Thursday, April 28, 2011

Adding to a collection....

Years ago when our son was in high school, he and his classmates went on two school trip to England one year apart from each other. This is going back, 14-15 years. He had a marvelous time on each occasion. We had been taking him back and forth to visit family since he was a baby, so he felt very at home when he got there.

He presented me with these on his return, the first year he gave me the English Bobby, and the second year I got John Bull and the Fox Hunter. The dogs were two bulldogs and a Fox Hound and I loved them, still do.

They are all very special to me but if I had to pick a favorite I would choose the Bobby, because of the connection to my Dad. If you've been reading my blog for a while you may already know that my Dad was a 30 year career police officer on the Staffordshire Police Force in the UK.

I do love this Fox Hound in his bright red coat.

Here is John Bull with his Union Jack Vest.

Here's Bobby again.

Meet my latest addition to this collection. I was dusting off the figurines a couple of weeks ago, and I got curious. I had long forgotten who created these delightful doggies and did a Google search. If you want to do the same the designer is Robert Harrop. There are several other dogs in various styles of clothing and when I spotted Winnie here, I just had to have him. So, I think he may have started my collecting gene off again as I now have an eye on several others. And I thought those days were over!

Here are two photos I found of Winston Churchill online and you can read his biography here.
My parents were always staunch supporters and I heard so many stories about him when I was a little girl, so there was no passing up this opportunity of adding to my collection of doggie people.

On one more note I am going to be spending the day with my British friends tomorrow watching the Royal Wedding.

And oh my gosh, would you look at these? I found this on line too but it didn't have an address where I could order them. Hmmmm.......I can see my garden gnome phase coming on, what do you think?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On our way to Big Meadows

These photos are from Sunday afternoon making our way to the Thornton Gap entrance of Skyline Drive and ending up at Big Meadows. As I mentioned in my previous post it is a trip we have been taking for 35 years, in between the times we lived in different parts of the States while Gregg was in the Navy. We started married life in Alexandria, Virginia and I remember that first drive up to the Shenandoah's very well. It was so beautiful, still is very beautiful and it's a place we never get tired of visiting. This little dog was obviously enjoying his ride.

When we reached the park and stopped to pay our fee we were told that this was National Park Week and that entrance fees had been wavered. This was a great week for families to get out and enjoy our National Parks. You can go here to see all the parks listed in the United States and here to see where they are located on a map.

There were several of these birds flying in and out from under the roof of the park's entrance. You may recognize them as Barn Swallows. I think I have that right but please correct me if I am wrong. They make their nests out of mud and straw and I could see several of them but I didn't get a photo of those. Click here if you want to learn more about them.

As we were driving along we came across a bit of a traffic jam. If you read my last post here you'll know that people had spotted a young black bear up in the treetops.

He caused great excitement.

Shenandoah National Park is recorded as having one of the highest per capita black bear populations in the United States. Estimates range from 300 to 500 black bears living in this particular park. Black bears are the largest of over 50 species of mammals in the park, the smallest mammals being shrews. You can find out more if you click here.

This is the roof of the visitors' center at Big Meadows. We were ready for lunch and they have a small restaurant inside, also a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs and postcards. There is also a small general store in the back where campers can come for supplies. The restaurant is definitely not fancy but very satisfactory, and we always end up here - the food is pretty good and the staff are friendly. Gregg took the photo of the roof because he liked how it shined in the sunlight. There is also a museum in a separate building in the same parking lot.

We took turns taking photos and I asked Gregg if he would take this one of the family with the dogs.....

and he also took this one of the bright red fire hydrant.

We were thinking about giving our hike across the meadow a miss. We doubted that there would be any deer at this time of the day and were both feeling a bit tired. Heading for the car I looked up and across the street I could see two spots on the hill and knew that they were our deer. We say 'our deer' because this is one of the main reasons we come to Big Meadows as we love walking around them, and they don't seem to mind people too much and continue grazing as we enjoy their company.

They looked up on our approach but continued eating.....

and I started taking photos.

