08. July 2011 · Comments Off on Road Trip 2011: Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
This is our just-finished-packing-on-the-first-warm-day-of-our-campout-pooped picture. 

Meet Megan, who was my college roommate for my last two years at PSU.  She has a son about Jacob’s age.  Every couple of years we try to get together to hang out.  We aren’t formal about it or anything, but in recent years we’ve been able to take turns with visits and the last time we spent time together was at Dave’s family reunion in 2008 (I think it was 2008….).

So this time it was the Vollmers’ turn to make a trip up a bit closer to Megan; we discussed getting together for a mother/son campout somewhere between Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.  The Poconos and Catskills came to mind.  Megan found out that her favorite music group, Michael Franti and Spearhead, were headlining the Wanderlust Yoga Festival near Stratton, Vermont at the same time we were planning to get together.  We decided to go!

Michael Franti’s uplifting music is a lot of fun to listen to, his most recent album, The Sound of Sunshine, is so full of fun and happiness.  His band is well known for their Top 20 hit “Say Hey (I Love You)“.

We met up at Bald Mountain Campground near Townshend, Vermont.  The weather was pretty rainy and cool most of our time there, with high temperatures near 60F.  I wrote more about the camping itself earlier this week.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest yoga enthusiast!  I have gone to classes before, I know the basic moves, and I guess I’m okay at it.  When I saw the other music groups involved there turned out to be a couple of bands that my sister really likes and have heard before and cinched even more that it would be a good time.

Because of the kids (and our lack of enthusiasm for yoga), we didn’t sign up for any yoga classes but there was still plenty to do before the music.  I think it was in part due to the rain, but the concert went later than we thought, and I have to admit my kids were pretty tired by the time it started.  And they were wet.  But when they broke out several dozen beach balls to toss around the crowds during the song “Sound of Sunshine“, the kids suddenly got pretty happy!  Enjoy some pictures from our day!

The festival was held at the Stratton Ski Resort village, these stilt-walkers were roaming the festival.

I thought these pop-up recycling bins were cool.  One of the openings was actually for compost!

A circus performer was teaching the kids to spin plates, use “diabolos“, and juggle beanbags 

An acrobatic act was going on right in front of us while the kids were enjoying their juggling lessons.

Another stilt-walker.  Note the low clouds coming over the mountain — it rained off and on all day.

Michael Franti led a yoga session.  We stood at the back of the tent and listened.

These are the Mayapuris, a Krishna-inspired kirtan band from Alachua, Florida.  Their music was so wonderful!   

I only had my iPhone camera on this trip, so it was working extra hard to capture concert pictures after sunset!  Here’s Michael Franti himself!
07. July 2011 · Comments Off on Google+: Good Idea or Bad Idea? · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

I use that line with my kids a lot when they’re making questionable decisions.  If one of them is feeding grass clumps to the dog, I’ll ask “Good idea?  Or bad idea?”  Usually that’s enough to make them think before continuing.

I got a (not-quite sanctioned) invitation to join Google+, Google’s new social network, last week from GeekMom Jules.  Several of us GeekMoms have been checking out the assorted Google+ features, from the photo sharing, to the statuses to the “Hangout” area where you can web chat with other Google+ users.  The privacy settings are very likeable (default privacy is “no one can see much”, seemingly the opposite of Facebook’s privacy where the default is often “everyone can see everything unless you manually change that”).

Anyway, in terms of the social network, I think Google+ is on the right track for a smoother-running social network than Facebook.  I’m hoping it doesn’t get overrun by corporate pages and multi-player games the way Facebook has in recent months.

However, I’m sitting here with a clenched jaw waiting for the kinks to get ironed out of the other Google products that are supposed to nicely tie into Google+.

A couple days ago it was published that Google will be rolling their Picasa and Blogger brands into their own names, and with it will come some more tie-ins to Google+.

I’ve been slowly-but-surely uploading and sharing my vacation pictures in the middle of this transition and was faced with some difficulty sharing my Picasa albums with my family.  What I have typically done is upload the photos to Picasaweb with captions, then e-mail the album to myself.  Finally, I forward that album to a pre-set list of friends/family.  This week I attempted to e-mail the album to myself and nothing happened after hitting that “Share” button.

Actually, something did happen: the album posted to my Google+ news stream.  Because my e-mail address was tied into my Google+ account, some assumption was made that Google+ news stream is somehow equivalent to an e-mail inbox.  I managed a workaround by using a non-Google+ enabled e-mail address that I have.

But then when I tried to share the photos with my pre-set friends/family e-mail list, several of them couldn’t see the pictures unless they had their own Google.com login/passwords.  This used to not be the case and it’s very upsetting that my parents (among the main audience for my family’s photos) can’t easily see the pictures anymore.

