Friday Faves Edition 19

Friday Faves – Edition 19

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It’s Friday! Hallelujah, it’s Friday!

Yesterday I shared some of my favorite beaches.

And by tomorrow afternoon I’ll be putting my toes in the sand at one.

That’s right! Carolina Beach, here we come!

So as I wade through laundry, try to remember what size sheets need packed, and decide whether to bring any groceries or buy them all there… I wanted to pop in and share some of my favorites this week.

I can assure you that the irony is not lost on me that I’ve told you I am working toward more simplicity… more minimalism… and then I share new things that I’ve added to my life.

However, minimalism looks differently for everyone. 

And I think (or overthink) through most of my purchases.

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I am really enjoying photography. You may recall that I recently purchased the Sony Alpha 7 II. It is my first full-frame camera and is a mirrorless system. At the moment I only have the 28-70mm lens that I purchased with the camera.

Since most of my photography is outdoors in nature and landscapes, I wanted to get a polarizing filter. I will only be at the beach for a week and while I’m well aware that the golden hour and the blue hour are the best time to shoot, there is a real likelihood I will be taking some shots in the middle of the day. A polarizing filter darkens the sky and manages reflections and glare.

I also have a love for long exposure photography and the ocean is a beautiful place to work on this. Quite often a ND (neutral density) filter is needed to be able to create this effect. I only picked up a .6 filter, so I may be bringing along my Nikon D3200 as well since I have a stackable set of 3 ND filters for it.

The quality of filters that you put over your lenses does make a difference. Tiffen had good reviews.  There are other filters that I am looking at and learning about that I may add. Specifically, I will probably move to a drop-in filter system that covers a broad array of lens sizes.  As you can see my Sony has a 55mm lens, while my Nikon has a 52mm. As with anything, the higher the quality, the more the $$$ and since I don’t have the knowledge and experience under me, I couldn’t justify spending any more than I did.

Most of my photography is hand held, but long exposure requires a tripod. So I will be bringing my tripod along, even though I’m not a fan of this one and have been researching others. I would like one that gets closer to the ground amongst other things. I looked one up that was mentioned and when I told my hubby the price, he asked if it was made of carbon fiber and gold.  Carbon fiber: yes. Gold: No. 🙂 I’m also in the market for a 50mm (aka nifty fifty) lens probably with f/1.8, since f/1.4 costs substantially more. My camera can have adapters bought which will mount other brands of lenses.

So I’m calling on y’all. If you have any recommendations for either of these or even your favorite filter system – holler at me in the comments!

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I’m super excited that we finally bought a hydrangea.

Classic southern charm.

I do not have a green thumb. I killed a succulent last year. Yes. A succulent.

But…

I have wanted a hydrangea since we moved to Virginia. We have very shaded property so I’ve decided this first go round to plant it in a pot that we had. That way if it needs moved around due to sunshine, we’ll be able to figure out where it thrives.

Do you have a green thumb? What is your favorite plant/flower?

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I needed to add some beach towels to our collection. Inevitably towels from the past get left at someone’s house or stay in a bag so long that no matter how hard I try, the sour smell lingers.

There is almost nothing that I hate worse than the smell of a sour towel. That smell lingers in my hair ALL DAY LONG. So new beach towels it is.

Do you have any must-haves for beach going?

Mine are sunscreen, water, beach towels, blanket, hat, umbrella, and sunglasses to name a few. I’m a little high maintenance with my fair skin.

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While I was checking out with my beach towels, I saw this adorable set of frogs.

No, I didn’t get them. But I just had to share how adorably cute they were.

Huge jump at the quarry today 🎥: @taylorlovingg

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Another fave of the week was this video from the oldest’s Instagram.

I’m not gonna lie, I had mixed emotions when he told me that he was gonna do this jump. He had been going to this spot with a group of friends and had already jumped from the spot that was 25 ft high. Some of his friends had already jumped from this next higher one, which is 80-85 ft high. My son is close to 6’5″ and built like an NFL player. I was a little stressed about the impact from jumping so high.

While I have no interest in jumping from those kind of heights, I can admire him overcoming the natural fear that rears its head when you are standing on the edge of a precipice.

