So Long, April!

One of the things I like about blogging is that I can look back on previous years and reminisce! No, I don’t get teary-eyed and long for the “good old days”, but I like to see the weather, the flowers, the birds, and the animals.  It is fun to see what I was photographing a year or so ago.

This April has been a fairly chilly one.  A few weeks ago, I heard on the radio that the average temperature for that particular time was about 53 degrees and we were somewhat “stuck” in the 30’s.  Today, I looked at a forecast that predicts temperatures much warmer….in the 70’s for a few days.

While everything has been cooler than “normal”, (does anyone have any idea what *that* means?) I have enjoyed a beautiful display of springtime flowers.  The Crocuses arrived, then faded.  Then came the Daffodils.  Right alongside the Daffodils, the Hyacinths bloomed!  I haven’t had that happen before. It was pretty seeing all the yellows and purples.  And I even got a surprise in the form of a sixth Hyacinth plant when I only planted five.  I wonder if the “gardeners”, ie, chipmunks and squirrels, somehow managed to eke that sixth plant for me?

Now the garden is beginning to come to life.  I see many, many Calendula plants beginning, along with Columbines.  The Black-Eyed Susan’s are also poking their heads above the soil.

Even with all this activity going on in the garden, the landscape here remains a palette of browns and grays. The trees are just beginning to bud and if the weather forecast is correct, we should bee seeing some green soon!  In the meantime, those bare limbs are providing nice perches for a variety of colorful birds.

A pair of finches…House Finch and Goldfinch.  They are so pretty and their cheerful songs and delightful chirps could brighten even the grayest of days.

If you look very closely at this photo, you can make out the Red-Bellied Woodpecker hanging onto the side of the tree above this little House Finch.

And speaking of Red-Bellies, this little female sat in the tree for some time, thinking about swooping down to the feeder for a sunflower seed.

This afternoon, I had a thought.  What if I placed some sunflower seeds on the railing of the back deck?  Well, they blew off…it has been a windy April!  So, I placed the seeds in the cap of a jar and weighted it down with a stone. I put in some seeds and within minutes, a little Chickadee arrived!

I think he or she was thanking me before flying off with a seed clenched firmly in mouth!

This morning, it was fairly cool outside, but I sat out anyway, relaxing to the birdsong.  The Finches were totally exquisite and in the distance, I could hear a Robin,  a Phoebe, a Cardinal, and a Pileated Woodpecker. I must say, the woodpecker’s “squawking” isn’t totally enjoyable, but it only added to the chorus much like the little old tone-deaf lady in the choir who sings off-key; a little upsetting, but grace covers all!  And, to even more delight, as I watched, a doe and her youngsters from last year appeared, grazing on the fresh grasses in the woods.  A totally idyllic morning, or at least a few stolen minutes!

How Quickly Time Flies

This post was actually written yesterday, April 27, but I was having trouble posting it with my phone due to poor reception!

This is Michelle sporting her medallion she received at the Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars event…she looks like she owns the world, doesn’t she?

Today she picked up her cap and gown for graduation.

This picture isn’t the greatest, but in the bag is her cap and gown along with honors cords and the tassel. She is most excited about the tassel which she wants to hang on the rear view mirror!

All I know is, it seems just a short time ago,  I sat down at the kitchen table and began teaching a little girl to read and write, and facts about math.  I watched as that little girl gracefully ingesting required information and then moving right along. By the time she was fifteen, she had finished all the required classes.  She had conquered language arts, history, science, and  Bible…and had even accomplished subjects that made my knees buckle, like physics and pre-calculus. It seemed that hurdles placed in her way were merely there as a challenge to hop on over, whereas in my own mind, they proved insurmountable mountains.

It was such a short journey, but I am so glad we took this route. I now look at a confident young woman who looks ahead to the future!

How About Some Random Photos?

Life has been busy lately.  It seems like there is always something or other going on and it distracts me!

Mark has been involved with music and getting together with a group of people to play and sing.  Everyone came over on Tuesday evening and I had made cookies and brownies for a snack.  The brownies were a real hit.  I got the recipe from a Land o’ Lakes pamphlet and they are basically just a brownie recipe with chunks of peanut butter cups placed on top after they are removed from the oven. The peanut butter cups kind of get a bit melty and they are so good.  Oh, and the recipe also added some semi-sweet chocolate chips into the brownie mix before baking, too.  That gives them a bit of a “crunch”!

Ben and Michelle worked on finishing up the basement before everyone came.  They had bought some curtains to hang on the windows and although the windows aren’t trimmed out, it really made the basement look pretty nice.  Now if I can convince the kids to paint just the floor on the other side, I would be a happy camper!