Similarly, this morning I discovered that several pre-sets in my Blogger (soon to be Google Blogs) account were reset without my knowledge.  I used to have 10 e-mail addresses who’d receive automatic copies of my blog posts when published.  Who knows how long they hadn’t been receiving them.  Chances are they missed most of my vacation posts….

Thanks for letting me vent…I’m hopeful that Google is taking in everyone’s feedback (including this post) and will be sympathetic to those who don’t necessarily want a Google.com login/password to enjoy the Internet.

07. July 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Maryann’s and my latest adventure: Canoeing on Florida’s Blackwater River.  Geologically, Florida’s Blackwater River is a “blackwater river“: tannins are leached out of the local vegetation giving the water a diluted-tea color.

Yesterday we took the kids up to Blackwater River State Park (about 25 miles north of our house) and picked up a pair of canoes at Blackwater Canoe Rental.  For about $42 per canoe, we chose the 1/2 day ride.  According to the folks at the canoe rental center, the timing applies to how much distance you have to cover.  You can take all day to do a 1/2 day ride if you choose to spend the day swimming instead.

Blackwater Canoe Rental also offers kayak and inner tube rentals — groups can rent any combination of canoe, kayak and tube and tie them together into groups.  I see a kayak/tube combo trip in our future!

We were put in a school bus that took us off-road through Blackwater River State Park to a put-in area 4 miles east of where we had parked the truck.  Maryann and I packed sandwiches and drinks for the gang, which were easily loaded into the canoes.  Each of us took two boys and we were on our way!

The kids didn’t quite know what to expect, but we were greeted with a gentle-moving freshwater river that averaged about 3 feet deep and was lined with the same really soft sand that exits through the east end of Pensacola Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico.  The water was considerably cooler than the Gulf waters we experienced this past weekend at the beach.

The boys were pretty good about taking turns paddling (all 4 boys wanted to help paddle, which was great for Maryann and me!).

It took us about 4 hours to cover the 4 miles, and that included 4 x 20-30 minute stops along the way.  The kids really enjoyed playing in the water and exploring the wildlife.  We saw birds, turtles and way-too-many-spiders!

Maryann took just about all of these pictures (I took the ones with her in them, along with a couple others) with her waterproof Kodak Easy Sport C123 camera.  Maryann turned many of the pics into a nice collage which you can see at her Fotomom blog.

Maryann has a Kodak waterproof camera, which is what she used for all these photos.  Jacob looks like he’s ready to slice Timmy in half.  Timmy’s doing this unicorn thing which I’ll explain later.

Love these pics of the boys playing on this log.

Maryann was trying to capture splashes…

There was a particularly deep spot here that the kids would drift through with their floatation devices.

A spider?  YIKES!  A group of teenagers/college kids drifted past this tree stump in their tubes, saw the spider, freaked loudly, and then got their tubes tangled on this stump.  They were stuck for several minutes until one of us untangled them.  Maryann and I were fascinated by the spider (along with our sons) and the young adults thought we were fearless!

This is Timmy’s portrayal of a Pokemon named Samurott.  He has a unicorn-like horn and these bearded growths protruding sideways from his mouth. 
06. July 2011 · Comments Off on Florida Discoveries 13: Pensacola Lighthouse · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

As is always the case when I get together with Maryann the Fotomom, today was an adventure.

We took our boys to NAS Pensacola today and enjoyed an hour or so at the Pensacola Lighthouse before spending the rest of the day at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, which we’d visited before.

At the lighthouse, Maryann and I walked with our kids up the 177 steps and then enjoyed the stunning views.

There’s a nice little museum at the base of the lighthouse.  The museum is free of charge, but expect to pay $5 per adult and $3 per child, senior or military member to ascend the lighthouse itself.  There is a volunteer at the top to answer questions and point out what you’re looking at in your 360 degree field of view.

The lighthouse also hosts a unique viewing experience for Blue Angels practice airshows ($15 from the top of the lighthouse, you have to make reservations).

Are you interested in the paranormal?  The lighthouse was featured on Ghost Hunters in 2009 and the TAPS team apparently had a very exciting investigation.  You can reserve ghost tour spots via this website — tours are offered 1-2x per month.

We were lucky enough to see Fat Albert and The Blue Angels parked at their home hanger nearby, plus great views of the Aviation Museum, Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key.

I had a good time photographing the spiral staircase.

All the kids were pretty cautious walking up the steps.  

A nice view of the entire National Museum of Naval Aviation.

That’s “Fat Albert”, which carries the Blue Angels’ support crew and equipment to all their destinations.  You can see the tails of 3 of the Blue Angels behind the hangar.

