Happy Holidays!

24 12 2017

My little X-mas card design for this year – the year I got to meet an alpaca in person! Merry Christmas!

alpaca xmas

Advertisements




Revival

21 12 2017

I didn’t abandon you, WordPress! Life is just kicking my ass in unexpected ways right now. A most unpleasant curveball this December. Life is certainly never easy. Anyway! I promise to update more frequently after this. For now, some of my fav recent photos:

blue springs14

Blue Springs squirrel, backyard hawk:

hawk4

Supermoon (slightly not full):

dec moon1

Flower at Leu Gardens:

leu15

Fall décor in Michigan:

michigan2

Fireworks in Boca Raton:

lantern fest56





B-Day Part 4: Chattanooga

15 08 2017

Part 4 of 5 – 1 part left! Of course, you can’t visit the Chattanooga area without visiting the center of Chattanooga itself. While I wasn’t impressed with the famous Choo Choo (none of the shops were open noon-ish on Saturday, AND the one restaurant that was open said it was an hour wait for a bagel #areyoukidding), I was impressed with some great treat options and the Aquarium.

bday aquarium34

Jellies!!

bday aquarium39

The Aquarium consists of 2 huge buildings. One is for saltwater animals and the other is for freshwater. Above is in the freshwater building in the upper area that’s supposed to be like local mountain-type terrain. The saltwater building has the cooler upper area though due to a stingray petting zoo:

bday aquarium6

…and a butterfly garden:

bday aquarium10

bday aquarium12

Of course, anytime there are jellyfish, they steal the show. Just a couple out of about 100 shots:

bday aquarium28

bday aquarium19

I’m proud of the next one no matter how grainy it is; this next jelly was incredibly dark – much post processing was needed even with my highest ISO. The orange light you see moves through them looking like an electrical current. It’s the coolest thing ever.

bday aquarium31

Outer space jelly.
These buildings are massive –  I mean really massive. You could take pictures for a half a day. We only had a couple hours. Moving to the freshwater building, the seahorse room was my personal favorite, but all my pics there had too much noise. The cute otters came out though:

bday aquarium40

And amidst the piranhas and tree frogs are some guys practically out of my backyard:

bday aquarium44

And now – switching gears completely: the other highlight – TREATS!!

I had read up on The Hot Chocolatier on Trip Advisor and was dying to try it. Was not disappointed! So worth it! So amazing! Please open one in Jax!!

bday chocolatier6

It’s a little space right across the Choo Choo and has the biggest variety of hot chocolate options I’ve ever seen, each topped with your choice of homemade marshmallow (!) or whipped cream. Yum!

bday chocolatier2

Everything was good. Understatement! And, yes, they do have other treats:

bday chocolatier7

Wanted to try this macaron cake, but was too full; how pretty!

bday chocolatier8

But here’s the star of the show, complete with giant homemade marshmallow:

bday chocolatier9

The other good treat place is a bakery called Koch’s that’s been around for years. We were only able to stop on the way out of town, and only had my cell for pics which didn’t turn out great. But they have a great variety of cookies and donuts:

bday kochs2

…and an awesome mural.

bday kochs4

Donut selfie! Anyway, one final set of birthday pics next week. 🙂





Peacocks!

19 07 2016

Been saving the best of my Charleston trip for last! I might be just a *little* obsessed with peacocks. Up until this trip in fact I thought they would make awesome pets, but I learned they can be louder than heck! So Middleton Place AND Magnolia Plantation both have peacocks. It’s amazing. 🙂

30 peacock1

30 peacock5

Below, the super loud peacock call you can hear from like a mile away:

30 peacock6

And then the adorable female peacock resting on a stagecoach:

30 peacock9

So far these peacocks have been from Middleton:

30 peacock13

These next guys are from Magnolia:

30 peacock14

30 peacock15

30 peacock17

30 peacock21

Gotta love ’em!





