I just can't help myself!

From the Missouri Botanical Garden's website:

"Founded in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is the nation's oldest botanical garden in continuous operation and a National Historic Landmark."

Here is a photo from that time period.

No really!

I swear it...ok, ok. Maybe it's not.

I admit, it's from a couple of weeks ago. We visited for the last show of the Whitaker Music Festival.

Here is the original photo.

But I think I like this version better.

Sometimes it's hard to know when I get out of control with Photoshop. How much is too much?

Anyway. The light didn't really last long enough to get many shots. The setting sun made for some great reflections though.

There I go with those burned edges again...

I also tried to get a few shots of the moon...but didn't have the correct lens with me that night. Ah well.

These next couple of shots? Oh my. Kristen's is fine, but Rico? I'm sorry. But I had to. I LOVE the shot of you.

Thanks for being such a great sport and letting me blind you with my flash in the name of 'art'. Or at least in the name 'fun'.


Disney Is...

...the place where all your dreams come true. Right? It is if your dreams include getting a horribly nasty sickness (I don't know what I had) while you visit. Luckily, my mom was there to take care of me. I sure as heck wasn't going to stay in the room on my 30th birthday trip. So mom drugged me up and off we went. My lovely hacking cough was quite handy in keeping people away from me.

However. The side effect was that I really didn't feel like taking a bunch of pictures. I got a few. And these are them.

We'll start with Epcot. This is, hands down, my favorite place in the Disney World Complex.

All of these photos were taken at the Japanese Pavilion in the very back of the park.

I loved that when I took my camera out to shoot this, I suddenly had 15 people whip their point-and-shoot cameras out to try and capture the same image. Yep. I'm a leader. Little did they know I would be using Photoshop to re-create how it looked to the naked eye. Oh, and to get rid of the hair that was on my lens. (though I didn't do such a great job of that...)

Next, we move to Animal Kingdom. I was feeling better this day, yet still didn't take a lot of photos. The place was packed. It was a bit too much of a hassle.

These were taken on the "Safari". It's actually a pretty nice animal park and I enjoy seeing the animals in an environment that looks much more natural.

The "Safari" guides are of course humorous. They're scripted that way. But I don't think he bargained for my mom to play along as well as she did. She was all kinds of ready to become his official navigator.

You really do have to hand it to Disney. They do a spectacular job creating amazing realism in everything they do. (I'm pretty sure these trees were concrete but look close and you'll see the bird that just may have been fooled too)

These guys were awful cute. Talk about effective camouflage too! Just lay down and you look like a rock!

The third and final place we'll be visiting today is MGM Studios. Er, pardon me, Disney's Hollywood Studios. I guess they can't use the 'MGM' name any longer.

The only thing I photographed here was a stunt show. Have I mentioned in the past that I really want to learn to drive like this?

Anyway. The premise was that they were shooting a film and they were going to show you how some of the driving stunts were done. The red car is the 'Hero' car and the black cars are the 'Villains'.

The stunts really were quite impressive. These guys could drive!

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that had there been a volunteer portion of this show...I would have thrown myself down there. It would have been embarrassing how quickly I would have shoved the little kids out of the way.

But totally worth it.

Uh...as long as I didn't have that guys job.



Charon and Joan were correct. The prehistoric looking bird is a juvenile Shoebill. But don't worry Larry and Kristi, you two were closer than you probably thought!

The Shoebill is related to the Pelicans, or at least as far as they can tell with DNA testing. I won't bore you with taxonomy but I will tell you that this awesome bird confused scientists for quite a while.

Some felt that it should be classified with pelicans. Others thought it was closer to a heron or a stork. A huge battle broke out between these two groups of scientists! It was unlike any battle you've ever seen! They were hurling things like mitochondrial sequences and COI barcodes and morphometric results at each other!*see below

It was incredible.

And the last scientist standing was the one with results pointing towards pelicans. And the Shoebill was happy.

ANYWAY. It's a pretty impressive bird. African in origin, it feeds mostly on fish. Check that beak out. I was pretty glad I wasn't a fish.

