Saturday, April 21, 2012


On Sunday we woke early, ate our "continental breakfast" and then walked into Gatlinburg. 

We had tickets for Ripley's Aquarium and had a really good time exploring all the unusual animals!

As with most things slapped with the Ripley's name, it was geared more for entertainment than education, but it was still an enjoyable way to spend the morning.

The one thing that really stood out for me was that the animals were so active!  This turtle kept swimming over and looking at us.  We could get about 3-4 feet away from him at the top of the tank.

I had never seen a saw fish this size before!  It was massive!

Seahorses are one of Anna's favorite exhibits.


This octopus was awesome.  It kept flinging itself from one side of the tank to the other!  Anna and I both agreed we could've sat there and watched it all day!
(I doubt the other patrons would've appreciated that)

My favorites were the cuddlefish.  I've seen them occasionally at aquariums over the years, and even Newport had an exhibit going for a short time.  I just find them to be the most interesting little creatures.  This tank was filled with 50 babies who were hiding in the rocks. 

Anna liked the penguins, too!

After the aquarium we wandered through the town.  Although it was cute, it was filled with tourist-trap type of stores and attractions.  It reminded us alot of Niagara Falls, or the boardwalk in Ocean City.  While it was okay to walk through, the crowds of mulleted and teased hair people sucking on cancer sticks gave me the heebie-jeebies.  It was also insane to have a pedestrian crosswalk every 20 feet or so, and still have people jaywalking.  Seemed like an accident waiting to happen with 4 lanes of traffic navigating through the town.  In fact, as we were leaving an ambulance appeared up the street, presumably to scrape a tourist off the road.

With our bellies full of yummy food and Kilwin's ice cream we hit the road and waved good-bye to Gatlinburg.

Along the way we drove to Little Greenbriar's School.  This was an old one-room schoolhouse that educated children from an unbelievable nine miles around.  And I don't let my child go farther that the very nearby cul-de-sac.  I just can't imagine letting little ones go traipsing through 9 miles of forested hills to get to school!

Anna looks right at home, don't you think?

Our drive home was mostly uneventful, with the exception of running into more of those hot rod people in a traffic jam in the middle of Tennessee.  At one point, after crawling about a mile in an hour, they started pulling off the road, popping their hoods and setting themselves in their fold out chairs.  It was like the car show followed us! =P

Despite that we had a great time and would love to go back and explore the mountains some more!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Great Smoky Mountains

With Libby hanging out with Nana and Plap plap in Pennsylvania, we decided to take advantage of our only child situation and offered to take Anna on a bit of a pre-birthday bash to the Great Smoky Mountains.

We left after breakfast on Saturday and returned in time for supper on Sunday, so it was a quick trip for sure!

The weather was perfect and, with the exception of an unfortunate path crossing with a very very large group of car enthusiasts blocking the main drag through Pigeon Forge,  it was blessedly non populated as well.  In the park, anyway.

The trails were gorgeous...

Cataract Falls

Posing at a cabin in the woods

Sun dappled trail

Earl giving a hearty welcome to his dream house

The beautiful Smoky Mountains

Earl and I spent a week in the Rocky Mountains last summer, and after seeing those amazing, unbelievable peaks the Smoky Mountains looked a little "ho-hum".  They are beautiful in their own way, and had an ancient peaceful feeling the Rockies didn't seem to have (or I just missed it since I was distracted by that awesome view around every corner).

Anna enjoyed herself, even if her first assessment of our retro motel was "Well, THIS is NOT the Hilton."

Yeah, kid, don't we know it....

We forced her dragged her enjoyed a hike up the 1/2 mile incline at Clingman's Dome to watch the sun set.

It's never to early to instill a healthy appreciation for the natural beauty of a daily occurrence!

We were not disappointed.

Standing at the highest point in the park, we gathered with a rather eclectic group of hikers and photographers.

I've witnessed sunsets in many places, and I never get tired of the hushed awe as the sun begins its descent....

and turns into an orange glowing orb, lighting up the sky with various colors.
It's amazing, don't you think?
The paved trail to the top of the mountain intersected the Appalachian Trail.  Anna was amazed to hear that we had marked the trail in Pennsylvania many many years ago!


The parking lot had filled with dozens of photographers and I must admit I was more than alittle intimidated by their tripods and fancy L lenses.... =)

When we returned to Gatlinburg we had a nice dinner at a restaurant and then took our tired girl back to the motel and tucked her in for the night.

We had another fun day planned for Sunday!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Anna's Birthday Getaway

A preview in pictures....

Morton's Overlook

Original Cabin

Nature Trail
Clingman's Dome

Next stop....making my fun photo-editing software legitimate. =)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Three Little Letters....


High Dynamic Resolution

This past weekend I dived into this interesting way of photo editing and I must say, the results are pretty impressive!

The idea is basically that you take maultiple shots of different exposures, then pick a software that will layer them.  The benefit to this is that the over exposed shots pick up the lighter details like the sky, while the under exposed shots will bring the details in the shadier parts.

Earl, Libby and I took advantage of the beautiful spring weather this past Saturday and drove down to Bardstown to visit My Old Kentucky Home, and then to the Abbey of Gethsemani and on to the Bernheim Arboretum.  I had plenty of beautiful scenes to try out this new trick.  And there is most definitely a learning curve to it, but I think the final product turned out well.

Here are three photographs I blended...

A shot with normal exposure-
 A slightly underexposed shot (I believe it was 1 stop up and 1 down from 0)-
 And the overexosed shot-
 After layering and much tweaking, this is what I came up with -
Notice the extra details.  Especially in the bale of hay, the trees in the background, and the sky. 

 The watermark is due to the trail version of the photo editing software I'm trying out.

So, what do you think?  Is it too surreal looking, or does it look good?

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Day in Cincinnati

A month late, but better late than never!

For Earl's birthday we sent the kids to school, took personal days for ourselves, and headed to Cincinnati to enjoy a day in the city. 

Our first stop was Union Terminal, the Cincinnati Musem Center. 

The beautiful fountains out front were still closed for the winter, but the view was still impressive

We visited the Pompei exhibit and were mostly impressed with the body casts.  So eerie!

Our second stop was Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park. 

I highly recommend stopping by if you're in the area.  The spring flowers were in full bloom, and it was incredibly peaceful just to sit and soak up the sun in their solariums.

There were several different "rooms" to wander through.  A few were tropical with rainforest plants and even a waterfall, one with succulants, an orchid room, the spring display, and a bonsai room.  In late April there will be a butterfly display....and we will be back!

After a scrumptious lunch at Mt Adams Bar and Grill (fascinating history in this place!) we climbed the Mt Adams steps to an old catholic church with a great view of the city! 

We ended the day in Covington with a quick stop at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption.  This church, called "the Notre Dame of Kentucky" is known for its astounding architecture. 

Pictures to come later....