Saturday, December 31, 2016

Merry Christmas (part 2) and Happy New Year!

From The Villages, we made our way to Miami with just a couple of days before Christmas.  Part of the fun was hanging with Pop Chauncey.  I was having difficulty getting my flash to work for this photo, otherwise everyone was looking at the camera.

Christmas Eve we loaded up and went to the Chapel of the Venerable Bede (where Catherine and I were married).  Ian got to acolyte and read one of the lessons, Leah was in the choir and also got to read some prayers.  I think they enjoyed taking part in the service.

We met up with my cousin Jon - I got to meet his wife and two kids for the first time.  We met at a park and then we hightailed it to church.  Nancy came ahead of everyone else to help get the kids ready for the service - everyone else was cutting things close, so I grabbed this photo of just us and Nancy.

Christmas came not too early, and Santa was good to everyone.  The kids had a great time for the small gathering (below) and also for the big gathering (30-40 people).  All of the kids received gifts during the big gathering - there were so many presents spread out on the floor, it was hard to walk.

We stayed a couple more days after Christmas, enjoying Rogue 1 with the whole family as a nice getaway.  The last morning I talked everyone into stepping outside for a family photo.  I took four shots, and this was the best of the bunch.

As I write this we are just a couple of hours away from the new year.  This past year has been challenging, to say the least.  Through it all, Catherine, Ian, Leah, and I have been deeply blessed.  We wish you and your family all the best this holiday season, and pray for a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

God Bless -


Friday, December 30, 2016

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone - sorry for the late blog post, but we just got back late yesterday and had a bunch of errands to run today.

A couple of weeks ago, we loaded up and took the auto train from Virginia to Florida.  It took off about an hour before dark, so we didn't really get to see much aside from random Christmas lights along the way.  We did have our own sleeper car, which was comfortable and the kids really enjoyed.

We arrived early the next morning, and made the short drive from the train station to Dad & Pam's place in The Villages.

We spent one day around The Villages, went to the Universal park to see the Harry Potter World, which was great fun.  Leah was singled out at Olivander's Wand Shop and got to participate in a little show where she was chosen by her wand.

We also took a day to run into Silver Springs and take a glass-bottom boat tour.  I think the coolest part was the anhinga diving under our boat - I wasn't quick enough with the camera to get a shot of that, though.

We finished that off with a short walk around the place, including the lucky palm tree, where both kids cooperated for a photo.

It was a short stay, but we had a great time!

From The Villages, we made the drive to Miami...the next blog post...



Sunday, December 11, 2016

Family visit

Mom and Chuck came for a pre-Christmas visit.  We went to check out some of the monuments and memorials in DC yesterday, but it was cold with a pretty strong breeze, so that didn't last too long.

Today was church to watch Leah sing in the choir.  Tomorrow we will probably head into DC again to check out a museum.  All in all, a whirlwind tour.

Have a great day!


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Leah's Prayer Shawl

Leah received a nice prayer shawl from the Women's Group at our church for her tonsillectomy a week or so ago.

I thought I'd take a couple of photos of her wearing it.  Turns out I love this photo - I think moody portraits are my style (only because I can't get the light and airy ones to turn out).



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Happy 20th Anniversary!

I can't believe I've won the lottery 7,300 straight days in a row!

Thanks for a good start - here's to another round of 20...



Saturday, November 26, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  We hope yours was filled with great food, great family, and great fun.  Once again, we made out way to Bristol, Tennessee - only this time, Christina came down, too.

We drove down on Thanksgiving day, and the traffic wasn't bad at all.  We arrived in time for a great meal, and proceeded to chat and graze our way through the remainder of the day.

The next day, Christina had to drive back to Memphis so she could work Saturday.  Chris and Arlene offered to take us to Bay Mountain Park to walk around outside for a bit.  Leah expressed an interest in wolves, and as it turns out, Bays Mountain Park has a wolf enclosure, among other things.

We walked down to the lake to see about hiking around it, but Leah still wasn't quite feeling up to it.  Since she had had her tonsils out just two days prior, we cut her some slack.

We hiked just a short distance in either direction along the shore, with the last bit terminating in a dock...

...where I took the opportunity to grab a couple of photos.

From there, we went to see the lions, tigers, and bears wolves, deer, and bobcat.

Leah's favorite animal is a wolf, so she was thrilled to see them, especially since they were a bit active.  I had to shoot through a double fence, so you can see the moire pattern - but I didn't think it was too unpleasant.

There were several deer in the deer enclosure, but just the one buck.

Chris said he hadn't seen the bobcat out quite so clearly as when we were there.  The weather wasn't warm, but wasn't really all that chilly, either.  I think the animals were enjoying it as much as we were.

Ever the budding photographer, Ian borrowed Arlene's camera to snap some photos of the bobcat.

We all had a great time, followed by a very nice lunch on a riverfront (in Kingsport?) and later with desserts from Blackbird bakery.  All in all, a great way to spend the day!

