hideaway woods

8.31.23 ~ Museum of Life & Science, Durham, North Carolina

While his grandparents were distracted by a katydid posing on a nearby post, Finn was eagerly inviting them to climb up into the treehouses with him at Hideaway Woods. Grandpa politely declined but Grammy decided to take a different way up, using a wooden ramp.

There was no way around it, I was eventually going to have to use those rope bridges if I was going to get anywhere. The first one had a wooden bottom so I navigated that wobbly experience fairly well.

part way up, looking back

But the next bridge, no pictures. The four year-old was very encouraging and I was determined not to disappoint him… “Just” a rope bridge way high up in the trees! After I was half way across it I suddenly realized that the last part of it was more like a ladder. I’m not sure how I did it but I reached for the grab bar near the top and hauled myself up, scared out of my wits. Finn said nonchalantly that he knew it could be done and moved on to the top treehouse.

Finn looking down 20 feet to let Grandpa know we made it!

Somehow, I made it back down that perilous rope ladder/bridge. If I had noticed the above sign on my way up I probably would not have followed Finn up there! Still feeling unsteady on my feet, I declined the invitation to follow him down a slide. Grandpa was waiting for him at the bottom.

Connected by rope bridges, each of our eight handcrafted treehouses offers a unique vantage point that changes with the seasons. Find your favorite way up using ladders, cargo nets, staircases, and an accessible gangway. Two slides offer a unique way back down!
~ Museum of Life & Science website

By the time I found my way out of the Treehouse Village Finn was taking off his shoes, getting ready to play in the Woodland Stream.

Wade in an accessible, recirculating freshwater stream for a cooling exploration of how water interacts and behaves with other elements in nature.
~ Museum of Life & Science website

After he was done wading Finn led us to the Dinosaur Trail, where we spent a great deal of time watching him climb up on the parasaurolophus and then slide down his tail. Over and over again. When he mastered the process, he asked Grandpa to take some videos of this accomplishment. After each take he would run over to Grandpa, climb up onto the stone wall behind him, and watch the video. And repeat.

While these two enjoyed this activity immensely I soon got bored and started looking around for nature things to photograph. I was still excited by the earlier katydid discovery.

autumn preview

And then I spotted a very tiny frog sitting quietly on a leaf! After taking lots of pictures I interrupted the guys to share my discovery with them. I haven’t been able to identify it.

immature eastern gray tree frog
(thanks to Eliza for the identification)
Finn looking at the miniscule frog
alamosaurus peek-a-boo

And so we were off again, Finn introducing us to all the dinosaurs on the trail. Spending some time in the Fossil Dig. Stopping for a mango popsicle… We finally made our way into the indoor part of the museum and explored amazing hands-on science exhibits for children of all ages. We came home happy and thoroughly exhausted!

in the woods

It’s been a while! We moved into our new place a couple of weeks ago and then the POD arrived with all our worldly goods a week after that. Dima & Larisa and a couple of their friends unloaded the POD on that hot afternoon. The next day friends and relatives came by and got us started reassembling bookcases, etc. We’ve been unpacking and taking empty cardboard boxes to the recycling center ever since.

We found a lovely little one-story townhouse to lease. The neighbors are so welcoming! Next door is a woman who also moved down here to be near her grandchildren. Another neighbor came over with a homemade pecan pie to introduce herself. And another brought sunflowers and cherry tomatoes from the farmers market!

I’m loving having everything on one floor. And we’re located close to our grandchildren, a six-minute drive away. ๐Ÿ™‚ We are nestled into a cul-de-sac in a very quiet and heavily wooded neighborhood. There are so many trees here, and so much wildlife, that I decided to change the name of my blog to In the Woods!

