008
My husband likes when I blog. I like when I blog, too, but sometimes you've just got to be in the mood to sit down and write and take the time to put the photos in. Sometimes it feels like a chore and other times I just can't wait to share something interesting. I do have something interesting today and I have to say the first one is print-worthy, I think.
Roseate Spoonbill
Since last Sunday Chris has now had the itch to go photograph these birds that were hanging out en masse on Alligator Alley. I told you we butchered a entire 20 minutes worth of photos because of the low light. Well, yesterday he went back out after work and since it was earlier in the evening he had better luck. I like this shot a lot! Bravo cute husband!
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These are from Sunday when he went hiking with a friend and they stopped to take photos.
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They are very active birds, roseate spoonbills.
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Coming in for a landing!
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Mooovee out of the way!
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Ok, what can we eat now? More fish? Crustaceans? Drat. I need more pink in my feathers!
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I think their scientific name is quite hilarious: Ajaia ajaja. Ja, ja, that's my name, don't wear it out, honk!
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This shows some of the amount of birds that were there!
I Once Caught a Fish, THIS BIG!
And though this stork was totally drying his wings, Chris thought this was hilarious and we laughed for quite awhile on it!
In other news I have a mulberry! WOO! This is from a cutting that I got from the Nat'l Clonal Germplasm Respository last year. Not many of the cuttings made it but I have a few mulberries and a fig left.

I made it through my second book this year, The Widow of the South a true story with a fictional tale woven in about the Battle of Franklin during the Civil War, I think the bloodiest battle of the war. The story is about Carnton, a plantation where 1,500 are now buried and the woman and family whose house was a hospital during the battle. I thought it was a great novel and captivating the entire time. I'm now going to start The Historian which I picked up at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $2.99 during the holidays, hardcover too!

Sam and Leo say hello to all the readers out there. *meow*

27 Pounds of Tomatoes
February 6, 2008
15 lbs 9 ounches
Here are 15 lbs 9 ounces that I collected yesterday after work. Chris got 12 more lbs today. I'm sort of confused on how he got that much because it didn't appear that there were that many left on the vines.
15 lbs of tomatoes in my kitchen.
This is yesterdays booty sprawled out on the counters. Some are going for seeds, some are in the oven slowly turning into "sun" dried tomatoes, and some are waiting in the freezer to be made into salsa. There is still a lot left. We've been slowly eating some of them and believe it or not Chris is even nibbling on some. He liked the Black from Tula, calling it "sweet" tasting. Next year we're trying a spinach plantation instead of the tomatoes and maybe I can convert him to that! Muhahahahaha! So far the mellowest was a Great White, but it was starting to rot and so I had to have a piece of an end and then we saved the seeds. I still love Arkansas Traveler and Lemon Boy. I had an Opalka Hook tonight and I liked it as well.
I have no idea which ones these are, but they look good!
Swirly Vanda
The small keiki of our largest vanda put out a spike and is in full flowering mode.
Vanda in the light.
We had another small yellow one that had flowered a few weeks ago but the flowers have already dropped.
Looking towards the west
I tried and tried but a lot of them came out blurry. Must keep working on my low light technique. We botched 20 minutes of bird photos the other night at sunset. We ran out to the Alley for a bit and thought we had a bunch of good shots only to find very few in good focus.
Golden Lotus
The golden lotus banana is also blooming for the first time since we got it. It was blooming when we purchased it and then divided many of them up for trade and finally it is blooming again.

February is slipping by too fast in my opinion. I'm losing two weeks by being out of town. I'm excited about these trips but I feel like it is just speeding along and I have no control over it. I skipped yoga tonight just for the fact that I am feeling behind at home and I wanted to do some chores and art and blog and, and, and!!!! All day I felt like there was no way that if I didn't knock a few things out of the way I wouldn't even be able to relax at yoga for the simple fact I'd be focusing on all that I hadn't done or wanted to do or needed to do. To do, to do, to do. Gah!!!!

On Sunday, my Zen creating day of bliss, I was listening to Virgin Radio UK, which I love because I like the music they play and the accents are a blast! They had this guy Tom Baxter play some songs on their studio and I fell in love! I love the music! You have to check him out! Plus, I love listening to that station on the 'net and pretending I am Bridget Jones, sans ditzyness, and living in London.

So, if I can get myself calmed down and out of the procrastination zone I'll be ok.

I miss your comments: Mom, Dad, Uncle Larry, Crystal, Gayle, Curtis and Stephanie (baby Whitlock is allowed to post too).

The Three Tails: An Adventurous First
February 3, 2008
Waking up at 4 in the morning is a major feat for me. I hate getting up early and I better be rewarded when I do. I decided late in the week to go on the hike to Fakahatchee with Chris and JC, I mean afterall what else was I going to do all day? Not much probably. I certainly don't mind hiking out there but sometimes I just hate the rush of having to hike out sooooo far, three+ miles, some by tram and a lot by swamp and bushwhacking, to only spend a little bit of time sitting and relishing the fact I'm in the middle of nowhere and to take in the scenery. So, needless to say the waking up early was just a precursor to most of the rest of the day.

