CFFC: Colorful Buildings

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge continues with her theme “all about buildings” and this week’s topic is colorful buildings.

In Amsterdam, Holland:
the red light district

De Pijp neighborhood (across from our Airbnb)

Miltenberg, Germany:

the Town Hall (Rathaus)

Wurzburg’s colorful cathedral:

Budapest, Hungary:

Todos Santos, Baja California, Mexico:

Costa Rica:

Sports stadium in Aswan, Egypt:

Tucumcari, New Mexico, USA on Route 66:

Shamrock, Texas (Route 66):

Cuba, Missouri (Route 66):

Uranus, Missouri (Route 66):

Dutch Goes the Photo: Trees

Jansenphoto’s Dutch Goes the Photo has a Tuesday challenge and the topic is trees.

Walking tree in Costa Rica: As this tree puts down new roots over the last layer, it actually moves – about 1 foot per year!

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Tree trunk in the Bahamas

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Orchids grow on the side of this tree in Izapa, , Mexico. Orchids are “bromeliads” – plants which grow in “the air”, i.e. on other plants.

This tree with a big hole in its trunk was in the woods along the path up to Marksburg Castle in Germany. I don’t know what caused the original injury to the tree, but animals have surely taken advantage of its shelter.

Acacia tree in Tanzania, with used & abandoned weavers’ nests hanging down.

This normal tree in our community, after dark gets spooky and full of shadows.

Picnic area. This tree is beautiful!
At a state park in Wisconsin, in autumn.

Late afternoon sunlight shimmers on South Blue Lake-Bearskin Trail
Evergreen tree branches touch, framing the glimmer of light on a northern Wisconsin lake.

Brilliant fall color in Des Plaines, IL

Jan06-snow brilliance
Snow brilliance in Des Plaines, IL



CFFC: Turtle Time

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week continues with the alphabet: T – Needs to have two T’s anywhere in the word.

Last year, a long-time elderly member of my church passed away.  A memorial service was held at the retirement home where she had been living for several years.  On the back table was her extensive collection of turtles – she had all types of turtles that she had bought or was given throughout her adult life. Each guest was invited to pick one or two turtles to take home. I added them to the two turtles I already had, purchased in Mexico.

The 1st picture is the four turtles. The 2nd is a video of me playing the turtle flute!


The following are pictures from my Costa Rica scrapbook, which I made after a month-long trip there in 2004 with my son, Jayme. An optional excursion was a weekend trip to Tortuguero National Park on Costa Rica’s east coast. It is named after the turtles who migrate back to its beaches to lay their eggs. At the time of year we were there – July – there were no turtles, just a turtle-shaped swimming pool!20180105_122217




I tried to minimize the glare while taking photos of these pages, since the pages don’t fit on my scanner! As you can see, I used to spend a lot of time on scrapbooking (my Costa Rica trip takes up two albums!). I don’t do it anymore because my pictures are all digital. However, I do miss it – it was creative and fun to work on with other scrappers.

A Walk in the Clouds

March 29, 2017                                 Costa Rica

Today we were going to take “A Walk in the Clouds.” It was to be a hike in the cloud forest, crossing several suspension bridges and seeing hummingbirds and butterflies.

Our guide’s name was Cristian, or Cris as he preferred to be called, and our driver was Gustavo. On our one hour plus ride into the mountains on narrow switchback roads, expertly navigated by Gustavo,  Cris told us a lot about his country. I found myself feeling saudades* being back here, and how strange it was to be here for only one day!

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Cris asked us what is the first word that comes into our minds when we think of Costa Rica. No one answered right away, so I shouted out “Pura vida!” Cris explained this phrase which has become the motto of Costa Rica. It is about the love of life and optimism that people here have. Cris showed this by his enthusiasm and appreciation for the beauty of Costa Rica’s many ecosystems. He has an advanced degree in ecological science so he is very knowledgeable about native plants and folk medicines.

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It took 80 minutes or so to get to our destination. Before splitting up into two groups, we had a little time to do some shopping at the inevitable tourist store.

