Anyone else visiting their local county fairs this summer?

I hope  this annual past-time never leaves small town USA. It’s one of those happenings that no matter how many years have gone by, it feels like time has frozen when you go to the local small town county fair. I had a blast this summer evening at Queen Anne’s county fair in Maryland! I hope this annual past-time never leaves small town USA. This campground was filled with laughter, carnival lights, games and smiles.

All ages watching as livestock is being judged at the 4-H portion of this county fair.
This pint sized cowgirl displays her horse’s ribbons with pride on her stall.
Proudly displaying the Maryland State Flag on this barn stall door. A “penny” for this horse’s thoughts.
A girl and her horse…
A fair isn’t really a fair without carnival food. My favorite this year was by far the “Crab Cake” dinner hosted by a local civic group.
I couldn’t leave without a candied apple. What’s your favorite fair or carnival treat?

I’d love to hear about the fairs and carnivals you’ve visited this summer. If there is one you believe is a must, please let me know in the comment section and I may put it on my summer to do list for 2019.

Summer Fun With My Camera

Summer is an amazing time to enjoy your favorite hobbies. Photography tops my list of favorites.

Summer started with a fabulous trip to Manchester, Vermont. I couldn’t resist shooting this early morning reflection in the swimming pool at Barrow’s House Inn.

As wonderful as summers are they are also busy with friends and family, just the way I like spending my free time. When Thursday mornings hit, my mind starts racing with anticipation of all the fun I have to look forward to with a weekend of friends and family playing on the Chesapeake Bay. I try to capture a few highlights of my summer weekends and those I love.

I caught this moment with my camera at sunset as my two sons, cousins and friends fished until the sun went down. This is what I would call a “full boat!”
Boating and fishing with my little sister and two sweet nieces. Sun and fun on the Chesapeake Bay.
Cousin love!
Another full boat of fun. If you haven’t fished or spent time on the Chesapeake Bay, I recommend you get here soon! This particular favorite fishing spot of my son’s is right off of Kent Island. I was hoping they would bring home some fish to fry.
Another fun activity on the water- tubing!
Summer isn’t alway filled with sunshine. Summer rain storms with a bit of cooler weather is always a nice break from the heat.
Annapolis, MD is a great destination to visit and is where I love to go on rainy days when I can’t be out on the water. Historic Annapolis doesn’t disappoint with its cute stores, restaurants, and bars.
Umbrellas in hand and window shopping with family in Annapolis.
Sister time!
Boat reflections are fun to shoot especially when there is a ripple in the water. A little abstract art here!

I hope all of you are enjoying your summer and spending time with family and those you love. Before owning a little place on the Chesapeake Bay, we would rent a home in Cape Charles, VA. It’s on the Chesapeake Bay too and is located at the southern tip of the Delmarva. Where ever you live, try and budget enough money to rent a place for you and your family to gather once a year for a weekend or even a week and make memories to last a life time! You and  your family will cherish these times for years to come. There is nothing that can replace good quality time with family and those you love.

 

 

 

Horses, Hats, and Smiles

The forecast was for rain but with a little luck and some prayers, the day was perfect. Yes, there were a few light showers but spirits, spring colors, hats, smiles, and cocktails brighten the day!

It’s hard to believe I’ve lived in Virginia and the DC area for over 20 years and this was the first time I went to enjoy and watch the Gold Cup Races. I know for a fact it won’t be my last. What events are you missing out on right in your backyard? Do a search for your city and countryside fairs, events, races, and wineries, then put them on a list and go!

Perfect countryside setting for these beautiful horses and colorful jockeys today.
Maybe a winner here.
Hats and more hats of all colors and sizes on display.
Picnic tailgating was full of color, flowers, sweet tea, and cocktails.
More Sangria please?
Gold Cup Mules and Mint Juleps.
More pickup trucks, hats and smiles.
Cocktails anyone?
Horse Race tailgating and all its prep.
Big smiles and big hats at the Gold Cup Races. I wonder how many big winners there were?
It wouldn’t be the South without a little Lilly Pulitzer.
This bright pink hat won the category of “most outrageous” hat.

