Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy 26th Birthday Kevin!
This past year I've been working on sorting all my printed photos and because of that, I now have (almost) all of the kids' school pictures in one place.  For some reason I'm missing Kevin's 4th grade picture (who knows why), but otherwise they're all here -starting with Kindergarten.  

I thought it would be fun to see Kevin and his many faces throughout the years.  Isn't he just adorable! Each of these pictures brings back so many memories of watching him grow, change and mature into the man that he is now.  This year, I asked Terry if he would write a birthday note for Kevin, so here it is.

"Kevin, we’re so proud of you! We think of you often off in that foreign land called Mississippi, and wish there was a way we could be closer.

We’re very thankful for the man that you’ve become, but I definitely miss those days of watching you grow up. I miss going to your basketball games, plays, and choir concerts. I miss going on camping trips & canoe trips with you and the different places we went on our family vacations. I miss so many different things we did together as you grew up – playing basketball, going on hikes together, playing guitars. As anyone who knows you will agree, you are always a lot of fun to be around.

Sometimes a little quirky, but always a lot of fun.

The fact that you chose to serve your country for the last few years makes me very proud. It’s been a joy and a special privilege to be your father, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what God has in store for you in the years to come.

Have a great birthday, Son!  We hope to see you very soon.   Love, Dad"

 1st grade
 2nd grade
 3rd grade
5th grade
 6th grade
 7th grade
 8th grade
 9th grade
10th grade
 11th grade
 12th grade
 12th grade

 Shortly after his 21st birthday

Last Summer - as handsome as ever!

Happy Birthday dear son!  We love you forever.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Not sure if you've seen this, but it's amazing!

The picture below (wait to look at it until after you read this).  It's that of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas , who is being operated on by surgeon named Joseph Bruner.  

The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother's womb.  Little Samuel's mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta.  She knew of Dr. Bruner's remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb.  

During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby.  As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger.  Dr. Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.  

The photograph captures this amazing event with perfect clarity. The editors titled the picture, 'Hand of Hope.’  The text explaining the picture begins, 'The tiny hand of 21-week-old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother's uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life.'      

Little Samuel's mother said they 'wept for days' when they saw the picture.  She said, 'the photo reminds us pregnancy isn't about disability or an illness, it's about a little person.’  Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 percent successful.  

Now see the actual picture, and it is awesome...incredible...and hey, pass
it on.  The world needs to see this one!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fort Myers, Florida (Part 8) - Our Visit to Sea Salt in Naples

I'm sure you're wondering what "Sea Salt" is in the town of Naples, besides of course the actual salt.  Well, we were wondering too.  Diane had decided that she wanted to buy a few more of those delicious Norman Love chocolates to take home for family and friends and when checking online, she found out that they were also sold at a place called "Sea Salt" in Naples.  We weren't sure if it was a store or what, and didn't really have time to look it up before we left.  We didn't even write down the address, but Alice thought she had a good idea of where it might be, since there are a few well known shopping areas in the town.

After the rest of our adventures in Naples, we decided to try to find Sea Salt, so we drove around 5th Avenue and 3rd Street with our eyes out for a sign.  Finally, we decided to ask a couple of women who were walking down the street.  They didn't live in town, but said they thought there was a restaurant named Sea Salt somewhere on 3rd Street.  That was the case and soon we were walking up to the door.

When I saw how welcoming the outdoor terrace was, I was disappointed that we hadn't given it a try for lunch on such a beautiful day.  Oh well, too late for that now, but at least we could track down the chocolates we were looking for.

Well, it turns out that in addition to chocolates, they also have a little shop inside that sells all manner of treats, including - you guessed it - sea salt.

Now this wasn't just any old run of the mill boring white sea salt.  The owners, Venetian chef (that's Venice, Italy, not Florida or California) Fabrizio Aielli and his wife, Ingrid have collected dozens of flavor-infused salts. And our first surprise was that Fabrizio himself offered to let Diane and I sample a few!  He was so enthusiastic about every detail of our tasting.  I wish we had had more time to savor his descriptions delivered in that wonderful Italian accent, as well as the flavors and the moments of discovery.

