Back from the Dead?

Not really, not dead, just got busy with life, travel, weddings, family, cycling, church, video…who said retired life is boring? My last post was on March 20th, can’t believe it…so I am thinking the best way to catch up is to post a few pictures from each month till July. Warning, there are quite a few pictures as I am consolidating several months in this one post. Here we go!

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the US a lot more than in Ireland or so I am told. New York City is supposed to have the largest Saint Patrick’s parade and celebration in the US. Greenville, not as much, but there is still a good rowdy bunch that gets together downtown and have a good time. This gentleman is enjoying himself with a cold pint.

 

One of the fun things for us to do was to read the many t-shirts with curious or funny graphics. Greenville closes a portion of Main Street for this celebration, it was really well attended and people had a great time listening to a band and visiting the many bars along the Main Street.

 

One of the yearly events in Greenville is the Annual Running with the Bulls. No, you are not in Pamplona, but the event coincides with the real running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. The event proceeds go to a charity; this year’s proceeds went to support the family of Officer Jacobs who was killed by a punk that had just got out of prison. Real sad story, but honored to support such worthy cause.

 

Red bandanas are on and the bulls are ready for the stampede!

 

Danger is real, these bulls will stop for no one.

 

We finally decided to visit the brand new Sierra Nevada Brewery in NC. A huge compound really well done. I wonder how it compares to the original in Chico, CA.

 

We did not go on the guided tour as there is like a two month wait for it. We settled for the self-walking tour instead. You do not get to see the whole operation, but what we saw was really impressive. Here we see some of the mash containers (left) and two copper brew kettles. The place was spotless.

 

We decided to have a beer sampler with some really good appetizers; must come back.

 

In April, we had a very important visitor for a couple of day – meet baby Hazel; my wife had that smile for two solid days.

 

No question about it; Hazel is a beauty!

 

April was a very busy month for events in Greenville. Greenville hosted the USA Cycling Criterium National Championships – that is a big deal in bicycle circles.

 

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The pro race is about to start.

 

Took hundreds of pictures as I walked around the whole course. Tough to choose the best ones though.

 

My wife decided to race her first 5k race ever. She trained with her friends Janice (middle) and Nancy (right) for a few weeks and did a very respectable 39 minutes. Way to go honey!

 

As you can see, my wife is having fun and she is already beating many runners.

 

Our adopted Chinese daughter got married to a fine young man in late April. I walked her down the aisle; it was an honor to do so as her parents were not able to travel from China for the occasion.

 

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My wife and I went on a Miata Club ride; we have not done many of those lately. Forgot how much fun they can be. As usual, the ride took us up the mountains and the views were simply amazing. We stopped in a few places, this being – Dry Falls – my most favorite that day.

 

Memorial Day in Miami with the Briatore’s 

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Lucia, Luca and Francesca having fun at the Miami boardwalk.

 

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Meat of all types…all delicious and cooked by Master Asador Leandro; truly yum!

 

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At the pool with Leandro and Mike. We decided to jump into the pool with clothes and all…why not.

…and…

THE BIG EVENT!

Our youngest daughter Jocelyn got married to Kyle Nelson…YEAH!!!
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Meet the new Mr. & Mrs. Nelson!

 

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Can you tell they are happy?

 

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The whole new family!

 

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Our two daughters with their two gentlemen.

 

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Their first dance. It was truly a perfect day for all, but a magical day for our daughter. We are very happy for her and Kyle. May God bless you always.

 

In Warsaw, Indiana with the Till’s

Tom and Danette invited us to a retirement party of a dear mutual friend; Julie. We got to see the Till’s new residence – it is really a beautiful home in a perfect place.

 

Party time! Julie was really surprised; she was happy to see so many of her friends come to wish her a happy retirement. Here is the whole gang.

 

Tom, Danette, Julie and Larry.

 

On our way back home we stopped at a brand new attraction in Kentucky – The Ark Encounter – A real life size Noah’s Ark replica. The interior has amazing detail and there are several exhibitions showing most likely the way they took care of daily needs. We enjoyed it.

