FEBRUARY BIRTHDAY EXCURSION

We have several family birthdays in February and since all are located in Mississippi and Louisiana we decided to take a trip down south to celebrate with them and get away from yet another snow event here in East Tennessee.  Sweet husband has a birthday tomorrow, but we will celebrate alone together.

STOP ONE: Wilmington, NC to see new friends, Mike and Karen. They live two blocks from the Atlantic, so even with the cold ocean winds, we had to walk down.

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Wilmington is home to Arlie Gardens. 67 acres of paths, lakes, formal gardens, live oaks (one is 500+ years old), 5,000 varieties of camellias, birding trails, thousands of azaleas along with historic, contemporary and primitive garden sculpture. Beautiful even in February.

STOP TWO & THREE: We visited Sweet Husband’s sister and brother-in-law, Martha & Del, in Orlando on our way to stop four and spent a couple of fun days catching up. We also met Del’s sister and husband (Eileen & Stu) in Lakeland for lunch. They are now official Snowbirds from Maine.

Also in Lakeland we toured Florida Southern College designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. We count his architecture art work and tour each structure when possible.

STOP FOUR: We had met and developed close friendships with several people in Yellowstone with promises to visit; we keep our promises. Couple number one: Rose and Robert live in Cape Coral, Florida. They crammed in island visits, lunch on a fabulous pier and dinner with Robert’s sister and her husband.

STOP FIVE: Navarre Beach, FL to spend two nights with dear friends, Jim & Sharynn Singleton, from Mississippi, now in Florida.

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STOP SIX: Another Yellowstone couple Jerry and Mel. They live in Texas, but were visiting their son in Ocean Springs, MS. We stopped for a great lunch and sweet reunion.

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STOP SEVEN: Super Bowl Sunday in Baton Rouge with my daughter, Trish, and her family. We had two birthdays to celebrate: Nicholas #6 and Aubrey #16, sweet 16. Aubrey and I exchange flamingos from time to time and have since she was about three, so I had a special cake made for her. Our friend from The Rose Parade and co-conspirator, Teegie (who lives in Baton Rouge) joined us for dinner and the celebration the night after the super bowl.

Teegie

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STOP SEVEN: Jackson, MS. We visited several close friends, John, Curt & Sherry, Kay and her Mom, Gay, my Brother (Bubba) and my sweet son Tony.

Due to circumstances beyond our control we didn’t get to see Leonard’s daughters or precious Grand-Wonder, Liam, for his 3rd birthday, but we left gifts on the porch.

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STOP EIGHT: Didn’t happen. We hoped to spend time with my son, Joe and daughter Lorie and their precious families (no birthdays), but they were all fighting a virus and/or the crud.

FINAL STOP: An evening with Rogers and Hammerstein at the Knoxville Symphony Pops for our valentine gift to each other.

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All this in only two weeks. We are getting good at this.

 

Spring … Actually Lasting longer than ONE week.

FEATURED IMAGE BY Doug McPherson Photography of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TGSMNP).

I have lived in Mississippi and Louisiana most of my life.  Spring is always the nicest WEEK of the year.  In some places, (like way-south Louisiana) it is the nicest DAY of the year.  Winter is nice, but wet a third of the time, cold a third of the time and warm the last third of the time (honest)…with the occasional tornado mixed in.

Let me testify:  Spring in East Tennessee is heaven, TRULY.  Wild flowers, dogwoods, redbuds, multi-greens as the trees leaf out, rain, sweet breezes, fragrances, day temps under 75 degrees Fahrenheit (often way under), night temps 40s & 50s.  The world is new and fresh every morning . . . for more than a week (honest)!  Pollen is not as heavy (?).  Pine pollen in Mississippi is heavy and turns EVERYTHING green for a month.

Photos taken in the last several days of Knoxville (the dogwood and the cherry blooms were almost gone, but oooooh the Azaleas), TGSMNP, and an attraction (new to us) called Parrot Mountain and Gardens (web link below).

Ornamental Japanese Maple Every yard on the trail had at least one or at least one weeping maple.

Ornamental Japanese Maple
Every yard on the trail had at least one or at least one weeping maple.

