Life, uh…finds a way

We decided to take the family on a Sunday outing today. So after church we went to Mercury Burger Bar. In my opinion (the only one that counts, right?), Mercury is THE  best place in Detroit for burgers. We’ve been told that the milkshakes are “the bomb” but we’re always too full to order dessert. Next time.

Just across the street is my favorite building in Detroit – Michigan Central Station. Construction on the building started in 1912 for Michigan Central Railroad. It has apparently been the subject of many restoration projects but so far, no one knows what’s going to happen to it. Recently it gained a few new windows so hopefully something will be happening and soon. I love to see Detroit building and improving. And I love it even more when the old Detroit can be salvaged. One day I will go inside of this building. I might have to wait till it’s open to the public since I’m not keen on the idea of spending up to 30 days in jail and paying a $250 fine. But if I did decide to sneak inside (I think have a couple of friends that are up for the adventure), I’m sure it’d be the most fun I’ve had in all my life. 

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There’s just something about this house:

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This is the side view of that house. The house is huge, right? The hope that is found all over Detroit is nothing short of amazing.

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And I’m not sure who planted these flowers as the house is obviously uninhabited.

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Don’t let anyone tell you Detroit is dead. It’s alive and well. Sometimes you just have to look to find life.  Just like Dr. Ian Malcolm said, “Life, uh…finds a way.”

A year in review

I’m filled with hope for the new year. I’m not sure why turning a page on a calendar signifies a new start in my life but it does. Every year. Sometimes I look back fondly on the year and other times, like this year, I can’t wait to flip over the page to January 1st. That got me thinking. How bad has this year really been? In looking through my blog posts, it hasn’t been bad at all. Yes, the last couple months could have been better but this year has held some amazing memories for me. If you haven’t been reading my blog all year, I encourage you to browse through these posts.

We went geocaching and got some interesting treasure. 

Visited the Florida State Fair for the first time.

Took my favorite picture of the year.

I saw the Google maps car!

I conquered a fear of mine.

Went on many Sunday outings.

Went to the beach (several times) and started our jumping picture tradition.

Went on a road trip to see Mumford and Songs (warning, this post is long, with lots of photos). This is a tie for my favorite memory of the year.

Went to Georgia, collected some rocks & jumped for some more pictures.

Threw Ken a 40th birthday bash! 

Celebrated my niece’s birthday in Crystal River.

Watched my friend’s movie screening.

Went to California to interview Roma Downey. My favorite posts about my trip can be seen herehere (my favorite day in California), here and this is my interview.

Recorded an acoustic music video. (Here is the link that includes the actual video.)

So, as I sit back an remember all that has happened this year, I’ve decided that it’s been a good year overall. Yes, the last two months can kiss my butt and I’m still looking forward to 2012 but 2011 & I have kissed and made up. I think I just needed some perspective.  

Have a great New Year’s Eve and may you experience more blessings than you can imagine in 2012!

Sylvan Abbey

Our Sunday Outing this week took us to Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park in Clearwater. My dad worked there as a director of a sales team while I was younger. This is such a beautiful place. I know you might think it’s creepy that we chose this location as our Sunday Outing but wait till you see the pictures. 

Established in 1853, it is the oldest cemetery in Pinellas county.

There are huge trees like this all over the park.

Jackson wasn’t feeling well but he was quite a trooper. He said his throat was sore and nothing else. More on that later.

Our first stop was a mausoleum. On either side is a huge stained glass wall. 

On one side is a window depicting Revelation and the other one depicts Creation. Here are some close ups of the Creation window. They paint the glass while it’s still in a molten state and that’s how you can get all the details. These were the last commissioned works by Conrad Pickle before he passed away. And if I understand correctly, his son finished the work after he died

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This is a statue of Mark in The Garden of the Apostles. 

This headstone reminded me of Schindler’s List. Makes me wonder about the story behind how these rocks got there and what kind of amazing people are buried here.

Here is the oldest marked grave in Pinellas county.

We saw some flowers that needed some attention, so we found a watering can and seized the opportunity.

See? I told you it’s a beautiful place. If you have some time to spare, I think you should visit. There are many more things to see but we were hungry. The plan was to continue our Sunday Outing to Safety Harbor for dinner and ice cream but Jackson had other plans. Remember when I told you that he only had a sore throat? Well, he got sick right as we were walking into the restaurant. We thought it best to cut it short and head home. No one wants to see THAT while having dinner. He was feeling much better by the time we got home. I’m sure it’s nothing that a good night’s sleep can’t fix. We’ll just have to go back to Safety Harbor for ice cream another time!

What did you do this weekend?