Thanks for visiting and your patience on such a long post.

Summer Made it to Greenville!

I know is fall, the title reflects the visit we got from our friend Summer (a.k.a. Liping Xu); a colleague I worked with while in Suzhou, China. Summer loves to travel and has been in several countries, but this was her fist visit to the US; she loved everything about it, she said. We were really happy to host her for a portion of her trip and look forward to seeing her again on her next visit to Boston.

Sharing with you some of the great times we had with Summer…

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We took Summer to Downton Greenville and we stopped at a new art gallery (Greenville has so many great galleries). Summer enjoyed most of the art and struck a good conversation with the owner.

 

For a couple of weeks before Summer’s arrival, Greenville had several days of very hard rain. The falls shown here had so much water you could barely see the rocks. Luckily, Summer had great sunny and dry weather during her visit.

 

One of Summer’s favorite pictures…us three in the reflection.

 

The three of us again…cannot beat a dry sunny day in Greenville!

 

Summer was amazed at the wonderful exposed root system on this amazing tree. I can hear Summer say….you must come visit Greenville!!!

 

We had Summer going most of the time, here she is taking a well deserved break in our patio.

 

Summer cooking my favorite Chinese soup, yum. It came out so so good. Thank you Summer!

 

酸菜鱼 Simple and delicious, with a nice tangy flavor that is really amazing. Yum, too bad my wife does not like fish…or maybe not…more for me…lol.

 

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One of Summer’s favorite was the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Must admit never saw it before.  We were all a bit surprised by it, and judging by Summer’s mouth wide open, she was also, but really enjoyed it as it was an interactive play. Summer got to participate with the crowd and the actors. We had a good time and laughs galore.

 

On our way to Looking Glass Falls, we stopped before reaching Caesar’s Head summit. Amazing views of the Smokey Mountains on this spot. Summer really enjoyed them.

 

A view of the valley from Caesar’s Head summit.

 

We had to take Summer to Pretty Place. A very popular spot for amazing panoramic views. We are facing the chapel where many weddings take place; simple a majestic setting for a wedding.

 

Summer has not shrunken, she decided to climb on an oversized chair for another photo-op. Must say, Summer enjoys the little things as much as the big things. Great way to approach life.

 

Looking Glass Falls, one of 120 or so waterfalls in North Carolina.

 

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This nice Harley Davidson caught Summer’s eye so she asked the owner if she could take a picture with it. The owner had no problem at all obliging. When Summer sets her mind on something she wants, watch out!

 

Summer having her first Mexican food ever. She wanted to try all sort of foods and we did our best to meet her wishes. She really enjoyed her Burrito, new place for us; Don Quijote in Brevard, NC.

 

What? Not made in China??? Yep, not everything is made in China.

 

White Squirrels are the bomb in Brevard…there are many theories about how this unusual types of rodents come to Brevard, but one thing is certain they are not albino squirrels as they eyes are dark and not pink. This one is a big one and tried to get my wife.

 

Took Summer to the Flat Rock Bakery, our most favorite place for pizza in the Carolinas…actually, probably anywhere. It is that good!! There is a BBQ place next to it with several neat metal sculptures, here is Summer posing with Mr. Frog.

 

Ah, it does not get better than this for me…a delicious spinach, goat cheese, artichoke hearts and sun dry tomatoes pizza. The bakery uses a brick oven to cook them and the flavor/combination is awesome! So awesome that Summer had to freeze the moment for eternity.

 

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Summer visited us at the tail end of apple picking season. She had never been apple picking so guess what? Yes, we took her to a great apple grove near Flat Rock with many acres of apple trees covering several delicious varieties.

 

Summer did quite well picking some delicious ones we later enjoyed later.

 

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Had to give Summer a ride in the Miata. Of course, she had to take a picture of it.

 

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As we were zooming up Paris Mountain, guess who was taking pictures?

 

What a fantastic coincidence, the Fall for Greenville Festival was on during Summer’s visit…of course we took her to it. This festival showcases over 40 restaurants and several bands playing in six different locations. Here is Summer posing with a NASCAR type car…not sure who the driver was.

