Tag Archives: Photos

My Photos: 2015

Last year I put together a slideshow of some of my favorite photos from 2014. I thought I would continue the tradition again this year. So, for Photo Friday, here is a compilation of some of my favorite photos from the year 2015. Some of them are favorites because I liked the shot from a photographic point-of-view, and others are favorites simply because of the moment and the memory.


Top Five Tuesday: Distractions


Speaking of distractions, here are the top five outlets feeding my appetite for distraction:

  1. Facebook: Who’s doing what, where, with whom right now?
  2. Twitter: #losingmyselfin140characters
  3. MLB At Bat: All things baseball and the Cubs at any moment.
  4. Photos: So many photos, so little time.
  5. PSVita: Inside the man is a boy who loves his games.

The Groom

Sam Keithley triptychWe were at our nephew’s wedding last weekend. I had my camera out and was snapping away. When the the processional music swelled I rose with the crowd and turned to see Sam’s bride, Lydia, walking the aisle with her father.

“Sam!” Wendy urgently whispered in my ear. “Take a picture of Sam!”

I turned and snapped a series of pictures of Sam as he watched his bride walking down the aisle toward him.

So glad Wendy prompted me.



TBT: Grandpa V and the Grill

Grandpa V and the Grill

I like going through old family photos. There’s a lot to wade through and a whole host of faces and events that have little relevance to me. Every once in a while, however, you come across a random photograph that strikes your fancy. For Throwback Thursday I’d like to share with you this little gem.

I have always loved this picture of my Grandpa Vander Well which was taken when he and my grandma drove my mother from Iowa out to Idaho where my folks were moving shortly after they got married. There was a whole series of photos that chronicle their multi-day journey including the retro travel motels where they stayed.

I laugh every time I see this photo. I have no idea why Grandpa wanted a photo of the grill in the park. He certainly does not look particularly excited about it. He’s not cooking lunch. With his pens clipped in his shirt pocket he looks like he could be the state grill inspector documenting that the camp stove meets the Iowa Code for proper grill standards and maintenance.

I imagine my Grandma V sharing their photos with friends: “Oh, and here’s a picture of Herman with a grill!

In a time when taking photos and having them developed cost money, why would you invest in a photograph of you with a charred park grill? Whatever the reason, I’m glad they took it. A half century later it continues to regularly make me smile.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6

I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

It’s ART DAY! Wherever we go, Wendy and I love to take in a little art and culture. Taylor is studying Arts and Event Management, so its only natural that we devote at least a little time to see what artistic treasures Edinburgh had for us.

It was Saturday morning and Wendy and I grabbed the bus to Taylor’s flat. It was about a 20 minute bus ride from the top of Victoria Street to her stop on Pilton and she was there to meet us. Taylor has a hike of several blocks from the bus stop to her apartment building on Pilton Farm Crescent. She lived in the student residences of Queen Margaret University during the school year but moved to this three bedroom flat at the end of the semester where she lives with some lovely young ladies. We had a chance to see the place and meet one of her flat mates. It was a nice flat on the fourth floor with lots of light and Taylor has a gorgeous view of the area and the North Sea out her bedroom window.

We hiked another mile or so to a bus stop and grabbed a bus towards the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. There are actually two museums across the street from one another. We started at Two but there was only one gallery open with a collection of surrealist art. We enjoyed the exhibit but it didn’t take long to get through it. We then walked across the street to museum One which had an exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein along with their permanent collection, largely of contemporary Scottish artists. We enjoyed the museum and, afterwards, we grabbed a taxi to the City Art Centre which offered four more floors of Scottish artists, though the gallery on each floor was rather small and it didn’t take too long to get through it.

Our souls refreshed and our minds inspired, we began the short hike back to the hotel. All week long we had been passing a unique little eatery on Victoria Street called Oink. They roast an entire hog each day, stick it in the window for passers by to see, and then serve pork sandwiches until it’s all gone. The shop could close early or late depending on the hunger of Edinburgh. It looked and smelled so good all week that I was determined to try it before we left. So, I grabbed a pork sandwich (absolutely delicious!) and Taylor stopped at Hula for a snack bar before we journeyed on to our hotel room for a bite and a bit of rest.

