Norma and I first met each other on May 31, 2006. Since then, my life has been one big joyous adventure. One such adventure was our Maine 2011 vacation. Prior to and during that trip, I thought a lot about our lives and how we were meant to be together. So immediately upon returning home, I got down on bended knee and popped the question. She didn't want an engagement ring so instead I gave her earrings made from abalone shells. It seemed like a fitting gift since we spend so much time on the water. Her reply, much to my relief, was "yes."

The date of the wedding ceremony was set for October 7, 2012. The location would be her family farm. Invitations were sent out and plans were made. She selected and worked with the caterers and cake decorators. She arranged for table and chair rentals. I created an entertaining slideshow documenting our lives. I also took care of the music. The two of us and her family put a lot of work into getting the farm ready for our big event. I won't bore you with all the details. But I will say that it was a major undertaking...and it was worth every minute of preparation.

The above photo is from our wedding day.

 Sunday, September 30, 2012

Angelika in SavageOpen accordion icon
Prior to and after the actual wedding, we had several guests. Our first was Angelika from Germany, who has known Norma since high school. She lived at the farm for three weeks as part of an exchange student program. Coming from a farming background, the two of them really hit it off. Since then, Norma has visited Angelika in Germany where she now works as a medical doctor. Returning for Norma's and my wedding is only Angelika's second visit to the states. We wanted this to be every bit as good as the first.

First, we decided to show Angelika a bit of our town, Savage. In my opinion, one of the most scenic parts is the Savage Mill Trail which parallels the Little Patuxent River.
Angelika and me by the Falls
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Meridian Hill ParkOpen accordion icon
After our little walk, Norma took Angelika to Meridian Hill Park where they joined others to wish Norma's friend, Aimee, a final farewell before her relocation to Texas. At the park, Angelika saw a drumming circle, which she had never seen before. Being the quick learner that she is, she got the hang of it then jumped right in as a participant.
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Norma and Angelika in front of fountain
In front of fountain.
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Drumming circle
Drumming circle.
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Angelika in drumming circle
Angelika drumming.

Later that night, they went out to dinner at Busboys and Poets. Aimee is second from the left in the below snapshot.
Norma and friends seated at dinner table

I am guilty of not attending Aimee's event. It was a fine day to be outside and one of the last that I might have to spend on the water for some time. I typically get out on the water once a week during daylight savings time so being on land for two straight weeks is not easy for me. Thus, I spent the afternoon with my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) on the Patuxent River. See my Hall Creek blog. After that, my batteries were recharged and I was ready for anything.
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 Monday, October 1, 2012

Legally wed in Ellicott CityOpen accordion icon
I mentioned that our wedding ceremony would be on October 7. But we decided to get the legal part out of the way first.

Our original goal was to do like my good friend Mike B. did at his wedding on December 31, 2011. He chose his best man, Wayne G., to "officiate" the ceremony. This is a big college word that means Wayne took the role of a minister and wed Mike and his now wife Suzanne. Wayne signed the paperwork, making the whole marriage legal in the state of California.

But Norma and I were not to be wed in California so things weren't quite so simple. We could have had a non-minister work through an organization on-line to become a minister for a day so they would marry us. But I was strongly against that since I felt there were too many things that could go wrong. I also know that the government doesn't do well when handling things out of the ordinary so it was best to just keep things simple.

Thus, we made an appointment several days prior then went to the courthouse in Ellicott City. That morning, we were legally wed with Angelika as our witness.
Norma, I, and someone from the courthouse

Outside of the courthouse, we posed for another photo.
Norma and I outside the courthouse

In the eyes of the law, we were married on October 1. But we would celebrate on October 7, when we were to be married in the eyes of our family and friends.

As a little mini-celebration, we drove a very short distance to the historic section of Ellicott City. We stopped at a little French cafe then walked around a bit. Here's Angelika next to something old.
Angelika in front of log cabin

We walked across a bridge over the Patapsco River. Looking down, we saw several rocks arranged in the shape of a heart, about nine feet wide. I tried to tell Norma I came out the night before and did that but I couldn't say it with a straight face.
Rocks arranged in the shape of a heart
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ShoppingOpen accordion icon
I headed off to work while Norma and Angelika went shopping to prepare for the wedding. Below, Norma holds small pumpkins to be used as table decorations.
Norma with a cart containing pumpkins
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 Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Angelika in Washington, D.C.Open accordion icon
While I worked, Norma did some wedding shopping while Angelika went to Washington D.C. for the day to do some sightseeing. She took the MARC Train to Union Station then set out on foot to explore.

She went into the Botanic Gardens building where she saw a plethora of exotic plants and flowers, including some interesting aquatic plants.
Aquatic plants

Inspired by the Botanic Gardens, Angelika came home to help Norma in her herb garden.
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 Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Working on wedding textOpen accordion icon
Norma and Angelika headed out to visit Norma's mother, Hazel.

The house seemed too quiet when I got home, except for Asha (Norma's cat) who doesn't shut up until she gets what she wants.

Norma worked on the wedding text that would be read during the ceremony. We spoke and I gave my input. Then I made some revisions and forwarded it onto our maid of honor and "best man."
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 Thursday, October 4, 2012

Preparations at the farmOpen accordion icon
Much to my relief, everyone seemed perfectly fine with the revisions I made to the wedding text. Whew!

Norma and Angelika went to the farm to get things in order. A week prior, Norma, her family, and I cut grass, pulled weeds, cleaned out the barn, and put up lights.

Today, the two of them got tables and chairs arranged, and took care of other stuff in the barn.
Angelika making the barn look nice

Angelika hadn't been to the farm for about 25 years. She currently lives on a farm with several animals so she has a deep appreciation for rural life. I'm sure seeing the dogs, Frida and Chloe, and the goats made her feel a little closer to home.
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Two farm dogs
Frida and Chloe.
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Goats near the shed
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Barn swallowsOpen accordion icon
Back in Savage, I worked and then went to Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Airport to pick up my parents.

Work didn't go so well as I left things feeling undone. Not a good way to start a full week off from work.

That night, Norma called sounding a little distressed. The barn swallows have several nests along the ridgeline at highest part of the barn. This passes directly over the center of the area we planned to have the reception. Needless to say, they crap alot. Norma explained the problem to me, but I felt rather helpless, not being there to see the actual problem. So I told her to talk to her brother-in-law Jimmy who is quite clever and would surely find a solution.

I reassured her that it would all work out fine, even if it rained on our wedding day...and there was a 50% chance of that. I also told her what Stacy wrote to me...that if things don't work out as planned, it will give us something to laugh about in the future. I also mentioned that Janie told me that rain on a wedding day is good luck. It rained on her wedding day and this month she celebrates 10 years of wedded bliss. For awhile, there was even a small chance of snow for our big day which Janie said was extra lucky. But I think she was just trying to make me think positively.
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 Friday, October 5, 2012

Autumn colorsOpen accordion icon
Norma, Angelika, and Hazel did more work to get the farm ready.
Angelika and Hazel at the farm

Perhaps the main reason Norma wanted to get married at the farm in the autumn is because of the fall colors. We would have guests from Germany, Japan, and California. Many of them have never seen the striking beauty of the foliage at this time of year. For most of Maryland, the colors aren't so spectacular. But the farm is at the extreme westernmost side of the state, with an elevation of about 2350 feet, and usually 10 degrees cooler than Baltimore. Hence, the autumn starts sooner and yields colors that one would expect further north.
Fall colors at the farm
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Lots of drivingOpen accordion icon
While Hazel and Angelika spent time at the farm, Norma drove out to Dulles Airport to pick up her guests from Japan: Hitomi, Ikuyo, and Sonomi (Ikuyo's daughter). It was a long drive there and then back to Garrett County (where the motel, Hazel, and the farm reside). I'm estimating she spent six hours behind the wheel that day. By the time she was done and settled into the Casselman Inn in Grantsville, she deserved a nice glass of wine.
Norma holding a glass of wine in bed
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My parents and friendsOpen accordion icon
I didn't have anything special planned for my parents. Mom told me I was free to go into work if I wanted. I took her up on that and got in a few hours, finishing the task I left yesterday. With that off my chest, I knew I would enjoy my time off a lot more.

