Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Family Photo

I finally got around to pulling the card from the kids' camera and seeing what was on there from our Yorktown trip.  A kind lady offered to take our photo when she came on one of the kids taking our photo.  So we had a chance to get everyone in a photo.

In other news, I passed my American College of Healthcare Executives Board of Governor's exam.  In a couple of years I will become a board certified fellow - which is pretty exciting.  It definitely opens up other career possibilities once my military career is done (no time soon).



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Yorktown and Jamestown

This past weekend we went down to Yorktown and Jamestown.  Catherine scored some free tickets, so she booked us a night at a bed and breakfast about a 5 minute walk from the "downtown" and from the battlefields.

I brought my camera along for the trip, and what follows is a random collection.  The Yorktown Victory Center had a nice replica town and army encampment area.  The town had a some old clapboard cabins that had weathered beautifully, which served as a nice backdrop for several photos, like of Ian (above).

I don't know if the homes were really this well kept or appointed, but this cabin certainly had some old world charm.

Like I said, the old siding really appealed to me.  The holly was a nice Christmas touch.

I couldn't resist getting the kids together...

Down by the army encampment there were actors demonstrating how cooking was done, how muskets were fired, and what medicine looked like back during the Revolutionary War.  And of course, they had a cannon (this one is a field gun).

Leah got to take part in pretending to fire the cannon.  I think she was glad it wasn't a real shot, because it left off a pretty good boom just to shoot some gunpowder.

Ian wanted to check out the cannon, which was roped off prior to the demonstration.  The actors were kind enough to let him come up and even posed with him.

Ian is thinking of running for quartermaster for his Boy Scout troop, so this Quartermaster tent was pretty neat for him to check out.

After we had checked out the Victory Center, we went to the National Park, which now occupies the former British fortifications.  Leah wanted to do the Junior Ranger program, so here she is taking a bit of a break from walking around to fill out the form.

After a full day of sightseeing on Saturday, we made our way to the Bed and Breakfast - which was delightful.  The two brothers who own the place are interesting, with a beautiful home that their grandfather built.

Sunday we did the auto tour of the battleground of the last major engagement in the Revolutionary War.  From there we went to the Jamestown settlement and toured that, followed by a stop at the Jamestowne National Park, which is the site of the actual Jamestown settlement.

Have a great day!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Night at the (Wax) Museum

Ian had a school function tonight, where all the kids in his class prepared a backdrop, brought props, and got dressed up for a person he or she admired.

The parents waited out in the hall, and then the teachers brought us in while all of the kids held their poses (like they were the wax figures).  Kind of fun!


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Fun

Sorry for the late post, I wanted to get this posted yesterday - but you know what they say about the best intentions...

Anyways, we traveled to Tennessee to visit family for Thanksgiving.  Chris and Arlene were wonderful hosts.  We had turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread, and cranberry sauce.  I know I ate like a king.

Since we had driven the 5+ hours, we weren't up for much after Thanksgiving lunch/dinner/supper (is it lupper or dunch?), which made for a nice and relaxing evening.  I was tired enough that I couldn't hang for the first half of the Green Bay game, which looks like it saved me from some disappointment.

The next morning the kids helped to make breakfast.  Chris, Arlene, Catherine, and I lingered over dishes chatting for a good while.  We then went out to lunch, and then walked State street, walking on the Virginia side on the way out and the Tennessee side on the way back.

We saw this cool country music statue along the way.  From there, Chris and I sampled a couple local brews, which was nice.

The kids both had a great time playing basketball at Chris and Arlene's.  So much so, that Catherine found a great deal on a portable rim, and we now have it up in the driveway.  Have a great day!


Saturday, November 21, 2015


Catherine and I took the kids out of school today so that we could visit Monticello on our way through to Roanoke.  I have a continuing education course that I will be attending, and brought the family along for the trip.

