Funny Faces

This is my son’s lizard, and it cracks me up. Here it enjoys hitching a ride on my husband’s hat.

**For the month of November each year, I try to focus on something I’m thankful for each day. It is the month that holds Thanksgiving where I live, after all. Focusing on the positive and remembering the little things that make life great are things I should do more often. Last year I found that writing every day during the holiday time got a bit stressful. So this year I’m writing throughout the year and scheduling the posts to go out in November.

Zeb and Bri get Married

Arriving in Utah to see snowy slopes in July

Chris and I have a new daughter 🙂 In a recent post I wrote about how our son and now-daughter-in-law were eloping, and what a celebration it was! Sunday, July 14, 2019, found Chris having one last Ponderosa luncheon with Mom while I finished work then we hit the road for Utah, planning to make it from northern NY to Utah by Wednesday. But that was not to be.

Since I missed the meal at the steakhouse, Chris BBQ-d some steak for me the day before traveling, and I think that is what gave us the energy to drive all night and half the next day. We stopped at a hotel for one solid night of sleep and arrived at our new Utah residence mid-day on Tuesday. Thank goodness! There was a bunch of fun work to do!

We greeted our kiddos and gran-nagerie then started packing, prepping and picking up family members from airports. Thursday the 17th found us packed into the car on our way to Moab for the festivities. Unknown to Zeb and Bri, we had a certain Hudi in the car.

Heading to Moab.

The wedding was so sudden our chef son Hudi was told he couldn’t get off because it was a super busy weekend at the country club where he works. It would have been the first time all eight of us (Chris and me, our sons and the women in their lives) had gotten together since CJ and Lauren’s wedding almost three years ago.

That was the last Zeb had heard, and it was sad, but he understood. But unbeknownst to Zeb, Hudi’s boss and colleagues awesomely made it possible for him to travel. When we got to the campsite, we left Hudi off at the washroom before we greeted Zeb and Bri, who were already there. Then Hudi appeared as if he were a stranger asking for directions 🙂

One thing we did know. The weather was going to be hot!!

We set up tents and hung out and relaxed a bunch. Then we headed up the rocks to catch the sunset. Breathtaking!!! If you click on an image in this mosaic, it will let you scroll through the images individually if you prefer that.

A view of our campsite from the rocks

We were all a bit tired so we talked a while after sunset then went to our tents.

Friday morning we woke up early, but one can’t complain when you wake up to a view like this:

On Friday, others started to arrive. Bri, Mollie, and I headed out for the three-hour drive to to nearest airport to pick up Bri’s mom and sister. We stopped for a nice brunch before heading back to the campsite.

When we got to the campsite again, we saw Chris had gotten creative with his artistic tendencies as he found a heart rock and created a rock lizard.

Bri was smart and brought along some aloe in case anyone got scratched up. How thoughtful is that?

We relaxed, talked and played games in the heat of the day.

As the sun started dipping, we separated males and females for bridal shower time. The women did facials and gave each other manicures while the guys yakked. For the record, the men were invited to do facials and/or have their nails done, too, but none took us up on the offer.

During this shower time, Bri’s mom set up the gift cake she had created. Isn’t it amazing? She is so talented with creativity!

The sun set, and those who were staying at the closest hotels (over an hour away) hit the road. Poor Lauren and CJ missed the time as they dealt with work deadlines, flat tires and other details. They pulled in right after the hotel people left. Ah well. Some climbed the rocks to see the next sunset while more guests arrived. Lauren was right up there, climbing the rocks. That girl is seriously hard core, doing that while eight months pregnant after a five-hour drive at the end of a workday! Amazing and inspirational.

The solar lights kicked on and looked like stars leading a path to the fire and hangout area.

I don’t have pictures, but we had a s’mores bar by the fire.

While we were eating the chocolate and marshmallow treats, we saw shooting stars. Some noticed Hudi and Mollie disappear up the rocks toward the celestial display, but most did not know at the time that they were off to spend time together, and when they came back to us, they emerged as a newly engaged couple 🙂 Talk about celebration!!!

Fun fact – Bri and Zeb got engaged at CJ and Lauren’s wedding. This tradition was actually a bit of an accident. Hudi was proposing since it was a dating anniversary. He didn’t realize he was extending the tradition initially, but it was kinda awesome.

Finally it was time for the big day. I don’t think Bri slept at all. I know she was up and about with makeup on when I got up around 5 am on Saturday July 20, 2019. Mollie, Lauren and I helped Bri get dressed so they could go up on the rocks for sunrise pictures.

Here are the bride and groom pre-sunrise.

