Thursday, August 27, 2009

Interesting Thought...

Sometimes someone posts a quote on Facebook that bears repeating...

"Never say that you have no time. It is those who are busiest who can make time for yet more, and those who have the most leisure time who refuse to do something when asked. What we lack is not time, but heart."

- Henri Boulard

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic: School Bus

We took the boys to the Build and Grow Clinic at Lowe's this morning. I was not sure if they were going to have fun, but it was free - so hey, we went anyway! They really enjoyed constructing the school bus with a little help from us, but mostly alone. Something about hammers, nails and construction really appeals to little boys (and big ones too!). They got to keep the goggles, apron, a patch, a certificate and finished product. They cannot wait to attend another clinic! Thank you, Lowe's, for a fun, FREE Saturday morning activity!
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Photoshop Fun

Along with learning how to scrapbook digitally, I'm trying to learn how to use Photoshop Elements (the program most people use for digiscrapping). I'm normally a purist... a photo should be great by the merit of what it looks like when taken - without manipulation. I think that it is "cheating" when someone enhances their photos with photoshop. However, it is fun to play with photo manipulation. Take the photo below left. I was trying to get a pic of Harrison with the scuba gear, but there were so many people there that it would have been impossible not to get them in the background. So... I photoshopped everyone out & made a funky background based on the real one (see pic on the right). It was great fun, though I'm still a purist at heart!
(click to enlarge)
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

My son: Future Chemist

Franklin, age 9, enjoys trying to figure out what he will be when he grows up. For a couple of years now, he has excelled at science & math in particular. He has discussed being an inventor or a scientist. Last spring, he bought an electronic lab (remember those?) at a garage sale and decided to be an electrical engineer. Lately, he's decided he will be a chemist. We went to the library and he found books with science experiments and chemical concoctions in them.
On Friday, he did not have homework, so he decided to do his own homework - a science experiment. His first home experiment was a great success! The Do-It-Yourself Balloon. The combination of baking soda and vinegar causes a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide - thus blowing up the balloon by itself. Whatever Franklin becomes, I know he will do it to the best of his ability. He is very intelligent and driven, along with a good dose of stubbornness. I would imagine that all of those traits will come in handy for his future career!
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Digital Scrapbooking Take 1

I recently began digital scrapbooking. I have spent more time watching tutorials & downloading free stuff than actually scrapping so far! I have had so much fun just learning about it. This is not my first layout, but I did make this layout from pics from our trip to the Smoky Mountains. It took forever, because each of the license plates were separate photos. If you click on the photo, you should be able to view it larger & read the journaling. One of the hardest parts of going digital is trying to organize my scrapbook elements in a way to remember where I got them, in order to give proper credit. If I missed something, I apologize!
Template: Scrappin with Liz
State 35 font: "Just Because" by Nikki Epperson
Papers: Totally D designs
Glitter plastic fx: mgl Scraps
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Day of School 2009

Franklin - 4th Grade * Truman - 1st Grade * Harrison - 3rd Grade

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 3: Smoky Mountain Vacation

On Day 3, we took an all-day excursion to Cherokee, North Carolina. We stopped for our "official" park photo on the way there...
This has got to be one of my favorite pics of the whole trip... We stopped at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum. Tommie was checking it out...

