May 24th – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


Another month is quickly slipping by. It’s been a better month for sure. Mothers’ day brought great comfort, with phone calls or chats with all of my children, and gifts from my step-children left at the door, with a distancing visit.

The box of paints, brushes and a canvas were meant to prompt me to try something new. I took that challenge and found an online Paint Workshop that was suggested. I didn’t join it live because the time wasn’t convenient, but I did it on my own time the next day. It turned out that was good, because I struggled at first with mixing enough paint to do big sections, in different shades of blue, but I persevered. Unlike using watercolours (which I’d tried many years ago) my mistakes could be painted over and corrected. Well, most of them, until I ran out of the very important white paint required for mixing. Then I had to improvise. The two-hour class took me most of the day to finish this one painting. But, in the end I felt  good to have completed it, and it didn’t look too bad for an amateur. I enjoyed the challenge and hope to get some more canvas to try another one, sometime.

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Another gift was a jar of sourdough starter. It brought back memories of the delicious and light sourdough muffins that I used to make. The recipe made big batches and, because the starter had to be divided up with some to feed a new starter and the rest to be used in baking, once a week (actually it seems to me it was more often) my freezer was full of frozen muffins of a variety of flavours. My son told me years later how he used to often sneak down to the freezer to grab one or two and eat them frozen. I didn’t even notice the missing ones. I had to wait a week until it was time to feed the starter before I could use some of it, but I kept those muffins in mind.

I had several days when baking was my outlet, creating another (better) lemon meringue pie and chocolate/peanut butter squares one day.

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Another day I recruited Jim to help me make a big batch of perogies, one of my favourite quick from the freezer meals, but that I’d never made myself before. They were a lot of work, and took a long time, but we worked well together.

 

When the day came to feed the sourdough I was having a major pain day, which usually causes some brain fade. That day was no exception. For one thing, the new way of measuring ingredients is by weight instead of volume. Fortunately we have a scale that we used for weighing packages when doing product shipping for our online businesses, but I had to learn the trick for adding multiply ingredients. Then I put the water in before the flour, which made mixing more difficult. I doubted that it was going to work, but the next day I saw that it had.

I made a batch of muffins, not the recipe I used to use. Seems I didn’t keep it, never expecting to be doing volume or sourdough baking again. They might have turned out good if I hadn’t been trying to do something else in the kitchen while they were baking. I somehow tuned out the sound of the timer and they got way over baked. Not burned, but rather dry. Disappointing.

Oh well, the sun came out the next day and the temperature climbed.

We had a few ukulele players over to our lawn to play some tunes one day, keeping our distance and staying no more than an hour. We limited the invitation to only five of us in total. It was a welcome change.

One Friday evening we ordered take out Fish and Chips from one of our local restaurants, a restaurant that had been closed completely for two months and just recently started doing order-ahead take outs. We invited another couple who lives in the building to join us at the twelve-foot table in the Common Room, each of us with our own orders, using our own plates and utensils, sitting at opposite ends of the table. It was nice to chat and get caught up, something we hadn’t been able to do since we’d been gone for six months.

I bought vegetable seeds and planted one of the three planter boxes that our Condo Board acquired so we could have a little community garden.

I’ve gotten used to grocery shopping. It seems to be the new normal for me now. More people are wearing masks, and so far there has been no news of CORONA-19 outbreaks in our small tri-town community. I have to admit that that might not necessarily be a good thing, only because it becomes too easy to forget that we still have to be diligent with our social distancing and mask wearing. I was shocked when, one day after I was introduced to the woman who agreed to rent us parking space for the motorhome, without thinking I reached out to shake her hand — and she reciprocated! That weighed on my mind for a long time. I sanitized my hands as soon as I got back into the car; I hoped that she did too. I didn’t sleep well that night, after that incident and after hearing the latest COVID case statistics. The curve was rising, or at least no longer falling in many places in Canada and around the world. I had another major pain day.

We sat in our car by a nearby beach and watched and listened to the peacefulness.