It’s hot, too, as expected. The other day the heat index reached 103ยฐ! But we’re grateful for the central air conditioning. With dewpoints in the 70s every morning we probably won’t be taking any walks for a couple of months.

house finch ~ photo by Tim
morning light in our woods

The above picture was taken from our front porch, looking up. Moving from a noisy city to this peaceful neighborhood has been such a blessing. And now I’m looking forward to settling in and then catching up with my blogging friends as soon as possible!

a welcome thing

A new beginning is a welcome thing. A new week, a new job, a new term at school. Each brings the thrill of a clean slate, a shining start. The heart leaps up at the chance to try again, to do our best, to sow the seed of something that will grow. Autumn is when we plant the promises of spring, unsullied, pure and perfect.
~ Sally Abbott
(Call the Midwife, season 12: episode 6)

welcome center rose

We have successfully made the move from Connecticut to North Carolina! What a wild, hectic, chaotic and exciting time these past few weeks have been. But somehow, with lots of help from family and friends, we managed to pull it off.

passion flower, a new flower

One kink in our planning was Tim developing bouts of shortness of breath and chest pressure on exertion. He spent a morning in the emergency room before we left where they determined he wasn’t having a heart attack and advised him to follow up with his cardiologist. So Larisa and I did our best to keep his activity level as low as possible while we scrambled to tie up all the loose ends.

Kat checking her VTech KidiZoom Smartwatch

After we got down here we repeated the process, spending a morning in the emergency room which thankfully resulted in an appointment with a cardiologist the next day. We really like him. Through the magic of “My Chart” medical records he had thoroughly acquainted himself with Tim’s cardiac history. He suspects that 15+ years after Tim’s by-pass surgery scar tissue may have built up and is starting to block the flow of blood. So he has ordered an echocardiogram to see what is going on in there before he decides what needs to be done.

insect hotel

In the meantime our plans to go out walking in our new adopted home have been put on hold. But I am comforted with the feeling that he is in good hands medically, UNC Hospitals being highly ranked among the best in the country.

an olive egger chicken
(a chicken that lays green colored eggs)

Dima & Larisa have made us feel so comfortable and welcome and it is a delight having our grandchildren here to talk to and play with every day. Our real estate agent already has us under contract with a buyer for a selling price higher than we ever dreamed possible. Soon we will be able to find our own place down here. We’ve already started looking online.

Finn, lost in thought

I’ve gone out on a few short walks around this cohousing community with the little ones. (Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space.) This is a magical, nature-loving neighborhood with birds singing all day long. There is a very loud frog outside who has croaked us to sleep for a few nights. Deer are allowed everywhere and help themselves to the abundant greenery.

A new beginning… I love it here!

on our way to the hidden pond…

4.5.23 ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
mama goose sitting on her rock island nest

On the second day of the kids’ visit we decided to go to the nature center to see mama goose sitting on her nest. But we wound up doing so much more! Kat still loves her maps and she noticed a hidden pond on the outdoor map sign and decided we should find it. Tim & I had never explored that part of the property before.

a safe little piece of prime real estate
our son-in-law, the climber

Dima climbs everything in sight, walls, trees, outcrops and probably other things I can’t even begin to imagine. The first time I documented this passion was at Coumeenoole Beach on our trip to visit the Dima, Larisa and Kat in Ireland in 2018. (Scroll down to picture #26)

the first outcrop he climbed is on the left and the second is on top of the hill

I dug out my map pamphlet from last year’s visit and gave it to Kat. We started on the Forest Loop Trail, crossing the bridge over a brook leading to the stairs up to Council Rock, a glacial erratic sitting on top of an outcrop.

starting to climb the outcrop

But first Dima took a detour to climb the first outcrop, while the rest of us caught up.

Finn was having a “meh” day
it matched the sentiments on his mother’s coffee mug
Kat snuck up from behind the outcrop and joined her father on top

Then we climbed the stairs and approached the outcrop holding Council Rock. Before we knew it Dima was sitting on top of it! We were able to climb up the not-as-steep side of this outcrop. It was the only one we managed that day.

on top of Council Rock

Somehow Kat managed to get up there with her Papa.

consulting the map again, Kat was determined to find Hidden Pond

After resting a little we came down off the outcrop and followed the trail to an entrance to Ledge Trail. Dima and Kat got way out ahead while Tim, Larisa and Finn fell behind. I was enjoying my solitude in the middle of the procession when I glanced up to see Dima and Kat had climbed yet another outcrop! They tell me the view was great.

While up there, Dima spotted a wild turkey on the ridge below him, but above my vantage point. He was apparently displaying his feathers off and on. When the others caught up we finally spotted the turkey’s head peering over the ridge. Since the trail led in that direction we headed towards him. The turkey kept walking ahead of us but never ran or flew off.

