Thursday, June 30, 2011

Amazing Camouflage

Spent this morning geocaching with my friend, K.  We were 4/5 and all 4 we found were done by the same couple.  They love their little town and they're so generous with their time and talents for the caching community.

One of the goals of geocaching is to get people out see things they might otherwise miss.  While looking for one near a fence, I found this empty cicada shell.  It reminds me of how beautifully complex God has made ALL of His creatures...but I'm glad no one was home anyway!




Sometimes in caching, you just need to look at things from a different point of view. This was on a traffic island in a sleepy parking lot.  At the ends of the island were two planting areas with messy (hence good for hiding things) areas. In the middle of the island were two small leafy trees, and two huge oaks.

We explored the planting areas a bit but then reasoned that since one of the tenets of geocaching is "do no harm", it wouldn't make sense for the hide to be in an area where one would have to trample flowers to find it. Next we looked at the leafy trees.  First, we knew that the cache had been placed in 2006, and these trees didn't look 5 years old.  Additionally, they were deciduous, so any cache would stand out like a sore thumb once the leaves fall.

So we were stuck with the oaks -- but they were tall, and had no branches or anything around them!  Nothing to conceal or hide a cache!

Well . . . are you aware of the concept of 'hidden in plain sight?'  Yep.  If it doesn't jump out at you, click on the photo.  This is MASTERFUL, BRILLIANT camouflage.




Sorry for the blur on this -- but this shows it a bit closer up.


It's a small tube (called a bison tube) that the top bottom unscrews from and then you pull the paper log out and add your name and date.  Later (or at the same time if you have wireless in the field) you log it via computer with www.geocaching.com.

This afternoon my kids went with me to a travel bug hotel.  Nope, had nothing to do with bed bugs.  It's where trackable items are stowed awaiting a ride to a new cache.  This one is near the airport, so people who are visiting can drop one of from wherever they've flown in from, and pick one up to take to wherever the owner wants it to go.

There was only 1 TB in the hotel, and it wants to go to Australia!  Here's a photo of it:

The Shark is the TB. The notebook is the
log book.  The other things are just small
trade items for kids who get dragged along.
Seriously though, the kids usually love it.

Try geocaching.  If you like hiking and seeing things
you'd never have seen otherwise, you will love this.
And wear long sleeves and pants.

Tomorrow, photos from the Udvar-Hazy Annex of
the Air & Space Museum.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

See on the Roads Around Your Nation's Capital

What do you think this one says?
And where is Thom when I need him?



Pretty self-explanatory

This one is funny.  The woman walked up as I took it.
She said her husband (military) is from Michigan, and
she refused to put Michigan plates on her car
unless he let her have something with Texas!

And this is on the front of her car.
Apparently Michigan does not require a front plate!
Seen at the airport this afternoon.

And this is the entire back end of the car!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Another Day, Another Cache

Woo-Hoo!  Son agreed to ride with me again today to look for a cache.  This one was in an area of our community where I don't like to spend a lot of time by myself. Let's say it's "on the edge of respectability."

At any rate, the GPS kept saying the East side of the path, and the clue was that it was magnetic.  On the east side of the path were 2 big electrical boxes, a man hole cover, a metal drainage pipe and a not-quite-buried sewer pipe.  ALL would be excellent candidates for a magnetic stick-on.  Of course, he found it, and on the WEST side of the path, stuck to the ONE electrical box on that side. It was disguised to look like a bolt and completely blended in.

These things are amazing. This one was a "pico" -- smaller than a "nano."  If you wear a size 5 ring, it's bigger around on the inside than this cache. A dime is bigger around.  Here's a photo of the kind we were seeking:
Yeah - exactly.  The top unscrews and there's a log rolled up tightly inside.  This one had been painted the same color as the metal to which it was clinging.  AUUGHH!  Thank goodness I had son with me.

True confessions.  I had shamelessly bribed him. With this.

Hey, it worked. He got out of bed and helped me.  I love my son.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Right Between the Eyes

 . . . or maybe in the solar plexus.  I was reading my devotions this morning and this really hit me. The Scripture is John 12:27-28.

:. . . what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? 
But for this purpose I came to this hour, 'Father, glorify Your name.'"

The commentary:
We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires.  If we try to evade sorrow, refusing to deal with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.

Sorrow removes a great deal of a person's shallowness, but it does not always make that person better.

I think that when we see friends and family members suffering, we do two things. First, we try to make them feel better. Second, we try to figure it how it happened so we can help them avoid it in the future.

But what if it's all part of God's plan -- a plan that says we will all be better for having been in His presence, for having allowed Him to carry us in our sorrows? It is through adversity that we grow and become stronger in our faith.