Happy Thanksgiving,


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Escarpment Trail

Last week I met up with an old friend for a backpacking trip - a bit more than a year from the previous trip, only this one was planned to be a bit longer and harder than the last one. I looked for some places closer to home, but ended up choosing the Escarpment Trail in the Catskills mountains of New York.

I met Jason at lunch near the trailhead, where we had our last hot meal indoors for a couple of days.  We drove to the trail's end, loaded up my car with his gear, and then drove to the trail head.  It was spitting snow, but nothing that stuck.  We hit the trail with a couple of hours of daylight remaining.  We both had heavy packs - Jason's was the heavier and he was working on a couple of hours' sleep.  We made it a couple of miles in to a shelter, where we had enough time to set up our hammocks and start dinner with some daylight.  We had a nice fire to drive off the cold - but just like last year, that didn't last long.  It was a cooollldd night.

We woke up the next morning and hit the trail.  The trail, while I'm told is popular, was fairly rough for a good majority of the hike.  These roots comprised the trail for a little section of the first climb up High Windham mountain.

We made it to the top, along with a bunch of other people, pausing long enough to catch our breaths and snap a couple of photos.

That night we settled down at another shelter, ate a quick meal in the darkness, and then crawled into our hammocks almost immediately.  It was a long day of hiking.  Next morning, we got up, filled out water bottles and set up for a steep climb right off the bat.  We climbed up Blackhead mountain, which was the highest point (almost 4000 feet) of the hike.

From there, we hiked up and down the surrounding mountains.  For lunch, we found this nice spot overlooking the valley with a lake, below.  While the wind was cold, the sun felt great, and it was nice to get our backpacks off our backs for a bit.

We then hiked a good ways down, where we had to get water for the rest of the hike.  Thankfully Jason brought his water filter, since the "spring" water had a bunch of leaf litter in it.  You can see the ugly brown water before it was filtered into clear, delicious water.

We didn't get as far as we had hoped, but missed that by maybe a mile or so.  We ended up camping on a mountaintop not too far from a plane crash.  We woke up extra early, and walked out from there.  The final high section of the trail was at these cliffs overlooking a couple of lakes.

We had to hike down these cliffs - probably the gnarliest part of the hike - to get back to Jason's car.

All told, we hiked about 25-26 miles in three days over some decent elevation with poor trail conditions (in places, otherwise just rugged).  Once we got to our cars we found a little diner where we had a hot meal, and then we parted ways to head home.

It was a great hike, glad I had someone to share it with.  I'm looking for the next hike, I need to do a bit of planning to get it for warmer weather.  Have a great day,


Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Sunday after church and a haircut, I made my way to Shenandoah National Park.  I've been wanting to get a photo from Old Rag mountain when the leaves were near peak color, and the weather forecast was predicting quite a light show.  Although, there was a chance for rain.

I took my chances and hiked up to the summit, and enjoyed the clear blue skies and warm sun while I waited for sunset.  Unfortunately, a storm did move in, but it was mostly to the north of me, but headed my way.  The wind picked up, and with about 15 minutes before the sun set, there was some lightning to the north, so I packed up and headed down hill.  It got dark fast!  And it started to rain about 2/3rds of the way down.  Fortunately, I was prepared for both darkness and rain since I knew I was going to hike out after sunset and there was a good chance for rain.  About a mile from where I parked, I ran into a family of 4 who had taken a wrong turn.  They would have had to climb back over the mountain - without flashlights or rain gear with the temperature falling - to get to their vehicle.  Fortunately, I was prepared to do good (and had been to where they had parked their car, otherwise...oy!).

Anyways, the moral of the story is be prepared when you head into the outdoors, and be prepared to offer a helping hand.

The kids had a great time trick or treating this year.  Catherine posted a couple of photos to Facebook, so these may not be terribly new.

Leah was a wolf.

Ian was the Black Panther/ninja hybrid.

Have a great day!


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Great Falls National Park

The weather forecast was promising for a beautiful sunrise this morning.  Unfortunately, there weren't any clouds in the sky - but that was probably for the best since the National Park Service couldn't get the gates open in time.

While not the prettiest sunrise, it was well worth the effort to get there and watch the sun come up with the sound of the river and falls mostly to myself.

Have a great day!


Saturday, October 22, 2016


I was just going through my photos for the year, and noticed that I didn't have enough photos of Ian.

So I pulled out my softbox, asked Ian to come in, and I snapped a couple of photos.  He graciously played along.

Crisis averted.

We originally had a Scout campout planned, but rain, snow, and wind in the mountains cancelled it.  It was a beautiful day here - except for the bee stings.  I was trying to cut down some ornamental grass when I got zapped about 10+ times.  Ouch!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fall Festival at Hartland Farm and Orchard

We had some friends visit this weekend, and we decided to head out towards Shenandoah for a fall festival at a farm.  It turns out I've had my eye on this place, since it is right off the interstate not far from Shenandoah - beautiful rolling hills with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the near distance.

The farm had a nice corn maze, which we wandered about.  Catherine managed to get her hands on a map, so I got to put my rusty map skills to the test.