Magnolia Plantation

13 07 2016

Just 4 miles down the road from Middleton Place is Magnolia Plantation. Compared to Middleton, it’s more crowded and landscaped with more flowers. They feel very different, and I think both are worth visiting.

30 magnolia8

Admission to the house is separate, and we didn’t go for that as we only had a few hours there. Even without the house, there is plenty to see wandering around the gardens – that’s the bulk of what you go to see.

30 magnolia9

The thing about Magnolia is that it has some of the most gorgeous bridges – some people were doing wedding shoots on them, and it’s almost impossible to get clear shots with all the people in general (not to mention hard to get a sweeping shot when you only have a 50 mm lens!)

30 magnolia13

30 magnolia16

30 magnolia19

30 magnolia24

…and in looking for all the bridges, you might stumble upon some more beautiful things like this gazebo:

30 magnolia22

…or this carved tomb:

30 magnolia33

Then there’s the Peacock Café (roof painting below), an outdoor situation with sandwiches, hot dogs, and similar. And yes, peacocks really do walk around it!

30 magnolia34

But most of the peacocks stay in the petting zoo, which was an amazing experience! You’re not supposed to pet the peacocks, but they wander around close to you, so you can get some great photos (more on that later!), plus there are deer wandering around (and yes, you can pet them!), and feed is available for purchase.

30 magnolia6

Some other animals that are in cages, like this white squirrel (below), or a pot-bellied pig.

30 magnolia3

There’s plenty more there, but our visit had to be brief. Definitely a place to stop by if you find yourself near Charleston.





Exploring Middleton Place

5 07 2016

Last post was about our hotel experience – now for the estate itself! Having the freedom to just walk over from the hotel, we spent some part of 3 full days there.

So, when you walk over from the hotel path, you have 2 options: you can walk down some steps to this little building that then feeds into the path in the picture below, or you can keep walking on the upraised hotel path, cross a little bridge, and end up closer to the main house. Obviously we did the former and were greeted with this sight!

30 middleton12

Oh, just a gator in the sun while a hapless couple walks toward it, unaware. They eventually saw it and skirted around it but said they really couldn’t see it from that vantage point. Sneaky gators!

Here’s a shot from inside the little building:

30 middleton14

It sits right on the water of the river, and is also right on the banks of the “butterfly pools” or ponds created for Middleton. Here’s a shot of the building and ponds:

30 middleton15

We walked around all this way, because that gator was on the other side of that stretch of land. Anyway, they don’t move much and tend to go back into the water if people get close. The land is tiered up, so by the time you climb to the top:

30 middleton16

So here we’re standing where the original main house was, facing onto the back side of the estate (and the Ashley River). The hotel would be basically up and to the left. The main house was burned down by Union troops right before the end of the civil war. The house had a north and south “flanker” on either side of it; one was also burned, but one survived, and that is the house museum that you can tour today.

30 middleton56

Here’s the backside of the remaining flanker, above, and the front side:

30 middleton67

Now, on one side of the flanker (and leading far up the property) are the gardens, and on the other side are the animals/stable area and a restaurant. We walked toward the animal side from the back of the house..

30 middleton19

Above, you can see the ice house (the bottom floor was used for cooling things), with the top floor being a chapel for all races to attend service in. To the right, past the water, is the hotel path that goes to the bridge. Down at the water, what did we see?

30 middleton29

Lil’ sneaky! Anyway, back up the hill toward the animals, we passed by the restaurant:

30 middleton27

…and then up and out where the animals are, first goats,  and then water buffalo!:

30 middleton25

They keep types of animals that would have been kept by the Middleton family in the 17-1800s. Apparently one of the Middleton men saw water buffalo on a trip to Asia, I think, and thought they’d be good help with rice farming (yes, rice – people always think of cotton and tobacco as the staple old Southern crops, but rice was the thing here).

30 middleton24

The estate is known for letting its sheep wander freely around the grounds. I was really excited about this because I thought it’d make a cool picture (and I wanted to get a selfie with a lamb, I admit), but this weekend they were kept pinned, because they were doing special events on the lawn and thought it would be too much for them. Okay…sigh… I understand.