Kapok memories: old and new

This week’s Sunday Outing took us to the Kapok Tree (aka Sam Ash). Sixteen years ago Ken & I had our wedding reception there. It was the fairytale ending to my fairytale wedding. The Kapok Tree is a special event venue in Clearwater, complete with beautiful gardens off the banquet rooms. It was Ken’s idea to take the boys and show them where we par-tayed after we got married.

It’s no longer exclusively an event venue. The location also serves as Sam Ash, a music store. A huge music store. It appears that they do still rent out the rooms for special events though. To our disappointment, they haven’t kept up the gardens as I would have guessed. I can understandd why; it can’t be cheap to keep up all the flowers and fountains. It’s still a nice place to visit but just not as grand as it used to be. I’m including this post in my “Touristing” category and encourage you to visit it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

These are the first gardens you enter:

For our reception, our guests entered here and were escorted into a smaller ballroom for drinks and appetizers while we had our pictures taken. It was so pretty lit up that night. 

This is a close up of the wall above. The fountains were not running when we were there with the boys but when Ken visited a few days ago, they were running.

This wall runs along the perimeter of the gardens. Beautiful, isn’t it?

There was a photographer taking pictures of a model in the gardens next to the Grand Ballroom so I didn’t get a wide shot of those gardens. And the Grand Ballroom wasn’t open but I put my camera right up to the glass & got these shots of the inside. Our bridal party walked right down that staircase to the head table.

This huge chandelier is right in the middle of the room.

During dinner, our guests were seated on the lower level as well as in the balcony. It was a dream reception. I sure wish I could have gotten inside the ballroom to take my pictures.

The wall opposite the staircase is one big, giant window so you have a view into the gardens from the inside. These columns are all along that window: 

While there, the family decided to have fun with my new camera remote.

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After a zillion pictures (with everyone getting a chance to try the remote), I went back to the camera to adjust the settings so that my mom & dad could join in the fun. We got a few shots with all of us. A nice one, one with “jazz hands” and this sophisticated one. Jackson thought this was hilarious (he’s on the left, cracking up):

We had a great time sharing a special part of our lives with the boys. I highly suggest you visit. Even though it’s not as pretty as it was in 1995 and now it’s also a music store, it’s worth a visit. And while you’re there, you can pickup a set of guitar strings!

You can check out the Kapok’s website here. The pictures are beautiful and you can get an idea of what it looks like to have an event here. Thanks, mom & dad for THE best wedding (and reception) ever!

Since this is the longest blog post known to mankind, I’ll continue. We left Kapok Tree and drove across the street to Kapok park. I had no idea this existed. I could tell you the story of how it used to be a mobile home park and now is a beautiful park but I’ll let you visit & read the story for yourself. This is another place I suggest you visit. It offers paved pathways, picnic areas and a boardwalk over wetland areas complete with ducks, mice alligators and many, many birds. And trees. Lots of trees. I’ll let my pictures do the talking since I’m nearing 1,000 words already.

 

And since I hate to leave my boys out…

 

 

 

Abercrombie Park: part deux

Due to a pretty packed schedule, we only had a small amount of time for our Sunday Outing this week. Remember when I talked about Abercrombie Park? Well, that’s where we went. We packed the five of us (Ken, myself, the boys and the dog) into the car and headed for the park. 

Here they are in the water. It usually takes Rex a while to warm up to the idea of swimming. Maybe someone needs to tell him he’s a labrador.

This park is FULL of trees that have low hanging branches like this.

Ethan snapped this picture of Jackson. When we’re outside, Jackson is usually playing in the dirt, shoeless and/or shirtless. Two out of three isn’t bad.

Two of my handsome boys:

I’m not sure what exactly this is. It’s just randomly placed in the park near some shrubs. No marker or anything to let you know why it’s there. I liked it, though. Just a reminder.

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Next week’s Sunday Outing should be fun. We’re taking the boys to where Ken & I had our wedding reception. It’s a beautiful garden in Clearwater. Then we’ll head to a nearby park. I’m finding that I really look forward to these days. I think we spend a lot of time together as a family. We have dinner together every night and right now, the boys aren’t old enough to be gone with friends during the weekend so we really do spend a lot of time together. I think I enjoy these because we’re outside without TV or video games, iPhones (we bring them but don’t spend time goofing off on them). We’re just with each other. I love this new tradition of ours. What are some of your favorite traditions?

