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Sunday, September 14, 2014

For 52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 37

Sit a spell.

Cookie turned 2 years old this week! This changes nothing since she could be ten years old and still look and act like a puppy. In fact, the photo that I envisioned for this was the view I get multiple times a day when she's jumping on me. I was trying to get her to do it for the camera, but of course, she refused. Then she just sat down beside me, and I thought, "Even better!" So the credit goes to the dog for this one. It does show that Cookie is never far from us. Actually, being close by isn't good enough. For her to be happy, she has to be touching you. In fact, as I type this she's sitting under my chair and leaning against my foot.

Always under my feet.

Mark and I always talk about how she's not really the brightest dog around, but I think she's getting smarter in her old age. She throws her dog dish around to let us know when she's thirsty, and she understands the word "ball." She still can't catch cereal in mid air like big brother Marcus (and like Daisy before her, who was the champ at catching food). It just bounces off her little head.

Sunny spot

And life as a little dog is just as exhausting at two years old as it was when she was one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

For 52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 36

If pumpkins took family portraits.

Is it too early for pumpkins? Mark grew these, and they ripened earlier than expected. Usually, we only get one, maybe two, but we have a bumper crop of five this year. We're still waiting for one last pumpkin to ripen on the vine, so he was camera shy for the family portrait.

Bathtime for Marcus.

Look who got a bath this week! Marcus is notorious for his stink. Airedales are supposed to be scent free, but we ended up with a rare stinky one.

Shake it off.

It happens every time. Within a a day of getting a bath, Marcus will inevitably throw up in the middle of the night (Specifically, around midnight last night - right on schedule), making himself all stinky once again. I guess it's his way of putting things to right. Marcus wouldn't be Marcus without his trademark stink.

For 52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 35

Something fishy is going on here.

For the second time this summer, Mark had to empty the pond this week so that he could patch a leak. The pond liner compound takes a couple of days to fully dry, and unfortunately, during that timeframe we lost 2 koi and one of our large goldfish. Since he never turned up, we think that an animal took one of the koi, but the other two fish were found dead on our patio. They could have committed suicide by jumping out of their containers. Anyway, we found ourselves in desperate need of some replacements, and luckily, Mark found a place not far from us called Aqua World that, as you can see, had a huge selection of fish. So we have two new residents in our pond. Hopefully they'll make it through the winter!

 First day of 4th grade and elementary school!

I'm also a bit late with the first day of school photo. By this writing, we're already two weeks into the year! Fourth grade is a big year of change. In our district, there are five primary schools, but once the kids get to fourth everyone goes to one elementary school. So not only is there a big new building to navigate, there's a huge number of kids to get to know. Lauren's class has 31 students, and there are seventeen fourth grade classes total! Luckily, Lauren ended up having classes (This the first year where the kids have schedules and do a little bit of switching classes during the day) with some of her friends, so that's made the transition much easier. This is also the first year that Lauren will be in the GATE program, and of course she'll be taking extra music classes so she can play trombone in the band. So far, she seems to really like everything, but by far her favorite part of elementary school is the cafeteria. She came home on the first day raving about how the chocolate milk tastes like a milkshake and how the chicken sandwiches come wrapped in colorful checked paper. So now we know what to look for when it comes time to college search - good cafeteria food!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

For 52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 34

Meet you at the bottom.

Here we are at the close of the last week before school starts. We were off the whole week so that we could spend time together, prepare for back to school, go to appointments and do some things around the house. It was a busy week to say the least. I'm starting off a little backwards as this photo was taken on Friday when we went to Kennywood. Lauren took a friend this year and was her usual daredevil self, fearlessly riding everything in sight. There were virtually no crowds, so they kept going on the same ride over and over again. They went on the Pittsburgh Plunge 5 times in a row!

Pirates vs Braves 8/18/2014

Monday night we went to PNC Park with Mark's mom and dad to see the Pirates play the Braves. Unfortunately, the Braves scored two consecutive home runs with the first two pitches, and the Pirates never recovered.

Let sleeping pigs lie.

We also visited the Westmoreland County Fair. Mark and I went to the fair twenty years ago on one of our first dates and have been going off and on through the years. We hadn't gone for awhile, but it pretty much hasn't changed.


