Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh My! Zoo 2

The main part of going to a zoo is of course to see the animals. I find it so interesting that zoos in the middle of a city seem to transport you to a completely different place. I forgot that we were in the middle of Cincinnati, but to the residents that live within close proximity of the zoo I wonder what it is like to randomly hear an elephant, or a lion roar in the morning? I remember when the circus came to town not too long ago that I was taken by surprised when I hear an elephant on my way out of work. To ensure we saw everything the Cincinnati Zoo had to offer we checked our map and made a plan to head out after lunch. 20130430-112104.jpg
One of the first places we went after lunch was the Cat Canyon. The path lead us into the Night Predators house, now this next picture is quite scary, Kristen took this picture and did a stare down with this animal. To be honest I’m not sure what this animal was but I do know two things, 1) it’s a predator for sure and 2) if it ever got out it would track us down. At first I thought this was fake because of how still it was, but no, it is real. 20130430-112143.jpg Outside of the Night Predator house we saw a mountain lion; again, seeing these animals up close really gives you a sense that these are really wild animals. Cognitively I know this, but seeing them stare me down is something different. 20130430-112216.jpg The next animal was a white tiger! This took me back to when I was about 11 or 12 years ago and my parents and I took a road trip to California and we stopped off in Las Vegas for a couple of days. I remember seeing the white tigers there and it was awesome! This tiger is a little blurry but he was sleeping anyways. 20130430-112255.jpg All of the big cats in the Cat Canyon that were awake; they were alert and all seemed to just stare right at you. There was a large viewing area in the tiger enclosure; the two tigers were right up next to the glass walking back and forth. 20130430-112418.jpg20130430-112433.jpg The last cat in this area was the snow leopard. 20130430-112525.jpg
At work I had a conversation with a coworker after looking at the pictures I took of two different rhinoceros, I was convinced that they were some kind of modern day dinosaurs. I googled it, and was wrong, not this first nor the last time I’m sure, but look at these guys!
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I found the orangutan to be the most interesting primate we saw at this zoo, the gorillas were lying down and hiding, which is understandable I would probably do the same if I was in their situation. There was a baby primate sleeping which was really cute!

20130430-112736.jpg This orangutan kind of reminded me of big foot in Harry and the Hendersons.

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20130430-112905.jpg There were some monkeys that were having a blast swinging around, to which my friend Carolyn mentioned that she wished she looked that cool on the monkey bars…

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Lions are the King of the jungle! And these two lions at were taking that responsibly with ease and grace expected of one in power. They were taking a power nap!!

20130430-113049.jpg Now an animal I would expect to be taking a nap was ACTIVE! I mean we watched this sloth move non-stop for a good 15 minutes! For some reason I thought sloths just kind of slept a lot and didn’t move, but this little guy proved that thought wrong.

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Do you know what Kristen’s favorite animal is? I didn’t until this trip, it is a polar bear!!

20130430-113627.jpg The first time we walked by the polar bears they were sleeping, so we went and saw the lions, which were also sleeping. When we came back the polar bears were active!!

20130430-113719.jpg We walked through the childrens petting zoo, and near the end was some penguins! A couple of years ago there was an event downtown, and they brought a penguin! I got to pet a penguin, they even had stickers that you got to wear after you petted the little guy!! And yes, I was in my 20s when this happened, but you better believe I wore that sticker with pride! This little penguin was splashing around in the water, so cute right?! Kyle thought he was trying to splash us, I don’t know but either way he was adorable!

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As a little girl I remember going to Brookfield Zoo that we would walk in and take the first right we could and there would be the zebras! These zebras were pretty much chilling like I remember the other zebras doing at Brookfield.

20130430-113956.jpg Interesting fact… I went to a Renaissances Fair in Wisconsin several years ago and got to pet a zebra, and ride an elephant! Elephants might have been one of the last animals we visited, but it is Carolyn’s favorite animal!! We spend a decent amount of time hanging out at this exhibit. It took us about 15 minutes to realize that there was more than one elephant in the habitat! There were in fact 3 elephants in there!!