And we all have our different limits of where we find joy in adrenaline. My husband was a regular skydiver when we met, and yet hates the drop tower that sends a gleeful adrenaline rush through me (Dr. Doom’s Fearfall at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando anyone?).

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The fave of the week shown above doesn’t include anything that is newly purchased. Just something I plan to wear on vacation.

I bought the Billabong dress at the end of last summer from a surf shop in Jensen Beach, Florida. I didn’t get a chance to wear it because it was at the end of warm weather season.

You’ve seen the sunglasses in a different Friday Faves.

I purchased the canvas Gap wristlet many years ago and love its size for strolling around town.

The Puka Shell necklace belongs to my husband. I think it once belonged to one of his brothers, bought during the years they lived in Hawaii as Navy brats.

Every beach gal has to have a Lokai bracelet. Right? And the bangle goes along with my other bangles. This one having been bought at a surf shop in Carolina Beach and filled with local sand inside of the wave.

The other is just some stone and technically an anklet.

The seashells and sea glass are just a small bit of my collection gathered from years of beach visits.

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I can’t leave without a song. Chosen because… it’s Summertime. And I remember Will Smith from before he played all these amazing acting roles.  I was in high school when this song came out. I owned his CD. I regularly watched Fresh Prince of Bel Air (and yes.. I can recite/sing the entire intro song).

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the faves this week!

I’m hoping for lots of sunshine and wishing the same for all of you.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Quote "It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." Background - boardwalk through a salt marsh in Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Beautiful Beaches

Beautiful Beaches

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This should come as no surprise, but…

I am a lover of the beach.

The smell of the salt air.

The sound of the waves crashing on the beach.

It is here that my soul finds peace.

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All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.

– John F. Kennedy

So I found it fitting that as I prep our gear for a family vacation to the beach, this photo would show up on my timeline of memories.

The three loves that I gave birth to standing at the ocean’s edge.

And then it’ s as though the water gods came together for a perfect combination with some challenges that I participate in… Nikki at Flying Through Water has a creative prompt this week of Love and the new photo challenge for the week is Transient.

Most coastal towns have a tendency to be transient in nature. People coming and going.

But also the beaches themselves are transient when you consider it from the definition of  always changing or moving around.  Whether it’s a change in the sand at the shoreline, the seashells left upon the shore, the view at low tide or high…

Always changing.

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Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air… -Ralph Waldo Emerson

A quick background on me, in case you are new to my blog. I spent the first 30 years of my life in Naples, Florida.  Naples is located on the Gulf of Mexico and famed for its powder white sand and millionaires. My family has lived there since the 40’s, back when it was still a sleepy little fishing town. Before 5th Avenue and 3rd Street became worldwide shopping destinations and before Port Royal and Aqualane Shores were synonymous with the rich and famous.

However, if you think Naples is filled with only the rich and famous, you would be mistaken.  There are plenty of people who are working hard to make ends meet and getting to relax at one of the beautiful beaches is a lucky perk of living in its proximity.

Of course, another of Naples’ claims to fame is the fact that since it is located on the West Coast of Florida, there are gorgeous sunsets at the beach.

The water tends to be warmer than the East Coast and I swear there is more salt because I float so much better in the Gulf.

 

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The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. -Jaques Cousteau

In 2008, we moved to Okeechobee, Florida for 2 years (where I met some great people, but sorely missed the smell of saltwater) and then we moved over to Sewall’s Point, Florida (with local beaches including the photo above) and lived there for the next 2 1/2 years.

One of the thrilling things about moving to the east coast of Florida was that this was the Atlantic Ocean… meaning there were waves. What the East Coast lacked in soft, powdery sand, it made up for in power. We frequented the beaches of Jensen Beach and Stuart and learned how to surf. These were pivotal ages for my children and there is still a piece of them that considers this home.

The town has a very laid-back vibe and is filled with friendly people. Perhaps that is why  in 2016, Stuart was named America’s Happiest Seaside Town by Coastal Living.

