Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday's Photo of the Day

The other day (Wednesday), when I was in Iowa City, I had a couple errands to run before going to the library and heading to class.

After I finished my errands and headed back to my car, I realized that I'd never taken a photo of a local church I think looks cool. And since I had my camera, I thought I'd take the opportunity and do just that . . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Here's a welcomed bit of color on a dreary day. I passed this tree on my way to class yesterday at the University of Iowa.
Anyone know what kind of tree this is?

Of course, by the time class started, the sun had started forcing its way through the cloud cover. It was a nice treat to walk out of the anthropology/archaeology building and into the sunshine! And today, Iowa City's weather should be pretty nice and spring-like! (Though the wind gusts may make me a bit of a nervous driver as I make my way on I-380!) There's a small chance of a thunderstorm later today. I hope it happens; we could use the water!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to being able to take "The Spring Shot 2012" pretty soon! (Here's "The Winter Shot 2012," to refresh your memory.)

Friday, March 23, 2012


Just a spring shot from downtown Iowa City:

And the same photo with some texture applied (with Picnik):

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Virtual Vacation

(Yes, two posts in one day. Can you tell I'm procrastinating?)

Okay, so it's midway through the semester. I have a ton of research, writing, reading, and studying to do.

And yesterday on the first day of spring, I caught a cold that feels like it's throwing a frat party in my body. Yeah, one of those colds.

So I figured I needed a little vacation. Since now is not the time to pack up and take an actual one, I figured I'd look through my photos from when we lived in New Mexico and take a virtual one. I found three photos from White Sands National Monument that I haven't shared, yet, so here they are.

These were from February 2007. We'd gotten some winter rain earlier that week, if I recall correctly. So as we were driving around looking for a place to park, we'd occasionally drive past pools of water. They looked so cool against the white sand, which itself was stunning against the bright blue sky (though the sand is stunning no matter what). Since Livie (almost a year old at this point) had fallen asleep in the car, I pulled over to the side, left Andrew in the car with her, and jumped out to get a few photos, including a couple water ones.

Yesterday's View

The view from my study spot in the library, yesterday:

This photo was taken with the camera app on my HP tablet. 
(The room where I was studying, by the way, is much brighter than indicated in this photo.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Jumpy Friend

Yesterday, the last day of spring break, felt more like the last day of summer vacation. With the crazy, mixed up winter weather we've been having, it felt more like summer. Yesterday, it ended up being 81 degrees here in east central Iowa!! Ugh. I thought we were heading into spring!

(To tell you the truth, I haven't been enjoying summer's early appearance. While I absolutely love the sunshine, the heat and humidity combination? Well, it just sucks. I'll take southern New Mexico's high temps and 7% humidity any day!! If there's one weather-related condition I complain about, it's the heat/humidity combination. I will never (or very rarely) complain about cold temps, snow, frost, or anything like that. I may complain a bit about wind and ice, but that's just because they make driving unpleasant/dangerous. The one thing I really do NOT like? Humidity. Especially with rising temps. Just warning you, the "season" that I, ahem, may start complaining about the weather has started. However, it's also the season I typically want to become a "storm chaser"! Hahaha!)

Anyway, since it was sunny and such beautiful spring weather hot out, we decided to get outside and get some exercise. Livie rode her bike, and I walked.
Can't complain about sunshine and blue skies!!
And while we were out, Livie got really excited about something we saw. See, she likes to occasionally watch Curious George on PBS Kids. There's a recurring "character" on that show, and his name is "Jumpy Squirrel." Livie thinks he's so cute (as is George), so she calls every squirrel, "Jumpy Squirrel." Yesterday, we just so happened to see "Jumpy Squirrel."

Since I had my camera with me, she insisted we stop and get some photos. I got a few before he scampered away. She was SO excited about the photos, by the way! She loved that he "posed" for the photos.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What Did We Do on St. Patrick's Day?

Well, first, Livie got a hair cut (just a trim), and asked the hair stylist to put it back in a ponytail at the end of the appointment. It was barely long enough for one; the stylist almost couldn't get it into the ponytail, but she obviously got it in the end! Livie loved it.
She also loved her St. Patrick's Day shirt!

And what else did we do on this winter day? (Because technically, it is still winter.)
Yep, it was 79 degrees, with a heat index of 81!
It's hard to believe it's only mid-March here in Iowa!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Break Adventures Part III

Okay, here are the final photos from our spring break trip.

Monday evening included dinner at P.F. Chang's. Yummo. (I had an "Asian Pear Mojito" with my Chang's Spicy Chicken - both were delish!!) Liv had the kids' chicken with "sweet and sour" dipping sauce and a Shirley Temple beverage (the first time she'd ever had one). She loved that it was fizzy and pink!

Monday evening, Abuelita and Livie pose with the big P.F. Chang horse.

Tuesday morning included breakfast with Abuelita at the Cracker Barrel. It was Livie's idea to go here, and we appreciated the good idea. Livie had blueberry pancakes, while Abuelita and I each had pecan pancakes.

Before we'd left, Livie insisted on looking through the store. She'd ended up begging me for a stuffed animal lamb. Since she has a TON of stuffed animals at home, I'd said "no, not this time." She then asked me to take a picture of the particular lamb she'd wanted since she couldn't take the actual toy with her.
Here's the photo she wanted, since she wasn't able to get the actual stuffed animal.

Back to the house we went so we could gather our things and say goodbye before hitting the road.
Livie poses with her grandmother and great-grandmother before we left.

Of course, since Livie was a bit sad about leaving, I promised her we'd stop and get a treat at Caribou Coffee before heading out. Okay, she got a chocolate milk; Mama got the iced coffee. She likes stopping at Caribou because there are a couple of her "bear friends" who hang out there.
Livie and her bear friend and a cold chocolate milk. Mmmm!

Of course, we also had to stop at the "germ pit" (a.k.a. the kids' play area) at the nice mall. I wanted her to get the "wigglies" spent before we had to drive  2.5 hours home. Plus, we were able to get lunch in the food court (and use clean bathrooms) before starting our drive.
Yay! Blue skies!

She had to pose while playing.

Posing (again) for the camera.

I'm just glad we had good weather (though it was a bit windy at times, out in the open farmland).
The typical Iowa view on the drive east on I-80.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Break Adventures Part II

More photos from our Spring Break Adventure!

Abuelita went with us to the Science Center of Iowa on Sunday, because we wanted to see an IMAX movie called "Sea Rex" about the "T-Rex of the Seas."

We had just about enough time before the movie started to look around a little bit; we spent some time letting Livie play afterwards, too. Here are lots of photos.
Livie's pretending to be surprised by the Sea Rex poster.

Posing in front of a natural Iowa landscape in one part of the Science Center's permanent exhibits.

Livie's touching the plasma globe (no flash used) in the permanent "Space" exhibit.

Livie and Abuelita are looking at the plasma globe (flash used, this time).

Livie and Abuelita are "on the news"! They got to pretend to do the weather on TV (along with another kid).

In the IMAX theater, waiting for the movie to start!

After the movie, we let Livie play for a little while. They're putting "produce" on a conveyor belt.

Livie's putting on a puppet show. She's peeking out to say, "Abuelita, are you watching it?"

There's one more batch of photos on its way!

(You can see the Part I photos here.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Break Adventures Part I

Okay, I know I haven't been around lately. That's because Livie and I are both on Spring Break (fortunately the University's break coincided with Livie's elementary school's break). We headed to my parents' house for a few days; it was time for Livie to spend some time with her grandparents and great-grandmother, Oma.

And when I head to their house, I usually just bring my tablet. It's hard (and time consuming) having to  peck the touch screen with just two fingers, so I refrain from writing blog posts.

Anyway, here are a few photos from the beginning of Spring Break.
Iowa City on my last day of classes (Thursday March 8) .

I-80, heading west toward Des Moines.

Farm land, late winter.

Common Iowa scenery.

Livie reads to her great-grandmother, Oma.

Oma poses for a photo.

Oma tries tickling Livie. Livie moves a little too fast, though.
The remaining photos will be coming soon!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

There He (She?) Is!!

We've got a number of wild turkeys here in our area. Very rarely, we'll see one (or a couple of 'em) crossing the street a few blocks from where we live. This prompts numerous "Why did the turkey cross the road?" jokes, if Livie's in the car with me on one of these rare occasions.

There's also a large field near a wooded area (kind of near one of our local parks), where we'll see a few wild turkeys roaming about, once in a while.

And on my way to the university, as I'm making my way through a residential area on my way toward I-380, there is a house with a large bird feeder in the back yard, in a spot easily seen from the street. It's not unusual for some bird seed to have "escaped" from this bird feeder (or any feeder, I suppose), sprinkling the ground like goodies from a piƱata, the birds' (and squirrels') favorite treats, scattered within easy reach.

Well, at this particular house, I will, on occasion, see a number of turkeys partaking of the scattered bird seed. It's happened often enough that I expect to see them more often than not. Sometimes, there are just a couple, but I've seen as many as six (!!) at one time, all gathered around the bird feeder, enjoying what's fallen to the ground.

But the turkey I've seen most frequently? It's a lone turkey at the intersection of Collins Road and C Avenue NE. Sometimes it's at the northwest corner, and sometimes it's at the southwest corner. And once, at twilight, I saw it crossing right in front of my car! Fortunately, I saw it in time to slow down and safely come to a stop.

Usually I see this particular turkey in the late afternoon or early evening when I'm on my way home from school. Usually I'm by myself, so I can't exactly drive through the intersection and take a photo at the same time. And if Andrew's driving and we see it? It figures that I wouldn't have my camera handy.

But yesterday, on my way home, as I was thinking to myself that I was thankful that the days are growing longer, I found myself at a red light at this particular intersection. I was in the left-turn-only lane with a number of cars in front of me - maybe about 6-8; I was the very last car in line. Anyway, as I looked out my window toward the northeast corner waiting for the light to turn green, there he (or she) was! And wouldn't you know, I had my camera sitting on the passenger seat! I just had to take a picture!

You'll have to excuse the glare from the windshield. I had to take a quick shot because the moment I picked up my camera and turned it on, we'd gotten the green left-turn arrow, and the cars in front of me had started to move.

But because of the length of time the left-turn-only light stays green (or rather, how quickly it turns yellow, then red), not all the cars in front of me got the chance to turn left. So I had an opportunity to move forward a little bit and take a couple more photos of this turkey.

It's always fun to see him (her?) on those occasional afternoons it's out there. I know very little about ornithology or bird watching, so I don't have a clue as to whether it's a male or female. I suppose it's female because I've never seen it "puff up" or display its feathers like a male? (I suppose I'll just call it "it.") But what do I know about birds? (Not much! Haha!)

I'm always worried that it's going to get hit by a car, but it hasn't, yet. And I've seen it there 1-2 days a week for the past few months, so either it's been either very lucky as it crosses a busy street, or it's figured out how to cross the street.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Now This is What I'm Talking About!!

I love winter. I really do. Cold weather doesn't bother me (the static, however . . . ). I love getting out in the snow. It's refreshing. Some of my best memories of family vacations involve downhill skiing over various Christmas breaks.

I'm also one of those people who absolutely cannot stand heat and humidity - in other words, your typical Midwest (or Southern, or East Coast) summer; those hot, sticky, muggy summers when my glasses fog up the moment I step outside? Blech. No, thank you! (Dry heat is another matter; low humidity heat is easy to handle!) I'll take cool sweater weather - or cold winter weather any day over a hot, humid day. 

But when we get days and days of overcast, gray, depressing skies, with no hint of sun for who knows how long? Well, it starts wearing on me, to the point I think I need one of those S.A.D. lights.

Sure, I spent quite a bit of my life in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa), so I know what to expect from its weather. But I've also spent a lot of time in the Southwest where we easily get over 300 days of pure sunshine a year - when it rains, the clouds move in, do their thing, and are gone before you know it. Rarely did we get more than a day or two of overcast skies at any one time.

So now that we've settled in Iowa (for now), I get really excited about sunshine after days of not having it. And today seems to be one of those days when it'll be nothing but sunshine - no "mostly sunny" or "partly sunny" skies, but "sunny" all day.

The sun (and a cup of coffee) really make Monday mornings so much easier to handle!

Here's the view from the back yard (through family room the window), as I tried to capture some "snow glitter" in photos:
Sun, snowy sparkles, and shadows.

Snow, some more sparkles, and shadows.

I tried to capture all the sparkles, but I guess the angle was wrong. Got a few of them, though.

And the view from the front yard (after putting on my boots and heading outside, realizing after I got out there, it was not much more than a disappointing "dusting" of snow in the yard):
No clouds!! Blue sky!! However, I didn't really capture any "snow glitter" in this photo. The snow glitter was actually pretty dazzling in person.

I have to admit, though, that with Spring's "official" arrival coming up in a couple weeks, I'm looking forward to not having to bundle up in so many layers (and spring shouldn't be too overly warm, yet).

More importantly, I'm really looking forward to taking "The Spring Shot, 2012" on the University of Iowa's campus (here's The Winter Shot, 2012). I've been thinking about it for the past week or so. I'm pretty sure I won't take it on the first day of spring, just to ensure a more "springy" and less "wintery" look, but it'll be hard to wait too long.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Your Sunday Best, March 4, 2012

"Your Sunday Best" is a weekly photo challenge hosted by A Rural Journal.

Here's my "Your Sunday Best" entry for this week:
Livie's birthday flowers; in a photo, they'll last.

Please click on the button below to view other photo entries:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Snowy March . . . and Coffee

Yep, Mother Nature sure is showing us who's "boss." Yesterday, she flurried all day long.
This was about 8 AM. By the time the flurries stopped late in the afternoon, we had a good, wet coat of snow.

Today, of course, is mostly sunny and really windy.

Actually, the wind started last night, and hasn't stopped yet. It sure made for good, spooky Ghost Adventures watching with all the howling going on outside.

And in honor of morning, I had to start the day off right (like I do every other morning), with a big ol' mug of coffee, flavored with some hazelnut creamer:
I got this mug in Santa Fe (obviously) when Andrew and I spent 24-hours there (which was definitely NOT enough time).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Elevators and Coffee

I may have spent a little a lot of time being homesick for the Southwest yesterday (especially since my class' reading was about the Southwest, and our professor spent our class time going into detail about Hopis and Navajos in the Four Corners region). I did, however, end up getting to walk around in some weak sunshine as it tried breaking through the clouds. Walking AND sunshine always seem to be such mood-boosters (that and a good night's sleep . . . which I should be accomplishing, finally, tonight).

By the time I got to Iowa City yesterday, the complete (and seemingly permanent) cloud cover I'd had in the Cedar Rapids area had broken up a bit, and was letting some sunshine filter through.

I'd planned well and had gotten to school with plenty of time to get a coffee after parking at my usual parking garage. However, while I did get the "FULL" light again, I was fortunate in only having wait about 3-5 minutes before the gate went up, letting me through.

Anyway, I was really looking forward to getting a special treat - not just a regular cup o' joe, but a flavored coffee from The Java House; I was strongly leaning toward their double "caramel white mocha" (double, meaning the barista adds an extra shot of espresso). I try not to go there too often, because when I do, I usually end up getting one of their mocha-like beverages, and I'm absolutely sure those are laden with lots of unnecessary calories! (I really don't want to know because I'm sure it's a really scary number!!)

So as I was slowly driving through the parking garage, looking for a space (and going up, and up, from the lowest level to the next to the next . . . ), I was trying to decide what kind of coffee treat I was gonna get, the regular mocha or the caramel white mocha . . . and would they have some Mexican chocolate cookies this time? (I'd seen them in their bakery case once, but hadn't gotten one. Ever since, I've been so curious about what they tasted like, being a fan of Mexican hot chocolate . . . and mole.)

A-ha! A parking spot on the 4th level . . . and off I went toward the elevator, and minutes away from a caffeinated treat! Just the idea that I was treating myself to a once-in-a-while sugary, caffeinated beverage treat seemed to boost my mood.

But before I walked the few blocks to the coffee shop, I noticed something cool. Okay, I've noticed it before, but this time, the light bulb went on over my head. I had my camera in hand . . . I could take a photo. Of what? The light pattern the elevator's ceiling lights give off on the metallic elevator walls:
Not the best photo, but it gives you a decent view of the light pattern. I had to snap the photo quickly because it was just about to ding at floor "1" and open its doors.

And then to show you what I appreciate about Iowa City, I took a photo of the "Ped Mall" (the Pedestrian Mall), which has plenty of shops, restaurants, the Iowa City Public Library, and is located fairly close to some of the campus buildings where a couple of my classes are held. Yes, the skies are doing their best to clear up.
I especially like this area in the spring time (but my allergies don't) because the leaves are starting to burst out of their buds, and you can feel the vibe starting to change as the season changes.

I enjoy walking through here, regardless of the season, though. (I like winter, but not just because I like snow and cold temps, but because they have those little white lights adorning the bare trees at various points throughout the Ped Mall - they're very festive against the white snow.)
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