There were so many twigs and short bushes in the way that it proved difficult getting the camera to focus. As we walked the trail along the ridge the wild turkey finally took a turn and went down into the swampy area at the bottom of the ravine. He joined a flock of about six other wild turkeys down there, and then they all started climbing up to the ridge on the other side.

Kat found a spot on the edge of the ridge to sit and watch the turkeys

At this point Finn decided to switch from riding in his mother’s arms and on her shoulders to riding on his father’s shoulders. Having a passenger did not deter Dima from climbing up on the next outcrop!

When the trail finally came down off the ridge we found a sign pointing to Hidden Pond! We were almost there!

Hidden Pond
skunk cabbage and moss

Kat was pleased to have found her destination and I was happy we had so much fun and fresh air along the way. Finn was happy he was going to stop for ice cream on his way home and Dima reported that he had never seen a wild turkey in the woods before. Larisa wanted to take a selfie with her parents and we obliged. We then found a shorter connector trail back to the nature center but I’m so glad we took the long way around to find that little pond!

fun at the dinosaur place

4.4.23 ~ The Dinosaur Place ~ inside Carnivore Cavern

Last week the little ones popped in with their parents for a quick spring vacation visit to Connecticut. Last year Tim & I came to The Dinosaur Place with Kat, just the three of us, but this year we had a chance to take the whole family! It was Finn’s first visit. Montyโ€™s Playground alone kept him completely entertained.

Finn watches Papa (Dima) climb!
Finn found his own ropes to climb
he might have stayed here all day…
…but look who was waiting for us inside the the A-MAZE-asaurus maze

I took the stairs up to the observation deck to photograph the kids and their Papa finding their way through the maze.

Finn making his way through the maze
Kat followed by Papa
still wandering
when they entered the mouth of the dinosaur
a slide deposited them here outside the maze

After a snack break the kids climbed a rock to wait and watch for a volcano to erupt in the pond.

the best seats
volcanic eruption

Then we continued along the trail around the pond and through the woods, spotting dinosaurs and other things here and there as we went along.

Kat & I were enchanted with the turtles we spotted,
sunning themselves on this beautiful early spring day
utahraptor
we didn’t quite know what to make of this giant frog
was it supposed to be some kind of giant pre-historic frog?
it seemed so out of place in the midst of life-sized dinosaurs
protoceratops
Mr. Finn & and his new dino-friend
Finn lending Grandpa a helping hand โ™ก

With his new pacemaker Tim lasted a lot longer this time. He was walking for much of the three hours we were there. Larisa said the kids must have had a great time because they asked her if they could come back tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

the dust has settled

“Mama Kangaroo & Her Joey” by Kat, age 8

The appearance of my New Year’s post surprised me because I had put it together a long time ago, when the inspiration had hit, and then scheduled it and forgot all about it. But it’s been fun catching up with all my blogging friends as life gets back to normal.

I am happily and thoroughly exhausted from the intensely exciting visit from Larisa, Dima, Kat and Finn over the holidays. Kat brought me this beautiful painting! They all pitched in and painted our staircase walls. Dima cooked some fabulous meals, incorporating my special dietary needs — he enjoys the challenge. Larisa took me out to buy yarn for a shawl she started knitting for me. (I get so cold while sitting these days!) Finn kept balsa wood and paper airplanes flying through the air. Kat and I had an fascinating conversation while we were peeling carrots together. We baked cookies for Santa, worked on puzzles, drew lots of pictures, and fed peanuts to the squirrels and blue jays on the balcony. We went to the beach to feed clams from the grocery store to the gulls but could only watch for a few minutes due to the bitter cold.