Are there people who miss this? Absolutely.  The commentary also speaks to those who do not receive the sorrow in a manner consistent with what we know about God's love. They remain crippled, unable to help others or even themselves.

People who have suffered, and come out the other side with their faith intact, are equipped to nurture and nourish others. That is the beauty of the suffering.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Successful Cache Pass

I've been working on a 3 stage multi cache for a couple of weeks. The way this works is that one uses the GPS to find the first cache. It has the coordinates for the second cache half the coordinates for the final cache. The first cache's hint was "Think Kohler."  When I found it, I started laughing out loud. It was lodged in a bowl created by the way 2 trees grew together, looking like a TOILET.  Hilarious, but I forgot to photo.  Followed the second set of coordinates to another brilliant cache.  This is it:

Click on the photo to see it up close.  Brilliant.
So now I had the coordinates for the final stage, which was about 2 miles away and the boy was hungry and tired so we paused for the day.  That was yesterday. Today we got on our bikes, remembered to take everything (except hand towels for wiping our faces - darn) and got moving.  This, too, was a brilliant hide. Our GPS was saying it was another 44 feet "that way".  My son climbed up on a rock to see where "that way" took us and said, "Oh! I see it!".  It was nearly at his feet.  GPS'ers bounce around a bit, so I wasn't surprised.

After we finished that one, we went to another one called "Magic Log."  I had brought long socks to put on if we were to bushwack so I could avoid more Poison Ivy.  Once they were on, it was short work to find it.  Along the way though, I ran across these interesting little things. Son (the Boy Scout) says they're mushrooms or fungi -- and hallucinogenic.  I decided to forego hallucinating and settle for a photo.

Again, click on the photo to see them up close.

Our final cache was in a busy location, surrounded by restaurants. Easy find and just signed the log. We sat and enjoyed our Starbucks treats before starting on our further quest.  We got as far as #4, and found it easily (it wasn't really even hidden). But as we started for #5, the geocaching app crashed and we couldn't get any updates, so we bagged it and came home. I HATE when that happens in the field. I need to figure out a work-around, but since we were 4/4 for the day, it was a good way to finish!

Somewhere along the way I made the mistake of asking my son, "Are you enjoying this or are you just indulging me because I'm your mom?" He said, "about half and half." I probably would have been happier not knowing. Be careful what you ask a teen, right?



Thursday, June 23, 2011

Delicious Farmer's Market Fare

I would have taken a photo of the "before" separate ingredients, but . . .  well, to be honest, I forgot. But this is what our dinner looked like after I fixed it and before everyone dived in, and it was really good!

My daughter and I rode bikes to the Farmer's Market yesterday afternoon.  Being on the bikes limited our purchases (no eggs!).  But we picked up some green beans, grape tomatoes and fresh artisan bread made with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan. Yum. Okay, so for photo purposes keeping it in the orange bowl wasn't the best choice. But everyone was hungry so I was lucky to even get to take THIS photo!


Flank Steak with Famer's Market Fare

Flank Steak
2 tsp olive oil, separated
Green Beans
Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs + 2 tsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced

Start salted water to boiling.

Trim the flank steak a bit -- not completely as you'll want some fat for flavor.  Rub 1 tsp of olive oil on one side of the steak.  Generously sprinkle salt and freshly ground pepper on it. Repeat on the other side. Grill the steak for 3-4 minutes per side. Do not over cook.  Let sit on the carving board while you do the rest.

Trim the green beans to your taste (size, etc.) and cut the tomatoes in half.  Add the green beans to the boiling salted water, cook about 2-3 minutes; drain and rinse with cold water.

Mix the sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic with a whisk.

With a VERY sharp knife, slice the flank steak across the grain into thin slices.  Add it, and any juices that accumulated while it was resting, to a big serving bowl.  Add the green beans and sauce and mix well. Finally, add the tomatoes.

IF there are any leftovers, they're great the next day.  And very low cal.

GORGEOUS BLOOMS AT THE MARKET

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

First official day of school being out. They only had 2 hours each the last two days, but still had to go. Yes, it's crazy, but at least the legislators who decide these things aren't trying to TEACH!  Yikes!

Letting the kids sleep in past 6am is such a treat. We're going to meet some friends for a bike ride in a little while, and then visit one of our favorite places -- Great Harvest Bread in Herndon!

Today is bound to generate some great photos -- we're caching as well.  Check back later to see! (Right now Blogger won't let me upload photos.  Sigh. Ah well, can't beat the price)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Muffed Target



RULES
Each Tuesday post a picture which is completely crazy, messed up, with nothing on etc, which normally you would immediately delete. It can be everything, like only shoes instead of the whole person, a blurred building or whatever you want. Then tell us the little story how it happened and what it should have been. 
Thanks, Thom, for continuing this!