Great sign!  Albeit a bit morbid…
04. July 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

This week we have friends from North Carolina visiting: Maryann (AKA Fotomom), Joey and Johnny.  Jacob and Joey were in the same preschool from 2005-2008 and were two peas in a pod, while Timmy and Johnny were best buddies as the respective little brothers.  We took dozens of great road trips together!

Joey and Johnny obviously knew about the trip (they were getting on a plane, how could they not?) but we kept the visit a big surprise from my boys until they saw their friends in the baggage claim area at Pensacola Airport last night.

Johnny couldn’t get over how short Timmy’s hair is!

It took Jacob a few minutes to sink in that his friends are really here!

On the way back from the airport, I gave Fotomom a challenge: to photograph the famous Pensacola Beach sign in the dark.  I slowed down the truck to about 30 mph and Maryann gave it a shot with a “sports” setting on her Canon camera.  I love it!

It’s so incredibly gaudy I LOVE IT!  Photo: Maryann G. (Fotomom)

I love that sign because it reminds me of Vegas.  The yellow emblem’s lights radiate outwards, and the lights in the words “Pensacola Beach” sparkle.

It reminds me of those old-fashioned Holiday Inn signs:

13. June 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

I guess good recipes travel fast!  I was delightfully surprised when one of Brandie @ The Country Cook’s friends, Laurie @ Feeding My Ohana, contacted me about how excited she was to see a non-commercial simple Huli Huli Chicken marinade recipe at The Country Cook a couple weeks ago.  Laurie tried it and gave it a thumbs up!

Last Wednesday she featured the recipe, with a summary of my two blog posts from Memorial Day weekend 2009, on her blog.  She graciously omitted the chicken mutilation pictures, lol!  She added a key part to the recipe that I’d been forgetting about all these years: Shouting “HULI!” when you turn the chicken on the grill.

You can’t forget to do that!

20. August 2010 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries: Part 1 — Denver and Stoor Wedding · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

Earlier this month the family paid a trip to our neighbor state to the west: Colorado. We were invited to our friend Rose’s wedding at Buckley AFB near Denver! We worked with Rose in Florida, and I had a chance to work with her again while I was deployed in Spring 2009.

After a VERY uninteresting drive, we found our hotel and some yummy dinner at Bonefish Grill (yay Bang Bang Shrimp!!!), we had fun at a local western wear superstore: Shepler’s.

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding
From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding
From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding
From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

On Saturday, we spent the morning and lunchtime out in Denver with our college friend Adam. First stop: Caboose Hobbies, the biggest hobby store west of the Mississippi, if not the universe. I’ve heard Dave tell me about this store for 16 years, so even I was curious about it. It’s quite large: a former full-fledged grocery store! If you look at the front window of the store, you can see the photographer in the window:

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

We visited Adam’s house in Denver, which is an enormous work in progress both inside and out. He’s replacing the lawn and reworking bathrooms, bedrooms and the kitchen. Phew!

After visiting the house, Adam did some sleuthing via his sisters and took us to one of the best Mexican restaurants in Denver: D’Corazon. I had a fabulous chiles relleno!!!

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

We returned to the hotel to get ready for the wedding, the REAL reason we were in Colorado in the first place! I don’t have any pictures to document this, but about an hour before the wedding (and about 5 minutes before we were heading out the door), Dave hollered “I have no pants!!!!”.

No, he wasn’t being naughty — what he had meant was that he had no SUIT PANTS to wear to the wedding. They were sitting in our closet back in Nebraska!!! I had apparently put Dave’s suit in the truck when packing without checking for all the components. After about 5-6 minutes of significant…uh…venting at each other, Dave and I together had a plan: Rose and Brad were getting married at Buckley AFB and the base has a BX (Base Exchange, like a department store). Just the night before Brad was saying that the BX at Buckley was bigger and nicer than the one at Vandenberg AFB. So perhaps we could pick up some black pants there?

Success! We made it to the base at 4pm, Dave found the pants (and belt) he needed and changed in the restroom at the BX…and we made it to the church on time for the 4:30 wedding!!!! Actually, we made it before the bride did…and most of the guests, who were bussed onto the base due to security.

But here’s Dave and the pants…what do you think? Hopefully the answer is “Well, if you hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have known, but yeah…the pants are indeed a little darker….”

Hooray for base exchanges!!!

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

The wedding was beautiful, the boys had a good time, and the reception was really cool: Brad had proposed to Rose at the top of the Eiffel Tower, so there was a beautiful Eiffel Tower ice sculpture on the dance floor, and all the guests received Eiffel Tower-shaped chocolates as wedding favors. Rose’s “signature color”, bright pink, was so elegant in the cake, the flowers (including the gorgeous rose in her hair!) and the bridesmaid dresses. I’m going to shut up now and finish this off with pictures from the wedding and reception. Enjoy!

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

I enjoyed this stained glass honoring Buckley’s space mission.

