The Beauty Around Us

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Posts from the ‘Family’ category

Nature Play Area

I have had this blog post in mind for almost two weeks, ever since my granddaughters and I visited our local Audubon Center.  I wanted to share a few photographs of my granddaughters, as it has been a while since I did so in this blog.  Also, I wanted to showcase the Nature Play Area at the Audubon Center.

According to its website the Audubon Community Nature Center “is a 600-acre wetland preserve that includes over five miles of trails, a native tree arboretum, picnic areas, a natural play space, and educational gardens for you to explore daily from dawn until dusk. … The Nature Center itself is home to the Blue Heron Gift Shop and three floors of interactive exhibits, including live animals, which inform and engage visitors of all ages. …  You can visit Liberty, a non-releasable Bald Eagle, in her enclosure near the [Nature Center] building.”

The Audubon Center is located approximately 12 miles from our house at 1600 Riverside Road in Jamestown, NY.  We walk the trails and visit Liberty frequently.  We have visited the Nature Center building, as well, but just a few times.  This blog post, though, is about the nature play area only.

The nature play area is located near the Nature Center building.

In Mar 2016 the nature play area had a tunnel made out of a tree and stepping “stones” made out of trees.

Mar 2016
Our granddaughters climbed through and on the tree tunnel.

Mar 2016
Bob and our granddaughters check out the stepping “stones” made out of trees.

I can’t recall if there was anything else to play on in the nature play area during our visit in March 2016.

During our visit to the Audubon Center on October 7th the girls found three new additions to the nature play area.

The girls had fun pretending they were stuck in this shelter.

The girls are sitting on Tank, a 12-foot and 1,500 pound concrete turtle.

Last fall, Tank the Turtle was created and donated to the Audubon Nature Center by Mike Whitmire of Whitmire Block and Outdoor Living, Starbrick, PA.

Spotted Salamander

The most recent addition to the Nature Play Area is this spotted salamander, which was also created and donated to the Audubon Center by Mike Whitmire of Whitmire Block and Outdoor Living.  The spotted salamander measures roughly 14 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail.  The spotted salamander had not yet been named.



Christmas 2018

We celebrated Christmas three times.

Christmas celebration #1 was held on Sunday at my brother and sister-in-law’s home.  We left our home in Warren PA at 10:30 am en route Jim and Judy’s house. Jim and Judy live about an hour’s drive north of Pittsburgh. We arrived at Jim and Judy’s house at 1:00 pm.  We thought we were the last to arrive.  But that was not the case.  While we were filling our plates, Judy’s brother Donald and his wife Gina arrived.  Others who came to Christmas dinner, in addition to Jim and Judy, Donald and Gina and Bob and I, were our nephew Michael, his wife Kailey and their three children; our nephew Jared, his wife Sara and their two children; Sara’s parents; and Judy’s mother.  Our niece Emily and her husband Dan and their daughter, who live in Minnesota, were not able to join us this year.  Christmas dinner included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, noodles, sweet potatoes, pickled eggs, and corn.  Dessert included pumpkin pie, chocolate dream pie, cookies and a gingerbread cake.  We departed Jim and Judy’s house at 3:30 pm, as gifts were being opened.  Bob and I did not participate in the gift exchange; however, Judy made sure I didn’t leave empty handed. 

Judy made this wooden sign for me. Great job, Judy, and THANK YOU!

We returned home at 6:00 pm.  It was good to see my brother and his family and the others.  We had a very good visit with everyone.

Christmas celebration #2 was held on Monday at Stacey’s house.  We left home at 1:30 pm and arrived at Stacey’s house about 15 minutes later.  Chris (Stacey’s mother) and Jay arrived a short time later.  Our dinner included roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and, for dessert, apple pie, ambrosia, and brownies.  Harper and Juniper received a surprise visit from Santa Claus.

Santa Claus is showing our granddaughters that their names are on his nice list.

Santa Claus brought the girls early Christmas presents.

Harper and Juniper with Santa Claus

Stacey, Chris, Jay and I knew Santa Claus would be stopping by.  Nevertheless Santa Claus took Stacey and me by surprise.  We expected Santa to come to the front door.  Instead he came to the back door.  We heard bells and “ho-ho-ho” a short while before he made an appearance.  At first we didn’t know what we were hearing.  To me the noise sounded like it was coming from a radio.  Stacey and I got up from the table (we were finishing up dinner) and walked into the kitchen.  We were looking out the kitchen window, when Santa’s face appeared.  He startled us!