Here are some photos I have taken recently…

Yes, last Saturday while Michelle attended a seminar at RIT, I actually went to the Rochester Museum and Science Center.  I have decided there are places in the city that I should see.  It was quite interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit regarding Native Americans. There was so much to see there and I found it to be the best part of the museum. Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos at all.

I did get one crummy photo of a Mastodon.

And also one overlooking the Herb Garden, as viewed from one of the windows.

The museum was a nice place to visit. I really enjoyed it, but truth be told, I think the Children’s Museum of Play was more fun, as I could watch people there.  It was fun watching the adults playing like kids and the butterfly garden was a real treat! I keep thinking I would like to visit the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls, Ontario, again. That exhibit is huge and one doesn’t have a set time limit while visiting.

Let’s see…..what else? Wow, I haven’t been taking many photos recently. Life has been so busy with doing other stuff. I am so anxious to get out the kayaks again. I read yesterday that the optimal time to go kayaking is when the water temperature plus the air temperature added together equal 120 degrees. (F)  That would mean if the water temperature was 50, the air would have to be 70.  It has been so crazy this month; the weather goes from warm to chilly to warm in one fell swoop.  I don’t mind the chilly, but a lot of people are complaining….they want warmer spring temps!

Well, I *thought* I had more photos to show, but it seems they must be on the cell phone. So…okay, cell phone connected!

It is so much fun taking photos with the cell. I actually use it a lot because I think I have six or eight different camera aps loaded on the phone. I can take panoramas, high definition, and even silly fish eyes like the photo above!  It is so cool to be able to take a photo and instantly view, edit, and send it!

Yes, since the Hyacinths turned out so pretty, I had to give the Daffodils equal opportunity to be photographed “fish eye” style!  This is the first year I have ever had flowers all blooming at the same time!  As soon as the Crocuses faded, the Daffodils and Hyacinths began blooming!  The Hyacinths seem to be getting attacked by something as I am finding bits of the flowers around the garden bed.

While the music group was practicing Tuesday night, I went down where I have some Daffodils in the little woods in front of the house. I had fun playing around with different settings and cameras. It was just so nice to be outside! It was chilly, but enjoyable!

Over on County Road 36, I saw something so funny the other morning. There is a private ski club there and much to my surprise, there were all sorts of animals grazing there! Sheep, horses, and geese could be seen on the hills. The scene looked so serene but very curious, indeed! I never ventured down that road during the winter, so I have no idea if it isn’t used anymore!  How funny, though; Old McDonald’s farm grazing the ski slopes!

Well, this has been pretty random and I think I shall end now.  This little exercise has made me realize I really do need to get all of my photos not only in one place, but also organized. I have been talking about doing this for ages, but I have no idea where to begin! Ah yes, another project!



Wild Windy Weather!

After the Dancing Wings on Wednesday, it was the Wild Winds on Thursday!

We went out for a Chinese buffet simply because it was a beautiful day and why spend a beautiful day inside?

After eating, we decided we would walk off some of the overstuffed feeling by taking a walk at the Seneca Lake State Park.  It is kind of a tradition for us. Eat. Walk. Enjoy.

We arrived at the park and decided to take the road near the lake….

We *knew it was a little windy, but….

Well, now that the passenger side of the car has been power washed, let’s do the driver’s side!

These photos were all taken near the breakwall and it was vicious! The funniest part of all of this is that our particular area had no high wind warnings at all.  I had a couple of alerts come up on my cell phone, as I have various places we often visit set to alert me of any crazy weather.  When I got home, the weather info set to my area said the wind was gusting up to forty-three miles per hour.  I think it might have even been more by the lake!

And here is a nameless soul…..(notice the trees in the background)

And last, but not least, there were three men out playing in the water!  Boy, you should have seen them flying!!!!

The temperature reached into the lower 70’s, so it was mild, but the wind?  Phew………………….


Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden

Yesterday, I did something I have wanted to do ever since I heard about it. What is it?  I visited the Strong Children’s Museum of Play!

This museum is kind of a one of a kind.  It is home to the idea that creativity stems from and often is born of, play.  The museum includes all kinds of things one might expect from such an exhibit (such as collections and historical finds) and one thing I found a bit unexpected! If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you will see that I am an amateur photobug that loves shooting nature.  When I discover something so wonderful as a butterfly “collection”, I am off!