30 middleton70

30 middleton68

This next picture was taken Sunday morning. They do a cow milking daily at 9 and again at 4, and you can go and participate!

30 middleton77

This guy gets the cow set up and then you can step in if you like… I did it for a minute, but didn’t get any pictures, plus my hands were gross afterward. He kept saying the cow was being difficult that day, but she was good during the milking – I guess because she was eating hay.

Anyway, around that stable area there are demonstrations, like a blacksmith, or candle making…

30 middleton74

Didn’t get many pics of that stuff, as I was distracted by:

30 peacock8

Peacocks on stagecoaches!!! Sleeping! I was so excited about the peacocks, you don’t even know. They get a whole post to themselves, later.

So we then walked up the grounds and to the other side. If you drive here versus walking from the hotel, there’s an area where you park and pay admission, and right outside of it’s this little market with some food and gifts.

30 middleton57

We grabbed some pre-made chicken salad sandwiches (that weren’t great, honestly) and had lunch before heading to the gardens, on just the other side of this.

30 middleton60

I believe that this was the statue they buried during the war to save it. These gardens are the oldest landscaped gardens in America, I believe. They’re very woodsy and wild, so not the flower-filled, super landscaped type I typically think of, but still nice. Because it was mostly long stretches of greenery (with some water), I didn’t take many pics. It mostly looked like this:

30 middleton64

Though in season, the azalea walk is probably really beautiful. And then they also have some areas like this, with the finely trimmed hedges:

30 middleton61

They do have this long pool where a couple swans swim about at times, but the swans were in a cage this time. 😦

Some nice flower shots:

30 middleton62

30 middleton65

Didn’t get any pics of the house tour since they weren’t allowed, but the tour is worth it. Lots of good info on the many generations that lived there, and neat heirlooms too.

Hot and tired, we made our way back to the hotel path, seeing one more gator:

30 middleton79

…and a good few of the ponds:

30 middleton31

Next time… peacocks!





Faire Peeps Pt.1

22 03 2016

The Medieval Faire is a great place for street photography. Decided to do some digital portraits of some of the folks at this year’s. Part 1: Adorable Old Man with Cute Owl.

faire2016a





Silver Springs – Kayak Adventure

16 03 2016

silver springs2

Silver Springs in Ocala, Florida used to be a roadside attraction/theme park. No coasters, no Mickey Mouse, but plenty of flowers, animals, and attractions (famous glass bottom boats that originated in the 1800s). You bought tickets and spent the day. There used to be a lot of things like it in Florida; few are left still operating. I remember going on a field trip once in 5th grade and seeing giraffes.

Well, a few years ago Silver Springs was sold to the state, so now it’s a state park. They left a lot of the structures, and the restaurant and glass bottom boats are still there. Took a day off work and visited to go kayak!

First we wandered around trying to find the kayak area, past the “shop” with the restaurant:

silver springs4

And the treat place that still makes fudge:

silver springs63

Which is right by the dock for the glass bottom boats with pretty glass windows:

silver springs12

The boat area is right by the head springs..

silver springs5

…and you can circle around that and walk down the river, admiring the flowers, like azaleas just starting to bloom (a couple weeks ago)…

silver springs9

….and whatever this pretty thing is:

silver springs11

But we were there for the kayaking. I had never kayaked before, and Silver Springs seemed like a great option for a beginner. You can rent from the park directly kayaks, canoes, and tandem kayaks at reasonable prices, and can choose between a 2+ mile loop course or a longer 5 mile one that goes down the river. We choose the shorter one and made our way to the kayak area. Currently the path from the park to it is under construction, so you walk back into the parking lot and can get to it there.

silver springs14

It’s a small but serviceable launch area. Behind us in the above pic were the guys you rent from. They provide you with life vests, a whistle, and a laminated course map. It was a cold morning, so they had a fire going:

silver springs16

But we were ready! We opted for a tandem kayak:

silver springs15

The guys pull your kayak to the launch ramp and push you off when you get set up, so you don’t even have to get your feet wet. And we’re off!