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This morning I woke up feeling optimistic and planning things I wanted to accomplish. It was to be another sunny day. But the first thing I saw when I opened my iPad was a message from someone who cares, warning me that “take out” food is dangerous unless we’d cooked it again at home for ten minutes at at  least 80 degrees. He’d seen Jim’s Facebook post about our sharing with neighbours. Then I opened a news app and saw huge crowds of people on beaches enjoying Memorial Day  in the US, and I thought “they are never going to get out of this virus if they continue like this.” When I opened an app with Canadian news I saw the same thing happening in a park in Toronto! There goes my optimism and respect for my fellow human beings.

At least the sun is still shining, today.

And the flowers are blooming in the beds.

And a mother robin has decided to build her nest in a corner of the building, on the ledge of our bedroom window! How beautiful is that?

PLEASE STAY SAFE! AND KEEP YOUR LOVED ONES SAFE TOO!

May 9th – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


The weather has been crazy; spring can’t decide if it’s going to stay or not. It’s as confused as we are.

Snow on the deck, May 8, 2020

Snow on the deck, May 8, 2020

 

I’ve been having trouble working through this lately. Maybe because I haven’t set any goals to complete projects, but that’s because the projects I have now are my own and they don’t have any urgency. There is always tomorrow, right? The calendar is blank. I’ve heard others make the same observation.

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Each day I wake up feeling a lingering sadness, even if I have something in mind that I might do that day. Today, I realized that, after nearly three months of avoiding close contact with people, then avoiding them altogether during self-quarantining on our way home from Arizona, and then continuing upon our return, and then becoming so conscious of the danger of not constantly washing my hands, or sanitizing them when out (wearing my mask) to do grocery shopping, this has become the new normal. As much as I long to sit down at a table with friends and family, to return to playing pickleball and ukulele in a group, I have trouble imagining being able to do those things again, without fear.

I’m one of the fortunate ones. I get to stay home where it’s safe. I don’t need to worry about losing my job or not being able to pay my bills if I don’t want to go to work in one of the dangerous environment out there, without adequate protection. I don’t need to feel obligated to risk my life to help save the lives of those who have been hit with the virus, although I shed many tears for those who are brave enough to do it.

And I do feel guilty about being so privileged. This is my new normal. Who knows if it will ever change?

Thank goodness for all the beautiful, and funny, video clips that are shared through the internet! They help to lift my spirits.

I’d love to hear from people around the world. How are you working through COVID-19?

Journaling Through COVID-19 – May 1st


Wow, I can’t believe it’s May 1st. I thought that I’d be writing and posting more frequently as I intended to Journal Through COVID-19, but although I’ve done nearly daily entries in my personal, hand-written journal, I’ve managed to find several projects to keep me busy with self-imposed deadlines, so my blogging got pushed to the back burner.

What have I been doing? Well, I first decided to try making a couple of face masks for Jim and me to use when we began venturing out to the grocery store and post office.

Jim's mask with ukulele chords on it!

Jim, of course, wanted one with ukulele chords on it!

Then I heard about a number of people making cotton face masks as requested by the local hospitals to be used for non-medical staff and patients being discharged. In exchange for some elastic that I had on hand and was no longer available in any stores that were open, a friend left me some of her extra fabric so I could make some too. I made twelve of them.

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But I was a little slow to the dance. By the time I had them finished, the hospitals declared they had received enough of them. They were now requiring some made with their own specific pattern, and special fabric that they would supply.

One hospital, however, wanted cotton surgical caps and clothing bags made, as well as crochet “mask buddies” – five inch pieces with buttons on each end that the elastic of the masks could be fastened to, relieving the pressure on the tops of the ears after a long day of wear. I had no fabric left, but I had plenty of yarn.  I started making the mask buddies. I was short of buttons, but a shout out to people in my community produced an abundance. I delivered the first batch of twenty-one within a few days. Yesterday, I dropped off another batch of 30.

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I gave a few of the masks to friends before a notice on one of my Facebook pages brought interest from a friend who works at the local prison. She was happy to receive the eight that I had left, and I felt good that I could help her out.

In the meantime my Book Club has had a couple of online meetings, and I joined a meeting of a Writing Club, also online for now. It was great to make some connections with people, and get some feedback on some of my writing.

A week ago we ventured to Peterborough to stock up on supplies from Costco, so that I wouldn’t need to go into the small grocery stores so often. I know, it’s better to support local businesses, especially during these hard times, but I was finding it just too stressful to safely navigate the narrow aisles while following the direction arrows and waiting my turn to enter. I always forgot or couldn’t find something I needed and was too anxious to have to go back through the maze again.

I was nervous about going to Costco too. I’d seen stories on the internet about the  long lines of people, many of whom gave no respect to social distancing, so I had no idea just what to expect.  We were fortunate to arrive at a time when there wasn’t much of a line. The carts were outside, and a fellow was spraying them all down, presumably with disinfectant, as they were returned, so we knew that the one we took was safe. Both of us were permitted to go in together. We put on our masks and were able to navigate the wide aisles quickly, giving anyone we encountered plenty of room. We were able to backtrack to find some things that were no longer where they were when we left in the fall.

The downside was the price of things, but I just got what I needed and left behind those items that I thought I could manage without for now, and ignored the cost. What else can you do when you don’t have much choice? The bill was far higher than I’d ever spent on food in one trip. But then, it’s been a very long time since I’ve had to make three meals a day, every day, for forty plus days in a row and counting! The extra help added to our Canada Pension cheque will make up the difference.

And the cost of gas is lower than it’s been in years too!

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We didn’t need to worry about bags, because Costco never has supplied them. We put everything back into the cart and transferred them to our own bags when we got to the car.

On the way home, we stopped at a local chicken farm that has a small store, where we bought chicken and fresh frozen vegetables. Except for some fresh produce that we’ll have to replenish soon, we are good for a few weeks.

I’ve not only been doing more cooking than I’ve done in years; I’ve also been baking more. I dug out an old cookbook that used to be my stand-by many years ago and I started creating some of my old favourites, and some new.

Lemon Pie

Made with a graham cracker crust because I didn’t have ingredients to make a crust! Used a lemon brought from Arizona tree.

Banana Bread made in Coffee mugs

Banana Bread made in coffee mugs, in fifteen minutes from start to eating! I added chocolate!

I thought we’d be putting on weight, but to our surprise, we’ve both lost those extra pounds we’d put on while eating too large portions in restaurants or at pot luck parties, or the chips that come with every sandwich in the restaurants, while in Arizona!

Last weekend Jim’s daughter asked if I could make a few surgical caps for her daughter’s nursing team at the hospital. She brought me some fabric and I found a bit more. I completed and delivered four to her yesterday. I still have two more cut and ready to put together.

Now I’m anxious to get back to writing, reading and perhaps add some more photographs to my stock portfolio.

It’s amazing how much you can find to do, if you just turn off the depressing news and get creative.

Hope you are all staying well and finding positive ways to get through this crisis.

April 6, 2020 – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic 


I began a much longer post yesterday, a walk down memory lane, my trip to Europe in 1972. But it was a much bigger project than I’d realized, because I had nothing of the trip computerized. I needed to scan photos and post cards and read through the Itinerary to jog my memory. I’m still working on it, but for now I thought I’d share my experiences and emotions from this morning.

I woke up with a feeling of dread. When I looked at my iPad to get a synopsis of what the latest news was, I couldn’t contain my tears. It all was awful. What broke me most were the articles about how manufacturers of the medical equipment that all countries need so desperately, are inflating the prices to 700, or 800 or 900 percent above the normal price, making it so difficult for hospitals and the smaller health care centres such as Long Term Care Homes, to get them, And then there are the stories of people praying on the elderly by offering to buy groceries and then absconding with the money; or offering to clean their homes with them out of them, and stealing from them. What has happened to humanity?

I dried my tears and went to the kitchen to make some breakfast. Although I wasn’t really hungry, I knew I had to eat. The fridge was nearly empty. I made toast from the last two pieces of bread, and made coffee. One thing we do still have is plenty of grapefruit, so I cut up one of those. I knew I had to go shopping.

Jim thought I should just order it again, but I wanted to be brave and not let the paranoia I was feeling control my life. I also didn’t feel it was fair to put extra burden on the stores and volunteers that are generously delivering for free. Despite my age, I’m healthy. I have a good immune system. And I wanted to keep it that way with some fresh air and exercise. So I made my list and gathered my little wagon and reusable shopping bags. I had a mask I’d made from a kerchief, and disposable gloves and hand sanitizer in my pockets. I didn’t take my phone to avoid it being exposed to anything. I took only the one card that I needed to pay for my purchases. I didn’t expect Jim to go into the store with me. He wore his gloves and went into the Post Office to pick up our mail and then waited outside for me.

When I got to the store, the parking lot was full and I almost turned back. Then I realized that many of the cars parked there were probably the ones that had usually been parked beside the old Community Centre next door. Whether they belonged to tenants somewhere, or the owners of the few businesses that were open, I don’t know, but the Community Centre had recently been torn down and Contractors were working within high fencing, cleaning up the remnants.

I took my mask and gloves out of my pockets and put them on before walking up the ramp to the store entrance. A staff member came to the door and told me that I couldn’t take my wagon or bags in with me.

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I hesitated, disappointed. I felt that there was far less chance of there being any virus on my own cart and bags that had been with us in our own space for three weeks, than there was with the store carts and bags. But I couldn’t argue, under the circumstances. I took the cart and made sure she’d wiped the handle.

By now I could feel myself quivering. There weren’t very many people in the store. Some shoppers wore masks and most of them were very conscious about keeping a distance. Perhaps they were more concerned about me because of the heavy mask and gloves I was wearing. I got very warm and for a moment I thought I might faint, but removing my jacket helped. As I made my way around the store looking for the things on my list I was having trouble seeing clearly. I thought maybe my glasses were fogging up from my breathing through the mask. My quivering continued and I cursed in my head, thinking how terrible it is to be so fearful of doing grocery shopping.

At last I was finished, and through the checkout.

“Isn’t this fun?” I said to the cashier, who was one more time sanitizing the gloves she wore, behind a sheet of Plexiglas.

“I’ve had about enough of it,” she said and I agreed. “Thank you,”  we both replied.

I took off my disposable gloves and handed them to the girl at the door, who said she’d dispose of them. She was wearing gloves too. I was glad to see that the wagon was still where I left it. I breathed a sigh of relief. When I walked out into the sunshine, I reached for my sunglasses and realized I’d had them on all the time! No wonder I was having trouble seeing!

I found Jim next door watching the construction crew, of course. We walked home enjoying the sunshine.

At home I put my mask into the bathroom sink to wash. I carefully handled the groceries and bags,  putting them all away, always aware of what I was touching and wondering who else had touched them. I washed my hands many times.Oh crap! Did I remember to disinfect the counter where they sat? Nothing I used to make lunch touched that side. Is it too late?

Now we have enough food to last us for another couple of weeks. Who knows what things will be like when we need more?

I have no idea how the people who have been dealing with this daily as they do their jobs to provide health care and other essential services, have not lost their sanity. I weep some more for them.

Escaping the COVID-19 – The Full Story


On March 11, 2020 we were still in Arizona and had several things on our calendar for the next week. But disturbing glimpses of what could be coming were appearing in all our online news feeds. I wanted to pack up and head for home then. But we did seem to be isolated in our little community and I was convinced to hang on. In my head I prayed that they would all be cancelled.

That night we were in a crowded restaurant for the Sandwich Islands Ukulele Band final rehearsal for the upcoming Aloha Festival, but before we left we’d made up our minds that we wouldn’t attend the huge Festival that usually attracted thousands of visitors – my first sigh of relief. The next day our park management decided to cancel all large-group events, which included the Theme Day, in which our Mesa Regal Ukulele Band was supposed to play – my second sigh of relief. Some of our Canadian band members had already decided to head for home so wouldn’t be there to play anyway.

A Facebook comment from my son, who lives with his wife in Poland, told me to “pack up the RV and get out of there. You don’t want to be caught in a country that didn’t prepare for the threat of COVID-19 earlier.” He was speaking from firsthand knowledge. We decided to heed his advice, but it took us a few days to make it happen.

