Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Keeps Pounding Us

We have had more snow this year than any since 1960. Winter has just been relentless and the utility bills reflect it. Even when we were on vacation in Hawaii and had the thermostat set low, and didn't turn on any lights, or use hot water (an all electric home), we still had a record high electric bill for January.
We do keep the birds fed. Sigrid loves to watch them eat and fight over the seed. It is important to keep the woodpeckers strong and healthy so they peck really big holes in our stucco.

This morning, after the ice storm yesterday, we had a nice sunrise with light glistening on all the branches. The photos don't do justice to the beauty that we could see.

Snow and shade.
Sigrid found a nice poem to go with the photo.
"There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the
still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig,
is clad with radiance."
- William Sharp

Sometimes it is fun to try some new angles and close-ups. It can get a little abstract. The detail would be easier to see if you clicked on the photo to enlarge it. Use the "Back Arrow" in the upper left corner to return to the blog.

The adventure in these photos was walking around on the icy ground without falling.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Schedule For Future Adventures - 2010

Having fun is a lot of work. It also demands a fair amount of planning to maximize the fun and avoid the pitfalls that can ruin a good time. We are hard at work on our next adventures and I though you would be interested in what we are doing. Some of these adventures are pretty much locked in and others are still being explored as possible adventures.

March 23 - Topeka, Kansas

I know that many of you are thinking "whoopedo....Topeka". Give Topeka a chance. We will be visiting Cedar Crest, the historical Governor's Mansion, having lunch at the Great Overland Railroad Station, the Kansas State Capitol Building, and the Charles Curtis house. Charles was the only Native American to serve as the Vice President of the US. We will learn lots about Kansas and hopefully have some good photo opportunities.

April 17 - Independence Table Tennis Tournament

I am the Tournament Director for this tournament. We have run this tournament twice a year for the last three years to generate income for our club and to provide a playing opportunity for all players in the Midwest. We should have about 45 players for the one-day tournament.

April 18 - Wamego Kansas Tulip Festival

I will probably be mentally and physically exhausted after putting on the tournament, but we don't get to pick the day that Wamego shows off it's tulips. Driving into the Kansas hinterland isn't real exciting but we hope the festival is fun. As you might expect, there should be plenty of tulip photos on the blog if the weather is good.

June 23 - "Flowers and More Flowers"

This is a bus trip that Edel DeMaria and Sigrid will take to several flower gardens and historic homes around Topeka, Kansas. The trip is a function planned by Edel's Garden Club and Summit Seniors Trips (a service of The Bank of Lee's Summit). I am not making this trip. I will be over my annual quota for trips to Topeka and the State of Kansas by this time.

Other Possibilities Under Consideration

We have been talking about a trip to the Amana Colonies in Iowa for the last several years. this may be the time to do it. We may also turn it into a longer driving trip to Wisconsin and Michigan while we are at it. Sigrid hasn't been to either of these states before so this would be another step towards our goal of visiting all 50 states. All that would be left for us would be the Northeastern states and we could wrap that up in one good driving trip next year.

We are also looking hard at a nice cruise. Australia/New Zealand has been our favorite for some time, but we just got an offer from Holland America to cruise on their new ship for 24 days in the Mediterranean at a great price. I am having a hard time passing this one up. The dollar has improved against the Euro and there may never be a better time to cruise with all the rate cuts being offered. The cruise starts in Venice and ends in Barcelona. Along the way, they stop in Dubrovnik, Corfu, Olympia, Athens, Istanbul, Mykonos, Santorini, Messina, Rome, Florence/Pisa, and Monte Carlo. This one trip covers about every place we would want to go in the Mediterranean. Now that's an adventure.

More later as we make decisions.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Culture Shock

No more warm days, gentle breezes, soft Hawaiian music playing, waves crashing on the shore, palm trees swaying, birds singing, and flowers everywhere.............another month sure would have been nice.

Yesterday's three inches. The weatherman says more is coming Monday. Temperatures are going to dive to single digits. more needs to be said.

Hawaii Post Script

The Hawaiian Adventure is complete. Over the 19 days that we were on the islands, Sigrid and I took nearly 3,000 photos (about 12 gigabytes of storage). About 500 of those photos made it into the blog. I gave the new Samsung netbook a real workout and it did fine. I still have a few keys that are a little sticky from the wine, but I think they will get better with time.

The trip was a wonderful experience. The weather was perfect the entire time. The temperatures were just as I hoped they would be....80 F for the high and 70 F for the low of the day. We visited four islands. The trip to Lana'i was our first.

