Tag Archives: photographs

Kayla’s Clouds

Good morning Everyone!

One of the advantages of being a parent is the chance to see the various and amazing (sometimes potentially infuriating)  ways that your child finds to fill time when he or she is bored.  Having finally procured a card reader the other day, I was able to download all of the pictures from  Mark’s Nikon, about five months worth, and in the middle of the download was surprised to see a number of pictures of skies and clouds which Kayla must have taken one day when she and I were driving somewhere together.  She took some through the sunroof, some through the side window and some through the windshield.

Cloud, photography

Through the Sunroof

Although the entire batch was a little bit repetitive – if you look through all 56 of them, several times you feel like you are watching a movie that has disjointed frames – several of the pictures were interesting and noteworthy.

Cloud, Photograph, sunroof

Also through the sunroof

I picked out a few of the more notable/representative photographs to share with you.

Cloud, Photography

Cloud 3

I could tell, for the most part, which clouds were photographed through the windshield/side window and which were photographed through the sunroof, but the picture above is one I am not certain about.

Cloud, photography, windshielf

Through the windshield

This picture was taken through the windshield. I am certain of it, due to the angle of the roadside and an idea about the road we were on at the time.

Cloud, Photography


The glow of the sun behind the cloud in this picture makes the question of whether it was taken through the sunroof or the side window seem irrelevant, but I still couldn’t tell you which this was.

The final picture I am sharing with you is like a kiss from God.

Cloud, photography, sunroof

Kiss from God

Maybe I should leave her to her own devices more often!

Have a great day!


The Great Chicken Caper

Good morning Everyone!

Welcome to Mystery Investigations – Going to the Dogs, a new reality show that chronicles the investigations performed by our intrepid adventurer who refuses to stop until she has reached the truth.  Today’s episode features “The Mystery of the Missing Chicken.”

I brought home a serving of chicken and rice as takeout one evening, and unfortunately Mark did not like the chicken.  I went ahead and fixed him a can of soup, so while I was doing so, I placed the chicken plate on the kitchen counter and then forgot about it – until I brought the soup bowl back in the kitchen, where I found the following plate awaiting me:

Rice, Chicken dinner, left over food

The Plate With (or Without) the Missing Chicken!

While I am not a trained investigator, it was difficult to miss the fact that the leg and breast quarter that formerly resided on the plate was now missing. Even worse, it was completely missing – there were no left over bones lying on the kitchen floor, no grease anywhere, no chicken skin or spare pieces of chicken.  Not a single speck.

Since Kayla wasn’t home that night, we only had three potential suspects.

1) Our oldest dog, Tyra, an Australian Shepherd mix who is 10 years old.



2) Our middle dog, Mandy a/k/a Bad Dog, who is somewhere around 5, but I never can remember exactly how old she is.

Basset Hound Husky dog

Mandy, Our Husky-Basset Hound Mix

3) Our youngest dog, Darwin a/k/a No-No, who will be 3 on December 15.

Lab, Dog, Darwin


Using the time-honored method of means, motive and opportunity, Tyra was quickly eliminated. Not only is she completely blind, but even on her hind paws she would never be tall enough to reach the top of the counter.

That left me with only two suspects remaining, Darwin and Mandy. Both of them had the means – Darwin is tall, and Mandy is long. Both of them had a sufficient motive – cooked chicken apparently is a far cry better than Kibbles and Bits! Finally, both of them had opportunity, since they both were out of sight for at least some period of time while I was sitting with Mark while he ate his soup. So instead I had to turn to the less reliable and normally inadmissible realm of character evidence.

Dog, eating, counter

Character Evidence, Exhibit A: Mandy Leaving the Counter in our Old House

In court, evidence regarding a person’s character in the past is not admissible to prove guilt for the crime the person is currently accused of. There are exceptions to that rule, and I judicially decreed another exception for dogs who steal chicken off of the counter.

Reviewing the character evidence available to me, it was clear that the culprit was not Darwin, but Mandy.

First, Bad Dog did not earn her name unjustly. She likes to chew, will do so unabashedly and will pluck things off of a table or a counter in a heartbeat, as this video shows:

Second, before Mandy was found and put in the Montgomery Humane Society Shelter for Kayla and I to find her, she survived scavenging in the dumpster at McDonald’s, and probably other places as well.  She has still not forgotten how to scavenge, and isn’t afraid to practice her survival skills at a moment’ s notice.

Third, Mandy was the only dog who looked like this when an inquiry was made about the chicken:

Mandy, dog, husky  basset hound mix

Mandy post-chicken

Even without the post-chicken bone digestive problems the next day, I think I had an air tight case against her, don’t you?

Have a great day everyone!


Attaching the Unattached

Good morning Everyone!

When I load pictures into my blog, I usually just load them straight from the “New Post” page on WordPress, but yesterday morning I decided to check the tab on My Dashboard marked as “Media” (for the uninitiated, I assume that is short for “Media Library”), when I came across a forlorn group of miscellaneous pictures grouped together under the label “unattached.”

Unwilling to allow them to languish forever in this lonely place, I have chosen a few of them to share with you today, accomplishing two purposes – something to write about today, and the creation of a “happily ever after” relationship for the pictures-formerly-known-as-unattached by providing them with an attachment here.

My first picture came from a couple of days before Halloween, when I took pictures of Kayla in the Rapunzel dress my mother made for her this year.   Here, she is working on (pretend) needlework.

Rapunzel, Halloween

My next choice was this picture from Christmas 2007, when Mandy (aka Bad Dog) was investigating what Kayla was up to Christmas morning.

This picture caught Kayla waiting for the Southern Star (one of the dolphin cruise boats in Destin, an experience I highly recommend).

Boat, Southern Star, dolphin

This sunset over the Gulf of Mexico was too spectacular to leave languishing in the realm of the unattached:

Sunset, Gulf of Mexico, Destin

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

So was this picture of the bridge across the Destin Pass.

Bridge over the Destin Pass

I loved this picture of Mandy (Bad Dog) looking up from her fortress spot from which to view the world at our old house.

Dog, Couch, Window, husky-basset hound mix

I also liked this picture of Darwin (aka No-No) coming into the kitchen begging for food.  He’s good with the sad face look, isn’t he?

Dog, Labrador Retriever

So there you have them – seven pictures who have happily been relegated from the forlorn category of “Unattached”  to the “Attached”!

Have a great day everyone!


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words….

Good morning Everyone!

What’s wrong with this picture?

Have a great day!


A Touch of Spring

Good morning Everyone!

Today we are going to switch gears just a little bit, and take a moment to share some of the early signs of a Southern spring.

A patch of daffodils, also called jonquils, in full bloom

These pictures are extraordinary, not just because of the beauty of the flowering plants involved, but also because I took them the first week in February!

Tulip Tree in full bloom in central Alabama the first week of February - extraordinary!

Normally, the yellow bells and daffodils start their show towards the end of February in the third or fourth week, and the tulip trees in late February/early March, but not this year!

Yellow Bell (aka fuchsia) Bush

It is easy to miss the beauty of the yellow bells, and very hard to capture it on camera, but this close-up may help:

Camellias are a bit different; each bush seems to bloom on its own schedule.  The small camellia bush by our front door likes to bloom in December, but these pictures are from a bush in our town square that has decided to put on a bit of a show this year.

Camellia bush in full bloom

The camellia is the state flower of Alabama, and here you might be able to see why.

Camellia in full bloom

I think it would be fun to sketch that bloom in watercolor pencil, one medium I haven’t tried yet.

Here are some buds in various stages of bloom.

Camellia buds

The problem, of course, with blooming this early is that a frost is almost certain to occur sometime in February and early March, if not later, and this year was no exception – a week after I took these pictures, we had a night where the temperatures got down into the 20’s.

One last look at the tulip tree before the frost took care of the flowers

That finished off every tulip tree that was blooming, but the daffodils/jonquils survived, as did the yellow bells (also called fuchsia.)  Yellow bells are amazingly cold-resistant; I have seen the blossoms survive and flourish after experiencing temperatures down into the low 20’s.

A branch from the amazingly cold-hardy yellow bell bush

I heard another sign of spring this weekend – somewhere in the woods, one of the woodpeckers was back and active.  The “tat-tat-tat-tat-tat” sound of a woodpecker pecking is pretty unmistakable, even with the other birds’ songs thrown in.  I learned the rhythm involved last year, when we had a pretty, but very confused, woodpecker who sat on top of the street-light across from our house and kept trying to peck into its top.  It was a persistent bird; he or she kept at it for about three days before going to search for more malleable wood.  I like to think that it was that same bird, older and wiser now, that I heard Saturday.

Have a great day!


The Forbidden Caverns, Sevierville, TN

Good morning Everyone!

A Reflecting Pool at the Forbidden Caverns

I like caves but only certain caves.  I am not a spelunker – the thought of exploring previously unexplored or “wild” caves where I could run into all kinds of nasty creepy crawlies does not appeal to me.  At the sight of the first spider or flying bat, I’d  jump, hit my head on the cave ceiling and knock myself out, giving me the record for the shortest spelunking expedition in history.  Further investigation would reveal that the spider or bat was just a root or leaf I looked at the wrong way!

A Stalactite and Stalagmite about to meet - in another 100 years!

However, nice, tame caves where someone has considerately carved out a walkway through the depths of the earth for me to observe nature’s creativity, those caves I definitely enjoy.  The Forbidden Caverns has done exactly that, while preserving and protecting the natural cave formations which allows the cave to continue to grow and develop. 

Beginning Stalactites, called soda straws, along with flow formations on the right and left

The last time we went to the Forbidden Caverns, Kayla was three.  Because she was terrified of the dark, we were a little worried about the expedition, since there is one part where the guide turns off all of the lights for just a second so you can see how dark the cave really is.  We shouldn’t have worried; Kayla quickly realized that the tour guide kept a flashlight with her the entire time and knew where all the light switches in the cave were, so Kayla made sure, even at three, that we stayed just one step behind the guide!

"Young" columns, where stalactites and stalagmites have joined to make a single formation.

Seven years later, the cave is as fascinating as it was the first time we saw it.  This Thanksgiving trip, Kayla, although she was a little more subtle about it, still made sure that we stayed very close to the guide. 

Either a very old column, or rock carved out by underground water

The Forbidden Caverns were used by Native Americans in the area for centuries before Europeans arrived, although the way in which they used it is not entirely certain – the cave area was considered taboo by the Indians, which is where the name Forbidden Caverns first came from. 

Remains of the Moonshine Stills

During Prohibition (FN),  moonshiners used part of the cave as the base of their operations, until law enforcement discovered the location and raided the cave.  The locals brewed the moonshine by the original entrance to the cave, which involves a very steep 500 foot climb to the surface.  I tried to imagine making that climb while hauling a big jug or cask of moonshine with you at the same time, and decided that the moonshine business during Prohibition must have been extremely lucrative. 

The way up to the natural entrance!

Most of the cave’s stalactites and stalagmites are still growing.  The guide said that you can remember that stalactites are cave formations that grow down from the cave roof because they “hold tight to the ceiling” and that stalagmites are cave formations that grow from the floor of the cave upward because they “might reach the ceiling some day.”  I thought that was a pretty good way to remember it!  Where a stalactite and stalagmite meet, they form what is known as a column. 

One opening showing the underground river

The Forbidden Caverns have many stalactites, stalagmites and columns, and a swift moving underground river, as well as several formations of white onyx, including the largest known white onyx wall formation in the United States.  The mining of onyx in the United States is not allowed, according to our cave guide, because there really is not enough of it in the country to make it lucrative.  It’s just as well, because if it was legal I doubt the wall would have survived for people to see it!

Another Picture of the Underground River

For those of you who, like me, probably will never tackle a “wild” cave, the Forbidden Caverns is a fascinating experience – and somewhere during the tour, for just a split second, you might even imagine yourself out in the wilderness exploring the cave on your own.  My flight of fancy lasted exactly the ten seconds it took to see a bat sleeping on the cave roof but it was fun while it lasted!

