Thursday, June 28, 2018

Claire Kirby Turns NINE . . . in four days. Let's CELEBRATE!

Claire will turn nine on July 2.  We won't be with her,
so our celebration came early.  I didn't hear any complaints.

Birthday cake, ice cream, and FRUIT would begin our mini-party.

Claire had the privilege of placing her own candles.  Ryan perches
over the table, knowing full well he isn't allowed to blow out her candles.
He's been through this drill before!

She got them all with one mighty WHOOSH!

This insect/butterfly net with extendable handle will come in
handy at home and on trips. NOT for little brothers, Claire!

This Oodles of Doodles book will be great for home or travel, too.
It begins pictures which you may complete from your imagination.

Two tigers are the newest members of the Kirby family.

I think Claire was already getting some ideas of what to do with them.

While the weather was mild, the threesome dug up the last of
the potatoes they had planted in early March.  We got a nice harvest.
It's like a treasure hunt.

After some biking, Evan and Claire took a music break.
Evan on the keyboard.

Claire on the drums.  She's got rhythm.

When Evan came across my storage tub of Chipper's clothes,
he tried on one of the military uniforms. You know that wearing
Cam Newton's # 1 jersey is standard issue in North Carolina.

When Claire spied Chipper's top hat, all her ideas came together
in a flash.  She would be a circus ringmaster!

But first, an Italian Ice break!  Well earned.

Ryan had been doing major surgery (torture?) on Grandma.
He would pause for a watermelon Italian Ice.  But not for long.
Giving shots is SO much fun!

As I observed Claire's circus planning, I got to snake-sit.
That's THREE ferocious snakes entwined around me.  My
background had prepared me for this, fortunately.

The new tigers would be the centerpiece of Claire's circus.

This is the set-up for a carefully designed stunt by the white tiger.
A trick that will amaze you!

BRAVO for the Claire Kirby Circus!

Claire was heavily influenced by her current favorite movie,
"The Greatest Showman."
 In our book, CLAIRE is the greatestringmaster. 
And today, Claire was Birthday Queen!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Call of the Eno

Judy and I recently slipped away for a couple of days 
of hiking and thrift shopping in the Hillsborough area.
This has fast become one of our go-to getaways because
there are so many trails nearby and at least a couple of
good shops.  Most of all, it's still got the small town feel
even though it's just outside Durham and Chapel Hill.

The first round of pictures are from the Eno River State
Park.  The weather couldn't have been ordered up more
perfect.  Low humidity, low 70's, and a light breeze
from the north.
This is the ranger's station, welcome center, and nature museum.

I always call areas like this Fern Valley.

Judy spotted this solitary treasure just after we began our hike.

This zebra swallowtail seemed mightily attracted to Judy's shoe.
It was wondrously beautiful.

We approached the Eno River at Few's Ford, a 19th century
pioneer crossing.

A little downstream is this cool suspension bridge.
Yes, it's a swinging bridge, and it swings!

We had been on this bridge before, but today we would cross it
to hike the Fanny's Ford Trail and part of the Cox Mountain Trail,
which we had not done before.

This replica of a pioneer cabin must be for the use of group campers,
especially in case of rain. It is quite large with spacious rooms and
no windows.

Here was our turn-off for a loop trail that would follow the
Eno River for some distance.

We feel blessed to have the feel of the mountains this close to home.

Fire Pink is one of our favorite wild flowers.  This is the only
specimen we saw.  We had some at our old property, but the
deer started eating it.

We were glad to see the Eno still supports a thriving population
of turtles.

This red toad shows up well here, but with a couple of hops
he was camouflaged in the pebbles beside a small stream.

We returned via the same route.  A marker showed that during
Hurricane Fran the water level was higher than this bridge!

The next day we went to the Occoneechee Mountain
Natural Area.  We hiked the Chestnut Oak Trail, the
only trail there that we hadn't done before.
Mountain Laurel was blooming in the higher elevations.

A ranger had kindly tipped us to look for "a black bear hugging
a tree."  I think we found it.

These trees may be related to our "Jack, Will, and Tom" on the
SFL Nature Trail.

These are Chestnut Oak leaves.  They are uncommon in the Sandhills,
but I did see some in woods not far from the Farm Life campus. They
are common at Morrow Mountain and Occoneechee Mountain.

Our trail intersected the Overlook Trail, which looks out on an
abandoned quarry, the Eno River (barely visible here) and the
western area of Hillsborough.

In this picture, the Eno River is in the dead center.  It then veers
toward the town, where a beautiful greenway follows it for a
couple of miles or more.
 A nice lady we met while hiking told us about a
new "Bee Hotel" at Gold Park in town.  We had been
there before, most recently on Solar Eclipse Day last
September, but the Bee Hotel had opened since then.
Several path tiles have been decorated by local artists.

Many native plants which attract bees have been laid out here
at the corner of Gold Park where the greenway trail enters.

We learned that most native honeybees are solitary, rather than
living in colonies.  They will nest in almost any hollow wood,
which explains this odd but intriguing structure.

Here's your close-up.  There were some bees around, but it's
still under construction.

This type of project is just one indicator of what a nice
community Hillsborough is.

This brick foundation supports a railroad bridge just a few dozen
yards from the Bee Hotel.  We were amazed to hear that the brickwork
is from around 1850.  When the bridge was being rebuilt more than
70 years later, engineers determined that they couldn't build a more
sound foundation than the one that already existed. Impressive that
the same could be said now, almost 100 years later!
That's it for this Hillsborough/Eno River/ Occoneechee
Mountain trip.  Aside from all these attractions, we know 
of several great places to eat and a nice Holiday Inn
 Express to stay at.  Yes, we'll be back!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Highlights of a Fun-filled Week

When Brianna and Hunter arrived to spend a week
with us, we set out to do all the things we had anticipated.
Lots of games, lots of great food (courtesy of Grandma
Judy), and plenty of time for whatever struck our fancy.
I think we outdid ourselves.  Here are a few glimpses,
and this is only part of the story.

Brianna turned 9 on April 18, but this was OUR chance to add
to the celebration. Yummy ice cream cake!

Granny and Granddaddy gave her twin Hatchables.  I wonder if
this is Twin A or Twin B.  Bri has proven to be a very good and
attentive mother. Of course, they do have an OFF switch.

Hunter always looks cool in his "Tie" T-shirt.  Chipper copied
him by getting a tuxedo shirt.  He hopes to go to the prom (NOT

When Kirby cousins arrived there was great jubilation.  We also
played Roy Rogers.  Ryan likes to let Bri be an extra big sister to him.

Evan is usually Roy Rogers, but it looks like he has turned
into "Bad Roy." And his dragster represents Trigger.

Hunter lifts his hands in surrender, but does he mean it?  You can
see from the shadow that Evan (Roy) got the drop on him.

At some point cowboy suits got a little hot and unwieldy.  Then
they get piled up while the kids play other things.

It was exceedingly hard to get all five grandkids in one picture,
but I did it, and somehow got Judy, too!

Not all cowboys can do stunts like this.

Bri handcuffs a remorseful outlaw Hunter to the thermometer.
How humiliating!

The next day we visited the old property and did some stream
hiking, among other things. Bri braves the deep falls.

Hunter guides these discs downstream with a lacrosse stick.

Bri and Juliette show what "Best Friends" truly means.

Brandi, Juliette, Brianna, and Judy

From top down: Bri, Hunter, and friends Sawyer and Juliette.

Hunter and Sawyer take a sweet tea and chocolate chip cookie break.

We later took a drive through horse country and saw this fine steed.

After dinner, we tried popping some corn in the chiminea. Success!

Hunter pops this batch while Bri captures some thickly falling
holly flowers.

It looked like it was snowing.  Somehow we kept them out
of the popcorn.  I think.

Campfire rule # 1:  Everything tastes better outdoors.

Bri made sure there were no leftovers.

Then the kids donned their glow masks. Pretty fierce, Bri!

Hunter's mask is a pirate.  Then we all strolled through the
neighborhood.  When we got back they played a while longer
in the dark back yard.

No matter how tired the kids were at bedtime, they always felt
like reading a little.  This night, Hunter read ALL TWELVE of
these short fairy tale books.  I wonder what he dreamed about.

Our friendly neighborhood kitty got comfortable with the kids
before the week was over.

Granny and Granddaddy provided a special Saturday night treat
with ice cream and supper at the Ice Cream Parlor in Southern Pines.

When you get brain-freeze in an ice cream shop, some folks like
to go sit outside in the sun.

Our hero and heroine strike dashing -- or at least odd -- poses.

Bri shows the results of a game that was new for us: Rummikub.
Lots of fun and more flexible than Rummy with cards.

The kids decided to construct a tower, and cooperated to complete
a fairly tall structure.

Don't fall!

Tah dah!

Hunter inside his creation.

Likewise for Bri.

I haven't mentioned the hours spent working on jump
rope skills and rhymes.  And plenty of time on bikes.
We watched Davy Crockett and High Feather.
We played Six Cubes, Skunk, Farkle, Muggins,
Don't Wake Daddy, War (with Pinochle cards), and
many more games.  I hope to share some videos soon,
perhaps on Facebook.

It was a great, great week!