It costs a bit extra to get into the butterfly garden, but in my own opinion, it was well worth it.  The big downside to the museum is that one is allotted one twenty minute visit to the butterfly garden.  This just was simply not enough time to see (and especially photograph) all I would want.  To complicate matters, I was carrying my camera and lenses…about twenty pounds I think, and it made it a bit more awkward.  Add to this the fact that one must tread lightly…caution must be taken to not only avoid stepping upon any butterflies resting on the path, but also tiny Button Quails.  Yes, there were oodles and oodles of these little birds hiding under lush greenery as well as meandering along the pathway! I am certainly not complaining; the experience was so awesome, making me think this was very much like the Garden of Eden. (well, except for the intense heat and humidity!!)

I won’t say anything more. Oh, except that there was also a caged Toucan which you will see amongst the butterflies.  Please enjoy!  I sure did!!!

A most Vigorous Adventure!

I nearly forgot to post this!

On Sunday, late afternoon, Ben asked Michelle if she wanted to go hiking with him.  She declined, and overhearing the conversation, I offered to go along.  Poor Ben. He should have thought some more before accepting my offer!

We live not far from a “multiple use area”,  owned by the Department of Environmental Conservation.  It is hard to even imagine, but we have lived here for almost twenty-one years and have never explored this before!  So we drove on down and parked the car.

As we began our outing, we noticed bird houses and a sign off in a distant field.  Curiosity got the best of me…I knew these houses were Bluebird houses and I wondered if a bird might be taking advantage of the box.  Ben was very agreeable and we walked on over and had a look at the house.  I had not seen a box made where the roof could not be removed;  we had made some of these boxes years ago and they are supposed to be accessible so Barn Swallow nests can be removed as they sometimes try to nest in these houses.  There was no sign of any activity so we walked on. The sign explained the area was intended for Turkeys and it had been so riddled with bullets, it was crazy!

We walked back to the trail and began our walk.  We passed by a pretty little stream…

Before going too far, I began to realize that this little adventure was all uphill.  No, not just a *little* uphill….it was ALL uphill! Of course, Ben took long strides, looking like he was going to greatly outdistance me within just a few steps! I found myself gasping to catch a breath more than once! Of course, I had to stop from time to time (okay, LOTS of times!) to take a photo or two of the scenery.

Like the valley below.

The little pile of stones marker that someone had made along the way.

The view of Bristol Mountain.

The little makeshift shelter someone had fashioned along the way.

And of course, my hiking buddy. (Who more than once grabbed my hand and helped me trudge my way up the hill!)

Ben was so funny. He was so coordinated, he could actually drink his Arnold Palmer Half and Half while walking!  In his other hand was his cell phone.  He decided to call Mark and tell him where we were.  I also had my cell phone, so Mark told us to install an ap to follow our progress. We did so and as we walked, Mark could look at a map and tell where we were by our coordinates.  Ben would give him our latitude and longitude and Mark could see where we were in the woods.  We were actually following alongside a huge ravine.

Did I mention this was all uphill?

I used to think the road we live on is steep.  Not anymore!

At one point, I was so tired, I sat on a log while Ben continued uphill. I figured I would just sit still and rest.  Then when Ben came back, we could go on back down.

I waited and waited.  I would guess more than ten minutes had passed.  I decided to get up, man it up, and just continue ascending!  I walked and walked, not hurrying or trying to keep up with Ben since he wasn’t there!  I called out to him and he answered.  He stopped for me and I caught up.  He was happy I had continued and he decided we should move ever upward! (Would this hill/mountain ever end?)

We ended up walking onto property owned by someone way up the road from us.  It is hard to understand the lay of our road unless one looks at a map.  While it is definitely perpendicular to the main road upon entering, it takes a curve and winds up parallel as one ascends.  So, Mark offered to pick us up on the road and then drive us back down to the car where we parked.

We passed by a pretty pond as we walked. I could not resist its glass-like surface and the reflections….

Needless to say, I was afraid I was not going to even be able to get out of bed on Monday morning.  All that climbing!  The (really!) good news is, I was not the least bit sore by our adventure.  I don’t know why, as I really don’t use my leg muscles that much, other than to climb the stairs!  Well, I’m not going to worry about the why’s.  I will just be thankful for this time together with Ben, exploring a bit and just having an enjoyable evening “hike”!

Where Does Time Go, Anyway?

Yesterday was an incredibly busy, busy day!

On Sunday night, Mark’s mom called to remind Mark she had a doctor’s appointment yesterday afternoon.  We rushed around in the morning, getting ready to go and even in so doing, left later than we had planned.  We got to my mother-in-law’s house and she told us her appointment was actually twenty minutes later than what she had told us.  She had gotten the time wrong and didn’t look at her calendar until we were on our way.  Well, that gave us a bit of time to relax and catch our breath!