So much joyful chaos! It’s a bit too quiet around here now but I’ve got plenty of wonderful memories to cherish until we see them all again! Now I can turn my attention to explaining my project and the other projects it has led to.

wonder

Finn at 3 years old ~ photo by Larisa

Wonder shining in my eyes
Like Iโ€™m three years old

~ David Gray
โ™ซ (Heart & Soul) โ™ซ

One of the things that has helped me get through this pandemic — besides taking walks with my husband, working on jigsaw puzzles, practicing yoga, video calling with friends and family, blogging — has been listening for hours on end to the music streaming on my favorite indie radio station. Hearing some songs, like David Gray’s Heart & Soul, will forever bring me back to these days. Will it be possible that in the future some of us will look back on this time with a tinge of bittersweet nostalgia?

climbing the wall

5.20.21 ~ Book Barn ~ Niantic, Connecticut

While our grandchildren were here we visited the Book Barn. Grandpa gave Kat his card (it keeps track of how much credit we have for books sold to them) and she found an armful of books in the Book Barn Downtown branch, where the children’s books are now kept. Grandpa carried her in and out of the store and she hobbled around on her own while browsing the stacks.

Finn loves trucks and construction vehicles

Then we headed up to the main and largest location where Grandpa and Kat sat in the car reading while Grammy and Mommy took Finn out to play and see the goats.

it’s fun to imagine…
if only the steering wheel would turn…
curious goat
a reading nook
Finn at the top of the playset with orbs
beautiful surroundings
a dragon oversees the playset
more spring beauty
so, have I mentioned that Finn is a climber?
he tried the swing for a moment but wasn’t impressed
lost count how many times he climbed the wall
definitely his favorite part of the day
he had to slide down only so he could climb again and again
an open book

I kept thinking the playset needed a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint. Larisa didn’t think the swing felt safe and I was worried about splinters from the wood. A few days later we learned that the playset had been dismantled after our visit. They’re looking into finding something to replace it.

We are saddened to report that we have had to lay to rest our beloved playset. It has served the kiddos well over the years! Itโ€™s been a kind and faithful playset to the Book Barnโ€™s tiniest customers. May it be remembered fondly ๐Ÿ’—
~ The Book Barn
(Facebook, May 24, 2021)

When Katherine was the age Finn is now (2ยฝ), I took some pictures of her on one of our visits in North Carolina. It was fun looking back and comparing: into the mist.

Kat reading in our library

Kat’s foot is healing. She’s walking on it again, but not fast and no running or jumping yet. Looking forward to our next visit in the near future! ๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ˜Š

a day at the aquarium

5.19.21 ~ Mystic Aquarium ~ Mystic, Connecticut

Oh what a joyful day it was when our grandchildren and their parents finally arrived for a post-quarantine visit!!! We hadn’t seen them in 18 months. Katherine, who is now called Kat, arrived with an injured foot, which put my dreams of a long walk in the woods or on the beach on hold again, but we managed to have a good time in spite of the challenge. Kat wanted to go to the aquarium so we borrowed a wheelchair and made a day of it.

beluga whale

While she was here Kat attended school (first grade) remotely which was fascinating to observe. When her teacher heard she was going to the aquarium she suggested Kat create a presentation for the class of the things she would see there. So she used her iPad to take videos and stills, as you can see in the picture above. Of course Finn wanted to ride along with his big sister. ๐Ÿ™‚

Steller sea lion, the largest of all sea lions
Steller sea lion, napping in the sunshine
Steller sea lion, napping in the water
rhododendron
African penguin
Kat still loves her penguins, filming them swimming underwater

The outdoor marsh habitat was full of life…

turtles
frog
polywog
rhododendron

We spent some time at the Ray Touch Pool…

Larisa and Finn touching stingrays
Kat mastered the touching technique

And took in the California sea lion training show…

I think Kat got better pictures than I did!
California sea lion

So many creatures to see in all the tanks. Tim & I were amazed at all the new exhibits they’ve added. There was some disappointment that the Jurassic Giants exhibit, ‘featuring giant animatronic dinosaurs, two 4D theaters, and visits with frogs and reptiles,’ was closed for renovations.

lions mane jellyfish

We’ve been bringing our own children (sometimes along with their grandparents!) since they were little ones, when this research aquarium was so small it was all in one building. It opened in 1973 and we moved down here in 1976 so I’d say we’ve been coming here for 45 years! Now it’s a sprawling complex, almost impossible to fit all of it into one day of exploring.

Amazon milk frog

The next day I listened as Kat made her virtual presentation to her class. It was fun listening to the voices of the other children as they asked her questions and made comments. She answered them like a marine expert! Her teacher thanked her for taking them along on such a great field trip. ๐Ÿ™‚