Summer Flowers II

Well, one month later and here I am.

This post is focused on the flowers that have been flourishing in our garden this summer. Namely, dahlias and zinnias.

We have never had dahlias in our garden. My grandfather has always considered planting them but he has always decided against it as planting dahlias can be rather strenuous. They are annuals which means that at the end of fall, the bulbs must be dug up and saved to plant again the next spring, otherwise they will freeze. However, he finally gave in and planted a few in our front yard.

Unfortunately I only got one decent photo of the dahlias.The others simply weren’t worth posting.

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As aforesaid, we also had zinnias in our garden this year. These were planted by my grandfather and my siblings and my oh my, they made our garden look so fresh and colorful. I took many photos of the zinnias that I was very pleased with, which is why I will be posting more of those than of the dahlias.

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The best things about the flowers? They attract butterflies.

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Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

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Summer flowers

Summer’s here!

We’ve had a lot of rain this summer (in fact, it’s raining right now) and it’s beautiful outside. I love summer rains. Everything is lush and flowers cover the bright green grass like jewels spilt over the earth.

So this is a relatively short post as we haven’t really had the chance to go out in the last month, but I decided to post a few photos of the flowers from our garden.

My grandfather planted clematis on the side of our house and the flowers bloomed in the last few days of May. They were so large and vivid.

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It took me quite a few tries to capture the natural color of the flower. Because it had just rained, the lighting was messing around with me.

Our rhododendrons bloomed around the same time as the clematis. Again, they didn’t last long, but they were just as bright.

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The colors of both flowers were so brilliant, especially in the rain. With raindrops on their petals, they looked as if they glowed in the returning sunlight.

And finally, our Saskatoon berry tree produced berries once again. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to make anything with them this year and the birds ate most of them, but the ones we managed to save tasted as good as ever. (You can see the pie my sister and I made last year here.)

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That’s all from me for now.

Thank you reading and enjoy the last few days of June!

Springtime Flowers

I love springtime. The weather is just perfect, with cool breeze and sunshine and of course, the fresh colors springing up. (Pun intended)

Even though we’re now in summer, I never did a post on our spring flowers. First of all, spring came late in Chicago. We had flurries in April and the trees were only starting to bud when we left for the Smoky Mountains. So I decided to do a quick post on our flowers from this spring.

We begin by going back in time to the last week of April, when our magnolia tree bloomed.

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Star magnolias, they’re called. The scent is heavenly.

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And then, finally when we had given up hope for our daffodils, they bloomed. We headed over to the Morton Arboretum to see the famous daffodil glade. As usual, we were not disappointed.

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Tried out a filter.

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I have no idea what these are, but aren’t they sweet?

A few more pictures from our trip to the arboretum…

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Turtle. 🙂
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Fun fact: I have had an unhealthy obsession with pinecones since I was little.

While we were in Tennessee, it rained for two days and on Saturday evening when we pulled into our driveway, tired out from the long drive, we were greeted with these:

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When my grandfather said he planted tulips, I thought they would be the plain red ones we’ve always had in our other gardens. What a lovely surprise these were.

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And just a week later, our dining room was perfumed with the scent of azaleas from outside the window.

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And to conclude, a random picture of a very beautiful dandelion.

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Thanks for reading!

Trip to the Smoky Mountains

BE WARNED: This is quite possibly the longest post I’ve ever written.

In April, our family from overseas came to visit after sixteen years. We had a wonderful time with them! The month seemed too short to get everything that we had planned out done, but it was lovely just spending time together.

Since it had been so long since they had come, my parents planned a four-day trip to the Smoky Mountains. As a family, we haven’t done many road trips (the last road trip we went on was about thirteen years ago) so you can imagine our excitement. We rented a lodge situated in the mountains in Tennessee and spent a long time deciding which places we would visit. Our plan was to leave Wednesday morning, drive through Indiana and Kentucky and arrive in Tennessee. We would then stay for two days and return on Saturday.