This is what happens when you're trying
to take a photo of a pretty flower
and a bee lands on your hand
that is holding the camera!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!


"Absent or present, engaged or indifferent, living or dead, our fathers have the most defining impact on our lives."

I paraphrase that from a sermon I heard YEARS ago, given by Michael Easley, on Father's Day. I can't remember whether we even had our kids yet, but I know I was still carrying some resentment towards my father for not being the "Ward Cleaver" type that "everyone" else seemed to have.


Boy, have I come a long way. My dad is a human being, flawed and sinful, yet he has spent his entire life trying to overcome his "natural" man. As a young man, he experienced the abuse of his mom at the hands of his dad, the divorce of his parents (very radical in those days), the re-marriage of his mother, the sporadic contact with his biological father, and the difficulty in connecting with a step-father who was not equipped to take on a 12 year old young man who thought of himself as the man of the household.


My dad, because of circumstances that arose in his childhood, felt responsible for his biological father leaving them for good, and carried that guilt into his own marriage. The guilt, plus the lack of fathering examples made it very difficult for my dad to rise above what he had observed and learned and engage at a level that was like the TV dads we saw all around us.


YET, he really tried.  My dad always made sure we were fed and clothed adequately. He worked hard at his military career so he could advance in rank, which meant advance in pay, to have the resources to care for his family. He was home as often as his military duties allowed, and in one idyllic 4 year period in Kansas, was the true "available" dad that we craved. He took us ice skating on a frozen pond, taught us how to work in the yard (a skill that sadly, none of us has really nurtured), created award-winning house decorations for Christmas, and did all the things that showed he loved us.


I'll be the first to admit, of the three children in my family, I have a special bond with my dad. I was the only child born while my dad was home from deployment. I am the one he held in his arms from the beginning. I am the only blond child in the family. I didn't know, until I was an adult, that my dad's hair had been blonde when he was a child. I was born with some medical issues that needed to be resolved, and my dad was on hand to help support my mom as she worked through the medical system to get me taken care of.


When I was halfway through high school, my dad retired from the military and announced we were moving. I was devastated, angry, and hostile. But when it was time to start school in our new location, and the house hadn't sold yet, I was the one who caved in and went to join my father. I was still angry, and carried that anger for years.


But becoming a committed believer in Christ and a parent gave me a completely different perspective. First, I understand that God is sovereign and everything that has happened within my life has been within His control and for my good...to draw me to Him. Second, as a parent I understand that sometimes you make the best choices for your children whether they agree with them or not. As a parent, I am not my children's friend. My dad could not be mine.


And now? My dad is an excellent grandpa. He teaches, nurtures, loves, and spoils quite a bit. I am shocked to discover that he will be 78 years old this August, because he sure doesn't act like an old man. (Well, okay the hearing has really gone downhill and he's a bit set in his ways, but most of the time he doesn't act like an old man!).


Finally, maturing in my own marriage has made me appreciate the difficulty in keeping a marriage alive, especially with a lot of separation. So if their marriage wasn't the ideal, it was intact -- still is. I appreciate the sacrifice that entailed. They did it for the kids.



Friday, June 17, 2011

Designed Plates & the Nature Center

Some views from yesterday afternoon.  Hope they make you smile!






Doesn't it seem weird that they need to TELL people not to do this?










A Book Worth Reading

I am anti-trend. If everyone else is reading a book, I tend to put it at the very bottom of my list. For example, I just finally read "The Help" about a month ago. (That's another story)


Our County sponsors a County-wide reading opportunity each year. This year's book is "The Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Children of Nepal" and for some reason, this year I decided to read it. Maybe because a young friend of mine is getting ready to go work on the issue of human trafficking in Asia. I don't know, but I picked it up. Fully expecting another heart wrenching book about how the US involvement overseas ruins people's lives, I was prepared to hate it. BUT . . . 

FINALLY, a book that lives up to its hype. This book is a beautiful testimony of how cluelessness and no sense of purpose can be transformed into a love that knows no bounds.

One might think from the title that this book is about children who have been taken out of the home country by nefarious means, and the author's quest to return them. The truth is worse.  In the midst of the Civil War in Nepal, when parents were desperate to keep their children from ending up in the Maoist army, child traffickers promised the parents a future for the child in exchange for a lot of money. Once the children were in the system, the traffickers sold them to other Nepalese for use as beggars, servants, or worse.

