Our oldest nephew turned six this last week and we managed to snag him for a few hours of fun at the Seattle Aquarium to celebrate. Being Halloween the aquarium was decked out in fall decor with carved pumpkins in under water exhibits and some scuba divers in costumes as well. We were having so much fun in the moment, we didn't get that many pictures. I'll share what we did get and mix in aquarium shots from a few weeks ago when Mark and I were there on our own.
The touch tanks are a must and it wouldn't be a trip to the touch tanks without getting a hug from a sea urchin or two!
A little face painting was going on too and Connor just had to be a part - how about a penguin to adorn that cute cheek?!
Our visit to the tropical tanks came next and we were in for a surprise! A diver wearing tropical print shirt and shorts was hanging out feeding the fish. This was the first time any of us had seen someone doing a feeding in the tropical tank and watching an enormous puffer fish beg like a puppy was quite the treat! There was even a skeleton snorkeler and a treasure chest in the tropical tank, pretty fun stuff!
We had to go find the seahorses and take a good look at the fish that looks like a sword, at least according to a little boy who was going to be dressing up like a knight in few hours for tricker treating!
Next on the agenda (of said six year old) was to head out and see the seals and otters. We showed up in time to watch the fur seals get fed and the otters were kind enough to come out and say hello. We were so engrossed in these amazing creatures that I'll just have to share a shot of one of the otters from a few weeks ago, when it had a toy frisbee.
We also spent quite a bit of time in an interactive education area where were learned all sorts of fun facts about whales and dolphins. These new interactive touch screens the aquarium has been putting in are a great addition to the aquarium. We were most impressed by the sound that a Blue Whale makes! And we all had to take turns seeing how we measure up to the height of an Orca's dorsal fin.
There were several opportunities for kids to search for special pumpkins in the different exhibits and get a treat if the could find them. I was SUPER pleased with the aquarium that the treats were organic granola bars and organic fruit leather. Seeing them offer something a little healthier but still quite delicious for the kids was wonderful. Not to mention the fact that the treats were organic supports the ideas of conservation that the aquarium promotes. Kudos Seattle Aquarium - I'm proud of ya!
We ended out adventure by heading to Starbucks for cocoa with whipped cream. And just outside there was a giant plush otter to pose with. I'm really glad otters don't grow this big in the wild!
Throughout the visit to the aquarium Connor shared little facts he had been picking up from school and perhaps previous visits to the aquarium. As a naturalist, (and a proud Auntie) I was pleased to hear him telling me about sharks growing back there lost teeth and how sea stars move with their tube feet. I think we might just have another natural science geek in the making - Yippee! What an awesome day with an awesome six year old and some awesome underwater critters! As Crush the Sea Turtle in Finding Nemo would say, "Awesome Duuude!"
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The country lane I rode down was bordered by patches of mixed forest and broad green fields with the occasional drive that went off into the distance over a hill and towards a plume of smoke rising from some hidden house. Houses where people were most likely coming in from their morning chores and settling into getting a nice Saturday breakfast on. I could imagine the scent of fried potatoes and onions and the frying eggs to be plopped on top of them, the scent of yesterdays fresh baked bread being toasted up and slathered with butter, of coffee waiting for the cream from that mornings milking to rise and be skimmed from the top of the bucket. And pancakes bubbling up on the griddle. All that imagining got my stomach growling and I began to keep an eye out for a spot to stop and pull out my own packed breakfast - one far less extravagant than the breakfast I could easily imagine being fixed in the distant farm houses.
Eventually I came around a bend in the road and off to the right saw an old cabin with a sturdy log fence surrounding it and the accompanying yard. The cabin looked unoccupied but the apple trees that filled one side of the yard looked well kept and still held plenty of bright red apples, though most of the leaves on the trees had fallen to the ground. I leaned my bike against the log fence, pulled the bag that held my breakfast out of the front basket and made my way to the gate where a sign read:
Elsa Wilson Cabin Built 1818
Home of Ms. Elsa Wilson from 1818 - 1858,
Beloved teacher of over three generations.
So loved by her students and their families Ms. Wilson
was given an orchard worth of apple trees.
The orchard, cabin and grave site
remain here for the enjoyment of all.
Thanks to the Friends of the Wilson County Historic Society
Help yourself to an apple or two when they're ready!
Opening the gate and walking up the path and out amongst the apple trees, I enjoyed the scent of ripening apples in the morning sun. Many of the lower apples had already been picked, leaving the higher ones for the birds and other countryside critters. I could imagine the raccoons coming by at night making a party of it. I eventually found a bright red specimen within reach and plucked it from the branch, the perfect addition to my breakfast.
I settled on the top step of the cabin, not quite sure if the porch swing that hung there was still secure, and pulled out my breakfast. I unpacked a hard boiled egg, coffeecake, and a thermos of coffee and set it all next to me on the porch. Using the cloth napkin I had packed I polished the fresh picked apple till it shone and sat it with the rest of the food while I poured my coffee into the small steel cup that capped the thermos. The steam rose into the air and I breathed it in. I couldn't have ask for a better morning to be out on a ride or a better place to be enjoying my simple breakfast.