Have a great day everyone!


FN.  For my non-American readers, Prohibition was a time in the 1920’s and 1930’s when, by a constitutional amendment, alcoholic beverages of all kinds were banned in the United States.  The amendment was later repealed.

Moonshine is one form of “home-brewed” alcohol that was, and still is, illegal in the United States.  Moonshine is illegal partly because either the federal government or the state governments strictly regulate the production and sale of alcohol and partly because if the brewer makes a mistake in brewing, it is poisonous.

Our Day in the Smokies

Good morning everyone!

Mountain View

Mark, Kayla and I went to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg over the Thanksgiving weekend and as always had a great time.  It has become a family tradition for us to spend at least one day in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and this year was no exception. 

The first year we did this, we drove around Cades Cove, stopping at all of the houses along the way, the second year we walked to Laurel Falls and back and took Tyra and Mandy for a walk at one of the only two trails open to dogs, and then last year we went around one of the park’s motor nature trails. 

Evergreens of Some Kind

This year, we decided that we wanted to go for an easy hike, and then drive over the mountains from Tennessee into North Carolina. 

Mark and Kayla together on a mountain overlook

We stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center to get some advice.  We asked the ranger behind the counter to recommend an easy walk that wasn’t too very crowded.  (Laurel Falls is classified as an easy walk, but the two times we’ve been it has been packed with people.)  She recommended we try the Alum Cave Bluffs trail, so we drove over toward the trailhead, about 15 minutes away, to find the road around the trail head lined bumper to bumper with parked cars empty of people who were at that moment trekking up the Alum Cave Bluffs trail. 

Kayla and I at an Overlook

We decided thanks, but no thanks, so we continued on our drive up the mountain and stopped at a couple of overlooks to take some pictures.  I love the Smoky Mountains; winter, spring, summer or fall, they are always beautiful!

Kayla on the walkway in front of the parking lot

As we wound our way up the mountain, we came across the Newfound Gap Overlook, so we stopped there to see what we could see.  Kayla found a little walking path along the front ridge of the parking lot, so she walked along that for a little while as we followed her up top.

The View from Newfound Gap

Then we climbed to the overlook itself (just a few steps) for a stunning view. 

Mark and Kayla at the Newfound Gap Overlook

As we came down from the overlook, we noticed a trail heading off beside it with the following sign.

We decide to go on a hike.

So we decided to walk that way for a while.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which trail we were shooting for. 

A sprawling root system on the side of the trail

It didn’t take too very long on the trial before I realized that everything on this trail was up.  No down.  None at all.  And I detest Stairmasters!  Still, I am willing to put up with a lot in order to get outdoors for a while and find somewhere where you can get away from the sounds of modern civilization, so we persevered. 

The Trail


 Kayla appointed herself tour guide, and selected two twigs as weapons to protect us from bears and snakes.  She was a little crestfallen when she learned she had to leave the twigs at the trail and couldn’t take them home with her, but I explained that there was a huge fine for taking anything from the park and that if everyone who came there took away a twig, there wouldn’t be any twigs left, so she understood that a little bit better.

Our Fearless Protector and Tour Guide

We were about halfway up by this time, and I was winded.  I told Kayla that her best bet if a bear came after us was for her and Mark to leave me for the bear and run on ahead.  She instead showed me her best karate moves with the twig.

The View from the trail

We stopped a couple of times on the way up just to admire the views and listen to the sound of the wind around us, and the leaves rattling on the trees. 

Trail View - the Side of the Mountain

And next on our tour –

And next on our tour -

Waiting on parents again…

When we finally reached the part of the trail where it looked like it was going to start heading down again, we decided to stop and go back.  Neither Mark nor I wanted to walk up more than once if we could help it. 

Really, I"m having fun - how much longer?

Kayla studied the best way to get down the rocks.

Kayla studies a way to get over the rocks on the trail.

Carefully, she climbed down.

Carefully Climbing Down

Once we finished with the trail, Mark stopped and took our picture at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line.  Kayla and I held hands across the sign, so one of us was in one state and one was in the other state.  Not very original, perhaps, but fun!