Coming back from taking sunrise images

While they were taking pictures, we were finalizing details and relaxing.

There were so many little details that made it feel super special. The cloth napkins, the little jars of rock with name tags for seating, the rock candy (since we were camping among the rocks) and the monkey bread made by the bride herself and brought on the trip so people would have a treat.

Then it was time for the less-than-four-minute ceremony. The invitation was really funny. We were all told to dress in desert formal or basically whatever we wanted to wear to not die of heat stroke. Haha. It was awesome.

Although they wrote vows for each other, they shared those privately and chose different ones for the actual ceremony. The officiate was Zeb’s roommate from college, and the music was played off a phone so we wouldn’t disturb surrounding campers. It was short, sweet, and full of love. Beautiful. Their dog was the ring bearer 🙂

After the vows, the photographer took group pictures. Back at CJ and Lauren’s wedding, I allowed myself to relax and let the photographer do the job, catching the good images. It was a friend of theirs who gave them a good deal as a wedding gift. I regret my decision there. The person hired never gave them the images (just a couple of photos). (Side note – if you have pics of CJ and Lauren’s wedding that you have not shared with us yet and are willing to share, can you please let me know?)

So this time I took a few of my own even though this photographer seems a lot more professional. Here are a couple of the images.

We all sat down to eat at the pretty tables. The meal consisted of a Bagel Bar, a Bloody Mary Bar (Bri’s dad makes a beautiful and tasty drink), a Trail Mix Bar, yogurt and monkey bread. The cake was decorated with fondant succulents that Bri and I made. It was all so perfect. Although Ophelia (the dog) did party a bit too hard (just kidding. She was smart enough to sleep all day in the 100+F degree heat then perked up at night).

I also grabbed a picture of Bri’s shoes. Mollie got them for her, and I think they are so pretty.

After the brunch, some travelers left to go home while everyone else aside from Chris and myself took off to go Paddle Boarding. We also shared a slideshow highlighting Zeb and Bri’s growing-up years and life together.

Although the wedding was deep in the heart of Moab, an hour’s drive off the main road and deep into no-cell-service-land, we still managed to have a few wedding crashers. One was a lovely woman from New Jersey who asked if she could camp by us since she wasn’t comfortable camping in a more isolated area. She only stayed one night, though.

Another was a bold squirrel who later brought out a companion. Needless to say, we didn’t really partake of the trail mix bar after seeing that 🙂

Look carefully at these images (you might want to click them to see them larger), and you will see a squirrel going: on the wooden tie, on the bench, peeking over the table, on the table, nearing the bowl, in the bowl, eating from the bowl, tipping the bowl, playing in the bowl then acting totally busted.

While the others were gone, and Chris and I were cleaning up camp, we also had a snake come to visit. It didn’t look poisonous or anything, but it was definitely a long one.

We also had a spider almost the size of my fist in our tent. Chris released it into the sand, and it camouflaged so well that the image I took of it didn’t really work. I couldn’t find it in the image when I went to add it to this post. All I saw was sand.

Finally, we were literally swarmed with bees. If you click the video, you can hear them buzzing. They were friendly bees, not really out to sting, but were a bit annoying. Fortunately they were only out for an hour or so at the beginning and end of the days.

Chris and I were amazed as we sat and watched the sunset. Suddenly the bees started to leave in groups of three or four, heading off to the northwest. So fascinating. It was as if they received a call. I wonder if they sensed the bats were coming out and decided to vacate? I don’t know.

Everyone was pretty exhausted that evening, and we went to bed early. We left at 6:30 the next morning to take Hudi back to the airport while Zeb, Bri and her family stayed on for another day of camping and exploring before going home to get their wedding ring tattoos and settling back into reality.

It was an amazing elopement and beautiful in so many ways. We are very thankful to now have a wonderful new daughter as well. Love you, Bri, and blessings on your marriage, Zeb and Bri. May your life be as radiant as the wedding memories.

If you want to hear “their song” check out:

Highlighted Blog #22 – Seriously Seeking Answers

Why? How is it that I believe what I believe? And is it right? The Seriously Seeking Answers blog is written by a woman who constantly questions her own beliefs, and I love that. But it’s not all seriousness. She also has fun animal pics and some recipes and other info.

The frost sadly zapped my annual flowers early this year. But as the saying goes, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” And the fall leaves, which seem to need a good freeze to get really colorful, are making up for the lost flowers. Here is the view from my kitchen window in the […]

via God’s fireworks — Seriously Seeking Answers

Reading Animal Signs

been-there

Since the holidays are around the corner, my mind is on gifts. I thought I might share a thought for the nature lovers in my life.

