Sunday, October 24, 2010

Spooky Chemistry Delights Again

If it's October, then it must be time for Spooky Chemistry at The Museum of Life and Science in Durham. The boys and I went to the museum today for their annual Halloween fun and learn about science in a spooky way day:-) Dr. Ken Lyle’s Duke University Chemistry Students put on a great chemistry demonstration in the Biolab. We saw how hydrogen peroxide and some other ingredients could help a sick pumpkin. The students made 'snow'. A pirate made water disappear. Dry ice and bubbles were used to make a huge bubble over a cauldron. And, the kids got to hold bubbles in their hands. Fun! And, in The Lab, the boys got to do some Candy Science. They decoratee marshmallows and puffed them up with air. They got to view some cool Halloween colored items under the microscope, and they got to do a chromatography experiment. Below is a collage of both of those activities.

At the bear habitat, Gus and one of the other bears were in the water swimming and being frisky. What a delight to walk up to that show!

What a treat today too. We got to meet Christopher the Barred Owl in the Farmyard. There were Harry Potter characters at the museum today, and it seemed appropriate given them and the season to see the owl up so close. The trainer was cute with the kids asking them questions and leading them through answers. I enjoyed the photo op!

Finally we have some fall leaf color in NC! The wetlands area in Explore the Wild is definitely starting to come alive with color!

Don't forget if you go to the museum to buy train tickets and have a great ride!

Although the boys weren't lucky enough today to 'hold' a butterfly during the release, we did have a good time in the Butterfly House. I especially like the shot of Johnny in the collage below. The rain had come on to bring the humidity back up, and Johnny (and Joey too) was just sitting on the bench relaxing and enjoying the cooling mist.

If you didn't make it to Spooky Chemistry this year, I recommend that you try to get to this event next year. Next up, Holiday Springs and Sprockets and the Santa Train.

A link to all of today's pictures is here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Day at the Aquarium and Beach - Fort Fisher

The boys and I went to the Aquarium at Fort Fisher today and then onto the beach at the Fort Fisher Recreation Area. We had a great time! The aquarium was not crowded, and we were able to get to all the exhibits and spend all the time we wanted to. The boys were fascinated with the volunteers that had seashells out. They both clearly heard the ocean in several shells and were delighted. We enjoyed the extra crafts in the discovery room, and the boys had a lot of fun making a jelly fish from egg carton and yarn and drawing 'fish' on the white board. Outside, we saw a croc in the wetlands water...a first! I also was super thrilled to get pics of a fearless Green Heron. I waited him out 15 minutes, but he never did come up with a fish.

I got the coolest butterfly shot on our way into the aquarium. It's a Gulf first sighting ever. A very patient butterfly but harsh light. He was on the rocks as you come into Fort Fisher on the wildflowers.

The ocean water was warm. I looked it up, and it said 82. The tide was out, the waves were calm, and we had a great time. I went out with both boys for nearly an hour just going up and down over the waves. Johnny finally was not afraid to be held out there. He was even wanting to go back out after we came in. Lots of work to keep us all safe and eyes dried after the bigger waves but well worth it.

The rest of today's pics are here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Heroes and Villains Day Two

The Museum of Life and Science in Durham had a great idea this year and decided to host their popular Heroes, Villains and Special Effects event on both Saturday and Sunday. And, the boys and I had such a good time on Saturday, that we decided to go back on Sunday as well.

The boys posed with their favorite characters again. I really like the shots I got today (as well as the ones from yesterday). Johnny was more comfortable on Sunday, and that shows positively in the pictures. A big thanks again to the Carolina Garrison for helping to make so many smiles this weekend!

There really are some great special effects exhibits at this event too. It's not all Star Wars. But, some of the special effects stuff is geared towards the older kids, so I don't get to spend much time in these areas...yet. We did stop in for a minute to watch the actor below getting his face made up for a scary movie part. I was explaining to the boys all the work that goes into making up some actors for their parts; it can take hours.