Mom and Dad took it easy, looking at Norma's garden and going for a short walk in the neighborhood.

Once I got home, I took Mom for another walk. Dad was all walked out so he stayed home.

My cousin Steve and old friend Ken flew in later. Unfortunately, due to some miscommunication, they rented a car and drove out to the Casselman Inn that night, expecting me to be there. I, however, would not arrive until the next day.
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 Saturday, October 6, 2012

OhiopyleOpen accordion icon
My folks and I were up early and on the road shortly after, heading to Grantsville. We arrived at the Casselman Inn just as Norma, Hazel, Hitomi, Ikuyo, Sonomi, Ken, and Steve were finishing up breakfast. This was my first time meeting Ikuyo and Sonomi.

Our convoy made its way to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. Norma and I have spent a lot of time there hiking, bicycling, and cross country skiing. Our last visit was June 16, 2012 when we biked the Great Allegheny Passage. It would have been nice to spend more time there today but we had a lot to see and do. So instead, we pulled into a parking lot then walked a short distance to the Youghiogheny River (Yough) to catch some views. We saw a group of whitewater rafters getting ready to launch. It seemed a little too cold to really enjoy such a trip but at least they were dressed appropriately.
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Profile of Ken
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Steve standing with tree-covered hill behind

We pulled into town, parked, then walked out onto the bridge that passes over the Yough.
Group photo on bridge over river
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FallingwaterOpen accordion icon
Our next stop was Fallingwater. My last trip there was October 6, 2007, exactly five years ago, with my parents. But today, they and Hazel opted not to join in, instead heading off to the Springs Folk Festival in Pennsylvania.

What is Fallingwater?
Fallingwater is the name of a very special house that is built over a waterfall. Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most famous architect, designed the house for his clients, the Kaufmann family. Fallingwater was built between 1936 and 1939. It instantly became famous, and today it is a National Historic Landmark.
- from What is Fallingwater?

Mike and Suzanne met us at the house and joined us for the tour.

We weren't permitted to take photos in the house on the guided tour but we took plenty outside.
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Outside of Fallingwater
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Falling water at Fallingwater
Classic view.
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From left to right is Sonomi, Norma in blue, Ikuyo (in front), Hitomi (wearing scarf with stripes), and Angelika (in red)
The women.
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From left to right is Mike, me, Steve, and Ken
The men.
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More autumn colorsOpen accordion icon
After our tour, we drove to meet our parents at the Springs Folk Festival. Along the way, we stopped to take pictures of some beautiful fall colors. The sun was playing peek-a-boo with us so we were most appreciative of those moments where it shined brightly, thus making things more vibrant.
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Fall colors in trees
Colorful trees.
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Zoomed out view of Fall colors
From afar.
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Springs Folk FestivalOpen accordion icon
At the Springs Folk Festival, we got some good old country and/or Pennsylvania Dutch food. This was Ken's second time on the east coast and Steve's first so they weren't familiar with kettle corn or funnel cake. Steve had a fried pickle and fresh apple cider. I think I had some of Norma's buckwheat pancake. I also bought and ate some chestnuts hot off the grill.
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Kettle corn vendor
Kettle corn.
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Steve at an apple cider stand
Steve buying apple cider.

There were lots of country crafts on display along with farm equipment and animals.
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Ikuyo, Angelika, Hitomi, and Sonomi contemplate taking the horse out for a ride
Ladies with horse.
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Sonomi tries to feed the goat
Sonomi with goat.

Allison and Mark showed up with their daughter Viviana. Mark is a professional photographer. He shot a nice picture of Ken and me.
Ken and I

As the day went on, more and more people rolled in including Sherri, Gary, Ashlyn, Luke, and Lisa. Things were becoming quite festive with so many friendly faces.
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Penn AlpsOpen accordion icon
We all met for dinner at Penn Alps. They were nice enough to give us our own private dining room. Most of us chose the buffet which meant more good country food.

While we ate, Mark made the rounds, working his magic with his Nikon D800.
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These are all friends that Norma made when she lived in Japan, teaching English
Sonomi, Ikuyo, and Hitomi.
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My first kayaking experience was in a whitewater boat with him and his father, Uncle Don.  They taught me how to do a wet exit.  It came quite naturally as I didn't want to spend any more time than necessary upside down in a kayak
Cousin Steve.
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Sherri and Norma met in college where they shared a dorm room
Angelika, Sherri, and Norma.
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Teresa became our friend after taking care Asha while we were on holiday
Norma and Teresa.
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Cousin Steve and Dad
Cousin Steve and Dad.
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Norma's mother, Hazel
Norma's mother, Hazel.
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Norma and me
Norma and me.
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Mike was my squad leader in the Marines during the Gulf War back in 1991
Suzanne and Mike.
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Carmen used to be Norma's housemate in Hyattsville.  Lisa is one of my kayaking buddies
Carmen and Lisa.
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Allison went to the same university as Norma and Sherri
Sherri, Luke, Allison, and Norma.
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One of two tables seating our group

Mark wasn't the only one taking photos that night. Here are some shots by Hitomi or Angelika.
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Happy family by Hitomi
Gary, Sherri, Ashlyn, and Luke.
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Mark is Allison's husband.  Photo by Hitomi
Angelika and Mark.
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By Angelika
Hitomi and Mom.

After dinner, several of us hung out in our motel room at the Casselman Inn. With Ken and I knowing each other since at least the third grade, someone asked if he had any interesting stories to share. We both thought and couldn't come up with much. But then Mike started to reminisce about our time over in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. I think the two of us ended up monopolizing the conversation on our half of the room for the next hour, hardly giving anyone else a chance to get in a word.
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 Sunday, October 7, 2012 (the big day)

Swallow FallsOpen accordion icon
There was still a lot of work to do so Norma took my parents and Hitomi to the farm to help get things ready. My job was to keep our other guests entertained.

We met for breakfast at Penn Alps. In that area, Penn Alps and the Casselman Inn are the two big eating places. But the Casselman Inn restaurant, like many businesses around there, is closed on Sunday. So it's either Penn Alps or break open the Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs).

After breakfast, people followed me to Swallow Falls State Park. The last time I was there was September 18, 2011. Whenever Norma and I have guests visiting the farm, we take them to the falls. I can't think of any other place in Maryland where one can see so many nice views in such a small space. It is ideal for folks of all ages since the walk is only about two miles (I don't know the actual distance) and very easy.

I took people on the walk, stopping at Tolliver Falls first. This, like all the other falls in the park, are part of the Youghiogheny River.

Next, we walked to Upper and Lower Swallow Falls, which are popular swimming areas during the summer. I swam there with Clark, Carmen, and Norma a few summers ago. Here's Lisa at Upper Swallow Falls.
Lisa sitting on a rock at Upper Swallow Falls

From this same location, looking downriver, one can get quite a view. Looking upstream, we could see where we walked from and Swallow Falls Road.
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Looking down on the water
Downstream view.
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Sonomi and Ikuyo jumping
Sonomi and Ikuyo jumping.
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Rocky shores upstream
Upstream view.

Continuing our counterclockwise loop walk, we had a different view of the falls from the location below. Had I been a better photographer, I would have gotten the people AND the falls in the picture.
Group photo, no falls

There are lots of rocks in the park.
Group photo in front of rocks

Many of these rocks date back to the Pennsylvanian Period and are about 300 million years old. Some, like those in the one shown below are cantilevered.
Group photo by cantilevered rock

A few of the boulders are just big singletons that sit there such as the one behind me.
Me in front of rock

Some of the most interesting rocks in the park form craggy vertical walls.
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People walking on boardwalk by craggy vertical rock wall
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Cousin Steve by craggy vertical rock wall
Steve by craggy wall.