It took us a full day to arrive in Gatlinburg, the town ten miles from our lodge. We had rented a 15-seater van as there were thirteen of us and we needed the two extra seats for our food and our bags. (That’s our family for you. All about the food 😀) The drive itself took nine hours, but with all the stops we took for lunch, bathroom breaks and gas, it totaled up to eleven. It was a fun drive though; the car was filled with chatter, laughter and the never-ending music that my grandfather and uncles played. As we drove through Indiana, we noticed the landscape progressively becoming more lush. By the time we were in Kentucky, there were flowers everywhere and everything was transformed. We left Chicago behind in the early stages of spring, everything still brown but little buds were just beginning to appear on the trees so it was interesting to see the landscape changing as we drove.

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This was taken either just before we crossed the border between Illinois and Indiana or just after. Notice the brown landscape with green slowly creeping up.
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And look at the difference! This one was taken while we were driving so it’s a bit blurry.

A few more pictures taken while we were on the road…

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We arrived at the lodge by nightfall. Like an idiot, I didn’t take any proper pictures of the outside or the inside and the ones that I did take have family members in them. I was so irritated at myself when I got back home. But the long and short of it was that it was a lovely house, three floors with a game room downstairs, plus a home theater.

The next morning, we woke up early, ate a quick breakfast and drove down to FireFox Mountain to do some zip lining. I’ve never done zip lining before and I’m not great with heights so I was really nervous. I knew though, that if I didn’t do it I would regret it. BUT WOW. What an experience. I wasn’t allowed to take my camera with me but the view was phenomenal. We went through seven zip lines, each one longer and higher than the one before it and once we got to the sixth-oh my. Just the speed at which I was going and the height at which I was at was enough to leave me breathless. When I looked left and saw thousands of trees just standing there, the tops in line with my head, I was overcome with this mix of wonder and elation and I lost my breath. I even screamed a few times, screams of pure ecstasy that were lost with the wind. It was such an adventure and I’m so glad I did it.

We came home around noon, ate some lunch and set off again, heading to Clingman’s Dome.

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Photos taken on the drive to Clingman’s Dome.
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Credit to my sister for this photo. She was sitting at the back of the van and therefore had a better view of the forest behind us. Check out her blog here.

Clingman’s Dome, if you haven’t heard of it, is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains at 6,644 feet above sea level. Part of it is in North Carolina and part of it is in Tennessee and we ended up driving on the side in North Carolina. We drove up most of the way and then we had to walk half a mile in order to get to to an observation deck which was at the top of the mountain.

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Photos taken on the walk up.

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The walk got a little tiring as it was about 85°F and the path was rather steep. But we took breaks along the way and the view from there was well worth the walk.

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Don’t the mountains look dreamy?
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Panoramic shot

Walking back down felt easier (I was constantly fighting the urge to run down) but as my mother and aunt kept reminding us, going downhill is harder on the knees and so we were walking with much control. My cousin realized later that walking backwards was easier on the knees and though the adults disapproved at first, (“You’ll walk off the edge of the path!”) after a while we were all walking backwards down the mountain. It was quite amusing.

We decided to spend some time in downtown Gatlinburg before we headed back home. By now, the evening had cooled down considerably and we had a lovely time walking through the streets and peering into the shops. The town is built in a quaint style and with the mountains looming over it, it was quite picturesque. Again, the few pictures I took in the town had family members in them, but I cropped them out of one of the pictures just so you get an idea of how it looks. Not the best, but better than nothing.

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And that concluded our first day in the Smokies.

The next day, we went an Alpine Coaster. (Once again, something out of my comfort zone) It was a coaster situated in the mountain where the view was spectacular. I wasn’t allowed to take my camera with me but it was fun. It certainly was not what we were expecting. We ended up going twice. And we are not the type of people to go on amusement park rides.

After that we went to a place called Ober Gatlinburg which was a site where they offered a tram ride to the top of the mountain. It was a 10 minute long ride and we were quite high; I could feel my ears popping due to the change in air pressure. Photos from the tram ride…

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Once you arrived at the top, you could do other things such as ice skate, see animals that had been kept in cages as they were injured and needed care, shop, (They had an arts and crafts fair going on) or go on a chair lift that took you even higher for a better view. Naturally, we chose the chair lift.

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Taken at the top.

We had a good view but not as spectacular as Clingman’s Dome.

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Overall, rather slow and took some time out of our day. But looking back, it was quite nice.

Once we got home, we had a debate as to whether we wanted to go back to downtown Gatlinburg to shop or Cades Cove, a wildlife reserve about an hour’s drive away. The debate seemed never-ending and we were running out of time until finally, my uncle put his foot down and said “Let’s just go to Cades Cove and if we don’t see any wildlife, then at least we’ll get some scenery.” That was exactly what we needed, a firm decision and as you’ll see in a bit, it was the right one.

The drive was lively, everyone being in a good mood because of the lovely weather, and also because of the chips and danishes we were eating. 🙂 Once we had entered Cades Cove, we took the turn that led us down an eleven mile drive, circling the valley. Everyone was quiet (sort of), looking out of the windows hoping to catch glimpses of birds, deer, and, we all hoped, a bear. Believe it or not, we got our wish. I remember asking my uncle who was driving to slow down, and yelling at everyone to be quiet as I had noticed a black spot in the trees. We stopped the car and stared at it. When it moved, I knew I had seen a black bear.

We all got out of the car and stood a good fifty feet away, taking pictures. Since the foliage was so thick and we were so far away, my camera couldn’t capture a good photo of the bear. But whatever I have, I cropped so you can at least see something.

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That black blur in the center is an American black bear.

I took a video of the bear so you can see it moving, but obviously it isn’t uploading.

Once we got back in the car, we were elated. We had seen a bear out in the wild! My little brother, having watched many documentaries about black bears, was most excited of us all. As we drove further, we spotted other animals such as wild turkeys, deer, wild horses, grouses, and, would you believe it, five more bears. One of them was a mother so she had three cubs with her. Unfortunately, they were all so far away and my lens wouldn’t zoom all the way so I couldn’t get any clear pictures. (It was hard enough getting the binoculars as everyone wanted a turn) But it was so surreal; I had never thought I would see a bear in the wild, much less a mother bear with cubs.

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Wild horses.
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Near one of the bears, we saw what we thought might be a den.
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Once again, a cropped photo so excuse the blurriness. I think this was the mother. Her cubs were attempting to climb the trees behind her and tumbling down, it was so sweet.

A few more photos from Cades Cove…

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We returned home at sundown, exhausted but happy. After finishing our dinner and relaxing together in the game room for a while, everyone turned in, well except some, me included, who stayed up until two in the morning, curled up in the home theater  watching The Return of the King. (Any Lord of the Rings fans out there?)

The next day, we were back on the road, heading north to Chicago. As it was raining and the roads were extremely bumpy, I didn’t get many photos of the lovely redbud trees that had started to blossom along the highways. But what an amazing trip! I’m sure we’ll all remember it for a long time.

If you got through this extremely lengthy post, I appreciate you. 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

Winter Wonderland II

Welcome back!

This post is focused solely on the last big snowfall we had, sometime in mid-February. The snow that fell was of a light texture-the kind that clings to branches when it falls. It transformed our street into some sort of magical, sparkling scene right out of a book.

I can’t really say much else, so you’ll have to see for yourself:

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These are the the best photos and they still don’t do justice to that snowfall.

Anyway that was the last snow-post (I hope) and there will be spring posts coming soon! (If spring reaches us at least, it’s below freezing)

Have a lovely day and I hope you are enjoying April!

Winter Wonderland

I’m back!

Yes, it’s been over a month since I last posted. My entire family came down with a horrible case of the flu and since then, everything has been so busy that doing a post on the lovely winter we’ve been having just slipped from my mind. Now, it’s slowly getting warmer and I’m finally sitting down to write.

The first snowfall we had after the one in my last post was quite pleasant. We had about six inches of snow and I went out with my siblings once the sun came out so we could enjoy the weather and the snow.

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The snow had fallen on the leaf buds, making them look like pussy willows.
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I love how trees look against the sky in winter. You can see every branch.

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The second snowfall was a heavy one. It snowed for two days straight and we had nine inches of snow. I realized later that I hadn’t gotten a good picture of the snow in our yard. But I got one a few days later when we went to our old house for the last time. Not the best, but just to give you an idea of how much there was…

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And of course, the icicles. Probably one of my favorite parts of winter. These pictures are from the first snowfall.

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Almost melted.

The second snowfall gave us the BIG icicles.