One of the things the boys really wanted to do more of today was Contraptions. A little over a year ago, the museum turned one of their small rooms near the weather exhibits into the Contraptions room and filled it with plumbing pipe, wood blocks, golf balls, rope, dominoes, pulleys, clamps, some kitchen tools, little metal buckets, and I'm sure a few things I am leaving out. Kids (and adults) come in and are inspired through pictures, videos, file cards, and their own imagination to build their own contraption. The boys LOVE this room, and we spent an hour in here yesterday building at least 5 different projects. I had to pull them out to do something else. They easily could have stayed for another hour.

There is a Contraptions page on the museum website if you're interested.

Here's a video of Joey and his Slingshot Pinball contraption:

We look forward each visit to seeing the animals and wildlife at the museum too. Joey loves the opossum and woodchuck that are housed inside. Johnny loves to watch the turtles swim in their tanks. We stop by each visit, usually 2 or 3 times, to see all the animals in the Farmyard. They are all so much fun, but I love Max the Jersey Cow and Lightning the Donkey. Mom always looks for the Great Blue Heron and other birds out in the wetlands area too. We have great experiences with various animals each time we come and always leave with smiles and a few pics.

The boys and I remind you to have fun and to make sure you ride the train on your next visit. And, whatever you do, don't forget to scream in the tunnel!

The rest of yesterday's pics are here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Heroes and Villains Oh My!

The boys and I had a fantastic time at the Heroes, Villains and Special Effects event at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham today. This is at least our 3rd year coming to the event, and we thoroughly enjoy it each time!

Below is a collage of the boys (and me) posing with various characters. There were quite a few to choose from! And, they were spaced out all over the main building with very reasonable and orderly waits to see them.

As you can see, both boys really enjoyed posing although Johnny avoided the Stormtroopers.

One of the biggest hits with my boys was R2-KT. She's a very special droid built to help a little girl who had cancer. Today, she's still helping other sick kids by making hospital visits and sharing good cheer. Joey was just fascinated that R2-D2 had a girlfriend. He was talking about the droid he wants to build when he grows up. He even got to hold R2-KT's radio control unit for a minute and talk to the gentleman that build the R2-D2 unit. Very cool!

One of the fun things you could do in the Mercury room today was stand in front of a green screen and pose in what I'm going to call a comic cover. Johnny was amazed by the technology, and Joey was super into his poses. The pics the people at this booth took will be on the museum's Flickr account shortly. Until then, here are shots I took of the movie screen where the images were being projected.

We did many of our usual things at the museum today too. The boys spent quite a while in the Contraptions play area. They seriously could spent an hour or more in there each visit they love it so much.

We visited with the inside and outside animals. Joey was excited that the woodchuck was awake. Lightning the donkey and Max the Jersey cow were both quite affectionate today at their fences. We even got to watch Gus and Yona, two of the museum's black bears, tumbling around in some excited play in their yard.

We most always make it to the butterfly house for the 3PM release on the days we visit, and today was no exception. I was thrilled that both boys got to hold a butterfly. I love the smile on Johnny's face in the picture in the collage below. I was excited about the butterfly shots I was able to get both outside in the butterfly garden and inside waiting for the release.

I was joking with Train Conductor Richard that the majority of pics of me and the boys that I have were taken by him! He always offers if time allows.

Johnny wanted to go play in the water first thing, and I had to tell him no. I promised last thing because I knew one or both of them were going to get wet. I wasn't, um, disappointed! Johnny is having the time of his life getting soaked:-) Thankfully, I had a change of clothes in the car:-)

The rest of the pics are here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

NC Transporation Museum Visit

The boys and I traveled to the NC Transportation Museum yesterday. We've been at least 4 times before, usually for Day Out with Thomas events, but this museum is always worth another visit.

Thomas wasn't there yesterday, but they did have some Thomas themed activities going on, and they had a firetruck show. I think the boys enjoyed the firetrucks almost as much as the trains.

Pictured here is a mural in town that caught my eye.

I found this view through the Pullman coach cars fascinating. At the time of this picture, the car was roped off, so that's why no people.

I thought this vintage photo of Spencer Shops was really interesting too. There are quite a few old photos enlarged and on display in various building at the museum, and I think they do a great job of portraying how things were at the shops 50, 100, and 150 years ago.