Since we wouldn’t be back anytime soon, we had a couple of big items to get rid of, like our car and patio furniture. It was probably risky, but I signed us up for the Patio Sales the next day (Saturday), and Jim put an ad online to sell the car. We were successful! While the sale was on we started packing things up. I had the inside of the motorhome mostly ready by that night, but Jim had to unload and reload outside bins in order to get everything he’d taken out, plus a few more new items, in. We weren’t ready to leave on Sunday. Jim wasn’t ready in time, so we accepted the offer of friends to go to their home, outside our park, for dinner. It was a nice evening of chatting, laughing and playing ukuleles, forgetting for just a while about the trouble brewing in the world. Small group gatherings were not yet frowned upon, but we were all conscious about frequent hand-washing.

Monday morning, March 16th, we managed to get the rest of our things into place, give our forwarding address to our Post Office, and check-out. But even that took a while as we stopped to say goodbye to our friends and neighbours along the street. No hugs, handshakes or kisses this time! Everyone was feeling the stress. There had already been 400 or more Canadians pull their rigs out during the last two days and more would follow us soon.

After a quick stop at the bank, we said goodbye to Mesa, possibly for good, and began our 2700 mile trip home. Our fridge, freezer and pantry were filled with food so we had no need to stop at restaurants or stores all the way home. When Jim had to get out to pump gas, or to hook up at a Camp Site, he wore disposable gloves. He had contact with no-one. In the six days it took us to get home, I left the motorhome only once, for about ten minutes to walk along a deserted path at one of the rest stops.

Jim with his gloves on

Jim with his gloves on waiting to pay for gas at the only full-service station we saw.

We put in long days after the first one, and covered hundreds of miles. Most days were uneventful. We listen to music and started an audio book, but found there was too much noise to hear it, even with an external speaker. Transports made up the bulk of traffic on the highways, roads were rough, and wind did blow.

Thursday morning was an exception. I was awakened by the sound of heavy rain on the roof and loud rumbling. I couldn’t decide whether it was thunder or just the roar of the many  trucks on the highway, until one big clap of thunder and the roar of wind got us both out of bed and dressed in a flash! The motorhome was rocking like we’d never felt before. We thought we were in the midst of a hurricane! We were in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so that was a good possibility. We were in a mostly empty Walmart parking lot, with no service of any sort, so I dug out the weather radio that we carried with us, but had seldom used in all of our years on the road. Relieved to learn that there were no Hurricane warnings in the area, but there was a flash flooding warning (2 inches of rain had already fallen and the drain ditch beside us was nearly full).  We decided to just try to relax and have some breakfast. The rain and wind stopped as quickly as it had begun. By the time we had eaten and secured everything inside again, it seemed safe to leave. It was only 8:15. We were both a little testy after that early morning scare. No flooding impeded our way, but we noticed spots where it probably had been up on the road. Fields were flooded. It rained off and on during the day, but Jim kept on pushing. A little nap after lunch revived him enough to keep going until 6:00 that evening. Needless to say, we were in bed and asleep early again that night.

Flooded Fields Close to Road

Flooded Fields Close to Road

We’d heard that the Canadian Border would be closed at midnight on Friday, to all visitors and anyone without a good reason to be crossing into Canada. It wasn’t looking good. On Friday morning Jim decided we should try to make it to the Detroit crossing instead of carrying on to Buffalo as earlier planned. We had 500 miles to go!

We hit the road at 7:45 a.m. We made short stops for gas and to have meals in our “home”.

While driving through Ohio, we passed these strange looking items being moved along the highway on flatbed transports. The first time we saw two different parts, which Jim determined were some parts of an airplane. One definitely looked like a wing. Hours later we passed another two. At first we thought they were the same ones we’d passed earlier, that they’d gotten ahead of us while we stopped to eat or gas up. But then we noticed that these parts were a little different. One looked like the opposite wing from the first one. Because of road construction at that part of the highway, which involved construction cones along the right hand shoulder, the entire convoy was blocking both lanes of traffic in order to accommodate the right side overhang. We patiently followed along and it wasn’t too long before the construction zone came to an end and the left passing lane was freed up once more.

We made it across the border without any problems at 6:00 pm! That Welcome to Canada sign brought us great relief and joy.

That night we shared parking with several other RVs and transport trucks at the first Onroute Travel Centre that we came to, near Windsor, Ontario, too tired to go another mile. It was noisy with all the traffic in and out, but surprisingly we did get some sleep.