Carmen couldn't resist going for a little climb. I might have joined her but the thought of falling and fracturing my arm just hours before my own wedding prevented me from doing so. The verbal abuse I would get from Norma would be far worse than the broken arm.
Carmen climbing rock wall

Soon we came to the climax of the hike, Muddy Creek Falls. This is Maryland's highest free falling waterfall. This is not to be confused with Cunningham Falls which is Maryland's highest cascading waterfall, meaning it doesn't make one continuous big drop like Muddy Creek Falls. This was the perfect place to take lots of photos.
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Muddy Creek Falls
Muddy Creek Falls.
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Cousin Steve and me in front of Muddy Creek Falls
Cousin Steve and me.
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Suzanne and Mike
Suzanne and Mike.
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Sonomi and Ikuyo
Sonomi and Ikuyo.
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Allison, Lisa, and Viviana
Allison, Lisa, and Viviana.
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Ken, Viviana, and Allison
Ken, Viviana, and Allison.
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Mike and me
Mike and me.
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Everyone on the hike except Mark, who is taking the picture
Everyone except Mark.
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Another view of Muddy Creek Falls
Another view.
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Carmen at the top of the falls.  Don't jump!
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Steve and Carmen at the top of the falls.  Carmen thinks,
Steve and Carmen.

Returning back to the parking lot, we walked through a stand of old Hemlock trees, some more than 300 years old. This is one of the few remaining in the state (according to Wikipedia - Swallow Falls State Park).

After our little scenic stroll, Ken and I changed quickly into our wedding attire then drove out to the farm to help the others get things ready. The rest of the group remained behind, taking their time to make sure they were in their Sunday best for the big event. They would catch up with us later.
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Preparing the farmOpen accordion icon
At the farm, Norma was leading the effort to get all the last minute details taken care of. She assigned my parents the task of folding napkins and inserting some fall foliage in each.
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Mom preparing table stuff
Mom making wedding preps.
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Mom and Dad working in the barn
My parents at work.

Norma made sure each table was properly decorated with fern leaves and small pumpkins, the same ones she bought at Home Depot on our legal wedding day.
Norma scattering fern leaves on table

Hitomi, Mom, Dad, and Norma gathered flowers to decorate the tables.
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Hitomi in front holding flowers
Hitomi with flowers.
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Mom, Dad, and Hitomi on farm with flowers
Parents and Hitomi.

Laah, Norma's youngest sister and the co-owner of the farm, worked on making the farm look festive.
Laah putting up decorative corn stalks at fence post

Scott, Laah's husband and other farm co-owner, also helped out with various tasks and with preparing the feature food of the day...bacon wrapped venison. This is venison from a deer he shot on the farm just three days prior. Bacon and venison...two great tastes that taste great together.
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Scott in front of his tractor
Scott and John Deere.
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Scott and Hitomi
Scott and Hitomi.
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Hitomi and Scott next to porta-john
Hitomi and Scott.
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Scott making bacon wrapped venison in kitchen
Scott preparing eats.

As guests started to roll in, those who arrived early lent a hand. Ralph, Junkyard Jimmy, Ken, and I put up the projector screen. Jenn and her boyfriend Bob set up the audio equipment. I got the laptop set up and did a function check with Ralph's projector. Everything was good to go. Fortunately, I had tested things out with Ralph's projector and Jenn's Yamaha SV12 speakers and Yamaha EMX 640 amp several days prior so as to avoid surprises. I also had back ups for the slideshow and the music, but as it turned out, those would not be needed.
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Wedding guests at the farmOpen accordion icon
The farm was looking fine.
The farm all its autumn glory.
Fall colors at the farm

My music was playing (I started off with bluegrass to contribute to the farm atmosphere), decorative candle bags were laid out, and the caterers had appetizers set out for all to enjoy.
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Barn with white bags in front, each containing a light
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Round table full of appetizers
Appetizer table.

Norma changed into her wedding attire and was prepared to greet the rest of our guests.
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Norma in her wedding clothes
Norma in her wedding clothes.
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Sherri and Ashlyn
Sherri and Ashlyn.
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Cousin Steve with camera
Cousin Steve.
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Vivianna, Ashlyn, and Daniella.  Daniella (the big one) is Yvette and Jorge's daughter
Vivianna, Ashlyn, and Daniella.
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Norma with Thanusha, Nidhiksha, and Dursha (Malar and Ragu's kids)
Norma, Thanusha, Nidhiksha, and Dursha.
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Ashlyn and Hitomi
Ashlyn and Hitomi.
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Daniella and Jorge
Daniella and Jorge.
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From left to right are Laquan (Joyce and Jimmy's foster child), Thanusha, Harlem (Joyce and Jimmy's daughter), Malar, Norma, Dursha, and Nidhiksha
Norma, Malar, and kids.
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Thanusha and Harlem
Thanusha and Harlem.
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Janie, my co-worker
Janie, my co-worker.
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Mom and Dad
Mom and Dad.
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Mom and Dad
More of Mom and Dad.
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Harlem and Jimmy
Harlem and Jimmy.
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Jorge and Ken
Jorge and Ken.

Below is Jenn and Bob, her boyfriend. Jenn is my "best man." Who says the best man has to be a man? I rented a room off Jenn for a few years. Over that time, we became really good friends. So she knows everything about me...and still likes me.
Jenn and Bob

In the below pic, we make the pilgrimage through the cow pasture to the location for the ceremony.
Several people walking through the cow pasture

Here's Clark waiting patiently for the wedding ceremony to commence. Clark is a brilliant NASA scientist who will humbly deny being brilliant...but he is.
Clark standing in an open field

My kayaking friends Suzanne (no, not Mike's wife, a different Suzanne), Brian, and his girlfriend, Kristina, showed up later. They had just come from several days of kayaking in Cape Cod. It was good to see them.

People didn't seem to have any trouble driving up the uneven dirt road to the farm. I expected at least one would get stuck or have vehicle damage but Norma assured me otherwise. She was right.
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CeremonyOpen accordion icon
Months prior, Norma and I discussed where the wedding should be held. We could hold it in our town, Savage, or at the farm. If in Savage, we could hold the reception just down the street from us at the Carroll Baldwin Hall. Renting the hall was ridiculously inexpensive. But we have only lived in Savage since late 2009. So instead, she chose to have the wedding at the family farm, where her parents spent most of their lives and where she lived until leaving for college. She had many fond memories at the farm. Some of these memories were of the old oak tree in the cow pasture where she and her sisters would play. Hence, it was decided that the wedding would be at the farm with the ceremony at the oak tree.
Oak tree in cow pasture

Our biggest concern for the day was the weather. It held out very nicely on the morning hike. It was cool with off-and-on overcast but not rainy. According to one source, the high temperature for that day was only 46 degrees. There was a 60% chance of rain as of that morning. So far, we were lucky but I wasn't so sure our luck would hold out. Around 1520, we arrived at the oak tree. It was a little cold and breezy. Under my velvety red shirt and sports coat, I was warm enough, though I suppose the stress of being half of the center of attention with about 50 guests was enough to keep me from noticing the cold.

Prior to our arrival, Laah and Scott put out hay bales for folks to sit on.
Field, guests, and a few hay bales

It was just under a half mile walk to the oak tree. Along the way, folks took in views of Savage River State Forest and Backbone Mountain, to the southeast. Backbone Mountain is the highest point in Maryland at an elevation of 3360 feet above sea level. To the west lay open fields that Scott and Laah plowed or which the cattle used for grazing.
Me next to an open field

To the north were acres upon acres of trees which held numerous deer, wild turkey, coyote, and a few black bear. It is no wonder Norma wanted to have what might be the most important day of her life here on the farm, at the oak tree.
Norma holding flower, smiling

As the last of our group arrived, we said a few final words to Sherri and Jenn with scripts in hand. Norma scolded Sherri for not being color coordinated with the rest of kidding. Actually, it was just a coincidence that Jenn matched us.
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Norma and I looking back
Norma and I.
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Left to right: Sheri, Norma, me, and Jenn
Sheri, Norma, Jenn, and I.