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding
From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding
From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding
From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding
From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding
From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding
From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

Jacob really enjoyed dancing, while Timmy stayed at the kids’ reception watching Pixar movies.

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

Until Part 2: Golden!!!

Today Shannon and I took our boys to this new “splashpark” that opened 2 weeks ago in North Omaha.  What a fun, FREE, way to spend a hot summer afternoon! School starts Monday!

Since the original post this afternoon I’ve had a chance to add more commentary about this place. The City of Omaha has built several of these “Splashgrounds” around the city and they’re a great time for the boys. Papillion has one, but Bellevue has none (hint hint!)

Today the boys spent nearly 3 hours at the park — then the horseflies started attacking and the boys were happy to go. Shannon and I sat under a tree in the shade and had a good old fashioned chatfest.

This particular one was intriguing: there’s this innocent looking post stationed near the entrance to the fenced area — you rub the top of the post (yes, I know what I’m saying here) and that activates the water for 5 minutes.  As long as a kid runs back to the post every 5 minutes or so, the water stays on.  A nice conservation tool.  You can see the post in the 3rd picture here.

From 2010 08 13 Fontenelle Splashground
12. August 2010 · Comments Off on Our Delightful Long Weekend in Colorado · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Hello friends!  We just got home from our long weekend in Colorado!  I’ll summarize our trip in the next few blog posts, but in short, we had a really good time!  The day in Denver with Adam, Rose and Brad’s wedding, our day in Golden, and 2 days in Rocky Mountain National Park were all tons of fun!!!

Here are a few “teaser” pictures (to steal from fellow blogger Bengela’s example from a recent — more exciting — trip she took).

Dave got a birthday trip to Caboose Hobbies!

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

Our college friend Adam met us in Denver and showed us around.  LOVE his “Skywalker Ranch” t-shirt:

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

We had a great time at Rose and Brad’s wedding at Buckley AFB and their delightful reception — Paris-themed, of course!

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

Who’da thunk Jacob was such a great dancer??

From 2010 08 06 Denver Trip & Stoor Wedding

The Colorado Railroad Museum was a good time…here’s Dave explaining the difference between standard gauge and narrow gauge, and how the track they were on was “dual gauge”:

From 2010 08 08 Colorado RR Museum

The boys had a good time at the Coors Brewery Tour (even the little ones!):

From 2010 08 08 Coors Brewery Tour

And Mom learned how NOT to pay $20 for a 5×7 family shot in front of a green screen by using her iPhone camera (shhhhhhh!):

From 2010 08 08 Coors Brewery Tour

Our stay in Estes Park was at the YMCA of the Rockies — an amazing family-friendly resort!

From 2010 08 08 Coors Brewery Tour

We did two half-day hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, the boys are such troopers and seemed enthralled with the rugged mountains and the plants and animals around them.

From 2010 08 09 Rocky Mtn Natl Park Day 1
From 2010 08 09 Rocky Mtn Natl Park Day 1
From 2010 08 09 Rocky Mtn Natl Park Day 1
From 2010 08 09 Rocky Mtn Natl Park Day 1

Yep, that’s SNOW behind Timmy! We took the park’s Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park west to the Continental Divide.

From 2010 08 09 Rocky Mtn Natl Park Day 1

From 2010 08 09 Rocky Mtn Natl Park Day 1
04. July 2009 · Comments Off on This is a New One…Blog TV · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

We met our new neighbors — Dave and Jamie, and their two sons. They live in the house behind us.  Yes, even more boys to top off the overflowing supply of little boys in our little corner of Bellevue. Just kidding, since two boys left that house, with two more to replace things it’s still even.

Dave-the-Neighbor and Dave-the-Husband seem to get along really well, exchanging beers and fireworks tonight, and will probably do the same tomorrow night.

We also exchanged website addresses and I’ve been intrigued by Dave-the-Neighbor’s “Blog TV” site. (I got permission to put the website out there for the world to see). Dave-the-Husband and I both checked it out and it’s a rather interesting concept. Dave-the-Neighbor merely sets up in his basement, doing what he usually does on his computer, whether it’s paying bills or e-mailing friends, but he has his webcam on, and we can hear whatever he’s listening to on iTunes. He takes requests, and if you have something to discuss, he has a chat capability up such that you can chime in on anything. If you become a Blog TV subscriber, you can also hook up your own webcam and do that type of talking.

Since I’ve met Dave-the-Neighbor in person, and his wife, and his children, and I know where he lives…and where he works, I checked out the website without any qualms. But it’s certainly a brassy thing to do, to put yourself out there LIVE.

Dave-the-Neighbor’s site is neat, but I’ll definitely stick to my primitive mainly-text blog! I don’t think I have the commitment for the live online stuff —