Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Unwrapped

The boys were up early, not as early as some, I suppose, but eager to get to the goods.  It was nice to hear Jake say that the things he likes best about Christmas are: "First that Jesus was born. Second, that we get to open presents!"  I think that's a first for him to put Jesus above the hype and excitement of the day.

I told the boys they wouldn't get to open their presents until we got at least one good smile...Think I should have held out for a better one?

Erik practiced being a teen with his "Oh great, a shoe box, just what I always wanted."

Jake was much more enthused with a box of Quaker Oats. He was so funny, opening presents with zest and enthusiasm regardless of the packaging beneath the wrapping.

Karen & Erik opened this one together

Probably Erik's favorite gift - something no teen seems to think they can live without.

(In case you can't see the packaging - a cell phone - w/ limited minutes)
Both boys got a DS game - we had them open them together

And this one took most of the day to put together. Kind of reminds me of that Peter Paul & Mary song "The Marvelous Toy."  I never knew just what it was, and I guess I never will. (Click the Youtube link - its worth a listen - Live at Sydney 1970)

OK, I do know what it is, it is a marble contraption.

Christmas Eve

We went to Gramma's for Christmas Eve and opened a few presents after a great meal with a - you guessed it - pork roll.  The boys don't look as excited as they were to open presents.

 In keeping with Grampa's sense of humor, we pulled the old underwear gift gag in his memory.  Jake thought it incredibly funny to finally be included in the gag, but Erik was a little less enthusiastic.  We had a good laugh over it. Definitely a fond memory of Grampa.

Then it was home to put out the luminarias along the sidewalk - in front of our house, both neighbors and two across the street. Here's our house partly hidden by our olive tree:

Our neighbor on a side street organizes a neighborhood party every year where people bring food & snacks and sit around folding paper bags and filling them with a bit of sand.  (We had to stop on the way home from Gramma's to get the little candles).

Anyhow, this is that neighbor's sidewalk (and driveway) and a few houses down his street.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Winter Solstice & the Tree of Life

The Tree of Life sculpture at the corner of Galvin Parkway and McDowell was built in 1991 as a boundary art project using transportation 1% for the arts program (1% of all highway programs funding went to support the arts).  Scottsdale & Phoenix arts programs were also involved.  Anyhow, the sculpture is supposed to be a terraced 'garden' collecting and distributing rainwater to several terraces all in the shape of a tree. Kind of neat. 

It is also supposed to be a solstice marker. I can find very little in that regard on-line, and I think I now know why that is.  The winter solstice was Dec 21, but as solstice means "sun stands still" it should still have been the same on the 22nd and 23rd.  The 21st had clouds and the 22nd did as well. The 23rd was a clear day, and I climbed atop the shortest of the pillars supposedly aligned with the winter solstice sunset.

As you can see the shadows begin to align.  If the true sunset were not blocked by a small ridge in Papago Park (the sun disappeared a full 5 minutes before offical sunset time) the shadows may have aligned.  But in the last shot the shadows clearly do not align.  Very disappointing. No wonder so little is said of it being a solstice marker.

This is probably due to modern technology. They likely had all the right calculations determining exactly where the sun would be at the exact time of sunset.  They never figured in the reality of terrain affecting the viewabililty of the sunset.  As it was quite the opposite for the indigenous people, they were able to make very precise markers for the 'magical' time of solstice.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Erik the Teenager

Erik had a few friends from his new school over for his birthday party.

I took Jake to see Planet 51 and we both thought it was pretty good. Karen stayed home with the kids.  These are the kids he pretty much hangs out with every day at lunch. They get along very well.

Instead of cake, we went with a cookie.  They had pizza for dinner, too. (Jake had Hot Dog on a Stick, one of his favorite places)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pipistrelle Bat

We were doing trail work and someone turned over a rock with a bat under it!  Looks like a Western Pipistrelle.

Definitely injured. It sat on the rock for quite a few minutes before attempting to fly off. It flew into an ocotillo, not a bat-like thing to do, poor fellow.

L O N G Spine

This prickly pear at Mom's has gone a long way from a few pads to GIGANTOR - CACTUS KING. It will be trimmed this winter back to a few pads. All the thick, woody parts will be gone. I was impressed by the length of this spine - a good 6 or 7 inches.

This barrel cactus at the DBG has all long spines. Pretty cool looking in my book!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

An Early Christmas Gift

With Mom headed to Omaha next week we figured it best to give her this gift from the kids now...

Hopefully she will figure it out enough to get some good pictures and maybe even some video.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Zoolights Time Again

The Zoo does their lights each year and make little changes here and there. I've been through numerous times and try to catch the new or the old in a new way...I'm sure I'll have more before Christmas.

Here's the old (below) in a new way (above)

The entry to the Zoo.

The entry is past a bridge and instead of floating light displays in the water they are putting up large red floodlights that give a cool glowing effect on the palms along the edge of the pond.

The old spider & web display. Always seems to be in a new place.

More trees with trunks & branches lit up! That's what I like to see!

All in a Day's Work

We had a college intern at the park the other day and I got to show him around to get an idea as to the scope of Papago Park. There's a lot more to Papago than meets the eye. The Zoo, Botanical Gardens, Municipal Stadium, Hall of Flame Museum, and Papago Golf Course are all part of Papago Park. Anyhow, it was nice to visit all these things showing him around. We ended the tour at Tovrea's Castle, not part of Papago Park, but City owned and in the process of renovations.

Something new at the Desert Botanical Gardens - I like this one.

Always fun to look up at the giant cardons

The view from the top of Tovrea's Castle

And from the cactus gardens below looking up.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Did a little tour of the Stadium and took some pictures.

World Series trophy - but not THE trophy from 2001 (D-Backs aren't even represented on the little flags)

out on the field.
Just hitting a homerun looks like a pretty long hit. Mark McGuire once hit and broke the 'F' in 'Front Row' in batting practice. He hit another ball out the open window! Now that is a long hit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Door!

The old door already looked old when we moved in. I found this nice door on Craigslist and got it for $160.

Nice glass - protected on both sides by a shatterproof glass.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Highschools an colleges have homecomings in the fall - I just passed on attending my 25th reunion at Calvin College. These pictures are sometimes my homecoming - working nights and coming home to these big, beautiful flowers.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Jake had a couple of friends from school over and went trick or treating.Some of the houses were decorated, but some years are less than others and this year was less...

nice window decor

and my personal favorite

Even with fewer houses participating, he made a haul!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall Color & Oak Creek Canyon

After leaving Flagstaff a couple weeks back, we dropped down into Oak Cree Canyon and through Sedona. Up in Flag, the scrub oaks were fairly yellow, but the aspens were just beginning to turn color. This maple? had some interesting patterns in its leaves. (Click on the picture to see this close up).
Oak Creek Canyon looking toward Sedona

It is amazing that anything can grow on these steep slopes. By the way, match where the rocks start in the lower left quarter in the photo above with the upper right portion of the photo below to see how really deep this canyon is.