Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tampa Through My Lens #4: Concert Day

Welcome back to my "Tampa Through My Lens" series. You can find the first three posts here:

It's been a week, but I was waiting to see if anyone would upload video of the All State middle school chorus performances to YouTube. No luck yet! 

On Saturday morning, Dad and six of the brothers and sisters drove over in two cars. Finding the hotel and then finding parking can be super tricky, so I stayed on the phone guiding them in. It's a good thing I had gotten so familiar with the streets while walking around downtown the day before! I even walked over to the parking garage where my van was to see if there were any spots left - yes! They all made it in time before the concert started.

Performances were at the Marriott.

We ended up near the back of the room, so we couldn't see Naomi during the performance, but the singing was awesome! My favorite piece is Tshotsholoza, a South African folk song featured in the movie Invictus. 

Over 300 students in the
mixed chorus - and just as many
in the treble chorus which sang before that.
I went to both concerts, since Naomi's friend
was in the treble group.

Want to listen? I finally managed to get the audio from my iPod imported in to movie file and uploaded to both YouTube and Facebook.  You can hear it here:

They also sang "Hine Ma Tov" (Jewish folk song), "Afro-Celtic Diddle", "O Praise the Mighty Lord" (Handel sacred piece), "Until I Found the Lord" (African-American spiritual),"Traveling Home", and "Tell My Father" (Civil War ballad - Naomi's favorite, sung by the males in the choir).

Naomi with Dad and Mom after the concert

And all of the pictures with her brothers and sisters!

The Tampa skyline
from the roof of the parking garage
Several of us were planning to drive down to Sarasota to see the Ringling Museum of Art, but it took us forever to get out of the parking garage and then to find the Chick-Fil-A. When we finally stopped for lunch, we realized we were way too tired for the extra few hours of excursion. Good call, because I was fighting to stay alert enough to drive (thank you, caffeine), and was wiped when we got home. I plopped in bed a few minutes after I walked in the door, and was out for hours.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. I am so proud of Naomi and how hard she worked to get into All State!

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tampa Through My Lens #3: An Evening with Friends

Welcome to part 3 of my Tampa Through My Lens photo essays. This one? An evening with friends!

After the final rehearsal, we joined Naomi's friend and her mother outside their hotel and watched rowers on the river as the sun began to set.

Did you wonder about the odd picture at the top of this post? What is it? I think it is part of a palm root in a big pot on the hotel patio. Can you find it in the picture below?

Then we followed our friends to the restaurant they had picked out in Ybor City, a historic Cuban area of Tampa founded by Vicente Martinez-Ybor. I recalled that my husband's grandparents had first immigrated to Tampa from the Bahamas early in the last century, before they moved on to New York City, and I wonder if they were familiar with these neighborhoods back then. I'm certainly not, and I get nervous driving around when I don't know where I am. I'm really glad our friends knew the way and found parking for us.

Vicente Martinez-Ybor

The girls' new chorus teacher, Mrs. Egerson, met us for dinner at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, where I enjoyed a very juicy cheeseburger and cheddar potatoes. Great food and great friends!

All in all, a very lovely evening!

Virginia Knowles

The other posts in this Tampa Through My Lens series are:

Tampa Through My Lens #2: Solo Wanderings

Dear friends,

Welcome to part 2 of 4 from my Tampa Through My Lens series as I accompanied my 13 year old daughter to All State Chorus.

During Naomi's Friday morning rehearsal, I caught up on reading (mainly on my laptop Kindle app), but I had quite a different agenda for the afternoon rehearsal hours: wander around downtown Tampa all by myself. I loved every minute of it. There is just something about adventuring at whim!

First I walked several blocks back to the van to drop off my rolling cart. I didn't want to lug my computer and books around. Then I headed over to the Tampa Museum of Art just down the street, stopping to take pictures of whatever caught my fancy along the way. Flowers. Glass panels (see top photo). Mirrored walls.

Here we are! I had been checking out the web site for a while and knew that the admission had been reduced to $5. I decided to go to see if it was worth bringing Naomi and her friend and friend's mother back in the evening.

Photography is not allowed on the second floor of the museum, so I was limited to taking pictures of the pebble floor inset and an ancient sculpture.

I have to say I was disappointed with the museum as only three smallish galleries were open. The classical antiquities room was somewhat interesting, and I liked a few art pieces in the Land and Sea exhibit (so gratifying to recognize Grant Wood's style when I saw one sketch), but not much else caught my eye. I find that I really don't prefer abstract art, so the modernist art exhibit did nothing for me. They had just removed an Impressionist exhibit, which I know I would have enjoyed. I decided not to come back in the evening.

Outside the museum, I enjoyed some of God's creativity. He makes masterpieces every moment!

Then, I turned around, and what to my wondering eyes did appear but the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts! I was immediately drawn in to this impressive building.

The architecture is stunning, don't you think? I took these photos from the inside, some from the second floor, some from the first. The huge round windows held my gaze.

This museum filled me up. I wish I could show you some of the photography.  As with the art museum, there were really only three exhibits, but these... Oh my. I've told you I like realism and architecture and nature. I was in for a treat. Ezra Stoller (1915-2004) photographed mid-century modern architecture. I immediately recognized photos of Frank Lloyd Wright designs. Even his photos of office buildings were stunning, and I got a kick out of seeing vintage cars from the 1940s. Then, one floor up, I explored Elger Esser's Combray exhibit. This contemporary German artist specializes in heliograveure photography of rural French landscape and vintage buildings. He prints the photos in black and white on huge sheets of unframed hand-crafted paper. Both of these exhibits were inspiring for me as an aspiring, though amateur, photographer!

Though I had already been taking pictures of buildings in Tampa, I decided to try my hand at more.

I looked out an upper floor window to the outside of the building and saw this unusual roof made of glass with flowing water.

Then I found the same roof (now ceiling) from below.

This is the adjacent building shot upwards through the water ceiling.

And this is from the connecting building, looking back outside at a fountain in this same glass-water-ceiling installation. I always like to get a variety of perspectives.

This is the Rivergate Tower, which is connected to the building with the photography museum. I just love the curve of brown and pattern of windows against the blue sky.

Inside the lobby, splashes of red and sunlight. So classy.

After all that visual feasting, I had a more practical job to do. I needed to walk several blocks to the convention center to pick up tickets to the concert and an All State t-shirt. On the way, I met this street evangelist, who introduced himself as Evan. He was very pleasant, holding his sign, smiling a lot, enjoying Christian music, and not preaching out loud.

Then, back to the rehearsal hotel! I couldn't help but notice more building, more reflections, even in the car windows.

I cannot even imagine the planning and work that went into constructing these amazing skyscrapers. I admit I am a bit awestruck with the architecture I've seen.

I had a delightful day of solo wanderings. Stay tuned for part 3 (an evening with friends) and part 4 (concert day)!

See my other posts in this Tampa Through My Lens series:

Tampa Through My Lens #1: Alive on Arrival

My sweet daughter Naomi worked so hard studying and practicing for All State Chorus tests and auditions last fall, and it paid off! She and two other students from her middle school made it in! On Thursday morning, we drove to Tampa for two days of rehearsals and a concert on the third day.

We got to the convention center, where we were to meet her teacher to register, a half hour early. Unfortunately, we couldn't find parking near there, so I dropped her off to go inside and meet her friends at the top of the escalator, and then drove around by myself.  We agreed to meet at the hotel where the rehearsals would take place, and fortunately I was able to find a parking spot only a few blocks from there.

We ate our lunch in the courtyard of the Hilton Hotel. Beautiful! Of course, I couldn't resist photographing so many of the pretty things I saw - light, shadow, reflection, texture.

After lunch, they had their first rehearsal for three hours. I sat in the lobby, read books, and rested. I managed to misplace my phone, but fortunately someone had turned it in at the security desk. I also lost my old red umbrella, but that was no big deal.

After rehearsal, we walked to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. Yum! Then they went back for another two hour rehearsal. I appreciated the solitude for more time to read, and also had a lovely conversation with one of the other chorus moms in the lobby.

We had to drive part way across town to get to the more affordable hotel where we were staying, and I was sure tired! What a satisfying day! I enjoy a great adventure and try to be mindful in the moment.  I want to be fully "alive in arrival" wherever I go.

Stay tuned! I wandered around downtown by myself most of the afternoon on Friday and I've got lots more photos for my next post!

Oh, here you go!
Carpe diem!

Virginia Knowles

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Family and Blog Recaps

Hello friends!

I'm back for my 2014 family and blog recap! You can see last year's edition here: 2013 Family & Blog Recaps.

This year, I'd like to start with some key events, and then I'll share about each of my family members.  We've had a lot of tough challenges in life as always, and I'm sure you can understand that, with the exception of a few items, these are the more positive highlights of our year. :-)

My maternal grandmother passed away in January at the age of 99. She was an amazing lady and is sorely missed. I wrote a tribute to her here: Sweet Grandma, Dorothy Ransom Hess (In Memoriam).

In March, we took a day trip to Melbourne for a Beach Reunion with Thad's side of the family.

In May, our family had a lovely Mother's Day Picnic in the Park. You can see all of the pictures at the link above, but this is the main one that had everyone in it:

At the end of June and on into mid July, I took the four youngest kids on a long road trip to visit relatives in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. The biggest event was the Hess Family Reunion in Pennsylvania. 

That same day, at the cemetery where our earlier Hess ancestors are buried, we had a very meaningful ash scattering memorial service for my Grandpa and Grandpa Hess and for my mother. (My grandparents had thoughtfully planned ahead of time to delay their memorials until after both had passed and family members could travel for a summer reunion.) You can see my whole photographic vacation blog series here: Road Trip 2014

A tribute to my mom
While the rest of us were gone, Thad and Andrew did a beautiful job of painting our house yellow.

In November, of my children Lydia, Andrew, and Naomi participated as actors in a tableau vivant of “The Spell” painting at Creative City Orlando, under the artistic direction of Thad's cousin Deborah Knispel. You can see the pictures here: My Kids in "The Spell" Tableau Vivant at Creative City.

The day before Thanksgiving, my father Phil Quarrier married Aneliese Weber, who is very sweet. We had the pleasure of meeting her in September, as you can read here: A Visit with Dad and Anny. I wasn't able to attend the wedding due to short notice and the difficulty of holiday travel, but I am very happy for them.

Julia and Mary with babies
on Thanksgiving

We were very blessed to have nearly everyone in our family over (minus those who were sick) for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can see some of our festivities at Happy Thanksgiving from My Home to Yours, Christmas Lights and a Family Night, Christmas Eve Peace, and Christmas Day and a Family Picture.  

The Seven Sisters (all my daughters) also took a Disney day in December. I'm so glad that my kids love to hang out with each other!


OK, on to each family member!

Mary and Ryan welcomed their third son Ezra in August. She continues to work part-time writing at a public relations firm. Jacob turns five in June and Isaac turns three in February. They are all absolutely adorable! See A Peter Rabbit Baby Shower for Ezra

Mary and Ryan with Isaac and Jacob

Art by Lydia for baby shower

Julia and Alex welcomed their first son Lucas in May. (See Welcome to the World, Lucas.) She will be working part-time, so I get to cuddle the little sweetie one afternoon a week! They love to travel to Higher Ground, their family's cabin in Boone, North Carolina, which is also available for weekly rentals. They are also still organizing a monthly dinner outreach to homeless people in our community. See What Love Looks Like: Reaching Out to the Homeless.  

Alex, Julia, and Lucas
Rachel continues to work as an RN at Florida Hospital and adopted a kitty named Luna to keep her company in her apartment. She enjoys going to concerts, plays, and movies with her siblings and friends. I love the fact that she often stops by after work, plays the piano, and sometimes crashes on the couch.

Joanna moved into an apartment in August, will graduate from UCF in the spring with a degree in Interpersonal Communications, will intern at New Hope Center for Kids in the spring semester, and plans to apply to UCF's grad school for a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She works hard in the research library at Lockheed-Martin, as well as a photographer at Disney World. She loves to hang out with her boyfriend David, and takes her brothers and sisters to fun activities – especially Disney with her free passes. I love her essay The Golden Hour about how she used to tell bedtime stories to her little brothers. Joanna just got a tattoo of the C.S. Lewis quote "Courage, Dear Heart." 

Lydia with her version of
Abbot's "Artist at Rest" at the
Seminole State juried art show.
Lydia graduated with her AA from Seminole State College, where she was active in the leadership of the art club and the SGA, and won awards at the juried art show in the spring. She is currently a manager at Chick-Fil-A, working hard to earn money to attend a private college, probably Ringling College of Art and Design, this fall. Strong in math and science too, she was also accepted into the aeronautics program at Embry-Riddle. Check out her amazing artist page on Facebook.

Andrew is a senior in high school, taking Russian 3, and active in the Navy ROTC program, where he competes around the state with the performance teams. The group also took a several day field trip to the Parris Island Marine Corps boot camp in South Carolina in November. He is considering enlisting in the Navy in hopes of attending the Defense Language Institute for advanced linguistics training. He also worked at Chick-Fil-A for several months.

Micah is a sophomore in high school, doing very well in his first year of public school where he has been taking electives in art, film, and entrepreneurship. He is a walking encylopedia of interesting facts about technology and media, and enjoys playing video games. He has gotten a lot taller this year!

Naomi with her dad
Naomi is all about the treble! We are so proud that she made it into both the All County and All State honors choruses, which took a ton of hard work. She and I will spend a few days in Tampa this month for All State. She is in 8th grade and loves spending time with her friends. After a several month stint as a vegetarian (which she is no longer though there are still some leftover Boca burgers in the freezer), she has promised to help me plan and cook healthier meals this year.

Ben with nephew Lucas
Ben started middle school with a bang this year. After coming home from his first day, he broke a bone in his hand. Then this past week, he broke a bone in his foot while at Busch Gardens. Not surprisingly, Ben enjoys skate boarding, amusement parks, and other active stuff. A talented artist, he had some of his work featured at the Winter Springs art festival in the student booth.  He is a charming and funny kid who, fortunately for me, still loves hugs from Mom.
Tree house by Ben

Melody at Lake Johnson
Melody finished second grade in public school, and at her request, is now back home with me for third grade. She is a giggly, bouncy, and curious child who loves hands-on activities and lots of field trips. She is especially happy when she gets to hang out with friends, so we're working on that! She is very proud of the fact that she stayed up until midnight on New Year's Eve. (We were watching the movie Mr. Peabody and Sherman. They took some pretty amazing field trips – back in time.) She is also a big hug lover.

Thad (Daddy) works as a trust manager for a family member. Like me, he enjoys taking pictures of sunsets. He keeps in shape at the Y, and is a huge help to me by driving the kids where they need to go and doing much needed maintenance on the house. 

Virginia and Ezra on Christmas
Virginia (that's me) - I started out the year with an inspirational time at a Refresh Retreat hosted by my friend Sandy, which I really appreciated. In the spring semester, I taught language arts, American history and world geography part-time at a Christian school. I am now teaching a high school American history class every other week for a local home school co-op (for pay). I stopped eating sugar in September (except a bit at Christmas) and I am also planning to eliminate wheat, milk, and most artificial sweeteners as soon as possible. So far I have lost at least 10 pounds. I have a lot of goals for the year, some big and some small, for health, creativity, productivity, homemaking, faith, and family relationships. This year, I am hoping to learn about web design in the interest of free lancing in the future. In the creative realm, I'd like to learn to do chalkboard art. I continue to write both prose and poetry for my own blogs (see Why Do I Blog?), and this year transitioned my “mommy blogging” to This Mom Grows Up to reflect a change in emphasis. I jumped in and joined the 31 Days of Autumn Grace meme with a daily series in October.

Now for the blog recap! As usual, I can't pick just a few of my top posts from all of my blogs, so here are my Favorite Forty for the year, along with some of the photos that are in them.

My Poetry

My kaleidoscope flower
from the Refresh retreat
art session
Advent crosses

Nature & Vintage Homes

Leu House

Rock Springs



Serving at dinner outreach
for homeless friends

Home, Health, and Heritage

Where Beauty Dwells
literary inspiration for
my cottage dreams

Heinrich Hess

Goals and Getting It Done

Family Life and Home Schooling

Nutcracker ballet

I'll close with pictures of two
inspirational Christmas presents
that my oldest daughters gave me.
They will serve to inspire me well in 2015.

Well, there you have it - 2014 in review!
What was your year like?

Virginia Knowles
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