The only downsides to the trip were the rental cars. Alamo's cars were dirty and not maintained. We have rented our last Sebring. Mustangs have to be better. Car problems really didn't put a dent in the overall adventure.

We are back home to snow and cold. I guess 19 days wasn't enough. Our major challenge now is to plan the next adventure. We have several day trips lined up in the next few weeks that we will blog so keep watching. Another way to follow the blog is to sign-up for notification of new posts. That way you don't have to check all the time for new stuff. There are several ways to subscribe to the reminders on our blog page. At the end of each posting there is a link to "Atom" which will send you new postings if you have your RSS Feeds working. If you already have Yahoo or other types of log-in ID's, check out the subscription links for those.

If you go back to the first posting, you will see that blogging was an experiment to share photos and commentary with family and friends. I really liked the way it worked and I will keep blogging in the future. Amazingly, we have had over 1,000 people check out the blog from four continents (North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia). We have lots of friends and family in Germany, so Europe wasn't a great surprise. However, we did have several other European countries represented. I do know that our blog turns up in Internet searches on the "Key Words" we used and even in the text of our postings. One of the visitors did a search on "Ko Olina Wedding Chapel" and found us. Pretty neat.

More later.

Day 19 - Going Home

January 30, 2010 - Saturday - Big Island

Our last morning was spent packing and whale watching for the last time. There was another family coming to the condo on Sunday, so we had to be out by Noon. Our plane didn't leave until 6:00 pm, so we had lots of time to kill. We spent about three hours at the condo bar & grill over lunch. It was pleasant.
Here are a few more whale photos. People in boats are supposed to stay 100 yards away from the whales, but nobody was doing that today. There are actually four whales in this one photo.

The Kona Airport is "open air". There are no enclosed waiting areas.

The Boeing 777 awaits us.

Day 18 - Hanging Around The Condo

January 29, 2010 - Friday - Big Island

Today is our last full day on the islands before going home. We have accomplished everything we set out to do on our trip, so it is a good day to just relax. If anyone got short changed, it was Edel. She likes sunbathing at the pool and we haven't done much of that so far. Today and what we have of tomorrow are her days to enjoy. Sigrid spent a good part of today exploring the two shopping malls located on the resort property. I worked feverishly on photos for the blog (I got behind and am still catching up as I write this).

It is amazing to realize that this entire resort was once a vast lava field without any vegetation just a few years ago. Now it is a lush and luxurious resort with golf courses, exotic hotels, condos, shopping malls, restaurants, and lots of great landscaping. Hundreds if not thousands of Hawaiians have jobs thanks to this development and the tourists who come to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii and golf.
Here are a few more photos.

The condo had a nice bar & grill near the pool. We enjoyed a very leisurely lunch there. We could even watch whales from the restaurant.

Later that evening Sigrid and I returned to the shopping mall to get a little to eat. A local dance school was putting on a hula show with some of the students. Cute little girls danced their hearts out for the audience.

Day 18 - More Whale Watching

January 29, 2010 - Friday - Big Island

It is early Friday morning and we are all at our normal positions around the table for breakfast and whale watching. Edel spent just about every spare moment at the condo on the patio looking for whales.

I just wasn't ready to be photographed so early in the morning. The Rasin Bran wasn't getting the job done. I needed Cheerios.

The waves crashing on the shore just beyond our condo were relaxing to watch.

I kept hearing this faint noise coming from the bushes. I couldn't quite make it out, but it almost sounded like "Geiko.....Geiko".

We had been working hard on getting pictures of more than the humps on the whales backs for the last 18 days. I was about to give up on getting a "special" photo.
We finally figured out that not all the whales wanted to jump (breach) out of the water. We had nearly a 180 degree panorama of ocean that was full of whales. The problem was trying to guess where to point the camera to catch the magnificent moment. Then a pattern started to become obvious to us. If a whale jumps once, there is a good chance that he will jump again. I guess that if you are feeling feisty, once isn't enough. That helped us focus on a narrow area with the cameras.
Sigrid was using her little Canon SD880 point & shoot camera and I had my Canon XTi in the high speed mode with a 17-85 mm all around lens. Both cameras have image stabilization, which helps, but neither of us had nearly enough telephoto range to get a superb photo.
You will be able to see the whales better if you double click on the image to enlarge it. You can return to this screen by clicking on the "back arrow" at the upper left corner of the screen.

The next three photos are of the same whale at different point in one jump.

A big fin out of the water.

A little tail.

More tail.

With these photos, I can't think of a thing that we didn't accomplish on our trip.

More Day 18 coming.