May 27, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend in Seattle

Memorial Day Weekend in Seattle
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 27, 2019

The boys were home for college and we had some time before their summer jobs kicked into full force, so we thought it would be fun to take a family vacation to Seattle, Washington for Memorial Day Weekend.

We stayed in an incredibly cool hotel called the Edgewater.  It's actually built on a pier so our room directly overlooked the water. 

We didn't know what to expect looking out the window each day, but were definitely caught off guard when we saw a massive cruise-ship out there one morning.  If somebody would have slammed on the gas, they would have taken us out in a heartbeat.

We did a lot of exploring in the city.  We stumbled upon this famous alley where tons of people stick their gum on the wall for some reason.  It seemed kind of gross to me, but we still took a bunch of pictures there anyways.

We love going to see aquariums whenever we go to a new city and were quite impressed with the Seattle Aquarium.   The Underwater Dome was especially impressive and we enjoyed watching the fish inside being fed by a friendly diver.  At least he seemed friendly,  he could have been faking.

The octopus on display was very cool although I must admit I did feel a little guilty when we were eating calamari later in the trip.

We walked up and down the waterfront multiple times during our stay.  We thought the Ferris Wheel looked interesting, but never participated in a ride on it.  We probably should have done that.

We spent a lot of time taking harbor cruises and ferry rides mainly so we could get pictures of the city from the water.  We also spent a lot of our time on land taking pictures out into the water.  As a matter of fact, we actually spent way too much of our time taking pictures rather than just taking in the scenery with our own eyes and just enjoying the moment.  We really gotta work on that. 

Miss Sheri is not a huge fan of my sunglasses, but at times like these I think they are just super.

We didn't see nearly as many harbor seals or sea lions as I would have liked, but we definitely saw some.  The tour guide told us only male sea lions come to this part of the ocean so they can feed on salmon and bulk up to go back to their regular spot to meet the ladies.   So Seattle is kind of like a bachelor party for the sea lions and I'd like to party with these fellas.

Seattle does a ton of shipping back and forth to Canada and Alaska, so there are massive container ships everywhere.  They're fun to watch get loaded.

On our second day, we took a 12 hour whale watching tour which took us into Canadian waters near Victoria and San Juan Island.

It was amazing to see how many people lived on the islands we passed by with ferries bringing cars and people all over the place.  Some of these people seem pretty isolated, but I imagine they love where they are living.  It's so beautiful.

Eventually we found what we came to see when we encountered a mama humpback whale and her baby.  It was incredible watching them play around at the surface and seeing them dive deep to feed with little flips of their tails rising above the surface as if they were saying so long.  We just love going out to see these incredible creatures.

We were really hoping to see orcas , but since they are wild animals the guides have zero control of what we will see.  Spending an hour or so with the humpbacks was well worth the trip.

We came across a little island full of sea lions that looked a little surprised to see us.  Probably not as surprised as they would have been had we been a boat full of killer whales, but definitely a feeling of being shocked all the same.

Soon enough, we were back on the boat for the long ride home with another fun day under our belts.

On our third day, we ate lunch at Taqueria Cantina.  We were very pleased with the food and service, but were especially thrilled at the end of the meal when our waitress gave us some felt tipped markers and told us to feel free to write something on the walls.  I swear we wrote poetry that day.  You'll just have to go there to read it.

The Space Needle was our next stop and we all overcame our fear of heights as well as glass walls and floors to sit and take some photos in front of the city of Seattle.

Unfortunately it can get a bit slippery up there, so our day was nearly cut short until Miss Sheri was kind enough to reach out and save me from a perilous tumble.

We eventually found our way to dinner at Ohana.  Avery was quick to remind us all that Ohana means family and family means that no one gets left behind.  I thought that was the nicest thing anyone had said to me in quite awhile.  Normally, I think they're all looking for opportunities to leave me behind.

On Saturday, we ate at Planet Java Diner.  The food was great and the various clocks were nice as well.

We went to Pioneer Square to do one of Bill Speidel's Underground Tours.  It took us underneath a variety of buildings to learn the history of Seattle and how it was re-built after a massive fire that devastated the city back in the early 20th century.  It was a fun way to learn how everything was built as well as what a crazy place it used to be around here back in the old days.

Our final stop was Chihuly Garden & Glass where we learned about an artist named Dale Chihuly and how he really likes to blow glass.   He's done a ton of exhibits and we had the opportunity to go and look at a bunch of them.  Pretty colorful stuff. 

May 19, 2019

Not Today

Not Today
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 19, 2019

We've had an extremely busy week so not many fun pictures from the Swank household today unfortunately.  I have friends who make fun of me when I post pictures from the dogpark because they know I'm reaching for content for my blog.  I don't get it.  How could people not love seeing me and my beautiful dog Blue in various poses at the dog park?  I think each and every one of them are fascinating.

Both of our boys are officially home from college and settled back into their lives at home.  Now they won't leave their rooms until it's time to go back to school in August.

Of course I'm kidding.  We do take the occasional stroll across the street to the lake to take the dog swimming.  These pictures are also always amazing.

Luke's NBA dreams are still in full effect.  He has a ways to go talent wise, but I think his passion is definitely strong.

I'm still blown away every time I see a new kind of bird at the feeder that sits just beyond my desk where I work all day.  When I did a search for this guy, the description I get says he's an American Goldfinch.  The only problem is I swear I heard him have a slight British accent, so who knows.

The only sad thing at our house this week was one of our albino squirrels has discovered the hummingbird feeder.  He's become obsessed with it as we have witnessed him attacking it multiple times.  He's torn-off the yellow flower and ravenously sucks out the sugar water inside with a violent fervor.  Does anyone know if Alcoholics Anonymous accepts albino squirrels?

May 12, 2019

Happy Mothers Day 2019

Happy Mothers Day 2019
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 12, 2019

The week started with a visit to Grillfest 2019 in St. Paul.  We all loaded up our bags with goodies while walking around testing various grill treats from local restaurants and beers from local breweries.  A very nice way to spend a Sunday.

There was a wide variety of meat on the menu.  For some reason, it's hard for me to eat things that still seem like they have the ability to look back at me.  I'm just weird like that.

 We had this month's Prior Lake Empty Nester Get Together at Harry's in Lakeville.  Not as many people showed up as last month, but we still had a bunch of fun.

We went to the Dakota Curling club in Lakeville where we had the chance to play some goofy game involving flicking little discs into one another.  It got pretty competitive, but I was glad when it was over because my flicking finger started feeling a little sore.

We spent the weekend at the farm seeing Miss Sheri's mom for the holiday.  The heavy rains this Spring has caused planting to be delayed, so we walked the empty fields for awhile.  Hopefully it dries up a bit so the farmers can get in their crops.  

We didn't stay for long, but it was nice to get the chance to spend Mother's Day with Grandma Leona.  Even if she does have the tendency to blink while I'm trying to take a picture.

On the drive home, we saw a herd of deer with somewhere between seven and ten of them just standing on the side of the road getting a drink of water from the ditch.  They spook so easily so I was only able to snap this one shot before they all scattered back into the woods.  Neat seeing them for a minute, though.

We saw a lot of different critters this week.  I remember a time in my life not so long ago that I'd never seen a wild turkey before.  Now the dang things are everywhere.

The turtles are out in full force every time the sun comes out for a spell.  They like to get turtle tans.

This guy stopped by to say Happy Mothers Day today.  We hope all you awesome moms out there had a marvelous day!

May 5, 2019

Kentucky Derby Day at Canterbury Park

Kentucky Derby Day at Canterbury Park
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 5, 2019

We were lucky enough this week to see two albino squirrels at the same time in our backyard.  We always wonder if we're seeing the same ones, but supposedly the average lifespan of a squirrel in the wild is only 11-12 months and we've been seeing these critters for years.  Must be something in the water.

We've always assumed these creatures were good spirits, but after seeing this photo I'm not so sure.  This guy looks like he could be a little evil.  And do those hands look identical to mine?  It's kind of creeping me out a bit.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a bald eagle nest near my neighborhood so Miss Sheri and I took a hike out there to see if they were still around.  They were!  One of the eagles was still in the nest, but it was tough to get a clear shot of that one.  This guy was about 20 yards away keeping lookout.  Hopefully, we'll be able to get a shot of the babies one of these days.

On Friday night, we went out to dinner with our old buddies, Jeff and Cathy.  We had a lot of laughs and a really nice time together.

Saturday brought us to Canterbury Downs to watch the Kentucky Derby.

In years past, they've only shown the Derby on a simulcast, but this year they also had a day full of live racing as well which made it a bunch of fun to attend.

The derby fashion show was quite impressive this year.  We saw so many people who really pulled out all the stops to dress up for the occasion.  One of these years I gotta get a hat like this.

We were there with the Wingness, Bailey and Hornbuckle clans.  We always have a great time with these people!

Victoria is getting so big.  It's really fun to see her and her mother Maddison playing together.

Between races, we were entertained by one of our favorite local bands, Boogie Wonderland.  They're awesome.

This is Vern.  This was only his second day with the band.  I told him he looks like a cross between Prince and Rick James.  He told me he gets that a lot. 

The Kentucky Derby race happened and it ended with a bunch of controversy.  The supposed winner, Maximum Security, was disqualified and the second place finisher, Country House, was eventually declared the victor.  Considering Country House was a 65-1 long-shot, it also meant that nobody we were with won any money which quickly brought the good times to an end.  So we left.

We went out to El Loro for some Mexican Food.  It was a bunch of fun until the ladies suddenly pulled out fake mustaches and insisted we all treat them like they were men for the rest of the evening.  Things just got kind of weird after that happened.