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June 30, 2008
On Saturday afternoon we took Baloo over to a dog park a few miles from our house. I had only been taking him around the neighborhood, but he really needed to go and stretch his legs a little. Despite the heat, he found a lot of fun in the park. First, he is a water addict, and loves the water so much that he tries to eat it when it comes out of a hose. Lucky for him, they had several kiddie pools! There were also cool little places to do tricks and he found himself a girlfriend that he continually followed around the whole park, marking the spots she had been. Goof! Anyway, we took two videos and I can't get one of them to upload, but I was able to get one of them.

He was so tired at this point that I know that was one of the reasons for his reluctance. We wrapped things up and left soon after and I had to push his butt to get him into the backseat of the truck! Oh, did he snooze when he got home!

Eliana and Marc are in Wyoming now, headed to Yellowstone. Only a week late, or else we could have met up. I'm jealous because I want to go back and see the rest of the park!

Christine tagged me for a little meme a week ago and I told her I would do it, so here it goes:
So this is the deal:
1. Pick up the nearst book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the 5th sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Lucky for me there's a bookshelf next to me....
The Locket by Richard Paul Evans (good book, BTW).
" 'You're a smart boy, Michael. You might make someone very happy, if you can hold it all together. But how far does the apple fall from the tree?' "

I think I'll tag Robin, Kimberly and Jessica. ;) You three need to post more often, or rather the two latter ones!

In Montana my soundtrack was Coldplay's latest album Viva La Vida, or Death and All His Friends. I bought it on whim two weeks ago at Target. I was going in for the Tori Amos album and saw that the Coldplay was just out and having heard Violet Hill on the internet radio for about a month I thought I'd give it a try. It is not the usual Coldplay, but it grew on me and I think it is my favorite album of theirs, though I can't say so desicively because I don't have Parachutes. Anyway, this is an excellent album and made the no radio part of my drive across Beartooth's interesting! I think my favorites are the first three and last three, though the title track is great as well as the other middle songs. Two thumbs up from me!
Happy Birthday to my brother in-law Neil!

Big Sky
June 28, 2008
Montana. Wow, it was amazing. I think it just surpassed Colorado as my favorite state. I know for certain that the drive I took to get to Yellowstone surpassed my favorite drive ever, through the Rocky Mountain National Park. The Beartooth Highway, through the Beartooth Mountains, is absolutely beautiful.
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I got to Montana around noon on Monday. I tried to check into my hotel but the room wasn't cleaned yet and so I changed in their bathroom and headed off to Yellowstone. I was miffed that I had a 200/day mileage limit, though you could use the total, 800 for the week, as long as you didn't go over it. It is approximately 126 miles one way to Yellowstone from Billings, and so I knew my driving would be long that day. I figured it would take me two hours to get there, but it really took me three. I had to stop at all the beautiful scenic overlooks, oogle at the 10-15' snow/ice drifts that line the sides of the road, and slow down for switchbacks and fat, rollypoly little marmots that would just walk across the road at 11,000'.
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Down in Billings it was in the low 80's, dry and very comfortable. Up there it was freezing, probably in the high 30's or low 40's and I was wearing some thin capri's, a t-shirt and a very light sweatshirt jacket.
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See, SNOW! I love how they have the tall poles so the road clearning equipment can see where the road is when they clear it in May.
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It was cool to knock out two states in a day. I'd love to see more of Wyoming and especially Montana. Idaho looks interesting as well, at least from the airplane.
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Anyone up for ice skating?
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It rained a little bit on me, but I was a bit worried about snow. I was driving a dinky Ford Focus and I don't exactly drive on snow in South Florida. When I reached the West Summit of Beartooth Pass, I got out and shivered a bit and noticed someone had tossed and unopened yogurt container into the snow. It was probably still good, but I thought that was a little stupid to see in such a pristine place.
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As I came down the mountains into Wyoming I stopped at Beartooth Lake and rested a bit. It was much nicer out and not as shivering cold!
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I stopped a neat waterfall and thought I was getting closer and realized, after looking at the map, I still hadn't reentered Montana in order to get to the two little towns that border the park. Ack!
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And then, finally, I was there!!! I paid my $25 to get into the park, good for seven days, and saw a mule deer that some bikers were watching right off the road near the entrance station. I had wanted to make it to Slough Creek, about thirty miles into the park, but I stopped at the first picnic area to stretch my legs, take some photos, and use the composting toilet.
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I was prepared for hiking, with my camelbak, water and the camera. I didn't meander far at this stop, just down along the river.
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There were a lot of beautiful wildflowers and I think I took a photo of every different type I saw! Except the alpine strawberries I saw...I should've gotten those!
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At my next stop I saw it was a decent hiking trail and really strapped on everything for this.
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The trail was nice, unfortunately I ended up at the creek again. The trail started again on the other side and I wasn't about to cross cold, rushing water with no one else with me.
So, I went back up the hill after taking some photos of the flowers and wandered on down the road, probably half a mile or so until I came across a barage of cars parked on the side of the road. This must mean wildlife.
Yellowstone blackbear
And by wildlife, it was a super awesomely cool black bear!!!! *check* My first bear in the wild! SWEET! I immediately parked the car, jumped out to get the 300mm lens out of the trunk and promptly started shooting photos. It was at least a football field away, munching on the berries and flowers, and being very docile. I really hadn't expected it to be this easy! I did hear later at my conference that someone I knew saw four during their time in the park, including a grizzly and her cub. Apparently the recent snowfall two weeks ago has forced some of the from the mountains looking for food.
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Here you can see the distance it was from us. Also, I found out from talking to some other folks that there was another one on the opposite side, behind me, way up in a little cove. I drove on down the road, still thinking I'd try for Slough Creek and ended up stopping again at Trout Lake. There were a lot of cars parked there so I figured it would be a nice hike. Whew, and was it a hike! Going from flat, sea level Florida, to steep, elevated Montana is not easy!
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This was a very nice trail and I was surpassed by a family of trout fisherman, headed up to the lake.
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More rest just meant more time for taking photos.

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The lake was peaceful, dotted with fishermen/ladies/kids and I could have pulled up a chair or blanket and spent the rest of the evening reading. Instead I stayed for about 15 minutes before heading back down so I could start driving back. A three hour drive meant it would take just as long to get back to Billings. As I was leaving I stopped to see the bear again, and then stopped right before the Thunderer trail and asked what everyone was looking at...a moose and her baby. There wasn't enough room to pull over so I kept on driving only to see another group of people looking at something. I turned around to take a look.
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It was a moose! Without antlers, and it really looks like a big, wild horse! Still cool, though! It stayed sunny through my entire trip through the mountains, even when I came down from them and into Red Lodge it was just about setting, around 9pm!

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday was work all day. Well, conference work, listening to speakers. I'll talk a bit about some of the topics, in particular climate change, in a few days. Tuesday I couldn't find anyone really to do anything with so I drove the hour back down to Red Lodge to do some tourist shopping and eat dinner. First, I stopped at Cooney State Park to see if there was anything worthwhile there. It was mostly just lake and no real hiking, but on the way I did see two turkeys and deer.
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In Red Lodge I found some very cute shops and then ate at the Bridge Creek Backcountry Kitchen and Wine Bar. This was by far where the locals go, a quiet hometown restaurant that caters to local food and a chef that cooks up an ever changing menu. I decided to devour some fried artichokes and then had elk! I should have asked for medium-well instead of well, because it was a bit tough. Not bad tasting, though!
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There was a great sunset on the way home. A deer and then almost a racoon ran in front of the car on the way back!

On Wednesday I found someone to go sightseeing with, a lady from Connecticut, and so we set off in the late afternoon for Pictograph Caves State Park just on the east side of Billings, and then to Pompey's Pillar, about thirty miles east of Billings.
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The park was beautiful and there were three caves with pictographs and petroglyphs. We didn't see anything until we got to the last cave.
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Yep, those red drawings are it! There isn't a lot left because sometime in the 40's, someone got the bright ideas to sand blast the area to 'clean' the dirt off so you could see it. Well, that just sand blasted some of the pigment off! There is a display showing what they are all supposed to represent, and these are obviously guns. So, sometime when settlers came, the Indians saw the guns and maybe there was battle, or they were scared? Perhaps it was with the Lewis and Clark crew??? Who knows.

Speakng of Lewis and Clark, we drove to Pompey's Pillar afterwards in order to see the famous carving of W. Clark in the side of the sandstone.
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The signature is under a glass case and there are others who followed suit in the late 1800's when the settlers had arrived. I learned in the museum that Lewis and Clark had split up on their way back towards St. Louis in 1806. Clark had stopped here and supposedly named this pillar after Sacajawea's child. To think that he'd climbed up there 202 years ago and done this was thought provoking. When you view from the top you see the Yellowstone River, roads, farms, a railroad track and none of that would have been there.
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We drove back to Billings and had dinner down town at the Brew Pub where we chowed on buffalo burgers and tried a beer sampler. The only beer I liked was a strawberry blonde, of course. Honestly, other than that, beer brings back gross memories of Aggie ring dunk.

Montana June 208 154
Thursday we drove down an hour to the Crow Reservation to see the Little BigHorn battlefield and monument. If you don't know your history, this is where Custer got his ass kicked by the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho. We arrived to hear a curator giving a speech about the entire event, which we were one day late for the 132nd anniversary, and it was haunting. Not many US soldiers escaped. Most died on the battlefield. Custer was buried there for, I think a year, and then his body was taken back east to West Point. Many of the other scattered bodies were moved from their place of death to a mass grave where the monument stands today.
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The museum has a lot of artifacts and interviews from those who witnessed the events. Montana June 208 158

Friday morning I really wanted to sleep in. My flight was at 2:45pm and I'd been a dummy and said I'd return my car at noon. So, I was up before 8am and then off to Phipps Park on the northwest side of town. I stopped at City Brew coffee to get a cuppa and a bagel for some energy to hike. The coffee place is really cool, like a Starbucks, but cheaper. I drove several miles passed the park because I didn't see it. I expected a big sign, or at least a little sign, to point toward the parking lot. Instead, I was driving along and thought I really had gone too far. I back I went and then sure enough I had found the park near the railroad track I had passed 10 minutes earlier.
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The trail looked easy enough, but it was rather difficult. I'd stop every 100 feet for breathers, but I was very glad I had gone out to explore instead of sleeping in.
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At the top, there were amazing views. I was walking along the path when I noticed a twig in the way, and then realized it was a black and white snake slitthering away. I tried to get a photo but it blended in with the grass too well. (I think it was a gopher snake)
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The Beartooths could be seen in the distance.
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I followed the trail around the top of the bluff and then I couldn't find a decent trail to get down, but the frisbee golf course had a hole in the middle of the side of the hill so I figured they got down there somehow. I scurried down carefully, watching my footing, and made it down to the trail. I was sad to have to leave so soon, but it I wanted time to shower, pack up and get a bite to eat before having to go to the airport.

Montana is really, really amazing! You can see more photos here. Sorry it was so long! I didn't want to spread it over a few days.

Lazy Sunday
June 22, 2008
Who Me???
So, I was eating breakfast this morning and I went in to the bedroom to check on the boys. I found Baloo curled up on my pillow, asleep. He knew he'd been caught, but continued to be cute, so I went for the camera.
Aww, but I like the bed!
He was so sleepy and adorable! I couldn't help but play with him a little bit before booting him off the bed.

Most of the day I did chores and then I got a bit listless. Chris was out hiking with some people and I was lonely. I had planned on getting my hair cut for the past month and finally called and made an appointment with the lady at JC Penney's that I like. It's really hard to find a good hairstylist and I finally found one that does what I want.
my haircut 2
Wa-la! A cute bob that I really like! It feels so nice to have it off my neck, too.
zoe blanket
This is Zoe's blanket! I finished it yesterday, though I have a few small details to wrap up, but in essence, it is finished! I am mostly happy with it, though, I'm not quite sure I like the flowers/pinwheels. I was stash busting and had started something last Fall for another project that I lost interest in and so I took it and ran with it now. It's always fun to pick things up and find renewed passion in it. I hope Zoe will like her blanket!

After the rain this afternoon I went for a ramble in the backyard. I found a gladilous about to bloom...
A candy daylily in bloom, a plant I got a start of from my mom...
and one of our vanda orchids in bloom. This one is a really pretty one.

Well, it's off to Montana! :) See y'all next weekend! I hope I see some moose, a bear and I'm sure a zillion mule deer!

Sunshine, At Last!
June 21, 2008
Oh, today was good. The sun was shining for most of the day and I got to hang out with my boys, aka: Leo, Samson, Baloo and Chris. Sam was his fluffy self, Leo was running around the house this morning, Baloo thought every time I walked in the living room it meant treat time, and Chris was just cute. We slept in this morning and I did some chores before we set off for the bank and Quizno's and then off to Deep Lake. We arrived and parked, put bug spray on and walked no more than 500 feet and the mosquitos found my face, where I hadn't put enough spray on. I stopped, doused myself again, and we were on our way. The trail was mostly clear, mowed it appeared, but the skeeters were bouncing off us. Not biting, just bouncing off our bodies and annoying us enough. Unfortunately, I had to pee right after we got there, so I popped behind a tree, and well, that area wasn't sprayed and I think I peed as fast as I could! Women have it so unfair. Gah! The trail wasn't long at all, half a mile at most, and it lead us straight to the lake.
deep lake misti 6-21-08 006
The area was beautiful, however you could hear the cars passing on SR 29. Alligators were swimming around, and we figured tarpon were displaying their fins at the top of the water in the middle, and we saw a snook swim by. We started to walk the trail around the lake, but the mosquitos were fairly bad, we knew there would be gators since the water was flowing into the slough area now from all of the rain, and we just didn't feel like getting all that wet. I thought that was a bit weird because normally Chris is all about getting in the water.
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We didn't stay long at Deep Lake since we decided not to walk around and the mosquitos were so bad. We decided to drive down Loop Road instead. As we headed east on Tamiami Trail, the thunderheads were growing over Miami. Thunder was rolling and we knew we'd eventually run into the rain.
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We stopped at Sweetwater Strand for a few minutes.
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We met a muscovy duck that was very out of place. I'm not sure if he/she flew there or was dropped off by someone, but they are an exotic and usually hang out in ponds in town. It waddled around for awhile, sipping puddles of water in the road, and didn't answer when I asked if it wanted me to take it back to town. Hrumph! We drove on down Loop Road and I fell asleep for awhile, taking a short nap. We ran into the rain once we got into town and it has been raining ever since.

The Longest Day
June 20, 2008
Happy Summer Solstice! Today is the longest day of the year and it is all downhill towards Fall today. I'm already thinking of Fall a little bit. I know, I know, summer is just starting, but it seems to be flying by. I told Chris that June seemed to not exist. I would have enjoyed more of this past week if it hadn't been raining after work, daily. More walks, bike rides, sitting in the backyard. I want July to go slower and I plan on taking a few days off just for the heck of it. I need to be able to bask in summer a little bit. Sip some coffee over a book in the morning, piddle around outside in the yard, cook a nice dinner and desert. Martha Stewart has a nice recipe for strawberry cupcakes that I might just make for myself for my birthday. To hell with no dairy! (oh, I have decided it really is the dairy. I let up on it a week or so ago and it was just lots of throat clearing for a week. Grr! Summer is also about Dairy Queen and ice cream!)