silver springs17

You make a right at the tiny little bridge in the pic above to follow the Fort King Paddle Trail:

silver springs19

And it’s pretty much smooth sailing the first half of the loop. Even at midday (around noon), there was plenty of wildlife to see.

silver springs21

silver springs28

And interestingly, plenty of ruins too from its “roadside attraction” days. Maybe some would find them an eye sore amid all the trees and water, but I’ve always liked ruins.

silver springs25

silver springs30

Soon, we approached one of the highlights of the trip: a gator sighting! Thought it was fake at first.

silver springs37

silver springs39

But it was definitely real. And look at all those turtles! Immediately after, we caught a glimpse of what I’d really been looking for the whole trip:

silver springs40

Monkeys! The land in the middle of the loop is sometimes called “Monkey Island” because of all the wild monkeys running around. I need to research their origin (either escapees from the original park or descendants of former pets of a guy that lived near there decades ago).

silver springs44

They’re pretty used to people, but we were warned not to feed them, or they might jump in the boat!

silver springs42

silver springs45

We didn’t get that long with the monkeys… they had some kind of argument/commotion and rambled off. Shortly after that, we reached the turning point: a left turn would take you around the loop and up to the head springs; a right takes you down the river. We went left – most everyone else went right:

silver springs51

Paddling this way took more effort. You’re going against current and against a lot of wind, at least that day. But we had cormorants to keep us company:

silver springs52

And a glass bottom boat:

silver springs55

You have to give way to the boats, which made me nervous, because with all the wind I couldn’t paddle anywhere quickly. But the boats do their own thing; it wasn’t a problem..

The next picture was taken after the kayaking, looking down into the headspring, but I thought it sums up the water nicely: crystal clear and gorgeous!

silver springs72

At the head spring, you turn left down a small canal to head back to the launch:

silver springs61

We got photobombed by a cormorant! You can see the little bridge thing up ahead. Once you cross under it, it’s a short bit back to the launch, where the guys pull up your boat and help you out.

It took a couple of hours, so there was still plenty of time to wander the park. We walked in a museum-like area near the restaurant. It’s crazy to think how busy this place would have been in the past:

silver springs64

It’s a little sad to see these places go underappreciated these days in favor of more commercialized things, but as a state park you can still enjoy it if you take the time to drive out. A Florida classic!

silver springs66





The Fair

23 02 2016

Back in November, I spent an afternoon/evening at the Jacksonville Fair. So much to see! Finally uploaded my photos…procrastinating as always.

This sleepy little guy, just hatched, was one of my favorites:

fair1

He’s going to have a companion soon….

fair2

I always go to the animal area first, because I love seeing the baby pigs! They’re so playful:

fair18

Next we went to the Exhibition Hall, where they have…exhibits, obviously; a large plant sale (where I bought a cute kalamancha – no pictures yet); and this year, an interactive butterfly area.

fair35

They asked for donations outside, which we were happy to contribute to. Then you go into this enclosed, netted area full of butterflies and plants. They invite you to take a sponge brush that’s been dipped in some kind of nectar or sugar water and “feed” the butterflies.

fair29

First you hold the brush near a butterfly, seeing if it’s hungry. If so, it’ll wander onto the brush and you can carry it around for a bit – gently, of course.

fair33

Very cute to see kids enjoying this! Next we went outside to catch a show from Robinson’s Racing Pigs (so cute!)

fair21

Unfortunately, my view was of the back ends, but still cute. The best part was the swimming:

fair22

Up they go…. they race across…and then: a shake to dry:

fair26

They’re rewarded with crushed oreos. 🙂

When night fell, I got some shots of the rides:

fair41

fair40

fair42

fair46

Definitely a good time!





Little Snail

8 12 2015

snail2

This little guy was on my window the other day. What a cutie!

snail1

More art stuff to come soon, just a crazy time now with work/life.








%d bloggers like this: