Maine’s Capitol – Simple Yet Elegant

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When I arrived at Maine’s State Capitol building which is in Augusta, Maine, I immediately felt like I was in Maine with this seal to greet me.  The capitol building itself was very simple and yet elegant.  As I was exploring the inside, I managed to capture the view looking out one of the beautiful windows.

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As you can see, the capitol sits on a hill so there is quite a view out the window.

The dome from the inside is not decorated like many, but you can see below just how simple, yet elegant, it looks.inside dome

I love the windows in The House of Representatives which is pictured below.

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Likewise, the senate had the same shape of windows and was also in keeping with the entire theme of simple yet elegant.

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Last, but certainly not least, is the view from outside, and the dome is a brown shade!

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Outdoors in New Orleans

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In my first post on New Orleans (here), I highlighted the colorful creole houses, but this blog is my favorite because I am talking about photos more focused on my favorite things — the statues, trees, and, of course, the Mississippi — as I walked around New Orleans.  After the stop at the cemetery that I wrote about in the previous post, the bus took us to City Park.  I can’t believe I did not make it back here after this initial very brief visit, but it was not to be on this trip.  There is a sculpture park here along with the an art museum that I will visit one day!

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We did actually get off the bus and enjoy the trees.  At least this happened on the one nice day I had, and I just love trees so was “a very happy camper”!   The tour guide said after the rains the moss hanging down turns bright green.

Mississippi The above picture is of the Mississippi River which was  just a block away from my hotel.  The Riverwalk was a very nice area, but it was cold and windy since the sidewalk was right on top of the dike.  As you can guess by the clouds, it did indeed rain on Monday so I did not make it out until noon or so.  There is a free pedestrian ferry that will take you across the river, but I never had the chance to go across.

As I have mentioned in many posts, I love sculptures and statues.  The photo below was a statue on the Riverwalk looking out over the Mississippi River honoring the immigrants.  This was my favorite sculpture!

On the other side of the French Market there was the below sculpture.

Lastly but certainly not least: Once we left the French Market area, we headed back to the hotel and ran into Joan of Arc.  How cool is all the gold?!

Fun at the Iowa State Fair

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Every year we head to the Iowa State Fair for a day.  Having lived in Illinois most of my life as a child, I have always been fascinated at how Iowans like to promote themselves, and while not adopting a total Texan attitude of everything is bigger, they do tend to believe everything is better if it’s from Iowa so they take great pride in having the best state fair.  I have not been to any other state fairs so I have no idea if it is or not, but we have a great time basically eating our way around the fair each year.  I did read a reviewer that said the Iowa State Fair is the best in the food category, but that can only be if you aren’t counting calories!

My son and his wife along with some friends of ours all met at my favorite building, the Department of Natural Resources.  The above picture is of the outside courtyard area.  Inside they have all the river fish swimming around in aquariums.

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My other favorite area is the baby barn.  It’s hard to see in this picture but they are trying to get a baby goat to drink from a bottle in the above photo.

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Babies, babies everywhere!  I spent a lot of time here just smiling and wanting a baby of every species.

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Hubby and son had to take a break at the local Iowa beers tent where you could buy a sampler package that we all took sips from.  With so many beers to choose from, it was a hard choice, and we could have spent all our time here if they weren’t so pricey.  Iowa really does have a great selection of local brews!

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We also had our turkey legs along with chocolate-covered bacon and fried pickles, but my daughter-in-law had to bypass the deep-fried Twinkies since the line was so long.  Every year the fair highlights a new food item, and this year it was a corn dog where the hotdog is wrapped in bacon and then dipped in the batter which also had bacon grease in it.  Needless to say the guys had to have one of those.  I just took a small bite.  I guess we were too busy eating because I never got one picture of any of the food.

Then there were all the big animals.  Although I am certainly not a vegetarian and I believe PETA goes way overboard, walking through the barns always makes me feel torn because I love seeing the animals but feel sorry for them all at the same time.

I would not want to run across the below bull in a pasture, however!  This bull was very mean looking, but with all the people it was too hard to get any closer for a better face shot.

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They made sure to have all their propaganda signs out about how confining animals in barns really protected the animals, but still when I look at the picture below I can’t help but feel sad.

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I wonder if this pig can even stand up!

However, there is so much more to offer at the Iowa State Fair with local entertainment going on constantly, and we did stop to watch a tiger show along with a demonstration on how to make a bonsai tree.  I bought some emu lotion, looked at a lot of craft art such as wood carvings, dreamed about buying a huge hot tub, and we walked until we could walk no more, about 7 hours later.

I will end on a happy note with the below picture of the life-sized butter cow and the 7 dwarfs all carved into butter by the butter cow lady who happens to be a local family that just keeps handing down the tradition through the generations.

What to do on a cloudy and cool day? Grimes Farm Conservation Area Bike Trail in Iowa!

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I wrote about the bike trail from Marshalltown to Grimes Conservation area last year (link here), but the trail now has an added segment. This year they have connected up the Marshalltown bike trail to the one that runs along Highway 330 to Melbourne, Iowa.  The entire trail has absolutely no shade and is rolling prairie land so when my son said he wanted to roller-blade while I rode my bike Saturday, I suggested trying this trail since it is newly paved and it was cool outside with passing puffy clouds.

