Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Years!

Catherine's mother is visiting, it turns out she has friends that live in the San Juan Islands. We made the trip to visit them, which has been a nice trip.


There is plenty to see here on Lopez Island, as long as you are willing to get out and see it. This here is the last sunset for 2011. It it looking towards the lighthouse on Cattle Point at the southern edge of San Juan Island.

I hope everyone has a happy, healthy start to the New Years. Best wishes!

Marc

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas World!

From our family to yours, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas!


PS. It's good to be me . . . we're leaving Monster Cookies out for Santa tonight!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leah

Nothing new or exciting today. I just thought Leah looked cute with a ribbon in her hair, so I decided to grab camera and flash and took some photos.


It also gave me a chance to look at the focus and sharpness of my files. That was a big reason I moved away from the Sony. I'm pretty happy with what I'm seeing. Have a great day everybody!

Marc

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

Merry Christmas everyone! We are too late to send out letters in the mail, so we are doing our Christmas letter via our blog once again. Last year, when we did this, we were packing up for a trip to England and Wales. We got lucky and dodged some nasty weather - London-Heathrow had many flights cancelled, and London-Gatwick was closed for at least three days, but somehow we got in. We had a great time taking in the pre-Christmas festivities in London and Wales, with a quick to stop to Stonehenge thrown in for good measure. We travelled locally in Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg for the first half of this year. In late May we hopped a long, direct flight to Seattle, and we've been enjoying the Pacific Northwest ever since! We've camped and explored fairly extensively on the Olympic Peninsula, taking in the coasts, the rainforests, and the mountains. We've also done some initial exploring of the Mt. St. Helens area. We'll do some more of that this upcoming summer, as well as Mt. Rainier!

Our big trip this summer was to Miami to visit with Catherine's family. It was nice to visit someplace truly warm again. I enjoyed the weather, the storms, the fresh mangos and avocados - and of course seeing all of Catherine's side of the family too! I didn't terribly enjoy the sunburn. It turns out that after a couple of years in Germany that I burn fairly easily - who would have guessed? From there we flew to Ohio to visit with my family. We had a nice visit with my Dad and Pam, then it was on to my brother David's wedding to Jenna. It was a great time, I got to catch up with cousins that I hadn't seen in close to 20 years (Hurricane Bob, Cape Cod)! Both trips represented the first time in at least two years that I had seen most of our immediate families! It was good to be back.

This fall, I went back to school. I'm officially a Temple University student pursuing my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. I have finished my first semester, and have signed up for my last semester starting this January. Three classes in addition to work and the Cub Scouts with Ian means I'll be pretty busy the first half of this year.

Merry Christmas everyone! As always, we have been truly blessed in our health and happiness. We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year! Cheers,

Marc


Hmmm.  Where to start?  I've had writer's block for a couple of days on what to put here.  This year has just flown by!  Marc has covered out travels and our big move stateside.  One of the big things I did before we moved from Germany was I had sinus surgery.  I have mixed feelings about having it, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time.  I also am on different allergy medicines now, and it seems to have helped.  This was the first fall in years that I haven't had a sinus infection.  So, I'm making progress.

The other big thing I did before leaving Germany was try to get rid of and sell as much stuff as I could so we didn't have to unpack it on this end.  Some of this was successful, some not so much.  I have been good about starting to go through everything again and taking a bag or two to consign every time I head to the thrift store, along with some donations.

Then came our move with a search to finding a new place to live and then heading to see family in Miami & Ohio for a few weeks.  It was great to see everyone after we had been gone for so long!  Then it was back to the new place and unpacking and getting the kids headed to school.  The kids seem to be enjoying their new school with only a few hiccups along the way.  Both have been making some new friends.  They also have been taking swim lessons and Ian is a boy scout.  Leah is dying to be a girl scout & sell cookies, so watch out for that!

I spent some time towards the end of this summer doing some canning and freezing of the summer produce from our local farms.  I canned salsa, peaches, and pickles.  I froze blueberries, raspberries, roasted marinara sauce, and some other random produce items (pureed nectarines, pureed strawberries for ice cream, blanched squash, carrots, green beans, leeks and more).  The kids could eat a jar of peaches every day, so I've been rationing those.  Probably will try to do a few more jars of that next year.

