My latest read was a book I asked for and received for Christmas, Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane. Rules for Visiting was an easy read. This book will make one think of the way in which they live their life and the role friendship plays.
The novel is about May, a botanist, and how she decides to catch up with old friends, and perhaps find herself, during bonus time off from her work. May is a gardener at the local university. Being granted a months vacation from her job, May decides to take four seperate vacations to visit friends from her childhood through her college days. While May does have friends of her own, she is often intrigued by other peoples relationships with their frineds. Why does her life seem lacking? Will she find what she is looking for?
Kane’s novel is a wonderful read. A book about life that could easily be made into a movie. It also has plant and tree facts sprinkled throughout the book. This helps define the character and may also teach the reader a thing or two about plants. As always, Happy Reading!
Whether it is learning about one’s ancestors or learning to appreciate other cultures, the International Cottages of the House of Pacific Relations has it all. The cottages are located in San Diego’s Balboa Park. The goal of the HPR is to “further the pursuit of ‘pacific’ or peaceful relations among nations”.
Each house represented in the International Cottages displays cultural information and items relevant to their country. It is a great way to get a taste of a culture. On Saturdays and Sundays, the cottages are open from 11am to 4 pm. Visitors can view the cottages and on Sundays can enjoy refreshments from the culture (donations are welcome). Some cottages also provide refreshments on Saturdays as well.
Houses also put on performances at the stage. This may include music, dancing, singing, etc… Annual special events include an Ethnic Food Fair, and the International Christmas Festival celebrated at the Park’s December Nights. During these annual events, all the cottages are opened and ethnic food is available for purchase.
The HPR is a non-profit organization. Anyone can become a member to one of the houses. Many people who grew up in a country and then moved to the United States will join to stay connected to their culture and share it with others. A membership application/fee is required as well as volunteering at the house of choice. This is a great way to use a language with (in many cases) native speakers of the country. Each house has their own functions. In some, there a choirs to join or language courses. Some get together for coffee and to talk. Holidays are also celebrated with special functions just for members.
The HPR also has a Queens Organization. This is for young members of the houses. A Queen and Princesses can serve from each house. The Queens act as ambassadors for their house and preform cultural dances and do charitable work throughout the community. “The HPR Queens Organization fosters a spirit of understanding, tolerance and goodwill between all races and nationalities, and prepares its members to be adult members of their Houses.”
Visiting Balboa Park’s International Cottages is a great way to spend an afternoon and learn about different cultures. An excellent way to introduce young children to many different cultures at once. For more information visit: http://www.sdhpr.org/aboutus.html
The world famous San Diego Zoo is a big place. Be prepared to spend a full day here (and take a nap after leaving) or a couple of shorter days to spread it out. The zoo has made many changes over the years. So, if it’s been a while, now might be a good time to visit the zoo.
The newest change is the additon of the exhibit Africa Rocks. This is now one of my favorite parts of the zoo. Among the highlights in Africa rocks are the African Penguins, Lemurs, Hamadryas Baboons, Meerkats, Black-Headed Weavers, and Bee-Eaters. I really enjoyed being able to go into the aviary and take photos of the beautiful, colorful birds on exhibit.
There seems always to be informative persons stationed at the orangutan and gorilla exhibits that give interesting facts about the animals and answer any questions guests may have. This makes the viewing of the animals a bit more meaningful and educational. I highly recommend staying a while at these two exhibits in particular to observe the animals for a while.
We were fortunate to visit the Koalas right after they ate and before they were to drift off to sleep. Quite a bonus for us as the Koalas are usually sleeping when we arrive. It was wonderful to see them active for a little while.
The food at the zoo is EXPENSIVE, however, outside food and drinks can be brought in. I highly recommend packing a lunch and bringing water to drink. There are plenty of places to sit down and enjoy lunch.
If walking gets to be too much, bus tours of the zoo are also available. Shows and animal ambassador talks are also available to see each day. The schedules can be picked up at the entry as they change daily.
Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary located in Del Mar, California is a fun place to go to interact with exotic birds. The purpose of this non-profit is to provide a sanctuary for birds and allow them to interact with the public. Some of these birds have out-lived their owners while others have been removed from a less than desirable home environment. Some birds are not adoptable, while others can be adopted to a good home.