 

I think no caption is needed on this one.

 

Summer took hundreds of pictures, this is just one of them.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the three day festival features several bands that play in six different venues. We chose the TD Stage to listen to a great Army band that played some great Rock n Roll music.

 

We had a great time with Summer, we were happy that the weather was great and we had time to share with her many of our favorite places. We hope you visit us again!

 

All things do come to an end however. Summer toasting the good times and wishing us all a great life! Cheers back to you Summer!!

Looks like…

…I am into a quarterly updates with this blog. Finding less time to take pictures and the motivation to sit down, process pictures and write a post. My wife says that I am all about my bicycle and photography has taken a back seat. Well, there is some truth to that, but photography is still important to me. Hey, just going through a cycling phase and having a lot of fun with the people I ride with. Finding there is a sort of addictive element to climbing the same hill or mountain faster than the last time you rode it. Some will find this crazy, but I know some others will understand and even relate to it.

So, we have been busy with several guests and happy to say, more to come in October. Not much around trips lately, but we have several planned for the last quarter the year and first half of next year. For now, here is as brief summary of the past three months.

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My wife volunteers with the Salvation Army and was very busy helping with the Paint the Town Red Auction event that provides most of the monies to fund the Salvation Army’s Women’s Auxiliary Greenville Chapter. Many ladies put in a lot of work making this event a success. Happy to report that they raised more than last years event. The place was packed by the time the auction started; picture above was taken before it was open to bidders so it does look sparse. Way to go ladies!

 

Another activity the Women’s Auxiliary helps with is a monthly dinner to those in the shelter. The theme this time was Mexican and great it was. Here we see some of the volunteers cooking and getting ready for the crowds soon to come.

 

Some of the volunteers and …????

 

Our daughter Sarah and her boyfriend Jeffrey visited us in May. Of course we had a great time with them, even though it was a very brief visit.

 

Sarah and Jeffrey

 

Whenever in Chicago, a must stop for us is Smoque BBQ Restaurant. We think they have the best brisket we have ever had. We were attending a wedding close by so we were very happy to be able to visit Smoque’s once again. You can see the address right on the awning.

 

No bread for us…all meat, coleslaw (nice vinegar version) and beans. Bread fills you up unnecessarily, prefer eating more brisket instead. Take a look, moist and very tender…yum. Highly recommended!

 

Corey and Brooke’s wedding was such a beautiful event. We have known Corey since he was eight months old. We have seen him grow into a wonderful and caring young man. We felt very privileged to attend their wedding ceremony.

 

Corey … you may now kiss your beautiful bride…and so he did!

 

the happy newlyweds!

 

Tula, Charlie and Maci hamming it up for the hired photographer. Attention getters extraordinary lol.

 

Us right after the wedding.

 

Ok, so sometimes I take pictures for what may appear to be crazy reasons…this maybe one of those times…, but maybe not.

 

Barry and Cathy, good friends we met in China visited us in June. They really liked Greenville and we had a chance to catch up after the last time we saw each other in Suzhou.

 

We had to show Barry and Cathy out mini Fenway Park; home of the Greenville Drive, the Red Sox’s Single A baseball team. Notice the mini Green Monstah!

 

We also had Alison and Devyn visit. We were thrilled to see Devyn’s little bump; she is expecting her first baby…YEAH! She looks a lot bigger now – well, that is in Devyn’s proportions.

 

We were finally able to take a picture of the very elusive white squirrels we have around our neighborhood. Many just did not believed us, now we have proof. No, the squirrel’s color has not been Photoshopped.

 

July 4th! My sister and her two granddaughters spent July 4th with us.  We had several days together and we enjoyed their visit; Valentina and Victoria had fun. In this picture, we see Valentina posing for her picture. In the past, Valentina hated her picture taken, so I figured I would have a tough time taking her picture, but not this time. As soon as I pointed the camera at her, she would say…”wait” then strike a pose and say…”non”. we all laugh and laugh at her complete unexpected behavior. What happened, we wondered that changed her attitude toward pictures? Regardless, we all had many good laughs about he new-found modeling poses.