This weekend we're headed out to Deep Lake in Big Cypress. It is the deepest lake in south Florida and formed from a sink hole. It's fairly accesible from SR 29, apparently from the fire station there. Who knew??? So, we're going there tomorrow and Sunday I am going to wrap things up around the house for the week so I can prepare for my trip to Montana. I am absolutley looking forward to that! When Chris and I were deciding if we wanted to go to Bolivia or not, we thought about Montana. Honestly, it costs the same to get to Montana as it does to Bolivia, and it's cheaper to get around in Bolivia than it would be to rent a cabin in Montana. But, Montana is all about A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall and that means awesome mountains, small towns and Old West history. My cup o' tea! I hope I love Montana as much as I love Colorado.

I'm trying to figure out why I just cannot grow beans. They are growing, there are beans, but two beans does not equal a meal. There are even poles for them to climb and they aren't climbing. They are pole beans afterall! The corn is flowering so I hope that means corn will form soon! I am stoked about that and the herbs are HUGE! I even spotted a few strawberries but I think I missed my chance to pick them because I forgot about them after I saw them. I had gloves on and was in the midst of other yard activities, but I should have more soon. I plan on adding some plants to my Etsy shop on Sunday, so I will update with that here.

No photos tonight. Zoe's blanket is almost done, just some finishing touches. I have laundry to do (ugh!!!), and some Alias watching to get done! WOO! That show shouldn't have gone off the air. I wish they hadn't killed off Francie and made Will dissapear.

Leo woke me up this morning by doing something he hadn't done in awhile, walking on me, pawing at my face and meowing a lot. He used to do that a lot but hasn't for awhile now. We're still working on getting Baloo not to whine, knock the bed and peer up at us to beg for food. I woke up at 5:30 this morning to hearing him already whining. And it isn't like he wants to go out, because I will head that way, towards the door, and instead he heads straight to his bowl. You'd think those zillions of treats he gets aren't filling his belly up! We tried to show him your photo, Eliana, of you in St. Louis, and he just couldn't focus. Something about that little green ball of his. ;) Oh, check out Marc and Eliana's photos of the Mississippi River in its flood stage.

My hat
June 18, 2008
Crochet Hat
Hey there! I made myself a hat!
crochet hat 2
Whatcha think? I just need to find the right top to wear with it! I might make another one in a more basic color so that I could wear it with other outfits. I worked it up in one day from a pattern from the spring '08 Interweave Crochet magazine. It calls for a thinner yarn and smaller hook, but I used a bulky yarn from my stash and a G hook. Ideally I should have used probably an H hook because my hands were killing me by the time I was finished. Now, Zoe and I will rock out in our hats! I will be the awesomest aunt ever!! ;) Yes, awesomest. ;) Zoe's blanket is almost done. I'm doing the border and working on some accents and maybe this weekend it will be done. I started a layette but I ran out of yarn and now I can't find the yarn anywhere but the internet so I will have to order it. Drat!

More rain tonight. Well, more like rain from 11am until evening every day this past week. It is starting to drive me nuts! I did end up going for a run after the major part of it had ended. Our power was flickering for awhile during the heavier part of the storm and it stopped to a slight drizzle and that was refreshing to run in. I did a mile in probably 12.5 minutes or so. I counted up the time it took for the first three songs on Achtung Baby to play. I'm waddling slowly. I figure I should just work on my mile runs for the next couple of weeks and then add in longer runs.

the boys
Hey! What's that? A mouse?
I'm Baloo
Nah, just that drooly dog!! He can do high-fives now! I am planning on doing a video of his tricks for Eliana and will have to post it when I get around to charging the camera. He's so goofy!!!

A finished project
June 16, 2008
zoe hat 1
Here's the cute little Zoe hat in all of its finished glory! I plan on making many more of these as they were super easy and very gratifying to have a finished product in just a few short hours.
zoe hat 2
I couldn't find a cat to show off the hat so Tedddy is filling in for them. Teddy is 28 years old and almost met a tragic demise a few weeks ago in Texas. Two little Boston Terriers were having a tug-o-war contest when my dad luckily realized they were fighting over. Yes, I probably would have balled my eyes out. I had been protecting it from a certain grey and white doggie around here, and Teddy has been hiding out in the closet for the past few months.

Now for a short tour on what is blooming.
blackberry lily
Blackberry lily
Cassia Caterpilar
I haven't id'd this one yet, but it is probably a sulphur caterpillar that was gnawing on my cassia.
I know the name of this but my brain is having a freeze. Dum, dum, dum, it's all over the south. Dum...hello, brain, register this plant, please.
parsley fly 1
This fly was sipping the nectar from the parsley flowers.

Do you want to hear something startling? I just learned today that the snail kite population more than likely dropped in half in the past year. From ~1000 to ~500. 10 years ago the population was ~3,500. The best guess is extinction in less than 20 years at this rate, if not sooner. Yes, this is slightly random, but I am at a fish and wildlife conference for a few days this week and the discussion today was mostly about Everglades restoration and then two topics on snail kites and apple snails. Let me just say that the 'glades is most likely f'ed. Between mismanagement, single species management (ie: the Cape Sable seaside sparrow), insanely low water and high water levels, pollution, the state and federal govmt's fighting over what the next step should take, we're really screwed.

On a more positive note, you should check out where Marc and Eliana are now. Chilling out in the beautiful Smokey Mountains!

I meant to post, but..
June 15, 2008
I got a bit lazy. It is so easy not to post when you aren't on a roll. It's also one of the first things to go when I feel I don't have enough time to do everything, or if I am too tired when I get home from work. Especially if I am using photos and have to process those and upload and all of that can double the time of a blog post. The past few days I've also been very tired when I got home from work. It was rainy and dreary the entire week. I don't know how people in the northwest deal with that all the time. It felt more like fall, or rather it looked like fall outside because it felt like summer outside, and the rain and clouds just kept hanging around. We got a break yesterday afternoon and though we still need the rain, a few days of sun would be so good.

Yesterday was our sixth anniversary. We spent the morning sleeping in and I made some canned cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We headed out the door for a few errands and then went to see artist Wyland and Guy Harvey painting Wyland's 99th Whaling Wall over in North Lauderdale. We seemed to get there just in time for the dedication ceremony and people were crowded around the stadium that was set up for Wyland. The wall was pretty nice, but not as good as the one in Marathon on the K-Mart.
6th Anniversary
Of course I had my photo taken with a lot of the sea turtles.
6th Anniversary
We listened to the speech from Wyland for awhile and then meandered around some more.
6th Anniversary
I was getting flashbacks to middle school when I was really at the height of my ocean loving self.
6th Anniversary
I would have really kissed the wall, but I didn't know what the red tape was for. I found out that it was for the tape cutting ceremony.
6th Anniversary
Chris liked the Guy Harvey paintings better.
6th Anniversary
We nixed seeing Indiana Jones for taking a nap when we got home. For dinner Chris took me to a place I'd never heard of, but he'd had recommendations of the place and had seen it on tv. We went to a little restaurant that has been around since the 20's, Cap's Place. It is in Lighthouse Point, just north of the Hillsbourough Inlet.
6th Anniversary
The cool thing is that you have to take a little boat over to the island it is on. So, we watched the ritzy houses and large yachts as we rode over with a few other passengers.
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We were thirty minutes early for our reservations so we went to the bar, which is in a separate building, and grabbed a glass of wine for me and a coke for Chris. Then we walked to the beach area and relaxed for a bit.
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I had to crop and zoom on this because we had half of the picnic table in the photo, too. Dinner started off very quiet. The building is still the original building and it has a lot of old photos and memorabilia on the wall. Eliana, you'd of tried to take this super awesome pen and ink drawing of a kingfisher! Winston Churchill also ate at this little ol' place, once upon a time. I tried four new things for dinner. First, Chris ordered calamari for an appetizer. Now, calamari is bait to me. Just bags of icky bait. So, I wasn't that keen on trying it out, but Chris looked cute and so I caved. ;) It wasn't too bad. At first it was a bit rubbery but then the taste grew on me. Then, with our meals you had a choice of salads, fruit, regular or hearts of palm. Chris ordered the hearts of palm salad and so I tasted a bit of it. We were both expecting something more fibrous. I mean, just looking at a cabbage palm you wouldn't think it would be appetizing. It was sort of like coleslaw, but pretty good for a first time. Next, I couldn't decide on what to eat for dinner. I love crab and crab claws sounded good as well as the supposedly very lumpy crab cakes. Then, there was the option of pompano. That is a fish I'd never had before and I rarely, if ever, see it on the menu. So, that's what I tried. It had a very strong flavor at first that mellowed with each bite. Chris ordered a shellfish platter with scallops, shrimp and some fish. He decided to be cute and convincing again and so I tried scallops because, again, I'd never had them. Not too shabby at all! It had a shrimp taste, but with a tougher texture. Overall, I'd probably eat them again. We somehow managed to stuff in desert. Chris had a Reese's pie and I had to get Key Lime. Somehow we waddled out of the restaurant and back onto the dock.
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There were a couple of cats running about the place, lounging wherever they found a comfy spot. At first I thought this kitty had gotten into a cat fight and a piece of its ear was missing from the fight. Then I remembered Eliana telling me that is how they identify cats they have spayed or neutered.
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Oh, I forgot to tell you what I got for my present! Remember a few weeks ago (posts ago) at the orchid festival I mentioned the super cool jewelry artist Dawn Vertrees? Well, apparently Chris had found her site prior to the show and had ordered me the little ghost orchid pendant and necklace!!!! It is so pretty and I love it! I got him a Garmin Nuvi, the car GPS. It had worked pretty well, though it has told us some weird directions a few times.

I am going to try and blog every day this week. *promise*!

Hats on Cats
June 10, 2008
Ah, one more baby this summer! That means I am already working hard on my niece's baby blanket and lots of cute little baby clothes! Today I started working on a little beanie for Zoe. Sam and Leo had to try it first.
Oui, Oui! C'est magnifique!
Samson was mostly annoyed. He was a good sport, though!
Oui, Oui, This had is tres silly!
Leo was eyeballing Baloo who was bouncing around too much to really pay attention. I tried to put it on him too but he wanted to play with it and I said no. Darn dog! ;)

I was following the TAMUG sailboat accident this whole weekend and I found some good articles on the Galveston Daily News website; here, here, and the TAMUG website. I watched an interview they did with Matt Lauer on the Today show, on the internet. I do remember seeing Steve Conway in the halls when I was there, I think he worked for the computer information department, and maybe still does. Close to home.

We've been getting some rain these past few days, in the afternoons. I think it will slowly raise the water levels, but it's amazing how much rain it takes for the water level to make any significant increase. I'm having issues that the middle of the month is this weekend. Please, July, go slower! I have next week and then I go to Montana for work. I am looking forward to going and am going to try to go to Yellowstone on the first day I get there. I've already mapped it out, but I will not be able to drive all the way to Old Faithful. It's on the western side of the park, in Wyoming, and a long, arduous, mountain drive. So, if I can make it to the entrance and to a few trails, I'll be mostly satisfied!

June Sunday Morning
June 8, 2008
Baloo isn't the best weekend sleeper. He demands to be fed anywhere between 6 and 7am, then promptly wants out right after. He hasn't figured out that weekends are for holding it in, waiting to eat, and enjoying the sleeping. Nope. He likes to whine, put his nose up on the bed, right under our arms, yawn, and bump into the bed and possibly provoke a cat fight. We tried to sleep in, and we did for a bit, amidst the scooping of the food, and listening to a restless whiny-pants. It's breakfast time now, a cup of coffee with soy milk, some peaches from last weekend, an English muffin, and trying out some
chow chow that I bought in Centerville. A bit sweet and needs to go with eggs instead of the muffin. Samson is here attempting to test my breakfast out, but I keep pushing his sweet little nose out of the plate. Not a lot going on today. Groceries, chores, and Chris is cleaning the porch up now that we think our rat friend has left for good. We have a pool party to go later this afternoon. This needs to be a three day weekend because I'm not ready to let it go just yet.

Last night we went out to Little Slough with high hopes we'd see the moth again and get it on the digi SLR. Around 9pm, when we said we'd call it quits, I said to Chris that we should wait a few more minutes. I still had hopes, but then I told him I thought our chances were waning, and he thought I said it was raining. Or rather, I was being silly and saying it was 'waining', like we say 'Wamson' when he's being silly. But, no, the moon was moving away and we hadn't heard much of a low hum at all so we gave up. We put our headlamps on and Chris had taken down the video camera and the digital cam and then he exclaimed, "I hear it"! I had the large flashlight and turned it on and sure enough, hanging there in the darkness was this huge moth. It had clear-ish wings, beady red eyes, not the scary kind, and a large body that I didn't really get to see the details. It wasn't moving very fast, sort of trying to sift out where the orchids were, and then floated back into the trees. It came around again, and Chris was scurrying to get the camera set up again. We set up our chairs again and watched the video screen to see if the moth came back. Of course we probably blinded the hell out of it with the flashlight, but then again all of the other moths seemed to be attracted to my head when I put the headlamp on! We waited another 15 minutes when we noticed that we saw some bright flashes across the swamp. Chris had put up a game cam and we figured it was going off, hopefully on some raccoons or something small. Then Chris noticed it was going off more than it was supposed to so he figured it was broken and then we thought it might be lightning. We decided to get out if it was lightning and sure enough once we got back to the car we noticed a storm off in the distance.

On the way home we noticed about eight motorcycles getting on the highway and zooming past everyone else, probably going 100+. Not two miles up we encountered an accident, the motorcycles, or one of them, had hit a white car and the bumper was off in pieces on the highway, a group of cyclers were huddled off on one side comforting a girl, some were walking on the other side, and I saw at least one motorcycle on the ground in the median. Chris called 911, but I was thinking just as they sped by us, on the slick road from the rain shower that had just passed, that they were going to wreck. I tried looking in the news this morning to see if there was anything about it, but I didn't see anything.

Chris told me this morning that the A&M sailboat had capsized in a regatta. Story. 5 out of 6 have been rescued. I thought it was the TAMUG sail team, not the main campus, when he told me. Scary!

I am reading Atonement right now. It is almost exactly like the movie, or rather the movie was faithful to the book. I'd say I'm probably a 1/3 of the way through it. Awhile back I found the website GoodReads and have liked it so far. If you want to be my friend you can see> there. I also put it over on the left hand side of the page.

This week: new crocheting to start, art work!!!!, yard work, reading, and trying to stay sane. Saturday is our 6th anniversary. ;)

The Texas Roadtrip
June 7, 2008
I know I said I would write about the trip to Texas a few days ago, but when you return from a few days away it always takes a few days to recuperate. Big blog posts weren't really in the plans after I realized how tired I was and what I needed to do around the house. And last night, I went to a girls night out with some coworkers and we saw Sex and the City! Good movie! If you liked the show, you'll like the movie.

