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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Happy 4th birthday, Cookie!

Happy 4th birthday, Cookie!

In honor of her fourth birthday, I have something very special to share today - a rare, never before seen photo of Cookie the day after she came home to live with us. It was taken on December 9th, so she was almost 3 months old to the day. I love how she still has her puppy wrinkles! I never posted it because it wasn't up to my aesthetic standards. I've gotten a lot better at photo processing in the last four years, so now it's passable. Seriously, the difference between this version and the original is like night and day.

Picking out a new toy for her birthday

For the most part, Cookie spent her birthday like any other day - zooming around the house, napping in her favorite spot on top of the couch pillow and eating the cat's food when no one is watching. But she did get to go to Petco and pick out a new toy. She chose a jack o'lantern!

Monday, September 5, 2016

A lack of laboring on Labor Day weekend.

Gull hanging out at Beach 7 in Presque Isle State Park.

All summer, Mark and I have talked about taking a drive up to Lake Erie, and we managed to squeeze in the trip at the last minute. And when I say last minute, I don't just mean the last weekend of summer. I mean that on the spur of the moment we quickly packed for a day trip and started the two hour drive at about noon yesterday.

Lake Erie.

Since we needed to stop for lunch, we arrived at Presque Isle State Park at around 2:30. After finding Beach 6 to be too crowded for our tastes, we settled on Beach 7.

I saved a chair for you.

Beach 7 had a fair amount of sunbathers, but there was practically no one in the water.

Photo Sep 04, 3 59 55 PM

The weather was perfect - not too hot, even though there wasn't a cloud to be seen!

You're not taking my picture.

Relaxing in Lake Erie.

Lauren is a veteran lake swimmer. She now has four lakes under her belt, with two being Great Lakes.

Swim away.

She was not thrilled that I kept trying to take her picture.

Waldameer Park.

After we finished swimming, we headed over to Waldameer Park. This was our first time visiting the park together, although given how often my family went to Erie, I'm sure I must have went there when I was too young to remember. It's a such nice a little park. I hope we get a chance to visit it again when we have more time.

The Ravine Flyer II

This is the park's largest coaster, The Ravine Flyer II. Yes, there was a Ravine Flyer I, but it had a short, tragic history. Anyway, if you look closely you can see Mark enjoying his ride in the third car (fifth row), although I use the term "enjoying" loosely based upon his review. Lauren really liked it though.

Playing ring toss.

Waldameer also has an old fashioned midway with games that suck you in, even though you know you have little chance of winning.

Can you find the winner?

Although we had no luck at the ring toss, the player before us did win a prize. Can you spot the winning ring?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens.

The Revolutionary City.

At the end of June, we visited Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens in Virginia. Originally, we had planned to go to Chincoteague Island, which is also in Virginia. Mark had mentioned to me that he was interested in seeing Colonial Williamsburg, so at the last minute, I checked into it and found that it was the much, much less expensive option. Lauren also preferred the idea of going to a big amusement park rather than the beach.

Colonial Williamsburg home.

Colonial Williamsburg was not what I expected at all. I thought it would be more touristy, a place where you paid admission to enter through a gate and then spent the day in a crowded confined area where costumed performers walk around and speak in the King's English. It is that, but it's also an actual neighborhood where people live. You can walk around it for free anytime of day, like you would your own neighborhood. Granted, with the exception of the colonial themed shops and restaurants, the most of the buildings are closed and the majority of costumed performers head home around dinnertime. So although we didn't go the paid admission route that gets you access to tour the buildings, we really enjoyed the town during the evening hours when we could take our time exploring and also avoid both the crowds and the heat.

The DoG.

The Duke of Gloucester Street, or the DoG, is the main street in Colonial Williamsburg. 

Walking down Duke of Gloucester Street.

At one end, is William and Mary, which is the second oldest college in America after Harvard. Across the street from the original school building is Merchant's Square, which has nice gift shops and restaurants. After you walk a couple of blocks past the modern buildings of Merchant's Square, you're in The Revolutionary City. It's pretty neat!

Of course, you can also access the historical area through the official Visitor's Center. From there, you walk across a bridge that connects you to a long pathway that eventually leads into the Revolutionary City. It's much more moving to enter this way, because there are plaques along the Footbridge to the Past that are a reverse timeline from the present to the eighteenth century. On the return journey, you're reminded of significant individuals and their contributions to the growth and development of American democracy and society. It really gives you a sense of how far our country has come.

Hanging out on the DoG.

Here's Lauren sitting on the stoop of one of the buildings on DoG Street.

Colonial market booth.

There are plenty of places to buy colonial themed souvenirs, in both open air markets like this one as well as mercantile shops.

Inside the Greenhow Store

This was taken inside the Greenhow Store. John Greenhow was a famous merchant who owned a store on DoG street. He's quoted as saying, “If I do not offer it, you do not need it.”

Counting sheep.

Adding to the authenticity, there are livestock throughout the town. In addition to these sheep, we also saw some cattle, but we didn't get see the resident chickens.

St. George Tucker House.

There are more than 500 buildings in the Revolutionary City, and admittedly, I took photos of a good bit of them. The George Tucker House was one of my favorites. It houses receptions held by the Williamsburg Foundation for the various donor societies.

Please don't climb on the tree.

Located across from the George Tucker House is a renowned Compton Oak tree. Note the sign behind Lauren says, "Please no climbing."

The Governor's Palace at Dusk.

This is the Governor's Palace, which is Colonial Williamsburg's most famous building.  It's said to be very impressive on the inside, so hopefully we will visit there again and take a tour.


While we weren't walking the streets of the past, we were walking the streets of Europe at Busch Gardens.

Flower baskets.

It's easy to see why it's been voted "The World's Most Beautiful Theme Park" every year for the last 26 years. These flower baskets were hanging on a concession stand. And if the concession stands look this pretty, the rest of the place must be amazing.



See what I mean?

Mural in New France.

Wolves are Lauren's favorite animals, so I had her pose in front of this mural in New France.

Bridge over the Rhine River.

This bridge is over the Rhine River, which connects the Scotland and Germany areas of the park.

Lochness Monster!

I fondly remember the commercials for Busch Gardens, then known as The Old Country, from when I was growing up. Back then, there was no ride more frightening than the Lochness Monster. I've always wanted to ride it, and on this trip, I finally realized my childhood dream - three times! And if Lauren had her way, there would have been a fourth.

Escape from Pompeii in Italy.

Speaking of forth, Lauren was able to successfully convince Mark to ride "Escape from Pompeii" four times. If you look closely, you can see them in the middle row.

The Cherry Blossom.

On the way back, we spent the night in Alexandria, so here are a couple bonus photos. This the Cherry Blossom, a paddleboat that's owned by the Potomac Riverboat Company.

Posing in front of Gadsby's Tavern once again.

Lastly, Mark had the brilliant idea of re-creating a photo that we had taken when we first visited Alexandria in 2008 when Lauren was just three years old. She's sitting on the steps of Gadsby's Tavern.

Gadsby's Tavern.

And here's the original.

A pontoon afternoon.

Pontoon boats in a row.

Summer comes to an end multiple times for me. First, summer ends when kids go back to school. Then summer ends again after Labor Day weekend. That's when I retire my white pants and my white purse for another year. However, according to the calendar, summer is really officially done for on the autumnal equinox. Since everyone seems to be obsessed with pumpkin everything already, I'll go with the majority and declare that summer is coming to an end this weekend. So it's probably about time I share the last of our summer adventures, including our vacation photos.

But first I want to write about one of the fun things we discovered this summer, which was renting a pontoon boat and taking it out on Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park.

Getting ready to sail.

Lauren will be happy once she turns 13 and is no longer required to wear a life jacket.

Aye aye, captain.

Even though it's a little bit a against the rules, Mark likes to sit back and let Lauren take the wheel.

Cruising along.

Even though the weather was gorgeous, the lake was fairly deserted when these photos were taken because it was a weekday.

Hanging out on the pontoon.

Lake Arthur.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Happy National Dog Day!

Happy National Dog Day from Marcus Aurelius!

Since we celebrated International Cat Day, it's only fair that we take part in National Dog Day!

You are gonna give a treat for this, right?

Am I going to get a treat for doing this?

Mr. Personality.

I *am* going to get a treat for this!

Fuzzy fur feet.

Fuzzy fur feet!

Happy National Dog Day from Cookie!

Since Cookie was less than enthused about partaking in National Dog Day, I was only able to get one good photo of her. She acts more like a cat, so maybe I caught her on the wrong day.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Six things about the first day of 6th grade.

Off to 6th grade!

  • Woke up around 6:30.
  • Packed a lunch made up of a ham and cheese sandwich, Combos and yogurt.
  • First year with a male homeroom teacher. Don't know much about him yet accept that he wore a Taco Bell hat to school one day last year. That's how you make an impression with elementary kids.
  • Found out that she really needs 3 small cheap binders instead of the huge expensive one that we purchased (The school supplies list that we consulted list did not specify)
  • Friends are present and accounted for in each class
  • Afternoon bus drop-off was actually early and accurate. In other words, the bus driver didn't drive past her stop, and she wasn't the last kid on the bus for once.

Must check on the fish first.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Treasure hunting.


Last Thursday, we visited Living Treasures Animal Park for the first time. They have two locations - one in the Laurel Highlands and the one that we visited, which is in Moraine. I've seen their billboards over and over again as we've traveled the PA turnpike in both directions, but I never considered actually going there, even after we had Lauren. I guess I thought it was just a cheesy little roadside attraction, but it wasn't that at all, far from it! In fact, I'd even say it was much better than most of the zoos that we've visited!


What makes it so special is that you can actually feed and directly interact with most of the animals. You can't tell from this photo, but this pen is filled with a variety of hungry deer. They move from one person to the next in hopes that you'll give them a treat. The park provides bags of carrots and feed that you can purchase as you come through the gate. There are also vending machines throughout the park that contain speciality feed.

Hanging around.

For example, this gibbon was really hoping I was going lend him a quarter so he could get something out of the "monkey ball" machine.

Chilean flamingos.

When you enter the park, you're greeted by a pond filled with flamingos. I've seen a lot of flamingos before, but I never noticed that they have pink feet! I guess because I've never been close enough to get a good look at them.

Feeding the Scottish Highlander.

Here's Mark demonstrating the proper form for feeding a Scottish Highlander.

So sleepy leopard.

Now obviously you can't interact with the wild cats. There's no amount of insurance to cover that kind of liability.

White Bengal Tiger.

This white tiger's name is Peppermint. He had a Bengal tiger friend named Kit Kat who passed away this January.

I can almost taste it!

Of all the animals that you can feed, the highlight of the whole park has to be the giraffes. Check out that weird tongue!

Tasty lettuce.

She ate it!

Gentle giant.

It's just like patting dad on the head. He's almost as tall!

Goat love.

They have a large fenced in area just brimming with goats.

The mob.

Remember that time when Mark was overtaken by baby goats? Yep, it was awesome.

Can we keep her?

Here's Lauren with her favorite little goat of the bunch.

Is there anything cuter?

Even though she was only partially white, I'd definitely consider her for membership into my white pet club because she was just too cute.

Kangaroos are sleepy even when they eat.

Next was the kangaroos. The one thing that I learned about kangaroos is that they are very sleepy animals. Even as Lauren was feeding them carrots, they looked extremely drowsy.

Holding a baby kangaroo? WINNING.

And holding a baby kangaroo? WINNING! Again, this joey was so very sleepy - he could barely hold his eyes open for the photo! The babies are kept inside their fabric sacks which are actually hung along the wall of the photo booth. They seem pretty content to literally hang out inside their purses, but if I was a baby kangaroo, I'd request the Kate Spade version.


If I had a favorite buffalo, it was would have to be this white bison. She just had the sweetest face. Her name was either Bubbles or Bonnie, but I think she looks more like a Blondie.

White Bison.

She definitely wanted to go home with me. 

Doin' the Watusi!

Now we get to do the Watusi! This is Walter. He was hanging out under the bridge and then very slowly made his way over to the fence. I have this progression of photos where he gets a little closer in each one - lol.

Mighty hungry Muntjac.

Lastly, we conclude with this mighty hungry little muntjac. We all agreed that this is what Cookie would look like if she was muntjac and not an Italian Greyhound.