Cherry blooms were mostly on the ground, pink pavement, oh my!

Cherry blooms were mostly on the ground, thick-pink pavement, oh my!

Oh how the English do their pomp and circumstance!

English Dogwood:  Oh how the English do their pomp and circumstance!

Stately Southern Dogwood Knoxville, TN

Stately Southern Dogwood
Knoxville, TN

Azalea Riot in the Knoxville Dogwood Festival Trails

Azalea Riot on the Knoxville Dogwood Festival Trails

Rhododendron (lavender)

Rhododendron (lavender)

Rhododendron (red)

Rhododendron (red)

We were greeted with bird, “hellos”, and had them eating out of our hands. . .climbing on our backs, arms, shoulders, heads and pulling on my earrings.  We had smiles the entire tour.

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http://www.parrotmountainandgardens.com/

Flora and Fauna (& topography): West of the Pacos

Blue Bonnet

On December 1st we left Baton Rouge for points west. We spent two nights in Houston, a week in TX hill country, two nights in Big Bend National Park, then drove up to NM to see Carlsbad Caverns and Santa Fe. We then headed to AZ, NV and finally CA. On January 19th we arrived back in Baton Rouge for a much needed rest from the road of several days.

Below are pictures of the topography, flora and fauna we encountered. Much of this I have never seen. I am very taken with our beautiful western states, especially Big Sur and north in California.

TEXAS

Mud bird nest in the cliff near the Rio Grande

Mud bird nest in the cliff near the Rio Grande

Mr. Spider:  As big as my hand

Mr. Spider: As big as my hand

Blooming desert

Blooming desert

Purple Cactus.  Who knew?

Purple Cactus. Who knew?

Road Runner.  Meep-Meep

Road Runner. Meep-Meep

The kind of cactus one sees in old movie

The kind of cactus one sees in old movies

Texas Long Horn Cattle, Spectacular and LARGE

Texas Long Horn Cattle, Spectacular and LARGE

TX Hill Country

TX Hill Country

Tiny Hill Country Deer, found in abundance

Tiny Hill Country Deer, found in abundance

Live Oak Trees do not get very large in TX

Live Oak Trees do not get very large in TX

Grieving Angel in Glenwood Garden, Houston

Grieving Angel in Glenwood Garden, Houston

Landscaping, TX Style

Landscaping, TX Style

Wild Horses on Rio Grande

Wild Horses on Rio Grande

Cactus growing from the rocks

Cactus growing from the rocks

Cactus and Sage Grass.  This looks and feels like an aquarium scape

Cactus and Sage Grass (& more). This looks and feels like an aquarium scape

Big Bend Beauty

Big Bend Beauty

Life will find a way

Life will find a way

NEW MEXICO

View from the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, NM

View from the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Carlsbad, too

Carlsbad, too

Carlsbad

Carlsbad

ARIZONA

Painted Desert National Park

Painted Desert National Park

Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ

Where the deer and the antelope play...

Where the deer and the antelope play…

Petrified Wood in the Painted Desert National Park

Petrified Wood in the Painted Desert National Park

Raven:  Never More

Raven: Never More

Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed

Blooming Cactus

Blooming Cactus

Petrified Wood

Petrified Wood

NEVADA

Who knew the NV desert has mountains?  We didn't expect it at all.

Who knew the NV desert has mountains? We didn’t expect it at all.

Las Vegas Topography (smile)

Las Vegas Topography (smile)

Blooming Ceiling:  Glass flowers at Bellagio

Blooming Ceiling: Glass flowers at Bellagio

Christmas Flowers

Christmas Flowers

Las Vegas has the rare, endangered golden Lion

Las Vegas is home of the rare, endangered, golden Lion

Hoover Lake.  It looks like the shoreline is painted, This is mineral deposits from the lowering water levels.

Hoover Lake. It looks like the shoreline is painted, This is mineral deposits from the lowering water levels.