We got to Janes Scenic Drive around 7am and it was just beginning to get light out and it was foggy. JC and I slept the whole way and Chris was listening to The Orchid Thief on cd and I was still dozing a bit when we got to the strand. Then, Chris says that there was something in the road. I snap awake and let my eyes adjust. Deer? No. Bear?? Not big enough. But definitely a panther. No, it was THREE panthers!! They saw us approaching and Momma darted to the south side of the road along with one "kitten" and the other kitten hid in the bushes on the other side of the road. We eased up a bit more and angled the car so we could get some photos. They came out and walked along the road a bit and Chris snapped some photos.
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Now, these photos are really, really horrible, but you can tell it was a panther. The low light the distance and the immediacy of taking the photos just made for some bad photo moments. But you can tell it is a panther! Look at the long tail!
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They trotted across the road just like Leo and the tail was just like Leo as well.
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Then they dissapeared off to the south side of the road with Momma. We hoped for them to come back and make an appearance but no such luck. We drove slowly past where they went into the woods, hoping to see a crouching kitty cat, but they were well hidden or already far back into the woods and moving onward. Do you know how long we've been waiting for this??? Six years almost!!! An hearing stories of geocachers going after our caches in Fakahatchee and seeing both panthers and bears in the same day, well it was always dissapointing. And I've had so many chances at work to see one and the day I had the chance I missed it. I just wish we'd had a bit more time watching them, or they would have rolled around on the ground and purred like Leo!! LOL!

That was probably the high point of the day. The rest of the day was rather long and tiring and though I did have fun, I had a headache, a runny nose and a very big grouchy attitude. I'm surprised Chris didn't leave me for the very large, grunting and angry sounding alligator we heard. We were in search of "The Cathedral" a supposedly very nice area with lots of orchids and bromeliads and honestly I just think we were in the wrong spot or The Cathedral was just not what I thought it would be. In fact, I think there are areas a lot closer that are much nicer!
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This spider was really interesting, a greenish glowing bug.
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Chris had walked right over this and I looked down and saw it. There were several other parts to the deer laying around. Did a panther eat this? Chris was going to take it home but there were lots of large ants working on the last part of the degredation process and so he hung it up in the tree instead. I wonder if someone will cross this path?
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We happened across a really large cypress tree that had been logged. You can't tell from this direction how large it had been and I was also standing on a lot of detritus and was higher than ground level.
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This is the top half of the cypress that was probably just too large to haul out. What a shame!
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This is where I would have liked to have sat and stayed for an hour to take it all in.
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And this is how I felt in the middle of it all. I could have laid down on the log and rested forever.
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And Chris laughed at me so JC and I did a "play" on the previous photo.
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We finally made it back to the cabin that we'd rode our bikes to. That was probably the best idea ever, riding our bikes two miles on the tram to the cabin, cutting 40 minutes each way off of our travel time. Now, I really could have sat at the lake and stared out at the many, many alligators and been perfectly happy the rest of the day.

Our plans to stop off at the Subway on 29 and Tamiami Trail were dashed when we heard about the traffic because of a seafood festival in Everglades City, so we had to wait for our hunger to be staved off at the gas station on the Alley. We got home, showered and promptly fell asleep at 5:30 pm. I woke up at 8am this morning, but Chris got up last night and did a few things before coming back to bed.

So, PANTHERS! :) YAY! Alright bears...your next!

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park: Deer, Moon and Fog
February 1, 2008
It's time for more Kissimmee Prairie photos. I got lost in the past few weeks and didn't get around to sharing more!
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This is your mode of transportation in Florida if you are out in the backcountry. That or an airboat if you are in the Everglades or a full track if it isn't quite wet enough for an airboat but not dry enough for a buggy. I drive one of these for work sometimes and they are quite fun!
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On our buggy tour we saw several bucks hanging out, there was a third but he missed the shot.
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And then the cutie crossing the path at dusk...
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We tried several night shots of the moon but none really came out that well. I did like this one because of the spooky affect. We sat at the end of the drive to the site and set up the tripod. To the west where the moon was it was beautiful and then to the northeast there were flashing of lightning in the far, far distance. I like being in the middle of nowhere at night. A few years ago we were in Ocala National Forest driving down old logging roads with old country on the radio and nothing but stars and our headlights. I like that feeling. No bears, though.
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While I was sleeping in the next morning Chris was out and about getting shots in the fog. I remember the last time we were at KPPSP it was foggy in the morning as well. Chris, he is too active in the morning for me. I mean, I do like to get up sometimes, but he just hasn't learned the value of a good sleep in, especially after a long week. He cracks me up sometimes because he says he's going to sleep in and then he's up at 7 or so to do something outside or around the house.
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I would like to pretend the fog is on the moors of England, very The Secret Garden-ish.
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To notice spider webs, the ones that hide in the grasses and bushes that you just never really see, having it drenched in morning dew will really bring it to your attention. Especially when you see just how many webs are hiding in the grasses. They are mostly the home of small spiders, none of the big "scary" golden orbs.
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I really like this shot. It's overexposed in a way, but the sunlight is now coming up on the prairie.
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Cabbage palms, a Florida native and the state tree, though they aren't really trees but more closely related to grasses. The Miccosukee and Seminole Indians use the dead leaves, though I have seen some new ones before, on their chickee's.

It's been a long week here. I'm ready for the weekend and some relaxation. Doing a little hiking tomorrow, but other than that I want to take it easy!