Conor Grennan went to Nepal with no more than a vague idea that he would volunteer in an orphanage for three months and then get on with backpacking around the region. When he got to the orphanage, Little Princes, he discovered that these children were probably not orphans; instead, they were unable to be reunited with their families due to distance and war. The children at Little Princes were the lucky ones who had been rescued from the child traffickers pipeline. They were living in comparative luxury, with clothes and the opportunity to go to school.

In those three short months at Little Princes, Grennan was changed forever. In addition to caring for the boys at Little Princes, he was involved in trying to rescue seven more children whom he visited with and helped feed. Unfortunately, when the authorities went to rescue the children, they had been spirited away by the traffickers. Grennan left Nepal feeling he had been responsible for their fate, and resolved to return to make it right.

Grennan went from being a self-indulgent Westerner with little thought about the plight of others to a man determined to find out if he could return the children to their families some day. When he returned to Nepal with this goal in mind, the story he tells is gripping enough to stay up late at night turning pages.

Conor Grennan's writing is superb. He is honest about his humanity and selfishness, just as he is honest about the cold, the fear, and the joy.  The way he writes about the interactions with the children conveys love and great respect for his little charges who had endured so much. A particularly interesting part of the book is the moral dilemma set up by his contacting parents of these children. This white foreigner was telling them that their children were safe, well, and getting to go to school but that it was wrong to have let them go with the child traffickers (who of course did not represent themselves that way). Although they missed their children, they were delighted that they were doing so well, and feared that Grennan would change that in some way. It must have seemed odd to them for him to say they should not have done something that had benefited their child so much.


READ this book, and then visit his website. If you have a little extra cash, throw some in his donation bucket. It's worth doing it to a) make a difference and b) reward good writing!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Censorship



Recently, comedian Tracy Morgan made some statements during his act that were in poor taste and offensive to certain groups.

I don't like it when people say unkind things. About anyone. To anyone. Which is why I don't like a lot of what passes for comedy today.

HOWEVER, the reaction of the community that feels targeted, and all the suckers-up, alarms me. It's very McCarthy-esque, the way they are defining hate speech in this country and dictating, by social media, what is appropriate to speak in public.

The very people who look back in history and decry the accusations made by Sen. Joe McCarthy on his witch hunts for communists (or basically, people who didn't agree with him) are the same people whose very lives are protected by the backlash against McCarthy's excesses.

But if they (or we) start making the rules about what can be said in public, (they)we are no different or better than McCarthy.  It is really sad to see the entertainment community go berserk over this, since their community (Hollywood) was a CHIEF target of McCarthy. They KNOW discrimination, censorship, blacklisting, and persecution.

Comedy has always been humanity's way of easing into talking about things that make us uncomfortable. The "fool" in medieval times was the safety valve for the nobility. He could say things in jest to get them out in the open, and was protected by not only the laws of the realm, but the dispensation of the religious authorities. Fools were SUPPOSED to be the ones to say difficult things, ask difficult questions.

About 10 years ago in this country, the forbidden subject was race. Now it's homosexuality. What will it be tomorrow?

Let me state again, I don't like it when people say unkind things. About anyone. To anyone. Which is why I don't like a lot of what passes for comedy today.


So I don't listen to Tracy Morgan. I won't buy his tickets, I won't go see his show. But I will defend to the death his right to say what he pleases. Because if it's not Tracy Morgan being censored by social approbation, it could be me.

Or you.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just Keep Pedaling

Today dawned as the PERFECT day for geocahing on my bike. I finally gave in and put the new seat on, and although it isn't like sitting on cotton, it, along with padded shorts, will be fine.

Headed out to my first spot and got within 30 feet of it, but two things happened.

1) I was wearing bike shorts and the area is really overgrown. I decided to wait until one of those conditions change

2) I lost my comm with geocaching.com.  Yep, the app is having issues.  I thought it was just because of the tree cover, but all of my e-mails nagging me about things I should have been back at my home office accomplishing came through just fine. I continued my ride, periodically checking for comm, but no joy on that front.

However, I did see a hawk -- very bad photo here because I was afraid he'd fly off.  I also saw some pretty hydrangeas, another cool tree trunk hollow and some pretty yellow trumpet-like flowers!  Also took my new profile pic!






Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Stock Sunday


Robin, at Around the Island, has challenged us to post photos that remind us of summer each Sunday. She's not looking for professional quality photos (although hers are), just something fun.