A shot I took while we were on the turntable. It moves pretty slow, but it's impressive how many bays this roundhouse has and just how many engines the turntable can move around. We saw it in action at the end of the day putting back the diesel engine that took us for our ride around the yard today.

The 37-bay Bob Julian Roundhouse, one of the largest ever constructed, was built in 1924 and is one of the few preserved roundhouses remaining in the country. The building houses about 40 restored locomotives and rail cars.

A close-up of the tracks at the roundhouse.

The wheels of the 544 Seaboard Airline steam locomotive. This engine greets you as you first walk into the Roundhouse. The large Decapod (an engine with 10 driving wheels) was originally built for Russian railroads, but a civil war there kept the engine in the United States. Because Russian rails have a broader gauge than U.S. rails, the engine was fitted with especially wide wheels to accommodate U.S. track.

A close-up of engine 1925. This locomotive was built by the Lima Locomotive Works in February 1925. This Shay type of locomotive, named after the inventor, was designed for the steep grades, sharp curves and bad track conditions found on logging railroads. The Shay locomotives were different in that pistons were vertically mounted on the engineer’s side of the boiler, using connecting shafts and gears to turn the wheels. The 1925 was used by the Graham County RR to haul logs out of the Snowbird Mountains to the Bemis Lumber Company mill in Robbinsville, NC. The logging portion closed in 1948, but the railroad continued to carry general freight between Robbinsville and Topton, NC, where an interchange was made with the Southern Railway. Due to dropping freight levels and track conditions, the Graham County ceased operations in 1970. Restored in 1988. Currently out of service but scheduled for an overhaul.

A view from our train ride around the yard. I liked the blur of color.

A view from inside the red caboose the boys spent so much time playing in in the Roundhouse.

Windows in a room in the Roundhouse first used as a machine shop and later used as a locker room.

This locomotive was built by the Baldwin Locomotive works in June, 1913. This 4-6-0 Ten Wheeler was one of 25 ordered at that time by the ACL. These class of locomotives earned the nickname “Copperhead” because of the bright copper rings around the tops of the smokestacks. The ACL used them for freight and passenger service around Fayetteville, Rocky Mount and Wilmington in NC, and many places from Richmond, VA to Jacksonville, FL. The Atlantic Coast Line had their corporate headquarters in Wilmington, NC from 1900 until 1960, when it moved to Jacksonville, FL. It was the only Class 1 railroad to be headquartered in this state. As dieselization occurred, many of these locomotives found use on smaller subsidiary lines of the ACL. The 1031 was used on the East Carolina Railway in Tarboro, NC during the mid-1950s and the Virginia & Carolina Southern in Lumberton, NC during the later part of the decade. In 1959 it was placed on display in Florence, SC behind the passenger station adjacent to the rail yards. The City of Florence donated the 1031 to the NCTHC in 1994, resulting in a cosmetic restoration to a 1940s appearance in 1996 for display in the Robert Julian Roundhouse.

Last but not least, some shots of the boys enjoying the day.

Johnny is miffed here because we were in the air conditioned car for our train ride but I wanted to be in the one with open windows for pictures. We compromised and did the first half in the open window car and the 2nd half in the air car. I love the perturbed and hot face. It wasn't too hot for our trip, but we would have liked it cooler. I guess it was high 80s to low 90s.

Just a sweet shot of the boys being close. Really, they are very loving siblings.

Many, many cute firetruck shots. The one upper row second from left with Joey wearing (sortof) the fireman hat is priceless.

The boys even got to honk the horn:

and talk on the CB:

No trip anywhere is complete without at least a drive through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. Here, we are in the CFA in Asheboro. I feel like I know this one as well as the one in Fuquay. We go in every time we go to Poppop's, the zoo, or elsewhere west of Raleigh.

Many other pictures are here including a good number of vintage car shots and other train engines on display and even a glimpse at the train restoration shop.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Did I mention lately that we've gotten a bit of rain? I don't know how much for sure at my house since I don't keep accurate records, but a lot for August. Oh, I've got a rain gauge, but I'm not scientific about it. Yesterday, though, it said we got a whopping 4.5 inches. And, best as I can remember, that's the 3rd big rain(measured in inches) in as many weeks.

We get into really big trouble here in Raleigh when we have heavy rains in August and then hurricane force winds decide to follow. Praying for a lack of tropical development this season!

I can't help but remember Hurricane Fran on September 5, 1996 and what she did to our prized oak trees. They don't call Raleigh the City of Oaks for no reason. We have a lot of trees! Hurricane Fran left behind about 10 inches of rain, many downed trees, us without power for a week, and huge mess to clean up. It's an experience I can do without repeating. Even 14 years later, you can see the tree damage if you walk in the woods.

Coming home from school this morning, the debris on the road at Barber Bridge caught my eye. Wow, the water had been up over the bridge and onto the road over night. I turned around to go back and take a few pics.

Now, I think kids jumping in puddles with adult supervision is great fun, but I think going near rushing water on foot or in a car is extremely dangerous. Just a friendly remember to STAY CLEAR. I was on dry asphalt behind the cement bridge wall when I took these.

The view to the west.

The view to the west 1 year ago. You can see how much lower the water is. The bank is visible, and the branches hanging down aren't in the water.

The view looking east.

The view 1 year ago looking east. Besides the water being lower, you will see that it is very smooth and has very little movement. Also, the water is more green. Above it is filled with sediment and more brown.

An artsy shot of the water looking east.

The bridge looking toward Rock Service Station Road.

The view looking toward Hwy. 42. Notice all the debris in the road.

I also took a couple of videos this AM so you can hear and see how fast the water was moving.

The sun is out today, and hopefully we will dry out just a tad. And, wow, can it be that it is only 70 right now?!? I'll take it!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Puddle Splashing

It all started with the red galoshes...

When I was a little girl growing up in Trenton, NJ, I remember enjoying the rain with my Dad, and I remember my red galoshes. Trenton gets about 45 inches of rain each year and certainly has it's fair share of gray and wet days to go along with the gray clay soil.

I always remember my Dad loving rainy days. There was something special to him about the sound of the rain on the roof, the indoor activities we'd do on those days, and those priceless walks in the rain with our umbrellas and my red galoshes.

(We won't discuss the ping pong balls in the basement going into the sump pump or having to get out the push broom to push the water in the cellar over to the sump pump to begin with.)

I remember my Mom protesting with full anxiety about me getting my clothes wet, and my Dad calmly telling her not to worry; he'd clean me up. Off we'd go out the door, umbrellas in one hand and hand in hand in the other. Me at 3' and Dad at 6'3". Just walking and splashing and talking as if we had the world to ourselves.

Although my photography these days has me doing a lot of wishing for sunny days and blue skies, I still have a great fondness for those precious rainy days where the world seems secure with just me and my Dad walking in the rain.

Since Dad took all the pics at our house, there are no pics of me and him in the rain. Oh how I wish there were. There is a picture of me and the red galoshes, though.

Jump to the present...

It really poured while we were grocery shopping today, and as we drove home from Fuquay, Johnny started asking to go puddle splashing when we got home.

A few years ago, on a Blaze doggie walk after a big rain storm, Johnny happened to be with me, and he just happened to automatically do what all little kids do with puddles...jump in them whether Mom wants them to or not. It was like a blast back to the past as I ignored how wet he was getting and enjoyed how delighted he was with himself for getting wet in the puddles. A new tradition was born that day this time between a Mom and her son. Many rains and puddles since, the tradition lives on...

So, Johnny and I did end up out in the rain. I had the umbrella to protect my camera and my curls (ha!), and Johnny ran without a worry into every puddle he could find and enjoy. After 2.5", there certainly was no shortage of standing water. He started singing, and I continued with him several times, "Hi Ho Hi Ho It's off puddle jumping we go..."

Johnny even had a surprise today and discovered earth worms. This kid has no fear of insects and other critters outside.

I hope some day when I'm a Grandma I get an e-mail from Johnny with a picture he took of his little girl or boy out splashing in the rain puddles... And, the tradition will live on.

A super cute video of today's adventure is on YouTube.

All the pics from today are here. There are plenty more puddle splashing and jumping pics and a few more videos too.

My July 2009 blog post about Johnny in the puddles is here.