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Stay tuned, because the next, and last post about our trip to the Cincinnati Zoo is going to be something you don’t want to miss!

For more on my trip to the zoo and other summer adventures check out the below links!
Adventure planning
Cincinnati Zoo

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Cincinnati Zoo

There is something to be said about the people you experience life with, good people can make any place into an awesome once in a lifetime trip! The people I went to the zoo with are a bunch of fun loving people who made the most of this zoo, so if you all have never been to this zoo it is definitely one I would recommend going. First of all it is one of only 5 zoos in the world that have a smart phone app, cool right. Not only can the gps be used to pinpoint your location on their interactive map, it also has the schedule and a whole list of animal bios at your fingertips. This post will talk about what we experienced at the zoo with some pictures; there will be a second post of pretty much just pictures of the animals and a final one of all the funny poses we did! We didn’t even get into the park before a photo opportunity presented itself! Now being a true gentleman our friend Kyle helped all of us girls to be able to sit on the large rhino and then jumped on the smaller one, much to the amusement of the random people we asked to take our picture.

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Before we embarked on this adventure I asked around and was told that the cheetah run was a must see and to feed the giraffes. Conveniently they are located almost right next to one another, with the feeding the giraffes scheduled first

20130429-121308.jpg and then the cheetah run was scheduled to go on right afterwards. While we waited for the cheetah run

20130429-121354.jpg we chit chatted about our plans for the day and how hungry we were. Kyle super excited that we were going to lunch after the cheetah run.

20130429-121437.jpg Right before the cheetahs were to run, the zoo keepers spoke about what an amazingly powerful animal the cheetah was, and how they helped train them. Now cheetahs do love to run and are the fastest animal on land, but they are still wild and dangerous animals. This was clearly demonstrated when the second cheetah did not want to give up what she chased (they exchange the toy with a bowl of fresh meat). The zookeepers were very cautious with trying to get the toy back, and actually just left the cheetah alone for a while before they even tried to get it.

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One of the things the Cincinnati Zoo is known for is it’s tulips. The website says it’s one of the largest displays of tulips in the Midwest.

20130429-121626.jpg There were tulips everywhere and they were beautiful! There was a wide variety of colors

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20130429-122035.jpg So of course we posed with the flowers in the background.

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Not only were the flowers beautiful but the entire zoo was like a beautifully manicured park that had animals.

20130429-122241.jpg Stay tuned for more animals and funny pictures to come :)

What’s you’re favorite thing about visiting a zoo? Which is your favorite zoo to visit?

One more thing crossed off my list of things to do this summer!

Cincinnati Zoo part 2

Chicken chili in the crockpot

I was never a fan of any kind of ‘Chicken Chili’ for some reason it just didn’t seem to jive with me. I don’t know why, but I’m sure glad I got over that! The chicken chili recipe in this post is delicious, and since it uses the slow cooker it’s a cinch as well. The first time I tried this was when a coworker brought it in for lunch, yes you better believe I mooched and tried some of her lunch, she offered! It was so yummy that I had to ask for the recipe, I found a recipe of it online with just a couple of modifications.

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili
Original here

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Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts*
2 cans Rotel tomatoes
1 can whole corn kernels, do not drain
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients into the slow cooker, and place the cream cheese in last.
2. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.
3. Right before serving shred chicken, replace and stir until mixed.

You can eat it just plain, over rice, or with tortilla chips!

*I use 3 because that is what is comes in the package of chicken breasts, I do try to make it close to 1 pound of chicken.

Mammoth Cave – Grand Avenue Tour

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I used to call it Mammoth Caves, until a coworker mentioned that it is Mammoth Cave. You know what… he was right! Mammoth Cave is the largest cave in the world, with about 400 miles of the cave explored. 400 miles! Guys that’s a lot of miles!! According to our tour guide most of that 400 miles is all within a 7 by 7 miles square. The tunnels are layered upon one another. The tour I took went down to the third level… not sure what that really means. What I do know is that when this picture was taken I was approximately 267 feet underground.