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Mom and I started off on our little trip on Friday morning around 7am. We first made a stop at a local bakery to pick up kolaches for breakfast and then a detour to a Starbucks to get some coffee! We started driving along and we always take Loop 820 to US 287 and to go through Midlothian, Waxahachie and then end up south of Dallas on I-45. When we got to Midlothian we were shocked at how fast it took us to get there. For some reason I was thinking it took longer than the mere 30 minutes it did. And then we bypassed downtown, which was a bit dissapointing because I like to look at the old homes that line the main road. It was a nice ride and some of the wildflowers were still blooming. I had to crochet along the way because I was nearly finished with the baby blanket that I was going to deliver to my friend Erika at her baby shower. I hadn't planned on being last minute, but I found out I was going to Texas only about a month or so before and I was already in the midst of working on another project. The blanket did turn out well. You'll have to wait a few paragraphs to see it!
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The scenery was pretty as always. It's nice to see it transform from rolling prairie into the east Texas forest somewhere around Huntsville.
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In Huntsville there is the Sam Houston monument and though I've driven by it many times I never had a photo of it! We made it to Galveston in about six hours; it normally takes five, but we'd stopped a few times along the way. We found great peaches, apricots and blackberries at a farm stand in Centerville, outside of the meat shop we usually go to to get preserves and jerky. Honestly, Texas peaches are far better than Georgia or California. Trust me! Once in Galveston we detoured over to TAMUG, my alma mater, to go to the bookstore and stock up on Aggie gear. The place was mostly deserted and I didn't see anyone I knew. It had changed alot, though I had seen some of the changes two years ago when Chris and I went down for a weekend.
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This is the new ship that they bought a few years ago, I think it was renamed the Texas Clipper III. I sailed on the Clipper II, 10 years ago! After going to campus I drove through the back streets and then remembered how ghetto Galveston really is. Actually, it seems to have gotten worse. Then again, maybe I just didn't pay much attention then. We checked into our hotel and then drove down the west end of the beach, past the seawall, to one of the beach openings at Bermuda Beach.
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The aroma of the sargassum rotting on the beach brought back memories. mmmmmmm!!! Don't complain about it, it is good for the beach!
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Then mom and I went went for a swim. I forgot how far you could walk out before you even got waist deep and we found a nice spot between the crash zones and jumped the waves. We were jumping for awhile when Mom said she was getting bit by something. I thought maybe the little fish that were moving alongshore, that the seagulls were following en masse, might be nipping, but it was something little in her bathing suit. I eventually felt it and it dissipated for awhile and then came back full force. I felt one of the little bumps, pulled it out and it was clear, some sort of small crustacean and I thought it was either sea lice or maybe just a larval form of an adult crustacean. I don't know what it ended up being because we would have continued itching from the sea lice and we never did after we took a shower. It was fairly painful though. So, our wave jumping was ruined, but I wanted to check out a buoy that had washed up so I walked down to see it.
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We were cutting it close with time, we were supposed to meet Erika and her mom at Casey's for dinner, but we made a stop at a shell shop to browse and be a tourist for a bit. We met Erika for dinner, my first time seeing her pregnant. It was very cool and dinner was awesome. We both waitressed at Casey's for awhile in college, she a much longer time than I. It brought back a few memories, but it was just the same ol', good food. After dinner Mom and I still had to buy a baby shower gift so we ran to Target (another new luxury I didn't have in college) and we were the last ones to check out when the store closed!

The next day we slept in later than we wanted and didn't have time to roam around the island at all. We got up and drove up to Erika's house on the mainland and hung out there for awhile, seeing the nursery and all the work she's done to the house and had some lunch. We had to drive again to get to the shower in Baytown.
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Oh yeah, here's the blanket in all of its finished glory! The little white circle/squares in the middle were a miracle! I wasn't sure how I was going to work out filling in the gaps after I joined the octagons, but it turned out good!
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Erika got a lot of cute, adorable clothes for the baby and I learned about all the new stuff that babies have. Like a Boppy. Reluctantly we had to leave by 5pm since Mom and I had to drive up to Longview that night. We left Baytown after stopping at a Sonic and getting something to drink for the road and then heading on out of town. I hadn't been on the northeast side of Houston, really, and it was very quiet and not built up yet.
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We drove up US 59 and there were many spots that I would have liked to have stopped to take some photos. Old bridges, trees, just some neat scenery. We did see a dead deer, which I have to say is my first roadkill deer I've ever seen in my life.
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Outside of Livingston I saw this Smoke Shop and at first I didn't really pay attention to it and then I realized what it was and had to turn around. I *think* this is the only federally recognized Tribe in Texas. We didn't see the reservation, I think we were too far west. I didn't even know there was a Tribe in Texas until a few years ago when I started my job.
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Because I like old water towers! Yes, gas is still a little cheaper in Texas than elsewhere, I think.
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The sun was setting when we pulled into Nacodoches, home of Stephen F. Austin State University. It was my first time there and I had briefly considered it for college, but it is considered a party school. We had a Whataburger and then made it on the road again. An hour later we finally pulled into Longview. We had a few misdirections because inappropriately labeled signs that showed up too late after we'd already passed them. The hotel was very nice, better than the Best Western in G-town, and we settled in again for the night. Around 3am we were rudely awakened by a noise. I realized what it was almost immediately, the fire alarm, but my mom was stuck in her sleeping stupor so she thought I had turned the alarm clock on. We fumbled downstairs with everyone else and waited a long 10 minutes before two fire trucks showed up. Luckily it was just a false alarm, but 10 mintues seemed outrageous for a real fire. The next morning we got up and made our way over to Michelle and JP's house. We showed up and our friend Stephanie was already there. Unfortunately little Kylen was still nursing when we got there so for the first thirty minutes I only saw her very cute, soft feet.
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Alas, we finally saw the cutest, sweetest, more adorable little baby!
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Lots of baby holding!
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She was a tiny little thing, but look at her feet!
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Momma Chelle and Kylen.
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After it seemed that Kylen had had her fill of eating, we ventured out for lunch to Juicy's Burgers in Longview. I ordered a plate of chicken fried steak and couldn't believe the size of it! Needless to say, we stuffed ourselves. Kylen did pretty well being out, but she was already hungry by the time we got there so Michelle had to feed her and eat as well. After we hugged and said goodbye, Mom and I headed back to Ft. Worth.

We got in around 5 o'clock and lounged around a bit before going to Curt and Steph's to pick them up for dinner. My brother has put together a pretty nice vegetable garden in the backyard and has done some landscaping in the front yard, including putting in a small pond.
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This is the veggie plot.
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Fresh tomatoes, making me miss my now long gone batch.
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Large strawberry plants that were making me envious.
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I think my biggest jealousy was that he has a cucumber growing. I had a teeny, tiny fruit a year or so ago but the bugs, the vine borers, ate the plant and my cucumber was lost. *sigh*.
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We all went out to Mexican Inn where we gorged ourselves on the best corn chips and hot sauce, margaritas and yummy food. Somehow those four still ate a sno-cone afterwards. I just couldn't find the room!
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I like those photo. Mostly because my brother is a big goof and Biff, the dog, is even goofier!!

It was a good trip, even though it was so fast. I am ready for a week off, though.

A Night in Little Slough
June 4, 2008

Do you think Chris will win best documentary at the Academy Awards? ;) I was there for the pollination visit, but Chris went out to film the other part separately. That is a giant sphinx moth visiting the ghost orchid! We decided to go ahead and debut it and Chris has been putting things up on
his site and will be continuing to put things up on it this week.

My trip to Texas was good. It was fast and at the same time it went slow enough to enjoy. I almost took home a little baby named Kylen, but decided that she needed to eat too much and she had to stay with her momma. ;) I ate some Texican (for you Swedish Chef, sorry no recipes at the moment), and it was good. I'll post tomorrow about the trip!

Marc and Eliana started their road trip this morning. Follow along as they meander up the Central Eastern US to the top of the country and on into Canada and Alaska. I saw Eliana for the last time yesterday for a few brief moments while getting some Baloo meds and I wanted to stay and chat longer. Have fun you two!!

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Fisheating Creek
May 29, 2008
It was a great weekend. A weekend I desperately needed. Saturday we drove up to
Fisheating Creek to go camping with our friends Randy and Cathy. They went with us to Kissimmee Prairie a year and a half ago and we had a good time with them. We arrived around lunchtime and I was so glad to see the campsite. It was right on the creek and was absolutely beautiful. Tall cypress and oaks dressed in resurrection fern covered the place. We set up our tent and relaxed for a bit. I had my nose in a book the entire weekend, which suited me fine. I haven't read much lately and I was devouring Mr. Darcy takes a Wife. Which, by the way is awesome! It isn't Austen purism, but it was goooood! I kept finding parallels between Outlander author Diana Gabaldon and this author. There were some parts of the story that I didn't agree with, but in all it was an excellent read. I also worked on my blanket for a bit, here and there, and hope to have it finished soon. Soon being, before this weekend when it needs to make its presentation at a baby shower. Argh!

Saturday we walked up the creek a bit. Yes, walked. It was mostly dry with some puddles here and there. We found a great rope swing at a primitive campsite that, when the water is higher, kayaks and canoes will stop at.
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Of course I took a swing. I never had the guts to let go though, nevermind I did get my butt completely wet when I switched ropes and it was longer, so my legs splashed the water. It was a beautiful place and we had an awesome day. On Sunday we went over to another part of the Fisheating Creek and hiked over there. We saw tons of wildlife: wild hogs with zillions of babies
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and lots of deer that jumped through the hammock when we approached. There were a lot of birds as well and a hawk swooped through the trail in front of us and startled me because I initially thought it was an owl flying so low.
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Chris thought he was a deer there for a minute!

You can see the rest of the photos here. I actually started writing this a few days ago but then I got busy and now I am leaving for Texas in a few hours. My mom and I are headed for a girls weekend. First, we're going down to Houston/Galveston for my friend Erika's baby shower and then we're going up to Longview to see Michelle and Kylen. It will be a lot of driving, but I am excited! Lots of reminiscing will be had. Eating at all the good spots in Galvatraz(aka: what SeaAggies call the island), possibly pop in the student center at TAMUG and stock up on some new t-shirts. Go to the beach. We'll spend a little time in DFW and I want to talk to my SIL's belly so I can tell my niece that I will be spoiling her in just a few months! So, until next week! Have a good one! And you can listen to some Pat Green, Texas on My Mind:

Hip-Hip-Hooray for Rain!
May 23, 2008
Whoever did the rain dance, thank you! It poured today all over South Florida and it was NICE! Thunder, lightning and cool breezes....ah, so nice!

Curt and Stephanie have some cool photos of their garden up on
their Flickr. Curt has inherited the Whitlock/Kincade green thumb in our family and turned a bit of his yard into a veggie garden. I am completely envious of his onions right now!! I hope mine turn out that good! And take a look at the cute pups, Biff the golden doodle and Gizmo the Boston Terrier.

I am completely sad. Barack Obama was two minutes from my house today and I wasn't there! He was doing a rally at the Bank Atlantic Center and unfortunately it was at 2pm, in the middle of a workday. If I'd of known earlier then I would have taken off just to go hear him. I have liked him since I first saw him speak at the Democratic National Convention when John Kerry was nominated to run for President. His first speech teacher must be proud. Yes, I am one of those rare Texanus democraticus var. liberalianus. Must find a bumper sticker to put on my car! heh! It will go alongside the McCain one Chris will probably get. Heh!

I'm done with the octagon pieces and will be putting them together this weekend. We're going camping so I will have plenty of time to stitch them together and finish it up. I have four pieces of art I want to work on during June. I'm ready, too. The ideas are just pooling in my head and are ready to escape onto the paper. I am also going to attempt are 30/30/30 challenge. 30 minutes of sketching, 30 sketches, 30 days. I just need to work on my drawing skills and the only way to do that is sitting and drawing directly from life. I will be doing some traveling in June but it will be something I can accomplish easily enough.

I uploaded some of the orchid festival photos.
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I saw this and said it had to be painted. Hrm, must not let it invade my head.
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Taking a break from the heat with some lemonade.
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This was a show winning native cigar orchid.
Dawn Vertress: Lost Wax Artist
This artist, Dawn Vertrees, had a booth and she was awesome! Her jewlery was so unique and if I was rich I'd buy it all! This necklace was to die for! Skip the diamonds, gimme this! She was very nice and talked about how she was apprenticing at the moment and learning from another jeweler and had only been doing this about 8 months!!
Ghost Orchid in Little Slough
This is the ghost orchid that the moth came to pollinate the other day. We were out on Tuesday night trying to get more video footage and possibly a photo and this was a test shot to make sure the camera was in a good position. This is the third flower so far this year with more, many more, on the way!

Hope everyone has a good holiday weekend (if you are in the US)!

Mid-May Gardening
May 21, 2008
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Even though I am extremely tired today I made it outside this evening to water the plants and do some repotting with a few plants. I'm trying to upgrade a few plants to bigger pots and it is easier to undertake a few a night, or throughout the week.
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The bulbs are doing well and a few more are coming up. I think I will leave them in the ground over the summer because the ground is very well draining and I doubt it will rot.
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This is the new rose I got a few months ago. It has put on a tremendous amount of growth and I will probably have to repot it soon.
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The aloe threw out a spike of flowers and I am happy to see it. This definitely needs to be repotted, but I'm not sure how to accomplish that without getting completely scratched up by the spines.
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The veggie garden is slowly filling in. The oregano is creeping along as is the mint. The beans are about to put flowers out and I made little stake tee-pees tonight so grow them on. I was too afraid the passionvine on the backfence would overtake the beans and I'd never see them. I had to restart okra as something add the seedlings. The onions are starting to look good, too. They are more sturdy than they had been. I hope they take!!
Vine container
This is the vine container I started two weeks ago. I planted purple hyacainth bean, scarlet runner and apricot runner beans, that tiny little pink morninglory. Looking forward to the time when it is all vining.

Ignore that I sound like a complete idiot in this. ;) Yes, I talk for my animals (and the one that we're borrowing... ;) Dogs are hardwork!!). Oh and please, please ignore the crunchy, brown grass. The only green part of the grass is what gets watered from the sprinklers that water the containers. I can't bring myself to water the grass. It's completely pointless. Plus, I'd rather reserve it all for the veggies. I couldn't get Baloo to do anything cute. I'll have to post one of him being goofy, soon.

A May Monday
May 19, 2008
If I thought April went quickly, May seems to be going quicker. I finally got to see photos of my friend's baby and she is so sweet. She is so tiny, only 6lbs 5 oz at birth, and such a doll. I was talking with Michelle on the phone on the way home from work and heard Kylen coo in the background. *swoon*. I wanted to pinch her cheeks through the phone! In two weeks I'll be in Texas and get to see her!

It is so dry here. It rained on the beach today, certainly not where it was needed. There is a fire in the Everglades and the media is freaking out about it because the smoke is blowing into town. On the way home from work I counted at least six news vans just perched waiting to report how the fire was burning another patch of saw grass. Woop-de-doo. This weekend while in Little Slough I couldn't believe how low the water was. Just barely three weeks ago we were wading in water, and now, all but a puddle in the middle is dry. I like it that way, seeing what I am walking through. If you saw the photo of the moth that was posted below, count yourself lucky. I deleted it already, after we decided to wait until we figured out what to do. Plus, we wanted to get a better photo to properly identify the moth. As we were packing up to leave the other night, I had my headlamp on and it was shining down on the dry forest floor. Little dots were reflected back at me and so I stooped down to find out what they were. Itsy, bitsy spiders! No water spouts here, but they were tucked into little crevices and I felt bad knowing I'd likely squish a few. Do you know what is incredibly annoying? Wearing a headlamp and having fifty-thousand bugs flying at your head. AHHHH!