After dinner we opened gifts.  Everyone was happy with their gifts.

I took a few pictures, after we opened our gifts.

“Big Grandma” Chris and her granddaughters

“Big Grandma” Chris, Grandma Linda, and our granddaughters

Stacey and her daughters

While we were at Stacey’s house, it snowed. 

Snow fell on Christmas Eve!

It stayed cold through Christmas Day, so we had a white Christmas.

Christmas celebration #3 was at our home on Christmas Day, with only Bob and I in attendance.  Bob and I opened our Christmas gifts to each other in the morning.  We are happy with our respective gifts.  I prepared Christmas dinner, which we ate around 2:00 pm.  Christmas dinner included baked ham, baked potato, whole berry cranberry sauce, cauliflower and broccoli medley and, for dessert, pumpkin pie.  The ham was a spiral ham.  We have lots of ham leftovers!

’Twas a very merry Christmas for Bob and me. We spent the Christmas holiday with the people who mean the most to us.  We are so blessed!





Black Friday

We spent several hours with our granddaughters Harper and June on Friday, November 23.

We picked up the girls at their house around 10:30 am. 

We drove to Friendly’s Restaurant in Jamestown NY, where we had an enjoyable lunch. 

Friendly’s Restaurant provides kid’s activity placemats to entertain children, while waiting for food.


Our granddaughters, Bob and I at Friendly’s Restaurant

The girls ordered their usual meal–hot dogs and macaroni and cheese with an ice cream sundae.  Both girls chose Rudy the Reindeer sundaes. 

Rudy the Reindeer Sundae (photo obtained from Friendly’s Restaurant website)

Bob had a fish dinner; I had a BBQ chicken sandwich with fries.  Both of our meals included a small sundae.  Harper didn’t eat her macaroni and cheese, but she ate most of my fries.  Juniper didn’t eat any of her hot dogs.  I asked for a box, and we took home the macaroni and cheese and hot dogs for the girls to share later.  By the way, when we returned home and I had a good look at our restaurant bill, I noticed that Bob and my entrees were reduced by 50%.  Happy Black Friday to us!

After lunch we drove to our house, where the girls played for several hours with toys and on their tablets.  We also watched TV.   I had to chuckle, when June asked me what was in the gray plastic tote.  The tote is the girls’ toy box.  For a while now I have brought out only a few select items for the girls to play with, when they visit.  On this visit, though, I brought out all their toys.  June asked if she could open the tote, when I told her their toys were inside.  I said sure.  When she opened the tote and saw the toys, June’s eyes got big and she said “Wow!”.  There was not one new toy in that tote!

The girls talked with Judy (my brother’s wife), too, via Facebook video chat.  That was a fun call for the girls, as they put on silly faces and hats and played some quick games with Aunt Judy.  

When I finished putting away the girls’ toys, after their Friday visit, I was missing one toy–the baby doll that Harper had been playing with.  I found Harper’s baby on Wednesday morning.

Lost baby found

I found Harper’s baby in one of my kitchen drawers.





First Grade

Our granddaughters entered first grade on August 29th. Picture day was on October 12th. Stacey ordered a digital download package for each girl. Yesterday I received a copy of the image files contained in each digital download package.

Each digital download package includes 3 files: an 8×10 image, a 5×7 image and a print release. The 8×10 image is 2400 pixels x 3000 pixels. This resolution-size image will produce quality prints at or above industry standards for 8×10, 11×14 and 16×20 size pictures. The 5×7 image is 1500 pixels x 2100 pixels. This file size is suitable for reproducing 5×7 and smaller size prints.

I placed a print order last evening through Nations Photo Lab.  The prints that I ordered were a fraction of last year’s cost. Last year I ordered prints from the school photography studio company.  A digital download package is the way to go!  You can make all the prints you want for much less than the cost of buying a print package from the photography studio.

Harper and Juniper’s first grade pictures
What beautiful granddaughters we have!

By the way Harper has one less tooth now than that showing in the picture.  As of earlier this week, Juniper still had all her top teeth.  She did tell me, though, that a couple teeth are wiggling.

Speaking of first grade …

01-Grade1-Image 0127
This is my first grade picture.
School Year 1962-1963


Our Hawaiian Vacation: Ukulele Shopping

Bob enjoys music — listening to music, as well as playing musical instruments.  He owns several musical instruments to include a 6 String Dobro, (2) 6 string acoustic guitars, a 6 string electric guitar, an Acoustic concert ukulele, a Mandolin, a 5 string banjo, a Didgeridoo, a Brazilian lap harp, a Bamboo Jaw harp, a Casio electronic keyboard, a Yamaha Organ and (2) harmonicas.

