Saturday, June 13, 2015

Baby Season!

Last weekend we went out to Iowa to visit family. Dean's older sister Kathy's 3 adult kids all had baby girls in the last year! The two living in the Iowa City area had theirs just a few months ago, and one of our requests this trip was to meet the great nieces for the first time. Tom and Sarah offered a cookout, so we couldn't resist! Iowa City is always a great destination, though we rarely go there directly. We found that we could get there in 3 hours, though - good to know for future reference!

At left are Jeff and Sarah, sister Kathy and Rich's son and youngest daughter showing off the new grandkids. At left, Jeff is holding Natalie, and Sarah is holding Adeline. Natalie is the older by about 3 weeks... Jeff, Sarah and their sister Jennifer, who lives in Connecticut, all have the "adorable photo" gene - difficult to take a bad picture of them. It remains to be seen if it gets passed on to the next generation, though at right, Jeff and Sandy's older daughter Claire is holding her cousin Adeline. It looks like Claire has the gene, so chances are great that family albums will be full of adorable photos!

Of course, you can't have a cookout without the cooking! Out Iowa way, the men do the meat cooking, usually with beers in hand, talking about sports teams. I joined Tom at left and Jeff, gathered around their "egg" smoker, me getting filled in on my old alma mater Iowa's teams, and of course, if the Cubs are going to catch the Cardinals in the National League Central division. The consensus is a definite "YES!" On the menu was the standard burgers and brats, with a couple veggie burgers thrown in, and from the local Fareway Market, some jalapeƱo and cheese brats - yum! Tom is quite the expert on these smokers - he has two, almost 3, though this last one ended up at a friend's house instead of his garage...

After the usual feast that results whenever Ketelsens get together, more pictures! I was in a phase once where I photographed people getting photographed, so this shot of my sister Kathy taking a picture of niece Breanna holding Adeline. Breanna is working as a nurse now in Davenport, and we got to meet her boyfriend Bryant for the first time. At left, Jeff's wife Sandy holds daughter Natalie. It was great seeing the latest additions to the next generation. We would have loved to stay longer, or spend more time in IC, but we had plans for another Ketelsen eating event, this time 90 minutes away back in Clinton at our usual Pizza Ranch location. This time brother Brian, sister Linda and their families joined in too. It was great seeing everyone and spending more time catching up before we headed back down the road towards Chicago. And of course, we felt we didn't need to eat at all on Sunday!

Here in our neighborhood in St Charles, I've been good and getting my daily exercise. My hip has been bothering me, so not much walking or hiking, but I've been riding the recumbent bicycle here almost daily or twice per day, mostly around a mile loop at a local park. It is really nice riding there - no traffic, and a good part of the loop is in open prairie with a couple little ponds. One of them has been drawing my attention as there is a nesting pair of sandhill cranes in residence! While we watch them by the tens of thousands in their wintering grounds at Whitewater Draw in southeastern Arizona, I've never seen them nesting. This pond has a couple of what has been called muskrat dens that the birds spend the night on, keeping away from predators. I don't know where they spend the days, as the "nest" appears empty, and the chicks (I think there are 2) are a little too small to wade through the foot-deep water. Here at left is shown the male and female, and at right 30 minutes earlier one of the chicks was peeking out over mom at me. Both of these were taken with the 300mm lens, at nearly full camera resolution. I'll be keeping my eyes on them while we're still here. Nice to see some of the local babies too!

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