Besides volunteering at the church and thrift store, I've also been working part time.  I have been working as an assistant at one of the local cooking schools, and hopefully will start teaching classes in the spring.  I also joined The Pampered Chef as a Consultant.  If any of you are looking for any items for your kitchens, or would like to have a web/catalog party, my website is: www.pamperedchef.biz/skinner  Finally, I've also started to take pictures and write down some recipes so I can start blogging again.  It's been awhile, but so many of my facebook friends have been asking me for recipes of what I've been cooking I just decided to get the blog going again.  The web address for that is www.catalinamuse.blogspot.com  Probably won't be an everyday thing, but it should be fun and it will allow me to share some recipes & pictures easier than at facebook. 

So, overall life is good.  Turns out I had more to say than what I thought I would!  I hope each and every one of you has a Merry Christmas, and to my Jewish friends a Happy Hanukkah. 

Catherine


I've been having lots of great Christmases and I've been getting lots of toys & I can't wait until next Christmas.  This one is only 3 days away! My special year is going to be this year. I love how Jesus has a birthday. 

Ian

This year  I  started kindergarten, and I met someone in the second time and her name is Taliah.  My teacher is so great, I love her in all my heart.  I love the gym teacher (at the school) because she does all fun activities like balloon lollipop bounce.  Merry Christmas!  The special thing about Christmas is it is Jesus' birthday.  And I also want to say Ho, Ho, Ho.

Leah







Saturday, December 17, 2011

We went for a walk today, actually a couple of walks today. We all bundled up a bit for a nice walk prior to lunch. We had some gorgeous sun and blue skies and just had to take advantage of the awesome weather. It was in the high 30's, so chilly...but oh, so awesome in the sunshine.

This is a trail that runs very near the house, about a five minute walk to get there. There wasn't moss on the trail this past summer, but it did add to the greenery.


After lunch we packed up and drove 15 minutes into Olympia to the Tumwater Falls Park. It is a city park along the Deschutes River with three natural water falls, one man-made water fall, and interestingly enough a Salmon chute to bypass the falls at the bigger falls.

We walked along both sides of the river, which was a pleasant walk. Afterwards there is a playground there that the kids got to play on. I took some photos - here is Catherine in the last of the afternoon sunlight.


And Leah...


And Ian...


This bridge here is at the bottom of the man-made falls. You either cross the bridge at the beginning of your walk or at the end if you make the loop. I'm still trying to figure out the best vantage point for this, I just couldn't get a good shot from the other side, which is visually more appealing. However the sun was so bright that the water just wasn't playing nice for a good photo.


And here is me being slightly evil. Yes, these will come in handy many years from now (cue the "mwa-hahaha" evil laugh)!


Leah got in on the fun too.


After this the kids went to the Hands-On Children's Museum for a Kid's Night Out. Catherine and I got to enjoy a nice movie (New Year's Eve) and dinner (greek) with just each other. It was a nice minimally belated birthday present.

Have a wonderful day everybody. We plan on it!

Marc

Saturday, December 10, 2011

getting out in Tacoma

Nothing exciting today. Catherine was working at her cooking school, so I decided to take the kids back to the Point Defiance park just north of Tacoma. Unfortunately, it started to rain while we were there, but that didn't stop us from walking about for a bit and enjoying some fresh air and a nice walk.


Afterwards, we drove down to the little park near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The kids had a nice time playing on the beach, watching some kayakers come in, and burying them in questions and unrelated comments. The kayakers were good sports about it :)


Have a great day everybody!

Marc

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Fair at Fort Nisqually

We had a nice day out as a family yesterday. We drove to Tacoma up to Point Defiance Park to take in the "Hyas Sunday" Christmas Fair that is basically a re-enactment of a typical Christmas season from 1855. There is an old timber fort there with several cabins and a house inside the walls where settlers came.

The kids had a nice time exploring, playing with the old-timey toys, churning butter, and making ornaments. We found someone to take a nice photo of us as a family.


After that we made our way back to Joint Base Lewis McChord for a Christmas festival where Santa was making an appearance. Ian was sitting across from me while we ate lunch, so was made my photo target by default.


And Santa did finally show up. Leah and Ian were both very excited to see Santa.


Enjoy your day everybody - we plan on doing just that!

Marc

Friday, November 25, 2011

Daily dose of vitamin D on Black Friday

I can't stand crowds, so rather than brave the masses the kids and I went for a walk. We are having some sunshine, which is a very welcome break!

Nothing much new here from yesterday, aside from the nice weather.


There is a nice trail nearby that leads to the local park/playground that the kids just love. I took about every opportunity available to snap some photos.


I was wearing my Packers hat, and Leah stole it! Possibly the cutest little Packers fan in the world...