In the groove
January 29, 2008
So, I'm liking Tuesdays so far this month. With the paper adventure thing that I started earlier in the month it is forcing me to sit down and do some artsy stuff for a few hours every night. Plus, this writers strike is really good, too! I mean, bad for the writers, but great for me and other tv watchers who are now doing other things instead of being sucked into the tv for hours on end. Tonight I did this:
Paper Adventure: Little Picture
I dug the photo out of my scrapbook pile (it is huge! I'm so behind.) from this past Thanksgiving at my brothers house. The theme this week was "The Little Picture", so I sat down and wrote a few of the small, stupid and silly things we did as kids. It is hard to believe he is going to be Poppy Curtis this summer. I mean, look at him, he is really only 12 still. ;)

Then I actually started a little beach/ocean themed book that I meant to start last spring when mom and Stephanie F. came to visit me. We took a lot of beach pictures and I wanted to start a themed book so that I can remind myself to get back out there more often.
beach scrapbook
I need to do this more often. I sort of got myself into a big hole with scrapbooking, worrying about what I was doing and wasn't doing. When I was looking for the photos of Wes, I was flipping through my college scrapbooks and thinking about how simple it all was. Simple, I like simple. It's back to simple for me.

I've also been drawing.
Pencil drawing in progress.
It has flaws and a ways to go, but I am liking it so far. It is a tillandsia (bromeliad) close up. Maybe I can get it done over the next week. A little bit here and there.
Vanda lost on my desk.
Chris was tearing orchid flowers off the plant to check out pollination stuff so I moved the vanda around for a little still life. I like how it turned out.

I'm tired tonight, so off to bed for me!!

Hooty Hoo!
January 27, 2008
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I wish I could claim these photos, but they are all Chris. I was with him, asleep in the car. We had been doing some errands and a big haze came over me and I just conked out. These were shot at Brian Piccolo Park and it is a good place to see these burrowing owls. They are really cute and all of their burrows are roped off, but they will let you get fairly close, but not too close and you'll get squawked at like Chris did.

Today was a little bit lonely. Chris went fishing and I stayed home. I slept in again, relishing the days that I can do this. February is going to be bustling and I won't have very many weekends free before I am jetting to and fro around the country. I worked in the backyard for awhile and as I sat on the swing I was a bit overwhelmed at everything that I needed to do. Inside and out. So, I ate lunch and took a little nappy with the kities again. I've really become a lover of naps. I used to hate when mom made me take a nap, but now I understand it all. Naps are just good for the soul! After the little rest I got up and hit the ground running to clean the house and did a rollerblade. I've been wanting to see 27 Dresses for the past few weeks and so I went out and saw it as a treat for all my work today. Then it was home to make salsa. Really, the only thing we can do with the amount of tomatoes is make salsa. The sun dried tomatoes, I think, just take too long for the amount of tomatoes we have. Mom said she is going to sent a pressure canner of my grandmothers so I can maybe try stewed tomatoes and spaghetti sauce.

I haven't been doing a whole lot else at the moment. Doing some drawing and crocheting but not the amount I need to be doing. Trying to get a few blankets out the door soon. Need to dig out my word for the year, "explore" and see what I can do with it. I'm already hermitting myself away.

January 26, 2008
I meant to get this up a few days ago but time was short and I wasn't even sure how to start or what to say. On January 23rd, the fifth anniversary of the passing of one of Chris' good friends, Wesley Bright, occurred. It it hard to believe that that much time has passed and to look back at what has happened between now and then. I always hate the thought of people slipping into oblivion only to be remembered by a select few and then eventually no one.
Chris could tell you more about how they met and how they became friends, but all I know is that they were good fishing buddies and he was one of the nicest, sweetest people I've known. We all went to college together at Texas A&M at Galveston. There are fleeting memories that I have: Chris and Wes flying kites in the big field in front of the student center, Wes and his dad coming up to Shreveport, La to meet us and Chris' mom and step-dad to see the Aggies play in the Sugar Bowl (which turned into the Snow Bowl because it ended up snowing during the game!), and one memory I remember a few weeks or months before finding out he was sick was seeing him in the student center as I was talking to a few people, giving me a hug and telling me how excited he was to be one of the Best Men in our wedding.
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This photo is from one of the times we all went up to an Aggie game in College Station, TX. I have another good photo of all of us (Scott, Darcy, Wes, me and Chris) in the back of Joe's (Chris' step-dad) truck on the way to the game from our friend Alisa's house. You can't tell here because Chris has a hat on, but these three goofs decided to dye their hair blonde and Wes' turned out the best because it was light anyway. I think Scott's was fairly "orange-blonde" and Chris' was pretty funny too. One of the things that came out of all of this is that Wes was big Pat Green fan. I had no clue who Pat Green was until a few days after his surgery when Pat Green came to visit him in the hospital. Chris had flown in from Florida to hang out with Wes for a week and so I came up to Houston from Galveston to visit him as well. Forevermore, Pat Green will always remind me of Wes. This happens often because we play Pat Green pretty frequently as he is good Texas country music.

I know I can barely sum up with words any of this. But if you knew Wes write a little note here and tell me what you remember most about him.

I did dig up two articles on Wes, The Batt article, written by his friend Courtney and article about Reville coming to visit him There is so much more than this, but words can't describe it all.

A little Pat Green for Wes and all of his friends.

