Category Archives: Photos

Summer’s over and I’m back!

Yesterday was one of those bittersweet moments. I was excited for my boys to start first and third grade, but it also meant that our two months of summer vacation had ended. Sure, my kids can drive me nuts but they’re also a great source of entertainment, fun and never-ending questions.  I took a much-needed break from blogging and some other things to concentrate on my kids, as well as doing some soul searching when it comes to my career path opportunities. I’m stuck in more ways than one where I am, so it’s been a challenge trying to figure out what to do with the given circumstances. I drafted a plan and now that the kids are back in school, I hope to have more time to refine the individual steps. Time will tell. Hopefully I can share some progress and good news as I go along.

I thought I’d share some of our summer adventures in pictures. We finished June by celebrating my birthday and taking off for a week’s vacation once again in the Southern California wooded mountains, in the small town of Idyllwild. There we smelled the pines as we hiked in the forest.

Walking in the woods in Idyllwild

Walking in the woods in Idyllwild

We enjoyed beautiful sceneries and stayed reasonably cool while San Diego experienced a major heat wave while we were gone. We had plenty of picnics in the middle of nature, including by this adorable pond.

Pond and trees by Idyllwild California

Pond and trees by Idyllwild California

We enjoyed the 4th of July parade, which has an entertaining hodgepodge of participants, including musicians, old cars, rescue dogs, firetrucks, and even a special visit by Santa Claus.

Fourth of July parade in Idyllwild

Fourth of July parade in Idyllwild

The skies turned darker as the parade reached its end, until it… rained!!! We were so happy to feel the raindrops, we went out and danced in them for a while. We had more rain and even thunder for the rest of the day and overnight. The smell of wet earth the next day was one of my best memories of this trip.

Raindrops on car windshield

Raindrops on car windshield

Somehow the rain followed us back to San Diego because within the next week, we had a HUGE thunderstorm over our house. Tons of lightning directly followed by thunder, and rain. A lot of rain in very little time. Flash floods, anyone? It lasted maybe 30 minutes but we opened all the house windows to take it all in.

Back home, we enjoyed a lot of free time, and celebrated my oldest’s eighth birthday. The boys also took part in a few more structured activities, like swim lessons, and basketball camp. We celebrated the end of camp with this basketball food art.

Food art - basketball

Food art – basketball

My oldest seems to have inherited my talent for food art. He loves playing with his food as much as I do.

Food art - carrot face in dressing

Food art – carrot face in dressing

Talking about art, the boys had a great time at art camp. This year’s theme was “under the sea”. Lots of bubbly and spooky water creatures came back to our house at the end of camp. The last day features an art show, where you can see every kid’s creation that week.

Art camp show

Art camp show

I had planned to spend some time sharpening my drawing skills this summer. While I forced my kids to do homework, they forced me to draw for them, mostly characters from their favorite video games, including Clash of Clans. Man, that stuff is hard to draw!

Clash of clans character drawing

Clash of clans character drawing

Fortunately I also found a little time, although not as much as I wanted to, to draw other things, like this paper kite butterfly from a photo I had taken a while ago.

Paper kite butterfly in watercolor pencils and black liner

Paper kite butterfly in watercolor pencils and black liner

I wasn’t the only one with the urge to create. Inspired by a comic strip by Calvin and Hobbes, my eight-year old decided to write his first self-help book. This is the cover. Move over, Dr. Phil, you’ve got some serious competition!

When children write self-help books

When children write self-help books

His book contains three steps (illustrations included), the first one being “nobody cares so stop whining”. I just wish the kid would follow his own advice sometimes.

We tried to stay cool on hot days. One way to do that was with water balloon fights. The boys have fun and they (not me!) get to pick up all the balloon pieces after that. :-)

Water balloon fight

Water balloon fight

Of course our summer wouldn’t be complete with the yearly visit from our snake, the infamous red coachwhip! Yep, that’s three years in a row… You can read about the snake’s first visit, and the second one.

Red coachwhip snake in our backyard

Red coachwhip snake in our backyard

But guess what? Unless this snake laid eggs that hatch babies that want to come back next year, there won’t be a snake visit next year. That’s because this guy/girl managed to wrap itself really badly into the netting and died. So I untangled it and threw it in the bushes over our fence. That night, I heard a lot of rustling in those bushes. I thought, wow, the snake wasn’t dead after all! I went outside with a flashlight to see what was going on, only to find a … raccoon! He must have smelled the dead snake and was trying to get it out of the bushes to eat it. I guess they don’t call it the Wild Wild West for nothing.

Of course this wouldn’t be summer in San Diego without wildfires. We had a few near and far from our home. This one was only a few miles away but the wind was blowing smoke and ash in our direction. Never a good thing. Fortunately there was little wind and the wildfire was extinguished the same afternoon. We really have the best firefighters around.