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And that brings me to the end of this post. Part two will be on the last snowfall we had-it was stunning!

Thank you for reading and have a lovely day!

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Cold Chicago Winter!

Happy new year!

I mentioned in my last post that we were having an extremely strange autumn, with the weather being warm and sunny. Well, Chicago winter has come around and hit us with a bang. It snowed two weeks ago and the temperature stayed below 0° for both of those weeks. The warmest it got was 15°.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’ve always preferred the cold to hot, humid weather. And after that autumn, I was relieved that it was getting cold. But I was looking forward to going out and playing in the snow with my siblings and I couldn’t do that when the weather was so cold. It took my breath away just to walk from the car to the grocery store. However, it is warming up now (30° fahrenheit) and maybe I’ll go out after lunch.

Two days after the first big snowfall, I woke up to find the bottom of my window covered in ice. And the ice was on the inside.

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The next day, as I was walking up to my door, my mom pointed out that it was so cold, each snowflake had managed to keep its perfect shape. I grabbed my camera and stayed outside for about 15 minutes just taking pictures. I got lots of pictures and I think most of them came out pretty well.

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Sparkling snow.

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You can almost see each snowflake’s shape.
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I tried using the flash for this picture and it came out slightly blurry. Probably because I was so close. I think my hand was shaking a little as well.

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And that’s all from me. 🙂

Have a great day!

October

 

I’m back!

Now, I know I said that my next post would be about autumn leaves, but honestly, this autumn has disappointed me greatly. All of October was warm and sunny, and it started getting chilly only about two weeks ago. The autumn colors, (which I was so looking forward to) were equally disappointing. Oh, we had a few trees here and there that were very beautiful, but it wasn’t as beautiful as last year.

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Posting for the sky. 🙂

However, we did get a lovely surprise. In the summer, one of our neighbors gave my grandfather a few little plants. They honestly looked rather sad, but my grandfather planted them against the wall of our garage. They grew pretty fast; by September, they were taller then me! Sometime in mid-October, they started to produce flowers.

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We were a little surprised that the flowers had bloomed so late in the year, but I suppose it made sense since we were having such warm, sunny weather.

Anyway, one afternoon, I noticed that the vines were attracting butterflies and bees. I know, it’s crazy. Butterflies in October? But, there they were.

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I think this is a Painted Lady.

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And that’s all from me. (For now)

Have a wonderful day!

It’s been a while!

I can feel the fall coming. The days are getting shorter, the morning air is more crisp, and I have had sudden cravings for tomato soup. (I LOVE tomato soup.) The leaves are just starting to change color so I haven’t been able to get any good pictures as of yet. So you will have to be satisfied with a few  pictures of the flowers in our garden.

As I probably mentioned before, we have a rose bush along the side of our house that produces the most beautiful peach roses. In my post about our new house, I posted one of the best pictures I took of the roses. But, I did have a few more pictures that I was quite pleased about. So I decided to post those here.

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I love this one.

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I went outside after an unexpected shower sometime in late August and I managed to snap some decent photos of the flowers.

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This honeybee stayed still for quite a long time.
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These flowers are not in our garden; I just thought they were pretty.

For now, that is all from me. Hopefully, I will be back soon with some pictures of the fall!

Since our move, we’ve been exploring the wildlife centers and parks near our house.

As I mentioned in my last post, the town we now live in is quite old. The heart of the town itself is very quaint; we visited a candy shop and ice cream parlors that sell homemade ice cream. They also have cafés, cake shops, and an art gallery. I don’t think there’s any need to say we had the time of our lives walking there.

Anyway, sometime ago, we visited the local forest preserve. It was beautiful. We walked for a while on the main trail, then we noticed a little trail leading deeper into the forest. We decided to venture in a little way. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful, mysterious little places I’ve ever seen. The trees were so tall they completely blocked out the sunlight, which filtered  through the leaves, giving me an amazing lighting for photos. Check it out.

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Sumac. 

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We have also visited our local park many times since we moved. It’s perfect for taking a stroll. Near the playground, there’s a hill that we ran down so many times, our legs started to hurt. I got a lot of nice pictures on that hill.

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Wild carrot, or Queen Anne’s Lace, has to be one of my favorite native plants.

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And… that concludes this post.

Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day!