Bob’s newest musical instrument was the Acoustic concert ukulele, which he purchased in December 2016.  For the past year he has been considering the purchase of an Acoustic / electric tenor ukulele.  He wanted to have the  capability to record through a cable instead of an open microphone to avoid background noise.

What better place to shop for a ukulele than in Hawaii!

On Wednesday, when we visited downtown Kona, Bob saw an Acoustic / electric tenor ukulele that interested him.  That ukulele was on display at Just Ukes, located in the Kona Inn Shopping Village.  Bob didn’t purchase that ukulele, opting instead to look around.

We spent several hours ukulele shopping during the late morning / early afternoon on Friday, September 7th.

On our way back to Kona from Honaunau, we stopped at Kiernan Music in Kealakekua.  Bob picked up quality information from the salesman but did not purchase a ukulele.  He still favored the ukulele on display at Just Ukes.

We drove to downtown Kona. We stopped for cold beverages at Kona Inn, located in the Kona Inn Shopping Village.

_LG28227Our view from Kona Inn.

I had finished the glass of water that was my preferred beverage that day.  While Bob and Dorothy were still drinking their beverages I walked down to the seawall seen from where we sat in Kona Inn.

_LG28231I passed by a pretty yellow Hibiscus on my way to the seawall.

_LG28232At the seawall I watched for a few minutes, as wave after wave rolled in.

From Kona Inn we walked to Just Ukes. The ukulele that Bob had liked when he saw it earlier in the week had sold.

The Just Ukes salesman sent us to another ukulele shop a couple blocks away. We walked to that ukulele shop (Hawaiian Ukulele & Guitar) and found it under a tent, being fumigated.  Fumigated for what we didn’t know.

As we were passing by Just Ukes again, the salesman made another suggestion — Music Exchange, located in the King Kam Strip Mall off of Kuakini Highway. We drove there. After about 45 minutes Bob walked out with a new Acoustic / electric tenor ukulele. We had a most entertaining shopping experience at Music Exchange.  The salesman (Gavin Todd) and his friend (Royce DeSilva) joked around, while Gavin showed Bob various ukuleles. Gavin was very knowledgeable about ukuleles. He was a pleasant person to do business with.

Royce DeSilva, we learned, is the Hawaiian Idol XV Champion.

I found a live video of Royce’s performance that won him the championship.  Royce’s performance begins at time marker 2:32:42.  At time marker 3:44:19 Royce is selected as one of five contestants moving into the finals.

The five contestants performed a second time.  Click here for Royce’s second performance.  His performance starts at the beginning of the video and ends at time marker 4:15.  Royce is chosen as the Hawaiian Idol XV Champion at time marker 37:39 and follows up with one additional song.

Getting back to Bob and his new ukulele … Bob is happy to own a ukulele that he purchased in Hawaii.  I will close this blog post with a short video of Bob playing his new ukulele.


Our Hawaiian Vacation: Sightseeing in the Kohala Region

On Thursday (September 6th) we drove through the Kohala Region, which is located north of Kona. The Kohala Region is diverse in that it contains lush forests, dry lava desert, windswept grassy plains and extraordinary beaches.

Our first stop was in Kawaihae at the Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site.

20180906_114731Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site Visitor Center
Dorothy took this picture of Bob and me with the rangers,
after we had obtained stamps for our National Park Service passport.

_LG28079the Pu’ukohola Heiau

The Pu’Ukohola Heiau was built by King Kamehameha in 1790-1791. The king built the heiau (temple) at Kawaihae because a kahuna from the island of Kaua’i said that this was the way to conquer Hawaii.


Thousands of people worked on this temple, carrying one boulder at a time from miles away.  Some workers were sacrificed during construction of the temple to make sure that the gods would be happy.  When the temple was completed, the king dedicated the temple by inviting and then sacrificing one of his enemies.

Altar at Pu’ukohola Heiau

_LG28084The Mailekini Heiau sits just below the Pu’ukohola Heiau.

_LG28088This was the site of the Pelekane, or Royal Courtyard.

_LG28085One of the beautiful views from the Pelekane

There used to be three temples at this historic site.

_LG28091Hale o Kapuni Heiau would have been located here, just off shore.

