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Month: March 2018

Amanda’s Trip to Texas

I recently had a wonderful vacation in Austin, Texas with two of my college friends, Elinor and Katie. Elinor, who is doing a post-doc at the Univ. of Texas at Austin, was our wonderful host, who kept us busy exploring the local area (and also eating).

One of our first stops was for Mexican, including a taco with egg and cactus. The following day was my first (but not my last) experience with Texas brisket. Soooo good! We had Venezuelan from a food truck one evening and a taste of Brazilian cheese bread from a farmers’ market stand, among many, many other delicious treats. Clearly I was too busy stuffing my face to photograph everything. There was not a bad meal the entire trip. Well, I could take a pass on that cold pressed dark chocolate drink we tried at the farmers’ market, but other than that- everything was delicious!

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When we weren’t eating Katie and I entertained ourselves taking selfies with cactuses and other similar plants not native to the east coast or Ohio (where Katie lives). Elinor helpfully suggested we name our photo essay “The Arid Adaptive Plants of Austin.” So here it is:

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We swung by South by Southwest, taking in the scene and attending a film showing.

A bicycle-powered owl and armadillo in downtown Austin during South by Southwest

I unfortunately did not take any pictures of the honky tonk we went to one night. They had several bands and some good dancers. It was a diverse crowd- literally from man buns to cowboy hats- and a range of ages as well. I did take this totally unrelated picture of a cow decorated with a Scrabble board though because of course I did.

On my last day, I spent some time exploring the University of Texas at Austin on my own before my evening flight while Elinor attended a work seminar. After seeing Elinor’s lab, I headed over to the Harry Ransom Center, where a very friendly volunteer showed me their current vaudeville exhibit as well as one of five complete copies of the Gutenburg Bible in the United States, and what was described as the “first photograph.” It was made from a pewter plate and showed a view out of an upstairs window in the house of the creator (Joseph Nicéphore Niépce). Then I headed back out onto campus to find The Color Inside, a Skyspace by artist James Turrell. It is recommended to visit at sunrise or sunset, but it was also pretty neat mid-day, and I was the only one there so it was very quiet and relaxing to lay on the floor and look up through the hole in the ceiling at the clouds moving.

It wasn’t clear why students had unfurled a giant Texas flag in front of The Tower, but there they were. A bunch of students with handmade signs eventually massed on the steps, but I was running short on time, so I didn’t investigate further.

Elinor and I also stopped by a park and saw a really long bridge over what was, at that moment, a really small creek.

It was a wonderful, wonderful trip, and I was so glad to spend it with such fun friends. I also couldn’t have done it without Eric, who, despite being outnumbered, expertly handled two kids while I was gone (probably even getting them in the bath more frequently than if I had been home). It was wonderful to video chat with them, even if Elise was mostly interested in watching what Elinor’s cats were up to.



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Easter Egg Hunt

Harlan decided to attend the birthday party of a classmate Saturday morning, but Elise and I bundled up and headed down to the neighborhood Easter egg hunt. It was a nicely done affair with little kids searching for eggs in the grass and bushes on one side of the road and the older kids scouring the rocks and beach on the other side of the road. After the hunt there were games, including an egg toss, egg on a spoon race, and donut eating contest (tied to a string, hanging from a shade tent, no hands). Elise didn’t participate in the games, but enjoyed watching and clapping for the other kids. During the egg toss one little girl had an egg land on her head and break, oozing down her hair!

Easter egg hunts are fun!
Did you know there are chocolates in these eggs?! I’d better shove as many in my mouth as I can before someone else discovers it too and takes them away from me!
The neighborhood kids (at least the ones left by the end when this picture was taken since most of the little ones had already headed home for naps)
The Easter Bunny clearly hasn’t completely won her over, but getting her this close was a huge step. She’s not particularly bothered by most other large characters, but she seems to really dislike the Easter Bunny for some reason. This Easter Bunny, one of our very nice neighbors, was very patient with her and even helped her find eggs during the hunt. Elise even gave the bunny a high five after the photo.
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More Snow!

Winter isn’t quite ready to give way to Spring and sent us another bout of snow. Elise wasn’t super impressed, but Harlan was thrilled to get back out on our sled run through the woods, including trying out our new Flexible Flyer Steel Saucer. He was also a good helper when it came to clearing the driveway- shoveling away after we discovered the snow was too wet for our snow blower to handle.

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The saucer sled moved significantly faster than the green sled, and without the benefit of being steerable (mostly it seemed to prefer spinning you around backward for some extra excitement). Harlan added a snow bump for some in-air action. I took some videos and intended to add them before posting this, but since that was two months ago, I’m just going to backdate this entry and post it.

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Calvert Science and Engineering Expo 2018

We had another wonderful year at the Calvert County Science and Engineering Expo at Calvert High School. They do a fantastic job putting this on every year. There are so many activities you can’t even do them all in the four hours the expo lasts. Plus it’s wonderful for the littler kids to see all the high schoolers enthusiastic about their various fields of study. One of Harlan’s first activities was driving some remote controlled… things… Even Elise got to fly a little drone. The young lady running the table was completely unphased at her age (or maybe she saw the “genius” shirt and knew she could handle it). They did a number of little science experiments like extracting DNA from a strawberry and blowing up a balloon with the carbon dioxide produced from mixing vinegar and baking soda. Harlan also put on some gloves and touched various cow innards from eyeballs to the heart (I’m sure Elise would have too but she was exhausted by then with no nap). They both made aluminum foil boats and loaded up marbles (Elise dropping them in by the handful from about 7 inches up- not the best technique if you want your boat to stay afloat), and Harlan built a little catapult and shot paper balls at a target (Elise had a great time dodging the shots and collecting all the paper wads). We all had a fantastic time, and are already looking forward to next year.

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And a movie:

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