Yesterday we met
Marc and Eliana and Christine at the Redland Orchid Festival at the Fruit and Spice Park. Even by 10am it was sweaty hot. We didn't buy much, just found a steal of a deal for some vanilla plants and bought those, tried some coconut and black sapote ice cream, had some deliciously refreshing lemonade and walked around for awhile. We hit a Mexican restaurant in Homestead afterwards and then we all went to Schnebly's Winery, way out west of Homestead. It was fairly busy in there and we tasted various tropical fruit wines. No grapes here. You'll find passion fruit, lychee, carambola, mango, guava and a few other blends, and apparently they have an avocado wine on the list to be tried soon. That ought to be interesting. The tasting was nice but the tour was rather short. I bought a passion fruit and mango wine and the mango tasted much sweeter than at the winery. Christine has some photos up on her blog if you want to see. I haven't downloaded ours yet.

I'm off to work in the yard a bit. Dry, crunchy grass. The veggie bed is holding in there and half the tomatoes are down. We need rain!

Mission Mostly Accomplished
May 18, 2008
So, last night, on our third attempt, we're fairly certain we've got the moth that pollinates the ghost orchid on video. This is not-so-good screen shot of the video. The video is good and you can tell that it is a sphinx moth of some sort, but it is a bit out of focus. After watching it last night you can actually tell there are two in the area because one flies to the orchid and then behind it 15-20 feet one zooms by in the background.

Since we found the ghost orchids last year Chris has been wanting to find out for sure what pollinates the ghost orchids. It was suspected that the giant sphinx moth was the pollinator because it has a proboscis long enough to reach into the nectar tube and then inadvertentaly grab the pollen. Last night around dusk Chris and I were sitting in our super cool camping chairs that came with foot rests, trying to not listen to the mosquitos in our ears. I'd just put my book down because the light had started to become too dark. In front of us was a smallish pop ash tree and something fluttered by it. It appeared too small for a sphinx moth, but then again it may or may not be a sphinx moth that pollinated it, we thought. So, we kept watching. It bounced around for a minute and then it it came to me and hovered near my arm. I was wearing a white sweatshirt and it was obviously attracted to me. Even though the moon was rising and starting to shine it was still to dark in the forest to make out exactly how big it was and what it was. Then the next thing we knew it was at the tree with one of the ghost orchids that we had the video camera set up on. We had our DSLR set up on another orchid 20 feet away with a remote just in case we heard something over there. As we watched the moth near the ghost orchid all of a sudden it went to the orchid and the ghost bounced in the area and it was clear that it had been to the flower! Then, it left the flower and zoomed by me and I heard the clear, low hum of the wings and off it went. We thought for sure it had gone to the other orchid so Chris hopped up to see. We looked for awhile and then sat back down to listen over the even lower hum of the mosquitos. We'd hear the moth ocassionally just for bits and moments and sometimes one of us would hear it and the other wouldn't. We stayed another hour trying to make out if we saw something else or if we heard it and eventually gave up a bit early. It was when we came home and saw the video, which was shot on an infrared setting, that we saw it was the sphinx moth, or at least a very large hawk moth of some kind. It worked just like a hummigbird and it zipped past the camera a few times before it went to the orchid. Then we saw the other one, and I thought maybe a third but I'm not positive, in the background. So, now we are wondering if they work in pairs. Yes, we are big dorks.

I'm not sure if we'll post the video this week or not. We want to get something a little clearer and more definite and maybe even a photo because then we could clearly identify the species. But, we're on to something! Chris conned me into going last night and I had plans in my head to get a haircut and veg all night. I'm glad I went!

More Turtling
May 17, 2008
I'm about a quarter of the way into
my book and I am really enjoying it. Archie Carr describes being on Tortuguero, an island off in the Caribbean Sea of Costa Rica, in the 1950's and 60's when sea turtle biology was really starting off. This was when turtle fishing was highly prevalent and the seven species of sea turtles weren't protected yet. He describes the native Indians turning over all of the female turtles as they came up to nest so that they could be picked up later to be utilized for food. Oddly enough it seems that the sea turtle fishermen were in an uproar over the damage this was causing to their industry; the sea turtle fishery was beginning to collapse. He describes the life on the island, somewhat how I could envision it being similar to being at Inti Wara Yassi. Secluded but with your fellow researchers and then off during the day tagging and doing research. It made me want to go and visit the island, or in the meantime just drive up to Melbourne and watch the loggerheads nest during the next month. I think Chris and I will have to spend a weekend up there soon. I haven't seen them nesting in, well, I guess five years now. Four years ago is when we moved down here.

In college I was lucky enough during the summer of 2000 to get into an internship at my college tagging Kemps Ridley sea turtles. There were four of us interns, a grad student and a full time biologist who ran the tagging program.
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We saw quite a bit of turtles that summer and after we caught each one we'd have to take them in to gather information on them and then release them where we caught them the next day or two. We tagged off of Sabine Pass, TX and then two places in Louisiana.
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We placed entanglement nets that were changed on the hour and if we suspected something hitting the net. We caught our fair share of stingrays, fish and bull sharks. You can see the amount of shrimp boats that were out there on a daily basis. You also couldn't mistake the smell of a menhaden boat as it made its way back into port. Shrimp boats are not a sea turtle's friend.
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When we caught stingrays and sharks we would take them a bit away from the net so we could release them and they wouldn't end up straight back into the net. I remember one day we caught the biggest Atlantic ray I'd ever seen. She was HUGE! It took at least two of us to wrestle her out of the net.
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The bane of our existence were these huge mats of sargassum that would float right into the net. Two of us would be pulling the net up from the bottom, picking out sargassum and whatever else we saw, mainly looking for sea turtles. I got some kick ass arms that summer. You try dead lifting a wet net from the bottom.
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One of the things we'd have to do after we brought the turtles back to where we were staying was to work them up, get blood, carapace scrapings, measurements and overall health, scrape barnacles off and look for fibropapilloma. That was a great summer. That's when I decided I wanted to work with sea turtles. And here I am...not working with sea turtles 8 years later.

TAMUG Sea Turtle Lab. The good news is that Kemps ridley's are on their way back. They are slowly starting to nest on Texas beaches again. Typically they nest in an arribada in Mexico.

The book made me reminisce a bit so here I am sharing a little piece of my history.

Swimming with Turtles
May 14, 2008

My friend Meghan just got back from her honeymoon. And since Flickr lets you upload videos now she has uploaded some freakin' awesome SCUBA vidoes from Belize. This one is awesome!

And this one is cool too!!!

And this. Wow, wow, wow!!!! Now, I have the severe urge to do diving. Must get gear in order. Service Chris' tank. See if regulator works. Diving, here I come!!! The turtle appears to be a hawksbill sea turtle to me. I've seen a juvenile in the Keys when we were snorkeling once on a reef. Then there were the greens and Kemps ridley's I tagged during the summer of 2000. And the loggerheads nesting on the beach in Melbourne. Must go back and see that again this summer. Prime time for that is coming up. *sigh*.

Shortly after I posted last night I got a call from my Michelle's husband to let me know that the baby was born. It was a girl and she is healthy! I'm just excited to see photos!

Patiently Waiting
May 13, 2008
Barred Owl: Peekaboo
I'm still patiently waiting the news on the baby. No word yet. So, I will share this little photo I snapped last Friday at work of a barred owl. It was not happy with me at all. There was much hissing involved and me reassuring it that I was not about to make off with it or possibly its nest. This is the best one of the shots I took. I did a little curves work to make the owl stand out better and it seemed to work well....because this is my second photo, now, to make Explore! I am excited! I was a bit surprised because there weren't as many comments but I think that the trick is to have people favorite it. I don't know, I can't read Flickr. It is fickle sometimes. But, this photo makes me happy and I just might have to print it out.

There's not a whole lot going on. I tried a run this evening and made it about a mile and a half and had to walk most of the rest of the way. The trouble with running before dinner is that you smell all of this incredible food in the neighborhood and start envisioning running into peoples living rooms and feasting. That and I was having trouble with my breathing today. I am also down three miles so far because I kayaked instead of running on Saturday. *oh well*. Slowly, slowly, I waddle on.

Through Bookmooch I got Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, the 'sequel' to Pride and Prejudice. I am thoroughly looking forward to reading this, and it is even written in Regency English. WOO! Heh!

My yard is already escaping from me. It is so hot these days. And no rain. Please, send us a mediocre Tropical Depression. Note, I did not say hurricane.

Almost An Auntie
May 12, 2008
My bff, Michelle, (well, one of my BFF's), is going in for an induction tomorrow to have her baby!!! I'm super excited and when I called her this afternoon I almost hung up crying. My voice cracked there are the end, because this is such an exciting little event for me and she's one of my closest friends. We connected somehow our freshman year of college, and though we're several states away and don't always get to talk on the phone or email, we always have this connection. So, tomorrow, when it gets tough Chelle Belle, think of those times we sipped green tea on my balcony and watched across at Galveston Bay. I'm getting all teary eyed just writing about it!

Sometime last winter one of the owners of
My Folia sent me an invite via Flickr. I signed up and didn't do a heck of a lot with it until getting reinvigorated about it recently. My page is there and I am slowly adding things to it. I'm thinking it will be a great way for me to remember what we have in the garden. I will need to go around, slowly, adding what we have been growing over the years.

Because I am the worlds biggest dork, I had to start a new Flickr group today. It's called Awesome Octagons, and I just know someone reading this wants to join!! I found a group for the hexagon crochet squares, but no octagons and I wanted to share! So, now there is a group! WOO! Also, I am trying to get The Divine Sisterhood of the Gluestick up and going too. Meghan has been doing wedding related activities lately so I am going to try and post challenges every once in awhile. There's one up right now that I need to do myself, but I hope I can get a few of you reading to join!
octagon 1
These are the stacks of octagons I am working on right now. I am working on another round of purple and then have one each left of both colors. I saw there is a nice sea green color that I think I will use to join and to add the border.
octagon 3
So far I love this yarn. It is Paton's Brilliant. The speckles of silver intwined with the color make it very shimmery and I think unique for a baby afghan.
pink rose
The rose is blooming again. This is the not the most recent one I bought, but the one I've had for awhile. I started more onion and okra seeds tonight.

Sunday Scribblings
May 11, 2008
It's hot outside. The summer heat has arrived, and with it a complete lack of rain. I don't think we've seen any significant rain since early April. The yard shows it. Everyone, save those who actually water their lawn, has brown grass and the weeds are taking over. Chris has slowly been taking some tomatoes down today. I am guarding a few of mine, hoping to get some more tomatoes out of them to save and eat in the next few weeks. But, they are mostly done. We'll start again with sowing seeds in late August, this time for an earlier harvest than we got this year. I know which I will and won't be planting again. Copia was a deadbeat. I think I had one or two come out of that one, and Great White did poorly. We lacked on water and part of the problem was the amount of tomatoes we had planted. They were fun to plant and watch as they grew. I will miss having the fresh tomatoes in the kitchen. It's a good thing we've stocked up on salsa! I do have one tomato sauce left as well.

Yesterday we braved the heat and went to the Loxahatchee River up in Jupiter to kayak. The water was cool and with the shade from the old growth cypress we weren't too hot.
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We put in at a park on Indiantown Road and paddled down the river to the second spillway. We've done this route before while doing a geocache.
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It is a very peaceful river, with just a small amount of flow, a few spots a little faster than the rest, and the water was lower than the time we'd came before.
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Chris' kayak is larger than mine and has more difficulty going through lower areas.
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Chris got out to take some photos with the SLR a few times. The river was very busy yesterday; lots of canoes and kayaks and we'd have to pull over in tight bends and between trees when oncoming traffic approached.
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There were quite a few turtles perched on fallen logs.
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We also encountered two alligators that were chilling on the edge of the bank in the water. We didn't see any swimming as we kayaked through.
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There were two logs that were so low over the water we had to practicaly lay down in the kayaks. We'd paddle enough to get us through and then crouch down as far as we could.
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After an hour or so, we made it to the second spillway. This is a popular swimming hole and takeout spot for lunch. It was very crowded yesterday at lunchtime!
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I had to get in the water and Chris joined me too. It was very cool and refreshing and much like being at the lake in Texas. I could have swam around for an hour. Don't worry, no gators in the water!
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When the water was higher you could kayak over the spillway, but there are takeout ramps to move down the river here.
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One then we saw a lot of were these invasive Pomacea insularum, channeled apple snail, eggs. They are different from the native apple snails in that the eggs are bright pink. They were everywhere and large clutches were on many cypres trees and logs.
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We made it back to the first spillway to find a traffic jam. Apparently someone in a canoe had gone down the spillway and flipped. Chris had gone down it on our way down the river, but I chickened out because I knew I could have flipped. I'm not exactly a world class kayaker. So, we had a lot of people in front of us and we sat waiting while everyone hauled their kayaks out of the water and down the other side of the ramp. The fun part is going down the ramp. You can get in and slide down and Chris did just that and almost lost his camera bag. I thought he was going to flip, but he luckily didn't and nothing got wet! Phew! I forgot to mention that under the road bridge for Indiantown Road is a colony of bats! They are so cool and you can hear them chirping as you paddle under the bridge. Some you can see peeking out of the crevices and holes!

Alisa's Blanket
I did finish and mail off this afghan the other day. WOO! Or, maybe I should say, WHOOP, since it is an Aggie blanket! I wanted it to be bigger but my hands were just worn out. I can tell a difference in using thick acrylic yarn vs other yarns.

Everyone here in Florida says Happy Mothers Day to our mom's, grandma's, soon to be momma's Chelle, Erika and Stephanie! :)

An Evening Out and About
May 7, 2008
Christine told us last weekend that we could come visit her at the park she works at to check out a few rare and endangered plants that are found there. She also has caves on the property!! Chris met me near work and we drove down in his car to the park. It was nice doing something other than rushing home collapsing and taking care of everything at home. The park is closed to the public at the moment but she let us walk around and see a few things. We were mostly interested in Passiflora sexflora, P. sexflora, and Lantana canescens, L. Canescens. Both are seemingly insignificant, but highly endangered. We walked the paths through the tropical hardwood hammocks and the palmetto scrub areas, back to the caves. Yes, there are caves in Florida! They aren't Carlsbad Caverns, but you know, it works! Chris jumped down into one of them and explored it for a few minutes. It wasn't a very deep cave, but he did see stalactites and snails. The evening was cool and enjoyable and we topped it off by stopping by a BBQ place on Krome for dinner.

Beach Pileateds
These are our beach woodpeckers that we saw on Sunday at Lovers Key State Park near Fort Myers. As I said a few posts down, we don't normally see these in this habitat. Seeing the brilliant red was a bit of a change from the browns, greens and blues of the beach.
Looking out over the water...
There were many osprey around and we spotted a few nests.
I couldn't believe how lucky Chris got with this photo. The magnificent frigates hardly come this low, at least the times we've seen them in the Keys. I call them pterodactyls.
Scoping out the fish
The pelicans were doing fly-by's along the coastline, searching for the perfect fish to dive in to catch.
Waiting for a catch
This is a complete Chris photo. I love how it turned out, he had an excellent eye for this one!
Swimming By
I had to get Chris to snap this one. As we were walking back to the car, we stopped on the bridge going over the little inlet area to look at what was swimming about. This horseshoe crab was swimming by on its back, moving along to another part of the ocean. When I worked at Moody Gardens we had a few in the touch tanks and they were always interesting to watch and to laugh at because they would continue ramming into the sides of the tank. By the way, don't ever buy one at the shell shop. Bad idea. Skip the seahorse while you're at it, and the pieces of coral.
Baby Hawks
There were baby hawks nesting in a tree in the parking lot. Mom came by with food before we left to the beach and she wasn't around when we returned.
Who Said You Could Take My Photo?
After we put our beach stuff in the car we walked a bit down a trail. We didn't realize it was so long, around 2 miles, so we just walked through their native butterfly plant garden and then a little down the trail. On their list of animals you might see were gopher tortoises. We were surprised to see them on the list and then shortly after we saw this one as well as another one that quickly went down its burrow when we tried to get a closer look.