A Story: by Leo
January 21, 2008
Once upon a time, it was morning time and I was being mischievous. Mom was at the computer doing whatever she does there and after she pushed my nose away from her banana bread, I decided it was high time I went a bit higher. Like climbing a mountain. Only not.
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My mom, she likes books. She has so many on this white bookcase that I wonder if she's read them all. So, sometimes I jump up, wayyyy to the top, and hide out behind the books. Of course, I get scolded or laughed at and told to come down, but I don't listen.
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It's a very good perch to sit upon to look for these gnarly lizards that run around the windows. Wait! I think I see one!
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Nah, not a lizard....ooh this bookend is a really good chin scratcher. There, that's better!

The End.

Now, aren't Leo stories good? Today was a much better day than yesterday, though lounging about the day is good, it was draining too. Sleeping in for the holiday was good, though when Chris got up at 7am I couldn't figure out why he was getting up so early on a weekend until I realized that he had to go to work. :( I got up later on and ran to the store to pick up a few items so I could make breakfast. My friend Eliana came over for a few hours to eat pancakes and chit-chat about art (she's an excellent artist!!) and discuss future plans and such. It was a bit sad to see her go, but I had a doctor's appointment and she had other things to do as well. The doc went well. Basically my phlegm issue isn't made in my mind, it's real. Don't you hate how you go to the doctor or the car shop and what you think is wrong they can't find wrong. But, he did see stuff and thinks I have an allergy to something. So, off to the lab across the street for blood to be taken so they can see if I'm allergic to pollen of some sort. I saw Australian pine on that list, but if it comes back saying Melaleuca, I'm going to personally chop down all of the Melaleuca in this state and send the bill to Governor Crist. There was one morning a few weeks ago that I drove to work by myself and on Krome Avenue, a notorious stretch of road that has a lot of Melaleuca on it, I start hacking up both lungs and seriously thinking I need to pull over. That was the day I made up my mind to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. So I'm dosed up with some allergy meds and cough medicine until they figure out what is up.

Chris' foray into Fakahatchee yielded a lot of citrus. A lot of times in natural areas here you will find citrus growing in the wild because the area was most likely inhabited by humans at one point. Last night he made "orangeade" which was really good and tonight he made "grapefruitade", which I have to say is fantastic and I hate grapefruit. It helps that it has a lot of sugar in it. That's one thing Chris doesn't skimp on, sugar.

Alas, it is back to work tomorrow. Darn. I am looking forward to doing some scrapbooking tomorrow and my yoga class on Wednesday. Hope everyone had a good weekend!

Dark and Dreary
January 20, 2008
I have done nothing but laze about the entire day. I slept until 10 and then loafed about on the internet until noon and was again mesmerized by the bed and fell asleep for another hour. Somehow I pried myself up, got dressed, and made grilled cheeses at 2pm. I then settled in with the kitties for the rest of the afternoon to watch Gone with the Wind. It's been awhile since I had seen it and now I am wishing I had Scarlett on DVD as well. Chris has been out hiking at Fakahatchee all day and though I am glad I didn't go with him, too cold and dreary for me, I feel a bit bummed I lazed around. I suppose these days are needed sometimes.

I thought I'd share some of the photos from our camping trip last weekend to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. There are many and I'll have to string them out through the week.
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When we first got to the campsite some volunteer rangers came up and told us some kids would be coming down to look for faces in the trees. We looked at them quizzically and then I saw them in the tree. Apparently they are polymer clay that had been sculpted into the tree. A very interesting feature!
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The prairie is full of palmetto's and oak hammocks. This oak was at the west end of the horse pens and I liked how it stood up over everything.
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The obligatory golden orb post. Chris nabbed this one.
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The park takes an active role in controlled burning because it harbors the grasshopper sparrow. This little bird needs nothing taller than a few feet in quite a large expanse for it to even nest. So, they burn several areas during different seasons. We took a buggy tour and the guide told us that different things will grow depending on when you burn...
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If you burn in the summer the grass is more prominent, though the palmettos are still underneath, the grass makes the statement.
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I love the oaks with their draping shawls of Spanish moss.
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Many people bring their horses to ride on the trails. There is an extensive trail system, but to get to many hammocks it is 4-6 miles and quite a hike, but you can see some nice stuff without going too far.
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In the evening the deer and turkeys come out and hang out near the campsites.
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It's nice to see wildlife so close.

I think we'll start camping more this season. February is going to be busy as I am going to DC and Tucson. We had hoped to do another backpack trip but I think it'll have to wait until March or April. I think I'll do a few chores and then laze about more. Masterpiece Theater is doing a complete Jane Austen over the next few months, and though I missed Persuasion last week I want to watch Northanger Abbey tonight. If you want something fun about Mr. Darcy watch this.

Enjoy your evening.

Gratuitous Cat Photos
January 19, 2008
I've been reading and looking at various photos on Flickr lately to get ideas and to learn how to take better photos. One thing I have fallen in love with is the 50mm lens. Really, it is a good lens! The other thing is learning about
Bokeh. This is what I love. I love the dreamy, the slightly out of focus but still focused on something important in the photos, photos. Now I am in this bid to capture it as best as I can, though I think that is somewhat what I have been doing since I started taking more pictures several years ago. My cats are good subjects to practice the 50mm on, so here they are in all their furry goodness.
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Samson being shy for the camera.
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I want to kiss that little white paw of his. Look at those whiskers!
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I love this one of Leo. This is where his bug-eyes name came from, that and his head too little for his eyes when he was a baby. He was laying under my desk chair, his "cat house" and posed a few cute photos for me.
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Leo being thoughtful.
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And I like this, because it has bokeh, and because Mr. Samuelson Whiskers Little (not his real name, but I make lots of them up) is a cutie patootie.

