Southern Utah trip

Sherrie and I made a fun trip to Southern Utah this week! We stayed in St. George for a couple of days and went to Zion National Park and to a see Newsies at Tuacahn. We also hiked in Snow Canyon and were able to squeeze in a fun game of pickleball with our very busy friends Tracie and Glen. On the way home, we stayed one night in Bryce Canyon and hiked through the canyon. It was a fun trip, and we didn’t want to come home, which probably means it was a successful vacation.

Zion National Park

On Tuesday, we hiked to Observation Point in Zion. This was a fairly difficult hike. We included Hidden Canyon, so the total distance was over eight miles, with about 2500 feet of elevation gain. We were tired by the end, but we loved the hike.

Here’s a beautiful landscape of the view from the trail partway up; you can clearly see Angel’s Landing, and the beauty that is Zion.

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At the top, I took a picture of the end of Angel’s Landing with the telephoto; this is from nearly a mile away, and the telephoto did a nice job picking out the people.

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And here’s the big-picture view:

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Sherrie shows the happiness we both felt at the top after a strenuous hike rewarded with beautiful views

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We visited Hidden Canyon on the way down. It wasn’t scary like Angel’s Landing, but there were some spots that required your attention:

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Snow Canyon

Wednesday we hiked in Snow Canyon. Neither of us had ever been there before. Snow Canyon is famous for “petrified sand dunes,” which are sort of like slick rock and sort of not.

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We also saw lots and lots of Moqui Marbles (see “Iron Oxide Concretions” in the article). Native Americans believe them to hold mystical properties; I think they are pretty cool.

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At the end of our hike there, we were about a mile from the car. There was a very large petrified dune between us and the car. Sherrie was sure we would go around it; I wasn’t sure whether we would or not. To the vexation of our tired legs, we scrambled over:

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Newsies

Wednesday night, we went to Tuacahn and watched Newsies. The weather was perfect and we both enjoyed the show. The best part is that we had Hotwired a hotel, which turned out to be Red Mountain Resort, which is about a mile from Tuacahn, so we were home after the show within a couple of minutes.

Bryce Canyon

Thursday, we drove to Bryce Canyon. On the way, we stopped in Parowan and had lunch at La Villa’s with our friends Bruce and Kathy Allen. At Bryce, we had Hotwired a room which turned out to be “Ruby’s Inn” just outside the park entrance (location, location, location!). The weather turned cold and stormy Thursday afternoon and into Friday, and Bryce was a lot colder than St. George.

On Thursday, we hiked the rim and had some awesome views:

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We weren’t too ambitious Thursday, so we only hiked a few miles. Thursday night, I went back to Sunset Point at sunset to take a timelapse of the night sky. I was nearly thwarted by clouds, but they went away right around sunset, and so I took my timelapse. Here’s a frame:

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The sky was very dark and the Milky Way really stood out. Take a look at my Sunset Point Timelapse to see the result; I wish I could have recorded longer, but the clouds moved in so quit earlier than I wanted.

On Friday, we hiked through Zion. We started at Bryce Point and worked our way north back to Sunset Point. Here’s a picture of Michael on the trail from Bryce Point:

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A cool view as the path goes through a hole in the rock:

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We hiked through the bottom and then up via Queen’s Garden so we could see the “Queen Victoria” rock.

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And then, we went BACK DOWN into the bottom again so we could see the Navajo Loop and Wall Street. The bummer about hiking in Bryce Canyon is that you always start at the top and hike down, and you don’t really know what’s waiting for you because you have to climb back out–it’s hard! But it’s totally worth it. We accidentally saved the best for last, as Wall Street was pretty cool. This part of the trail ended up being our favorite.  Here’s one of the big trees growing up past the steep walls on Wall Street:

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and here’s Sherrie on the switchbacks climbing back out above Wall Street:

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The view down into Wall Street:

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It was a great trip, and we had a blast.

Weekly photo challenge: Waiting

In this week’s photo challenge (“Waiting”), we were asked to share a snapshot that shows a sense of waiting.

I had the blessing today to spend some time with my two granddaughters Esther and (newborn) Sylvia while their parents had some time out together. Esther was, of course, a ball of energy, and Sylvia was, of course, sleeping. We had fun playing with playdough and Esther was her normal ebullient self.

I got a couple of good shots of Esther, both of which evoked for me Waiting. The first was when Esther told us all we had to take a nap. She proceeded to lie on the couch, and although she was only still for about  a microsecond, I managed to capture this:

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Do not fool yourself into thinking that the afternoon was a quiet affair! The second photo is more indicative of how things went:

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Applause please!

Weekly photo challenge: Structure

In light of the fact that I’m trying to become a (better? good? not horrible?) photographer, I’m going start participating in WordPress’ weekly photo challenge.

This week’s challenge is Structure. When I saw that, the first thing I thought of was the structure in the sun’s corona that I captured in my eclipse photos. The best of those, in my opinion, is this one:

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It captures a few things that are appealing to me. First is the structure in the corona, which is what this week’s photo challenge is about. It also captures Mercury’s ability to shine in the presence of the sun, and not be overwhelmed by it. I’m sure many people can relate to that metaphorically.

The photo is simple, but I am quite pleased with it.

#Eclipse2017

I want to do a quick post to close the loop on the eclipse. It was, without hyperbole, one of the greatest experiences of my life. Perhaps short of seeing my children born, but definitely better than any other natural world experience I’ve ever had. Totality was amazing. Don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s almost as good to see it at 99%. I’ve seen both, and I promise you, it is night and day different (literally, and figuratively).

We had a long car ride home, but it was TOTALITY worth it.

Without further ado, some photos:

First, through the solar filter as the eclipse began; you can see a few sunspots in this one:

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Later, with the sunspots on the “limb” clearly visible:

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I managed to get “last light” through the solar filter:

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Of course it’s impossible to describe what happened during the eclipse. It got cold. The streetlights came on. There was a 360-degree “sunset.” And the stars came out, as you can see in this one (four or more “stars” if you look closely, including Venus to the right and Mercury to the lower left):

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This is my favorite; Mercury is very prominent to the lower left, and you can see a lot of structure in the corona.

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Finally, I tried to get the “diamond ring.” I didn’t time it quite right, but here’s what I ended up with. I purposely edited it so you can see the structure in the corona, though it makes the central part over-exposed. You can also see some visual artifacts from diffraction in the camera (?) from the bright part of the diamond ring:

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A new baby in the Webb family

The exciting news this week is that we have a new baby in the Webb family! Sylvia Ann Webb was born to Matthew and Becky at 0526 this morning (7 pounds, 19 inches long).

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We got a call at 0100 this morning that Becky had begun labor. Sherrie quickly got her things together and went to Salt Lake. She had to go to the neighbors to pick up Esther, and she had to go to the hospital to get keys from Matt (not sure of the order). Eventually she got Esther back to her own house and to bed and finally fell asleep around 0400. (I’m on the phone with her right now and she sounds very tired.) One fun story is that when Esther got to the neighbors’, she was wide awake and they had to read stories to her for a couple of hours until Sherrie arrived.

I was up just after 5 for my early-morning meeting, and I texted Matt at 0524 (yes, two minutes before Sylvia came, by coincidence) to send me updates. Well, at 0610, during the beginning of our meeting, my phone rang and I could see it was Matt, so I excused myself and went out in the hall to talk to him, and I got the happy news.

Sherrie and I spent most of the day with Matt, Becky, Esther, and Sylvia. It was lovely! Becky seems to be in high spirits and feeling and looking great. Sylvia slept a lot and seems to be happy to be here, if sleepy. Esther was very quiet and reserved when she first saw her sister:

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Matthew was a glowing new papa.

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And of course, Grandma and Grandpa were pretty happy as well:

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Sherrie just told me that when they left the hospital (I had to leave a while ago), Esther fell asleep in the car on the ride home. Mind you, it was only five blocks, so that was fast! She pretty much conked out.

We are so happy to have a new lovely granddaughter in our family, and that things went so well with her arrival. Children, grand or otherwise, are a great blessing from a loving Heavenly Father. I cherish the children in my life.

#Eclipalypse

Sherrie and I are currently in Rexburg, ID with Jared, Rachel and Silas, and Rachel Elizabeth. We had the happy coincidence that our nephew Joey returned home from his mission to Oklahoma a few days ago and gave his report in sacrament meeting here today. So we came up to visit Sherrie’s sister Pam’s family, and this just happens (:-) to coincide with the eclipse tomorrow. We are excited to be here. Rexburg is in the path of totality, and only nine miles from the centerline. The skies are a little hazy from fires, but hopefully we will have a good show tomorrow.