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The tour I took was called “The Grand Avenue Tour” I got a little mixed up on the times, I thought it started at 11:15 am, but in reality it was 11:30 am. Which doesn’t sound like a big difference until you factor in that I arrived 45 minutes early for the 11:15 tour, I was an HOUR early. Oops!! I had some time to kill and the weather was beautiful so I found a patch of grass and laid down and relaxed.

According to the NPS website the Grand Avenue Tour is 4 miles, 4 ½ hours and has 670 stairs, there was an optional 98 that I took because why not! The pace of the tour was good, I didn’t feel rushed or that it was dragging on. There were parts of the tour that were pretty hard, but conveniently there were rest spots right afterwards. When I first entered the cave and descended the first set of stairs my throat kind of felt like it was closing…. It may have been the fact that before we were loaded on the buses that took us to the cave entrance there was an extensive if this… then maybe this isn’t the right tour for you. Well I didn’t think I was claustrophobic until they mentioned that it would take HOURS before you were rescued if something happened there. I had to just stop thinking about that and that we were underground.

The first hour or so was what our Ranger said was ‘a walk in the park’ the end was ‘the hike’. We started out on Cleveland Ave and then had our lunch in the Snowball room. Words and pictures cannot capture the beauty of this place, or if they can I do not have the skills to adequately capture it. We had about a half an hour to eat in the Snowball room, which was named after the snowball shaped formations that were on the ceiling, we got to ask our Rangers questions and find out more about Mammoth Cave. They said that in the old days Mammoth Cave was privately owned and that one of the highlights was writing your name in the cave. Now Mammoth Cave was authorized as a national park in 1926, but was fully established in 1941 (source) When they ‘wrote’ their names it was actually smoked on with a candle! That’s kind of cool, they don’t allow people to write on the cave walls anymore, some people took it upon themselves to write on the picnic tables we ate at.

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Next to the Snowball room there was a waiting area that also had “the last legal bathroom for a long while” as our guide stated. Our next adventure lead us to Boone Avenue. Along the way I discovered ‘cave grapes’ that are formations that look like little grapes all over the ceiling, ‘cave crickets’ while also all over the ceiling these were not formations… Bugs we were over a mile from the entrance and there were bugs on the ceiling! They moved, AH! When I asked our Ranger if they bit, she looked at me like I was crazy and said ‘They’re crickets, they don’t bite’. How was I supposed to know that they were legitimately crickets and not something else that they called crickets, to help keep people like me from freaking out? Asking questions sometimes gets me responses like the one above, or can sometimes lead to interesting stories. It was a tight squeeze for a long while, single file, there were some places that the rock was just a couple of inches from touching me on either side.

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When thinking of hiking and going up hills in Kentucky, one normally thinking of the Red River Gorge or Natural Bridge, not hundreds of feet underground. There were parts that were really tough, this little 8 year old boy was behind me and kept telling him mom, ‘I’m not sure I’m gonna make it, just leave me here”. She didn’t and he made it just fine, a bit winded but he made it. After one such mountain we stopped at the top and saw what our guide affectionately called ‘Cave Zombies’. There were individuals who volunteer their time and labor to help the park out with maintenance that the park doesn’t have either the manpower or the budget to do. Think about it 400 miles of cave to maintain! That’s a lot of cave! Off we went to our next and hopefully final mountain, finally as we crested our last mountain we sat down to have our final chit chat before our last leg of the hike. Our Ranger spoke a bit on the history of the ownership of the cave, and the discovery of the New Cave Entrance. He spoke to us by candlelight, to show us what it was like for the people first exploring the cave, and then he blew out the candle and had everyone be as quiet and still as we could be to see what it was like when nobody was in the cave. WOW, just wow!

We finished up our tour with seeing the Frozen Niagara and leaving through the New Entrance to the Mammoth Cave. Overall the hike was amazing, and just beautiful. I wish that I could recommend that you all run out to Mammoth Cave and experience this tour first hand but I cannot. Due to the sequester and budget cuts this tour is being discontinued it just a couple of weeks. What makes this sadder is that I was talking with a lady on the way out to the cave who said her grandparents had taken her on this tour when she was a little girl and that she is now taking her granddaughter on it, a 5 generation tradition. While this tour may no longer be available I am sure that any tour into this cave will be breathtaking.