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There was a nice sunset yesterday as I was driving home and when I got to the house I ran inside and grabbed the camera.
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The kind you want to paint...
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But, I don't think I could do it justice.

Chris and I had a mini-banana bread war last night. Remember those bananas on our tree? We harvested them several weeks ago and they've been ripening in our house since. They turned quickly and even though I was taking some to work to share, we couldn't get through them fast enough. They were nice and sweet and a perfect little snack, but we turned the rest into two loaves of banana bread. I used a receipe I got from Mom and he pulled something from the 'net. So, two slices, a boiled egg, coffee and water make a good breakfast before doing Saturday yard and house chores. Fun let's get going!

Sitting Around, Dreaming.
January 17, 2008
I've been here and there this week and not feeling much like posting, though there are many things I could talk about. Other than being woken up by the Morning Monster (aka: Leo) at 4 and 5am daily when he wakes Samson up and they start romping around on the floor and I hear, "Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump", as they run back and forth in the bedroom. You would think that being 10 years and almost four years old they would have learned by now that Mom and Dad need their sleep. Somehow though I have been ok with this, not that I am not tired, but normally I sleep on the way to work and I am having trouble doing so lately. Maybe I'm just working out some sleep time issues.

After two weeks in a row camping I'm planning on hanging out here this weekend. It is a three day weekend for me and Saturday I am planning all day yard work. Or at least as long as I can handle it. Mowing, trimming, fertilizing, harvesting. I'm doing it all. The porch has nice algae growing on it from being wet all the time and so it is time for a good power washing. Sunday I am planning an all day art festival and maybe throwing some crochet in there with it. Chris is going hiking in Fakahatchee and though it does sound fun, I end up spending the time that I wanted to do art the next day by cleaning instead. Monday I have a doctor appointment with an ear, nose and throat doctor. For probably 4+ish years I've had this constant dripping, phlegm thing going on in my throat to where I am constantly clearing and coughing and itching my throat. At one point I was prescribed a nasal spray because it was thought it was just post nasal drip in regards to my asthma. Well, that just hasn't helped and this past month or so it was so bad that my throat hurt from the coughing and clearing and constant craze of it. So, I did something about it and called a doctor after I did some web searching of my own. Apparently it could be a really bad reflux that has moved up my esophogus. I've had issues with this in the past, mostly during high school, and though I don't take medicine anymore for it, I have a feeling this is what it is. Monday I will know, or have an idea at least. I'm sure I drive everyone around me nuts with it.

In other news I've dug out my narcissim and joined every other narcissist on the net for more 365 self portraits. I started it back in October last year but quit after a few days because the camera crapped out. Well, now I'm up through the first week. If you want to follow along
click here. It's fun but difficult to figure out something meaningful to do rather than random shots of my face. I think I will eventually do a scrapbook of it by breaking it up into the months.

In a few weeks start looking for tomato seeds on my Etsy shop. I've been selling quite a few things lately (no purses yet...come on, I know you like 'em!!), but seeds seem popular. We'll have some of the odd varieties if you are interested in having them in your garden this year. This is also part of my purpose for working in the yard, to find things that I can put up there and share. If I can get my butt going with the art I'd like to have a piece or two up for spring.

I took this shot of a tropical almond leaf the other day at work. We were out doing some surveying and the original purpose was to get a shot of a cigar orchid.
I didn't notice the orchid until one day I looked up and thought it was a palm tree that had sprouted in the middle of some ferns on the cypress. Upon closer inspection I realized it was a rare cigar orchid.
Complete with a seed pod. WOO!
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.~Helen Keller

Salsa War: Chris vs. Misti
January 14, 2008
With the bumper crop of tomatoes Chris decided it was salsa time.
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The tomatoes chose teams, (mine)
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like they were playing Red Rover in elementary school. (Chris'). After all, the best tomatoes make the best salsa, right?
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Chris started working his magic first while I did some chores around the house. Two people in the kitchen isn't the best thing.
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So, while he chopped
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And sautéed, I plotted.
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Then, I got to work.
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I started off with the smaller tomatoes and threw in a tomatillo for good measure. The tomatillo was bought from the store, as our tomatillo plant was quickly drowned out by the other tomatoes and has keeled over.
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Then I blended all of my ingredients (shhh, they are a secret!) in the food processor my mom gave me (thanks mom!) and wa-la! Now that Velveeta is for Rotel. Rotel is a Texas thing, much like Blue Bell Ice Cream, Braum's, bluebonnets and Nolan Ryan. 1lb of Velveeta cheese chopped up, 1 can of Rotel, heat in microwave, mix and heaven on earth.
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All of those tomatoes made all of this salsa. Mine is on the left, Chris' on the right. The biggest differences are that he used garlic and cooked it and I didn't cook mine and used too many pepper seeds (i.e.: all of them from two jalapeño's) and mine came out super hot. Good, but hot. Curt, you would like it. So, no one really "won", but it was neat to try out different recipes and mix things up. Next time I will use less seeds and maybe roast my tomatoes on the grill for a smoky flavor.

We went camping this weekend so this week I will have photos to share. Chris was the photographer most of the time.