One of my favorite gifts I have ever received was a children’s book written by my friend Jen Funk Weber. It was entitled Been There, Done That: Reading Animal Signs. It’s always nice to have creative friends, but I particularly like Jen’s work, perhaps because I know her dedication to writing, her humor, her love of kids and her passion for the great outdoors.

Jen lives in Alaska, along with her husband, who is a photographer. She is big on writing and cross-stitching. Since I’ve been friends with Jen for over a decade, I’ve heard lots of tales of her remote life. In fact, I remember when she got excited about getting a mailbox (at the end of a mile-long driveway, I think it was). Now she didn’t have to take the 45-minute drive into Anchorage to check her mail. Whoa. And I thought I lived in a remote area with a 30-minute drive to the nearest fast food chain. Nothing compared to Jen’s world.

Over the years I have learned a ton about nature thanks to Jen. This book is an example. In this book, a young child shows another how to look for animal trails. The images are beautiful, and the text is engaging. Here’s a review I wrote for it last spring:

As a parent, educator and nature enthusiast, I found this book a real treasure. The simple sentence structure and clear images don’t overwhelm, and new words and concepts are introduced naturally. The story had a cute ending, tying humans to nature. While the story itself was enjoyable, I particularly appreciated the quiz and extra information at the end of the book. It makes it very simple to structure an educational unit for a classroom or for a homeschool science curriculum. I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about nature.

So there it is. The book is in hard copy, soft cover and Kindle editions. If you don’t want to buy it, I still recommend finding a copy in a library. It’s pretty awesome. And if you are already a fan and just in case you are curious, there’s always hope of a sequel… Jen was pretty interested in animal trails, taking lots of pictures of them, when we were together last spring 🙂

If you are so inclined, check it out. Bet you won’t regret it. And once you read it, feel free to come back and comment about it, letting us know what you think.

Bobcats, Panthers, Tigers and Coons

I didn’t see the bobcat that was kitty-corner (see what I did there?) to the house we stayed in, but Mary Beth and Mike saw its tail as it headed into the bushes away from us. So I think that counts. Mary Beth regaled us with tales of other sightings in her neighborhood–down by the docks and right in her own driveway as she gardened. So cool!

On Saturday we decided to head to the sanctuary where a woman had been surprised by a panther a few weeks prior.

As we headed out, we stopped off to meet Cal (short for Calusa) on the way. Jen and I have heard a lot about Mary Beth’s horse over the years so it was a treat meeting him live. And what a beauty he is!

Jen MB and Cal

 

So we didn’t see the panther, either, but saw a ton of other awesome wildlife specimens along the way.

I was reminded of the limitations of my cell phone camera when I realized that my pics of several birds, great frogs, a huge alligator, a smaller alligator, a lizard, and a huge snake didn’t come out. But the beauty is still there in my mind.

I did, however, get a pic I love. Why is it that raccoons are so adorable in the wild, and not-so-much when they are in your garbage can at home?

Coon babies

Chris, being the goof-ball he is (I saw completely endearingly ‘cuz I love that man!) “rescued” sunglasses from the swamp and an alligator. The alligator became a group effort, as you can see in the clip below. Later, he gave it to some kids, and they happily clacked it ahead of us, scaring off pretty much all wildlife for a while 🙂 But their smiles were worth it.

Chris got Alligator

We were enjoying nature so much it took us about three hours to walk about a mile. We had to hurry through the last bit since they were closing. Ah well, it was still amazing.

Mary Beth mentioned several times that you don’t need much imagination to fabricate stories in Florida. Apparently bizarre things happen all the time. We witnessed this as we were going down the road. I looked out the car window to find myself almost face-to-face with a tiger. That was a bit startling, and definitely very cool. The tiger seemed very relaxed and happy on its perch.

Eventually we parted ways on the highway, and we continued into the main part of Marco for some dinner at the Snook Inn. There was a 45 minute wait so we yakked on the dock. Remind me to never put my back to the water again. I felt a splash and heard the sound of a pretty big animal. We searched for it, and my friends saw a tail a bit off shore. I had been splashed by a manatee, but never saw it. What a treasure I missed! But still fun to know it was there.

I had a grouper sandwich for dinner and loved it. I don’t know why I suddenly like seafood after 44 years, but I’m just thankful. Perhaps it’s because I’ve realized it’s a bit like wine. Every bite has a fun story behind it, and each nibble is unique. Flavors and textures swirl around the mouth and tongue making every morsel a new adventure. How have I missed out on this so long?

  • If you love nature you might want to see the extended version of the coon watching –