I am completely loving Lady Antebellum a country band with their new song Love Don't Live Here. Awesome stuff!!! I might be popping over to Amazon soon to get it!

Run to you
May 6, 2008
Songs always have a meaning for me. Most songs at least. Right now Bryan Adam's Run to you is on the internet radio and it is always a good late night song. It reminds me of freshman year of college, the light to my cabinet desk on, a book open, the blinds open to the darkness of Galveston Bay and the twinkling lights of the Texas City refineries. The staring out into the darkness at the farthest lights across the bay to the west, wondering what is going on out in the darkness. Or sitting on the beach, feeling the breeze on my face, the smell of the sargassum washing up on the beach and the cool sand underneath my feet. I just had to write that down. I don't even know if it makes sense. Another one is Sunset Grill by Don Henley. A complete beach song.

3 miles down out of 36 for the month. I'm running again, three times a week for this month. Slowly working up to it. Now that my throat doesn't have constant mucous and I don't have a runny nose constantly, I can actually breathe. It felt good. Slow, strong, tiring, but good. I missed it. I want to be a runner. I used to consider myself one. I liked that I could do it. The feeling of accomplishment. I will get there again. It took time the first time I started and it will take time again.

What songs send you into a memory frenzy?

A bit of mustiness...
May 5, 2008
All I could think of when I walked into
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is that I should work here. It was me. I could see myself leading educational groups down the boardwalk or doing biological studies. Dagnabit. Insert Misti and Chris' Rule of Fun Jobs *here* (ie: Fun Jobs Never Pay). Right when you walk into the boardwalk area is a board showing what animals and plants that have been seen. Then you walk through a little wet prairie and into the cypress swamp. Right away the musty odor comes to you, smelling like an old tent that you've left wet for a few months. Mmmmm, camping. We meandered through the boardwalk for awhile, looking for chompers, caterpillars, in particularly a giant sphinx moth cat or ruddy daggerwing cat. The moths will chow down on pond apples and the daggerwings like strangler figs. We'd see a few nibbled leaves here and there but no caterpillars. I was taking in the new cypress leaves on an overhanging branch from a cypress when Chris exclaimed he'd found one.
Giant Sphinx Moth Caterpillar
That's little green bean looking thing in the top center of the photo. That little bugger.
Giant Sphinx Moth Caterpillar
Chris sat for awhile trying to get his best angle. He'd seen two at Fern Forest here in Broward County, but the photos didn't come out that great. We encounterd a few people wondering what in the heck we were dying to get a photo of and we told one couple who stopped to ask. He snapped awhile for awhile and then we started to walk down the boardwalk in search of the 'super ghost' orchid. We ended up back tracking a bit, further back than our caterpillar to find it.
The Super Ghost
Don't strain your eyes too hard to see it. It is actually hard to define, but you can tell. Those roots in the middle of the crook of the tree. You can't see it from the boardwalk; you've gotta use binoculars or a camera. No spikes that we could tell so far and we didn't see any pollinated seed pods from last year.
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I couldn't stop staring up at the resurrection fern on the tops of the cypress. So beautiful.
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There wasn't a lot of wildlife on the trail, but we did see these bugs...
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Ruddy Daggerwing

Bright and Sassy
This green anole didn't scurry off while I took a photo. Luck me!
I think I blend in.
I see similar bugs like this on my tomatoes. And they freakin' bite/pinch!!
Hugging a tree is good.
I saw this tree towards the end and had to hug it. It was begging to be hugged. ;)

It feels good to complete projects. I'm almost ready to move on from the book I'm reading, the Bonfire book. Right now the last bit is interviews and I think I am going to skip it. I'm ready for some chick-lit. Something to read quickly, in a few days, and to just mellow out to. I made more guacamole tonight. I ate the first batch already. I couldn't resist. I am going to get fat off of avocados. Leo just walked up onto the computer desk and has the cutest bit of water dribble on his chin. I want to eat him up!!!

Weekend Goodness
May 4, 2008

May 2, 2008
This post is for the Swedish Chef who posted a few posts back and asked for more cooking posts. I have an inkling of who you are Mr. Chef, but it is fun to try to guess. Today you are getting guacamole for your cooking post. Last weekend we went to Moe's Southwest Grill for lunch. We like Moe's. It's a good replacement for a Freebirds (in Texas) and I got guacamole with my burrito. I then had the hankering to make it so yesterday at the store I picked up some avocados to try it out. I mean, how hard can it be?
guac 1
I used:
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Then it all went into the food processor.
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And it was ready in just a few minutes!
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When my family first came to Florida for vacation back in the late 80's we were introduced to Everglade's Seasoning. We savored the can the whole year because you couldn't get it outside of Florida. It lasts a long time but it is very good to have on hand. They also have a Cactus Dust that is excellent on steaks and chicken. The guacamole was yummy! Chris didn't try it because he doesn't like it so the more I have the better! :)

I am happy to announce that I finally finished the blanket I was working on. I need to weave in the ends and wash it because the cats have laid all over it. I'm DONE! I'm excited because I wanted to spend the weekend doing paper related crafting. This month I am trying to accomplish another baby blanket (seriously what on earth are all you people doing having babies this summer????? My hands are going to fall apart!!) and do a little illustration for a friend and hopefully finish a scrapbook I started much too long ago. I also need to catch up on my Paper Adventure '08 project. This weekend I need to put some more seeds on the Etsy shop and do a bit of yard work. I feel slightly 'caught up' in the yard, but need to do some work on the porch. Our rat friend is still hanging around and I think his IQ is 130+ because he/she seems to know what those traps are for and is avoiding them at all costs, even going so far as to hanging out on the right side of the grill when there is a nice trap on the left side of it. ARGH! I'm hoping it will go into the live trap Chris bought the other night so we can just take it to a field and let it go.

Leo thanks you for all his birthday wishes, here and via the phone. ;) He was a happy cat eating a whole can of wet food. He usually gets dry food and wet food and fresh fish are treats. I even tried to get Sam to eat some but he turned his nose up to it. Picky cats!
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Baloo on the other hand is not picky. He will eat whatever you give him. He's been known to lick the floor, and I've seen him trying to stand up with his paws on the kitchen counter. Eliana, you gave us a handful!
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He has the wettest licks too. And doesn't know when to stop. Wruuff!

May 1, 2008
Lemme in!!
The squirt turns four today. We don't actually know his birthdate, but when he showed up July 1, 2004 we guessed he was about two months old. I've posted this photo before and I just never get tired of it. He is darn cute!
Of course he is known for being a little bit of a nutcase!
But who can resist the troublemaker????

It's been a long week here. Super busy at work. Tired. Tonight I'm going to pour some wine, sit in bed while I crochet and watch McDreamy and McSteamy. :)

An Evening
April 28, 2008
Tonight I am enjoying my sparkling pomegranate Izze. Mmmmm. I like to treat myself to these little drinks sometimes and the other day for the beach I bought a four pack. They are tasty, though Chris says otherwise. We're working on making dinner, or rather Chris is working on dinner. First, though, he had to clean the grill. You see, we had mice living in it. Last week I went to cook some chicken and opened the hood to find a mouse scurrying out of the way and a little nest being built snuggly in one corner. Funnily enough, the nest was made from cotton that came from my plant in the yard. Hrmph! So, tonight Chris finally started cleaning it up. We've had a mouse problem for awhile. It started when we weren't keeping our sunflower seeds for the birds in a container. They subsequently chewed through that pretty quickly and made good entertainment for Leo. Probably two weeks ago, almost, I was letting Baloo out in the middle of the night and saw a rat climbing on the screen of the porch. Yuck. I can handle mice but I don't want rats running around, especially with Samson going on the porch sometimes. Samson has been banned for a week and he is a bit sad about that. Hopefully we will be less friendly to the mice in the future by making the porch less of a mouse habitat than it already is.

The mice weren't the only ones using the cotton, though.
Momma in her nest
A ring neck dove momma had decided to nest in our ric-rack cactus hanging basket.
Momma with her nest
I didn't see her tonight so I hope she didn't abandon the nest.
Citrus from seed
I'm excited about this citrus. We started it from seed several years ago and I am not sure which one it is. The problem with labeling your labels with a Sharpie is that eventually it dissapears! So, it could be a lemon, lime or keylime. I hope keylime!!!
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There's also an amaryllis bud forming. This plant has done a lot of blooming in the past year or two, which is surprising to me. I've found some of my container plants to not bloom as much as I would think they should.
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This is the mockingbird nest that was in the passionvine. I haven't seen the babies or the momma lately either.

On the craft front I am still trying to nose my way through a large blanket I am crocheting. I just keep telling myself there's only one more large one to do. Ahhh! I have to whiz through another baby blanket in a month because I am now going to go to Texas at the end of the month for my friend's baby shower. This isn't helping because I really have the urge to paint and draw. There are two books I am trying to finish as well. The Texas Aggie Bonfire and No One Garden's Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence" are both good. I started the first one because my boss gave it to me to borrow. I suppose I didn't know a lot of the history of A&M, my alma mater, and it really is an eye opener. It was written almost immediately after the Bonfire collapse in 1999 and published in mid 2000. It is interesting reading about the evolutions of the traditions and how it went from all male to co-ed. This has been my carpool book, but I just can't manage to do a lot of reading lately. The second book I picked up at a nifty, small town bookstore in Greenville, South Carolina about a year and a half ago. I was on travel for work and was killing time in the evening and found this little bookstore, The Open Book. It was nice not being in a big-box store and they had a large selection of southeastern authors. This book was on sale so I picked it up and thought it'd be a nice fit on my bookshelves. It is a biography and isn't boring! I mean, remember all of those snooze-fest biographies you had to read in school? This one isn't like that, thank goodness. So, I'm trying to wade through both of those, slowly, in pieces, pages at a time.

It's raining now and time for dishes, putting laundry up (fun! joy!) and then settling in for some crocheting and House M.D.

Ghost Time
April 27, 2008
First, I did a little random number drawing on the 'net and the winner turned out to be Logan, my reader from Ravelry! COOL! :) I already sent you an email asking for your addres, so just reply to that when you get a chance! Thanks for participating! It just enticed me to go back to Ravelry and see what was going on in the fiber world. I have been a bit lost from yarn lately!

Aside from smashing three of my right hand fingers in the garage door tonight as I was putting it back down, this weekend was pretty good. Oh and aside from a crabby episode last night, too. OK, so the weekend was mostly good with a bit of crabby/ouchness. Yesterday I spent the day at John Lloyd State Park with a lot of my coworkers. We decided to have a beach get together and it turned out great. The weather was nice, the food was good and I spent a lot of time in the water! WOO! The only sad part was that Chris went fishing instead of hanging out with me. Drat. That was part of the crabbyness. Today we slept in and then went out to Little Slough for the first time, or really it was my first time this year. Chris has been out several times already. I was a bit reluctant to go at first. Last year really wore me out, but once we got on the trail and started walking out it felt like home again. The water is a foot higher than last year; it was mostly dry this time last year.
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We still have things to do from last year, like mapping out all of the orchids as well as documenting some that we decided to come back to get when we had a ladder.
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This seed pod is opening up from last year, or 'dehissing'.
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Some plants were doing good and others were declining in health from last year. It looked like a few were rebounding, though.
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Chris was a bit reluctant to go check the gauge because he'd seen a small alligator last time he had come alone. The water there was about 25.6".
Fisheating Spider with a fish!
This was one of the cool things we saw. A fisheating spider with a fish!! I was about to walk by it when I looked down and saw the spider, took a step back and then realized that it actually had a fish! That was pretty awesome until...
Fisheating Spider with a Lizard
we came to one of our giantor ghost's (around 70 roots!) and saw a fisheating spider that had just nabbed a lizard. This photo sucks but Chris got some with the Rebel. It was really interesting to watch.
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We counted between 15-20 spikes out there with one flower opening in the next few days.

And so it begins.

It's a Miracle!
April 24, 2008
How to eat a miracle fruit: Synsepalum dulcificum
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First, find a ripe fruit from your plant.
How to eat miracle fruit
Next, cut up some lemon slices (these were variegated...of course!).
How to eat miracle fruit: part 1
Then, taste the lemon because it is going to be sour!
How to eat miracle fruit: part 2
Take a bite of the miracle fruit berry, skin and all.
How to eat miracle fruit: part 3
How to eat miracle fruit: part 4
Don't pucker your face like the lemon is still sour, because the miracle fruit actually made it sweet!

Ahh, miracle fruit. We were introduced to this genius plant at the Fruit and Spice Park down in the Redlands. You drink lemonade, have a miracle fruit, drink it again and it tastes like the sweetest drink on the planet. Mmm, good!

I am getting seed packets ready for the lucky winner of the drawing. I am such a newbie at this giving away stuff that I forgot to say that you could post until Saturday night 11pm EST. On Sunday I'll draw the winner! So, go here if you want to participate!

Garden Fever
April 23, 2008
It's official. The gardening bug is back. There is something about being out in the yard when I get home from work. It is so alive right now. Yesterday I saw a zebra longwing butterfly and a gulf frittilary butterfly fluttering about. I also kept hearing chirping birds and today we discovered that there is a mockingbird nest inside all of that passionvine I posted the other day. The other day our spot breasted oriole friend, the one who has shown up the past two July's for a few days, has shown up again! He/she is a few months early, but I am happy it is around. Today on my way home from work, just as I turned onto the side street leading to our house I saw it fly over the road! Not 10 minutes later we were in the backyard, where I was picking cilantro seeds for my Etsy shop, when it flew into the tomato area and jumped from the vines for a minute before staying put on the fence for a bit.
Spot Breasted Oriole
Chris went in and nabbed the camera.
Spot Breasted Oriole
A tasty worm was found on my tomatoes and gobbled up for dinner!
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This Halloween Pennant, Celithemis eponina, stayed put for quite awhile on the new rose. I've found these to be one of the friendlier dragonflies to have around. They are all over the Everglades and will readily be photographed.
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Last night I stopped at Home Depot and picked up some eucalyptus mulch and some various herbs and got the vegetable bed ready. In the back are okra seedlings and I planted some ornamental variegated corn as well as some beans.

My friend Sara recently asked me for some gardening tips. When Chris and I first started gardening it was mostly trial and error. We'd plant something and see what would grow. This was on our apartment balcony that faced west and got little sunlight, so there were many errors. Eventually we learned to read up and figure out light and water requirements. We'ved killed our share of plants, but now we've got a handle on how to grow things. Mostly. I haven't tried lately, but I know I do not do well with bougainvillea or Mexican heather. The other issue is that we live in the sub-tropics so we have a bit of a different issue. We have hot, humid weather. Our vegetable season is mostly opposite of the rest of the country. Everything is grown from mid-Fall until right around now, except some hot season vegetables like peppers which can handle the heat. Not to mention, we get daily rains in the summer and that affects how well things will grow. Many bulbs will rot in the ground and some won't even grow, like tulips, because they need a certain amount of chill hours. Some people circumvent this by putting them in their fridge for six weeks, but there are so many other tropical varieties of bulbs, why bother???