An aside for a certain someone who reads this:
"Burke: What is your problem?
Cristina: You know everyone’s back. Everyone’s back except her. And I listen to her. Everyday, about her McLove life, her McDreamy, her McCrap. And the one day, the one day I have a thing she disappears.
Burke: Meredith, this is about Meredith.
Cristina: She doesn’t know yet.
Burke: Meredith?
Cristina: She’s my person.
Burke: Right. And if Meredith doesn’t approve, then what?
Cristina: No, no. This, This is not about getting her approval, its about…
Burke: What?
Cristina: Telling her makes it, makes it... If I murdered someone she’s the person I’d call to help me drag the corpse across the living room floor.
Burke: Okay, now, you’re likening someone here to a corpse. I’m done.
Cristina: She’s my person.

You'll always be my person.

A Whole Lotta Tomatoes
January 11, 2008
I got home tonight and was checking my email when Chris calls me into the kitchen. I asked if he'd gotten some tomatoes off the plants. Boy, did he!
tomato harvest 001
Ohhhh yeah! I ate the one in the center with my dinner, leftover Chicken Bryan from Carrabba's (if I had to choose, which would I choose? Chicken Bryan or a fresh tomato. Sorry fresh tomato, but buttery, cheesy chicken goodness is mine...allll mine!). The tomato is called Stump of the World and it was pretty tasty. I was hoping for a bit less acid, but for a good tomato it was decent.
tomato harvest 017
I'm going to have to get back to you on these wrinkly ones. The vines have taken on a life of their own and Chris said that the ones he picked may have been from a plant several containers over. I'd hate to pass along the wrong name!
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I was in the field today and took our little Fuji along because I have seen many butterflies the past few days where we were. I don't think I have seen this one before but I am unable to identify it. Look at the "hairs" on the back of it.
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There were a lot of white peacock's behaving nicely for me.
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This phaon crescent held still to get just this close and then flew away. There were many others but none were in a mood for the paparazzi!

Alas, that is all for this Friday night. Cleaning and laundry beckons. Yes, on a Friday night!

Yoga Baby!
January 9, 2008
Of course you have to say the Baby part of the title the way Austin Powers says it. It just sounds better. I signed up for a yoga class today. The county sends out adult educator classes every few months and I decided it was high time for me to learn yoga. I took a drawing class two years ago and really enjoyed it. It was what catapulted me back into art. So, yoga. I just feel the need for flexibility again, for some guidance in doing these poses and to get out and do something once a week for me. In addition to the knit/crochet group I have been going to. I had to go to a middle school to sign up, where the classes are held. Have you been to a school lately? It is like a fortress, almost. It was a bit weird walking into halls of learning, having flashbacks to my school days and tinges of yearning to be a teacher. I was sitting in the office where a woman was signing me up for the class and on the wall were various pieces of paper regarding bomb threats and other not fun things. Just thinking you have to think about this makes me a bit sad and wishing for the simpler days of you know, the 1980's. HA! So, I'm signed up to do yoga in a fortress of a school.

For Christmas I received gift cards to Barnes & Noble from my father in law and his wife. It is something I look forward to because I stock up on books and movies usually. My order finally came yesterday and today, in two parts, and I started a new book. It is nice to be sunk into a book again, savoring the words, anticipating it all. I'm a fairly fast reader. When HP and the Order of the Phoenix came out I read in the car most of the day while we ran around town and Chris was amazed how far I had gotten into the novel. This book is no different. It is the third in a trilogy,
The Sweet Far Thing, which is really a teen book, but certainly not written quite so. It's like saying Anne of Green Gables is a children's book, because it is and it really isn't. So many things I never understood until I was older. Anyway, this book is fabulous and if you like a good mystery and fantasy novel, plus throw in historic fiction, it is a good little series to read. I also picked up another Philippa Gregory novel, Earthly Joys. I love her novels and am really looking forward to The Other Boleyn Girl coming to the theater in February.

The "Whites" of Fairchild
I'm finally getting around to posting the "whites" of Fairchild. I went back to look at the reds a few posts down and I really love them. They were just so vibrant. Sometimes I wish I could walk through a garden and it really be full of flowering plants in all arrays of colors. Rarely do I really see that, but most of the time I see this is in cottage gardens. When I really have my own bit of earth I plan on doing at least once section as a cottage garden. I like the wild, unkempt look, the thought of carrying a basket around to clip flowers off to decorate around the house. I also like the thought of mixing in edibles in with the flowers and putting edibles in the front yard instead of hiding them in the backyard. For now, I just get to dream about it.