CALIFORNIA

Panda:  San Diego ZOO

Panda: San Diego ZOO

Koala:  San Diego ZOO

Koala: San Diego ZOO

JP Getty Museum and Gardens

JP Getty Museum and Gardens

Succulent Tree (I do not know the name, they were all over California)

Succulent Tree (I do not know the name, they were all over California)

Monterey Cedar

Monterey Cedar

Agave

Agave

Sea Elephant

Sea Elephant

RAVEN:  This guy is following us from state to state

RAVEN: This guy is following us from state to state

Mexican Fan Palm at Hearst Castle

Mexican Fan Palm at Hearst Castle

Labra Tar Pits

Labra Tar Pits

Caladium:  Rose Parade Float

Caladium: Rose Parade Float

Life everywhere in California

Life everywhere in California

Big Sur in bloom in January

Big Sur in bloom in January

Whales at Big Sur

Whales at Big Sur

McWay Falls, Big Sur

McWay Falls, Big Sur

Eucalyptus groves (the fragrance was wonderful)

Eucalyptus groves (the fragrance was wonderful)

Seals and cubs

Seals and cubs

Red liken

Red liken

Elk:  Reintroduced to the CA National Seashore

Elk: Reintroduced to the CA National Seashore

California, home of fruits and nuts (smile)

California, home of fruits and nuts (smile)

Giant Redwood

Giant Redwood

Giant Redwood

Giant Redwood

El Capitan at Yosemite

El Capitan at Yosemite

Sequoia the Magnificent

Sequoia the Magnificent

Flora and Fauna: Ireland and Scotland

Sweet husband and I had the opportunity to visit a Christian mission in Scotland to explore the possibility of working with them.  We found a flight “deal” that included a week in Ireland with B&B accommodations and a rental car at the same price as flights from the US to Scotland, naturally we purchased that.  We had a week in Ireland and two weeks at the mission in Scotland.

I have (following) some beautiful shots of flora and fauna in both places.  A brief review of both is also offered.

Ireland:  The land of my forefathers.  If you fly into Dublin, I do not recommend a rental car for several reasons.  Join a tour group.  WHY?  I’m glad you asked.

(1)  The rental cars are mostly manual shift, which is not totally difficult except one has to do it with the right hand because one is driving on the wrong side of the road.  One can get automatic transmission, but there is an additional cost.  Driving on the wrong side of the road is a challenge.

(2)  The cities are very crowded.  They are old cities with 2 lane roads and THOUSANDS of bicycles and pedestrians [imagine NYC or LA with two lane cobblestone roads or just go to Boston and try driving on the wrong side of the road].

(3)  The country side is lovely [what you can see of it from the small car], but there are very high stone or hedge walls on either side of the narrow roads.  There is no room to pull over to try to see over the walls either.  The GPS the rental care company rented us didn’t work [our experience may have been slightly better had this not been the case].  All the Bed and Breakfast have no addresses like we are accustomed to in the US.  They are located by longitude and latitude coordinates.  Due to the kindness of the people we encountered each day, we found or were led to our accommodations.

(4) Once we started driving toward Galway, the walls disappeared.  Sheep roamed freely, we could see the beautiful countryside and this made our trip most enjoyable!  There is a National park past Galway called Connemara National Park.  If you go to Ireland, do not miss this.  Also don’t miss the Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

Kitty Topiary at Belfast Castle Garden

Kitty Topiary at Belfast Castle Garden

Queen Eleizabet Rose in the Botanical Park in Belfast

Queen Elizabeth Rose in the Botanical Park in Belfast

Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park

Blackfaced Sheep

black-faced Sheep

????? Wild Flower at Blarney Castle

????? Wild Flower at Blarney Castle

Atlas Cedar:  Magnificant

Atlas Cedar: magnificent

All the Swans in the UK are owned by the Queen of England.  This one is in Ireland, so she is free.

All the Swans in the UK are owned by the Queen of England. This one is in Ireland, so she is free.

Scotland:  Exploring the possibility of mission work.  We spend two weeks in Dumbarton at the mission site with our hosts.  The mission site is located in a 150 year old, abandoned estate.  The missionaries have spent several years restoring it and getting it ready for the mission’s residents; a large place is needed.

Our hosts took us for a two day trip to the Isle of Skye.  This is a must see area of Scotland.  Sweet Husband and I took a day trip via train to Edinburgh.  This is another must see.

I was either allergic to something within the walls of the mission or I caught a head cold in route as I was sick the entire time we visited.