Ian had to get in on the action - quite the handsome boy!


At the end of playtime, while up on the elevated portion, Ian and Leah both wanted their photo taken while looking down at me.


Have a wonderful day everybody - we are!

Marc

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving


The Skinner family in Washington hopes you've all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have soooooo much to be thankful for this season, most of all that we are together.

We've had a nice quiet Thanksgiving, capped off by a nice glass of wine and a warm fire in the fireplace while the kids play nicely upstairs. Hard to get any better...

We've been busy as ever, with Leah having a bit of a recital, of sorts, at school. I've posted just one song, which Ian loves to hear before he goes to sleep. 

video

Here is a photo of Leah taken at the school shortly after the recital. She was so glad that I had the day off and could come see her at school - but then again so was I.


The big surprise here was a last minute opening to see a dress rehearsal of the Nutcracker in Seattle. It was my first foray into the ballet, and of course Leah was beside herself. She would have much rather been dancing than watching, but all in all both Ian and Leah had a great time. We may have to look into other shows playing there, turns out culture is pretty nice!


After the show Ian and Leah wanted their picture taken in the lobby with the Nutcracker guy. Glad we brought our cameras!


Happy Thanksgiving, hopefully you've all had a great one!

Marc

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veteran's Day Weekend

We've been enjoying a nice long weekend here in Washington. I had Thursday and Friday off from work, and did some sightseeing both days. Thursday was a (rare) beautiful blue-sky kind of day. I hadn't planned on making a trip to Mt. St. Helens, but since loads of snow was forecasted for the mountains starting Friday, I figured I'd head out for one last hurrah.

I went to the northeast side of the park. There is one road in that is closed in the winter, which I'm guessing closed literally the day after I was there. I made my way to the end of the road with some great views of Spirit Lake and Mt. St. Helens (not to mention the other volcanoes nearby - Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier).

The whole point of this trip was to make my way to Norway Pass - which was going to involve some hiking, but only about 2-2.5 miles one way with less than 1000 ft. of elevation gain their. I was surprised by the snow, but wasn't completely unprepared. Luckily there was only about 6 inches at elevation. This shot below was taken only about 5-10 minutes up the trail from the parking lot looking west.


And here is the stunning Norway Pass. I'll definitely make my way back here come next summer - June or July by the time all the snow melts. It has phenomenal views of Mt. St. Helens towering over Spirit Lake looking south, and then turn around and look at Mt. Rainier to the north. I was pushing my luck as far as the timing goes. I waited until just a bit before sunset to take my photos, then I had to pack my gear up in a hurry and high-tail it out of their before it got too dark. Luckily it was mostly downhill the whole way, and I made good time.


Friday, since the kids had the day off from school, we made our way to Seattle for a bit of sightseeing. The Space Needle was high on our priority list, with Ian most keen to go there. The view was nice, the weather not so much. As part of the ticket to the top, they take your picture in front of a green screen and drop in this background. It wasn't like this at all on Friday!


After taking in the Space Needle, a museum, and then walking around a bit around the Seattle Center, we drove to Kerry Park. It has a beautiful overlook of the entire city, and if the weather cooperates, Mt. Rainer (I'm pretty sure the backdrop from the photo above was taken at Kerry Park). The weather wasn't cooperating, but it was still a beautiful view over both Seattle and Puget Sound.


Finally, my own obligatory panoramic-style photo of Seattle. This is another place I'll be coming back to in the future. Most likely next summer when the chances for clear skies are much more likely.


I hope everyone enjoyed their Veteran's Day! We did.

Cheers,

Marc

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another walk at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge Area

After church this morning we came back home. Since the sun was shining I originally thought about heading to Mt. St. Helens to do some exploring - but it was already almost 1 o'clock which didn't leave a ton of time, so we decided to head to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge for the afternoon again.


It was a chilly day, but the sun made it pleasant. We went further out on the boardwalk than last time, and saw a ton of geese.


On our way out, we saw a bald eagle sitting on the top of this tree, however I wasn't able to get my camera up in time before he took off for somewhere else.


Gratuitous shot of the two kids together!!!


Have a good day everyone. Later!

Marc

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Local walkabout

Okay, so nothing newsworthy happening here. But I did get the camera out and get some photos of the kids, which is really what this blog post is all about. Ian and Leah!

For some reason, Leah has taken to sticking her tongue out a bit when she forces a smile.


Ian is his usual happy self...