A Little Creating
January 8, 2008
Last week or so, a blog I have been following and reading for awhile decided to do a little paper adventure/journaling for a year.
Elise Blaha's Paper Adventure '08 seemed right up my alley. I've been in a scrapbooking slump since last March and I feel bad for neglecting my poor little scrapbooking stuff. I didn't want to commit to anything large so I pulled out this little box that my SIL had sent me for Christmas that held a charm bracelet.
My paper adventure '08
I mean, cutest box ever, right??? So I cut some pieces of cardstock up into the approximate shape of the box and that will hold my little journal project for the year.
My paper adventure '08
Jan 1 2008, Paper Adventure
For the first prompt it was Balance so I chose the handspring sequence. Not to mention that was the day that the prompt and the whole thing started, so why not start off with my whackiness!
Jan 08 2008, Paper Adventure
The second prompt was about the souvenir you want remembered when you are long gone. It was difficult to think of what to choose, but I chose the ghost orchids. I think Chris and I have a passion about them, sometimes Chris a bit more than me, that seeps through and hopefully we can just educate those we come in contact with about the world around them a little bit more.
Leo lounging
I love my little Leo. Here he is hogging the chair, all to himself. You see, he normally lays right behind me in the chair while I have the edge to sit on. While I was sewing in December he was doing the same thing. It is comforting, though, to have him there. A little buddy just laying there with me. Samson would have done something similar laying on the computer desk, but he has gone to bed with Christopher. I am liking this little challenge. I'm trying to dedicate Tuesdays to working on it and doing some drawing. This writer's strike has been good in a way because I'm not watching as much tv. I do like my tv though when I am crocheting! So, hopefully I can get back into scrapbooking. I have a stack of things just waiting to be done, but I am tempted to re-think what I am going to do and just put them in photo albums until later.

I haven't read any of her books, but I found an excellent speech done by Isabel Allende today. Speech. It is wonderful and has made me want to pull down Portrait in Sepia and read it. So, go for it!

Exploring: The Keys and Endangered Species
January 7, 2008
Our first exploring adventure of the year was to the Keys. We on going kayaking and visiting
Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Park, a mile and a half paddle in Florida Bay, but the wind and cool weather kept us from doing so. Instead we took it easy on the way down on Saturday, stopping off at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Sanctuary for a walk through their boardwalk. We had been about three years ago and really enjoyed it. They take in injured wildlife and either rehabilitate them or keep them forever if they can't be released back into the wild. As soon as we got there someone informed us that there were some roseate spoonbills in the salt pond at the back. Sure enough we meandered back and found them.
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They were in a difficult position and we never really were able to photograph the second one as it was hiding behind a mangrove.
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There were a lot of egrets hanging out in the pond as well and they kept ruffling their feathers in the wind.
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Our wild friend here, the squirrel, was feeding on some bird seed that was put out for the other birds that come to visit.

Afterwards we meandered down to Islamorada and stopped at Robbie's to eat at The Hungry Tarpon, which was fabulous. Chris ate a fish sandwich and I had probably the best crab cake sandwich ever! We were camping at Bahia Honda State Park and we drove on past it to Big Pine Key so we could scout out some key deer. Key deer are an endangered sub species of white tailed deer that used to be more plentiful in the Keys, but are now almost exclusively on Big Pine and a few other surrounding islands. We had seen them before but not with our super cool camera!
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We found this one, which by the way was not afraid of us one bit, walking around browsing on the local habitat. The flowers must be good on this plant!
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The one thing I like about our big lens is that now I can get photos of little birds without them being specks in the middle of the photograph! I have no clue what this is, but anyone is welcome to chime in! I'm not up on my small birds yet.
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Now, we had never seen a buck Key deer before, but sure enough we found one hanging out in an open field across from some houses. We counted 8 points! He was hanging out with this tagged female.
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She's so pretty! One of the residents did come out of their house and I'm sure they get tired of tourists driving down the roads looking for deer. Unfortunately we did see someone trying to pet one as well as feeding it. Don't feed the deer!
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I got this cutie because he/she was only about five feet from the car, next to a house. Just walking across the road, probably looking for a handout.
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The lighting is a bit dark, I didn't look to change the settings, but I am still happy with how it turned out. Look at that wet nose!

We went back to the campground before dark to set up our tent and make dinner. Chris was on a new mission, to find the Miami blue butterfly which hangs out on the nickerbean on the way up to the old Bahia Honda bridge. We scouted that for a few minutes before returning to camp.
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We went up to look at the sunset and practice taking shots on different settings. This is one of the better ones.
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While I slept in Chris went hunting the butterfly again, but it had rained overnight so everything was still wet and no butterflies were out yet.
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So, we had breakfast and Chris fed the local beggars (ring necked dove).
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This is nickerbean, which is a really nasty plant. Spines all over and as I leaned in to get this a spine got stuck in my arm. OUCH!
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Lots of orb weavers around.
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We did walk down to a side of the bridge we hadn't been on before and found many butterflies starting to come out once the sun started shining again.
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Now, trying to identify butterflies the size of your thumbnail is hard. They all look the same when they are flying so we kept thinking we were seeing little Miami blue's. The Miami blue is an incredibly endangered butterfly. They used to inhabit many ecosystems in south Florida along the coast, but one of the last colonies in Miami was wiped out in Hurricane Andrew. They were though to be extinct until someone made a discovery at Bahia Honda State Park in the late 90's and a photographer found more on other islands that are uninhabited in the Keys. This little butterfly is a Cassius Blue.
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This one is blurry, but it is some sort of skipper.
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There were some sort of white beetle on a lot of the plants. One thing I want to get more into is bug identification. We also saw some interesting red bugs that we had no clue what they were.
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A few large butterflies were around, like this gulf fritillary.
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I'm fairly certain this is a Mallow-scrub Hairstreak. We weren't sure if they were any of the "blues" but the swallowtail like appendages at the back eliminated that possibility.
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This appears to be a Fulvous Hairstreak.
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Now, for the one we think is the Miami blue. This is the only photo we have of it and the only one that could resemble it. Chris didn't get a side shot of it, which would really let us id it, but I think I could say with 95% certanity it is. Out of all the little butterflies flying around, one photo. It really makes me think they are that rare. Very beautiful little butterfly.
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Another Mallow-scrub hairstreak.
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This looks to me like a Great Southern White.