The girl who cried “beach”

So, I’m beginning to feel like the girl who cried “beach”. In case you don’t know the story, it goes something like this:

Once upon a time there was a girl who spent hours and hours at the beach. Her teenage years were spent on the sand and at the shore. She laughed her summers away with fun and games and it didn’t even bother her (much) that she was made fun of because she couldn’t throw a frisbee. But one day, something changed. She changed her mind about the beach all together. Her eyes were opened and now she knows how sticky it is in the Florida summer and how she’ll find sand in her car for weeks after visiting. She came to the realization that the water isn’t refreshing. The temperature in the summer averages in the mid 80’s – sounds like bath water. All of these things made her hate the beach. She went on with her life and continued to live in Florida. Minutes from the beach, even. But she continued this hate/hate relationship with the shore and does not hold back expressing her hatred to anyone that will listen. Then one year she attends a birthday party. At the beach. And then later that week, she returns to the beach. And then she made plans to return when friends come to visit in May. This girl even plans a Sunday Outing with her family at the beach. She started to wonder if no one would believe her when she says she hated the beach. Just like the boy who cried “wolf”, she became the girl that cries “beach”. The end.

OK, so that was a pretty terrible ending. I had the whole story in my head and much like a Saturday Night Live skit, I couldn’t come up with a good ending. So it just ended right there.

Today was our Sunday outing. After dinner on Friday night, we went to walk on the beach. By the time we got there, it was dark and rather windy but I thought that the boys might like to go to the beach for our Sunday Outing this week. As usual, around 4:00 we headed out for our Outing. This time included quick stop for gelato at Paciugo. If you’re ever in the St. Pete area, I recommend you try this place. So very yummy. I left the camera in the car, thinking, “What kind of pictures would I want of the 4 of us eating gelato?” So.very.wrong. Jackson was wearing almost as much gelato as he ate. Oh well, live and learn. 

Once our tummies were full, off to the beach we headed. We found our spot with a “view”:


I don’t love the St. Pete Pier. It used to look like this:


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Beautiful, wasn’t it? But now, it’s this inverted pyramid type structure. But a new pier will be built in 2013. I’m hoping it will be something a little more fitting to the area.

Soon after we popped a squat, a friendly game of volleyball got under way:

Elena over at Selfie Magic has been talking about getting a picture of yourself jumping. I didn’t bring my tripod and I don’t have a remote (yet) so Ken & I took turns taking pictures of each other jumping. First it was Jackson’s turn:

He was having so much fun that Ethan wanted to join:

Next up, Ken:

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I couldn’t resist getting in front of the camera, too (What is becoming of me these days? First the beach & NOW I’m willing to be in FRONT of the camera??). It took him a few to get all of my hands in the shot:

But he got the hang of it:

I still didn’t like my poses, so I tried something different:

That’s better! Need to work on that face I make but other than that, I think they came out great. At least I’m in front of the camera and it was fun. Thanks, honey, for patiently waiting on me while I figured out my poses.

It was all fun and games until Ethan hid Jackson’s flip-flop in the sand and neither he nor Jackson could find it. Now I know why pirates use a great big X to mark the spot. The four of us went on our own treasure hunt and found the shoe. That was the end of that game. 

The boys reconstructed an abandoned sand sculpture: 

Ethan was buried alive:

Note: had I known that they would be rolling around in the sand, I would have put them in swimming trunks. Again, live and learn. They made sand angels:

We had a great time. The boys loved it and I didn’t hate the beach. This time (but will continue to hate it once summer rolls around). In fact, I even said I didn’t want to leave. But that was only because I had laundry to fold and put away, dishes to wash, clutter to pick up, etc, etc, etc. 

Lessons from Hansel and Gretel

It’s Sunday and that means another outing for the family. I started thinking yesterday about where we should go and Ken came to me & suggested War Veteran’s Memorial Park. We learned a lot of things while we were there.

Things like beware of purple, child sized dinosaurs. They may bite:

We learned how to jump from swings. Or maybe, how NOT to jump from swings. I gushed on and on about my dad yesterday. Good thing I didn’t have “swing jumper” on the list. Also, next time you see my dad, ask him to give you a skateboarding lesson or to show you the best way to hold a cup of coffee while opening up stage curtains:

{I know the photo above is in NO way close to perfect. But it was the only shot I got so I had to include it.}

We saw an old tank. I learned that this tank doesn’t even get one mile per gallon. At this rate, it would take seven gallons of gas to drive this baby home. I don’t really want to figure out how much that would cost:

I think this bad boy has seen better days. When I was a kid, you used to be able to climb all over it. Now it’s for viewing only. 

We learned that sometimes we need to look in the most ordinary places for smiles. We found this resting in an empty parking spot:

We drove to where the park meets the water. Hansel and Gretel taught us to leave a trail so we can find our way back. First you need to gather something to mark your trail:

Then you can leave a trail:

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I learned that shells are good for something other than stepping on at the beach. Thank you, Hansel and Gretel:


Who knew that these Sunday Outings could be so educational? What’s next week going to bring us? I can’t wait to find out.