The ceremony commenced with some words that Norma originally put together. This was based on some marriage books she picked up from the local library. I gave my input then Sherri and Jenn gave their input. Lots of modifications were made, more input was given, etc., until we came up with something everyone could agree on. It wasn't too short or too long and it was both meaningful and personalized.

Here's Norma and I trying to look relaxed. Jenn commented that this is the first wedding she has ever been to where the bride picked her bouquet on the way to the ceremony.
Norma and I, with her holding flowers

Finally, we got things started.
Starting the ceremony at the oak tree

Here are some of our favorite pics.
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My parents, patiently awaiting for the moment they will have a daughter-in-law
My parents.
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Laah thinking, 'I sure am glad I put out these hay bales, I was tired of standing.'
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In orange is Ralph with his wife Beth to his right.  Ralph leads more kayak trips than anyone on the whole planet...or at least the Baltimore/Annapolis area.
Ralph in orange.
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Joyce and Laquan with Junkyard Jimmy behind (the guy in the hat).  And yes, he really does work at a junkyard
Joyce and Laquan.
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Jenn reads her lines like a pro with Sherri, Norma, and me nearby
Jenn reading.
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Sherri reads her lines, 'Let us all remember that there is nothing more important than the love of family.'  Then Norma and I acknowledge the love our family has shown for us throughout the years.
Hugging my folks.
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Mom, Dad, and Hazel
Mom, Dad, and Hazel.
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Allison keeping Vivianna warm
Allison and Vivianna.

Below, Norma places a ring on my finger. These rings were ordered from Etsy, which was recommended to us by Carmen. Both our rings are sterling silver, decorated with oak leaves and acorns. At Sherri's suggestion, some of our wedding text compared the oak tree to a marriage:
The oak's strong roots reach deep down into the earth so that it can also stretch far into the sky.
In the same way, may your relationship root deeply to enable it to withstand adversity.

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Norma placing a ring on my finger
Ring exchange.
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Sherri and Jenn continue doing an excellent job reading their parts
Sherri and Jenn reading.
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A kiss seals the deal...better than a handshake
Sealing the deal.
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Norma and I, a happy couple
Happy couple.

The next part of the ceremony was the "friendship circle." This is something that started with the Quakers. People were invited to share their thoughts and feelings about us joining our lives together.
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Hazel contributed by reading a relevant scripture from the Bible
Hazel reading.
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Yvette, an award winning author, reads a poem that she wrote.
Yvette reading poetry.
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A very light sprinkle shows that Steve is ready for anything as he whips out his umbrella
Steve listening.
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Angelika wins the award for being most prepared for the cold.  Clark wins the award for looking the most professorial.  Carmen just wants to do some more climbing
Carmen, Clark, and Angelika.

Hazel sometimes finds walking difficult. So Scott, being the knight in shining armor that he is, gives her a ride back on his all-terrain vehicle (ATV).
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Scott ready to drive off with Hazel behind him on his ATV
Ready to roll.
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Another view of Scott and Hazel on ATV
Another view.
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ReceptionOpen accordion icon
Recall that on October 4, Norma told me that barn swallows were crapping all over stuff in the barn. Well Jimmy, Scott, Norma, and Angelika came up with a nifty solution. They hung a plastic painters tarp across the danger zone, far above everyone's heads. Then they decorated it with hanging plants. They also put up one of those fake owls that supposedly scare away smaller birds. It seemed to be working fine.
Plastic painters tarp and plants hung high in barn

A table was set up for the wedding cake and decorations, along with a little Japanese doll couple. This was supposed to represent Norma and me though I don't think the female looked the least bit like Norma.
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Dolls in front of candles
Dolls and candles.
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View from a different angle
Another angle.

Guests started to gather at the round tables that filled the barn.
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My folks, scoping things out
Mom and Dad.
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Ikuyo and Hitomi enjoying each other's company
Ikuyo and Hitomi.
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Joyce and Harlem by the barn door, ready to make a quick exit in an emergency
Joyce holding Harlem.

The caterer served dinner buffet style. Salmon, grilled pineapple, and pork barbeque were all on the menu though Scott's bacon wrapped venison was my favorite. There were also sweet potatoes from Norma's garden and white potatoes from the farm that Norma dug up. I remember that day vividly because as she turned over dirt, chickens would follow closely behind, waiting for a chance to find bugs to eat.
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Hazel, Joyce, and Laquan prepare to dig in
Hazel, Joyce, and Laquan.
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Hazel and Laquan...just who is keeping whom warm?
Hazel and Laquan.

Unlike most newlyweds at their reception, Norma and I didn't sit together. We had lots of people visiting from all over the place. We wanted to make sure that nobody felt left out so we positioned ourselves at opposite ends of the barn. After all, we have a lifetime to spend together and only a few hours with so many of our friends in the same place.

People ate, enjoyed each other's company, and wondered what I was preparing for their audio/visual enjoyment. Just as their curiosity almost made them burst, I announced the feature presentation. It was a slideshow that I created several weeks ago. I got my parents to mail me their photo album containing old pictures of me, and I got Norma to get her old photos from Hazel. Then we went through them, selecting several pictures throughout our lives. These are snapshots that represent important life events, activities, family, friends, travels, and adventures. I scanned them in then linked them all together in a video. I also added several digital photos and music. Selecting the music was the hardest part since it had to be music we liked which somehow represented the chosen time in our life. I added captions for each photo along with introduction slides and credits. This all resulted in a presentation just over 26 minutes long. It is divided into three sections: my life before Norma, her life before me, and our lives together.

I started the video, which I call "Love of a Lifetime." Everyone was quiet at the start though I asked them to make some noise if they saw themselves in a photo. I tried to include at least one photo of each guest participating in some activity with Norma or me. I was shaking uncontrollably. I don't know if it was because I was cold or nervous. Norma kept telling me that people would lose interest because a 26 minute video was far too long but I disagreed. This was the time to see if she was right. As the old photos appeared on the screen, people laughed and cheered. For the section depicting my early years, I had a little Guns 'n' Roses tune in the background..."Sweet Child O' Mine." This was played to scenes of my martial art activities, life in the Marines, going to college, and other stuff. Norma's life was set to the tune of songs by the Dillards, Willie Nelson, and Carrie Newcomer. These accompanied scenes of her with friends, traveling in Europe, living in Japan, etc. I think the photo that really got people's attention was the one with Norma as a little girl holding a big snake. Even back then, she had a deep appreciation of nature. In the third part, images were shown from our six years together...most of it spent outdoors kayaking, hiking, or bicycling. One of the songs played for this section was Love of a Lifetime by Firehouse. Not only is this what I named the video, but it is our song, and the phrase engraved on the inside of both our wedding rings. Here is the chorus of this classic big hair power ballad:
     I finally found the love of a lifetime
     A love to last my whole life through
     I finally found the love of a lifetime
     Forever in my heart, I finally found the love of a lifetime.

Next, I told people that they could come up and say whatever they wanted. They could tell a story about Norma and me, make a toast, etc. Unlike the friendship circle at the ceremony, this was more light-hearted and informal. Jenn started off by explaining her impression of me when we first met and how unique she thought I was. We coordinated prior to this so that when she spoke, a Gaussian distribution (bell curve) appeared on the screen along with lines to denote the position of standard deviations. She explained what this all meant like a tentured Ivy League college professor. She also explained how I was way out in the right tail of the curve...two standard deviations from the mean. She also said that Norma was the one for me because she too is just as unique and special.

Keeping with the math theme, I recited a poem from memory that I first heard in a fine movie called Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. The poem is called Square Root of Three and it is by David Feinberg. I added in lots of hand and arm gestures to go with it. Two months prior, every time I went into my garage to exercise, I practiced this poem until it was burned into the hard drive of my brain.
     I feared that I would always be
     A lonely number like root three.
     The three is all that’s good and right,
     Why must my three keep out of sight.
     Beneath the vicious square root sign,
     I wish instead I were a nine.
     For nine could thwart this evil trick,
     with just some quick arithmetic.
     I know I’ll never see the sun,
     as 1.7321.
     Such is my reality,
     a sad irrationality.
     When hark! What is this I see?
     Another square root of a three.
     As quietly co-waltzing by,
     Together now we multiply.
     To form a number we prefer,
     Rejoicing as an integer.
     We break free from our mortal bonds
     And with the wave of magic wands.
     Our square root signs become unglued
     Your love for me has been renewed.