One Family - Two States

We reached Cherokee, North Carolina in a little while and started looking for somewhere to have lunch.  We had a moment where all three of us wondered if we had suddenly become dyslexic as we rounded a corner and saw a sign in front of what was obviously a school building that none of us could read – until we figured out that the sign was written in Cherokee.  (We catch on eventually!).  We found a breakfast/lunch place within 10 minutes of closing, and ate there, then headed back over the mountain, still enjoying the scenery. 

A close-up of me on the trail

Our final view of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park that day was a modern contradiction – two hikers were trudging down the mountain with heavy backpacks on their shoulders, obviously having finished a wilderness trek of some length.  One of them was talking on his cell phone.

Have a great day everyone!


And the Answer Is…..

Good morning Everyone! 

I want to thank everyone who played “Guess Which Tree” along with me yesterday.  It was really interesting to read everyone’s answers, and I learned something in reading them, too.  

I’ll give any of you who didn’t participate yesterday one last chance to take your guess – the question was, which one of the two trees shown in the picture is a pine tree?

Trees 1

Trees 2

And the winner is …..the tree on the left!  As several people commented, it is the bark on the tree that gives it away as a pine tree.  It also occurred to me as I studied the pictures after I took them that I don’t recall ever seeing moss grow on a pine tree in the Southeast United States before, but that may just be because I haven’t been looking.  (My more woodsy/hiking friends – does moss usually grow on pine trees?)  Mark says that the tree on the right is an oak tree.  I wouldn’t know; I can recognize and name a pine tree, a ginkgo tree, a dogwood, a Bradford Pear Tree and a magnolia tree, and that’s about it. 

Fortunately, whether you chose the correct tree or not, you still won this challenge.  How?  To even make a choice, you had to really look at both trees; you had to admire the difference between them in terms of bark texture and bark color; you had to discard most of the ideas our mind automatically “sees” when it hears the word “tree,” such as branches and leaves, and recognize a tree. 

In a nutshell, then, the point of the exercise was to remind me (and maybe one or two others out there) that sometimes, it is okay to forget about the forest and admire the trees.  I hope you got a chance to do that yesterday.

And, of course, the view of the forest is worthwhile too…..

Have a great day everyone!


The Ghosts of Halloween Past

Hi Everyone!

In honor of Halloween, here are some photographs of the ghosts of Halloween past.

It will not surprise you , when you see this picture, to learn that I had to dig long and hard in the archives before I found it.  This is myself and one of my sisters in our Halloween costumes that I am pretty sure my mother made for us.

While there should be more pictures of my and my sisters from Halloween, apparently I don’t have them, but what I do have are plenty of pictures from Kayla’s Halloweens (except 2009, which was an odd year.)

Halloween, 2005

This was our first Halloween together as a family.  Kayla would have still been three, but just about ready to turn four.

We lived in a real neighborhood then, one with sidewalks and everything, so we knew we would have trick-or-treaters come by our house.  Mark’s mother was kind enough to come by to answer our door while we took Kayla trick or treating for the first time.

She remembered to wait politely at the door.

But there were some places she wasn’t altogether sure of!

Halloween, 2006

This was the year she decided to be Cinderella.  I think my mom bought her costume this year for her as a gift.  These pictures are from our church carnival.

I think she was happy!

Obviously, candy wasn’t the only attraction to the carnival!

The Princess Slide!

Halloween, 2007

I made Kayla’s costume this year, for two reasons.  One is, I just think every mother should make her child’s costume at least once.  The second is, she wanted to be a bunny rabbit and off the shelf bunny rabbit costumes can be hard to find!  I’ll let you decide which reason was more important.

 Even as a rabbit, she was a lean, mean pumpkin pushing machine!

Oh – and that year Mark’s work had a Halloween costume contest.  He won!

Halloween, 2008

This year was unusual because we had very little time to get ready for Halloween.  Kayla had walking pneumonia for the two weeks before Halloween, and was just back out and about, so we got her costume at the last minute.  She decided to be a fairy.