 

We took the girls to the Greenville Children’s Museum; they had fun, but I think I enjoyed the place at least as much as they did (if not more)…they have a very cool construction sections where you can use an electronic driven crane to move building blocks – fun.

 

My sister with her two beautiful and very active granddaughters.

 

Billy Graham Library – Charlotte, NC

We finally made it to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. What a place, if you plan on visiting you need to set aside at least two hours, three to four would be best as the place is really full of great information about Mr. Graham. The house you see on the left is were Mr. Graham was raised. This is not the original place, as the house has been moved twice (brick by brick, and board by board). On the right you see the barn like structure where Mr. Graham’s library is housed.

 

Billy Graham as I will always remember him. I remember seeing one of his tele- evangelistic meetings in Peru. His message was translated into Spanish and it was very powerful; as most all other that I saw after that.

 

 

A few years ago I read one of Mr. Graham’s autobiographies -“Just as I am” – highly recommended. His life was filled with purpose, but he was very aware that he was truly no different than any other human being. In view of this, he took several precautions and assembled a group of men he was accountable to at all times. I truly admire Mr. Graham and thank God for sending men like him to share His message around the world.

 

 

 

A very unusual picture of Mr. Graham. Just a regular guy like you are I.

 

The most striking thing for us, was the library was all about the gospel – not only about his life. Yes, it had Mr. Graham memorabilia, but the central message for anyone going through it was to get a comprehensive explanation of what the Gospel is and what it will accomplish to those who accept it.

 

 

In one small exhibit there were several letters addressed to Mr. Graham by children. All of them had unique ways used by the sender to address them. One said ” Sent to Billy Graham. Do not know his address. Make sure it is sent at once” the hand writing clearly indicated that the sender was a small child. This one was my favorite… notice on the right…”In case of Rapture (never mind this letter)”

 

At the Home Front

Phase three is finally under way next to our home. We enjoyed thick woods for over a year right next to our house, but now the woods are gone and the work is underway to start building the roads for phase three.

 

It took almost three months to get everything in place before the black top (base cover) was added. We will be next to a construction site for quite a while…bummer, but we knew it was coming so we will live with it.

 

Jocelyn and her (at the time) boyfriend Kyle visited us in July. They got engaged in August and are in the thick of planning their wedding. We are happy for the both of them as they make a very nice couple in many ways.

 

One of the things we really like about our neighborhood is the activities the Social Committee has throughout the year. In July,  we had a food truck over -“Thorough Fare” – the best one I have had so far…anywhere. The quality of the ingredients and the taste was way above average. I had amazing fish tacos, my wife had a very tasty empanada; the pulled pork sandwiches looks also very good.

 

We also had a guest musical group “The Trapfire Brothers” that provided really nice entertainment for us all.

 

Our very good friends, Linda and Joel visited us in August; we took them to many fun places and they enjoyed the area a great deal. Here they are looking at potential purchases at The Pickens Flea Market – the largest one I have ever attended.

 

Pickens is an old South Carolina town named after Andrew Pickens (1739–1817), an American revolutionary soldier and US Congressman for South Carolina. Population – about 3,120 in 2010. Here we have a gentlemen that may represent some of the locals in the area.

 

On the right, meet Robert Perry the Mountain Man, playing the bucket base. Mr. Perry holds a weekly pickin’ meet at his home nearby. At his right, we have a lady signing some gospel songs while an appreciative onlooker enjoys them both.

 

Have you ever wonder what would Elvis might have looked like by now? Well, as soon as I saw this gentleman I wondered if Elvis would have looked just like this (minus sideburns). Hey, you never know, maybe the king is still alive and well at Pickens Flea Market!

 

Joel and Linda calling the Thompson grandchildren to Skype.

We took Linda and Joel on a hike at Table Rock State Park. The really enjoyed the chosen trail and we saw many interesting looking mushrooms on the way. I really like hiking, especially the many beautiful sightings found in the micro world like this mushroom cluster; abut 3 inches in total width.

