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Arizona – Wednesday, November 16

November 17th, 2016 Comments off

Macaw

Wednesday we got up early to heard to Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park, Arizona. The drive is about an hour from Joe’s parents’ but wasn’t too bad thanks to the awesome HOV lanes – we flew past the traffic! I love the expressways in Arizona because they are all in fantastic shape thanks to the lack of snow and ice. Plus they are all absolutely free; no tolls whatsoever. Gotta like that!

We were meeting M, J, and O so we had time to stop at the nearby McDonald’s for a quick breakfast since we were due to arrive at the zoo ahead of them by at least twenty minutes. We arrived at the zoo about fifteen minutes after they opened and they were already there. Doh! Turns out their GPS overestimated how long it would take them to get there.

It was a rare cloudy/overcast day – our first one since arriving – which turned out to be perfect since it got into the mid 80’s throughout the day but without the sun beating down on us it felt very comfortable.

The zoo didn’t seem that large at first glance but it turns out they have a ton of animals. The highlights included the zoo show where they introduced some of the more intelligent animals such as Ollie the Otter and an African Grey Parrot. The baby animal nursery was awesome too – they had a white tiger cub, a leopard cub, and two lion cubs.

White Tiger Cub

Lion Cub

Included in the admission price was the chance to feed the lorikeets.

Lorakeet

They only allow the feeding at certain times but we were able to attend the first feeding. Before going into the enclosure it was explained to us that the green bucket of apple pieces were to feed the birds and the red bucket was for any pieces eaten or that have fallen to the ground. We were also warned that anything that went into the birds would be coming back out within fifteen minutes and that we’d get a two minute warning so we could clear the enclosure in time. Feeding the birds was fun although a bit stressful when you have three of them digging their claws into your arm while picking apart a quartered apple in the palm of your hand.

I also got some great photos of the resident leopard which was exciting since most of the time they are sleeping.

Leopard

Leopard

Oh, and for 50 cents (per handful of food) you can feed the giraffes. You can’t get as close to them as at the Phoenix zoo, however.

Giraffe Feeding

I finally got a sharp photo of a meerkat too!

Meerkat

Around 2 pm we were super hungry so we decided to take a break and eat at the on-site restaurant, Dillions KC BBQ. I had the half chicken and Joe had the beef brisket, both of which were good. Their $2 onion rings were awesome as well.

After lunch M and crew decided to leave while Joe and I stuck around to look at the aquarium portion of the zoo which was the only section we hadn’t seen yet. I toured the majority of it alone, however, since Joe had a phone interview (his second of the week; he had one on Monday for a different company while we were at the Botanical Garden).

We left the zoo around 4 pm and made a pit stop at Walmart for a couple of things.

Later that evening everyone met up at Joe’s parents, including M and crew, who bought a Nothing Bundt Cake for Joe’s mom’s birthday. M had asked for lemon but apparently someone screwed up because we ended up with white chocolate raspberry. Luckily it was delicious anyway!

Hummingbird

September 18th, 2016 Comments off

Last Saturday (9/10) I was sitting at the dining room table staring outside when I spotted what I thought at first was a large dragonfly zipping around the flowers we had planted. I quickly realized, however, that it was a hummingbird. I instantly became excited because in all the years we’ve lived here I haven’t seen a hummingbird even once with the exception of the botanic garden last year. I caught Joe’s attention and he got to see it too before it flew away. It was a very brief visit but it got me hopeful. I immediately mixed 1 part sugar with 4 parts water, boiled it, and once it cooled put it in the hummingbird feeder we had purchased last year.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and Joe was watching the Bears game while I was rifling through the pantry for a snack. I was standing behind the couch munching on some cheese puffcorn (a recent discovery thanks to my brother; now I can’t stop eating them!) when I spotted a hummingbird and called Joe over. We were both very excited to see one again and I quickly grabbed my phone and took a video of it since I knew a photo would never come out very good.

We didn’t see one on Monday but Joe saw one twice yesterday when I was at work so either the same one keeps coming back or he’s told his friends about the feeder. I need to dump the mixture I made and make some new stuff. The only thing I hate is that the feeder quickly fills up with ants which is gross. Right now there’s a ton of bees all over it as well, and we haven’t seen a hummingbird in days so we might just take it down for the season and try again next year.