Catherine signed us up for a behind the scenes tour, which got us up on the second and third floors.  Apparently this was opened to the public only this year, which was pretty cool.

Have a great weekend everybody!  Pardon the poor photo and brief post, both were done on my phone...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Photo fun with the kids

Since it has been some time since I've posted, and since I've taken some photos of the kids, I thought I'd break out the camera tonight.  My flash gave me a bit of heartburn - I thought the batteries were dead, so I recharged them, only to find that the flash still didn't work.  Fortunately, after messing with the battery door for a bit, it started to work again.

I got the kids to give me their best "bored" look, as well as some others, just for a different look.

We've been busy here.  Ian and I went to a Boy Scout camp last weekend that had us up until almost 3 am walking in the woods.  He has his Board of Review for his First Class Scout rank, which puts him half-way to Eagle.  He has been working hard and having fun with this new Troop.

Leah is involved with the Girl Scouts.  Catherine takes Leah to those meetings, so I can't say for sure how much Leah is enjoying the Girl Scouts, but she says she still likes it.

Hope everyone enjoys the photos of the kids.  Cheers,


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dolly Sods Wilderness Area

This past weekend I met up with an old friend from high school, and we hiking at Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in West Virginia.  We were hoping to get a hike in with some fall color, but due to the elevation, the majority of the leaves had already turned and fallen, I guess by about 2-3 weeks.

We both got to the trailhead a bit after dark.  That made finding a campsite pretty difficult since it was pitch black.  Nevertheless, we put on our headlamps and walked away from the road for about 100 yards, and found a clump of trees to tie our hammocks to.  We had seen the weather forecast and knew that it was supposed to be cold - and the weatherman was NOT wrong!

After admiring the milky way, we both turned in.  We got up before the sun rose, and at first, it looked like we might catch a nice sunrise, since the stars were still out and only a few, high clouds were around.  That all changed quite quickly as a ton of clouds moved in with the wind (had I mentioned the cold wind?!?).

That didn't stop us, though.  We continued to pack up and headed back to the cars and in to Bear Rocks Preserve.  The sunrise was a bit 'meh, but that could be the cold and wind talking.

After admiring the sunrise, we went back to our cars, cooked a warm breakfast and repacked our backpacks.  We then headed into the Dolly Sods for a nice hike along the Bear Rocks trail and the Raven Ridge trail.  We found our campsite a bit after lunch, and set up our hammocks, ate a hot lunch, and collected firewood.  We then sat around the fire for the rest of the day and night.  Everyone that passed by loved the fire and were amazed at the hammocks.  It spit snow on and off for the whole day after we set up camp, so we thought we were prepared for a cold night.

We were not.

Okay, I'm being dramatic.  I went to bed with a bottle full of boiling water, which helped keep me warm.  My cold feet/toes woke me up about 1, but that was nothing that my still hot water bottle couldn't fix.

When we woke up, the skies were clear again, but we had frost on the ground, and ice covered all the non-moving bodies of water.  Did I mention it was cold?!?

We got an early start to our hike out.  We both agreed that the hike out led us through beautiful terrain, and was our favorite trail in the Dolly Sods.  Thankfully the wind was at our backs once we turned towards the trailhead, but it was strong enough to push us around with our backpacks.  After we packed our cars and hit the road, it was 11:30 and only 35F.  I don't know what it was with the windchill, but we spent a couple of really cold nights in the hammocks - but it was totally worth it!

Have a great day everybody!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

my musical children

Ian and Leah both took up orchestra this year.  Ian chose trombone,

and Leah chose violin.

Let's hope they stick this out!



Monday, October 12, 2015

Mount Vernon

Yesterday we made the trip to Mount Vernon, George Washington's place.  We had a beautiful fall day, sunny skies and comfortable temps, with which to share it with 10,000 of our closest friends.  Sarcasm aside, I think Catherine and I enjoyed walking the grounds, but the kids were not terribly impressed.  Well behaved, but unimpressed.