We were up at five and on the road before the sun came up, so anxious to be in our home town, in our small condo. Traffic was light. We got through Toronto in record time and arrived home shortly after noon, to nearly empty streets and cold weather, but it never looked so good! Thanks to Jim’s daughter, we had food in our fridge and pantry that, along with what we had left over in the motorhome, should do us for a couple of weeks.

We’ve been in self-quarantine ever since. It’s been difficult – not wanting to watch the news, but needing to know. I’ve shed many tears, not for fear of us getting the virus, but for our families and friends all over the country and beyond; for the front-line workers everywhere who are risking their own lives to try to save many; for those who have lost loved ones, and those who are stranded in foreign countries where the epidemic is far worse than here; and for the stories that are emerging of the amazing people who are doing so many self-less things to help those who are suffering.

I’m grateful for the phone calls, texts, video chats from family and friends. We even had our Book Club meeting yesterday, by video!

It’s a time for reconnecting with people and appreciating what we have. Soon, tomorrow will be a better day. For now, stay inside, stay safe and keep in touch.

So Much to Do; So little Time! Scottsdale Indian Festival


It was a very busy month! Jim had his 80th birthday and on the day his daughters were flying in to surprise him, he decided we should go to Scottsdale to the parade and festival in the park – The Indian Festival! It was a lovely day, and I could give him no reason why we shouldn’t go. I just had to make sure that we didn’t stay too long.

I’m glad we went; I’m sorry that his daughters weren’t able to go with us. The parade was long, but one of the most interesting parades I’ve ever witnessed – colourful costumes representing the many tribes of Arizona; many school bands and cheerleaders; local representatives in various vehicles from the past and the present. And horses! Lots of horses! And dogs! I won’t tell you how many pictures I took, but I knew that I couldn’t capture it all in words, so I hope you like the shots I’ve chosen to share and take you along.

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It was well past lunch time when the parade came to an end and the streets were crowded. We finally found the restaurant we’d visited the last time we were in Scottsdale name but there was an hour wait! We settled on a bench and chatted with other patient customers until a table was at last cleared for us. We invited another couple to join us and during another half hour of waiting to be served, we shared stories of our life experiences.

It was 2:00 pm when we left the restaurant. Jim wanted to listen to the Mariachi Band that was playing on the street and check out other performers along the way back to the park, where there was a ring of vendors’ tents set up, and more entertainment along the walking paths. But I knew his daughters would soon be arriving at Mesa Regal, so I made an excuse why we had to get home.

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We were just getting into our car when I got the text that they’d arrived. They were happy to enjoy the sun while waiting for our return, and Jim’s annoyance with having to leave too soon vanished when he realized it was them, sitting on the couch when he walked into the RV.

A Trip to the Phoenix Zoo


Over the last seven years we’ve visited many, many places of interest within our local area, but there are still a few on our Bucket List. One was the Phoenix Zoo. On Saturday evening, we went. As you will see, it was a different kind of Zoo that we saw that night!

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There was a long line up at the gate when we arrived, just before 5:30 pm. We got into it and all the way to the entrance before we realized that, since we hadn’t purchased our tickets online as most people had, we had to go back to the ticket booth and then to the end of the line! Fortunately, it didn’t take too long, before we were following the crowd through the brightly lit canopy of lights, above a wooden bridge over a stream.

The lit-up giraffe was just a hint of things to come.

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An elephant on top of one of the many Food Stands on the grounds

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A few more on the Ground

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Take a look at more of these lighted, moulded animal sculptures in  this slide show. They are amazing!

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Some of them were animated, like this crocodile.

While most of the live animals were stabled for the night, we did see a few – a huge Porcupine that was hidden in the shadows and on the move too much to capture by camera, a few Reindeer and a few Camels.

And then there were the lights! Lots of lights around trees, and globes, reflecting in the pond, and forming outlines of more animals and bugs! Not as easy to capture, but here’s the best we could do with the equipment we had.

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After nearly two hours of wandering, we were tired and hungry. We made our way back to the Savannah Grill that we’d seen near the entrance. There we enjoyed the delicious Aldo burgers and fries, before walking back to the car. Needless to say, we were asleep early that night.