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Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think. – Robert Henri

When we moved to Roanoke, Virginia four years ago (in case you are doing the math… I’m turning 40 in September), I knew that trips to the beach would be necessary for my soul. This would be the farthest I had ever lived from salt water. We visited Virginia Beach and perhaps it just so happened to be the weekend we traveled there, but it was too crowded for my taste.

So we began looking at the Carolinas.

And we stumbled upon Carolina Beach, North Carolina (pictured above).

One trip there and we were in love.

It has been the destination for our family beach trips for the past three years.

Last year we almost bought a beach house there, but then the thoughts of the rapidly approaching college expenses for three teenagers made us reconsider.

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I need the sea because it teaches me. -Pablo Neruda

Being from South Florida, I had never experienced the sight of tidal salt marshes or sand dunes.

When I cross those dunes and feel the ocean breeze upon my face, I feel a slowing of the frantic pace of life.

That is not to say that it is a quiet town. We originally chose it out of those along the Carolina Coast because it has a boardwalk and we thought that lively spirit might hold the interest of our teenagers.

And it did.

During the summer, the town has music, carnival rides, fireworks, movies at the lake… there is constantly something happening.

As with many coastal towns, there are shops along the boardwalk and in the town that close their doors when the hustle and bustle of summertime comes to an end.

Even then, that doesn’t stop the breeze from carrying the scent of saltwater.

It doesn’t stop the ocean from kissing the shoreline.

And it doesn’t stop my soul from finding peace in its presence.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the views from some of my favorite beaches.

I have many more to explore, but these three will always hold a special place in my heart.

Do you have a favorite beach?  What makes you love that beach?

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Let your light shine!

Amy

How Focus Make A Photo

How Focus Makes A Photo

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Lest my title give the false impression that I’m an expert when it comes to photography, let’s be sure to clear the air.

I am an amateur photographer at best.

And if there are levels of amateur, then I am near the bottom.

HOWEVER….

I do love photography.

And I am learning.

Even if it sometimes feels like I’m learning at a snail’s pace while I give my primary focus to raising teenagers. 🙂

I’ve participated in the weekly photo challenge every week this year so I can broaden my creative skills. When it comes to lighting, I still have a LONG way to go in understanding how to set the camera to capture the scene exactly as I see it.

And while I’m sure my composition doesn’t always follow the “rules”, I do tend to think about it a lot when composing a shot. The challenge theme this week is “focus”. Last week, I shared some photos of Doors of Edinburgh that I thought captured a detailed focus.

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When I think about focus, I think about where I want to draw the eye.

Sometimes I follow the rule of thirds (the imaginary grid where you align the subject at intersecting points of a photo divided vertically and horizontally into thirds).

And sometimes I don’t.

There is a lot happening in the photo above. Composition-wise… I would assume that your eye begins at the ferris wheel, travels past the Eiffel Tower, then past the Luxor Obelisk, moves toward the foreground to the statue and lands on the girlie taking a photo of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. And of course, the colors of the sky and the setting sun appearing to light up the lampposts add to the ambience for me.

What is your opinion?  Do your eyes travel in the same fashion as mine or does something else catch your focus?

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The shot above was also taken in Place de la Concorde. I used the wall to the Jardin de Tuileries and the lampposts to lead your eye down the journey that the girlie was contemplating.

While many of my flower shots tend to show my preference for a shallow depth of field, (which I think sets off the subject) given the events of yesterday, I decided to share some of my thoughts around my personal composition using only photos from my trip to Paris this past April.

 

Never trust your fears. They don't know your strength. -Athena Singh . .I came back from the store today to hear the news about Paris. We were just there in April, staying less than 1/2 mile from the Champs Elysses when the shooting of that police officer happened. My first time overseas…and traveling with my children. This scene with my hubby pointing out sights to us as we crossed a bridge over the Seine. And then I was in Scotland when the terror occurred in London. I shared in a moment of silence with the country while sitting at a library in Airdrie doing genealogical research. And then there is today. I am beginning to hear people say they don't want to travel. I find myself wondering if I should listen to fear. But then I find strength. There is a magnificent world to see… in my back yard and beyond. . . . .#visitparis #passportready #optoutside #roamtheplanet #sheisnotlost #stayandwander #wearetravelgirls #doyoutravel #theglobewanderer #theoutdoorfolk #livefolk #liveauthentic #lifeofadventure #exploringtheglobe #exploretocreate #travelblogger #lifestyleblogger #modernoutdoors #pocket_allnature #rsa_outdoors #darlingescapes #fromwhereistand #thehappynow #loveparis #neverstopexploring #ipulledoverforthis #naturehippys #amazingtravelbeauty #water_captures

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Even in the photo above, I like this shot because even though I’m not centered on the canal, there is something in the foreground (a hand in this case), leading your eye down the river.