There weren't too many other people around but we saw the kite flyers and .........

the lady walking her dogs, and on the other side there was a little boy having a great time playing in a huge puddle of water with his mom taking photos as dad looked on. I took a few photos of them which I will be posting later, it was a very cute scene.

Gregg is definitely enjoyed this unexpected walk, we both are.

By this time we had turned around and were heading back across the road near the sign that we have been taking pictures of for years.

Safe enough for Gregg to stop in the middle of the road for another photo.

I also asked him to take a picture of this tree near the picnic area. It will be full of leaves soon.

A few miles down the road we came across this deer munching on the side of the road.

I didn't get out of the car but took shots from the passenger window. He was more wary of us than the others and we didn't hang around long. We also saw another deer actually in the road but when he saw our car approaching he hopped over a wall, and I was glad he was out of harm's way. Because of the winding roads you cannot go very fast, which is just as well.

Two and a half hours later we found our bear still in the tree tops and still creating a bit of a stir as cars were stopping and causing a traffic jam. A Park Ranger had turned up and he was asking them to move along. Fortunately we had driven down the hill to one of the overlooks and walked back up. We wanted another chance to look at the bear. As I said before, it has taken us 35 years to see our first one here, and who knows if we will ever get another chance.

I still can't get over how lucky we were to spend some time with our friend but eventually we tore ourselves away......

I took the next photo when we had reached our car. Where you can see 'onlookers' that is where we had been standing a few minutes before. This shows you that we were all a pretty safe distance and also how high the bear had climbed, about 50 feet off the ground.
By this time we were back down off the mountain. There weren't many flowers blooming up there but down below the Dogwood trees were georgeous....

as was this cherry blossom tree. Actually, I'm not sure if it was a cherry blossom. The ones around us are already shedding their petals but I think out here maybe the lower temperature makes them bloom a little bit later.

On the way home we were looking for an ice-cream store but because it was Easter Sunday everywhere was closed. Fortunately when we eventually ended up at our local Baskin and Robbins it was open and we treated ourselves to a milkshake. While enjoying it I took a picture of the clouds in their parking lot.

The last gift of the day was the American Robin who landed on the rail of our deck out back and gave me one last photo before we put the camera away.

Monday, April 25, 2011

"What are all these people looking at?"

Gregg and I spent our Easter Sunday up in the Shenandoah's. We had only just reached Skyline Drive from the Thornton Gap entrance. Gregg said, "Maybe we will see a bear today." I actually laughed. We have been visiting Skyline Drive for 35 years off and on and we haven't seen one bear. We've always heard of them from other people but have never been that lucky. Not two minutes after he made the remark about the bear, we saw people parked all over the road looking intensely into the trees. I couldn't believe it, there was Gregg's bear. So exciting! I wrote a poem to commemorate the occasion, which you can read below. Gregg also added his four-pennyworth in his Haiku.

High up in the treetops I am so happy to see
A little Black Bear staring right back at me.
All cars stopped, people jumped out.
They were so excited and skipping all about.

Out came the cameras, one, two three.
That cute little bear posed so beautifully.
He smiled and yawned as the news we learned,
And we all snapped our pictures as we took our turn.

The Ranger came by to make sure we were good,
To move those cars along and to check we didn't have food.
People parked their cars, one left the engine runnin'
'Cus they couldn't get over the sight of that bear sunnin'.

Later Gregg said, "Now how would you feel if
He saw us as his next meal?" My answer?
"Why I'd toss my sandwich at you to do a pitcher proud,
Then run like hell while ringing the dinner bell REAL loud!

Gregg knows that Denise can move pretty darned fast when she has to.

Gregg's Haiku

He's up in a tree,
First he fancied the berries
But now he fancies me.

More pictures of the bear and our day in the Shenandoah's in my next post.

Great Blue Heron

Not very focused shots of a Great Blue Heron, but I rarely get a chance to catch one flying. They are such beautiful birds.

You can learn more about him if you click here.