Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ascension to Chicago 360

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I thrive on adventure, going places, meeting new people. I’ve said yes to eating the hottest pepper in the world and going out on a piece of glass (the skydeck) to look straight down at the Chicago city below. The competition to the Sky Deck, meet the Chicago 360. It’s home is the John Hancock Center, a 100-story, 1,228-foot building. That’s a lot of floors! Designed by Brue Graham and engineered by Fazlur Khan, this building was brought to a completion on May 6, 1968. It was at the time the second tallest building in the word. It now holds the title of the eighth-tallest building in the US.

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The views are remarkable. You get to look out to an all around view of the city, see up to four states, and look a distance of 80 miles out.

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Some may say that facing your fears is the best way to cure them and I find it to be true. I have a “slight” dislike of heights and figured that going on the Chicago 360 and then the Sky Deck (a jump up from the 360) was a great way to cure those feelings. I can proudly say that on top of being 94 floors up, I was tilted outward over the city of Chicago, 1,030 feet to be exact. It was only a couple minutes for $7, but well worth the experience. Just don’t be embarrassed like me by being called out while trying to take a picture with your phone. I was so mesmarized that I didn’t realize that they were talking to me until they started counting. Super embarrassing, but what’s a good story without some personal accounts? http://www.360chicago.com/tilt/

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Visit to Shedd Aquarium Chicago


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If I could use two words to describe Shedd Aquarium, they would be, magnificant and mesmerizing. It’s not every day you get to hear balooga whales make sqeaking noises or watch a large sting ray glide by right in front of your face. Mind you, it’s $40 dollars for an adult ticket, but worth every cent. So here is a word of advice, when choosing to drive your car, park in the planetarium parking which is in walking distance of the aquarium. If you get there before 9:30 am, you get the early bird price which is $11 as of the time of this posting. Just be sure it’s not on the day of an event because when we came back to see the plantarium, parking was $49! For obvious reasons, we passed this up and called it a day. These are all the little things they don’t tell you in the tourist websites.

Website: http://www.sheddaquarium.org/ 

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Shedd Aquarium opened on May 30, 1930 and for awhile was the largest indoor aquarium containing 5,000,000 US gallons of water! That’s far greater than your average pool. Just to get a little perspective an average depth for an inground pool is 5 feet. A pool that is 12 ft. x 24 ft. holds 10,800 gallons. Big difference, right?! (Photo of Copperband Butterfly Fish).

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To me the Clown Fish will always be Nemo. It just instinctively comes out that way. Do I have any nods of agreement? With such a beautiful spectacule of creation, I’m reminded of how great God is and how detailed he is.

The Wild, The Wacky, and The Exotic:

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Red-bellied Piranha that live in the Amazon River Basin. They are mainly scavengers and foragers, but they can pose a minor risk. So is what the movies show true? Here’s the truth, during the wet season, there is plenty of food, but caution is advised during the dry season around April to September when the waters are much lower and food is less plentiful. Above all do not swim with these fish with an open wound! Few of us will tred these waters, but hey, you learned something new!

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Looks like some sci-fi creature. Check out that glare!

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Pictures of Exhibits at The Shedd Aquarium

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With Lake Michigan being the over view for Shedd Aquarium, it makes sense they would have an exhibit dedicated to it.

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The Carribbean Reef exhibit.

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The smiling sting ray.

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I hope you enjoyed getting a taste of this beautiful aquarium!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Free Things to Do: NC Botanical Gardens at UNC Chapel Hill

 

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As the weather increases in warmth, gardens are coming alive with activity. Before the heat really sets in, my family has been visiting as many local gardens and nature parks as possible. The best time to go to gardens are early morning. If your schedule permits, week days are best. We’ve done exceedingly well at finding the free ones and who wouldn’t go for that? Whether you want a nice morning stroll, want to spend quality time with family, or exerise your photography skills, there are so many options. It was well work the 45 minute drive out to UNC Chapel Hill. It is very well kept and tended for. You won’t be disappointed!!

Website for North Carolina Botanical Gardens at UNC Chapel Hill: http://ncbg.unc.edu/visit/ 

Visiting hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9 am – 5 pm
Sunday: 1 pm – 5 pm
Closed Mondays and University Holidays.

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A spot you won’t want to miss is The Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden. There is said to be 500 species and cultivars. An important addition to the collection is the rosemary collection from the herb society of Americas. The herb amove is chives which is known for its oniony smell and flavor. I love adding a sprig of it to many different dishes.

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You won’t want to miss the carnivorous plant colection complete with pitcher plants, sundews, and butter warts which are all a part of the southeastern United States.

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Herbs attract beneficial insects like this ladybug going for a spin on this cilantro plant.

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Other gardens to highlight are the native plant border gardens with a variety of native perennials, shrubs, and small trees. Native plants are vital to our ecosystem. They provide homes for many creatures large and small. They are the plants that have resided here long before any ornamentals were brought in. They may not have the largest and showiest of flowers, but they belong here where as invasives can desimate a habitat literally squeezing the life out of plants. So do your research when choosing flowers!

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What I found most invigorating was the botanical garden’s commitment to using environmentally responsible gardening pratices. They work closely with local, state, and regional conservation organizations. They put to practice their mission which is “To inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature.” When we support gardens, farms, and local places that are promoting environmentally responsible practices, we aren’t making an impact just a day or even a week, we could quite possibly be making an impact for generations to come. For it is one choice that can have a dominoes affect that will inspire other to make positive changes in their life. The NC Botanical Garden at UNC Chapel Hill is inspiring that kind of change.

Please drop me a comment and share with me your favorite gardening spots in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham area. If you know of any sustainable projects locally, I might be able to take a trip there and feature it on my blog.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Historic Tour of NC State Capitol

 

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Stepping foot in the North Carolina State Capitol is like entering a whole other era as it is so well preserved with the originality firmly entact. It was completed in the year 1840 with a Greek Revival style of architecture. The Capitol housed the General Assembly until 1963 which they moved into the Legislative Building, but the office of the Governor and Secretary of State have remained. The Capitol proudly holds the title of Raleigh Historic Landmark and sits in the center of Capitol Square. If you desire to visit you can join the 100,000 visitors that come each year. You can be part of public tours at designated times or take a self-guided tour which is especially nice if you like to take your time with photographs and observing.

Capitol tour: http://nchistoricsites.org/capitol/STAT_CAP/Tour.htm 

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The Rotunda is a key focal point of the Capitol. Upon entering, you will see the 1970 copy of the George Washington statue by Antonio Canova. As you can see, my visit took place during Christmas which is one of the prettiest times to visit in my opinion. There are several plaques around the Rotunda giving tribute to several important people and events from North Carolina’s history.

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The Rotunda has a beautiful ceiling at the top of this three story building.

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The second floor contains the House of Representatives Chamber and Senate Chamber which comerced there until 1961 when it then moved to the North Carolina State Legislative Building. Both are a tribute to the important decisions made for North Carolina state.

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The third floor was my favorite. This is where the State Library Room was located from 1840 until 1888. It has a staircase that leads to an upper level lined with shelves after shelves of books. The collection grew from 2,000 volumes to almost 40,000! It was in 1888 that the overflowing library had to be moved to a larger building that could contain it. Now what remains is a showcase of what it looked like back in the day. The main collection is now located in the Archives and History/State Library building on Jones Street. History comes alive when you get to visit destinations that are preserved in a way that is memorable for all.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Overlook at Pilot Mountain

 

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In late afternoon, I began a road trip with a group of friends with our destination being none other than Pilot Mountain. The sun was beginning to set as the Hybrid we drove struggled to reach the top. We followed the road as it took us on curves and closer to our goal. The air grew thinner, but the excitement thickened.

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When we arrived, there was a slight coolness in the air. Though we didn’t get a clear view of the sun set, you can see some pink on the horizon in this picture. This is a view of Big Pinnacle Overlook from Little Pinnacle Overlook. The mountain befoe us was a white quartzite monadnock. Pilot Mountain is part of the A.V.A Yadkin mountain. It rises up to 2,421 feet above sea level and expands across 3,703 acres! A combination of hours in the car, tiredness, but a feeling of amazment washed over me as I gazed at the valley directly below us. 

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If you look out and beyond, you can see some pristine, untouched forest along with homes resting in the valley. It looks so peaceful and almost undisturbed. Further out you might even catch a glimpse of Hanging Rocks State Park which we conquered the following day.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer Awakens Garden Life

 

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It is that time of year when the heat of the summer is upon us, but it is also the time when flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, and butterflies are beginning to emerge. This year, I’ve got squash, large tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, and butterfly plants in my garden. The chocolate mint has really been a sensation this year. News of it has been spreading around the preschool that I work at and my dad has been drying it to distill. Other exciting happenings, are that my hollyhocks (picture below) are blooming with it being their second year and my native Common Milkweed is getting flowers. I’ve been waiting two years to see them bloom.

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Hollyhocks getting ready to open.

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A bumble bee enjoying lavender.

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Yarrow which is a herb used for fevers.

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The squash and zucchini have started producing. I’ve got an entire row for them, though it looks like the squash borers might soon steal my family’s feast. With gardening, you’ve got to get used to the fact that you will have to compete with insects and animals in the battle for food. It is all part of the journey. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing pictures from my garden.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Our Gentle Giant Blizzard

 

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I guess you could say it was love at first sight. A bond between our sheep and a young puppy. Blizzard isn’t just any dog. He is a Great Pyrenees, a giant of the dog world. The breed has been used for hundreds of years as a guard dog. They can be gentle and affectionate, yet highly protective against strangers or animals that would harm the animals they are protecting.

Blizzard is part of our family. He can be stubborn though. Mom used to take him up our stairs to say hello, but one day he decided that it was not time to return to his domain. I had an idea. What if I could lure him back into the fence? I grabbed a spring of parsley, doubting it would be found appetizing, but boy was I wrong. Blizzard took after me. Our neighbor starred as this large dog chased after me with my mom close behind. It did the trick. He ate the parsley and then went for my pocket knowing that another parsley leave was inside.

 

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Blizzard is now 7 months old and still growing! He will continuing getting bigger until 2 years of age. We are teaching him not to jump on us and have manners. I was sitting on the bench one day and then all of a sudden Blizzard was licking all over the back of my hair. He is quite the licker.

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Blizzard spending time with Cody. Blizzard came home July, 2015.

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He will always be our puppy. You can see the video of him coming home here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzKhjyKEpnE