Saturday, March 26, 2016

Full Sail Graduation

Yesterday our family gathered to witness and celebrate our son Cameron's graduation along with his classmates at Full Sail University.

Kevin, Hannah and Lauren waiting for the ceremony to start and entry into the main auditorium

Preparations- getting cap and gowns on, greeting friends...

It's hard to believe that he was done, especially sitting in this auditorium where we first were at the completion of our campus tour on June 22, 2014 listening to the history of Full Sail from the schools president Gary Jones. That was the spot where Cameron determined that he really wanted to make the commitment to the intense schedule and effort required to complete a full 4 year bachelors degree in the 22 months this program entailed.

Stage, lights and music ready for program to start
All the grads filing into the auditorium and of course there's Cameron!

Now he had done it and all that was left was to get his diploma and he was done.  With their full video and production departments involved they put on a show the likes of professional concerts as you sit and wait for the time the students are to come in and diplomas handed out.  After initial speeches by University heads, including Gary Jones the various department staffs are ushered in and diplomas for those graduates handed out.  It's all done in a timely and efficient manner considering the large number of graduates from the many different schools of learning available here.

Finally the time came for Cameron's group in the Game Art Department, to receive their diplomas and we were thrilled, delighted, proud and a tad emotional to hear his name called and the surprise that he was the recipient of 2 course directors awards for Art Creation for Games and Texture Painting and Sculpture.

Cameron and Game Art students waiting to go onstage for their diplomas

Diploma and picture time with the department head

School president Gary Jones congratulating Cameron

Some of this programs staff

Now that his time here as a student is done, the next phase of his life's direction starts as he'll begin an internship at the University with the same teacher he's done a work study program with.  During this internship he'll pursue freelance work and making contacts for moving forward in his career as an animator.

Dad reaches Cameron first in all the chaos afterwards

It's amazing how quickly time seems to be flying by with two of our kids grown now and Hannah and Lauren growing up so fast, it won't be long before we'll be sitting in other audiences watching their college graduations!!

All the best to you, from our family to yours.  And a very happy Easter to all who celebrate the Lords Resurrection.

Monday, March 14, 2016

St. Petersburg Florida & Sunken Gardens

The last weekend of Amber and Eddie's visit with us we wanted to tour some place that none of us had visited before.  In past visits we'd taken them to various stops at the Atlantic shore to see the sites and put our toes in the water.  We thought a visit to Florida's other coast line on the Gulf was a good idea and when looking at a map St. Petersburg stood out since Amber's birthplace was St. Petersburg,
Russia,  I went online looking for places to see and things to do there and saw ads for the Sunken Gardens - perfect.  With our destination entered into the GPS we were off fairly early on Saturday morning.

Bridge heading to St. Peterburg and sign welcoming everyone
The drive was a little over two hours with a quick rest stop and a bit of traffic.  We headed right over to the Sunken Gardens to begin our tour of the grounds.  The sign is a vintage 50's style and there was some special show going on there with various artists setting up displays using plant materials with brightly colored natural materials to create various vignettes throughout the garden area.

The history of this place is this:
In 1903 a plumber by the name of George Turner, Sr. purchased the six acres that would become a world famous botanical attraction. Using an elaborate maze of clay tiles, he drained an ancient lake on the property, leaving a rich muck soil that was ideal for his favorite hobby – gardening. Neighbors so enjoyed strolling through Mr. Turner's garden, that by the early 1920's, he was charging a nickel for tours. Three generations of the Turner family continued the vision that created this unique tropical garden, with its flowing ponds.

What he created and the incredible growth of the well established landscape is inspiring to say the least.  We walked around the paths for quite awhile taking all kinds of photos, looking at name plaques for plants and trees of ones I'd like to add to my yard, and just getting inspired by the efforts of what this man and his family did, and the beauty that nature brings when it can thrive in this kind of lush environment.

Amazing lush growth with loads of interesting colors and textures!!

Gorgeous gingers

Grounds in top shot, Amber by HUGE bougainvillea, large cacti in planters

Cameron and Eddie on the paths near the entrance

The colors on this gorgeous rainbow eucalyptus
Some of the many beautiful blossoms along the paths
Girls found this table and chairs in the shade along our path
Really large stag horn fern on left and on the right is an enormous travelers palm behind the other plants in foreground
Paths along our way
Love the Bamboo!!

Two longtime residents of the gardens are the snapping turtle above and the tortoise
Bird of Paradise

Bridge over falls
Kevin using the plant identification app on his smartphone

After the gardens we headed to the shore line and parked by a pier that is currently being renovated. Much of St. Peterburg seemed to have these sorts of renovation projects going on and though it creates barriers for exploring or picture taking now, I know it will be lovely and more functional once the work is complete,  For us it was a time to take  a few photos and dip our toes in the Gulf Waters.

Amber and Eddie by the St. Pete sign near the pier

Putting our toes in the Gulf Waters

Put my toes in too

Amber and Eddie

A look at downtown and the trolley that will take you around

Then it was time to find a place to eat.  I'd looked online for a few ideas and one that got good reviews was a simple restaurant called the Hangar over at the small airfield.  You could sit and watch the small planes or helicopters come and go as you ate your meal.  The food was basic fare, but all were good size portions and really delicious.

Starting our walk to the restaurant

Downtown St. Pete

Lunch time YAY!!

My meal - Bacon wrapped meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes and seasoned veggies YUM

After lunch we walked back to the car when the local trolley was delayed due to an accident in town causing backup.  We drove through this quaint town to a coffee shop on the edge of another area that's seeing some urban renewal.  There Eddie treated us to a coffee for our ride home.

Sign with some history and ties to the Russian St. Petersburg

Driving to the coffee shop - cute town And so ends a wonderful day.
The Bandit Coffee House

With their minimalist environment and tap pay system - chic

Now it's time to head home.
Trying to capture the sunset in the side mirror as we cross the bridge for home

It was a wonderful day and St. Petersburg is definitely someplace I'd like to go back to explore further.