We had a loss this week: our peach tree split right down the middle on its main branch:

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We are going to try and let the branches “live” long enough to ripen the peaches, but the tree will have to go this Fall or in the Spring. I’m bummed about that.

As of yet, we haven’t seen any evidence of the #Eclipolypse. Although, in church today, there we quite a few visitors from near and far. The Rexburg-ites seem to be taking it in stride. I keep watching Google Maps to see the traffic problems, but none have arisen in Northern Utah/Southern Idaho yet. Much ado about nothing?

I bought an “entry-level” Nikon DSLR this past week. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and decided to let the #Eclipolypse be the impetus to make the purchase. I’ve been practicing taking pictures. Here are few:

Here’s one taken by a stranger in Jared’s apartment complex:

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I took a few photos of Matt, Becky and Esther:

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and here’s Becky, ready to burst:

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I took a couple pictures of the night sky this week. First, a picture toward the north (Cassiopeia) with the Milky Way; if you know where to look in the right third just below center, you can see the Andromeda Galaxy:

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(I need to get away from city lights to get better Milky Way photos).

In preps for the #Eclipolypse, I took some photos of the sun through a filter today. You can see some (somewhat blurry) sunspots:

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I’m excited about the #Eclipolypse tomorrow. I hope we can get some good photos, but above all that we have a neat experience.

We are breathlessly awaiting the call from Matt and Becky, as she is due in the next week or so and the baby can come at any time. Sherrie has plans to go down and help Matt and Esther when the big day comes. We’re excited for the new baby!

I took a couple of good pictures of Silas: one at our table at home before we left:

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And one of Silas in the backyard sand pile after being buried by his (first, once-removed) cousins Elijah and Benjamin:

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On the route of the Hiawatha

Sherrie and I had a fun adventure this week. We traveled with our friends the Webres (and Marie’s sister Julie) to the Idaho panhandle to ride the Hiawatha bike trail (Ride the Hiawatha). The Hiawatha is an old train route which goes over trestles and through tunnels. The bike ride is about 15 miles long and all downhill, and it’s over well-maintained gravel roads, so it’s easy and fun.

Here we are at the trailhead; the smiles never left our faces.

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And here’s the rest of the crowd:

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Immediately on beginning the trail, you enter a 1.5 mile long tunnel which is not lit and in which “rain” falls from the ceiling (there were no monsters, just a few puddles):

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The tunnel was cool (45-50 degrees), even chilly, as we began our ride.

The ride has 10 tunnels and seven trestles; here’s one of the trestles:

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The road over the trestles is wide and quite stable; I’m sure it would have been more interesting in the old days when it was rickety wood. It was fun to look over the edge, if a bit scary:

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The scenery is gorgeous, but we were a little disappointed that smoke from fires all over Oregon, British Columbia, Washington and Idaho made the air smoky and diminished visibility, as you can tell from this photo (no blue skies to be seen):

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We stopped at one point to walk away from the trail a bit and see a stream coming off the mountain; the smiles on these faces say it all:

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After the ride is over, you could in principle ride back up (1000 foot climb over 15 miles wouldn’t be that bad), but we decided to take the shuttle back. The shuttle drops you off such that you have to ride back through the long tunnel at the beginning again. I absolutely LOVED it, as it was hot by then and the cool, refreshing air in the tunnel was great.

We never figured out why the trail is called the “Hiawatha,” but we learned a lot about train track development in the late 1800s, and we had a fun time together.

The next day, we went to the Coeur D’Alene (CDA) area for a little hiking and shopping. We first went to the Mineral Ridge trail (Mineral Ridge Trail). It’s a bit of climb to the top of the hill, but you get great views of Lake CDA from the top:

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Next, we went to Tubb’s hill (Tubb’s Hill Trail), right in/near downtown CDA. It’s a hub of activity for people to enjoy the lake. Lots and lots of folks swim on it’s beaches, and ride boats and jet skis near the shores:

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Sherrie and Julie and I scared up a whitetail deer on the north side of the trail. He was still in velvet and was 5-6 points on each side and beautiful. I didn’t get a picture because he bounded away rather quickly. I didn’t know whitetail live in central/northern Idaho …

Sherrie and I spent a little time one evening in the town of Wallace, ID, which is really the town that time forgot:

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Seriously, it’s like going back in time 50+ years. We ate at a BBQ place in the town center. Right near there is a manhole cover declaring Wallace ID as the “Center of the Universe.” Apparently, Wallace had a spat with the EPA over the safety of the water, etc. and the EPA (apparently) famously said, “If a thing cannot be disproven, it is thereby proven.” For a little light humor, see Wallace Idaho is the center of the universe.