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Milwaukee Zoo

August 22nd, 2016 Comments off

We decided to visit Milwaukee Zoo today since admission is free with our Cosley Zoo membership which is due to expire in four days. I don’t think we’re going to renew it for awhile since we just visited not long ago and we usually get our money’s worth by visiting other zoos where we can get in free or for half price but we don’t have any vacations currently planned. Plus in December admission is free for their zoo lights so we might wait until next year to renew, or when Joe gets a job, whichever comes first.

I think today’s visit was our longest ever, probably because it wasn’t too hot or crowded. I brought my newest zoom lens (55-250 mm) and was rather disappointed with its performance, particularly in low light. My 28-135 mm lens produces much sharper images but doesn’t have the reach. Luckily I was still able to get some halfway decent shots by playing around with the settings. I just wish I could afford a higher quality zoom lens so I can get the shots I want. Maybe some day!

IMG_9060-Revised

Amur Tiger

Jaguar

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African Lion

Reticulated Giraffe

Female Guam Kingfisher

Flamingo

I was happy to get a few photos of the red panda even though he wouldn’t stop moving so they aren’t as sharp as I would have liked.

Red Panda

Red Panda

Once we left the zoo (after being there 3.5 hours) we visited the new Mars Cheese Castle.

Mars Cheese Castle

The last time we visited we weren’t impressed but the new one is much nicer.

From Wikipedia:

In 2011, a project widening Interstate 94 forced the store to relocate 50 yards (46 m) away from the freeway. The new store, over twice as large as the previous building, was designed to more closely resemble an actual castle; it features a watchtower holding the store’s wine and an entrance which resembles a drawbridge. A special statute passed by the Wisconsin Legislature allowed the store to keep its 80-foot (24 m) sign at its new location despite a state law prohibiting signs that tall.

We purchased a couple of pastries and then drove to The Brat Stop for lunch where Joe had a brat and I had a cheeseburger which I had been craving all day. We had packed a lunch for the zoo but decided not to eat it.

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Armstrong Park & Family Game Night

August 22nd, 2016 Comments off

Another fun-packed weekend is over.

Friday we visited Armstrong Park again because I wanted to see the Purple Martins. We didn’t spot any, but I did get a few good photos of some egrets and a great blue heron.

Egret

Great Blue Heron

Saturday was our rescheduled (from July) game night at my second cousin’s house. We arrived around 3:30 pm and debated whether to go swimming in the pool. It wasn’t quite as warm as I would prefer and then it started drizzling so we went back inside to chat. About an hour later her daughter, who is my first cousin, and her family arrived. I haven’t seen her in over a decade (the last time was at my grandmother’s funeral in 2003) so that was nice. Plus I got to meet her husband and 9 year old son. I also met my second cousin’s youngest daughter (she’s 22 or 23) when she got home from work. My second cousin and I were never really in contact until my uncle passed away two years ago which is why it took so long to meet her one daughter.

Anyway, my cousin made this ridiculously tasty blueberry vodka lemonade that I could not stop drinking. Luckily the alcohol content was weak since I have a low tolerance. We had a delicious dinner of grilled chicken, red potatoes, pasta salad, and a spinach salad with walnuts, cranberries, and feta. After dinner we played Uno Attack and then took a break for dessert which was the brownies I brought topped with ice cream. After dessert we played Aggravation and a game I had never played before called LCR (left right center). By that point it was 10 pm so we decided to get going since it’s about an hour and fifteen minute drive back home.

It was nice to spend time with family members we usually don’t socialize with. My mom and my second cousin never really got along so if it wasn’t for Facebook I probably never would have spent any time with her or her husband which is a shame because even if she wasn’t nice to my mom growing up she’s always been nice to me.

Sunday morning we decided to visit Armstrong Park again but to ride our bikes since it was a gorgeous cloudy day. The park has a very nice, mostly flat, paved path so we got almost an hour of riding in before I got tired.

Balog Island

Lake George

Later the same afternoon I wanted to check out a small park in Wheaton called Hurley Gardens to take some flower photos. I brought my Canon SLR with the stock 18-55 mm lens and thought I was losing my mind when it wouldn’t focus on the flowers. Turns out something is wrong with the lens. Joe’s lens of the same type, plus my other lenses, work on my camera fine. I’m glad it’s not the camera itself since I wouldn’t be able to replace it for awhile.