We walked to The Jazz Bar after our rest. It’s a small, basement bar where Taylor spent many evenings this past year. When I asked Taylor how often she’d been to the Jazz Bar she laughed and dismissively admitted, “Oh, more times than I can count.” I was shocked to find the venue packed at 3:00 in the afternoon, and the average age of the crowd was older than I expected, but then again the talented trio playing was of a similar age. We eventually got a table and spent over three hours talking and drinking as we listened to the music. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

The jazz trio gave way to a solo pianist and the crowd remained large though there was a constant coming and going. There were a lot of people avidly listening to the jazz, and I was surprised to see a number of people there by themselves sitting transfixed by the music. At one point, Taylor, Wendy and I were in a wonderful  and intense conversation that clearly annoyed an elderly old Scot sitting and a nearby table (I tend to be a loud talker, sorry). He turned while I was talking and chewed me out in his thick Scottish accent basically telling me to shut up and listen to the music. We all kind of laughed and chose to speak in quieter tones, but we were all a bit taken aback. “It’s a bar, not a concert hall,” Wendy grumbled.

It was about 6:30 by the time we left and we walked to Pizza Express. We had eaten there a couple of nights before and both Wendy and I loved it. Earlier in the week Taylor told us that two of her friends from high school were flying into Edinburgh for a week of sightseeing in Scotland, and wanted to see her. We were excited at the opportunity to visit with both Jon De Haan and Gabe Spencer. Jon had been a regular visitor to our home back when they were in high school and Taylor had gone to prom with Gabe one year. The lads had flown in earlier that day and agreed to meet us at Pizza Express for dinner. They were a bit jet lagged but arrived on time and we had a wonderful meal together, catching up on their lives since leaving Pella.

One of the items on my Scottish bucket list was a whiskey tasting, but I had to admit that I’d not looked forward to experiencing it on my own. I knew that neither Wendy nor Taylor would want to join me. Taylor had scheduled an appointment with Wendy for British high tea on Sunday afternoon and so I thought it fortuitous that Jon and Gabe had arrived just in time to save me from a lonely afternoon of Scotch sampling. I had simply uttered, “So, I was thinking about doing a whiskey tasting tomorrow…” when the lads cut in with an enthusiastic “Yes!” in unison. The date was set.

We figured the kids would want some time to themselves after dinner. Taylor cajoled a passer-by to take a group photo outside the restaurant and then they headed for The Queen’s Arms Pub. Wendy and I headed back to the hotel where we relaxed with a movie, did a little reading, and drifted off to sleep.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5

I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

The weather on this Friday morning was predicted to be better than usual, so we chose it to hike up Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is a prominent hill in Holyrood (translated “Holy Cross” park that was a fortress in ancient times. The summit provides a breathtaking 360 degree view of Edinburgh, the North Sea and the surrounding region.

Taylor arrived at our hotel about 8:30. We hiked a few blocks to Elephant House, a coffee shop now famous for being the place J.K. Rowling sat and wrote Harry Potter. Taylor told us we had to visit the loo while we were there. The bathrooms were scrawled with Harry Potter graffiti (I regret now that I did not take a picture).  We grabbed the bus to Holyrood park. When Wendy saw what we were climbing she had a small heart attack. From the east there is a   smooth incline to the summit, but on the west, the direction from which we approached, there is a long, winding stone stair. It took us about 30-35 minutes to make the climb with a few brief stops to catch breath and look around. The summit was very windy and a bit chilly, but the view was incredible and we took plenty of time for photos and to enjoy the view.

We descended along the eastern slope and found ourselves in the picturesque, ancient village of Dudingston with a gorgeous little church that has been there since the 1200s. There is a pub here, the Sheep’s Heid that claims to be the oldest establishment in Scotland, dating from the 1300s. We had intended to pop in for a pint but they didn’t open until 11:30 and we didn’t feel like sitting around for an hour.

Taylor checked the bus schedule and figured in the 20 minutes we would wait for the next bus we could hike most of the way back. We trekked back towards the city on a road that wound around the bottom of Arthur’s Seat. It was a good couple of miles before we got to the buss top back to the hotel. Wendy’s Up Band said that we walked 9.2 miles that day!

At the hotel we freshened up and headed back out for a bite of lunch. Along the way we learned about the small triangle shopped city block that houses strip clubs known to locals as the “pubic triangle.” Taylor also took us into one of her favorite little used book stores. It was a hole in the wall labyrinth with books shelved from floor to tall ceiling. We really enjoyed looking around and could have spent a lot more time there if we weren’t so hungry. Taylor took us to the Red Squirrel, a nice little pub a mile or so from the hotel. We had traditional pub fare served on thick, cutting board type planks, and enjoyed our on-going conversation.

After lunch we walked to St. John’s Church, an old Scottish Episcopal church that felt more like a Catholic cathedral. Taylor said that she would often come to this church for quiet, prayer and meditation. There is a cafe in the lower level that emptied out into a beautiful garden and cemetery. She said that she was at the cafe this past year when she got my message that Grandpa Dean was diagnosed with cancer and she immediately walked up to the sanctuary to light a candle for him and to pray. I’m glad she was there when she heard the news. We walked around the gorgeous sanctuary and enjoyed a nice chat with an older woman who was one of the volunteer guides. We then took a stroll through the ancient cemetery.

Taylor had an appointment with her advisor that afternoon, so we gave Taylor a hug and she headed back to her flat. Wendy and I strolled back to Grassmarket via King’s Stable Row which winds around the base of Edinburgh Castle. We spent a few quiet hours in the hotel watching the French Open and relaxing.

We headed to the Royal Mile in the late afternoon to do souvenier shopping. The sun came out while we were doing so and it became a lovely afternoon. It took a while to gather everything and then we headed back to Grassmarket, strolling down the long row of pubs and restaurants to get a feel for where we’d like to eat that evening. Taylor was having dinner with her flatmates so Wendy and I were on our own. We went to Maggie Dickinson’s Pub, named for a famous (or infamous) survivor of public execution,  and got a table in the back where we could eat and watch Andy Murray and Novak Djokovich in the French Open semi-final. Wendy ordered fish n chips and got an absolutely huge filet. I had a burger and, of course, a pint.

It was Friday evening and you could tell that the weekend crowd had begun. The pubs were brimming with people from all over. There were a number of large groups of very loud young men who had already had too much to drink. Taylor told us that Edinburgh is a favorite destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties and we saw a number of these. The bride or groom to be are generally dressed up in silly costumes so they are easy to spot.

We wandered down to the White Hart Inn Pub after dinner to have another pint and watch what was left of the tennis match, which got called for rain. We then headed back to the hotel and got to bed early.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2

Over the next week I will be publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place this past week, June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

Days 1-2

Wendy and I left Iowa on a gorgeous, cool, early summer afternoon. We flew United out of  Des Moines to Chicago O’Hare at 2:20 p.m. Had a 2.5 hour layover in Chicago before boarding a United 757-200 for our 6:00 p.m. flight to Edinburgh. We were in the next to last row of seats but thanks to a snafu there was no third traveler in our row so we were able to spread out a bit!

We both watched movies on the way over. Wendy watched “Still Alice” and I watched “Fury.” We tried to get some sleep but were largely unsuccessful. The result was that we landed in Edinburgh and our bodies were experiencing 12:30 a.m. ready for sleep but it was 7:30 a.m. in Edinburgh and we had a full day ahead. Hoo-boy! Here we go.

It was rainy, very windy and chilly when we arrived. The airline pilot in his final comments at descent said, “If you are golfing today I hope your tee time is in the late afternoon. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very windy round!”

Wendy and I collected our luggage and took turns cleaning up a bit in the airport loo. Per the excellent, detailed instructions Taylor sent us, we grabbed a tram from the airport to St. Andrews Square. Taylor texted that she might not beat us there and to hang out in the square to wait for her. It was very windy and chilly so we took up standing behind the square’s small cafe building for a wind break. It was only a couple of minutes before we spotted Taylor running towards us. Big hugs all around. It was so good to be hugging her.

We made a generous, up-hill hike towards our hotel. We stopped at the bus terminal to get a week “ride card” but there was a long line and the computers crashed, so we opted to stop later. We walked up castle hill against the wind pulling our suitcases. It was the best workout we’d had in a long time! Dropped our suitcases off at Apex City Hotel. The hotel is on Grassmarket, an old street at the base Edinburgh Castle known for being the site where people were executed. It’s not a gorgeous street lined with pubs and restaurants. Once our bags were dropped off for safekeeping we ventured out into Edinburgh for the first time.

We were both extremely impressed with Taylor’s knowledge of the city. She was an amazing guide and seemed to know every shortcut and back alley in the city. She said that most of her friends from Edinburgh laugh at her as she knows the city better than they do. Later in the week Wendy, Taylor and I were musing about the way we travel. I tend to be given to simple exploration rather than lots of detailed preparation. Taylor said that was how she learned the city. For weeks she simply walked, and walked, and walked everywhere and explored every nook and cranny. She obviously found a lot of cool things.

Our first unexpected stop was Armstrong’s, a vintage clothing store just down the street from our Hotel. It was like a crazy, huge costume shop filled with all sorts of historic and vintage clothing from different periods. We were stunned by all that they had and had a lot of fun exploring the shop.

Our next stop was a hike through Greyfriar’s graveyard. Taylor at first was going to walk past it, and then remembered that a couple of the graves in Greyfriar’s were how J.K. Rowling named a few characters in the Harry Potter books. We went looking for them and didn’t find them, but we enjoyed walking through the graveyard. It was so interesting to look at the different gravestones. At the top of the hill outside Greyfriar’s is a statue of a small dog known as Greyfriar’s Bobby. The story goes that the dog guarded the grave of his master for 14 years until his death and the locals would feed and care for him. His statue is a popular tourist attraction now.

We walked some more and Taylor led us to Dovecot Studios which is an old bathhouse now home to one of the world’s foremost tapestry studios. Master weavers at Dovecot team with the world’s leading contemporary artists to design and make some really amazing tapestries. We started by going through the gallery and then took a break for a cup of coffee in the coffee shop. By the time we were done the observation gallery was open and we were able to walk around on a balcony that surrounds the weavers’ studio and watch them work. It was fascinating. I’ve never really considered weaving tapestries as an art medium. Shame on me. I could have sat and watched them all day.

The sun was making intermittent appearances as we made our way to the Royal Mile. I needed to exchange some currency so the Bank of Scotland referred me to an exchange on the Mile. We found it and then decided it was time for lunch. Taylor led us to a pub just off the mile called Arcade Bar, Haggis, and Whiskey House. It was a lovely little pub. Taylor and Wendy had fish n’ chips. I opted for lighter fare and had a cup of cream of garlic soup. I was SO excited to find they had Amstel Light on tap. Amstel is one of my favorite beers and you can’t find it on tap anywhere in the U.S.

Wendy and I were starting to fade and needed a little break, so we headed back to the hotel to check-in. It is a nice boutique hotel and our room was very comfortable. Wendy found the French Open tennis tournament on the telly and the three of us curled up on the king sized bed for a cat nap. Taylor introduced us to an Irish comedian on YouTube which we really enjoyed.

It was enough of a rest to give us a second wind. We headed back out to visit the Camera Obscura museum which was more fun that I thought it would be. At the top of the museum is an antique camera obscura. Mirrors and lenses mounted on top of the tower project an image of the city onto a concave table many feet below. The operator can rotate the mirror/lenses which rotates the image on the table and you get a 360 degree view of Edinburgh. Each floor from the street to the tower is filled with different optical illusions, camera tricks, and hands-on exhibits which were a blast to experience.

It was late afternoon and both Wendy and I were feeling a bit zombie-like. We stopped at the White Hart pub across from our hotel and enjoyed a pint while we sat at the bar together. It was so good just to be with Taylor and to have conversation with her. We nursed our pints as we talked. It was 7:30 p.m. and Wendy and I had essentially been up and going without sleep for about 30 hours. We hugged Taylor good-night, staggered into our hotel room, and slept for 12+ hours.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7