The birds are in an outdoor area with a koi pond. Some are on perches, some are in cages. Most can be held and fed. Some of the birds are not as friendly and are not allowed to be held. I was told that most all of the birds can talk to some extent. One says full sentences, one mimics two different rings of a telephone, and my favorite said “hello, pretty bird” and gave a hearty laugh. A couple of the birds were quite old. One was 71 years old.
The volunteers at the sanctuary were very knowledgeable about the birds and I learned some interesting facts about the birds. Not only were the volunteers knowledgeable, some of the other visitors were as well. One woman we talked with goes to Free Flight twice a week and was very familiar with the birds and what they could say.
When we went to Maui a few years back, we decided to try Hawaiian Shave Ice. We stopped by Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice for our first tasting experience. (https://www.ululanishawaiianshaveice.com) Having never eaten it before, we found it interesting and fun. It was indeed delicious!
In Hawaii, Hawaiian Shave Ice is served in a cute little plastic cup that resembles a flower. The shave ice is served on top of ice cream (I chose macadamia nut.) and flavored syrup is poured into the ice. Indeed a cool, refreshing treat.
At Ululani’s, the syrup comes in so many flavors it is hard to choose. The syrup also comes in sugar-free flavors for those wanting to cut down on their sugar intake. There is macadamia nut ice cream and toppings to add to the final creation as well. Plan to go back another day to try more flavors.
When we got home we looked for a Shave Ice place. We found one! Now when we want a little taste of the islands, we can head on over for a little Shave Ice and dream of being back in paradise. No, it is not Hawaii, but it does bring back the memories. Aloha!
Somehow, when picturing Joshua Tree National Park, I always thought of one lone Joshua tree. After all, if there were a lot of trees the tree would be plural, right? Oh how wrong I was. Joshua Tree National Park has more than one tree and is a vast desert.
One thing that overtook me about Joshua Tree (roughly 45 miles from Palm Springs, California) was how large it was. It seemed the desert could go on forever. It is actually made up of two deserts coming together to form the park. Below 3000 feet makes up the Colorado Desert or Eastern part of the park. The higher elevation makes up the Mojave Desert where the Joshua trees can be seen.
When planning a trip to Joshua Tree, keep in mind the temperatures. We took our trip in December, which was a perfect time to go for pleasant hiking. Temperatures are in the 60’s Fahrenheit in December, dipping down cooler at night to somewhere in the 30’s. Spring is the most popular time of year at Joshua Tree due to the desert flowers in bloom. Summer would be the least desirable time to visit as it is a desert and the temperatures can get to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a bit warm to be hiking.
Joshua Tree has a lot of hiking trails and is a beautiful place to visit. At night the stars are plainly visible without any light pollution. If you want to see the stars at night pack a jacket, as it does get cold at night. There is nowhere to purchase food in the park, so pack a picnic and plenty of water. Be sure to pack a camera to capture this remarkable park. Happy Traveling!
The Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin is one of the most beautiful gardens I have visited. Full of interesting plants, colorful flowers, and fun sculptures, it is well worth the trip. Let me give you a tour…
The Rotary Botanical Gardens is developed into 26 garden spaces on over 20 acres of land. Some of my favorite garden spaces are the French Formal Rose Garden, the Sunken Garden, the Shade Garden, and the Japanese Garden. I also was delighted by the interactive kaleidoscope sculpture that allows you to look at flower petals through a kaleidoscope.
I went in the summer, however, the Gardens would be wonderful to see in other seasons as well. The plants are changed out for different seasons so there is always something new to see. Along with different seasons come different hours of operation. Be sure to check the hours and days they are open before making your trip.
The Gardens are a photographer’s dream. Tons of beautiful flowers, interesting backdrops, sculptures, and insects make it well worth the trip. Charge your batteries before going and be sure to allow time to take in the gardens. There are plenty of benches throughout the garden to sit and enjoy nature or to take a break.