I think the most valuable resource have been Gardenweb. Just reading by your state or region and then by areas of interest will give you so much more information.

Here is a list of books and links that I find valuable:
  1. Carolyne Roehm's Summer Notebook
  2. Maria Rodale's Organic Gardening
  3. Complete Guide to Florida Gardening
  4. Ecology for Gardeners
  5. Variegated Trees and Shrubs
  6. Timber Press
  7. You Grow Girl
  8. Floridata
  9. Aggie Horticulture: Go Maroon Bluebonnets!! :)

So that is a start. If you have specific questions, email or comment and I can try to answer them.

In other news, for the past two weeks I have been avoiding dairy. I've contemplated doing this for awhile and after the mini-acupuncture that I had and my constant pleghm and asthma issues, I've gone dairy free. This is incredibly hard. Do you know how much dairy is in everything??? It's not just elmininating milk and cheese, but it is sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, chocolate, ice cream, boxed goods, cheese covered chips and snacks and you just about name it, because there are milk derivatives in everything. Right now I am avoiding the major things, but I hope to wean myself off everything else too. *hope*. And I still go for things that I forget have dairy, like the fried chicken strips I had today at lunch. I'm sure they were milk battered because not too long after eating it I had a nice reaction. For the first week my throat was pretty sore, trying to recuperate from the past few years of throat clearing and coughing. It is feeling better now and I am enjoying this dry feeling throat and the ability to actually breathe. For about an hour after eating the chicken today I had issues breathing and clearing my throat. I hate that. So far soy milk has been good and I have not had a problem replacing it for regular milk. I tried some soy yogurt and that was good, but I got a block of soy 'cheese' and I knew when I unwrapped it I was heading for trouble. First, it was watery around the wrapper. Eww. Then, the coloring looked fake. I decided I was going to try a piece and when I went to cut it, the cheese was like rubber. Gross. And it did not taste good. I am wondering how it will taste disguised in some food, melted and cooked. I also bought some sliced rice milk cheese. I haven't had the nerve to try it yet.

All of this is rather sad to me because I have goat cheese, gouda and feta in the fridge begging to be eaten. The good news in all of this is that it is easier saying no to all of those bad foods, like cookies and cake! I'm hoping this will become a benefit for my waistline as well! Hah!
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I noticed the other day I had almost 60 subscribers and I really have no clue who 45 of you are. I know my regular commenters, family and friends, but who are all of the lurkers that read on a reader and are silent every day? I don't mind silence, but I would like to say hi to you at least once! :) So, to entice some delurking I am going to have a little giveaway. I will put together a little seed package to send to a lucky, randomly drawn person. Persons related to me by birth or marriage can participate, but if I pick your name I'll just draw a second time so that I am fair to all the other lurkers. So, come out and garden with me!!!

Cleaning Up
April 22, 2008
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Saturday morning we left the house by 7am and drove down to the Rickenbacker Causeway on the way to Key Biscayne. We were hosting the Earth Day CITO for Eliana and Marc, they originally hosted last year, but this year they were chilling in Grenada. We had a meager turnout, but it was good people. We were lucky to have a nice day with no strong winds, partly cloudy and though the water was a bit nippy when we got in, it later felt pretty good after we started cleaning.
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Eliana had found this island and saw how trashed it was from weekend partygoers.
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A trash can had been placed on the island but it was quite full. The trash can wasn't there last year. You could tell people would actually attempt to get near the trash can, as there was a large pile on the beach surrounding the can.
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Everything you can imagine was there. Empty tampons, cloths that you could tell were used for girls who went to the bathroom behind the trees, beer cans and bottles, fishing line plastic bags. You freakin' name it.
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You can see the crew here. I think there was around 10 people. Last year we had a bigger turnout, but we worked hard and got everything cleaned up in just an hour or so.
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I think we saw this last year but were unsucessful in getting it up. There was a tent buried in the sand. It seemed to go on for-ev-er (think The Sandlot). They'd tug and pull and a piece would rip. Sand would pile up and water would splash from the ocean. In the end they were able to get the majority of it up.
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You can see some of the amount of bags of trash we collected. There were little bits of glass here and there and of course you could stoop forever trying to pick up little bits of trash.
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It looked pretty darn good when we were completed. Nevermind those trash trees, Australian pines. Ugh. Invasive, exotic.

We sat around after we were done and a few people ate some lunch. In an odd moment, a huge swell came on shore, sweeping the kayaks up and sending everyone scrambling. Honestly, it was like a mini-tsunami, especially after a mostly calm surf for the whole morning. Someone said they saw a large boat go under the bridge and that must have been the wake from it. While we were hanging out some people in john boats, from nearby anchored sailboats, were noticing a large brown area swimming in the ocean. Someone from the clean up crew noticed it came up for air and we quickly realized it was a manatee! Now, I've seen my share of manatee's up in Melbourne but haven't seen any in Miami in the wild. To boot, there were two!! Chris, Ana and I scrambled for our kayaks and took off to slowly follow them. We never got too close but both surfaced clearly and we could see their whiskers and snout. Very awesome!
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Being on the water made me ready for summer, wanting a trip to the Keys and wanting to kayak more often. I want to go and float around the mangroves near Big Pine Key.

Since it is Earth Day I thought I'd post some relavent links and talk a bit. The first is this article, Greed in the name of Green, from Wolfie and the Sneak. I have been thinking about this a lot lately with the new green 'revolution' taking place. It has been bubbling for awhile, just under the surface, but now everyone seems to be 'greening'. I think the biggest things you can do are to buy reuseable bags (and use them!), carpool, plant a garden, use less invasive chemicals to clean, recycle, reuse, and reduce the consumption of what you just don't need. Instead of buying new look at Goodwill, Freecycle, Craigslist, BookMooch, Amazon used books, etc, etc.

Another thing I am just not very keen about is this move to ethanol. It has the potential to be incredibly destructive on the environment as we convert our grasslands, wetlands and forests to produce corn, not for food, but for fuel. I read an article in Time recently talking about the rainforest destruction going on in South America. It's incredibly sad, especially only a month out from being in Bolivia.

I'll leave you with a few good books and websites to check out:
Blue Frontier
The War Against the Greens: About the green movement in the early 90's.
Earth In Balance
Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish
Fire in the Turtle House

I've read all of these books and highly recommend them.

Leave No Trace
You Grow Girl
An Inconvenient Truth
Natural Resources Defense Council
Environmental Protection Agency
League of Conservation Voters

Freel free to pitch in your links or recommend a book. Arbor Day is in a few days, so go pick out a tree and get it planted!

Ahhhh, dirt!
April 21, 2008
Today I came home first and checked the mail. I love to check the mail. I hate days that involve bills and junk, or even worse, the rare occasion where there is no mail whatsoever. Sometimes I think the mailman just skipped me! Today was a good mail day. I had a book from BookMooch, an Etsy order, a letter from my friend Em in Wales, a BB&B coupon (!!!), and Chris had an book from Amazon. SCORE! I came in and grabbed Baloo so he could go outside and enjoy the evening with me while I opened my mail on the swing. Chris came home not too much later and played with Baloo a little, running around the swing and letting Baloo gnaw on a piece of a palm frond. The book I got was awesome. Or, it will be awesome when I read it.
So Excellent a Fishe by Archie Carr, the father of sea turtle biology. I've been meaning to read it for years and haven't gotten around to it, but I saw it up on BookMooch and nabbed it while I could. I already thumbed through it and I am completely excited!!! My other package was from Sara, from her Etsy Shop. I ordered a super cute bracelet. This wasn't my first time ordering from her; I ordered another cute bracelet back in the Fall. So, if you are looking for some beach wear, take a look at her stuff!
Bracelet city
Today I wore the green one (from Bolivia), and the second from the left, and the new ones are the plain 'mimimalist' one on the far left and the lacy aqua one, second from the right. Groovy!!!

I was reading Em's letter and then Chris got up and went to Best Buy. A few minutes later I heard him leave and I got up to go take something out for dinner to defrost. Hrm. I couldn't get in. He had locked the sliding door. I went around front. Locked too. Well, I decided I could spend my time trimming back grass from around the pots, weeding other areas and watering!
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This is our ylang-ylang tree. We started it from seed almost four years ago. Actually, for awhile we had no clue what it was because we'd mislabeled the containers, then our friend JC id'd it for us. It really needs to be in the ground, and is probably rooted through the pot into the ground already.
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This is our random brug that showed up in the middle of the yard. We suppose it sent a root out and grew from that because we haven't had any seed pods form. We've just decided to let it grow.
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A bit of poking around revealed a monarch chrysalis that had already hatched a beautiful butterfly.
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This is my second rose in the garden, a new addition. I bought it on a whim a few weeks ago while in Lake Placid. We had to stop at a hardware store for work and for $7, well, it had to come home. This isn't the prettiest bloom; the rest of the blooms were magnificent. I'll have to show you that later.
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This little wildflower came from one of those self seeding packets/envelopes. You can purchase notecards and such with seeds built into them now, and this was something similar. It took awhile, but one of them germinated. There are several more buds forming and I hope I can enjoy it for awhile.
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This purple basil is growing, self seeded from last years basil plant. There are a few plants in the container. Looking forward to the aroma!
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Under the brugs I planted my gladiolus bulbs. I am a little late in the season for Florida but I hope I can get some blooms this year before it gets too hot.
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The edible passionvine is blooming like crazy and taking over the back fence. I hope we will have a lot of fruit this year. Look for seeds on my Etsy shop if we do! I grew these from a fruit that I bought at the store. They take a bit of time starting off but once they are established they grow crazily.
Onion seedlings
My onion seedlings are hanging in there. I should mulch this bed. I ripped out the collard greens last night and cooked them up. I started those late this year as well so I didn't enjoy the vegetable as much as I could have. I think this weekend I will get some peppers and other herbs to plant in the bed for the summer. And mulch it too.
Passionvine fence
You can get some idea of how the vine is growing on the fence from this photo. I love the light in this one.
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All that grass! Ick! It was climbing up the fence and drowing out the poinsettia. This is another area I should just mulch and make into a bed. I just haphazardly threw in various plants because I didn't have a place to put them, and they do grow fine, but the grass really overtakes that area.
Yes, it is possible to carry tomatoes with no hands.
I like this photo because it cracks me up! I harvested what tomatoes were out there and hadn't been eaten by the bugs, rolled up my shirt, went hands free and they stayed!! I recommend a bit of a buddha belly for this one so that the tomatoes have something to rest on!!

King Leo of Mt. Laundry
King Leo of Mt. Laundry approves this blog post. *meow*. :) There's some sort of force field between warm laundry and grey and white cats.

Finally, Relaxation
April 19, 2008
Last week was good but exhausting. Getting up at 10 'til 6 every morning is wearing on me, and then getting home around the 7pm range daily took its toll. Tuesday was brutal. A cold front came through and the wind was whipping most of the day. Most of us came prepared and were bundled up. The only portion of my face that wasn't covered, from my eyes to just below my nose, became very wind and sunburned. Now, my nose is peeling and my lips are very sore and cracked. The only thing that makes it feel better is this shea butter/honey lip balm stuff from B&B Works. I was digging around for Carmex, which I never found, and found that instead. I wished I could have slept in today, but we had to be up for our kayaking geocaching CITO (cache in, trash out) event on Key Biscayne at 8am. It was a great day for picking up other people's trash (ha!), and I am glad I went. Tomorrow I will talk about Earth Day related stuff. Chris and I did get a long afternoon nap in today, from noon thirty until around 5ish. Now, I just feel more tired!

So, here are some wildflower photos from the week.
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Too lazy to try to identify. LOL! There are more like that...
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Bristly, white, yellowed umbel shaped flower. BWYUSF. :p
Wild Ruella
Wild Ruella
Grass pink
Marsh pink, Sabatia spp.
Bug haven
These little bugs were taking over the thistle!
Flaveria linearis
Flaveria lineraris
Another coreopsis with fleabane
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That's most of the wildlife shots I took. I have some sandhill cranes I will share later and the swallowtail kites kept evading me once I got the camera out, so I don't have any good photos of them. It is also very hard to get photos when you are on bouncing buggies and full tracks. For the week it was two full tracks stuck in the mud, and one broken down buggy (at the end of the day!).

I need a recommendation from anyone: I am looking for a recipe binder. I have so many recipe cards shoved into my box that it is just a pain to get to them. I'm looking for a binder with inserts that I can easily just file them away. I am not looking to rewrite them!! So, if you have a link please let me know!

Today in Monochrome
April 16, 2008
B&W Oak

B&W Fungi

B&W Trunk

B&W Airplant

B&W Woods

In Which I Write Incoherently...Probably
April 14, 2008
I am oh, so tired. I was up early to go to work so I could meet my carpoolers and go to our Everglades Study which lasts all this week. We were in the field by 7am and then spent most of the day on full tracks in the Everglades, but being outside in the sun makes you very tired. Then, I got home late, almost 7pm, and we ran a few errands. I can already tell I won't accomplish much this week.

Christine mentioned
BookMooch on a comment the other day so I had to check it out. I am now addicted! I've listed 35 books, several which have already been vouched for, and I just need to take them to the post office later this week. It's a 'free' exchange. You pay the shipping, whatever is cheapest, and they get the book. So, even though you are sending books, you will also be getting books for the free. My problem is, the majority of the books on my wishlist aren't available. Many are on other people's wishlists. I figured Eat, Pray, Love would be widely available since it is very popular right now, but it isn't. A lot of Oprah books, though. The good news is I got rid of both GRE books! WOO! AND!!! And Organic Chemistry study guide. LOL! I think I'd list the actual book, but I have to pay the shipping and it is a doozy of a heavy book. It is worth a try if you have some books to get rid of.

Baloo and the cats are coming around now. They are all able to hang out in the same room and walk by each other, but Baloo hasn't figured out that Samson doesn't want to play and keeps trying to pick little play-fights. Baloo has also caught onto Samson's trick of hovering at the front door when someone comes through that way and that is a big no-no. Sam has been known to pull a sneaky dash through the door and I know Baloo is perfectly capable. Eliana, your dog is a trickster!!! ;) He runs along the lines of Leo, mostly good/partly bad. He's a doll face, but he's a troublemaker, though they both don't usually know they are troublemaking! It was quite funny when I got home today, because he was at the front door since Chris was already home, and he was wiggling his little butt (that is really funny! I will have to video it.) and jumping up and down like he missed me alllll day long. I think I need to figure out an accent and put on a brown wig and see if he thinks I am Eliana! HA!

Well, I do have a post about a hike/car ride we did this weekend, but that involves processing photos from RAW to jpg and uploading and thinking and writing and I am just not capable of that right now. So, you get to critique my little art work I did last week.
Parrot Fish Eye
Parrot Fish Eye. 5x5 acrylic on canvas. It isn't quite what I envisioned, not bad, not great, but something I'll probably just keep and let hang out in the computer room. What do you think????