 

We are still active in the Miata Foothills Club. We went on club ride to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Our Miata is the second on the right. We have a lot of fun riding with other like minded Miata enthusiasts.

That is it for now. Hope you all had a great summer and are getting ready for autumn. Thanks for visiting!

 

Who Let the Dogs Out? Who?

My birthday this year happened to fall on a Sunday (Feb 8); very thankful it was a day with great weather. Even for South Carolina, having a sunny day with temperatures reaching 67 degrees F by 4:00PM was out of the norm. So what to do? We decided to go to downtown and visit Falls Park; we were not alone. Downtown was packed with people enjoying the warm weather and you saw people wearing from thick coats to shorts and t-shirts. Yes, some South Carolinians consider temps in the 50’s freezing, but many others (probably Northerner transplants) the temps felt like a nice summer day.

One thing that really caught our attention was the large number of dogs we saw. I focused my lens on them so lets take a look at a small sampling of them below.

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Dogs everywhere, several times a dog jam in the spot we sat for a while.

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We saw a total of 5 Great Danes; this one was the first. They seem such gentle giants. Here you see him allowing this little one very close without eating him whole.

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Like I said, all types. This particular Pitbull type has such a distinct look. I am not a dog expert so I hope I am not mislabelling any dogs. If I am please leave a comment with your correction.

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This lady seems to be wondering if the Great Dane is a horse…she is probably thinking…I will need a shovel instead of a pooper scooper…lol. Actually, she was not even look at the Great Dane, just added her here as it played well. So much for truth in reporting…hey, I came clean before publishing it.

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My wife could not resist petting this little Maltese, Poodle and Yorkie mix. She really wants a dog now. On the right, well sometimes the dog takes the owner for a walk.

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Some dog owners have no problem dealing with more than one dog at the time. Good to see a Red Sox fan in the mix! Bottom left; she really posed for me.

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A great looking Boston Pit-Bull sticking his tongue it seems. Looks like a powerful medium guy; he was very sure of himself prancing like all must stop and pay tribute to him. A couple each with their pair of dogs; not sure about this; looks like a lot of work to me.

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Some dog owners with heavy coats think their dogs are also cold, even though is in the mid 60’s. On the right you see a couple of Great Danes; one hairy…never see one like this.

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My second most favorite image of the day. He said it is a dogs life? For the most favorite image see below.

 

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My favorite picture of the day! How can you argue with this face and eyes?

 Thank you for visiting!

 

A couple of months…

…since the last post. There is no question that I am finding it harder to update this blog; you think I would have more time now that I am retired–hardly. Fifteen months have passed since I retired and find myself busy with many activities and projects. Our days go by as fast as they ever did and to those that said the newness of retirement will fade a few months into it I can only say not so far. The pictures that follow will give you a taste of what we have been up to in June. Hope you are having a great summer!

So we finally bought a Mazda Miata (MX-5). After looking for quite a while for a good deal, we found a 2007 Grand Touring in excellent shape. It is such a fun drive, nimble and simply the best cornering car I have ever driven. Here is my wife at the wheel…yes, she does not drive it much, but she will, she will, yeah, she will.

 

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After purchasing our Miata we joined the Foothill Miata Club based in Greenville SC. Since we joined we have participated in several spirited drives in the Smokey Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway. Usually we have from 6 to 12 Miatas in a ride; it is a lot of fun. In July 25, we will be attending the largest Miata gathering in the US to be held in NC. Will share details soon thereafter. This photo was taken by Mike Barton during a break on one of the recent rides. Our Miata it to left of the picture.

 

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While visiting the annual Artisphere festival there was a sudden drop in temperature and before we knew strong winds and very heavy rain hit. As we are helping steady the tent we were visiting I saw this poor fellow across from us trying his hardest to keep his tent and painting from flying away. He was lucky as he ended with just wet stuff. Not so much a close neighbor; she lost many glass decorations. Mother nature can be finicky for sure.