They had several varieties of beautiful flowers growing.
Over 250 families lived in the Smoky Mountains until the 1930s. It was interesting to learn how they lived.
Grandma couldn't listen to the fussing over who got to hold Nikon anymore... so she bought each of the boys their own black bear souvenir.
After the Mountain Farm Museum, we drove to Mingo Falls - the largest falls on the park map at 180 feet. It was beautiful! The photos do not begin to do justice to this waterfall. You climb up a massive staircase and wow... the falls "end" at the top.
Even the "run-off" from the falls were beautiful.After our visit to Mingo Falls, we did some tourist-y things in Cherokee. It was neat to visit the reservation and to see words written in Cherokee all over.
We had our photos taken with a real-life American Indian. ha, ha Later, we found out that the Cherokee people did not build tee-pees. You certainly couldn't tell that from all of the ones they put out for tourists! While Cherokee was tourist-y, it was not nearly as congested as Gatlinburg. It's definitely the quieter side of the mountain.We stopped for an afternoon snack at a local homemade ice cream shop. The girls working in the shop were more genuine Native Americans than the guy pictured above! :)After our snack, we decided to travel on another rustic mountain road. These rustic roads are one-way roads, very windy and on the edge of steep embankments. They are closed in the winter for obvious reasons. We were still on a mission to find a black bear & get good photos of him. So, off we went. Then... a giant thunderstorm hit! So, we found ourselves winding around the mountain on a back road that was slippery and dangerous... in the middle of a storm cloud. It's amazing how a storm cloud seems to envelop you when you are high on a mountain. It was exciting and adventurous for the first 30 or 40 minutes. Then, it became the road that never ends... We probably spent 2 hours driving on this one-way road with no way out but forward. By the time we came back to Cherokee, we decided that we were finished with rustic mountain roads. All of the smart bears were probably in caves somewhere out of the rain...
All of that danger & excitement worked up an appetite... so we ate dinner at a Big Boy in Cherokee.
Our plan was to visit Cherokee for the day, then stop at Morton's Overlook again to view the sunset. We read that it is one of the best locations to get a sunset photo. Remember the storm we just endured? Our sunset plans were foiled by lots of clouds & fog. At least I made good use of my new hoodie that I had just purchased in Cherokee. It was amazing that the temperature would be around 75 or so in Gatlinburg and would dip down to 62 on the mountain. Chilly for July!
Even though our sunset was foiled, we saw some really neat steam rising from the valley. We also took fun pics of the boys "falling" off of the mountain.
Right about the time the sun was supposed to set, it started raining. Here we are... in the van... patiently awaiting the sunset that never came...Blue & gray were the only sunset colors we got... Although, how can you get a bad picture of a gorgeous mountain?

Day 2: Smoky Mountain Vacation

On Day 2, Linda, Tommie, myself, Harrison & Truman set out for the stables. We had read that a fun way to explore the mountains was via horseback. We'd have to agree that it was fun! Expensive, but worth every penny. We rode up the mountain, crossed mountain streams and rode back down. The ride was about 1 hour long. When I tried to take a picture of Nikon with the horse, the horse started eyeing him like he was going to eat him! I quickly snatched him up before Mr. Ed could have a snack.

Franklin & Poppy decided to stay back at the cabin & rest. While we were on the trail, they finally got up and decided to go see Laurel Falls. The trail was 1.3 miles to the waterfall (and 1.3 miles back)... they only made it about 1/4 mile before they decided it wasn't worth it. They had fun taking silly photos along the path anyway! (The sign reads: "DANGER Falling deaths have occured. Closely control children.")

After lunch, we loaded up the van and headed up to Clingman's Dome. CD is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains (6,643 feet) and is right on the border of North Carolina & Tennessee. The trail to CD is only 1/2 mile long and fully paved, however it is very steep. Thankfully, they have plenty of benches to rest on all the way up. The risk of hiking up to CD is that you may or may not be able to see anything. The Smoky Mountains aren't called smoky for nothing! We hiked to the top to find that visibility was nill. While we were up there, a big cloud came through and reduced visibility even more. In the photo of Tommie (upper left), I was standing about 10 feet from him and there was fog in between us. They have signs to the North, South, East & West showing what your view is of. Our view pretty much looked exactly the same to all directions. Gray fog and more gray fog. One thing we learned on this trip is that the weather in the mountains can change in seconds. The photo series below was taken in a period of 50 seconds. All three are looking toward the West from the top of Clingman's Dome. There was a small break in the cloud that came through and allowed (limited) visibility for a few seconds as it passed by. Then... back to more gray fog.

No matter what the visibility at Clingman's Dome, I had an ulterior motive for hiking all the way up. This is where the Appalachian Trail intersects with our travel plans. Being a Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration major in college, we learned all about the AT. A few years ago, I read the book "A Walk In The Woods" by Bill Bryson and learned all about his journey hiking the AT. I REALLY, REALLY wanted to see it. Even though we would only sample a small portion of the trail, I was so excited to step foot on it! Of course, everyone had to pose for pictures on the Appalachian Trail. It was absolutely gorgeous!! Very lush greenery combined with a rolling fog. God's creation at it's finest!

We survived the hike up and for some reason, the hike back down was MUCH easier. My father-in-law shot this pic as we came back down. My in-laws opted to stay at the bottom and take pics of mountain scenery while we were hiking.

On the way back to the cabin, we stopped at Morton's Overlook for some pics. I think I could stay in the mountains forever!