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We packed my bike and drove to Grimes Farm which is off Highway 30 one or two exits west of Marshalltown.  There are brown signs with “Conservation Area” on them pointing the way.  So we started from there and went five miles out to Highway 330.  I was wondering how I got in such bad shape because all the way out there I was really struggling after just a measly 3 miles.  This is really hilly, by the way, so don’t’ go if you want flat.  Anyway, my goal was to go all the way to Melbourne, but when we hit 330 and the five-mile mark, I’d had enough and was worried about how long it would take me to struggle my way back to the car.  Much to our surprise, we couldn’t believe how easy it was and we were back at our car in what seemed like minutes.  Come to find out, it’s all uphill, even when it didn’t look uphill!  It seemed like we coasted almost all of the five miles back except for a few hills here and there.  We laughed all the way back, and I got to enjoy the scenery a lot more!ImageIt was about 1:30 when we finished so it had heated up quite a bit by the time we made it back so all in all we were happy with the workout.  It was a lot of fun having my son along to talk to and the trail doesn’t have a ton of traffic on it compared to going towards Marshalltown so you can ride side by side and chat most of the way.  One of my stops was to take the picture below of this beautiful thistle.  I was reminded that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder because when I exclaimed to my son, “Look at that thistle!” (meaning how beautiful), my son replied, “Yeah, looks painful!”

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Also in the picture, you can see the fence which goes along the trail on one side most of the way.  I found myself only looking one way to enjoy the rolling farmland and prairie because of that fence.  In addition, I want to mention there is a lot of car noise from the highway.  I could still hear the birds, but this trail is not for someone who wants to be wholly immersed in nature.

Rainbow Over Iowa

I love rainbows!  Of course, no picture can do it justice, but this rainbow was so beautiful that I just had to pull my car over and attempt to capture it on my way to work even though I was running very close to being late for work!  It actually was an entire, huge rainbow where I could see both ends, but the wind was blowing and I was dressed for work, so I pulled my car off the four-lane highway onto the shoulder and popped out of the car and snapped one quick picture using my cell phone.  I have started to carry my camera with me in the car, but when I went to use it, the battery was dead!  I was really surprised to see that it turned out as good as it did.  What a beautiful sight it was but so very fleeting.  It dissolved right after taking the picture as I was getting back on the road.  The rarity of seeing rainbows and then the fact that they don’t last long added to the wonder I felt as it forced me to stop my hurried life to try to capture the magic.

Snowshoeing?

 

You are looking at a picture of what my hubby surprised me with for Christmas.  Now, one has to understand that I have been talking about wanting to try snowshoeing for years.  However, I wanted to try it once to make sure it was something I liked to do.  Now I am going to feel like I have to go many times just because I need to make the cost worth it! The only comment I ever get when announcing that I got snowshoes for Christmas is about how hard it is to do!  I have a reprive since in Iowa there is not enough snow yet, although after listening to the forecasters last night, I may get to use them this weekend!  I can’t remember a January in recent past where we had absolutely no snow on the ground for the first half of January and we also experienced record high temperatures!

So I can’t tell you a tale of how it all went yet, and I really don’t have any adventures to write about since the landscape is so bleak.  I tried to take a picture of the huge orange moon I watched as I drove home from work a couple of days ago, but I just could not get the picture to accurately portray the gigantic beautiful orange moon, probably because I pulled off the interstate and tried to time the picture between cars and tried to hold the camera still, et cetera.  It never looked as big and beautiful as it truly was so I gave up and headed home.

I did find a Midwest Living’s article on the best places in the Midwest to go in the winter time (link here) really motivating.  After reading them all, I’m now trying to figure out when I can go to the Black Hills in the next month or two as it sounds perfect for me!  I never thought of going there in the wintertime!  I would love to hear any suggestions on places to stay or go to during the winter months if anyone has any suggestions.

Picturesque St. Thomas was the next stop during our cruise

While the rolling hills of St. Thomas made this island my favorite to just gaze upon, it was also the biggest disappointment.  We stopped at St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, and with great anticipation, we got off the ship to head off on our excursion to St. John’s National Park.  I was SO excited because I was going to get a national park stamp to a national park I never thought I would get to visit!  As you have probably guessed by now, after standing in the hot sun for an hour because we wanted a good seat on the high-speed ferry that you had to take to get there, the lady came around telling us it was cancelled.  The ferry is the only way to get there and so it wasn’t like we could figure out a different way to get there.  They said there was something about the engine or pump that wasn’t working, but we were there early and watched it come to the dock.  We were probably the fifth person in line so we kept trying to board and the workers would just wave us away saying not yet.  Ugh!

So I didn’t get to see anything but shops on this beautiful island.  If you like to shop, by the way, you would love this area.

This was my favorite island for just looking at it scenery-wise because it’s very hilly and I was wishing I had signed up for some of the other excursions that got you out into the hills or to a beach area.

Instead we spent it in the shops nearby.  The lizards did entertain me for quite a while, though.  There were a ton of them, but I tried to limit my pictures for this blog to a couple of key ones.

So after doing a bit of shopping, we returned to the Eurodam and relaxed.