While waiting for Mark’s mom, we drove on over to the Home Depot to park; the hospital where her appointments are is so busy and the only place to park is in a ramp. While we were there, I went inside to take a look at the nursery.  Wow!  They are getting in some beautiful plants!  I walked up and down the aisles, several times, just taking in all the wonderful colors and textures!  My Crocuses are pretty well spent and now everything is looking pretty dull once again!

We had dropped Mark’s mom off shortly after 1:30 and figured she wouldn’t be too long.  She finally called after 3:00.  That was a bit longer than we thought it would be and we needed to really hurry!

Mark has been getting together with other musicians and they are working on a few songs.  One of the people is a woman who lives about 25 or 30 miles from us.  She is a talented singer and is learning to play the guitar.  She and her husband have been coming to our house once a week and she and Mark practice together.  This week, they had invited us down, not only for practice, but for dinner.  We were so excited!

Bill, the husband of the singer, loves to cook and bake.  Since he is home more than his wife, he prepares meals.  And believe me, his meals are far from ordinary! We had gone to their house for a Passover Seder and Bill made the most memorable matzo ball soup!  When he asked what we might like to eat, Mark mentioned the soup. So…..we began last night’s dinner with a bowl of matzo ball soup.  It was so good, particularly since I had not eaten since 6:30 in the morning.  I had made a piece of toast! After the soup, we had a most awesome salad, along with jello piped with real whipped cream on top.  Bill told us the jello was not dessert, so eat it along with the salad!

The salad was topped with chicken breast and homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette…it was so delicious, I can still taste it! Add to that the rolls….he told us the recipe was a very old recipe from his grandmother and they were so delicious!

Desert was homemade French Vanilla or Chocolate pudding.  I had the French Vanilla and it was also piped with whipped cream.

Mark and Carolyn wondered how they were going to practice after the meal! It was so good!  The house is set up with an open concept, so they just moved a few feet from the table and set up. It was so nice to listen to their music after an incredible meal!  They played, listened to some music, then played some more.  It was well after 11:00 before we finally left, arriving home at midnight!

What a long day it was.  But one of the best parts was…..Bill not only sent home some of his soup and rolls….

But also a package of his homemade hotdog buns!

Wow! I think today’s menu will consist of soup, rolls, and a Greek salad.  Why am I suddenly hungry again?

Thoughts on Homeschooling, An Incredible Ceremony!

It is so hard to believe that next month, Michelle will graduate from college.  It was only yesterday that our little girl began her education. We decided that homeschooling was the route we wanted to take.  We just felt it would be a great way for a child to learn.  After all, it is parents who train their children to use the potty, tie their shoes, and many other life skills. Why not reading, writing, and arithmatic ? There are so many different curricula available, and many come with explicit instructions for parents.  Homeschooling is not just for the kids…it is an adventure in learning for all involved if done properly.

Michelle proved to be like a little sponge when it came to learning.  By completion of kindergarten, she had mastered the skill of reading and was well on her way. We had chosen a very work intensive curriculum for her kindergarten and first grades.  She flew through the coursework as though it was playtime.  I must note at this point that both of our kids were very, very active. The best way to settle them down was reading.  Michelle is two years, three months older than Ben and when they were very little, I daily read fifteen to twenty books a day.  That was how we spent our “free time”.  Sometimes, I read so much that my voice would actually disappear! (I always used different voices for each character in their books)

After Michelle’s intense kindergarten and first grade, we changed curriculum to workbooks through another publisher. One of the prerequisites for this curriculum was a survey of a child’s skills to properly place the child, grade-wise.  When Michelle took the barrage of testing, it was determined she was best suited to enter the third grade. This meant she skipped second grade.  Her basic reading, writing, math, and science levels were all well above the grade 2 level,  so we placed her in third grade.  We ordered her curriculum and she began working on computerized coursework. I was a bit apprehensive at first,  wondering at the wisdom of skipping a grade,  but she proved definitely properly prepared for the work she was given.

Michelle was fairly self-motivated when it came to her schoolwork, although there were times when we had to encourage her to “finish up”!  As time progressed, she learned to work almost totally by herself, and by grade 12, she rarely asked questions.  She aced her pre-calculus and physics studies, briefly asking Mark for help from time to time when stuck on a problem or concept. Mark’s Mechanical Engineering background was intense in math and science, so he was more than qualified in these areas.  Michelle never had problems with history and when language arts presented any challenge, I was up for that, loving this area.