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If you’ve been following my blog for sometime or even on Instagram, then you know that I have a love for framing a photo with something in the foreground.  For me, it adds dimension to the photo. Since most of my photos are outdoors and I love nature, that tends to be what I use to frame the shot.

Here I took a photo of the Musée d’Orsay, which is located on the left bank of the Seine. We were walking to Notre Dame when I saw the building through a break in the trees and liked the way that it appeared.

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Another reason that I often compose my shot with framing is that I’m trying to create a scene that is perhaps slightly different than the millions of photographers who have captured the same spectacular attraction.

A building is quite different than the sunsets I like to capture. The sunsets are fleeting and rapidly changing and it’s less likely that somebody will have a photo that looks just like mine.

In the photo above, I chose to frame Sacré Couer between the trees and the carousel that were located much closer to street level than the basilica itself.

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I’m still playing quite a bit with depth of field and learning how I prefer my images to look.

This was taken the night after the shooting that took place while I was in Paris in April. We decided that we would not let fear hold us in our place.  I had planned all along to visit Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées for their world famous macarons. So the hubby and I walked there, bought some, and returned to our hotel.

I decided to try my hand at a little creative photography.

A tripod would have been wise since I was shooting with only one hand…and my non-dominate one at that! 😉

Do you have a preference for a certain photography style?

Are you drawn to crisp mountain scenes? The tranquility of long exposure waterfalls? Bokeh (google this if you don’t know what it is… I had to not so long ago… it’s quite stunning and I typically only achieve it by accident at this stage in the process) in every photo? Do you like a macro shot or a spanning vista?

Do you prefer architecture? Or nature? Or people? Or animals?

Or perhaps you are like me and love it all!

And quite often I love photography because it says so much without saying a word.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

Friday Faves - Edition 18

Friday Faves – Edition 18

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It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve already been home for a week!

The girlie went to her first sleep away camp last Sunday…

3 nights!

So there was the hustle and bustle of preparing for that. Which included rounding up some summertime clothes. You’d think she was a growing teenager or something. 😉

The oldest got a part time job. Manual labor. Which I think is a good fit for him.

The middle son has started applying for jobs. It’s a little harder for 15 year olds to find work, typically because child labor laws are stricter for 14-15 year olds. I have finally ridden as his passenger while he is learning to drive.  I was very pleased that he didn’t make me push my imaginary brake or grip the door (I don’t passenger very well).

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One of my favorite things when traveling overseas is to try candy that I can’t find at my local store. We had a lot of fun doing this in Amsterdam and Paris. So candy was what I brought back for my teens.

Another reason for this being their gift was because as I’ve shared in the past and talked about extensively in this post

I am on a path to simplicity… or minimalism…

Or just less..

Less clutter.

Less distractions to steal away my time.

The candy creates a bonding time as we discuss which ones we like best and why. And best of all, it’s a consumable. It doesn’t take up long term residence in my home.

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I had certain items that I knew that I wanted to purchase prior to going to Scotland.

Items that would not be consumable.

The benefits of living in a climate with a real winter, such as I have in Virginia, is that I actually wear scarves. I went to Scotland with every intention of adding some scarves to the few that I own (when I moved from Florida 4 years ago, I had zero).

It was important to me that the tag said “Made in Scotland”. Quite a few scarves sold along the Royal Mile are actually made in China. Some people may not care about that fact.