Sherrie and I had the obligatory picture taken with the manhole cover:

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Fortunately, traffic is light enough that you can pose for such a photo in the center of town without fear of being run over.

One of the things that impressed us in Wallace is the number of petunia “balls” seen all over town:

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Many of them had automatic watering systems, but some didn’t, so Wallace must employ people (or they volunteer) to water and help make their town beautiful.

Are we there yet?

We can basically say that “Stage 1” of our home renovation project has finished this week. That’s a little white lie, as we need three more tiles in the bathroom off the kitchen (which the floor people haven’t brought and installed yet). But, we finished putting back all the baseboards early this week. What a major job the baseboards are! There are two more baseboards to install in the bathroom after the tiles are installed. We want a new light in the kitchen over the table, and the fixture location will have to be moved. We still need rugs, and a few other things, including a new piece of granite to cover the one cabinet. Oh, and there is a lot of stuff in the basement that needs to be restored to its natural place in the house. So maybe we aren’t quite there yet. But there was a big sigh of relief at the Webb household earlier this week as we finished the baseboards, and now we can focus on “normal” house maintenance. For the most part.

Yesterday Sherrie went to Salt Lake and Provo to be with Esther and Silas most of the day while Matt and Becky and Jared and Rachel had day dates. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I helped Nathan move home. He’s getting ready to go back to school at USU this Fall. At least, he thinks he is; he needs final admissions confirmation which hopefully will come very soon.

We had a fun outing last week. We took our whole family to the Living Planet aquarium in Salt Lake. We had a birthday celebration for Rachel (Megan) and Becky, and had fun showing the grandkids all the cool things at the aquarium. Besides fish and sea life, they also have animal life from various places. Some of our kids were quite excited to see the binturong (aka “bearcat”). I liked the aviary. They also have a shark tank with a tunnel that goes underneath, which was cool. My favorites were the aquariums with tropical fish; I want to set one up at home one day.

Here’s a photo of Sherrie in the “bubble” at the aquarium:

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Sherrie had a piano recital a couple of weeks ago where she played a duet with her teacher and a quartet (two pianos, eight hands) with the teacher and a couple of other students. It was great fun. She is an awesome piano player, and I love hearing her fill our home with the great music she plays. I started playing piano again; our new piano has inspired me to practice again.

And, you probably knew it had to come some day, and I’ve resisted for a long time, but I am now learning a jazz guitar piece. I’m learning an arrangement of Autumn Leaves. Wish me luck, and hope that I don’t go over to the dark side for good.

Almost there …

It seems like it is always my turn to write the family letter when I have had a pretty non-eventful week. I just spent another week home alone working on painting baseboards and putting my house back together. Actually, more of the former and a little of the latter. I have a strange sense of happiness that many rooms are mostly empty – all the knick knacks, etc. and anything that could be moved relatively easily are still in the basement. I kind of like empty rooms that you can sweep and dust without any fuss. What I especially love is that my nightstand isn’t covered with all the charging cords for all of my electronics. That is a problem yet to be solved, but I am determined to find a different solution for all of that mess and to keep my nightstand free. I think I have a plan that includes a hole in the back of a dresser and a drawer dedicated to charging stuff. Just waiting on Amazon :).

Michael spent the week in DC – his home away from home. It was probably a relief to get away from our house mess, but work is stressful as well so he seemed to be happy to be home even though we spent our Saturday painting doors. We did get out a couple of times to go to the hardware store for supplies, however. There are still a few doors and a few baseboards to be painted, and we need to buy a few pieces to replace broken or now obsolete baseboards and door trim, then we can start attaching it all to the walls. We decided that we have done most of the work again, so we might as well save the money and finish it ourselves. We just need to borrow a nail gun sometime in the next few days.