Bolivia Day 6: Witch's Market and leaving La Paz
April 13, 2008
Waking up in La Paz was nice. Not having to travel that day made it even better. We all slept in until around 9 since we had nowhere to go and no real plans. Chris and I ambled down stairs for breakfast, the same breakfast we'd had upon our arrival on that Tuesday previously. Juice, tea, quinoa, fruit. It was good to eat, but I was still feeling the effects of the altitude sickness and by the end of breakfast my stomach was nauseous again and I felt so tired, even though we'd slept a good 9+ hours. We went back upstairs and Eliana, Marc and Chris decided they would let me sleep for a few hours while they went down to the Witch's Market and walked around. About thirty minutes into my snoozing I heard a parade with a band come through the streets. It was Easter Sunday and everyone was celebrating. The music reminded me a bit of Mardi Gras. It didn't bother me too long because before I knew it, the three of them were back and ready to drag me to lunch. I felt weak from not feeling well, but I made the walk down the stairs and we watched the parade that was in front of the hotel.

This particular parade took a long time to walk the street. They would slowly do their dance and move forward. I can imagine it would take hours to get through a route.


We were luckily walking slowly downhill, which was not too bad for me. There were street vendors selling everything from this corn to bottles of water and little trinkets.
Anyone need a bag of chili's?

We turned left (not sure on the direction) and walked down another hill on a more narrow street. We ended up eating at this organic/natural place, I think the name was 100% Natural or something like that. We attempted another place a few doors down but they were closed for the day. The building was tiny and already full of patrons so we had to wait a few minutes to get a table. This restaurant was very traveler friendly and you could tell it was probably always busy. On the menu I spotted chicken soup which was exactly what I needed for my stomach. I also ordered a chicken sandwich (sans hair this time!). When the food came out everyone realized their eyes were bigger than their stomach. Apparently Bolivia has the American food syndrome of too much food given on a plate. The soup was fabulous and exactly what I needed. Fresh and homemade. I threw a few pieces of chicken from my sandwich into the soup for a little protein. Mmmm! After lunch we didn't have to walk too much further to hit the Witch's Market. The Witch's Market isn't really what the name insinuates, though there are all sorts of poached animals that are used in who knows what, but it is mostly a tourist area where Bolivian and South American goods are marketed (one can hope they weren't made in China).
Chris made me try on one of the hats that the women wear. I look like a dork!
Eliana had tried on a similar one earlier in the day.
At first we just browsed at what we wanted. When Chris went out earlier he had already bought several items so I wasn't looking for too much more. You can mostly browse the street, walk next door and try to bargain for a cheaper price than you found it previously. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The matter is, everything is already cheaper than you would expect to find at home that sometimes it just gets ridiculous asking for less.
Eliana found more oranges...

We never really felt unsafe here. As I said earlier the area was a heavily traveled tourist area. Now, if I had gone to the area, that the night before on the way back from the airport to the hotel, was blocked off and said military zone, well, there might have been problems. So, common sense is best.
There were so many beautiful things for sale. I ended up finding a beautiful necklace that was green leaves inlaid with silver. We tried to bargain on that one, using Eliana as our translator, and then we decided against it, only to find another necklace with the earrings as a set right up the stairs, not 20 feet away, at another vendor. I ended up purchasing those because it came as a set.

I saw these inside a little courtyard when we tried to find the postoffice. E & M said that the post office had been open the previously Sunday, but probably since it was Easter, they were closed.
There are dried animals skins, whole animals and parts at many of the vendors. It is such a sad sight to see. The llama's are good for fertility or something like that.
So, you can imagine what may have happened to any number of the animals at Inti Wara Yassi had they not been rescued. And you can imagine what happens to all of the ones they cannot take or aren't given to them.
Not only were there animals just being sold like this, at a music store we saw a guitar made with an armadillo. The armadillo was the back part of the guitar. I mean, it did look really interesting, but very useless and wasteful.

Yes, that is a head.
One of the cool things that I missed was finding an artist on the street. Chris bought the painting on the right and Eliana the drawing. They both posted with the artist and had him sign the work. I think they bought each for $10. We tried to find him again when I went out, but to no avail.
Collecting art from other countries is really cool. I have a painting from Panama that I need to have nicely framed. It is tucked in a not so good frame at the moment and not even displayed.

After our forays into the streets we headed back to the hotel. Eliana and Marc had decided to spend a few hours on the free internet next door, in another hotel, and so we walked the several flights of stairs up. Wheeeewwww...that was difficult! Our rewards was a gorgeous view and a quiet cafe setting. There was a small snack bar run by one guy, three computers that were not very fast and several tables to sit and relax. The late afternoon sun was pouring in the windows, making it quite warm and toasty inside. Eliana and I bought some Pringles to share. Good 'ol junk food! I checked email for awhile and waded through the junk, slowly deleting what I could. I didn't want to be on too long, because it almost ruined the away from home feeling.


We left E & M to work on their website and Chris and I went back to the hotel to relax. Surprisingly there were several English language channels on the tv. I found a Hallmark channel with an interesting British mystery and we watched that for awhile. There were a few good movies on, but they were in Spanish with English at the bottom. Bummer. We laid around the rest of the evening, just relaxing. Eventually we packed up. We had to be downstairs at 4am to meet our taxi and get to the airport, which is a good 20 minutes or so from the hotel. Once at the airport we found the airport to be fairly busy, but the line moved relatively fast. Chris and I checked in with ease, but E & M had a bit of a difficulty because they were flying standby. We later found out they could make the flight to Santa Cruz, where we had a layover, but it wasn't guaranteed they would make it from there to Miami. We paid our exit tax, $25 each, and sat down at a small cafe to eat a little breakfast. Surprisingly there was a Burger King upstairs. I nibbled on a croissant, but my appetite hadn't returned fully. Soon enough it was time to go through security and we made it through with mostly ease. I was the only one to have my check on bag searched. Apparently carrying an oddly high amount of pens and pencils is warrant for a search. I was carrying my pencil/pen case to go with my travel journal (hey, you've gotta have a lot to choose from!), and they rummaged through that for awhile before turning me loose. We walked the duty free shop for a bit and I picked up some coca tea bags to bring back to my coworker. Before we knew it we were boarding the plane. Chris and I were almost at the very back of the plane and Eliana and Marc were in first class. I couldn't sleep at all, too excited and wanted to take a peek at everything that we'd see outside the window. We flew by some of the tallest peaks in Bolivia. Literally, we were probably flying as high as they were, 26,000 or so feet. Large, snow covered, and waiting to be explored. I wonder who, if any, has climbed them? Then we began flying over the rainforests and into the lowlands and the hour flight was almost over. We descended into Santa Cruz and I immediately knew I wanted to visit there the next time I went to Bolivia. It was flat, tropical and looked beautiful. At this point those that were departing in Santa Cruz had to get off. We tried to keep an eye on for Eliana and Marc but we never figured out if they stayed on the flight or had to get off. We had pretty much decided that they never made it and were going to have to stay, so we settled ourselves with that. We took of from Santa Cruz and I followed a large, winding river as it made its way through the lowlands. I was thinking of how long it would take to reach some of those remote areas and how people lived way out there. Eventually breakfast came and Chris and I gobbled that up and then fell asleep for a few hours. We woke up probably an hour before lunch and a movie was coming on, August Rush. I hadn't seen it so I decided that I was going to stay up and watch it. Lunch was served not long after and I was so happy because it was the first real food I could eat in awhile. I guess I just felt better without the altitude. The movie lasted awhile and eventually ended and we were still flying over the ocean. Then we started our descent. We flew over Biscayne Bay, Miami Beach, and over 836 and then we were back on American soil. It was surreal, for me at least. We were home and all of that beautiful country to be explored was so far south of us.

We had to wait awhile to get off the plane since we were so far back. When we deplaned Eliana and Marc were nowhere to be found, so we headed towards customs. That was a long walk. Walking, walking, walking. When we arrived at customs the lines were very long, but luckily the line for Americans were relatively short and we found a fast moving line. The guy was nice, asked us a few questions and then asked if we'd gone to Bolivia without speaking Spanish. We told him we'd gone with friends who did. He stamped a few things and we moved along towards the luggage terminal. There's a separate luggage area for international arrivals and as we came down the escalator we saw Eliana! We were completely surprised. She informed us that they had to hoof us to customs because she knew that it would take awhile for her to get through since she was only an American resident and had her Columbian passport. We finally found where our luggage was coming out and waited. A customs officer with a dog was searching through luggage for odd and suspicious packages, mostly for fruits and vegetables brought in. We collected our luggage and then walked to our final stop where they could decide to search your bags or to let you go on through. A quick stamp and a short glance at the four of us and we were through!! Outside we waited on Eliana's sister who was supposed to pick us up. Luckily she found us on her first time around, though we'd been worried she'd been circling for an hour because of the whole clearing customs issue.

We stopped off to pick up Baloo from his dogsitter and then we were finally back to Marc's place and our car. On our way home we stopped at Chili's for dinner and then we made it back to the cats at home.

We had a great time on this trip. I would do it again. It certainly reawakened my want to travel. There is just so much to see here in the US and everywhere else in the world. I wouldn't have picked Bolivia, but the chance came up and it worked out. Of course if we would have been there for the complete 8 or 9 days instead of six it would have been much more rewarding, but you do what you can. I do think that my mindset has changed a bit. I think twice about throwing things out and wasting items. Not that I didn't have this before, but it almost seems much more important now. There's poverty here in America, but it is so different. There is a much bigger support group and outreach for those in need and in most places in the world that isn't available. It seems odd that we've been back for so long already. Time will just keep marching and the months will keep ticking away on the calendar.

Wednesday Blatherings
April 9, 2008
A little scatterbrained here today. I'm feeling, not listless, listy! ;)

-I tried acupuncture today. There was a health fair at work and a an acupuncture dude was there. I told him about my asthma problems and so he did something to supposedly help it. The only needles that hurt were the two that went in my hands, at the fleshy junction between your thumb and pointer finger. Another went in my belly, and two went around the collar bones to represent the two lungs. It took awhile but I did get a feeling of calm and the feeling of being in relaxtion pose in yoga came over me. Fluttering eyes, deep relaxation and then came several deep breathes. I did feel better afterwards, but then, is it real or my mind? I was pleased with the nice back cracking he gave me as well as neck and then he talked about other issues from some other accupressure areas. Might be worth checking out if insurance covers it. Our new insurance had said some alternative medicines were covered. Heck, they cover Weight Watchers to some affect.

-Worked on the painting a bit more tonight. Needs to dry so I can add a few more layers tomorrow. It's pretty cool, I think!

I matted the drawing. Not the best photo as you can see the reflection and some shadow, but whatever. It's ready to go if someone wants it!

-Can't decide if I want to buy the Into the Wild soundtrack. Mmm, Eddie Veder. Anyone got a review for me? Oh, if you are interested in some new music you should try Rachael Yamagata's Happenstance. Channel Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk, ohhh and what's her face, the other piano playing, jazzy girl. My brain is losing fuction. Come Away With Me girl. Her. HA! Great cd.

-art baloo 013
For Eliana, who has been to Jamaica, St. Marteen, and Barbados today and is hopefully in Grenada now. Too bad all of that was in airports.
art baloo 008
Marc and Eliana also have a blog: Not All Who Wander Are Lost. Some of the photos are ours from the Bolivia trip. This will be their main blog for their big Central American road trip!

-My friend Sara from highschool art class has started a blog. It's interesting, we've become, I'd say good-ish internet/craft friends over the past year. It was a music/art/craft/scrap/Etsy connection. heh! I was always impressed with her work!

-My brain is done. Time to turn in. Adios!

oooh, Norah Jones. Got it. Of course at the last freakin' minute.

Cat vs. Dog Tonight at 10
April 8, 2008
We're several days in to the whole Baloo experience and the cats are slowly progressing. The first few days were a complete standoff with Samson and Baloo. Samson was acting very patriarchal and defending his territory. He would get between us and Baloo and stand his ground so that Baloo couldn't enter the bedroom. Baloo just looked sad and dopey and couldn't believe this little white furball was being so mean to him. Samson has drawn out his hissing and growling and perfected it quite well. Now he's at a point of being able to handle Baloo in the room or even walking nearby, but when the dog gets within about two feet the hissing and growling starts. Leo, the one we thought would be a terror, is actually a scaredycat. The first few day Leo was inquisitive and would just get a little scared, but on Saturday night we attempted having Baloo stay out and sleep with us, instead of the cage, but he was playing and bouncing and Leo completely freaked out, dashing across the bed and narrowly missing the jump to the dresser, thus scattering photo frames everywhere. He then made a run for the front windows and underneath the futon. It took some coaxing to get him out and we had to put Baloo in his cage for the night. Sunday was better. We managed to get Baloo to stay out for most of the day, but Leo took to hiding in the showers of both bathrooms. He is still very scared from his initial incident, but we are trying to get him to come around. I miss my little bug. Tonight, just minutes ago, there was a Baloo and Leo encounter. They both calmly came to each other, Leo more cautious than Baloo, and touched noses!!! I am quite amazed at this because Leo, for the past several days, had a his hair on his spine on end, his tail go poofy and his ears fold back in fear. So, step one to making friends!!

This weekend, despite wanting to spend more time outside, I huddled indoors and finished up the first baby blanket of the year! I am 1 down 2 to go for projects to complete this month. I was trying to get two blankets and a scrapbook done this month. It's doable, I just need more focus. I will probably have to dig out Alias for a marathon so I can get the other blanket done. The scrapbook should be simple enough.

This weekend I rented three movies: Into the Wild, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and Becoming Jane. Into the Wild was very good and sad. Thought provoking. If you are an adventurer I say rent it. I now want to read the book. Elizabeth: The Golden Age was also good. I love me some Tudor history, so this was great. I wish they had focused more on other aspects of her reign than the one that they chose for this movie and now I need to rewatch the first movie. Becoming Jane was a rewatch because I saw it in the theater. I was in need of a girly chick flick! I still can't bring myself to go see The Other Boleyn Girl for fear it'll ruin the book for me!

This week, or weekend, I want to go through my books. I think it is time for a purge. Get rid of the books I've read and won't reread and the books that I just won't read. I want to put them on to resell, but sometimes that takes time so I may just post a short list here and if anyone is interested set up a way for you to cover the shipping cost (media mail, it's cheapest) and that would be it for the book. Or just take it to a used book store! Meh. I also think I'm going to go through the stack of magazines and pull out articles I like and recycle the rest. After almost two years here I finally ordered recycle bins! Now I don't feel as bad just tossing them. I do have a stack of Cottage Living and Mother Earth News that I am not sure I want to toss just yet. And art magazines are going to stay. I think those are invaluable. Speaking of art....
In Progress
I couldn't help myself. I said I wasn't going to paint until I finished above said three projects, and well, I broke down tonight. It's 5x5 acrylic on canvas. I just couldn't help it. I have had it in my head for awhile. It is going to be a set of two. I should finish it tomorrow and I'm sure I'll start the second part as well. I kind of like the acrylic. Lots of control.

art tuesday 005
So, go make a mess today!