Of course, we saw all the competing livestock on display.


This is Jasmine. She has blue eyes! I had never seen a horse with blue eyes before. She was very sweet and curious about everyone who visited her stall.


Lauren and I thought she was the horse version of Kitty Coconut because they both had similar coloring.

 Meet you at the top.

And there were rides, which Lauren insisted that we partake in.

 Learning to drive.

Here's what it will look like when Mark teaches Lauren how to drive.

 Lauren and I getting ready to YOYO.

YOLO on the YOYO.

Riding the blue chicken is the hightlight of the fair.

Last but not least, riding the blue chicken is always the highlight of the fair.

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 33

 Engagement ring cookies.

Mark's cousin Lindsey is getting married in October. Her bridal shower was this past weekend, so I thought I'd share a few photos from the event.

 One hundred bottles of wine on the wall.

The shower was held at Narcissi Winery, which is nearby to where we live. I had never been there but had heard good things about it. So I was excited to go!

Wedding dress cake.

Lindsey's cake was shaped like her wedding dress. When sliced, it looked just like regular cake and had a yummy raspberry filling.

Place setting.

These really cute chalkboard glasses did double duty as place markers and favors.

 The bride and groom.

And here's the bride and groom - Lindsey and her fiancé, Tysen. He gave her the crayon bank because she always wanted one. It's my favorite color - maybe I should ask Mark for one? On second thought, Lauren would probably take it for herself.


Speaking of Mark, here's another bride and groom, although we've logged quite a few years from our wedding day.

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 32


Once again, I'm working to catch up the blog. I took these a couple of weeks ago, but I was too lazy to post them. Anyway, this little terrarium came from Longwood Gardens. Lauren begged us to get her one. It's certainly better than yet another stuffed animal.

Dormer desk.

As part of the never ending re-do, Mark built this desk into one of the dormer's in Lauren's room. It's typically covered with more random trinkets, so I staged it for the photo.

Here comes the sun.

Lastly, here's a bonus photo of the sunflowers that Lauren grew. Remember how they started out?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 31

Black and white.

It took me all day, but I'm finally caught up. A few weeks ago, we got a new cover for our couch, and I've been wanting to take Cookie's photo on it because it's actually not white like the rest of our furniture. The fact that Lauren had put her zebra blanket on the couch was a lucky coincidence.

Sunday nap.

And as usual when I take her portrait, I bored Cookie to sleep!

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 30

Being green.

This year, we decided to try tadpoles in the pond again. Frog sightings began while we were on vacation. The two frogs that we had a couple of years ago barely showed their faces, but these three are rather outgoing! It's been so much fun to look out the window and try to find them hanging out on the lily pads.

Hiding out.

Lying in wait.

Pile on.

Unfortunately, since I took these photos, frog sightings have been few and far between.We do see one now and then (If fact as I'm typing this, he's sitting on a lilypad looking very fat and happy.), but never more than one. So either the other two left or came to a bad end, or they are cleverly rotating their appearances.

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 29

Peirce DuPont House.

We left rainy New Jersey and headed west to sunny Delaware where we enjoyed a second trip to the wonderful Longwood Gardens. Longwood is actually located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, but we actually stayed in nearby Wilmington. The weather on the day of our visit was absolutely ideal for walking the extensive gardens.

In the pink.


 Daddy and Lauren in the Birdhouse.

Lauren's favorite part is the various themed tree houses that are throughout the gardens. Here she is with Mark posing in the Birdhouse.

Canope Cathedral treehouse.

And here they are sitting outside the Canope Cathedral.

Just hanging out.

Nearby the Canope Cathedral is this old sitting tree.

Italian watergardens.

My favorite is the Italian Gardens.

Daddy and Lauren by the waterfall.

There's a waterfall along the path that leads down to the Italian gardens (For some reason, Lauren was very into posing on this day!).

Longwood Gardens Conservatory.

Longwood's Conservatory is unrivaled. It should be on everyone's bucket list.

Exhibition Hall.

Stained glass window in the Children's Corner.

Since we last visited, they added a Children's Corner, with all kinds of charming fountains and nooks to explore.