We were split into two groups because there were 39 people on the bus and there cannot be that many on the trail at the same time. The groups, one led by Cris (our group) and one led by another local guide, had to go in reverse order because only a maximum of 25 people were allowed to be on the trail at one time – the vibrations of so many footsteps scare the animals.

The first stop on our hike was a hummingbird feeding station. The tiny birds fluttered about rapidly, rarely stopping on a feeder long enough to get a good picture. I did get a few, but I think the best was a short video of the hummingbirds’ activity.

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We then began a hike into a nature preserve with four hanging bridges. The trail itself was challenging due to the number of steps down we had to take. There was a taut cable – a railing of sorts – that followed the path and we all had bamboo walking sticks. These helped a little but nothing can really alleviate my arthritic knees so I felt unsteady. (I remember being in Costa Rica in July of 2004 when I was more agile and had no problems with places like this. It had rained every day, so I was glad that it isn’t rainy season now, or we’d be slipping in mud!)

At the end of our descent during which Cris told us about various plants, a stream rushed below and on a hillside coming down was a trickle of a waterfall.

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This trickle of a waterfall would be a gushing of water in a few months, during the rainy season.

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Dale with his walking stick on one of the hanging bridges


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According to Cris, this is a species of orchid! Costa Rica has about 1,300 species of orchids.



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Panama Cruise C 341Then the path wound upwards and we stopped along our ascent to see some interesting plants, including the “walking palm,” whose roots form a mass aboveground at the base of the tree.

The ‘walking’ palm

As the old roots die and new ones take their place, the tree actually ‘moves’! In many years’ time, it will have moved about half a foot! Cris also pointed out a ficus tree with its light colored bark and spreading base.



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A ficus tree


We didn’t see any animals except birds, including a mockingbird – no monkeys!

We continued our climb and ended at a butterfly garden. Cris said they’d be attracted to us, because they can detect salt and sweet and might land on us to partake of our sweat! There was a butterfly that somewhat resembled the large blue morpho of the Amazon rainforest. This one, however, was smaller and its blue disappeared when it posed and closed its wings. The back of the wings provides good camouflage because they are mottled brown and black with a large circle resembling an eye on each side.

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Cris said about a group of yellow butterflies flying together that when they fly in a line like that, it is males chasing females! Another pretty butterfly was a small black one with orange spots.

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On the way back, Cris asked us if we knew the three top industries of Costa Rica. Surprisingly, coffee is NOT the most important industry.  In fact, bananas are actually a bigger export than coffee. Here are Costa Rica’s 3 top industries:
1. Technology, including medical devices, which provides 30,000 jobs and most managers are women; and Intel, which is a big corporation here.
2. Tourism
3. Agricultural products: sugar cane, bananas, coffee, orchids and pineapples

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Someone on the tour remarked that we hadn’t really walked “in the clouds.” I explained that the highest elevation ecosystem is called a “cloud forest” with its own species. You can’t tell that now, because it’s hot and dry now, but in the rainy season, it’s much cooler in the higher elevations and with the amount of moisture in the air, you do feel as though you’re walking “in the clouds.” (Actually, quite literally, you are.)

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Our final stop was at a shopping center/restaurant called El Jardín. In the back were beautiful landscaped gardens. 20170329_143506


The exterior walls of the shops and restaurants were brightly painted with colorful murals of scenes and animals typical of Costa Rica.

We had fifteen minutes there, to sample Costa Rican coffee and liqueurs and take pictures or shop. I spent only about a minute looking at the gardens – unusual for me – because I was shopping! I was excited to find Café Britt products! I bought coffee (not Britt – too expensive!) and Britt chocolate covered guava. Also a small package of white chocolate covered coffee beans, which Dale and I snacked on. By the end of the day, they were gone!

We returned to the port of Puntarenas and the dock leading to our ship, where we encountered women dressed in feathered costumes who were dancing to the beat of a percussion band.


Church in Puntarenas



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Looking back on the port of Puntarenas from the ship

*saudades – a Portuguese word expressing a deep longing or nostalgia, a feeling of sweet sadness



June 8, 2015

V is for Vacation, a teacher’s favorite word! I admit that having summers off was an closedforsummer_colorincentive for me to go into teaching. However, teaching is way too challenging and exhausting for that to be the appeal for long!