He let us try Lemon Twist, Chipotle and Ghost Pepper infused salts.  The Lemon would have definitely been delicious on any kind of fish, chicken or even vegetables.
 Of course, I enjoy lemon flavor on most anything so this was a special treat.

  Next we tried the Chipotle, which had a smoky southwestern flavor reminiscent of our familiar Arizona spices. Obviously this would be great on Mexican food, but also pork, beef and so much more.

And for the big finale, Fabrizio took great care to explain that the Ghost Pepper from India, is recognized as the hottest pepper in the world and that it was wise to use it very sparingly. I was actually familiar with it, since our friend Jay is a big fan of hot spices and has been trying to buy some seeds so he could raise his own Ghost Peppers.  So, knowing what I know about those peppers, we made sure to have some water available to douse the heat after we tasted this unique salt flavor.  When I tasted it, I actually took only one grain of salt and that one little piece felt like it was burning thru my tongue.  It wasn't horrible, but I don't think I would use it very often in cooking, if at all. In fact, I think it was quite daring of Fabrizio to even consider using it on his dishes.  I imagine that there's an elite audience for it.

Soon Fabrizio was told that he had a gentleman waiting for an appointment and although he appeared to enjoy our little adventure much more than the thought of his upcoming meeting, he had to say goodbye.  We were so appreciative of the time that he took to share his passion with us.  Diane bought a small bottle of the Lemon Twist and we headed for the door.

And our last surprise was seeing this adorable dog waiting at the table for Fabrizio to come for his meeting.  I'm assuming it belonged to him because he was watching him so intently and waiting so patiently for his master to join them.

So that was our last big adventure in Florida and what a fun little detour it was!
If your name was in the dictionary, what would the definition be?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fort Myers, FL (Part 7)  - A Visit to Naples

On our last day we wanted to be pretty low key so we'd have time to get packed and have a good night's rest that night.  Besides, Mom was starting to get tired.  At 86, it was a big trip for her and she did so well the whole time!

Alice suggested that we take a leisurely trip down the coast to the beautiful town of Naples. It was a gorgeous drive along the coast and actually over several islands linked together by simple bridges.  When we got into town we made a quick stop just to see the beach.
The weather was a little cool, but the day was still gorgeous to sit and enjoy the beach.  The sand there is much more fine than it is in California.  Not sure why.  Does anyone know?

Aren't these birds just sweet in their chorus line?

Next we went into town and had lunch at Tin City, then took a drive around the lovely neighborhoods. 
 There was such a variety of architecture there.  I love the boldness of the tropical colors in the aqua house.  That one's for you Linda.  Most of these homes back up to the water.  Besides that, it was an area similar to Beverly Hills, although not sure that the price tag is quite the same.  
The Banyan trees in the front yards were amazing as well.  After seeing the huge one in Fort Myers, you can tell why they would have to keep these well trimmed so they don't take over their whole yard.  They're so unique and a little spooky at the same time.

I must say that there were quite a few "For Sale" signs in the yards.  Just another indication of the state of the economy all over the country.
Now we made one more stop at Sea Salt before we ended our day, but I'll save that for the next post since it had surprises that were both fun and a little sad. That was our last official event of the trip.

Come back tomorrow to see what happened!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

to my favorite guy!
 Taken at Fish Creek Falls in Colorado last summer.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fort Myers, FL (Part 6) - Cruise to Cabbage Key
On Sunday Alice made reservations for us to take a day cruise to Cabbage Key so we got up and out a little earlier than usual and headed across Sanibel and Captiva Islands to catch the Lady Chadwick.

Our host and guide was so friendly.  He spent time explaining so many interesting details about the natural and human history of the area.

After about an hour on the water, we arrived at the island.  This is the restaurant at Cabbage Key where we had lunch.  It's also said that the song "Cheeseburger in Paradise" was inspired at this location.
This is what it looks like inside.  The walls are covered with real dollar bills.  Our cruise guide said that it's estimated that there's $70,000 or more on those walls.  Just look at how thick that pole is in the middle.  That's a lot of layers of paper!  The bills that fall on the floor are donated to charity.
Of course we had to add our dollar as well.  With all 4 of our names on it.  It's hanging on the door between the restaurant and bar.  We'll have to go back and visit it sometime.