She and I went to the Halloween carnival together.

I think she had fun again.  I put a little make-up on her, which was (and still is) a very rare treat. 

Halloween 2009

I cannot find the Halloween pictures from 2009, (they’re probably hidden somewhere completely logical like in a folder marked “Football Game”) but go back up to the bunny rabbit costume, picture it with longer sleeves with elastic at the wrists, a stuffed cat tail instead of the short cotton tail, and done in yellows and browns instead of all white, and you will get the idea!  I made the costume that year both because I wanted to and because she announced emphatically that she wanted to be a cat with a real tail for Halloween that year, and I wasn’t sure else how to get a real tail besides to make it.

Halloween 2010

Last year, Kayla decided to be The Little Mermaid.  This costume, she and my mom picked out together.  We got a chance to have her put it on and take some pictures before we went out anywhere, and we had fun with it.  Here, the Little Mermaid is holding court in her….kitchen (?)

Kayla decorated a pumpkin last year by drawing on it, and she did a great job. 

And finally, what is the use of doing a photo shoot if you don’t get to goof around at least a little?

I’m not sure she knew I actually took that picture…

 Have a great day everyone!


Sunday Night Dinner – The Dog Invasion!

Good morning everyone!

Kayla and Mark were kind enough to make dinner for me Sunday night.    In our family, we have two types of spaghetti – plain spaghetti, which translates as “spaghetti with the Ragu Traditional Sauce heated up straight from the bottle,” and spaghetti with the good sauce, which translates as “spaghetti with a sauce comprised of sauteed ground beef, mushrooms and onions with [you guessed it] Ragu Traditional Sauce poured over all ingredients and heated up in a pan.”  However, while they were waiting for the water to boil, I came in to help by dividing up some ham  and turkey we had purchased the day before for freezing, at which time two things happened – Mandy and Darwin invaded the kitchen (not for the first time that evening) and Kayla found a spare camera lying around to use for pictures.  So, courtesy of Kayla, we managed to get photographic evidence.

Me, not having my best foot forward!

In any photographic session done by almost anyone’s child, the first photo is the obligatory “candid” shot of at least one of their parents. Apparently, a child’s definition of “candid” can be loosely translated as “less than flattering”. This photo session is no exception, as I was in my pajamas facing away from the camera when Kayla started snapping.

Mandy's signature opening move

Mandy always begins a kitchen invasion in the same manner – she selects the spot nearest to the person working on food and slides in between that person and the bottom of the kitchen cabinets.  She is quite adept at it, really.  There are some days she gets in place without my even noticing until I almost trip over her.

Darwin Enters

Darwin, on the other hand, simply walks into the kitchen and wanders around.  Unfortunately, the kitchen does not leave much room for a dog almost the size of a small pony.  For those of you wondering, Tyra has no need to enter the kitchen; she is content to leave clean up crew to the other two dogs, secure in the knowledge that if anything is going to be handed out on a systematic basis, she will get first cut as well as an equal share.  FN.

Why my kitchen seems crowded

Once both dogs are in the kitchen, free space is at a premium.  Darwin, at least, will move to accomodate humans who need to travel to the refrigerator, stove or sink, but Mandy loves to park herself in one spot.  Her favorite spot is in the center of the kitchen, sprawled out to take up the maximum amount of available floor.  She simply refuses to budge, even as she sees your feet approaching.  Apparently, she believes it is my responsibility to watch out for her, not her responsibility to utilize the good sense I am sure she has somewhere to avoid being tripped over.

Come on Mom, just drop one piece of ham!

Here, Mandy feels that the ham is tantalizingly too close, and the humans too near for her to begin scavenging method number 2, which is just grazing the counters on her own, so she tried the cute approach.

All this scavenging makes me sleepy!

Still, scavenging/begging is hard work, and even the most dedicated dog has to stop and rest sometime!

And now, gentle reader, so must I.

Have a great day everyone!


FN.  Does anyone else who keeps dogs in the house feel exceedingly weird when you go over to someone else’s house and you drop food – and you have to reach down and pick the food up yourself?