We started off at the Washington's distillery and gristmill, which had very few people there.  Catherine and I guess that people go to the mansion first, and then just figure that the gristmill and distillery will be packed, too.  We were glad it wasn't packed, though.

From there we went to the mansion and toured the grounds and the house.  The tour was a bit of a let down, as they just have people posted in different rooms, saying the same spiel about every 30 seconds, with a constant stream of people moving through.  It was nice to see, but not high on my list for a repeat visit.  Have a great day everybody!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Shenandoah National Park

So I learned a valuable lesson yesterday...never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line don't expect to camp at Shenandoah National Park without a reservation!  Every campground and every room in the lodges were completely booked.  The roads were pretty packed, too.  But that didn't stop Ian, Leah, and me from having a great time.

Catherine had a girl's day out planned for Saturday, so I was going to take the kids to Shenandoah National Park to go see the autumn colors and camp.  One out of two wasn't too bad.

Once we found out that the campgrounds were full, we hiked around the Big Meadows area, and then made our way to Old Stony Man to check out the views.

Leah found a little trail that took us to a different overlook that we practically had to ourselves for the whole time we were there.  The kids read their books while I prepared dinner.  Afterwards, the kids did some climbing on the rocks and we did a little exploring.

We were never too far from our gear, and once the light started to get interesting, we went back so I could take some photos.  The photo below has very little saturation boost, as any more starts to look unbelievable - but this is pretty close to how I remember the beautiful, late evening light right before the sun set.

Since the clouds went away at sunset, we stayed until it got dark so I could show the kids how to find the North Pole (they were soooooooo excited to be able to find and see the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia, as well as the North Star).  Once it got dark enough, the galactic core of the Milky Way (must be specific, Ian doesn't hesitate to tell me that all the stars we see are in the Milky Way) finally became visible.  Again, both kids were super excited to see the galactic core of the Milky Way, Ian even called for a fist bump!

This is a photo I took of Ian and the galactic core of the Milky Way.  While it doesn't look this way to the naked eye, after 20+ seconds of exposure, it really starts to stand out.  Ian is a bit blurry because of the long exposure - he was lit up with my headlamp for a couple of seconds, and remained in place for the remainder of the exposure.

Once I was finished photographing, we all turned on our headlamps, and hiked the mile or so down to the car.  I am so proud of both kids - we spent 4.5 hours up on Old Stony Man, the temperature dropped from mid/upper 50's to low 40's in the hour around sunset, but there was no complaining (it didn't hurt that I packed extra warm gear just for them).  And they both talked about how cool it was to see all those stars and the arc of the Milky Way across the night sky.  So while we didn't get to camp, we did get to see a fine autumn day and see new things in the night sky.  I'd call that a definite win!



Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ian camping with the Boy Scouts

Ian had a campout with his new Troop this weekend, and had a blast!  The Scoutmaster has a house on Lake Anna, and hosted the Troop for this campout.  Saturday was a full day of activities, which Ian used to work towards his advancement to Second-Class Scout.

The water there was super warm, about 80-85F, so the boys spent about 4 hours swimming and jumping off the dock.  We woke up this morning to a pretty awesome sunrise.

Ian was up early, partly because his tent-mate got up to go fishing at 6:30 am.  Ian was lucky enough that his tent-mate's father brought some extra fishing gear, and let Ian do some fishing.

Ian caught two sunfish, both of which were kind of small, but Ian was rightly proud of his catch (and release)!

Later, we went for a 5-mile hike and then Ian finished up some requirements for his First-Class Scout rank.  Here he is jumping in to "save" a swimmer, he has a rope tied around him, then swam around the swimmer, pulled her up from behind while the Scoutmaster (on the dock) reeled them both in to safety.