The poem was a big success. It was both silly and meaningful. I got lots of laughs.
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Me reciting the poem with root three on the screen
Me reciting poem.
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Me with hands raised and smiling
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My parents laughing
My parents laughing.
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Norma smiling
Norma smiling.

Other people came up to the microphone to say a few words about Norma and me. Clark even played a couple of songs on his guitar. One was a classical piece while the other was something he wrote.
Clark with his guitar

I mentioned something I read just three days prior. The full text is as follows. It was forwarded to me by one of the Marine Corps League guys who didn't know I was getting married:
No English dictionary has been able to adequately explain the difference between the two words. In a recently held linguistic competition in London, England, attended by the best in the world, Samsundar Balgobin, a Guyanese man from Bachelors Adventure, was the clear winner with a standing ovation lasting over five minutes. Here is his answer which made him receive an invitation to dine with the Queen. He won a trip to travel the world in style and a case of 25 year old Eldorado rum for his answer.
His final question was this. How to explain the difference between COMPLETE and FINISHED in a way that is easy to understand. Some people say there is no difference between COMPLETE and FINISHED.
Here is his astute answer...when you marry the right woman, you are COMPLETE, And when you marry the wrong woman, you are FINISHED. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are COMPLETELY FINISHED!

I pointed out that Norma makes me complete.

Mike told a story about him and me during the Gulf War. He mentioned how I ran on foot in full combat gear for miles in the desert to mark the route for him to follow. We couldn't use the lights on our vehicles for fear of giving away our position but I could run on foot while shining a light pointed straight down. That was enough for him to follow in the Humvee. Thus, running in the tracks of the vehicle in front, I helped ensure we stayed together. Of course the way he said it was much more entertaining.
Mike talking

Sherri also said some nice words and wished us many happy years together. She told about the first time she met me. This was when Norma threw a big party, inviting all her friends over. I helped out for several hours, preparing and grilling the food and assisting with cleanup from start to finish. I think my hard work made a good first impression on her.
Sherri speaking

Ralph said how his first memory of me was when I brought an MRE for dinner on a kayak trip he led. A few years later, he met Norma and knew she was perfect for me because she could make a nice home-cooked meal and thus break me of my bad MRE habit.

I could tell Norma was having fun as she was smiling ear to ear.
Norma smiling with Jorge at the side

It had been raining pretty hard while we ate dinner but shortly after, it stopped. That was Angelika's chance to give Norma and me a little bit of what she learned in Germany. She asked everyone to step outside and then form a circle around Norma and me. Next, she gave instructions for a little dance. Once the music started, the group started moving in a circle, holding hands. At different parts of the song, people closed in, stepped back, and clapped. It was a very nice that we will remember forever.

It was time to cut the wedding cake. This fine piece of art was decorated as a tree, complete with leaves and acorns.
Wedding cake

Some layers contained chocolate raspberry cake while others contained carrot cake. There were also lemon cupcakes. Norma cut the first piece while guests watched. Based on the looks on their faces, I don't know if they were in awe of Norma's beauty or wanting to sink their teeth into some dessert...perhaps both. Norma fed me the first bite and I fed her the second. We avoided the "cake fight urge" that many newlyweds often succumb to.
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Norma cutting the cake
Norma cutting the cake.
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A big group of guests watching the cake cutting
Guests watching.
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Norma feeding me cake
Norma feeding me cake.
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Me feeding Norma cake
Me feeding Norma cake.

The last organized activity for the evening was the sing along. Whenever Norma, Carmen, and I get together, we sing The Gambler, a classic country song recorded by Kenny Rogers and written by Don Schlitz. I was hoping to find a karaoke video I could download then play at the wedding. While I did find a video with the music and words, I could not download it. So I positioned my camera in front of my computer and recorded it on my camera as it played. Then I downloaded it onto my computer and loaded it into a Windows Live Movie Maker document. But while the video was fine, the sound was terrible. So I superimposed my digital recording of The Gambler onto the video. But now the two were not in synch. So I adjusted the play speed of the video. After several attempts, it matched. I saved this to a file about three days before the wedding.

Carmen came up and helped me lead the sing along. The last time she and I sang this song, we were driving back across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge after kayaking on August 12, 2012. Out of the blue, we started coming up with some hand gestures to go along with the music. It was these same hand gestures that inspired me to include gestures for my Square Root of Three poem. So she and I included these gestures in our sing along. Based on how well everyone sang, I'm thinking most everyone in the free world knows and loves The Gambler.
Carmen and I leading sing along

I heard what I through were firecrackers being set off but later I was told it was celebratory shotgun blasts fired into the air. I guess that is a Garrett County version of a 21 gun salute, courtesy of Scott. Yeehaw!

A bonfire burned for quite some time just outside the barn. It was the natural area to congregate early on. But now that it was getting cold, it was really the place to be as the party started to wind down.
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Lisa and Steve
Lisa and Steve.
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Group gathered around bonfire
Group around fire.
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Allison and Viviana dressed warmly
Allison and Viviana.

All in all, I think people had a really good time. People were feeling happy, festive, joyous...and some were feeling loving.
Scott and Laah kissing

As the party came to an end, it was time to put things away. The table scraps were taken downstairs and fed to the pigs. It was a good day for them too. We all worked together to put away the food, take down the lights, and get things packed up. Interestingly, as soon as I took down the fake owl, the barn swallows began chirping and flying around.
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Casselman InnOpen accordion icon
Several of us headed back to the Casselman Inn for the night. Norma led the way but somehow ended up losing a couple of cars. I was the last car but had a map so I was fine. But Steve and his passengers, Ikuyo and Sonomi, got lost. I tried to call them once I got to the motel but got no answer. I was getting ready to go out and look for them when they finally pulled in. They just missed hitting a dog on their attempt to keep up with Clark who was attempting to keep up with Norma. But no animals were hurt and everyone arrived safely so all was good.

Several of us hung out together in the common area of the Inn, eating some of the snacks in the nice gift basket that Norma's co-workers sent to her.

We stayed up until pretty late, just talking and being silly. It was a spectacular day and I didn't want it to end.
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 Monday, October 8, 2012, Columbus Day

Spruce Forest Artisan VillageOpen accordion icon
Several of us met for breakfast at the Casselman Inn. In the below image, we're walking from the motel to the restaurant.
Walking to breakfast

After eating our fill at the buffet, we drove 0.7 mile to Penn Alps where we walked through the adjacent Spruce Forest Artisan Village. This is an arts and heritage center where local artists and craftsmen have a chance to display and demonstrate their talents in studios set in historic buildings.
Faux covered bridge

A few of us got to see and talk to one of the artists who was busy drawing.
Norma and artisan

Many of the buildings in the village are built in the log cabin style from yesteryear.
Teresa and log cabin

One of the favorite shops (at least for the women) is the soap building. Here, they can buy all kinds of different fragrances.
Fernwood Soap building

Before leaving, Hazel passed on some of Laah's eggs to me. I sell them at work. These are from the same chickens that were eating the bugs that were uncovered when Norma dug up the white potatoes at the farm for the wedding. Unlike "factory egg" chickens, these don't live in cages. They get plenty of sunshine and fresh country air, and they get to walk around outside. Clark, being the smart guy that he is, knows that healthy chickens make healthy eggs so he bought two dozen.
Clark holding eggs
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SavageOpen accordion icon
Our group was getting smaller and smaller. Norma and I bid some farewells then started on our drive home. Joining us were Ken, Steve, Hazel, my parents, Hitomi, Angelika, Ikuyo, and Sonomi.