So after the photos at home I took Ian and Leah for a walk on a path through a local woods. Leah and Ian brought their camera that they were given for Christmas. Here is Leah's handiwork:


And here is Ian's handiwork:


Both of those photos had only minor cropping applied - what you see is very close to what they put into the camera. They're already outdoing their old man! I don't know why, but this last one makes me think "album cover".


Have a wonderful day - we're looking forward to the extra hour of sleeping in...

That, or having the kids wake up at 5 am tomorrow morning. Either way, should be a good one.

Tschuss!

Marc

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ian's Cub Scout Uniform

The title pretty much says it all. Ian has joined a local Cub Scout Den/Pack. We've been to a couple of Den meetings and a Pack meeting. So far, so good. Ian really enjoys having fun with the other boys.

My handsome boy...

Have a wonderful day everyone!

Marc

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's Halloween!

It's almost Halloween, and the kids have been anticipating the sugar rush for some time. While it isn't time for trick-or-treat here yet, there was a party on the Air Force side of Joint Base Lewis-McChord today that we took advantage of. That and the rare sunshine!

So we dressed the kids up, loaded them in the car, made the trek to McChord, and went to have some fun. We did! Ian was a hit as Captain Rex, and Leah was a fairy princess, as you can see.


Since I messed up the loading of photos into Blogger, this one is out of sequence, but what are you gonna do? This was from a walk along a trail not far from the house (walking distance). It was the best of the bunch; my girls...


After the trip to McChord, I took the kids to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge for a walk along the boardwalk. We didn't go at a good time for photos, but it was a nice walk through a tidal estuary - and the ducks/geese were out in force. Ian and Leah had a great time running along the elevated boardwalk looking for ducks.


I don't know why I enjoy the shots of Ian and Leah either walking or sitting from behind, but I do.


Have a wonderful day everybody, we sure did.

Tschuss,

Marc

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spirit Lake and Tolmie State Park

Just some more photos from Dan and Leesa's visit. The first photo is a panorama of Spirit Lake. Again, those logs are the trees that were blasted into the lake from the eruption in 1980 - what is left of an old growth forest. If you look close, just right of center, you can see Mt. Adams looming in the distance. At one time we were looking at Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood in the far distance.

Photoshop failed to make the panorama, so I found a great program - Hugin, made by the same folks that make Handbrake (puts your DVDs on hard drive). I'm not sure what is up with Photoshop, but this is not the first time it has failed to make the pano.


Ian or Leah took this photo below with my camera. It was Sunday afternoon, after Dan and I watched the Packers trounce St. Louis (undefeated!!).


And this is one that Dan was kind enough to take with my camera of our family. Good looking bunch, if I do say so myself.


Have a great day everybody. We sure did.

Cheers,

Marc

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake

We have some friends over for the weekend, and while Catherine took Leesa and the kids to the Farmer's Market, Dan and I headed to Mt. St. Helens for a short hike. We made our way through the gray, overcast clouds not really anticipating a good day weather-wise. Along the drive up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, we passed through the low-lying clouds and fog and into some beautiful blue skies.

This photo below is from the same pullout from our first trip, just better weather. If you look carefully (click the image for a larger photo), you'll see Mt. Adams in the background in the far left.


Dan and I took the Boundary Line Trail, which was a largely level trail. There is one rough section where those with a fear of heights will turn around. Luckily, neither me nor Dan are afraid of a 1000-foot drop-off and just a narrow foot path to traverse. Mt. St. Helens looks much better as it has been coated with a new layer of snow, probably the first of the season.


We made our way to Harry's Ridge; I have no idea who Harry is! However, he had a beautiful vantage point of Spirit Lake and Mt. St. Helens. Mt. St. Helens is five miles distant.


This final photo is of Spirit Lake, with Mt Adams looming in the background (left edge of the low-lying clouds). Those trees floating on Spirit Lake are the remnant of the old-growth forest that was blasted into Spirit Lake when Helens erupted in 1980. Apparently the lake rose over 400 ft. in elevation from pre-eruption levels. It has been left untouched since the eruption.


That's it for today. I'll have more photos in a future post from our weekend. Cheers!

Marc

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just foolin' around

Since I had my camera out yesterday, it made me think to grab my flash and such for some photos today.

Not my favorite photos I've ever taken, but I do enjoy them!


Leah was having so much fun with her photos that we had to stop literally after every shot so she could: a) chimp the LCD on the back of my camera and b) roll on the floor laughing. This was about as non-silly as it got.


Enjoy your day everybody, I know we will!

Marc