All in all, we both had a great time.  Hope everyone has a great day.  Cheers!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Trip to the National Mall

Well, we finally made it into the city to see some of the monuments and memorials on the National Mall.  Catherine and the kids humored me by waking up pretty early, but that meant the place was not packed, and parking was close.  We started out at the Lincoln Memorial.  I did a bunch of work in Perfect Photo to get rid of the people in this photo, which was probably unnecessary, since there really weren't that many people standing and sitting around.

No post-processing was necessary to get rid of people from this (and the next) shot.  That is a benefit of arriving early, you don't have to share time with Mr. Lincoln.

We spent a good bit of time at the Lincoln Memorial, which was the primary purpose of this trip.

We arrived about five minutes before sunrise, which was pretty.

The low angle of the sun made for some very warm light.  Even though the sun was low, it was still bright when standing in the full sun, so we had to get into the shade.

This one Leah took with my old camera.

Once we were done we decided to take a walk around the reflecting pool.  We started out towards the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which I had never seen before.

Then we headed to the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Tidal Pool with a view of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, back through Constitution Garden, and past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  All this by 9:30 am!

After our trip we headed back home, where we are enjoying a lazy Labor Day.  I hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day.  Cheers,


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Stony Man Mountain

Like I wrote about in the previous post, we waited about 30 minutes from the last thunder to head up to Stony Man.  The sun broke out while we were there, which was quite nice.  A couple was there and they offered to get our photo:

And this is the view north, with bits of Skyline Drive visible.

I think we may head into DC tomorrow, here's hoping the weather tomorrow is as nice as we had today (lucky dogs in Shenandoah...)



Saturday, September 5, 2015

Shenandoah National Park

We made a quick dash to Shenandoah National Park this weekend to have a getaway for Labor Day.  It was very last minute, which meant we only had two nights due to all campsites getting booked well before we booked ours.  We had a bit of a late start, since I worked a full day Thursday, and then got caught in traffic.  By the time we made it to our campsite, it was fully dark.  Thankfully this wasn't my first time putting up this tent.

We got the tent put up before the rain came.  We were surrounded by lightning and thunder for a good bit of the night, but thankfully no heavy rain.  I woke up early the next morning to photograph sunrise, but that fizzled.

So I went back to the campsite, where Catherine and the kids were already awake.  We made breakfast and then went to the Visitor's Center to pick up Junior Ranger booklets for the kids.  Wouldn't you know it, they changed the booklets the day after we picked up ours, and changed the requirements from 12 to 5.  Needless to say, the kids were busy.  Ian put up a bit of a fuss, but was all smiles when he got his badge.

During the morning ranger walk (above), it started to rain on us, and really came down pretty hard.  It rained off and on for the rest of the day.  We couldn't stray too far from the car (though we did manage to climb the second highest mountain in the park) since every time we did, we got hit with lightning, thunder, and/or rain.  Prior to climbing Stony Man mountain, while the kids and Catherine were still in the car, I was off checking out the sign about the trail.  There was lighting and thunder in the area, but a little distance away.  Until I was reading the sign, that is.  Simultaneous flash and boom led to a quick dash to the car!  We waited until well after that storm moved away, but even then, our time at the top of Stony Man was short since I didn't want to be up when another storm rolled in.

After that, things settled down for a bit.  We did a nice hike up Bearfence trail, but the viewpoint wasn't that great.  That, and another series of storms started to move in, so down we hiked.  We drove the mile or so north to my chosen sunset location and cooked dinner at the overlook.  We had to eat inside the car since another storm was moving to the west of us, with lightning and thunder.  That eventually passed (do you detect a pattern?) and we walked down to our sunset location, where sunset fizzled.

It was nice to hang out with the kids, and they had a great time playing (until they got bored at the end) and taking their own photos.  We made it back to our campsite, which had been dumped on by the rain, with a little bit of sunlight left, just enough to change and crawl into bed.  That is when the rain started, in earnest.  It rained on and off the whole night and into the morning.  We stayed dry - but are definitely glad to be home for tonight with our gear drying outside.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend everybody!