 

Getting Garden Ready for Spring and Summer

I headed out to the Chesapeake Bay hoping for some warmish weather since I planned on being outside cleaning up my yard. Several Nor’Easters in the last few weeks left the yard full of branches  which will be used for summer evening bonfires.

I never was much of a gardener until about 5 or 6 years ago. Now I can’t wait to get my hands in soil and plant and care for God’s beauty. I’ve watched my mother create the most gorgeous gardens year after year, sweating and bending until late in the night. I hoping I’ve inherited a bit of her green thumb. My neighborhood has a garden club which I’ve always been curious about and I plan on joining it in May. I’m starting to definitely feel like a midlifer!

Do you spend time in your garden? If you have any good tips on Hydrangeas, roses, and deer resistant plants, I’d love to hear about them. Along the edge of my yard (in this picture) are Sedums but the deer have eaten them to the ground! Since this is a summer home and mainly weekends, the deer have basically moved right in and help themselves to dinner nightly.

The back yard looks as cold as the temperature today. I can’t wait for warmer temperatures and blooms that should be here in the next few weeks.
This is a drop in the pit of tree branches I cleaned out of the flower beds and front yard today. I have no doubt my boys will burn this as soon as they get here to the bay. Nothing like boys and bonfires.
These Dahlia bulbs are ready for planting and will provide wonderful annual color this summer. I especially like to cut Dahlias for fresh cut flowers brightening up the inside all summer long.
These large porch urns have plenty of room to bury bulbs for summer blooming and pansies on the surface giving some spring color.
Supply was low at the garden center with limited colors of pansies available. Purple pansies happen to be my favorite- lucky me because they will work perfect for my front yard.
Don’t you love perennials? They show up each year greeting me with splendid color!
Don’t forget to cut some of these beauties and bring them into the house. They are full of color and say Spring!
My absolute favorite flowers in my garden are the Hydrangeas. I love all varieties and colors. These pink ones are starting to bud and will brighten up my garden all summer long.
These two Boxwoods have weathered many winters and are maintenance free. Once the weather warms up, I’ll add some floral vines that will drape over the edges of these tall urns bringing color to the back deck.
I probably jumped the gun on purchasing these Ranunculus but I couldn’t resist them. I’ll keep them inside for a week or two until the outside temperatures warm up. This will be my first time to add Ranunculus to my bay garden. Wish me luck!
Cloudy spring days offer beautiful water reflections. This is a water reflection of the back of my house on the water.

Spontaneous planned trips are the best and a perk to being an Empty Nester

The excitement of visiting Charleston, SC  and escaping the colder temperatures and rainy forecast was just what I needed to keep me hopeful that spring is almost here. Taking a spontaneous and last minute planned trip was just what I imagined empty-nesting to be about. I packed an overnight bag and traveled with my hubby to this magical city at a moments notice. I can so get use to this type of living and adventure!

I took  this image from the streets of Charleston but don’t think for a minute that I didn’t have my husband touring this way the very next day!
The colorful and historic homes are candy to my eyes. The shadows of the trees add a little extra on this early morning stroll.
The historic homes were painted in mostly pastels on this particular street. Each one distinctive and full of character.
Window-boxes decorated the facades adding even more color, charm, and character to the streets.
This window box is full of happiness and brings a smile to my face.
A friend recommended the crepes at “Queen Street Grocery.” The brie, ham and raspberry crepe was worth the trip alone! If you are visiting Charleston, don’t miss this spot for a cup of coffee, snack or meal.
I plan to return and visit more of the Churches of Charleston. This church was one of my favorites.
The coast was especially beautiful in the early morning just after sunrise.

An adventurous morning on the Chesapeake Bay with my camera.

Embracing life and finding what brings you joy might just lead you to more adventure, friendships, and learning more than you ever set out to find. Choose a time where you can just sit and brain-storm about what makes you happy and what hobbies or experiences can lead you to living a full life, one with purpose, intent, and a dash of adventure. Then go for it!

Tonging for Oysters at sunrise on the bay. Enjoying new experiences with my camera in hand.
Several boats were gathering at Kent Narrows working in pairs tonging, sorting, measuring size of oysters, and crating them to be sold to a shucking house.
Checking for size and viability of the oyster.
Keeping the oysters that are over 3″ from hinge to bill is the legal size for harvest.
Chesapeake Deadrise Boats at Kent Narrows getting settled to start tonging for Oysters.
I have a greater understanding now for the men and women working on the water – fishing, crabbing, and oystering. In addition to being hard work, seasonal work, and in often harsh climates (this morning temperatures were well below freezing) it’s also passionate work. The enjoyment of  seafood is now a much different experience for me- it’s one much more appreciated.
The Chesapeake Bay Deadrise Boat is the typical work-horse boat of the bay.
The stillness of the bay lends itself to some beautiful photography water reflections this morning.
Ripples in the water create interesting reflection images.

A reminder to buy local seafood whenever you can. Choosing to add sustainable, healthy protein to your plate supports local fisherman.
To learn more about tonging for oysters:

Why I Decided To Pick Up A Camera

Sounds of wind whipping outside and getting caught in the fireplace causing howling sounds echoed throughout my bedroom this morning. I must have been in a light sleep and on the verge of wakening because I woke up feeling rested with not even a yawn. I could have sworn I was smelling coffee brewing but it was just a figment of my imagine because I was by myself at the bay house this weekend and I hadn’t even to the kitchen yet. I guess I was so eager to have my first cup of coffee that my imagining it took hold. Coffee and everything else seems to taste better when I’m out on the Chesapeake Bay. I know that sounds crazy but it must be my state of mind when I’m able to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and daily life there. Anyway, I made myself a cup of hot, strong, black coffee with a tad bit of sweetner- just how I like it.

My plan was to start writing first thing this morning and not just starting but staying put until I actually have finished writing a post. But the weather outside, even with the rain, was pulling me outdoors. So after just writing a few sentences, I headed outside in the wind, the rain, and cold. I wanted to awaken my senses, my soul a bit and actually feel alive with the wind and rain on me. I’ve mentioned before how much I love weather. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t run out the door every time it rains to get soaked, just every now and then, I want to be in the midst of it. This early Saturday morning is one of those times. One of the reasons I came out to our little place on the Chesapeake Bay is because we haven’t been out here to winterize the place since the weather changed. I know it’s already January and two small snows are already behind us but the last few months have been hectic. There’s not that much to do but the outside furniture, kayaks, and canoe all need put in our shed until spring. Since I wasn’t sure about the weather for the rest of the day, I felt now was as good of a time as any to load up the shed with our things. This way I was able to accomplish a task too.

A few of the things needing to be put away until Spring.

I’m hoping to get most of my chores done and write this post so I can venture into town and enjoy some photography. Taking pictures has been a hobby of mine for only a few short years. I’ll never forget the moment I realized I HAD to learn to take good photos, images that would really mean something for years to come. It was in early 2012. It was never anything I had thought of before. I didn’t grow up as that young kid with a natural and creative talent in the making. I never felt a creative juice inside of me until my deepest emotions and vulnerabilities were stirred and tested in late 2011. Though I didn’t take many spontaneous pictures of my family and friends, I did make sure we had yearly photos done as a family. I wasn’t totally absent in this area, I just never captured the day to day moments, the real essence of my kids in action in addition to the posed ones. But I wasn’t going to let more days or months go by without learning and making the time to do this.

I picked up my  point and shoot camera and started taking pictures especially of my oldest son, who had just been diagnosed with serious illness. This was a devastating and life changing event for him and all of us, this was the moment I knew I “had” to capture as many moments of him as possible. I remember when the thought  “I don’t have pictures of him,” at least not many capturing those expressions that I loved so much! You know the ones, where your child has that distinctive cute expression on their face? Those special nuances that make your child them. These were the expressions and moments that I wanted so dearly to never forget and have them as my children became older and maybe would grow out of some of the expressions. The thought at this moment of not having these images took my breath away, I actually thought my heart was going to stop beating. I felt panicked, fearful and full of regret that I didn’t have more images of both my boys. Tears would not stop running and thoughts of this wouldn’t even take a pause in my mind. What have I done or better stated not done? I immediately knew, I wasn’t going to miss out on capturing as many of these future moments as I could. Of course, because life and kids are so unpredictable, I never thought that they wouldn’t actually want their pictures taken at any given moment, at least not by me!  It was at times truly annoying but I wasn’t going to give into this totally. We were going to have to find some compromise.

So, this is why I picked up a camera and starting shooting photography. Initially, I was so disappointed in my pictures. Who thought snapping a good picture would not be easy or wouldn’t turn out like I had imagined the photo to end up looking? After trying on my own for over a year, I decided to google “learning photography in DC” and there it was, a workshop coming my way by Bryan Peterson. I had no idea who this was but the timing was right and it would be an entire 2 days. I figured I’d probably learn everything I needed to in these two days to take awesome pictures. I realize now, that I was crazy to think that was possible. But of course, at that time, I didn’t know why anyone would ever use any of the camera knobs other that keeping it on “automatic” mode. I didn’t know why there were different gadgets on the camera and really didn’t care to know until I showed up for this class. This workshop opened my eyes to the real skill and talent it takes to learn to capture incredible images. The reality that I wasn’t going to walk away in two days and take incredible photos was a bit disappointing to say the least, but at this point I’m vested in learning. I upgraded my old point and shoot camera to a Canon DSLR and started taking pictures whenever I had the opportunity.

FYI-Anyone starting the journey of learning photography should really look up Bryan Peterson and consider either an online class by him or taking a weekend workshop.

I can’t wait to share with you the rest of my journey to learning photography in upcoming posts. I can’t forget to mention, the friendships I’ve developed because of photography. This is probably my most exciting, time-consuming, expensive but also rewarding hobby I have. What hobbies brighten up your day and challenge you?  One of the perks to being a midster and empty-nester is the ability to make time for hobbies in addition to having the wisdom to know how important hobbies are for our overall wellbeing. They can also lead to unforgettable adventures, which has been my experience since picking up a camera. It gives me a perfect excuse to go explore and experience life and watch it unfold around me. How are your hobbies contributing to living your best life now?

On one of my many photography adventures so far. This was on a trip with photographer friends at Smith Island, MD.

A Chance Encounter And A Little Photography Adventure

A picture of Laurie before meeting her and hearing about her DC family mission.

A little snow had fallen in the DC Metro area, it was the first snow of the season. The National Mall and Memorials were quiet with only a few people out and about. I took this photo when initially arriving at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a place I enjoy visiting especially on those mornings when there are no crowds. I was curious as to why this lady was out so early and seemed intent to find something or someone on the Memorial Wall.  I sparked up a conversation with her inquiring about her visit to the Memorial and what she was looking for so intently?

And so the story begins….  Lauri  was visiting DC from Oklahoma and was on a mission for her father. Her uncle had apparently died in the Vietnam War and she was the first family member to visit the wall and was in hopes of getting a rubbing of his name on paper for her dad. The task ended up much harder than expected since his name was listed higher than she could reach. I could see the disappointment on her face when she located her uncle’s name- way up high and even a ladder wouldn’t help her at this point. I asked if I could help in anyway and suggested she go to the top of the hill and see if she can lean over and reach his name and I could help her from below locate it. She gave me the column number and line he was etched on. Having come so far and braved the bitter cold, she was not giving up. Lauri quickly ran to the top of the hill but then abruptly stopped in her tracks. Once on the hill, she immediately noticed the sign stating “stay off the grass.” What would she do now? Well… she made a dash for it! I quickly counted the columns for her and then counted up each line to find her Uncle’s name.  “It’s right here,” I kept yelling as she kept re-positioning her pencil and paper until she was over his name. Within a minute or two she was done and off the grass before anyone of authority noticed. I have to say, I admired her determination and passion to get this meaningful rubbing for her father. She couldn’t quit smiling and it was obvious how pleased she was of herself- mission accomplished!

Completing the rubbing of her uncle’s name (a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country) on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Later I was thinking about all the families whose relatives and loved ones are etched on these granite panels making up the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There has to be an easier way to receive a rubbing of their loved ones name. They had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and their families should be able to receive this in honor of them. So I started researching the topic of  the Vietnam Veterans Memorial name rubbings.  Right there  in a google search was the link to a form to request the rubbing and have it sent to a family member. If you have a family member or know of a friend who has a loved one etched in this Memorial, think about requesting a rubbing. What a beautiful gift it would be. The form can can be found here:

https://donate.vvmf.org/page/signup/request-a-name-rubbing

A reflection of the Washington Monument in the distance on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

 

 

Getting Started On My 2018 Reading List

So here it is, my January and February reading. I admit, I’ve been a bit lazy when it comes to reading for enjoyment but that’s about to change!  I headed online to a favorite of mine here in DC, Politics and Prose. I spent quite a bit of time contemplating about what books I wanted to curl up to and get lost in. What books would leave me on the edge of my seat, fill my soul with inspiration, or help me get closer to perfecting a skill or interest I have. So here they are! I picked “The Second Girl.” for two reasons, one- because I love a good crime mystery and two- because it takes place in Washington, DC. There’s nothing like turning the pages in a book and knowing the exact street or location unfolding in the story. I think we all should explore books that unfold right in our own backyard and city. This will be the first book I get started on other than  “Having a Mary heart in a Martha World ” which I’m currently reading two chapters a week now for my Thursday Girls faith group. Talk about stepping back for a moment and having some insight, this study is helping me do just that. What’s on your reading list this year? Any good reads that  you recommend I add to my list for the year?

2018 and Getting The Most Out Of It

So here I am one week into the new year. I’ve had the week to think more about my plans for 2018. It wasn’t too hard to set the time aside – the temperature has hovered around 10-15 degrees all weekend. It’s been a perfect weekend to snuggle next to my Westie and work on my writing. With a couple of weeks left of college break my home is still busy and full since it has been gathering place for my sons and their friends. It has been far from boring and has been reminiscent of those earlier high school years with kids in and out, laughing, eating me out of house and home, late nights and sleeping in mornings. I don’t mean to digress, I guess my point is, even with the house full of activity since the cold is keeping all of us in a bit, I was still able to spend time plotting out the beginning of my new year. I’m so excited about 2018!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted 2018 to be about inspiration, love, and hard work. Seeing these three words together on paper may not initially make a lot of sense. But these concepts keep ringing in my head, so I’m going with my gut and making these words my mantra for 2018. How am I going to do this? Well for now, I’m going to take this day-by-day focused on Inspiration, Love, and Hard Work.

My thoughts about Inspiration– I want to continue to be inspired by other Midsters and how they are making the most of living in the middle of their life and story. To be creatively inspired by continuing my love of photography and recent uptake of writing. I’ve been so inspired through photography this past year. Meeting people I would never have had the opportunity to meet if it wasn’t for photography. Hearing their stories, seeing how they live, what they enjoy, and what inspires them. I found the pictures and images I took, just a small window into their lives that they decided to share with me. I find this a real gift.

One of my adventurous photography clubs. Braving the cold temperatures for at least a short  while this morning.

 

Such a privilege getting to know the hardworking watermen on the Chesapeake Bay.

 

My mom and I visiting Tennessee together.

When it comes to Love– wow, so much I want to say about this and will definitely write more about this in the near future. Just a four letter word but the true meaning of this can’t be summed up easily. For me and 2018, I’m nurturing this one with all my heart! As I’ve aged I realized that this is it, at least for me! Feeling the love, showing the love… I’ve been so blessed with a family I love so much, both my nuclear and extended family. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Mother Theresa, “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones — the ones at home.” My two children are “one foot out the door” sort of speak, as they are now young adults. They are everything to me therefore, I’m dedicated to continuing to love them by showing them, telling them and nurturing this new shift in the relationship that is now mother and young adult versus mother and young child.  And who can forget, as if my husband would ever let me, I still have a husband at home to love! I love him dearly. I consider “taking care of the closest ones” from Mother Theresa’s quote to mean more than those just at home as we become empty nesters. I’m fortunate to have both my parents still living. Though they are in Texas and I’m on the East Coast, I’m making them a priority this year. I did the same last year and want to continue to spend quality time with them. I’ve set aside time to make several visits home this coming year and my mother has become my routine travel buddy so I am blessed to see her quite a bit on the road. Adding to my extended family are my siblings. Sibling relationships can be complicated but I’m blessed with siblings that I love, adore, and enjoy spending time with. Nurturing these relationships comes easy to me- they are easy to love! I couldn’t finish writing about love and family without mentioning my cousins, nieces and nephew. Continuing to spend time with them and nurturing these relationships is something that also comes easy but takes time and effort since everyone has busy schedules. Last year, I started having dinner in the city once a month with my niece and cousin. Considering they are much younger than I am, they definitely find some young, hip and delicious spots to dine that I probably wouldn’t know exist. We are going to mix it up this year and add a few cooking classes to our outings. Washington is a vibrant city with a variety of entertainment options. I’m sure I’ll share more about this in future posts. Lastly, I’m intent on nurturing my friendships too. Oh, how I love my friends! This also is for another post and I can’t wait to share more about this with you. Having just said all of this, I think you can see that love to me is about relationships, that’s it and they so are important to me. This is what fills my soul.

Putting in some hard work and punches!

Hard work. I’ve always worked hard at least in my humble opinion. Having my first job at 14, putting myself through college, which wasn’t an easy task, and maintaining a job outside the home as I raised my family, these are all things I consider hard work. Admittingly, even though these things were hard, they brought lots of enjoyment and enrichment to my life. This year, I want to dig deep into those areas that might not initially bring enjoyment but are necessary and hard. The first on my list, commitment to a serious workout schedule. I’ve always exercised but not always as often or as consistent as I know I should. My physician told me at my age, I should be spending about one hour a day, 5-6 days a week doing rigorous exercise. So that’s it- I’m going to dig deep, even on days I have every excuse in the book not do so, I’m going to remember to “work hard” and get it done. I’m going to mix it up to keep it interesting and myself motivated. This morning I put in an exhausting workout at SolidCore. I’ve been going there for some time now and it really challenges me. I’ll definitely continue this routine a couple of days a week, hitting the gym one to two afternoons a week for strength training then power walking several mornings a week. I know without a doubt the benefits of exercise are invaluable and I need to make this non-negotiable for myself. Let’s see how I do. If you have any suggestions or advice for me about exercising, I’m all ears, just let me know.

Working hard for others is another challenge I was to take on this year. I volunteer now for 2 organizations in my community but this year, I want to get a little uncomfortable with it. I plan to step out of my comfort zone to work/volunteer in more vulnerable areas with those who really need it and are often overlooked because of the area they live in or their needs are too great. I feel strong about putting myself out there to really make a difference in places that most won’t. Truly doing something for others in great need.

I think my year is looking quite full and it’s only week one! So here it goes to Inspiration, Love , and Hard Work in 2018 as I continue to live with purpose, intent and a dash of adventure! Let me know what your intentions are for 2018. I’d love to hear about them and see how you are keeping them going throughout the year of 2018.