Back in Savage, I took the group on a walking tour of the town (except for Norma and Hazel who would meet us later).
The town was named for John Savage, a Philadelphia merchant with interest in a mill on the falls of the Patuxent. In 1822 he and his associates chartered the Savage Manufacturing Company, which made sails for the tall ships, among other cotton duck products. The cotton milling industry started in Maryland in the 18th century and flourished in the 19th century. Cotton was shipped cheaply from Southern ports and hauled overland by mule and oxen teams to the mills before rail transportation served Savage.
- from Wikipedia - Historic Savage, Maryland

We passed Carroll Baldwin Hall. Lately, I had been putting a good bit of time into helping the community restore the place. My good neighbors, Don, Sara, and Brian, are leading this effort.
Carroll Baldwin Hall once housed the Savage branch of the Howard County library. It was built in the early 1920s as a memorial to Carroll Baldwin, former president of the manufacturing company. The Baldwins managed the company from 1859 to 1911.

I showed our guests the brick duplexes where the mill workers lived on the west side of Baltimore Street.
Me leading tour in front of brick duplexes

I led the group to the Savage Mill Manor at the end of the street. This house, built in 1844, was supposedly the home of the first mill owner.

Turning onto Fair Street, I pointed out the Masonic Hall.
Constructed in 1897 by the Savage Manufacturing Company to serve the social needs of the Savage Mill Village, it served as a community hall, hosting various dinners and gatherings of various kinds.
- from Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties - Masonic Hall (Solomon's Lodge #121 A.F. & A.M.)

Walking down Washington Street, I directed people to the Mansion House, which is the former home of the second mill owner.
Built between the years 1859 and 1878 by the Baldwin family, the Mansion House was used as a summer home for the owner and President of the Savage Manufacturing Company.
- from Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties - Mansion House (Baldwin House)
Mansion House

Across from the Mansion House, we had a view of the mill. Once a cotton mill, it now serves as a complex for shops and restaurants.
The mill was started in the 1820s by Amos Williams and his three brothers. They named it and the town in which it still stands after John Savage, who lent them the money to start the business. The main product was cotton duck, used for sailcloth and a wide variety of other uses. Power was originally obtained by damming the Little Patuxent River, which runs adjacent to the mill property. In later years steam engines were used.
- from Wikipedia - Savage Mill
Savage Mill

We walked across the Little Patuxent River via the Bollman Truss Bridge.
The mill was served by a spur off the Patuxent branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and in the 1870s a Bollman Truss Bridge was moved to the spur. This bridge survives and is the only one of its kind left. [It marks] a revolutionary design in the history of American bridge engineering. The 160-foot (48.8 m) double-span truss bridge is one of the oldest standing iron railroad bridges in the United States. It was the first successful all-metal bridge design to be adopted and consistently used on a railroad. The type was named for its inventor, Wendel Bollman, a self-educated Baltimore engineer.
- from Wikipedia - Savage Mill and Wikipedia - Bollman Truss Bridge
Bollman Truss Bridge

Turning onto the Savage Mill Trail, we walked about a half mile (one way) along the Little Patuxent River on this former railway. There were some nice whitewater views along the way. We turned around at some ruins which I believe was once a lock for a canal.
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Group walking on the trail
Savage Mill Trail.
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A rocky part of the river where the elevations drops
The Falls.
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Hitomi, Ken, and Angelika with the Little Patuxent River behind
Hitomi, Ken, and Angelika.

Today, Savage is a home for several refugees from Burma (Myanmar). I'm hoping one of them will open up a Burmese restaurant here in town or nearby. Speaking of food, it was time for dinner.
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Rams HeadOpen accordion icon
We met Norma and Hazel at the Rams Head Tavern for dinner. It has become a tradition for Norma and me to take visitors from out of town to the Rams Head at least once during their stay.
Norma and Hazel

Steve and Dad patiently wait for their meal. Steve and I split the lobster and crabcake. The crabcake was better, in my opinion.
Steve and Dad waiting

Here's Angelika and Ken. Angelika is trying the Rams Head beer sampler. She gave it a thumbs up which is quite a compliment being she is German and Germans know their beer.
Angelika and Ken at table

Hitomi also enjoys the beer sampler.
Hitomi toasts the camera

This is the whole group. This picture was taken by the hostess who seemed to know everything about all makes and models of cameras.
Group photo at dinner table

After dinner, we walked around the mill, stopping in The Family Game Store.
Mom at the game store
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GiftsOpen accordion icon
Back at the house, we unwrapped a wedding gift from Ikuyo and Sonomi. It was a cartoon drawing of Norma and me! I guess Norma sent them a link to my website or at least a photo. This was enough for the artist to draw a very good likeness of the two of us. What a fantastic gift!
Ikuyo, Sonomi, Norma, and I with Cartoon drawing of Norma and me

But this wasn't our only artistic gift. Janie and Mark gave us a water color painting of a heron done by Mark's father, Spike (Leroy). Janie finished the frame to give it an antique look. Very nice.

Now we just need to find where to display these masterpieces.
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 Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Capitol Building and Washington MonumentOpen accordion icon
Norma and I drove our guests to Washington D.C. for the day while Hazel and my parents remained in Savage.

We parked at Union Station then set out on foot.

One of our first stops was the Capitol Building. There was a lot of construction going on there as well as the rest of the buildings. They must not have known we were coming.
Hitomi, Angelika, and Capitol Building

Squirrels were munching on the osage oranges which were abundant.
Osage oranges and squirrel

We had a clear view of the Washington Monument in the distance.
Group photo in front of Washington Monument

Also in the area, we saw the National Museum of the Native American building but we didn't go in.
National Museum of the Native American
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National Museum of Natural HistoryOpen accordion icon
We checked out the National Museum of Natural History. This is a place I could spend all day in. I was hoping to show Steve and Ken a live horseshoe crab but there were none.

Ken had a flight to catch so Steve and I escorted him back to Union Station so he could catch a train to the BWI Airport. It was a fast walk and we made it with little time to spare. I hope Ken will return soon. I wanted to take him kayaking but his visit was just too short for that.

Steve and I stopped by the Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II on the way back. His father and both my parents were interred in relocation camps during World War Two, despite being U.S. citizens.

While Steve and I were away, the women looked at the butterfly exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History.

A few of the women also had a chance to see the titanoboa display, organized by a former Miss Pork Princess of Iowa and member of my kayak club. This exhibit is of the biggest snake that ever existed; 40-50 feet long and 2500 pounds! For some odd reason, I think they preferred the butterflies.
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White House and Lincoln MemorialOpen accordion icon
No tourist trip to Washington D.C. would be complete without stopping to take a gander of the White House.
White House with man standing on top

Prominently displayed on the lawn of the White House are the presidential bees, maintained by Charlie B. On April 3, 2011, Norma and I had a chance to get up close and personal with Charlie's other bees which reside just a short distance from our house.
Bee hives on White House lawn

We made our way to the Lincoln Memorial which is one of my favorites.
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Look on the back of a penny and you'll see this
Classic view.
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Old Abe on his thrown
Lincoln statue.
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Steve and I enjoying the sights
Steve and I.
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Veteran MemorialsOpen accordion icon
Near the Lincoln Memorial were the various veteran memorials. We saw the National World War Two Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Women's Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
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Steve and Angelika at Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Steve and Angelika.
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Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial.
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Cherry treesOpen accordion icon
Walking along the Potomac River, we saw numerous cherry trees.
The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.
- from National Park Service - Cherry Blossom Festival
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Angelika and Hitomi behind cherry tree
Angelika and Hitomi.
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Ikuyo, Sonomi, and Angelika walking
Strolling by the trees.
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Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thomas Jefferson MemorialsOpen accordion icon
Venturing onward, we came to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Across the Tidal Basin, we had a view of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
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National Gallery of Art Sculpture GardenOpen accordion icon
We passed through the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden where we saw a meditative rabbit and an optical illusion house along with a strange spherical object. You have to see this YouTube video to really appreciate the illusion.
Spherical sculpture
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ChinatownOpen accordion icon
Our next stop was Chinatown.

In Chinatown, we dropped in where Norma works. She thanked her co-workers for their generous gift and introduced them to our guests.

Then it was off to Asian Spice for dinner. I had the Malaysian/Indonesian noodles with chicken (mee goreng), which was very tasty. We worked up quite an appetite with all the walking.

Ikuyo and Sonomi said their farewells. Tomorrow they would be in New York City and after that, Niagara Falls. Norma and I were glad they could spend so much time with us on their visit to the states.

It was a long, full day where we did a day and a half worth of activities in a single day. We slept well that night.
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 Wednesday, October 10, 2012

AnnapolisOpen accordion icon
It was sunny and not too cold so I offered to take people kayaking. Steve and Angelika were interested. So Norma took care of our parents and Hitomi while I took Steve and Angelika out to Annapolis for the day.

The three of us launched at Truxton Heights Park on Spa Creek. Steve was in my Prijon Catalina while Angelika and I rode the Ocean Kayak Cabo tandem.

Kayaking out towards the historic area, we found it impossible to get a view. A power boat festival was going on so we were not permitted to paddle up Ego Alley. Ego Alley (named because people go there to show off their boats) is the narrow waterway that takes one right up to Main Street. It is, in my opinion, the most interesting and scenic part of the whole kayak tour.

So instead, we continued northeast, passing by the Naval Academy.

We paddled up the Severn River then as far upstream as we could on College Creek. Along the way, we passed under a few bridges, got a peek at the Academy's rowing shells, and saw Saint Anne's Cemetery, which dates back to 1692.

I let Steve try out my carbon fiber wing paddle. Not only was this his first time trying out a wing paddle, but this was also his first time in a sea kayak. He's a whitewater kayaker with a bomb-proof roll.

At the head of College Creek, we stopped for a snack.

Back out on the Severn, there were some Navy ships going to and from the Academy.
Angelika and I on the tandem with a Navy ship behind

This was Angelika's first time kayaking and she did just fine. In the snapshot below, we made our way back up Spa Creek.
Back view of Angelika and me in tandem kayak

In Eastport, we came across a pirate ship.
Angelika and I in tandem next to fake pirate ship

Steve was using my heaviest, slowest, and cheapest paddle, yet he made my Prijon fly with bursts of speed. Below, he's paddling up Spa Creek with the Compromise Street Drawbridge behind. This is the bridge that connects historic Annapolis with Eastport.
Steve paddling my Prijon Catalina with the Compromise Street Drawbridge behind

On the opposite side of Eastport, we saw Saint Mary's Church and cemetery.
Saint Mary's Church and cemetery

We finished our trip after about 2.75 hours, having completed an easy eight miles. I think Steve and Angelika had fun.
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Steve kayaking
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Angelika on land, standing next to tandem kayak
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Chesapeake Bay Environmental CenterOpen accordion icon
While Angelika, Steve, and I were out kayaking, Norma, Hazel, Hitomi, and my parents were at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center. The last (and only) time Norma and I were there was February 2, 2011.

Walking on the trails at the Center, they found a wild persimmon tree. Unlike the big Japanese persimmons, the Maryland wild persimmons are only about as big as a ping pong ball and not as tasty.

Raptors that were somehow injured, and thus unable to survive in the wild, are brought here.
Three owls

Here's a lone turtle covered in aquatic vegetation. With the temperature of the Chesapeake Bay quickly dropping as we get deeper into fall, turtles are getting harder to spot.
Turtle on log in water covered in green slimy stuff

Here's some other pics:
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Marshy Creek lined by grasses
Grasslands on Marshy Creek.
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Hitomi at overlook platform
Hitomi enjoying the view.
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Mom looking at the water from the boardwalk
Mom on the boardwalk.
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Norma and Mom standing
Doesn't Norma look tall?
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Hazel sitting on a stowed kayak
Hazel, taking a break.
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Dad, finding a stump makes a better chair than a kayak.
A stump makes a good chair.
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Hazel, Dad, and Hitomi
Hazel, Dad, and Hitomi.
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Dinner at the RockfishOpen accordion icon
After Angelika, Steve, and I got done kayaking, I called up Norma who said she would meet us in Annapolis. So I drove Angelika and Steve to the restaurant in Eastport. We parked, then walked into the historic district in Annapolis. I showed them what they would have seen from the water had the power boat festival not been going on. They also got a quick peek at the Maryland State House and Saint Anne's Episcopal Church at the west end of Main Street in Church Circle. I would have loved to have showed them more of Annapolis but we had dinner reservations.
Maryland State House

Walking to Easton, we crossed the Compromise Street Bridge over Spa Creek. This gave us a different view of what we saw from the water. There were lots of expensive boats and one stand up paddleboarder that was moving like he was training for a race.
Luxury boats

All of us met at the Rockfish in Easton. The food was good and the service was not so good. Dad ate the seaweed salad and fried oysters.
Norma with arms raised, a drink in each hand
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Gifts from HitomiOpen accordion icon
Back at the house, Hitomi gave Norma and me her wedding gift. It was a miniature kimono. A few months ago, that might have fit Harlem. She gave out lots of other gifts, not just to Norma and me but to everyone in the house. She is a very generous person.
Hitomi and Norma with miniature kimono
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 Thursday, October 11, 2012

Longwood GardensOpen accordion icon
Hazel headed out that morning while Norma led the rest of us on a little adventure.

One of Norma's favorite places in the whole world is Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. She has been there several times but I have never been. So today she took my parents, Angelika, Hitomi, Steve, and me to visit.

We started in the cafeteria. Their food is good but a little expensive. I suppose everything seemed expensive after spending a few days in Garrett County.

Longwood Gardens is a really big place with a lot of history.
The land had been inhabited by the native Lenni Lenape tribe who hunted, fished, and farmed the productive wilderness. In 1700, a Quaker family named Peirce purchased the property from William Penn and soon established a working farm. Joshua and Samuel Peirce began planting an arboretum on the farm in 1798. The farm was purchased in 1906 by Pierre du Pont so he could preserve the trees, and from 1907 until the 1930s, Mr. du Pont created most of what is enjoyed today. In 1946, the Gardens were turned over to a foundation set up by Mr. du Pont.
- from The Story of Longwood (a broken link as of 2023)

In this part of the country, the name du Pont is tied to many things. Norma and I learned that during our October 28-30, 2011 trip to the Brandywine Valley area. If it wasn't for the du Ponts, the area would not be nearly as interesting.

Much of our time was spent in the conservatory. Clark has one of these but his is a little smaller.
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Mom and Dad with indoor fountains behind
Mom and Dad.
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Dad, Norma, and exotic flowers
Dad, Norma, and exotic flowers.
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Hanging plants, a jungle-like atmosphere, and small group walking through
Hanging plants.
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Big purple flower close-up
Close-up of purple flower.
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Same purple flower next to an alocasia plant
Purple flowers and alocasia.
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A big fern showing spores
Fern spores.
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Dad at the upper level
Looking up at Dat.
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Dad taking a picture of a plant
Dad taking photos.
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Group walking through a tunnel of greenery
Tunnel of greenery.
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Hitomi with tropical plants
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The glass roof of the conservatory lets in a lot of light
Glass roof.
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Man-made pond lined with plants
Indoor pond.
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Norma and Hitomi looking at hanging pitcher plants.  This was the only part of the conservatory where we saw bugs.  But unlike gardens where the bugs eat the plants, these plants were eating the bugs
Hanging pitcher plants.
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Mom, Norma, me, and Dad
Group photo.
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Giant hanging plant above my head
Hanging plant.
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Norma taking a photo of a hanging plant contemplating falling on me
Norma taking photo.