Daughter and I took a bike ride yesterday to geocache in a new park, Arrowbrook. We've driven by this place many times on the way to a favorite pizza place, and never registered that it was an "official" park (dedicated in Nov 2010, so pretty new). It was a puzzle cache and we were successful at the first 3 puzzles, but it was blasted hot so we came home to think about the others. We saw lots of dragonflies and damselflies, and learned about the butterflies that live there. Apparently the water portion of the park has been developed as an "Enhanced Extension Basin," a device that soaks up what would have been run-off from developed areas and releases it back into the watershed at a more sedate pace, consistent with a more healthy environment. Who knew?



and to demonstrate that we are ALMOST FINALLY out of school,
here is the Rube Goldberg project for Physics that
represented her final A or B. (A if it worked, B if it was complete, but didn't)
Assignment, to design and build a working contraption 
a la Goldberg using a number of simple machines.


video

They had to include a pulley, lever and fulcrum, inclined plane, and wedge.

The way this one works:

The string on a pulley releases a hammer which hits the base of
a launching point, flinging the marble into a funnel.
The marble whirls around the funnel, drops down to nudge a
car, which goes down the ramp, hitting
a lever which knocks over a block.
The block releases the balloon, which as it rises,
makes the connection for the two circuits,
and the light goes on!

Friday, June 10, 2011

No Riding Today


I rode each day this week so took today off. Instead I went with a young friend and his mom (also my friend) to Children's Hospital where he underwent a procedure. This sweet little guy has been diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy so he needs a little extra help getting weight on.  Today they changed out the feeding tube for a button.  He was a trooper.

That's a difficult place to be. As you can see from this video, he's a happy little guy who seems pretty healthy. Many of the kids there are not. The worry and anxiety on the faces of the parents is difficult to observe. It cuts right to the heart.

I was so impressed with the staff there. They were all kind, engaging and loving to our little guy.

video

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Do You Geo?

Have you heard of geocaching?  It's the high tech game of taking a walk with a purpose. If you have a GPS device or a smart phone, you can do this!

The easiest place to start is www.geocaching.com and read the stuff there.  Put in your address and it will show you all the hidden treasures in your area. It's up to you to read the description and hints and figure it out.

We've been doing this since 2004 but really slowed down after the first year. Our GPS device was clunky and the kids got very involved in other things. Then I got a smart phone and we're back on the trail.  In the last few weeks, I've used my bike to get to the locations and try to find the stuff!

It's a game of physical and intellectual curiosity, and you can do as much or as little as you want. There's no cost for the basic entry to the website, and gets you outside! You see places and things you might never have known were there -- like the park the other day where I found the bunny and the snake!  And yesterday morning my friend and I went all over the small town next to ours, following a history clue/cache. We even had to do some math to get where we were going!

Yesterday afternoon after caching in the morning, I went to the Farmer's Market, so here are three photos to make your mouth water!




Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Muffed Target

I'm hoping Thom is getting around to doing this today because I've been saving bad photos instead of deleting them, JUST FOR HIM!


The idea is that we all screw up photography, and sometimes it's nice to share it and know that you're not alone!

Here are my muffed targets from the bike trips this week.

This is actually kind of surreal, don't you think?

I think I stuck the camera in to photograph someplace
I didn't want to stick my hand into geocaching.

Looks like water going over something,
but I have NO IDEA!


So, the little story.  Well, sometimes I'm done with taking the photo before the shutter closes.  Oops!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A New Friend?

I've been doing a lot of biking and trying to combine it with geocaching. I'm cautious about where I go -- sticking with the urban caches and saving the woodland ones for when the kids are with me.

Today I went after one that is placed near the Fannie Mae building in my town.  The street name cracks me up -- American Dream Way...

At any rate, there's a lovely little park next to the building and I saw all kinds of things there. Didn't find the cache -- I think it requires going under a bridge. I prefer to let my son do the stuff that requires crawling down where insects live!

The path was small rocks, so I got off my bike and started pushing through on the grass. As I came around a bend, I saw this:


A little later, around another bend I saw a chipmunk run off. I looked to the side of the path where he'd gone and thought, "oh, that's too bad. Someone has left some old rubber here.  I wish people would pick up their trash."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer Stock is Back



Robin, from Around the Island, has revived her photo meme -- Summer Stock Sundays.  Each Saturday participants will post a photo that indicates "Summer" to them. (Sorry I missed the time -- I tend to think of Sunday as being on .. well, Sunday -- we'll see if I'm more successful in the future!)

One of the joys of summer here is that the youngest of the squirrels are out frolicking. They're a little smaller than their parents and a lot more headstrong. I can just hear the parents saying, "that won't work," and the little squirrel saying, "just watch me."  Sorry to post three photos, but you really need to see them in sequence. Be sure to click on the third to see WHERE the squirrel has gotten to.



Click on the photo to see it more clearly


Yes, he is INSIDE the feeder. Incredible.