I expect it will still be a long time before we are all done – we need to figure out what we want in the way of rugs, get a new light for the kitchen, reorganize all the kitchen cupboards since a lot of things are now different, nail, caulk and touch up all the baseboards, finish painting and hanging the doors, then put everything back away. Give us a year and we should be done!

Thank goodness for tennis and pickle ball which pretty much get me out of the project mode for a few hours most days. I also made myself get out to my yard and have made a pretty good dent in the crazy amount of weeds I have allowed into my flower beds this summer so far. Sadly I have made a grizzly discovery – I am INFESTED with a plague of grasshoppers! Zoom in on the photo below and see what I mean – and you need to remember that when I walked up, about half of them hopped away.

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My friend, whose son mows our lawn, told me that he actually stopped mowing the other day to start a video of the grasshoppers jumping out of his way as he mowed because it was so impressive. That is impressive in a very bad way. I am not sure what to do – but I have large plants that are being eaten to the ground and it is horrible.

The other fun thing I have been doing is working on some duets for the piano this summer. My piano teacher makes summer optional for her students, and if you opt in it is all duets. I am playing one that is part of a four person, two piano version of the “Stars and Stripes Forever,”which is pretty fun, and one with my teacher that is called “Malaguena”. Both are pretty familiar tunes, and it has been fun to work on them – I have gotten together with the person I share a piano with a couple of times, and tonight we are going to try it for the first time with all four of us. We still have a couple of weeks to get them polished up so hopefully we can be ready. I think playing duets is really fun.

Oh, and I went kayaking with some friends down the Bear River the other day. It was more like floating on inner tubes down a canal than maneuvering through dangerous rapids, but it was super fun and relaxing. I only got sunburned on the front of one ankle somehow. We saw lots of neat birds and just had a nice, relaxing time.

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Wait, and last Saturday I got to go to SLC to my cute niece Cristina’s wedding and dinner.

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Sadly Michael had too much to get done before his trip to go with me, but I was able to ride down with Kevin and Laura and it was so much fun to see a lot of my family that day! Thanks for a lovely dinner and reunion, Cathy and Bret!

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I am really glad to have Michael home even if it is only for a week before he has to go back again. He is pretty tired and hopefully we will be able to both accomplish a lot of projects and find time for some fun stuff as well before he heads back for at least a short trip next time.

The fun continues …

I have been remiss in not writing like I should. Sherrie reminded me last week with a gentle prod, “Are you EVER going to write another family letter?” I responded that I would, and it’s taken me a week to get there.

Our house project continues to … well, continue. Within the last two weeks, we (well, almost exclusively Sherrie) did all the wall repair (including painting) for the baseboards. This week, we painted quite a few doors. The back door was replaced on Friday (yay!), and the cabinets came yesterday (double yay!). In theory, the floor installers will come Wednesday this week and it will take them three days to get it installed. In preparation for that, we have decided to take out the kitchen floor ourselves (to hopefully save some money). We think we can do it without an inordinate amount of trouble, as we’ve had to take out several tiles for the cabinets and the back door. So tomorrow, off with the tiles and down to the subfloor! We are both tiring of the project, physically and emotionally. The end is closer in sight, so that gives us courage.

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We like the new cabinets, and we have a lot of space. I don’t think we really lost any storage space. It’s different though, and so we still have a few things to figure out (e.g., how to organize the spices). So far we like it a lot. We like the end near the dining room (right end in the photo) because it feels more spacious. The cabinet with visible shelves on the end will have a glass door, and we need a piece of granite to top the open cabinet.

For my birthday, Sherrie gave me an EcoQube mini-aquarium: EcoQube.I’ve been having fun getting it set up. I bought some live plants to put in it, and some “cherry red shrimp” that are like 1/2 inch long. I’m thinking about getting one or two small fish to put in it as well.

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Sherrie made a lemon meringue pie for Father’s Day today. Look on in utmost jealousy!

IMG_2937.jpgOn this Father’s Day, I’m thinking a lot about my own father, what it means to be a father, my children as fathers, and how much popular media of late has made dads out to be bumbling fools who either don’t care or are out of touch. I am grateful for my dad and all the things I learned from him, and for his love. I hope that I’ve been able to help my children know they mean everything to me and I love them will all my heart. I hope we can each thank the men (and dads) in our lives for their love, kindness, example, and service.