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Cade's Cove

This collage in my previous post wouldn't enlarge, so I'm re-posting it here... (click to enlarge)
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Day 1: Smoky Mountain Vacation

A few months ago, my in-laws asked if we would consider going on vacation with them. We had already discussed doing our first "real" family vacation this year, so we quickly agreed. We decided to visit Gatlinburg and the Smokies, researched a cabin, booked everything and have been looking forward to our trip for what seems like forever now!!

Technically, Day 1 of our vacation was spent driving from Indiana to Gatlinburg. The trip down went well, because we had two vehicles - therefore splitting three boys into two cars! We arrived at the cabin about 6 p.m. local time (after being stuck in traffic for 2 hours between Sevierville & Gatlinburg) and by the time we ate dinner and went to get groceries, it was a late night! I am counting Day 1 as the first full day of activities.
On official Day 1, we decided to drive through the National Park up to Cade's Cove. The forecast for the week was rain, rain & more rain... so we thought we would see some of the sights while we had a clear day. First stop: Sugarlands Visitor Center! We had ordered books about the Smoky Mountains and the Junior Ranger books for each of the boys a few months ago to prep for the trip. We knew that we wanted to stop at a visitor center first to check things out. We watched a short film about the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was very interesting and informative. While in the visitor center, we saw a really cute kid's book where they took photos of a teddy bear all over the park. I thought it was an adorable idea, but I'm too cheap to buy the book... so we decided to make our own! We bought a small stuffed black bear and appropriately named him "Nikon" (because both my father-in-law and myself use Nikon cameras). Our goal for the week is to take pics of Nikon all over the park! Here's Truman posing for the 1st pic with our new vacation mascot.
During our two hour delay on the trip down, my mother-in-law (Linda) started noticing all of the different license plates around us. It was amazing. Just sitting in traffic, we saw about 20 different states... so she decided she would "collect" photos of license plates this week and try to get all 50. (I won't post them all, but here's the 1st one!)
On the drive up to Cade's Cove, we stopped anytime we saw a great view. Our first stop was to overlook the mountains... Gorgeous!
We stopped to watch the rushing mountain rivers/streams many times. The road winds up the mountain right next to the river for the most part. I don't think I could ever get tired of hearing the sounds of rushing water. The boys & I decided to kick off our shoes & wade a bit. The water was COLD!!
Tommie & I posing with Nikon!
We stopped to look at this cascade... We had a map of all of the waterfalls in the park, so my personal goal this week is to see as many as possible. Cascades like this don't even qualify to be on the map! It's still beautiful...
Cade's Cove is the remnants of a town, nestled high in the mountain. We stopped at a cabin or two, saw the mill and a couple of old churches. There are beautiful mountain meadows and lots of wildlife in Cade's Cove. There was a deer standing on the side of the road - about 15 feet from the cars. Cool!
I thought this would be a cute place to snap a pic of Nikon!
Everyone in the family wanted to see a bear while on this trip. All of the promo materials about the park talk about bears, bears & more bears. When we left Cade's Cove, we drove down the rustic Rich Mountain Road to Townsend. This gravel, windy back road was very long, but very fun. We only saw one other car the whole time on the road. We also saw this little guy. He was wandering around in the valley near the road we were driving on. We stopped the car and tried to get good pics. With all of the underbrush, it was difficult. This ended up being our only black bear sighting of the week!
We looped through Townsend and stopped at the Smoky Junction restaurant. Out back, there was a railroad museum that was closed... but we took some pics of vintage trains anyway!
On the way back to Gatlinburg, we went back through the park with the intent of finding two waterfalls that are right off of the road. Meigs Falls and The Sinks. We tried to find Meigs Falls first and ended up at this beautiful cascade. We weren't sure that this was it... (and later found out it wasn't). The family photo in my other post was in front of this cascade.
Nikon was looking for fish to eat!

Then, we stopped to see The Sinks... later in the week, this waterfall was WAY more full of water and overflowing all of the rocks around it... but it was pouring down rain, so we couldn't get a good photo. The entire river was rushing over these falls. Very powerful...
Tommie took a pic of me taking a pic of the waterfall - perched on a cliff. I was a little scared, because it was a long drop... but a good photo is worth a little danger, right?!? :)
Nikon is a very smart bear. He figured out how to get into the bear-proof garbage container at the cabin! :)