The former owners of this estate planted many exotic trees, one being a Sequoia.  It was at one time the country estate of a wealthy Scotsman.  It was hundreds of acres and enjoyed a beautiful Victorian Garden.  Only the magnificant trees have survived the years of neglect in the garden.

We left knowing we are not a good fit for this mission, but remain open to exploring the work God has for us the balance of this life.

The richness of the forest floor across from the mission/estate.

The richness of the forest floor across from the mission/estate.

Sequoia

Sequoia

Falls on the way to Skye

Falls on the way to Skye

Cliffs on the ocean

Cliffs on the ocean

Sheep sheltered from the wind on Skye

Sheep sheltered from the wind on Skye

View from the top of the mission overlooking the front garden

View from the top of the mission overlooking the front garden

Atlas Cedar on mission property

Atlas Cedar on mission property

Flora and Fauna: Maine

We had the great fortune to spend four months in Maine (July – October).   It is the most beautiful place.  Flowers galore, extraordinary coast lines, lake and mountain views to take your breath away.  We were told there were many animals we didn’t have the opportunity to see (Moose for example).  I will leave you with choice pictures rather than words, as both do not show justice to my wonderful Maine.  I stand in awe of God’s majestic creation.

Beach Rose (grows wild)

Beach Rose (grows wild)

Thousands of little islands covered in life

Thousands of little islands covered in life

Fuchsia and Friends

Fuchsia and Friends

Wildflower Garden Rockland

Wildflower Garden Rockland

Camden

Camden

Whales off shore from Bar Harbor

Whales off shore from Bar Harbor

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Korean Dogwood Tree blooming in July in Maine

Korean Dogwood Tree blooming in July in Maine

Dahlia (Maine is overrun with beautiful gardens)

Dahlia (Maine is overrun with beautiful gardens)

??? Just another example for the wild flowers in abundance

??? Just another example for the wild flowers in abundance

West Quoddy head light (Eastern most point in the US)

West Quoddy head light (Eastern most point in the US)

Japanese Garden near Booth Bay

Japanese Garden near Booth Bay

Star Flowers

Star Flowers

Red Mushrooms

Red Mushrooms

Screw Auger Falls, North Oxford, ME

Screw Auger Falls, North Oxford, ME

Blueberry Barren Wild blueberries turn red in the fall)

Blueberry Barren Wild blueberries turn red in the fall)

Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas

Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

Botanical Garden in Booth Bay

Botanical Garden in Booth Bay

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Who knew grass changes color in the autumn?

Who knew grass changes color in the autumn?

Sweet Rose of Sharon

Sweet Rose of Sharon

Monarch

Monarch

Katahdin Mountain Maine (where the Applacian Trail starts)

Katahdin Mountain Maine (where the Appalachian Trail starts)

Katahdin Mountain

Katahdin Mountain

Beach in Acadia National Park

Beach in Acadia National Park

Lobster in abundance - YUM!

Lobster in abundance – YUM!

Chip or Dale

Chip or Dale

Smoke Bush

Smoke Bush

Japanese Garden near Bar Harbor

Japanese Garden near Bar Harbor

San Diego

Every good thing you have ever heard about San Diego is true, I can testify.  They were having an odd cold snap while we were visiting, but the days turned out to be warm with sunshine.  Only the nights and early mornings were cold.

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Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park in San Diego. In addition to open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, and walking paths, it contains museums, several theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. There are also many recreational facilities and several gift shops and restaurants within the boundaries of the park. Placed in reserve in 1835, the park’s site is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use.  Naturally, we went to the art museum.

balboaFirst day in San Diego was Christmas eve.  We had planned to be in the zoo from opening bell to closing bell.  Unfortunately, the zoo closed at 5pm because it was Christmas eve (naturally).  Sweet husband was upset because the website said it closed at 9pm.  However, by 4:30 p.m. he was ready to call it a day.  The zoo is a combination zoo and botanical garden.  There is a bus tour and an overhead gondola lift to move you from one end of the park to another, quickly.  It is truly wonderful.

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I was most impressed that the zoo had a Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES).  This was founded in 1975 at the urging of Kurt Benirschke, who became its first director. CRES was renamed the division of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species in 2005 to better reflect its mission.