Wildfire in San Diego's Mission Trails summer 2014

Wildfire in San Diego’s Mission Trails summer 2014

Finally, I’ll spare you the photo and I’ll just tell you I got… shingles! My lower back had been bothering me for a while, but since I often have nerve pain there, I didn’t really pay attention. That’s until I saw a red patch the size of a silver dollar on my lower back. At first I thought I had been bitten by a nasty spider, because it hurt just the same. Fortunately it didn’t get any bigger. After some online research I loaded up on vitamin B complex, lysine, and this amazing immune system boosting herbal supplement called Virattack. After a week of treatment, the pain was completely gone (the red spots are fading little by little). If you ever get shingles, give this a try before you go for the heavy-duty prescriptions.

So this is a glimpse of our busy summer in pictures. A lot of fun and adventures, and never a dull moment. How was your summer?

Fun facts about Washington D.C.

Do you know what the hardest part is about coming back from an amazing two-week vacation to the Mid Atlantic states? Well, it’s coming back. Out of the many times I’ve visited that region, I’ve never been there during the tree blooming season. This year, we managed to be in the area right during peak bloom, and I can only thank our school district’s vacation schedule for this coincidence. The week before we arrived, only a few trees were blooming, and the week after we left, the blossoms were being blown away by high winds and rain. We had 90% blooms during our stay. That’s what I call pure luck.

Coming from an area of the country where flowers and blooms are rare and sparse, this was a welcome sight – burst after burst of colors everywhere we looked. Oh, did I hear you say allergies? Well, knowing that my kids and I are allergic to tons of things in the San Diego air (dust, tree pollen, weeds, you name it, we’re allergic to it) and miserable all year round, I figured it wouldn’t be worse on the East Coast. Actually it was 100% better. As in, we had NO allergies the whole time. Of course, 10 minutes after getting out of San Diego airport, we were already sneezing. Nice.

We got to spend the first five days of our trip touring Washington D.C., the following weekend visiting my friend in Delaware, and the next few days in Virginia. My kids got to see the famous national monuments for the first time, visit the best museums in the country for free, stare in awe at the REAL spangled star banner (it’s HUGE!), walk around the Tidal Basin with another million tourists, see robins, cardinals and other critters, visit George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s estate at Monticello, admire the beauty and size of the Luray caverns, see many local animals at the Virginia Living Museum (first time my kids saw raccoons and beavers), and enjoy walking in real grass under real trees.

I’ll showcase a lot of the photos I took of these places and animals on my photography website over the next few weeks, but today I wanted to share a few fun facts we learned while touring Washington D.C.

Spring break is the busiest season of the year for the capital. About 600,000 people reside within the city limits. At spring break, 1.2 million people buzz around the streets of D.C. Honestly, we’ve been to the San Diego Zoo in the summer enough times to be ready to conquer any crowds, so this didn’t scare us.

With so many people, traffic can be a problem in Washington D.C. I drove in it and can tell you it’s not worse than driving in Paris. Except those drivers from Maryland. Watch out for them, they’ll run you off the road if they can! Oh, and watch where you park. The city manages to collect $92 million in parking tickets every year. We saw lots and lots of parking police officers hard at work…

Washington D.C. is one of the greenest cities you’ll ever see in the U.S., and that’s probably because a law passed a long time ago says that for every tree cut, two more have to be planted. That makes D.C. a beautiful city to walk and look at.

Talking about trees, the original cherry trees donated by Japan to the U.S. feature white blossoms. Most of the cherry trees that were planted later on display pink blossoms. Honestly, I don’t care what color they are, they’re beautiful either way, especially when they’re all blooming at once.

White cherry blossoms in Washington DC

White cherry blossoms in Washington DC

Some botanist got the brilliant idea years ago to cross a pink cherry tree with a weeping willow. The result is called a cherry weeping willow, or a weeping cherry tree, and there are lots of them in and around D.C. and many of them are very large (20 to 30 feet tall). All I can say is, wow!

Pink cherry willow blossoms in Washington DC

Pink cherry willow blossoms in Washington DC

And talking about pink, how about those pink magnolias? Double wow! Also called “tulip trees” because of the shape of their flowers, they’re everywhere in the city. You can guess I took many, many photos of those.

Pink magnolia blooms - tulip tree blossoms in Washington DC

Pink magnolia blooms – tulip tree blossoms in Washington DC

Let’s talk about the Washington Monument for a minute. It was still under renovation while we visited and is supposed to reopen in a few days. I thought it was closed because of remodeling purposes, but it was damaged in the August 2011 earthquake, the one with a magnitude of 5.8 in Virginia, less than 100 miles from downtown D.C.

Washington monument in Washington DC

Washington monument in Washington DC

By the way, did you ever notice the two different hues of marble on the Washington monument? A light hue for the bottom part and a darker one above? That’s because the monument construction stopped for several years, when people were arguing if it should be built at all. Once the argument was settled, the quarry had run out of marble in that specific location, so they had to extract marble a little further away, which explains the difference in color. One more funny fact: the Washington monument is made of “Texas granite marble” and of course it comes from… Maryland!

