Saturday, November 24, 2012

Best Thanksgiving Ever!

Little Pilgrim Girl Clara

I don't think I've ever had a more enjoyable Thanksgiving Day than I had this year!

Chris, Kelsey and the kids spent the week camping at Dinosaur Valley State Park, and Dan and I drove up there on Thursday morning to meet them and enjoy an outdoor Thanksgiving meal, just like the Pilgrims! Dinosaur Valley State Park is just outside of Glen Rose, Texas, only a couple of hours from our home. They say that this region has some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks in the world.

Fall colors set the scene for our Thanksgiving dinner

Chris and Kelsey's camp trailer

We arrived at the camp site in time for the noontime Thanksgiving dinner, which was scrumptious . . . baked ham, fire-baked sweet potatoes, pasta salad, pinto beans, green bean casserole, hot rolls and pumpkin pie. For the kiddos, who aren't so fond of pumpkin pie, I brought along a batch of snickerdoodle cookies. Kelsey set the picnic table with a pretty fall-colored tablecloth and festive decorations and name tags, handmade by her and the children.

Baking sweet potatoes

Later in the afternoon - after Robert's nap - we celebrated his third birthday. Kelsey baked and decorated some cute cupcakes and organized a little scavenger hunt for Robert, designed to lead him to his big present from Daddy and Mommy - a kid-sized drivable Jeep! It was a big hit, and he spent much of the afternoon learning to maneuver the Jeep around the trees at the campground.

Dinosaurs (what else?) were the birthday theme
Big sis, Clara, read the scavenger hunt clues to Robert
The Jeep was hiding behind Grandpa and Grandma's car
Robert wasted no time before hopping into the Jeep and taking off
There's room for two in the Jeep
Dan and I opted to "camp" at a nearby hotel that night. The birthday bash continued into the next day (which was his REAL birthday) with a visit to Dinosaur World, located next door to the camp ground. Dan and I almost backed out of going because the temperature had dropped and there was a stiff wind that morning, but in the end we decided to give it a try. Once we were inside the park we found ourselves sheltered from the wind, the temperature was comfortable, and we were so glad that we hadn't been party poopers. It turned out to be the highlight of the two days.

Oh oh! Clara was swallowed by a dinosaur!
The beast was hungry enough for a second serving :-)
Watch out everyone! There is a mama dinosaur behind you.
Two ferocious kidosaurs
Kelsey and the kids

Digging for fossils. Each child gets to keep three of the fossils they uncover.
My two sweeties!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Play Day

Today was the first day of racing at the Circuit of the Americas. Dan was as excited as a little boy heading to Disneyland! He set his alarm for 4 a.m. so he wouldn't miss a thing. He tells me that it was a good day, although he walked his legs off and is tired this evening. He took some pictures, but I haven't yet seen them. He'll be doing the early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine again tonight, so that he can be back at it again tomorrow. Today was just the practice day for the racers; tomorrow is qualifying; and then comes the actual race.

While he was having his fun down in Austin, I took off in the opposite direction, to Cameron Park Zoo in Waco. I've been wanting to go there for a long time, and today seemed the perfect opportunity.

The zoo lies alongside the Brazos River and is divided into several sections: Asian Forest, Tree Tops Village, Herpetarium, Brazos River Country, a nature trail, and a play area. I didn't see all of the zoo because I spent most of my time and energy in Brazos River Country, where I got caught up in what felt like a maze; It took me forever to find my way out, even with my map. I'll have to go back another day and see the parts of the zoo that I missed.

Here are a few pictures.

How do they balance on one leg like this while they sleep?
This doesn't really show how HUGE this guy was. I'm guessing about 10 feet long. And he, too, was sleeping.
Are you sensing a theme here? Most of the animals were taking their morning siestas.

Cameron Park Zoo is very scenic, with lots of meadows, ponds and forested areas.

One of the black swans.

The gibbons were performing for everyone. At least THEY weren't sleeping.