 

During the annual Artisphere event in Greenville downtown there were several bands providing good music and entertainment; here we have the lead singer of Blitzen Trapper Band. This band originated in Oregon and is quite good with several albums since their maiden one in 2000.

 

In addition to playing their own songs they played some oldies like Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh. They sounded really good.

 

The whole band at work. The venue is the permanent TD amphitheater between the Peace Center and Reedy River.  A great venue where they hold mostly free music acts throughout the spring, summer and fall.

 

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Our youngest (Jocelyn) visited us over Memorial Day weekend and we had a fun time visiting new sites with her. Sarah (our oldest daughter) could not join us, so my beautiful wife decided to make a cutout of her so we could add her to some of the pictures we took during the holiday weekend. Here is Jocelyn and “Sarah” in the new to us Miata.

 

We decided to visit Charleston for the first time; what a beautiful city. Here we are going over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge connecting Charleston to Mount Pleasant – a large suburban town in Charleston. The leading lines on this shot caught my eye.

 

King Street in downtown Charleston is the city’s shopping center. Many blocks with stores of all types housed in beautifully refurbished old buildings. Looks like malls are not that popular here. The building with a flag is the Kress building. A really nice art deco example of a bygone era. See next picture for a description and historical details.

 

Important history, glad tis beautiful art deco building – look at the inlay work around the windows – is still with us.

 

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Time to take break from shopping, well mostly looking. Resting in some oversized chairs or maybe the gals shrunk a bit…regardless, Sarah’s cutout also joined in. Yes, my wife brought Sarah’s cutout with us just about everywhere. We would love you to be with us next time Sarah, but this was the best we could do this time.

 

This is one of the nicest homes in Sullivan Island, right next to Charleston. A perfect example of a Southern mansion. This Island has about 1,200 residents, beautiful beaches and many restaurants. If you make it to Charleston, SC you need to visit Sullivan’s Island and Poe’s Tavern for the best hamburger period.

 

Had to have a picture of us three. Thank you stranger for taking it for us.

 

Just a few pictures showing you what Charleston streets and architecture look like.

 

Charleston is a walking street; this was a quick trip, but we plan on coming back and spending quite a bit of time walking around and discovering historical tidbits here and there.

 

A very typical Charleston home. Notice the two door feature. The door in the middle of the porch provides entry to the home. The door facing the street provides access to the front porch and if open that meant the owners were accepting visitors. If it was closed, even if there were people in the porch visitors were not welcome.

 

The largest percentage of homes we saw had flower boxes that were really well maintained. This is one fine example.

 

Have joined a group of artists that get together for breakfast the first Monday of every month. We meet at a small studio/store/gallery owned by Richard Baker, a really good landscape artist with very realistic oils of primarily SC and NC landscaped. There are painters, sculptors and photographers in the group. Really enjoy the network opportunities; who knows, may decide to take a couple of offers I got to display my photography in one of the galleries some of the members own.

 

Richard chatting with some other artists and checking out the goodies each of us brought to share.

Hiking is becoming a favorite activity for us. We like to hike at least once a week; that is the plan. We are very lucky to have many absolutely beautiful hiking trails around us. This is a view from Jones Gap which is about a 20 minute drive from us. We also have Paris Mountain State Park with several trails (about 3 miles from us) and many other parks along the Smokies close to us. More on hiking in future posts.

 

At one of the falls in Jones Gap.

 

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We visited the girls in June, here is my wife taking a nap at Pike Lake in Warsaw IN. The weather was really nice and staying around the Winona area was a real treat.

 

Our two girls comparing notes as we wait for our pizza.

 

We made it back home safe (9 hour car ride from Indianapolis) – this is how we felt after the ride.

 

Our very creative and unique Father’s Day gift from the church we are attending – Beef Jerky and Root Beer – how cool is that!

 

We hiked to Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap with Anni and Kristian visiting from China. A really nice hike that took about one hour and culminated at the foot of Rainbow Falls.

 

Anni and Kristian having dinner at our place on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

 

Anni, Kristian and us ended our evening and the month with a nice chat around the outdoor fireplace.