Monday, July 7, 2014

4th of July

We tried to hit a local park to watch the fireworks for the 4th but we got there and the skies opened up. It started to pour and there was TERRIBLE lightning. (This part of Florida is known as "Lightning Alley" and has more strikes than anywhere else in the country. It ranks in the top 5 in the world too.)

The lightning was so bright it blew out almost every shot I tried to get to total white!  (It looks bright like almost daylight here but it was really dark and storming.) This was the best I managed.
We huddled under a gazebo for over an hour hoping it would pass and we'd still get to see some. But it was not to be.

Since visibility was so crap, Piper was wearing a blue and a red glow stick to make sure we could keep an eye on her.

The lightning even caused a house fire. We could see the flames miles away it was so big!
So 4th of July was a washout. After we left, we hit the store and got some ice cream and headed home.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Banyan Trees of Downtown St. Pete

No visit to downtown St. Pete is complete without seeing the banyan trees!
The yellow building is the Museum of Fine Arts. And this is only ONE of the two large trees. You can see the people for scale of how giant they really are!

Here's the other of the banyan trees just past the first one above.

Another shot of how they grow roots down from the branches to form new trunks.

You can see Piper hanging out in the branches!

Museum of Fine Arts - Downtown St. Petersburg

Few weekends ago, we went to the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. Petersburg. Last year, we had gone for a visit only to arrive and discover 90% of the place was closed for renovations. So they gave us free tickets to come back at a later date and we finally got around to going.

Home to a wide variety of amazing art - including famous artists like Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, etc. - there's also galleries of ancient artifacts, glass, photography and currently an exhibit of young Chinese artists trying to make statements on the political climate of China.

Needless to say, there was a lot to look at!

There's this huge, neat tree that everyone climbs on the side of the MFA. Here I'm holding Piper so you can get an idea of scale!

Outside of the museum

Ancient marble sculpture of Ceasar.

This is a neat piece and always catches my eye.
Magic Lantern, Robert Vickrey

This is so amazing in person. The subtlety of the piece is lost in photos but it's truly amazing.
House of Parliament: Effect of Fog, London Monet 1904

This is one of my absolute favorites in the museum.
You couldn't see it well in Piper's pic, so I put another shot so you can see it better.
Julia as Flora, Roman Goddess of Flowers, 1799

Can't find a page for it but it's Mercury Preparing to Kill Argus, Berthel Thorvaldsen 1818
In the background is Major Archibald Robertson of Lawyers  and another I can't find a page for.

This is the catwalk on the second floor overlooking the main lobby of the museum. The permanent collection items are in the galleries on the right and the visiting collection and gift shop would be on the left.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Busch Gardens Tampa

Last Sunday we headed over to Busch Gardens Tampa for a few hours to take in the scenery and take some photos with the new camera lens I got for my birthday. We left the house and it was a little cloudy but no big deal. When we got there however, it got VERY dark and almost immediately started to rain.

We made it to the park and walked to the open safari area....

...only to see the storm clouds roll in very quickly and the skies opened up.
 We ran and took shelter under a covered area. Turns out, we were lucky because one of the lions was also taking shelter - right up against the glass!!

Piper gets VERY up close and personal with the lion!
There was a break in the rain, so we headed out. We'll try again another day. But I doubt we'll ever get so much awesome time face-to-literal-face with the lion like that!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Natural Florida

I took Piper for a tour around a local park last week to see some of what natural, unspoiled Florida looks like! I figured it was going to be pretty different from her home in the desert.

The park is right on the edge of Tampa Bay, and is part of the the Tampa Bay Estuary. There's a lot of waterways around for launching canoes and kayaks plus more typical flat oak scrublands as well.

The entrance to the park even has a canoe on the sign!
You can climb up to the observation deck overlooking the water.

And here's the view! This is part of the estuary that feeds into Tampa Bay itself.

Ground level view of the water. You can see all the mangrove "islands." Mangroves grow right out of the water in clusters. There's no actual land beneath the trees. But sea birds nest in them.

Boardwalk over the transition from marsh and waterways to scrublands.
Some of the scrubland trails surrounding the waterways.

Because it's RIGHT on the Bay, there are warning signs 13 feet tall telling you a hurricane can cause a storm surge all the way up to the line on the sign! See how tiny Piper looks?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Epic Birthday At Disney!

Piper came with me for an epic day at Walt Disney World to celebrate my birthday on May 16th! We hit both Epcot and Magic Kingdom.

Most of my Epcot shots are on a different memory card (I took them with my point-and-shoot) so I still have to download and edit them. This entry will only have a few Epcot shots. I'll post the rest later. But all the Magic Kingdom shots were on my DSLR so I have a TON to share!

We were there until the park closed at midnight so we got to see a ton.

Spaceship Earth is in the background across the lagoon between the Japanese arch.

Flower and Garden Festival was going on so lots of topiaries! This was Lady and the Tramp in Italy.

Foo Dog (Chinese guardian lions) in China

Hanging out with the Viking in Norway.

We got to Magic Kingdom about 5pm and stayed until midnight.

View down Main Street towards Cinderella Castle from the Train Station.

Cinderella Castle! (With the "Partners" statue of Walt and Mickey as well)

In line for the Haunted Mansion.

Another look at the Haunted Mansion.

Watching a log fall down the drop hill of Splash Mountain.

Piper wanted to try on this fun pineapple shirt.

Aloha Isle. Home of Dole Whips in Magic Kingdom!

Hanging out in a cart of blinkie toys in front of Cinderella Castle at Dusk.

Took some time to stop and smell the roses in the Rose Garden near Cinderella Castle.

Riding the WEDWay PeopleMover which circles above Tomorrowland.

I took this without even looking while RIDING Big Thunder Mountain. I'm amazed it came out at all!
(This is my favorite ride! We rode it twice!)

Some of the neon of Tomorrowland at night.

Watching "Wishes" fireworks from New Fantasyland. (Handheld shot so I'm again amazed it came out at all!)

Back side of Cinderella Castle and the Carousel lit up at night.

Minnie was waving to us during the Main Street Electrical Parade!

Midnight. One farewell look back down Main Street to say goodnight.

Such a great day! Piper loved touring around with us and had so much fun.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Around Home

Piper took a walk with me through the apartment complex to get my mail. We stopped along the way to take a couple pics of the neighborhood.

Ubiquitous palm trees!

Checking out the pool area!

Afterwards we came back inside and took some time to meet the three kitty girls!

Mika is the oldest at approximately 14. She was unfazed by her introduction to Piper.

Gracie is the middle kitty at about 10 years old. She was also equally unfazed by Piper.

Ginger is the baby. She just turned 1 in April. She was VERY interested in Piper and wanted to try her patented method of "biting" to say hi. I swooped in before any harm was done. (Ginger likes to use her teeth to say hi to everything - me included! - so Piper was in good company! LOL)