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Cabin Fever

Update and things to come

Ahh it’s been almost a month since I’ve written anything here, sad. Work has been a little crazy; getting the hang of new stuff takes time. Lately I feel like I’ve been back at square one, with work, my personal life and with my workout.

Lets be honest here, I haven’t stopped cooking either. I mean I have recipes written up and even the pictures taken and edited. Why haven’t I posted them yet? I haven’t an idea, and yes I write up my recipe posts in a spiral notebook before I post them. I cook a lot more than I post and like to be able to write a couple of posts at a time and schedule them to be posted. I get into a food rut sometimes and make and eat the same thing for weeks at a time, example, I’ve made cream cheese chicken chili like 5 times in the last 2 months. That may not seem like it would be a lot for a family, but when I make it, the leftovers will last me a couple of days. In essence I’ve eaten that for about a month out of the last two.

I was a huge bum with working out; I don’t think I went more than one or two times the entire month of February. A friend of mine signed up for the gym and has helped motivate me to go more in March. I love to work out, I love to sleep too, and 5:45 comes early! So I am working on trying to go at least twice a week and slowly work myself up to 4-5 times a week again. I know that if I try to go back to 4-5 times a week that I will beat myself up and get discouraged if I can’t make it. Yes I will get back there, but it might take a month of working up to it to get there. The wait will be worth it though, and I will do it!

Ever since I can remember spring has been the hardest for me. It may be the anticipation of the summer months to finally get here; being so over the grays of winter, or for some reason it seems like the days just take more out of me. At the same time I love spring for the fact that I know summer will be here soon, I enjoy sitting through spring thunderstorms, making summer vacation plans, and watching as the days grow longer and hotter at every passing week. My birthday is in the spring, and for the past several years my birthday is the time that I finally get to go and see my family! Thanksgiving and spring are the two times that I always get to go and see them. Driving north in the winter isn’t the best idea, since a lot of the highways are on open flat plains. If there is any combination of snow and wind, which are characteristic of winter, the roadways get covered within a matter of minutes after they’ve been cleared. I talk with them weekly but that is different than seeing them. Maybe it’s the waiting that gets me, that there is something starting but is just out of reach.

I haven’t forgotten about this post either, I written about my first trip to the Red River Gorge and taking on the Double Arch trail. I am still working on getting to visit the other places as well. This weekend I am hoping to go and explore Mammoth Cave. Craziness happened and some friends and I went to go get tickets for the Grand Avenue Tour, long story short, I was able to get a reservation and it sold out before my friends got a chance to book theirs! So it looks like I’ll be going solo here. I’m terrified of it, sometimes it hard to do things by myself, even if it’s something I really want to do. I am an extrovert, so I love being around people and sharing experiences with friends. The tour sold out, so I won’t be by myself (I wouldn’t recommend caving alone!) but I won’t be with people I know either, and that makes me sad. I am also hoping to get to go to the Cincinnati Zoo this month! If there is one thing I’ve learned over and over is that nothing is set in stone, so while I am planning on going I need to be able to adapt to changes if they occur! A friend I had dinner with the other night was excited when she heard that I wanted to go to the Badlands sometime, so plans for that trip might be in the works for the near future!!

There are many adventures with DIY projects. I have done a couple of small projects but this weekend will mark the beginning of the largest DIY project to date! Exciting and scary at the same time!! I will admit that I highly recommend Ana White to anyone I know that is thinking of building anything. Her plans were what I used to make this:

20130405-134056.jpg and now I am going to try and make a Farmhouse Queen Bedframe With the help of my friend, he has a saw; and he said he would help me cut all of the pieces need! What a great friend right?! Living in an apartment has many advantages in my opinion, but also disadvantages like not being able to store a table saw.

I’m hoping to post about my adventures next week! I realize that my bedframe will not be finished by next week, I have to cut, assemble and paint it, but I can post about the other DIY projects I’ve done lately!

What kind of adventures do you have planned for the summer? Hiking? Any DIY Projects? Travelling? Exploring? Road tripping?