 The folks who run the restaurant were kind enough to offer to take us down the short walking trail in a golf cart since mom has some trouble getting around. We drove by this house with the friendly blood hound howling from the porch.  It kind of reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean.
 Alice explained tha this is a Strangler Fig tree that has wrapped itself around a palm tree.  Very strange and kinda creepy.
More of the beautiful flora on the island.

This moss covered speed limit sign reminds us to S-L-O-W down.  Of course, on an island that's only 100 acres and has no automobiles, its easy to take it slow.
This is the observation tower that Alice and I climbed.
Here's the view from the top.

This beautiful crane is outside the kitchen door waiting for a treat.
We had several dolphins swim alongside our boat.  I never get tired of watching these amazing creatures.
We headed back "home" by mid-afternoon and enjoyed watching the Super Bowl and the commercials that night.

Tomorrow we'll head to Naples, FL for our last day of our mini vacation.  Come back soon.
Big news day!  Be sure to read all the posts...


You can just imagine how excited we were to see our own adopted Sun, Steve Nash as one of the final four people to carry the torch and have the honor of actually lighting the cauldron!  Wow!  I can't even imagine how proud and excited he must have been to represent Canada in his own home province in that way.  Wow! WOW!!!!  I would have been crying my eyes out at that point.
See more on his comments here and here.
We interrupt our Fort Myers trip to bring you a great deal!

I came across this wonderful line of Rip Squeak children's books and beautiful illustrations a year or so ago and have been trying to figure out who I can buy them for.  I love good quality books and can't say no to a wonderful illustrator.

I just found out that all their merchandise online is 50 - 75% off!

If you have little ones in your life or will be attending a baby shower or birthday party in the coming months, these would be wonderful gifts or artwork for the walls of their rooms.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Fort Myers, FL (Part 5) - This and That

Here are some places we visited just for fun.

We had a chance to "meet" Alice's pets on Friday night.  Aren't they the cutest little ones?  Lacey is a Pomeranian, but Alice keeps her trimmed really short (except her tail).  I really love the look.  She looks like a miniature fox.

And Charlie, the cat was given to her by her neighbor.  He's a beauty, isn't he?  He's about twice the size of our cat, Shredder.

Diane was warming up for a fun evening.  She looks a little messy from the rain that fell earlier that night.  It's amazing what humidity does to your hair.  I forget about that when we live here.

Saturday Alice took us to Norman Love Confections and it was wonderful!  Norman even came out and talked with us.  His chocolate is delicious!  Look at those gorgeous desserts!  I couldn't talk anyone in our group into splitting one with me...bummer.

We also went to Manatee Park to see if we could get a glimpse of those interesting creatures.  We were able to see them poke their noses and tails (photo above) out of the water.  Sadly the cold weather there in the last month is taking it's toll on this endangered species.

Made a quick stop at the Shell Factory and saw hundreds of shells of all shapes and sizes.   The store is pretty kitchy, but a fun place to visit. Look how cute my mom looks here.

While passing through town one day, we made a quick stop to see the Banyan tree at the site of the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford summer homes.  You can see Diane and Alice standing in the center.  Remember this is just ONE tree.  They're all over southwestern Florida.  The homeowners keep them trimmed, but they are so unusual looking.

Several times while we were there we had to cross the Caloosahatchee River between Fort Myers and North Fort Myers.  It's a huge river!  There seemed to be water everywhere we went.  We were never quite sure if we were looking at a river, a canal, the Gulf of Mexico or some other body of water. 

We had dinner overlooking the beach. It was beautiful.  This is the view from our dinner table.  Doesn't this look like a preview of the Spring Break crowd?

And here's the view down the beach.

Here's Diane daydreaming that she could live in Florida.  She couldn't stop talking about moving there.  I told her she'd better go visit for a while in the summer before she made a final decision.  I can't quite imagine 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity.  Can you say "stifling"?

So I leave you with a beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.  I hope you enjoyed the quick tour.  Tomorrow's post will be about our cruise to Cabbage Key. 

How would you feel about living in Florida?