The admission to The Rotary Botanical Gardens is reasonable and they have events and classes throughout the year , so be sure to check-out their calendar. One can also have meetings or weddings held at the Gardens. How nice that would be! On the way out, do not forget to stop in the gift shop. A nice selection of garden merchandise is available for purchase.
So, if you like gardens and find yourself in Wisconsin, be sure to stop by Janesville and enjoy an afternoon at the Rotary Botanical Gardens. You can bring a lunch and have an enjoyable meal on their terrace. Remember to stop and smell the roses.
It’s summer and a great time to plan a vacation. Perhaps the perfect time to visit a national park. Wouldn’t Yellowstone be lovely this time of year?
My family and I set off for Yellowstone National Park in late June (we just got back). I checked the weather before leaving so I would know what to pack. I was expecting it to be on the cooler side but was blind-sided on our last day at the park when it started to snow. Snow in June! Really!
I spoke with a park ranger who greeted us with, “Welcome to the first day of summer”. I asked him if the weather was typical for this time of year. He said that it could snow every month of the year in Yellowstone due to the elevation. Oh!
Luckily, the day before, we traveled on a road that was now closed for the day due to the snow. On that particular road we had been lucky enough to see four bears. Timing is everything at Yellowstone.
Now for a few tips for having a good time at Yellowstone. First of all, be patient. Unexpected traffic delays can occur due to animal sightings by motorists. Also, it takes time to spot the animals you are hoping to see. Second, be flexible. Weather may close roads and rerouting your agenda may be necessary. If you are staying outside the park, you may want to consider stopping somewhere to get a picnic lunch to bring into the park. It is not likely to be around a restaurant at the time of lunch, although there are places to eat in the park if you plan for it. However, just in case you get stuck in traffic, be sure to have plenty of water and some snacks to tie you over. Lastly, be sure to prepare for all types of weather in the park. Remember, it can snow every month of the year in Yellowstone.
Hoping to see buffalo on your trip to Yellowstone National Park? You need not worry. I would say it would be difficult not to see buffalo at Yellowstone National Park.
Buffalo tend to roam the park in herds, however, can be found in smaller groups or even solo. Of the three days in the park, we saw buffalo every day. We visited Yellowstone at the end of June and there were a lot of baby buffalo. These little guys were a lighter caramel color and resembled baby cows. Terribly cute!
When visiting Yellowstone, allow extra time to get around the park. Why? Traffic jams occur, of which we were part of on more than one occasion. These traffic jams can cause cars to back-up for over an hour for sure. What causes these traffic jams? Animal sightings by people wanting to snap a photo and buffalo crossing the roads or standing in the road.
The really long traffic jams are most likely due to buffalo crossing the roads. Be especially carefully of the baby buffalo when they are walking along the road. They obviously do not have as much experience at crossing roads and while they tend to stick pretty close to their mother, will run a bit more sporadically into traffic.
We spotted one buffalo on his journey swimming across a body of water. He then approached two other buffalo and kicked up some dirt and made some vocals to the other buffalo. They eventually all settled down and seemed cordial to each other. Very interesting to see.
Buffalo are a huge animal. They are also a wild animal. Having said that, when you are in the park, be sure to give them their distance for a safe viewing experience. Enjoy nature at it’s best in Yellowstone National Park!
Anyone enjoying photography may be familiar with the sight of the John Moulton Barn, one of the most photographed barns around. This barn is located in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. There you will find it nestled with the mountains for it’s backdrop. The perfect setting for an absolutely beautiful photograph.
The barn is part of what is called Mormon Row. Mormons established this farming community near the turn of the 19th century. Here they shared the farm labor with their community. The Mormons dug ditches to irrigate their crops. Today, Mormon Row is part of the Grand Teton National Park.
Visitors from all over the world come to see and photograph this barn and the other buildings on the property. There is a small lot for parking your vehicle. Watch your step when walking around the buildings as there are some pretty large holes you will want to avoid. The holes were made by the current residents of the property, the Prairie Dog. You will see many of these little guys scurrying about.
Take some time to picture life without electricity at this beautiful Wyoming homestead. Have camera in hand and hope for beautiful skies. Venture further into the park and perhaps be lucky enough to see a moose as we did. Happy travels!