Michelle had completed all of her “public schooling career” by age 15 and she began attending Finger Lakes Community College. Before beginning there, she took a test to see if she was properly prepared and when I asked about her results, the administering person assured me I had “nothing to worry about”.  Michelle proved that the work was a “piece of cake”.  She would come home from college and write down each assignment and would then write an amount of time she felt needed to complete the work.  Each day was spent using the allotted time on the assignment. Michelle did a fantastic job at FLCC and was discouraged by one course…Statistics, in which she received an A-. Every other course, she completed with an A.

After finishing up at FLCC, Michelle planned to probably attend one of the state colleges, although she also had her eye on a small private university located not too far away. It was “on a whim” that she applied to Rochester Institute of Technology.  Their E. Philip Saunders College of Business was one of the highly-ranked business schools in the United States.  Michelle was accepted and the rest is history!  She maintained a “perfect” 4.0 average throughout her studies and is set to graduate in May.  (She is actually taking two more courses and finishing in August, but given her record, the school is allowing her to receive her degree in May.)

Last night’s ceremony was entitled Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship 2012-2013. The ceremony took place at the Gordon Field House and Activity Center which is an enormous complex housing tracks, a gymnasium, swimming pools, ice arena, and even more!  It was a very colorful and delightful experience!  It began with two bagpipers…

and then a processional of the Deans of the various schools, the President of RIT, and then the Scholars. The Deans wore the colors of each individual school, resulting in a rainbow of color on the stage!

Note: I could kick myself for not making proper adjustments for the lighting in this building.  Please excuse the excessive orange color, but be advised (this said tongue-in-cheek) that the school’s colors include a lot of orange!!!

There was a brief message by the president of RIT, Dr. William W. Destler.

The presenter of the scholars was Dr. Jeremy Haefner, Provost and Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs.  In presenting each of the scholars, he read a brief statement given by one of the student’s professors, attesting to the student’s outstanding characteristics. The scholars are chosen from the student body and must have at least a 3.85 of a possible 4.0 average and have completed at least 125 quarter credit hours of study. (2/3 of the total for a baccalaureate degree) Other factors account for selection such as creative work, service, civic activities and research.

Note: okay, so this is a funny picture….just look at the face of that dean looking at Dr. Haefner.  Gads, how did I ever catch this one???

After Dr. Haefner congratulated each student,  the student was then presented a bronze medallion by President Destler, then congratulated by the dean of the college the student attended.  The medallions were designed by the late Professor Hans Christensen who was a renowned silversmith. He chose an Athenian owl which symbolizes wisdom and on the opposite side where the scholar’s name is engraved, an olive branch.  Here is Michelle as she crossed the stage.

We each received a booklet with a listing of the scholars.  This listing included where they attended high school and gave a brief overview of accomplishments.  It was interesting to note that there were four other students who were homeschooled, two of which are studying engineering. Each scholar had been given the opportunity to invite a teacher or professor who made an impact on their life and of the sixty-one who were invited, over thirty were in attendance.

After the awards ceremony, the scholars, along with their guests, were moved into another area of the (amazingly, incredibly! large) gymnasium for a catered meal. We had been sent information regarding the event a couple of months ago and were asked to make a selection of a meal.  The choices were a vegetarian meal, a chicken meal, or prime rib.  We had prime rib and it was delicious!

This was certainly a night to remember! I will post a photo of the medallion later…

Since It’s so Gloomy Here

Wow, last night, we had a real thunderstorm!  Seems we rarely see these in our neck of the woods. For one reason or another, we don’t get much in the line of thunder or lightning, so last night’s storm was quite the event!  I love weather…especially storms, be they thunder or snow!

While it seems the entire world has already seen its share of springtime blooms, we have been slowly seeing the harbingers coming forth and opening up.  The first of the flowers (and the only ones we have seen thus far) are Crocuses.  I planted so many bulbs in the garden in front of the house, but I am sure squirrels and/or chipmunks have carried some away.  Anyway, I do have Daffodils and Grape Hyacinths beginning to swell their “heads”, promising an impending display of more color in the coming days.

Here are some photos taken recently of my Crocuses.

These white flowers with the purple stripes are amongst my favorite flowers!  They are so cheerful.  And look at how many flowers are clustered together!  I looked to see how many plants were actually offering this “bouquet” and I counted three.  I have never had so many flowers as this year!

Look who was visiting this purple flower. Yes, a honeybee!! They have been giving all of the Crocuses a once over. And over!  When the sun shines, those little bees come out.