Alright, one very last funny fact about the Washington monument: when the elevator was originally installed, only men could use it. That’s because it was considered a safety issue and people thought women and children were safer taking the stairs. Right… It would take the original elevator 17 minutes to go up and down the monument, so maybe the elevator wasn’t much faster than the stairs anyway.

Other monuments in D.C. were damaged in the 2011 earthquake, including the Washington National Cathedral. You can actually see the stones and gargoyles that fell off during the earthquake, as they’re piled up by the entrance of the church. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be close to it when it happened. By the way, if you want to see the inside of the cathedral, plan to shell out $20/person. No need to say, we didn’t bother going in. How do you like my postcard picture?

National Cathedral in Washington DC

National Cathedral in Washington DC

Finally, if you’ve ever being to D.C., you’ve probably noticed the many statues of military men on horses. It seems that every military general, or even officer, that fought in the American Revolution or the Civil War has his own statue in the city. One funny fact about these horse statues: they all face the White House. So if you’re ever lost in the city and are looking for the White House, look for a horse statue and you’re all set!

Military man and horse statue in Washington DC

Military man and horse statue in Washington DC

Do you know other fun facts about the Washington D.C. you’d like to share?

Happy Turkey Day!

Just a quick reminder that my 2014 nature photography calendars (choose between five different themes) are available for sale. Look in the side sidebar of my blog for the most up-to-date discount coupon code (usually between 20 and 50% off). All calendars are made to order in the USA so you support the US economy with your purchase, and a self-employed single mom (me!). I also appreciate any referral through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and of course your blog or website.

To make this cute little turkey below, you need a red apple, big and small marshmallows, cranberries, raisins, a gummy worm and toothpicks. This is a fun craft project for the kids for Thanksgiving!

To make this cute little turkey below, you need a red apple, big and small marshmallows, cranberries, raisins, a gummy worm and toothpicks. This is a fun craft project for the kids for Thanksgiving!

I want to wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving. My sister is visiting us and she’s going to get a chance to have a real Thanksgiving meal. Well, “real” may not be exact since I do use some of the same ingredients but I change the recipes. I guess you can call it a French-American Thanksgiving meal!

I’m thankful for many things this year, but here are just a few that come to mind:

  • I’m thankful for my health.
  • I’m thankful for my kids. They are my rock and I’m so proud of them and how they’re growing up.
  • I’m thankful for my kids’ teachers, who do such an awesome job every day.
  • I’m thankful for the internet, which has opened up so many opportunities to connect with people from all over the world for work or leisure.
  • I should add I’m thankful for WiFi, especially when it’s free.
  • I’m thankful for the new work clients who gave me their trust this year.
  • I’m thankful for my camera and the great pictures it lets me take.
  • I’m thankful for PiBoIdMo 2013 (Picture Book Idea Month), which gave me the opportunity to come up with so many book ideas in just 30 days. I’m now motivated to start working on a manuscript for several of them in 2014.
  • I’m thankful for books. All sorts of books, for adults and for children, funny books, sad books, books about real stuff, books about made-up stuff…

What are you thankful for this year?

By the way, we have a white board at our house on which I draw a new picture every few days, usually something funny or unexpected. My 5-year old didn’t seem very impressed with my turkey drawing (I found the original online), which was apparently “BORING!”, so he asked if he could add some “color” to the picture. He ended up with a Thanksgiving, Fourth of July (fireworks), Christmas (snowman) and Easter (basket and Easter eggs) picture. I’m not sure what that holiday would be called, but I think it would be… amazing! Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day!

WordPress weekly photo challenge: unexpected – and 50% off my photo calendars

I’m reblogging from my nature photography website today, simply because I have the perfect photo for this theme and my kids were with me when I took it.

I also want to start this post with a big announcement: my 2014 nature photography calendars (choose between five different themes) are available for sale at 50% off on my online Zazzle store today (all other products are 20% off). Enter code BLKFRIDAY541 at checkout; code valid until November 22, 2013, midnight. All calendars are made to order in the USA so you support the US economy with your purchase, and a starving artist (me!). I also appreciate any referral through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and of course your blog or website.

Today I’m participating in the WordPress weekly photo challenge and this week’s theme is “unexpected”. If you like what you see, feel free to subscribe and receive nature photography updates a few times a week.

I know the Oxford Dictionaries recently named “selfie” as word of the year, but seriously, “photobomb” would have been my pick. Here’s nature’s version of a photobomb: an unexpected mallard duck flying in front of a white pelican as I was trying to take its picture. Thanks, dude.

Wordpress weekly photo challenge: Unexpected duck flies in front of pelican

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Unexpected duck flies in front of pelican

You can view the rest of my photos of white pelicans in San Diego here.