Our second stop was in Kamuela at the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company.

20180906_124417Bob and I

20180906_124516The four of us

We enjoyed free samples of coffee, various flavors of macadamia nuts, brittle and popcorn at Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company. We purchased a few different flavors of brittle and popcorn.

Our third stop was in Kapaau.

Kapaau’s main point of interest

It would be difficult to miss Kapaau’s main point of interest.

_LG28105The King Kamehameha Statue statue towers over Route 270.

Our fourth stop was at the Pololu Valley Lookout. Route 270 ends at the lookout.

_LG28111Pololu Valley Lookout

Pololu Valley Lookout provides a spectacular view of the coast and cliffs, lush with vegetation, rising out of the ocean.

I hope that you enjoyed coming along with us on our drive through Kohala Region.  Our activities of September 6th will be continued in my next Hawaiian vacation blog post.


Our Hawaiian Vacation: Downtown Kona Visit

We had not yet visited downtown Kona.  On Wednesday (September 5th) Dorothy had a few errands to run and wanted to get her hair cut.  Bob and I accompanied Dorothy to Kona late morning for a look around. Before reaching Kona, though, we stopped in Kahaluu at Saint Peter’s Catholic Church, also called the “Little Blue Church”.

_LG28038Saint Peter’s Catholic Church

_LG28040Can you see why the church is referred to as “Little Blue Church”?

Saint Peter’s Catholic Church was built in 1889 on the former site of an ancient Hawaiian heiau (or temple site).

In Kona Dorothy dropped us off along Hualalai Road, across from the Kona Inn Shopping Village.  Dorothy left to get a haircut. Bob and I walked from Hualalai Road to the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Staying on Ali’i Drive our walk would have been 0.40 miles. We zigzagged our way to the hotel, so our walk was a bit longer than that.

_LG28044We checked out a few shops, while walking through the Kona Inn Shopping Village.

_LG28045This is Hulihe’e Palace.
The palace was built in 1838.
Vacationing Hawaiian royalty stayed here until 1914.
The palace is now a museum.

Across the street from Hulihe’e Palace is Mokuaikaua Church.

Mokuaikaua Church

Mokuaikaua Church was the first Christian church built in the islands, in 1820.  The present building dates from 1837.  The church is built of lava rock and crushed coral.  Admission to the church is free.  We walked inside and took notice of two things: the stained glass window at the front of the church and a scale model of the Brig “Thaddeus”.

_LG28053Stained Glass Window
Jesus at Gethsemane

_LG28049the Brig “Thaddeus”

The plaque reads:

“The Brig “Thaddeus” / Carrying the members of the Pioneer Company of the Sandwich Islands Mission, The Brig (85 feet long, 24 feet wide and 13 feet deep, 241 tons) left Long Wharf, Boston, October 23, 1819. / It sailed around Cape Horn, arriving at Kailua Bay on April 4, 1820, after a voyage of 164 days.”

_LG28057From Mokuaikaua Church we continued our walk down Ali’i Drive.

_LG28059The Pride of America cruise ship arrived in Kona earlier that morning from Hilo.

We were asked several times, if we were from the cruise ship. We talked for a few minutes with a lady from the cruise ship, who was from the Buffalo/Niagara Falls Area. She and two other ladies had a 3-room suite on the cruise ship. Each person paid $3,500 for the 7-day cruise.

_LG28061Downtown Kona at the seawall

_LG28064Green Sea Turtle in Kailua Bay at Kailua Pier
There were two turtles swimming here.  Only one poked its head up at me.

_LG28066I took a more expansive view of downtown Kona from the Kailua Pier.

From Kailua Pier I took a couple pictures of Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark.

_LG28072Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark

Kamakahonu was the final residence of King Kamehameha I.

_LG28070Kamakahona National Historic Landmark

Dorothy picked us up in front of King Kamehameha’s Hotel, when we texted her to let her know that we were ready.  The wait at two different beauty salons was too long, so the hair cut didn’t happen. Dorothy sat and drank an ice coffee, while waiting for Bob and me to finish our walk about.

On our way back home we stopped at Ola Brew, where Bob tried a sample of four beers and drank a pint of porter. Dorothy drank one pint of an IPA. She filled two growlers with beer too. Our final stop before returning home was at Walmart, where Dorothy picked up a few grocery “bits”. Bob and I bought hair clips, bracelets and necklaces for our granddaughters.

Juniper and Harper liked their new jewelry.

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