Children's GardenOpen accordion icon
One special area in the conservatory was the Children's Garden. Though designed for the young, I think anyone young at heart will appreciate it.
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Mom behind falling water
Water wall.
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Norma in structure for kids
Low ceiling.
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Hitomi with shells, rocks, and cut tiles create pictures on the walls
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Snake sculpture in the Grotto Cave
Snakes in the Grotto Cave.
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Angelika in the bamboo maze
Bamboo maze.
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OutsideOpen accordion icon
There was a lot to see in the conservatory but there was just as much to see outside too.
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Precisely manicured hedges
Topiary garden.
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A big building with fountains
Big building.
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Hitomi with fountains behind
Hitomi at the Main Fountain Garden.
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Colorful plants
Purple and green.
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Cypress trees in swampy environment
Cypress trees showing their knees.
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Norma and Angelika with angel's trumpet flowers
Angel's trumpet flowers.
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WildlifeOpen accordion icon
Longwood Gardens isn't the place to come if you want to see wildlife, though there were a few critters out and about.
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A curious squirrel looking for a handout
Curious squirrel.
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Same squirrel, different view
Same varmint, different view.
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Me calling the geese like dogs with Steve, Norma, and Angelika nearby
Me calling geese.
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Aquatic plantsOpen accordion icon
My favorite section was the aquatic plants. Occassionally, like on August 12, 2012, I will see water plants with large leaves while kayaking, but none as large as the ones at the Gardens. Below are their famous water platters.
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Close-up of the edge of a leaf
Close-up of a leaf.
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Leaves with edges flipping upward
Notice the edges flip upward.

A worker lifts up a leaf to show how air gets trapped underneathe to keep it afloat.
Man in waters showing the underside of a leaf

These leaves are large and buoyant enough to support the weight of a baby, but only if it could somehow disperse its weight equally throughout the leaf.
Several giant leaves

There are different types of water platters. Longwood Gardens has their own hybrid which they bred.
Several hybrid leaves

Here's Norma getting a water-level photo. Hitomi is tempted to send Norma in for a swim.
Hitomi ready to push Norma into the water

Water platters weren't the only thing in the aquatic plants section.
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Hitomi, Norma, and Angelika in front of pond with giant leaves
Hitomi, Norma, and Angelika.
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Water lily with puple flowers and yellow center
Purple water lily.
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Side view of purple water lily
...another one.
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Exotic-looking leaves on the water
Exotic leaves.

One aquatic plant I really liked was the sensitive plant. Photos don't do it justice so instead, take a look at this video: Mimosa Pudica - The Sensitive Plant.
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FountainsOpen accordion icon
Plants weren't the only things featured at the gardens. They also had fountains. Some were set to music like the Open Air Theatre Fountains.
Water fountains

There was also the Italian Water Garden.
Me with water fountains behind
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VegetablesOpen accordion icon
Vegetables were also grown at the Gardens. I wonder if it was used to make some of our lunch today.

Below, trellises provide support for the vining plants.
Mom and I looking at vegetable garden with trellises in the background

One leaf of some of these plants could make a whole salad!
Vegetables with some big leaves

In this pic, Norma and Hitomi see something they like. Perhaps it is a snake.
Norma and Hitomi smiling and looking at something down low
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Rest timeOpen accordion icon
We stayed almost until they closed. With so much walking, some of us needed to sit for awhile. So it was a good time for some group photos.
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Group photo at the bench
Angelika in the foreground.
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Norma, me, Dad, and Mom.  Norma is looking at me and not at the camera
Someone isn't looking at the camera.
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Group photo at the bench
Aren't Dad's socks white?
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Havre de GraceOpen accordion icon
On the way home, we drove over the Susquehanna River and then stopped in Havre de Grace for dinner. This quaint little town was incorporated in 1785.
In 1789, the town was a candidate for the honor of being named capital of the United States.
- from Wikipedia - Havre de Grace

After a bit of walking in the town, we stopped at the Tidewater Grille for dinner. Steve and I had Chesapeake chicken, which is my favorite local dish. I showed him a picture on the wall of what our kayaking view of historic Annapolis should have been if it wasn't for the power boat festival. He seemed impressed.
Six of us at the dinner table

This was our last night to see Steve for awhile. His plane would leave tomorrow and he planned to explore some of Baltimore on his own in the morning before leaving. So we said farewell and wished him the best.
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 Friday, October 12, 2012

GardenOpen accordion icon
I took my parents to the airport and wished them a safe trip home. I am so glad they were able to come out and spend a week with Norma, me, and all our friends. After dropping them off, I went to work.

Norma, Hitomi, and Angelika spent time working her garden that morning. Here's Norma pointing to her critter trap which caught two groundhogs this year and one last year. All were released unharmed, a few miles away.
Norma in her garden, pointing to a trap

Norma explains the finer points of Howard County gardening to Angelika.
Norma and Angelika in the garden

Norma pulled some short, stubby carrots.
A row of carrots with dirt on them
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Fells PointOpen accordion icon
Steve wanted to see an older, residential area so I directed him to Fells Point in Baltimore. This neighborhood was established in 1763. He saw a house all ready for Halloween.
Brick house decorated with witches on top
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Baltimore Inner HarborOpen accordion icon
Norma, Angelika, and Hitomi also ended up heading to Baltimore, spending some time at the Inner Harbor, Little Italy, and Fells Point.
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USS Constellation replica tall ship
The USS Constellation.
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A view of the Inner Harbor and a yellow Seadog speedboat
Inner Harbor and Seadog speedboat.

Looking at the Inner Harbor from the east, one can see the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse and the Pier Six Pavillion. The latter is where I saw Weird "Al" Yankovic in concert.
View of the Inner Harbor
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Back at the houseOpen accordion icon
Back at the house, Hitomi gave a little origami lesson to Angelika.
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Hitomi holding an origami cube
Hitomi holding cube.
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Hitomi teaching Angelika origami
Teaching Angelika.

Then, Hitomi led the dinner-making activities. She did it Japanese-style, where presentation and color are very important. It was delicious and healthy.
Dinner table

We ended the evening by playing Blokus, my favorite game. This was Hitomi's first time playing and Angelika's second but they both did very well. Had everyone else not been drinking, I might not have won so easily.
Hitomi, Angelika, and I playing Blokus
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 Saturday, October 13, 2012

Great FallsOpen accordion icon
I said my farewells to Hitomi and Angelika. It was great having them over for a visit. I really like Hitomi's energy and Angelika's enthusiasm.

I headed out to do volunteer work with my Marine Corps League trash cleanup.

Hitomi flew out of Dulles early while Angelika's flight didn't leave until later. To kill time, Norma took her to Great Falls, Virginia, which was only 22 minutes away.
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A whitewater view of the rocky Great Falls
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A close-up view of Great Falls
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Angelika seated on a rock looking across the Potomac River
Angelika gazing across.
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Angelika on a hiking trail
Angelika on the trail.
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Cards and giftsOpen accordion icon
Norma and I got lots of nice wedding cards which we read that night. We asked people not to buy wedding gifts. Instead, their presence was our present (I plagarized this from Mike and he from someone else). But if they wanted to make a donation on our behalf, we suggested the following charities, all of which at least one of us is involved with.
  • Capital Area Food Bank
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Doctors without Borders
  • Friends of Jug Bay
  • Howard County Marine Corps League Scholarship Fund
  • Carlos Rosario Educational Foundation
  • Still, we did receive some gifts. Much of the monetary gifts was donated to the above in equal amounts.

    After having guests for the last 14 days, our house was once again empty (except for us and Asha). It certainly seemed strange without people to entertain. But it was also nice being alone.
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    ConclusionOpen accordion icon
    These two weeks have been some of the busiest and happiest of my life. The wedding was a big success and folks really seemed to have enjoyed seeing us and being there to share in our big life event. As much as I would like to say that this was purely a joint effort, the fact of the matter is that Norma did a vast majority of the planning. More often than not, I just helped out as best I could.

    While I would love to do this all again in the future, I am quite certain I will not be getting married again.

    Three weeks after our wedding, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, dropping tons of precipitation. At the farm, where we had our wedding, there was two feet of snow. In Savage, the Little Patuxent River, which looked relatively calm on October 8, turned into viscious whitewater on October 30.
    Little Patuxent River after a heavy rain

    So despite things being a little cold on the wedding day, it could have been much worse.

    We went on a honeymoon several weeks later. See December 28, 2012 to January 7, 2013.
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    Norma's family and my family at the oak tree on the farm where she grew up
    Wedding day group photo at the farm oak tree, October 7, 2012