The day after Christmas we drove out to del Coronado Hotel on Coronado island.  Hotel del Coronado (also known as The Del and Hotel Del) is a beachfront luxury hotel.  It is one of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre: the wooden Victorian beach resort. It is the second largest wooden structure in the United States and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and a California Historical Landmark in 1970.  It opened in 1888, and at the time was the largest resort hotel in the world. It has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities through the years. The hotel has been featured in numerous movies and books.

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Christmas day we went for Christmas services at a nice Methodist church near our hotel.  It was a sweet, sacred celebration complete with a wonderful Christmas choir and communion.  This was the event that made me KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we were in California – they had communion with gluten free bread.  Enough said.  That afternoon we went for the first day release of Unbroken.  The movie based on the book by the same name about Louis Zamperini and directed by Angelia Jolie.  The book and the movie were both excellent.

That week we also received news of the loss of our sweet friend, Lexie.  She was a faithful companion, friend and playmate for 15 wonderful years.  That day I stayed alone at the hotel while Sweet husband, sister-in-law and brother-in-law went back to Balboa Park for the day.

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The Tournament of Roses Parade

Sweet husband and his sweet sister planned this trip for us at least two years ago. We joined an educational tour group called Road Scholar so we could get the full-meal-deal out of the trip. Believe me we did. I am not a parade person, I am, however, a hands-on person and that is exactly what I got. The group price was really reasonable, we all stayed together in a hotel near Pasadena, transportation to all events were provided as well as all meals. Just show up when and where they tell you…EASY!

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The theme this year was, “Inspiring Stories”. Local son and hero, Louis Zamperini was asked to be the Grand Marshall. Unfortunately he passed away this past summer, but his family represented him along with a horse without a rider. His inspiring story was told by Laura Hillenbrand in her book, “Unbroken”, which was made into a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie. I highly recommend the book, it is one of the best I have read in years.

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Speaking of horses, they have been a constant companion to the parade from the first year and they presented some magnificent horses and riders for this year’s event.

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First day we were taken to this enormous warehouse facility owned by Phoenix (a company who actually designs and builds some of the corporate floats). The volunteers are all managed by The Kiwanis Club. Here we received our work orders for the day. We were assigned to decorate the Princess Cruise Line Float in the morning and cut roses all afternoon.

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THINGS I LEARNED:

  • 55 million watch this parade worldwide
  • The cost of a float is between $50,000 and $200,000
  • They paint a pink line in the middle of the street, all the way down the 5 mile route so the drivers (who are inside) can see where to go.  There is someone on the float or walking beside it telling the driver when to stop and when to go forward.
  • All the bands are high school bands with the exception of the Pasadena Community College Band and the two college bands representing the two teams planning in the Rose Bowl.
  • The royal court is chosen from among the exceptional young women from the local high schools.
  • There are only three judges and 24 prizes.
  • There are between 2 and 3 million roses grown for and flown in for this parade.
  • There is nothing dyed and every item on the float is organic:  flowers, dried flowers, fruit, grains, bark, vegetables, sea weed, etc.

Besides decorating the float we had the opportunity to attend classes lead by people who have held different positions for this event. We went to Pasadena Community College to hear the marching bands. We were also taken to the Getty Museum for one afternoon. The weather was spectacular as were the building and grounds. Naturally the art was spectacular, as well.  We have seen many art museums over the past several months and I am always impressed by the architure; the Getty was no exception.  It is perched on a mountain overlooking Los Angeles on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

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We learned that the bands had to raise their own money to attend and perform. Plus, they actually played songs during the full five mile route. I have seen many bands in parades and they just mostly marched and beat the drums to the time of the march. These kids worked very hard…makes you proud.

We were taken to see the floats on display the day after the parade (we were allowed in before the general public went in) Pictures of finished floats below.  I hope you can see the details.

I was skeptical about this event going in, but I would do it again and recommend it to any Rose Parade lovers. The only negative was the weather on the day we viewed the bands (rain, lots of it). California needs it so we didn’t gripe. It was also the coldest Parade on record – who would have guessed in sunny California.

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