*scientific terminology disclaimer: I have no idea what any of that actually means. I may have been a biology major but I did not study genetics. As a matter of fact, I think the TA for my genetics class would have to agree with that statement. I certainly did not study genetics.


Where we conclude our trip to Dallas World Aquarium

Welcome back fellow Adventurers!

We'll begin our overland journey with this cute little fellow. I don't remember exactly what he is, but he was either a huge ham for the camera or really concerned we were going to take over his territory.

Nearby to him was this amazing view.

I love the manual settings on my camera.

Lets move on to our friends the flamingos.

I'm sure you all know why the Flamingo is pink right?

Near to the flamingos was this beautiful lady.

A Black Panther!* I thought she looked a bit like my Pandora. She remained asleep the entire time.

*this classification seems to be a bit like the great soda/pop debate. If I remember correctly, there was a bit of a...disagreement regarding the term "Panther" while we were looking at her. Here in N. America the term panther is used to refer to Cougars AKA Mountain Lions. In other parts of the world it is used synonymously with Leopard. Consequently, this was a Melanistic Leopard.

For those of you that I haven't bored to death, here is a funny little guy.

Note, I've referred to this turkeyish creature and the monkey as male when I really don't have any idea. I'm merely basing it on how aggressive both of them were. They were both tirelessly protecting their territory from something they perceived as threatening. Here is the aggressor in action.

Over the top of the leopard cage was this fun little statue. It's so Mayan in style since that was the theme of this particular area.

Venturing back outside, we find these adorable fellows.

They had a sweet little setup and were happy to pose for a few portraits.

While checking out the penguins, I looked up into some greenery above my head. There was a bit of a rocky outcrop that had some fencing around it. This is what was staring back at me.

What the!?! What in the world IS that thing? Oh, you want a closer look? Well ok.

Downright prehistoric looking isn't it! I actually had to find an employee to identify it for me.

So, can any of you tell me what it is? First one to guess the right answer wins a prize! (ok, so that prize *might* only be a pat on the back but hey, you'll look SMART!)

I'll have the right answer and some more great shots of him next week.

Well that concludes our little safari. We hope you've enjoyed yourself. If you've lost any family members along the way, please report it to the game warden.

Be sure to exit in an orderly fashion.

Thank you.


Where we take a trip below the surface

Funny thing. I was going through some photos and realized I never posted about an attraction we went to in Dallas last February.

The Dallas World Aquarium is a fantastic little place. It doesn't look very big from the outside but holy turtles does it pack the features in!

Today we will visit the water creatures. And I might throw a few other random photos in. Maybe.

Tomorrow (AKA the next time I post) will be creatures that live above the surface.

First up on our undersea adventure are some of the smallest creatures.

Yay for coral! Unless you're walking across it barefoot. Ooh! And can you see what's living amongst the coral?

That's right! A giant clam. The largest species of mollusk. Did you know there are some people that are afraid of them because they think if they get close to one it'll clamp down on an arm or leg and drown them? I can't make this stuff up people.

Next we'll visit a fantastical creature that looks as though it's straight out of a fantasy novel.

This, my friends, is a slightly out of focus beautiful Leafy Sea Dragon. Like the seahorses they're related to, the Leafy Sea Dragon reproduces in an unusual way. It's the MALE of the species that becomes 'pregnant' and houses the eggs in his tail until they are ready to hatch. What a dad!

And speaking of seahorses...

I love seahorses.

You know what else I love? Cuttlefish.

Like some other creatures, these can change color very quickly. It's like watching liquid color. Mesmerizing.

This little guy was sittin' here minding his own business, colors playing across the surface of his (or her...I really can't tell) skin, when a big ol' mean fish swam up. I didn't get the fish, but I got his reaction.

He was pissed! Just look at that color change.

Next we move on to the larger animals. Mr. Turtle says "HI!".

And now on to a face that only a mother could love.

Woah! Did you see that monster fish!? Yee Gads! That thing looks almost as big as the manatee!

All right, maybe not THAT big.

Well, my fingers and toes are all pruney from our oceanic trip. It's time to wave goodbye to the fishes (and mammals, and reptiles, and polyps, and mollusks, and...well you get the idea).

Join us next time for a journey above the sea!