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Our Anniversary and Lincoln Park Zoo

October 26th, 2015 Comments off

Friday was our ten year wedding anniversary so Joe took the day off work so we could spend it together. We didn’t have anything too exciting planned – just a relaxing day and then a nice dinner to celebrate. In the morning we participated in a gummy vitamin taste test and a research facility. It was about an hour of our time and we each made $25 so that was nice.

We tried a new Thai restaurant in Wheaton. Well, it was a Thai place before so I’m not sure if it’s new owners and the old owners changing the name and trying to garner new clientele, but it wasn’t that impressive.

After lunch we made a trip to the arboretum to check out the fall foliage.

Morton Arboretum

We also stopped at a forest preserve called Churchill Woods but the weather was turning more grey so I didn’t get any good photos there.

Churchill Woods

We debated over whether to try a new to us, but expensive steakhouse, or stick with a place we knew. We opted for the latter and had it narrowed down between Claim Jumper and Lonestar, deciding on Lonestar which required us to drive out to Elgin. The meal was disappointing to say the least. My filet was way overcooked so I had to sit there watching Joe eat his (I insisted since I didn’t want it to get cold) while they prepared a new filet for me. The new one was at least cooked like I requested (medium), but I need A1 to make it tasty, which in my mind means the steak sucks (never needed A1 at Claim Jumper). I have no idea if this is a fluke, the location we visited sucks, or if Lonestar in general has gone downhill, but it ruined that chain for me. I’ve always loved their inexpensive food but I’ll think twice before ever eating there again.

We decided to get dessert and went to this Mexican ice cream place that had high ratings on Yelp. I didn’t care for it at all. My chocolate ice cream tasted like Hershey’s syrup. Ick. Needless to say the eating portion of our anniversary sucked.

Saturday we drove down to Oak Lawn to pick up E for lunch. We went to Culvers out in Orland Park. After dropping E off at home we hit the Walmart where I was finally able to find a pair of jeans in my desired size and color so I can wear my Cuddl Duds underneath them at work from now until April.

We had planned to attend a Halloween flea market Saturday night but changed our mind. It’s $7 to get in and all outdoors (for some reason I thought it was indoors) and it was drizzling. A few people online complained about the long lines last year which really discouraged us. So we went home and binge-watched some more Modern Family instead.

Sunday we decided to visit Lincoln Park Zoo. They had been bragging on their social media sites that the two red panda cubs born four months ago had just made their public debut and encouraged everyone to come visit them over the weekend. So we came, but we didn’t see squat!

We arrived to the zoo early and found free parking on Cannon Dr. which was awesome. The zoo gates were open already so we walked over to the red panda exhibit but it was empty. Thinking perhaps they wouldn’t be out until the official 10 am zoo opening, we checked out some other animals, including the lions where I got some great photos.

Lioness

We made our way back to the red pandas just before 10 am. By then a crowd had formed but we were able to secure a spot in front just to the left of the exhibit. I had just learned that my SLR’s battery was on one bar so I vowed not to use the camera again until the red pandas came out. In the meantime, two cute little Eurasian Lynxs were let into their exhibit to our left. I wanted to get a photo and/or video of them but didn’t want to miss out on the pandas, so I reluctantly waited some more.

At some point after 10 am a zookeeper came into the exhibit to prepare it for the red pandas. Why they didn’t do that before the zoo opened, I don’t know. We waited almost an hour before an employee informed us that one of the panda cubs wasn’t ready to come out yet and they weren’t planning on opening the exhibit until he was and had no idea when that would be (and their indoor habitat is not viewable to the public). By this time the lynxs were back in their non-viewable to the public den so I missed that opportunity as well. To say I was disappointed, not to mentioned pissed off, is an understatement. Sorry, but I think if you’re posting all over social media asking the public to visit your zoo to see the pandas you better damn well put the pandas somewhere they can be seen. Seriously!

We spent another two hours at the zoo checking out the rest of the exhibits and returned to the red panda one several times but they were never out.

Finally we gave up and drove to Rodgers Park to this great Thai place to have lunch.

Monday I had an early doctor appointment to go over some stuff and she sent me for some routine blood work.

Categories: Animals, Excursions, Food, Photos Tags: