Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Photography

My new camera gear is a whole bunch of fun to use. It certainly is taking practice, and even the practice is fun. Instagram, and following a number of the national parks and good photographers is definitely helping my photography. (At least I think so... you can be your own judge.)

Cuyahoga River
Ohio & Erie Canal

The other day I went hunting for the Bald Eagle's nest up in the Brecksville Reservation are of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and while I found it, I couldn't see the eagles. Bummer. But that didn't make the trip disappointing at all. The CVNP is beautiful in any season, and seeing it through a camera lens has been lots of fun.


The Great Blue Herons are returning to their nests, the Cuyahoga River has been flowing fast with the rain and snowmelt, and I never noticed just how many ducks are around these parts.

Great Blue Heron

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Grandparents Week

Henry's Celebration Day

While we were away, Grandma Laura came up for a few days to stay with them, and then they went to Grandma Paulette & Grandpa Doug's house for a time.

Before we left, we all attended Henry's Celebration at school. It was a special time that ended with one of his class's committees giving him a "custom made" snow globe.

Henry's Celebration Day
Henry's Celebration DayHenry's Celebration Day

The Monday of that particular week was Chinese New Year, so Grandma Paulette set up some fun for the kids to celebrate.


The week ended with a trip to the cabin, and all the fun that such a trip includes!


Monday, February 15, 2016

Western Caribbean


Jenn and I had a nice vacation get-away and the kids had some really cool time with Grandma Laura, then Grandma Paulette & Grandpa Doug.


We chose this vacation for the itinerary and the company, and while we’ve really enjoyed the warm waters of the southern Caribbean, we chose the western Caribbean this time around with stops in Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Pete and Moe, along with their friends Kevin and Beverly, joined us, as well.


This was one of the smaller ships we’ve been on, though it was hard to tell. The big ships tend to hide the crowds well with more areas of activity and dining to shunt everyone. Vision of the Seas is a nice ship, our room was comfortable, our balcony was nice, and the entertainment was good. Our food service improved as the cruise went on. The first two evenings were quite disappointing, as our waiter was just not as responsive as we’d expect on a cruise. After moving to a different section and taking on a new waiter, things turned out very nicely.

Jenn scheduled all of our excursions herself with the help of Trip Advisor. There is good savings and better options staying away from the cruise listings, we've found.


We went with Roatan Ocean Adventures and went drift snorkeling for a time, followed by a visit to a place that rescues monkeys, macaws, parrots and other animals. The animals were very well cared for, and we had a blast on both stops.

Preston describs what we were to see under the water on our drift snorkel.

Mom Sloth

In Belize we went with Belize Tours Unlimited and our driver, Marvin, picked us up a the cruise terminal and drove us to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, apparently one of the best birding locations in North America. It did not disappoint. Marvin lives about 5 minutes from the Audubon Society outfit there, and when he felt like we didn't see all of the species we should have, he took us to his house where we found a number of new species in his back yard. He also cut open some newly ripe cocunuts to drink from, and wow, was that tasty.

IMG_2000IMG_2549Belize Raptor

On the way back to the terminal, he took us to a hole-in-the-wall named Dand's and we had a *really* good Belizian meal of rice & beans, I had pork and Jenn had gibnut, a.k.a. "the royal rat."


The third stop was a beach on Costa Maya. Our experience with sitting on Caribbean beaches has been mixed, with the most negative experiences coming when the beaches were filled with "vendors" and solicitors. This time we reserved a spot at Nohoch Kay Beach Club that included beach chairs, an umbrella, wifi, food, drinks, kayak, restrooms, and very friendly service.


The beach was really pleasant, and while the air and water weren't as warm as we've experienced in the Caribbean this time around, this was our best weather day of the week. Also very cool were the small patches of sea grass where the Little Blue Heron and the Yellow Capped Night Heron were fishing for lunch. This was my first opportunity to wade into the water with my big lens, and it was a lot of fun.


Cozumel was our last stop, and Jenn arranged for us to drive around the island in a modified VW Beetle with a guide. One of our stops was a tequila factory where we were pretty much only interested in learning the history and the technique, not in tassting. Even the smell of tequila has nearly triggered my gag reflex in the past, but that was apparently because I was smelling cheap, chemical-induced tequila. This factory was a very small outfit that made it the right way, which takes >7 years to grow the plant and then months to years to age the product. Theirs was very tasty.


We drove through the city, then across the island to the beach, down south to Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, then up to a fun restaurant, then back to the boat. Santiago, our guide, was as friendly and professional as they come, and he showed us a good time around the island.


We finished the cruise with a day at sea that included 5 hours of dominos in the solarium. It was a blast!