The jaguar was right up near the fence and happy to pose for the camera.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Formula 1 Racing Comes to Texas

Excitement is in the air! Dan has been counting down the months, then the weeks, and now he's counting the days leading up to the big Grand Prix race at the brand new Circuit of the Americas, in Austin. He only has to wait six-and-a-half more days before the first event on November 16. He'll be going by himself on the 16th, but our friend, Robert, and Robert's son and son-in-law will be accompanying him on the 17th and 18th.

Today Dan and I drove down to see how the Circuit is progressing. I was surprised to find how much construction hubbub is on-going, considering how short the time is until 300,000 fans will converge there from around the world.

There wasn't really a good spot from which to take pictures. The public was allowed to enter the parking lot at this particular gate, but we were confined to the lot. I so wanted to get somewhere with some elevation and a view of the track. Only a little patch of track was visible from the parking lot, as seen in this photo, below (left of center, with a red shoulder and a street cleaner spraying water on it). 

Speaking of elevation . . . this observation tower is the signature landmark of the track. It's very pretty, with its red "veil." From what I read, the tower is 251 feet tall and gives a 360 degree panorama of the circuit and of downtown Austin. At the base of the tower is a stage.

 I took this photo (below) because Dan told me that the grandstand with the "UBS" banner on the back houses "his" seat, on curve 3.

Besides construction workers and landscapers, there were security folks in yellow/orange shirts crawling all over the place. As I was snapping one of these pictures, a yellow-shirted lady hollered at me from across the lot . . . "You can't take photos!" she yelled, waving her arms. Woops . . . too late! I already had.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Tricks and Treats

For Halloween Dan and I drove to Spring to be with the grands. It was a Halloween full of a couple of tricks and an abundance of treats.

I'll start with the TREATS:

* Fall was in the air, the sun was shining, and the rural route we take to get there was as beautiful as I've ever seen it.

* Both of the children were still in school when we arrived at their home, so we enjoyed a rare child-free lunch, at a restaurant, with Kelsey.

* When the children got home from school, we got to watch the pumpkin carving. Robert didn't want anything to do with it, after he saw the slimy "guts" of the pumpkin, but Clara was into it all the way this year. She was the designer, drawing the face on paper and taping it to the pumpkin as a pattern, so that it could be carved. She did a great job, and it was a classically handsome Jack-o-Lantern in the end.

* Grandpa and I brought homemade caramel corn and some Halloween treats for the kids. Included in their treat bags were some funny nose/glasses and some scary vampire teeth, which provided a few minutes of fun and giggles.

Clara and Kelsey show off their matching Halloween nails.
* It was fun watching both children donning their Halloween costumes. As you can see, Clara was Miss Piggy, and she got to wear some Miss Piggy make-up for the special occasion. Miss Piggy's side-kick, Kermie (aka Robert) put in his appearance, as well.

* That evening we drove to the home of their friends, Glenn and Becky and their two daughters, Leah and Kate, where we had a pizza dinner before trick-or-treating. Chris came there, directly from work, so we got to spend the evening with him, as well.

Look at my candy!
* We spent the night in Spring and drove back home this morning. Although the first half of the trip, today, was through a dense fog, the last half was once again in beautiful fall sunshine.

No Halloween is complete without a few TRICKS as well:

* We had hardly begun our trick-or-treating when Miss Piggy, running off to the next welcoming door, tripped and fell. Tears flowed profusely, but she recovered in a few minutes and, sans piggy nose, continued her trick-or-treating successfully.

* A mean little TRICK came when Dan backed our car out of Chris and Kelsey's driveway. The driveway has a little bit of a tricky angle to it, which Dan didn't quite accurately maneuver. We came down off of the curb instead of the ramp of the driveway. The curb caught the bumper and ripped it out from the body at the right front. He ran it to the Mercedes shop, where they removed a part of the plastic wheel liner that was broken and scraping on the tire with every left turn. We were, therefore, able to drive home safely today. Soon after getting home, Dan took his little red "baby" to a body shop for an estimate. We are calling this estimate a TREAT, because it was not nearly as high as we had feared. The major parts are salvageable and just need to be reattached. Whew! All''s well that ends well.