As I ate I watched birds flick back and forth from the row of conifers that edged the far side of the fenced in property to the apple trees on the other. Chickadees called cheerily as they hung upside down from the branches, searching for tasty little insects. Juncos filled the air with their squabbling clicks as they chased each other under the trees, white outer tail feathers flashing in the sunlight. A steller's jay flew into the branches of the apple tree nearest me and screeched its claim over the remaining apple, before pulling it from the limb to fall to the ground and spreading its bright blue wings to follow after its prize. A squirrel scurried up a branch of another tree and perched while taking bites from an apple, watching me as it chewed with big puffy cheeks. I could hear golden-crowned kinglets and the occasional red-breasted nuthatch as they fed in the conifers across the way.
I packed up the remains of my breakfast and walked towards the row of Douglas Firs and Western Hemlocks with my second cup of steaming coffee in hand, hoping for a glimpse of one of those nuthatches. It was always a treat to watch them climb down trees head first, tucking their curved beaks up under the bark. Within a few feet of the conifers I stopped though. On the ground among the fallen needles of the conifers was an old cracked grave marker. Squatting down to look closer I could just make out the worn engraved words of what appeared to be the epitaph of the much beloved teacher from so many years ago. I stood and stretched, looking around again. It seemed a pleasant place to be laid to rest, with all the birds happily foraging overhead and the scent of apples in the air. I figured Ms. Elsa Wilson's spirit to be quite content.
Ready to get on with my ride I made my way back to the gate and looking out over the orchard, quietly thanking Ms. Wilson for the sharing of her apples and resting place. Taking in one more deep breath of the apple scented air I mounted back up on my bike. As I rode off I glanced back at the cabin to see the porch swing moving steadily on the porch, with not a breeze to be had, and I smiled. Obviously the porch swing was still sturdy after all, at least sturdy enough for a happy ghost to enjoy on a sunny, autumn, apple scented morning.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
This is one of my favorite times to go out for a photography walk - so many colors and festive fall decorations to capture. These photos, were taken on a recent walk around my neighborhood. I live on a peninsula with great beaches on either side and beautiful neighborhoods in between. I never tire of trying to find a new route, an alley I haven't walked down, a stair case up the hill I have yet to climb. And along the way I usually see some fun things and meet some friendly neighborhood residents. I hope you enjoy the walk, it's a little lengthy, so grab a cup of some delicious fall beverage and settle in for a tour de Alki.
Ah, Amanita muscaria, one of the most photogenic of fungi. So beautiful.
This highly decorated little cottage is just a little ways from my own home.
The usual decor is beachy, but they have added a little fall flair.
I think it goes well.
Leaves and seeds on the side walk - always beautiful!
Here is one of the friendly neighborhood residents.
He was willing to stop his busy gathering for a moment and pose for me - how nice!
Here is another friendly resident - though this one only comes around this time of year.
A garden with plenty of greenery left and a beautiful bird bath.
I love that color of green!
Yet another neighborhood resident. This fella keeps an eye on things at a playground.
He's got a cousin over on the other side of the neighborhood who keeps tabs
of all the walkers and cyclists enjoying Beach Drive and Constellation Park.
A friendly offering of bird seed by an odd bird indeed!
This jack-o-lantern means business! That's one good guard, I'd say!
Look how his eyes follow you...
Having grown patti-pan squash before I can understand why the gardeners
may have left these last few end of season squash for the critters - they are so prolific!
Another friendly neighborhood resident who stopped to say hi and pose for the camera!
I just love the splattered mustache on this kitty!
Vibrant red dahlias still going strong.
This was so rustic, I just had to take a picture.
Most likely this shed has been standing for a very long time -
a part of Alki's rich history
This house was really going all out with the Halloween decorations -
what a great window display!!!
And then there was the porch! I wonder what's she's brewing!?
There were even a few friendly ghosts hanging about.
I walked along Alki beach just in time
to catch this tug making it's way west.
A beautiful day to be out on the water!
I had stepped down onto the beach to pick up a plastic water bottle
left behind by someone and came across this lone carnation bud
amongst a pile of rocks and shells.
The glass art sculpture that i admire on my regular walks
had some visitors hanging out for the season.
I seemed to stumble into oz for a little while too.
Sparkling blue water, brilliant blue sky all greeted me on the
west and south sides of the peninsula. I had to sit for a while on a bench
and enjoy the view and do a little sun worshiping while I had the chance!
It likes like a neighborhood gnome had the same idea!
And a sunflower, too heavy with seeds to look up and follow
the sun across the sky reminded me in its golden beauty
of sunny days soon to pass and cooler grayer days to come...
making me very happy to have gotten out on this walk on such a beautiful autumn day!