Teachers look forward to their vacations as much as their students do. Most schools in the U.S. have three vacation periods a year:  2 weeks for the holidays, 1 week in early spring, and 2 months in summer. Each one of these vacations is a chance to relax and rejuvenate, but summer represents the transition from the old to the new. By this time each year, everyone at school is anticipating the start of vacation. Kids are antsier than normal and teachers tend to have a more relaxed attitude too.

What exactly do we spend our summer vacations doing? Often students are asked to write “What I did on my summer vacation” paragraphs when they first go back to school in the fall. If I as a teacher were writing that, what would I say?

I'm on vacationIn the early years of teaching, we often spend our summers taking classes, perhaps working toward a graduate degree. In my case, I took classes required for ESL and bilingual teaching certification. The first one I took was a survey course, and it was held in Oaxaca, Mexico – a nice way to combine work and pleasure!

Some teachers will teach summer school or tutor students for part of the summer. Some get other part-time jobs to supplement their income. When my husband was teaching at a Chicago high school, these jobs helped boost his “strike fund” – extra money put aside in case there was a strike and thus a period of not being paid.

Some teachers will just stay home and relax, catch up on sleep and do home-based projects that they never could get to during the school year. Maybe do some gardening, painting, cleaning out closets, whatever.

Of course, the vacations I most look forward to were those during which I got to travel!

Here are the trips I took during my vacation periods:
March 2001 (spring break) – Cuba with my mother
DSCN7981Every summer – our cottage in Northern Wisconsin
July 2003 – Oaxaca, Mexico with others taking a graduate course required for ESL/bilingual education
July-Aug. 2004 – 5 weeks study abroad & homestay in Costa Rica, with my son (took Spanish and a Costa Rican culture course).
June, 2005 (5 days) – Arizona for high school reunion, (where my husband met my two Cathedralbest friends from high school), and visit to my aunt & uncle in Mansurs' house in Prescott - 2005 scrapbookPrescott
June 2006 (2 weeks) – another high school reunion and sightseeing in Arizona, followed by a week in Seattle, WA where we had a family reunion of sorts with my husband’s family
Aug. 2007 (5 days) – San Francisco, with my husband, sister & brother-in-law, for an aunt’s memorial
July 2008 – (12 days) Peru – (with a tour company) see elsewhere in this blog for my 978complete journal of that trip.
July 2009 – (10 days) Hawaii, to visit my husband’s sister & Raw00107tour Oahu with a short hop to Maui
July 2010 (4 1/2 weeks) Spain – (study abroad) see elsewhere in this blog for my complete journal of that trip.
DSCN4007June-July 2012 – (road trip) ancestors tour to Ohio and Indiana, visit

Katy standing behind one of the guitars

Springfield, IL
June-July 2013 – road trip to Texas to visit 506a high school  friend, also visited Memphis, TN.
Late March 2014 (1 week) – road trip to South Carolina, Hilton Head, and Savannah, GA. DSCN8635Thus I’ve managed to take some kind of trip almost every year during my teaching career! I plan to continue traveling as often as possible during retirement, but it could be at any time of year – stay tuned!

rainbow & airplaneThis summer will seem like any other summer, except that we have sold our cottage, so next weekend is our last trip up there.  I don’t think I’ll feel “retired” until school starts again in August and I won’t be going back!

For me, the summer of 2015 marks the end of an era.


Writing 201/Poetry: Haiku – Visions of Water

Water….grand as in an ocean or a waterfall, the reflection in the surface of a lake, frozen as icicles in the winter, or a mere drop on a leaf…

These were my visual inspiration for haiku about water:


River meanders,
winding and twisting its way
down to the ocean.

meandering river

Upper Kaubashine Lake

Orange and pink sunset:
Reflection on a rippled
surface of the lake.



Water dripping down
freezes into icicles
hanging from my roof


La Paz Waterfall (Costa Rica)

La Paz encanta:
Magia meditativa ,
templo natural.

Enchanted La Paz :
White meditative magic ,
temple of nature.

La Paz waterfall

One drop of rain

A fallen leaf holds
pebbles gathered in one drop
after a rainfall.

126(Images of river and waterfall downloaded from google; other images by author).

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