After all of our (Chris' mostly) butterfly photo taking we went back to Big Pine Key to look for more deer and do a little hiking.
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We did a trail at the end of Key Deer Blvd which winds through mangroves and salt marsh.
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I spotted another cute bird to take a photo of.
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Chris and I had to laugh at this sign on No-Name Key, because really, Key Deer read signs? I think some residences are just tired of tourists!

We had a good time overall. We would have liked to do the kayak trip but will probably save it for a few weekends from now when the weather is a bit better. It has already warmed back up here. Most everything did alright in the cold weather, though some gingers and other tropicals are burned a bit.

Tomorrow I'll post more of the Fairchild photos and ramble on something!

January 2, 2008
Tonight is going to be the coldest night in several years. Some weather sites are saying 38* here, others are saying mild freeze of 31*. Not too good for those of us in who push climate zones and grow tropicals and ultra tropicals. In West Palm, a mere 50 miles or less, they are expecting worse, probably high 20's in some areas. Chris and JC went out to Little Slough to put out a digital thermometer so they could find out how cold it gets there. The ghost orchids' big demise was when a nasty cold spell came through about 30 years ago and killed a bunch of them. Hopefully it won't get cold enough for that tonight.

So, while it is freezing today, yesterday was rather warm. We did make it to Fairchild and it was mild and nice most of the day. Towards the front of the gardens are some grassy lawn areas with flower beds in nice particular areas. I had a little bit of energy yesterday at the end and had the urge to do some cartwheels and handsprings. I did make sure no one was looking prior to doing this. I would have hated to fall on my butt and make a fool of myself, not that I wasn't making a fool of myself to begin with, but so be it. Now, my parents will tell you that I bounced around our backyard all the time growing up. Even in the living room, much to my parents chagrin. I got Chris to capture my rather squeaky handspring on the camera. I landed on my feet, of course, but my wrists and ankles weren't too happy with me. I shall have to practice more often!
Handspring Madness
I wonder if I can actually finally do a back handspring one day. *must stretch more first.*

To break up the amount of photos we took, I am doing the pictures by color. Today I chose red, just because I felt like it and I was drawn to the color. Maybe because I liken it to a hot fire and it is too cold outside?
The "Red's" of Fairchild
We did come out with some really good shots. Chris was the photographer in the conservatory because that's where he gets geeky. I get geeky at the butterfly garden, so I took a lot of those as well as some of the rainforest type area.

I saw two movies lately that were really good. The first was Atonement. This was a fabulous, fabulous movie. Beautifully shot, beautifully acted, just all over wow. It had me thinking over the weekend and I really want to read the book now. I highly recommend this movie! The other was Waitress, which we rented and watched last night. It is a super cute, fluffy movie, but has a good heart and isn't overly girly. I think it is one of those sleeper hits that no one watches in the theater but later it becomes popular. I've been seeing it pop up on a few blogs recently.

Well, I'm off to bundle up and snuggle with the kitties!

And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet, for Auld Lang Syne.
January 1, 2008
shaving brush tree 010
A new flower on our new tree in a new year. The shaving brush tree has had buds for weeks now and the first flower opened this morning.
shaving brush tree 009
We were hoping for red, but the white is a beautiful color against the blue sky.
shaving brush tree 013
A nice, white, happy and clean slate to work upon for the year, right?

Today we had planned on going kayaking in the Keys but I nixed that last night because we went out to a friends house for the night and I didn't want to be tired and cranky for a day of kayaking. Instead, we moved kayaking to the weekend and went to Fairchild Botanical Gardens. We had opted for Mounts Botanical Gardens in West Palm, but they were closed, and then even the American Orchid Society, but Fairchild was the only place open. We took 600 photos on all sorts of settings. Some came out well, others probably not. We're going to have to sift through the keepers so we don't take up so much space on the hard drive. On the way back Chris had just gotten on the phone to our friend when as we drove over a canal he exclaimed that he saw something so crazy he had to call JC back and turn around. He saw a Nile monitor lizard. I believed him, but when we came back to the spot we didn't see it. Rain had begun to fall but we stepped out of the car and looked anyway. Houses are all along the canals and it was in someone's yard. Sure enough, Chris must have scared it because it ran back into the water from the yard and I got a decent glimpse of it. We've only heard of them being on the SW coast of FL and not really here, but apparently there is at least one hanging out in SW 112th Avenue. We searched the water for awhile and didn't see it again.

I haven't really written many goals for the year down, but I will do a short list here:
  1. Make one day a week to do sketching and painting. More days are welcome, but find one day to do this in the midst of other creative projects.
  2. Finish the four blankets I have left to do for the year, pending more baby announcements. I have two friends' afghan's to start and complete and two baby blankets.
  3. Sew from a pattern.
  4. Complete six art pieces.
  5. Learn more techniques with our camera. Share the camera more with hubby. :)
  6. Run 3 mile non-stop again. This is a matter of patience and persistence and along with this adding a steady 3 days a week of working out again. I just feel better when I do.
  7. Write more letters again. Stationary is raring to go.

That's the short list. There are more but they are for the journal in private.

That's about it. Now I'm off to eat some black eyed peas (a New Years tradition) and to watch a few movies and relax before finishing up the work week.

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