Day 5: Saying Goodbye
April 7, 2008
I have sad news to report. You know those two adorable puma kittens? Unfortunately one of them has died. Their nutrition is severely lacking. All they get is human formula, which isn't made for wild little kitties. Eliana has looked up some puma formula (I suppose what is given in zoo's, etc.) and has purchased the formula, costing $100. Now, she has to send it DHL to Cochabamba for it to be picked up by someone from IWY and that cost is astronomical...$183. So, you can see the need, the price, and how desperate they are to try to save the animals they have with what they've got. What's worse, none of this would have to happen if someone had poached their mother and left them to trade on the black market. Ridiculous. You can now see the link for any donations on the side bar, underneath

On Saturday, day 5, we slept in for awhile. It gave us much needed rest. Another rainstorm came in the early morning hours and ran off Chris' attempts for getting a hummingbird photo.
We did get up while everyone was still sleeping and the clouds were still hanging around.
There were two friendly dogs hanging out at the hotel, though one was in desperate need of a bath. Two cats were also there, one of which Eliana confiscated the night before and did a quick neutering. He recovered for the night in their hotel room, very unhappily. We did end up seeing him after they'd released the fella and he was not too shy, considering what had happened to him.
This is the cafe area where we had breakfast.
After breakfast we walked across the street... (lookking east)
(looking west, towards Villa Tunari). After breakfast we went into the clinic to watch Marc perform a necropsy on a monkey that they found dead that morning. We took a video but I don't want to gross anyone out too much and so if you want to see the end you can see the photo. The cause of death wasn't conclusive, but there was mucous that may have caused an infection. DSCF2498
Eliana and Marc had some final vet related things to do, so Chris and I decided to walk on the tourist trail again. There were many tourists from town and probably Cochabamba, so we weren't alone.
We stopped by the birds again and talked to some of the volunteers that we'd gotten to know a bit.
Right there was a big centipede. Kinda creepy, but cool nonetheless.
The walk up the tourist trail, the part we hadn't been on, was long and arduous. Well, long and arduous for two people from flat as a spatula Florida.
I'd wished we'd known to go up this way several days ago when it wasn't so crowded and we could have lingered and looked at plants.
I want this fern.
Finally, we made it to the top, to the lookout. Rio Espiritu Santo, the cliffs in the distance is the national park and Villa Tunari to the right.
We had to book it back down because we were running low on time and rain was starting to threaten. By the time we made it to the bottom it was sprinkling and we found Eliana and Marc at the visitor center.
We ran across the street to clean up, finish packing and check out. We hauled our luggage across the street where we had lunch and said some goodbyes. It was very sad having to leave. Almost like leaving something undone, at least for me. We grabbed a taxi into town where we stopped at the area to pick up another micro into Cochabamba. Eliana went to bid for our tickets, Chris and Marc went to the bank to try to exchange money and I held down the fort with the bags. Marc and Chris came back empty handed as they were turned away at the bank. The guard said they were closed but there were people inside. Chris and Marc noted that people were cooking pirhana and pacu on the streets! He was wishing we could stay long enough to have it. Meanwhile Eliana secured our tickets and we thought we would have to wait a few hours before we left but at the last minute, the micro that was there decided to let us go. We piled our luggage into the very back and Chris, Eliana and I took the far back seat and Marc took shotgun. Three other passengers took the middle row and away we went. It was sad rolling past the big Villa Tunari sign and away from town. The micro was very hot, no airconditioning and the windows didn't roll down, but luckily the three middle passengers figured out the sunroof and we got some respite from the heat until some raindrops trinkled in and they shut it a bit. DSCF2613
We saw several of these trucks later in the evening, hauling off large logs from the rainforest.
We came up on the one check station that Eliana said the last time she and Anastasia had their luggage checked.
We managed to evade the kid wearing the Miami Dolphins jersey, as well as his adult counterparts. No check for us!
The scenery was mostly the same going out of town and I tried to take it all in as much as I could. Leaving the rainforest for the drier, higher altitude was sad. Before we knew it we were Cochabamba and back to the main micro area where we were all let go. In the micro we'd decided we wouldn't stay at the same hotel and chose City Hotel, not too far from Hostal Florida, where we'd stayed previously. We managed to find a taxi in the midst of all the traffic and confusion of the micro area and set off for the hotel. Once we arrived we found the hotel to be very nice in comparison to the last place. My stomach had started not to feel so well, mostly nerves I think from the thought of having to be in the city again and the possibility of the bus ride. We went upstairs and the room was nice, however it had a gross, stale cigarette smell. After settling in for a minute we went downstairs again to let Eliana find out about our potential airplane ride from Cochabamba to La Paz for Sunday morning. Through a contact in the city we had thought we'd secured a flight for Sunday morning, a simple, easy 30 minutes and $50 fare each. WOOHOO! Unfortunately we found out that flight for Sunday had never been reserved, or if it had it was cancelled when no one showed up to pay for it. However, we found out that there was a flight that night at around 10pm and to get those seats we had to haul it to the Cine Center in Cochabamba and pay Aero Sur ASAP. Luckily the hotel was sympathetic to our plight and let us store our luggage while we went to pay and eat dinner and we didn't have to pay for the rooms we'd just reserved. At the Cine Center we found a mall like atmosphere, with teenagers hanging out at the movies and eating Bolivian fast food. It was early evening so we had plenty of time and showed up to pay for our fare. Afterwards we tried to find our way to a vegetarian restaurant that Eliana and Anastasia had eaten at before, but found it closed. Instead we found a cheap Italian place that was actually really good. I ordered lasagna, and my stomach was still having issues and it was not liking the ham that was placed in the lasagna so I ate around that. During dinner several kids came in, probably less than seven years old, selling gum and candy. It was quite sad seeing them trying to sell that and probably making money for the family.

Once dinner was over we walked a few blocks back to the hotel where we picked up our luggage and hailed another taxi to the airport. By this time it was dark outside and the ride around town was neat. I wasn't quite sure where I was in relation to everywhere we'd been. The airport was more cosmopolitan than I was expecting. We'd only seen a small part of the La Paz airport when we landed and so I was assuming it would still be small. We lined up at the Aero Sur booth and got our boarding passes and then paid the airport tax. Chris and I went to the ATM to get cash since we figured we'd never be able to change money on a Sunday in La Paz and took out 1400B's, which was about $180. When we got home I saw the bank charge was less than $2 for that transaction! WOO!

The airport only lets you go through security at a certain time, close to boarding time, so we had to wander around the few shops that were open on the main floor and we mistakenly sat near the restrooms, which emitted an odor that was not pleasant. The sewers in Bolivia really need help. Chris bought a huge Toblerone bar while we waited and Marc and Eliana attempted to work on their website. Finally, we were able to board. The security was not too big of a deal. Similar to airports here, prior to 9/11. No shoes to be taken off, just a normal screening through the machine and then we were inside the waiting area. We didn't have to wait long before they called us to board and I was quite surprised when they gave us a little food package of a sandwhich and candy! We had to walk out on the tarmac and across to the airplane to board and you lined up just however you got in line, no boarding by number. Once on board Chris bugged Marc about his band (and the weird elephant shrew, more on that later!), and Eliana and I just relaxed while we waited to take flight. It didn't take long for us to get to La Paz and I was very thankful that we didn't have to take a long bus ride again. Honestly, take the plane. Take the plane!!! It was nearing midnight by the time we got a taxi and went back to the original hostal we'd come in at several days prior. Luckily, there was someone downstairs to let us in and get us a room. We were back into the land of thin air and hauling the luggage up was very tiring. At least we were in La Paz and didn't have to travel all day on Sunday!!

I will try and wrap up the trip within the next few days. Thank for being patient with me. It is hard to write about, to sit and think about what all we did. I know I've left things out and I will have to pull them out of my brain! I'm sure I will do little compilation posts about plants or other various tidbits I come up with!

Meet Baloo
April 4, 2008
A kiss 4/30
This is Baloo, the overgrown baby! He's here, sitting in his cage all by his lonesome. Eliana came today after work to drop her baby off (he is her baby!!) and to tell us all the things we needed to do for him (shots, food, pills, bathroom breaks...) and we tried to introduce him to the cats. Samson was on the porch while Baloo was in the backyard and there was some hair raising and meowing and hissing. Leo stayed inside but could see the dog from the window and he went all poofy tail on me. Then we shut the cats inside the bedroom and brought him into his cage and then brought the cats back out. Lots of skittish, poofy tails. I lured them with treats closer to the cage, but they were very hesitant.
I miss you already.
Rough day for Momma Eliana and Samson and Leo. It will get better. We're aiming for Sunday for a full non-cage interaction. I feel bad for all the animals. They'll come around though.

Hello Spring!
April 3, 2008
I'm going to take a day away from the Bolivia blogging and talk about the garden a bit. Last weekend we worked in the yard, dodging the rain showers that came through. I've slowly been working in the evenings out there and tonight I spent a good evening picking dead tomato leaves, weeding some grass to plant some gladiolus bulbs and watering. I need to do more weeding, watering and working, but slowly I go, like a snail. I also took the camera out for some macro shots. I *love* macro. I want to marry it. ;) Sure, I can have a plural marriage. ;) Chris, macro and me. HA! Speaking of cameras, someone from the
South Florida Camera Club contacted me via Flickr today to ask if I was interested. I took a look at the site and I am definitely interested but tonight's meeting was a bit of a short notice. I told Chris and he isn't sure if he wants to go, but I think I'll go and check it out in a few weeks. Any opportunity to get better is a good thing!

Valentine Orchid
First, the orchid Chris got me for Valentine's is blooming. I think it is an Oncidium, but I'll have to look it up.
Mulberry. Mmmm!
There are two more ripe mulberries, but I forgot to pick them! oops!
Strawberry flower
My first strawberry flower of the year. Strawberries are in season again and they are 2 and 3 for $5 at the store. Oooh yeah!
Stinging Golf Ball Flower
This is Chris' stinging golf ball plant in flower. I have no idea the purpose of the plant other than it was really cool and he likes the odd ball stuff, but the flower is really neat and the hairs on the plant are very cool.
Stinging Golf Ball Flower
Another view of the flower. There are milkweed seeds caught in the hairs.
Reworking the container area
This is the work in progress that we started over the weekend. Rather, Chris started it. Since we're mostly bound to containers, the grass tends to creep up and swallow all of the succulents over there. We're trying to reduce the problem a bit.
Bidens Alba Seed Head
This is a Bidens alba seed head, aka: beggar's ticks. They get on your clothes, as you can see from the teeth on the seeds, and travel along with you.
One of the varieties of jasmine in the yard.
Plumeria Flowers Forming
The plumeria are itching to bloom! I'm ready for 'em. There's a large tree around the corner and when I am out for a walk or run I will pick up the fallen flowers and get a very heady scent of beautiful plumeria.
Apostle's Iris
This is the apostle's iris we bought a few weeks ago, before our trip. It is blooming like crazy right now.
Golden Dewdrop
And this is golden dewdrop. It gets the golden part from the yellow seeds that form.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the brief garden tour! Tomorrow is a big day in the cat house. It's the day a dog comes into the cat house. We're pet sitting Baloo, Eliana and Marc's dog, while they go on their road trip. He's getting a three week trial and then we'll see what happens afterwards. We're hoping Leo doesn't turn into Mr. Meaniepants and whack the hell out of him. So, we'll see!

Happy April to everyone!

Day 4: Part 2--Orchidarium and Monkeys in the Rain
April 1, 2008
After leaving the park, our next stop was this orchidarium. I saw it in the travel book and thought it would be fun to go. A German guy owns the place and most of the orchids aren't native, but it is still really fun to see.
There were some specimens on display at the entrance. Apparently tarantula's are more rare than I thought. People kill them when they see them so they aren't very common.
And there were various preserved orchid flowers, though some of the color was fading.
I like that you can see the seeds through the pods!




Look at the ants on this costus!








I wanted to swing but never did.

Chris and Marc trying to capture the 24-hour ant. The ranger at the national park told us about them, saying they were an inch long and then we saw one on a log at the orchidarium.
It was carrying a piece of wood around. That's a Boliviano to show the size. We tried to get a penny because that is what most people would know, but the photo wasn't the best.
We made it to the mirador, the lookout,
and found a few rafters floating by.
The way this tree is shaped looked like a monkey profile.
A big 'ole fly!
After we finished with the orchidarium we went back to Inti Wara Yassi for lunch. I was surprised that we were the first ones back and that the volunteers hadn't come down for lunch. This is the kitchen.
This is looking west and around that corner is the clinic and one of the quarantines. Everyone writes on the outside of the buildings. There are a few other buildings that I think I have photos of and will show them when I get to that day. Everyone gathers around here during the meals. Most of the volunteers stay in housing on location, but if they have a surplus of volunteers some will have to stay in a low budget hostal in town. Everyone walks to and from down and every morning and evening you'd see people, not just the volunteers, crossing the bridge into town. After the day is done most of the volunteers will commune at this area, drink a beer or two and talk about the day. I kept thinking how much I would have loved to have done this 7 years ago while in college. It would have been such a good experience and I am sure I could have conned a few friends to come with me. It would be a good experience now and I would/want to go back. I think I'd have to stay a month, though. Two or three weeks at the refuge and then I want to go to Santa Cruz, the other big city in Bolivia, and see the sites there. As I said in posts previously, the volunteers are from all over the world. A lot of Europeans, but some Canadians and Americans and everyone is mostly traveling Central and South America. Girls traveling by themselves as well. On the last day we were there a large group of Israeli's showed up. Most hear by word of mouth and set out to visit and volunteer. While I was there I got that feeling of 'home'. While I don't think I could ever live in Bolivia long term, it was just such a beautiful place and the refuge was very home-like. I think I would be sad to see my friends go when their stay was up, but I could imagine walking up the hills to the puma's or monkey's on a daily basis. Hard, dirty work but rewarding. The kind you never forget.
This is one of the hardest working ladies there, Vicky. Morning, noon and night she was working her butt off cooking for everyone and cleaning up. Eliana and I could never figure out if she didn't get paid at all or if she was paid, but poorly. Eliana was a trooper and would do some dishes and try to help out but I think Vicky would try to scurry everyone off.
After lunch we decided we were hot and sweaty and it was time to get in the pool over at the hotel.
Since we just had to walk across the street, it was easy. The pool was very refreshing, albeit slightly cloudy. We never determined if the water came from the river and how it was treated. It was rather clear one day but because it was a holiday weekend a lot of vacationers from the city had come and the kids had been rowdy in the pool. The annoying part was that the pool made all of our insect bites itch like crazy. Eventually, the thunder rumbling from across the river to the south ran us off.
We ran into our rooms to change and decide what we were going to do. A nap sounded good but Eliana said she was going to just walk up to the monkeys and hang out underneath the shelter with the volunteers while it was raining. I donned my rain jacket and across the street we went.
I stayed dry, but Eliana...
ended up soaking wet, but mitigated that by kissing the monkeys and having fun. Once the rain let up Chris meandered down the path and too pictures of butterflies that wouldn't hold still and very cute capuchins.
You can see all of the trouble makers here!
Apparently capuchin's like to suck their thumb's, no matter what age! Or he/she was hamming it up just for the camera. They are wicked smart!

The rain finally stopped and Chris had decided to walk down the path a ways. Eliana and I had decided that we wanted to get a snack at the cafe and then we'd head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We were almost there when one of the volunteers passed off a spider monkey that needed to go back to the monkey area and so Eliana and I obliged.
We sat, again, for awhile at the monkey hangout and watched the monkeys play and harass each other. Then we got a nice eyeful of monkey sex. Yeah, um, not sure what to say about that, but yeah. One poor female kept batting the male off and he finally found a more suitable partner.

It was time for dinner and after a nice shower we all walked into town again and ate at the same restaurant as Chris and I had eaten at the night before. We did a quick email check again and then headed back to the hotel for the night. The only negative aspect about the hotel was that you had to have the windows open to get the cool air in, but because it was a holiday you heard the kids in the pool and people walking in flip-flops until at least midnight. Ugh!!

Day 5 has us wrapping up our time in Villa Tunari and heading back to Cochabamba. :(

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