There was an apple cannon (yup - we definitely fired it) where we got to shoot at some 55 gallon drums and a beater truck.  After that we wandered over to this bouncy thing, where the kids thought they were having a good time until I got on there.  That's when the real fun began!

After that we enjoyed some caramel apples and a pig race, and then drove up the road a bit to pick a bunch of apples.

It was a warm, sunny day - great way to send off summer and bring in fall.  Have a great day!


Monday, September 5, 2016

Last day of summer

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Today was the last day of summer for the kids.  We went to the local community garden to volunteer a bit of time, came home and played some pickle ball, then relaxed the rest of the day.  Not a bad way to send summer packing.

It has been a crazy summer - Leah's surgery, Ian's broken arm, visits to see family, family coming to visit, camps, and campouts - all in all, I'd say we had a blessed summer.  Here's hoping yours was blessed, too.

Tomorrow starts a new school year for the kids.  Leah is excited to ride her bike to school and see her friends, Ian is nervous about starting middle school - but both are ready for a great year.



Saturday, September 3, 2016

Summer fun

I feel like I've been slacking on the blog, lately.  As some of you may know, I've been busy with grad school, but as of August 13th, I graduated with my MHA and MBA degrees from Baylor University.  It feels great to not have home work or a giant graduate management portfolio hanging over my head!

So while I have an excuse for limited postings these past couple of years, we'll see how things improve in the future.  For now, let's bring us all up to speed.

I broke out the big lights outside with the window prop for Leah's photo.  I had Ian to help hold a diffuser up to keep the dappled/direct sunlight off of Leah.  I think it turned out fairly well.  Leah is recovering very well from her surgery.  Her spleen is functioning normally, so she won't need antibiotic therapy until she is 18 years old - yay!!!  Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and prayers - she is our walking answered prayers.

Same day, different lighting set up.  Leah held the diffuser for this one, but I did away with the window (Ian is too tall and made framing the shot difficult (I wish I knew more words that began with "diff-" to pack into my sentences...).  Ian had his cast removed a week or so ago - he is quite thrilled about that.  He continues to work on his Scouting stuff, he should make his Star rank sometime this month.

In very delayed news, Dad and Pam came for a visit and we got to play tour guide.  Fortunately, we only charge ice cream for our services.  The kids chose the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in downtown DC - I think we all had a ball!  The photo below is them standing in front of some video footage of our sun.

We made a trip to see Annapolis to check out the boats (whoa - loads of money there!) and walk around the downtown area.  While we were there we checked out the State Capitol building, and we ate at a great little restaurant that Catherine found.

In between a big tour of all of the Monuments and Memorials (Korean War, Lincoln, Vietnam, WWII, Washington, Jefferson) we also got to walk around old town in Alexandria.  We found a bunch of great restaurants that I think Catherine and I will try to hit for some date nights (I hope).

I hope everyone is well.  Cheers,


Monday, August 8, 2016

Ian's cast

I thought I'd follow up to Ian's cast.

He loves his camo...


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Solo hike up Old Rag Mountain

I have been wanting some wilderness for a while, I finally got off my butt and made the effort.  I woke up pretty early to get to the Old Rag parking lot by 7 am.  Too bad my cell phone with google maps didn't have coverage, so I missed my turn, but still got there by about 7:30.

It is about 2 miles up, pretty much uphill the whole way, but nothing terribly steep or challenging, until you hit the rock scramble.  The photo below was taken on the doorstep of the rock scramble - or at least the difficult part.  It starts with what I call a slot chimney - about 10-15 feet down for a 20 foot distance.  You have to use arms and legs to make it down, and that is just the start!

There are rock "caves" and keystone rocks (a rock that fell and got wedged between two other rocks, without blocking the trail) to crawl over/through/under.  All in all, it was a very enjoyable hike, but I'm glad I didn't try to bring Catherine or the kids.  No way, we would have had to turn around - it was pretty dicey in places.

The reward for making it to the top is the remarkable view, seen above.  This is actually shot directly at the place where I made the photo immediately preceding this one (the wee little rock outcropping in the lower left).

I continued the loop hike on the way out, which was pretty unremarkable, except for the hordes of people.  I did manage to find this peaceful series of little waterfalls off the fire road, which made a nice break.

It was a short trip, but the sun was out and the wind was blowing.  It was just what the doctor ordered!



Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Wow, it's been quite some time since I've posted.  Lots has happened since May, but most recently (last night), Ian broke both of the bones in his left forearm while running around and playing at his Boy Scout meeting.  That took a bunch of fun out of it...

To make matters worse, Ian had just started a fencing camp in the area, which he was really enjoying - though he had only taken one day of lessons.  He wanted to show off his stance with the wooden sword we bought when we lived in Germany.

Needless to say, Ian isn't taking fencing lessons the rest of this week.  

Have a great day - enjoy the update!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fun at the local playground

These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago at the local playground.

The kids enjoyed hanging upside down.

But what they really liked was me spinning them on the merry-go-round.

By now you've probably heard that Leah is having a surgery next week - what we thought was appendicitis turned out to be a pancreatic cyst.  Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.  I can't wait to get my little girl back to "normal"!