We always save the hike up to the bell tower for last.

Bell tower.

Sitting by the water fall at the Bell Tower.

And to close out our trip, here's Lauren posing next to the waterfall at the top of the path to the bell tower.

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 28

Wildwood Beach cabinets.

Since returning from vacation, I've managed to get way, way behind in my blogging, but I'm committed to getting caught up, starting with an account of our trip to the Jersey Shore and Delaware. I started the trip in an anxious mood because the predicted weather was 70% chance of "drenching thunderstorms" for pretty much the entire time of our stay. Thankfully, the forecast was completely wrong, and we had beautiful sunny weather for most part. In fact, it ended up being one of our best trips yet, as we didn't get lost (Alexandria / D.C. '13) and no one got sick (Me - Wildwood / Deleware '12). I'd call that a roaring success!

This year, we stayed in Wildwood, right at the edge of Wildwood Crest. Although the area we stayed in was very nice and convenient to the boardwalk and restaurants, I still would have preferred to stay in Ocean City, but it's just too expensive this time of year. One reason is that Wildwood's boardwalk is just too trashy for my taste. Here's the second reason:

Sitting on the Wildwood boardwalk.

Here are Lauren and I on the Wildwood boardwalk. See that hazy blue line far, far in the distance? That would be the ocean. I think the walk from the boardwalk to the ocean was a least three times as long as the walk from our motel to the boardwalk. So when in Wildwood we don't spend much time at the beach because it's just not worth the trouble.

Peeking out of the pool.

Besides, Lauren prefers the pool anyway.

Aunt Dolly.

Adjacent to our motel was a bike rental shop where we were surprised to see none other than Aunt Dolly.

 Look cool with the wind in her 
 I think we would all agree that the best part of our vacation was the time we spent aboard the Thundercat Dolphin Watch tour. Last year, I had read the Thundercat's rave reviews and was anxious to see what the fuss was all about. It did not disappoint.

"Robin Thicke"

First, our tour guide bore a striking resemblance to Robin Thicke. We were waiting for him to bust out some verses of "Blurred Lines" at any moment. I think I should have put that in the suggestion box.

Second, the dolphins! Early in the cruise, we saw some dolphins swimming in the distance, but nothing you'd call an "encounter." So we were quickly getting skeptical that we were going to see any dolphins in action.


What we didn't know is that The Thundercat has been giving tours for 17 years, so the local dolphins know the boat very well. Once they spot it, the show begins. They follow behind the boat and jump in and out of its wake.

Playing in the wake.

Party of five.

Dolphin games.

It was amazing. I will never doubt your word again, Robin Thicke!

 No trip to the Cape May Zoo is completed without feeding the goats.

We also had some up close and personal animal encounters at the Cape May Zoo. No visit is complete unless Mark feeds this goat.


I started to stalk this peacock in hopes that he was spread his feathers because I don't think I've ever seen a peacock do that in person.


Eventually he gave in so I'd leave him alone.

Giraffe family.

The big deal at the zoo this year is their new baby giraffe.

No comment.

But not even a cute baby giraffe can top a giant tortoise getting lucky (This is where we could have really used Robin Thicke's talents.). He was so loud about it that you could hear him a few exhibits over. More than one person chuckled and said, "Now that's a once in a lifetime sight!" but apparently it isn't because there are numerous YouTube videos of them.

Now I don't have to regret not taking one of my own.


Next we spent an evening at one of my favorite places on Earth - the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk!

 Mark on the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk.

Here's Mark waiting while Lauren and I do some shopping. We got Shriver's taffy, Johnson's caramel corn and souvenirs from Old Salt!

 Flags flying high.

 Ocean City, New Jersey beach.


Enjoying the view.

 Manco and Manco's pizza.

Dinner was Manco and Manco pizza, of course. We unanimously decided that we prefer it over Mack's Pizza over in Wildwood.

Lauren and her arcade haul.

Here's Lauren looking satisfied with her stuffy haul from Jilly's arcade.

Last beach walk.

It finally did rain our last night in New Jersey and into the next morning when we left, but it cleared just enough for one last walk on the beach.