But part of my desire also had to do with my ancestry. My 4th great-grandfather, James Baird, is listed on the 1841 census as living on Flowerhill Street in Airdrie. His occupation: a hand loom weaver. On the 1851 census, his 15-year old daughter (my 3rd great-grandmother) is listed as a hand loom weaver. In 1881, Agnes is on Flowerhill Street listed as a shirtmaker. Her 16-year old daughter, Agnes McLachlan (my 2nd great-grandmother) is listed as a cotton weaver.

The tan scarf is Made in Scotland and 100% cashmere. The gray scarf is Made in the British Isles and is 100% Lambswool.

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Another definite purchase that I wanted to make was having a Scottish throw. I was in the store picking out scarves when I saw this blanket on a lower shelf.  I had almost given up on a blanket actually having a tag with Made in Scotland. But here it was, and reminiscent of my Roger blanket. Lambswool and Angora and not another like it in the store. I was overjoyed!

After having a conversation with the sales lady at The Real Scot, which is on High Street, about whether or not they had the McLachlan or Scott tartan pattern in a scarf, she suggested that Roman and Paterson on Princes Street might carry those patterns and even called them to see if they did. They confirmed that they did and since our hotel was near Princes Street, we decided to stop by on the walk back to the hotel.

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I did feel a little guilty about now having four scarves. In case you’re counting, the Smith scarf was a gift for my husband ;). The reality is that I would have only passed on the gray one if I had known the others were available. Having said that, gray matches my wardrobe very well and will be worn quite often.

IMG_1891At this point, there have also been some things that I bought on a whim. Things that while I bought them, I wavered in my mind, “should I”, “shouldn’t I” and bought them anyway. A bracelet…a wallet… a beanie… and some coasters.

The bracelet is a HeatherGem, which is actually nice. Made in Pitlochry, Scotland from natural heather stems. However, at the time, I didn’t notice that it was beginning to tarnish. The buying experience was not wonderful, hence why I am not naming the store, and I have no idea what the metal is made of and if it is able to be cleaned or will just continue to tarnish like a piece of costume jewelry.

The wallet was very much an impulse buy.  I was purchasing other things. I liked the tweed. I liked that it was woven in the Outer Hebrides. However, I did not spend time looking it over thoroughly. I do not like that it is made in China and that the interior is plastic and feels as such. Also, it was on sale at the time and I didn’t notice until afterwards that I was charged the full price.

The beanie and coasters I will enjoy, but could have taken or left them.  As a person pursuing minimalism, I should have left them.

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I did purchase another consumable. This one for myself. A tea collection by the Edinburgh Tea & Coffee Company. They are blended in Edinburgh and the flavors include: Whisky Flavoured, Heather, Thistle, and Scottish Breakfast.  I’ve only tried Thistle so far, but it was delicious. I already shared about the amazing shortbread in last week’s Friday Faves.

The night that I returned home, I had a nightmare that I was decluttering and the piles were enormous and I felt almost like I was drowning in the overwhelming nature of it. I turned to my husband and said “we’re never going to get through all this”.

I’m not sure what led to a dream like that. I have known actual hoarders. And I don’t mean people who say that they are hoarders, but actually have lots of clutter or are packrats. I mean actual hoarding tendencies. And I think it scares the heck out of me. My accumulations of stuff give me no joy. In fact, they cause me quite a bit of anxiety. The next morning I woke up and started back where I had left off on the decluttering.

Each day a step forward toward simplicity…

Toward minimalism.

Toward freedom.

In searching for a song to share about simplicity, I bypassed some of the obvious and chose this one, which came up in the search because of the stripped down sound. I remember loving it when it came out. Simple and yet phenomenal in its simplicity:

I hope that you all have an amazing weekend!

Get lost in a good book, soak in the beauty of nature, eat that piece of chocolate.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

 

Doors of Edinburgh Scotland

Doors of Edinburgh Scotland

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It’s been a while since I’ve participated in a Thursday Doors post.

Don’t know what Thursday Doors is? It’s a place where door lovers of the world come together to share photos of, what else…. doors.  It’s hosted by Norm 2.0 and you can check out other doors hereAfter checking out Norm’s fabulous doors, scroll down to the blue link to check out all the others.

In my past I never was a door lover.  I might see a nice one and admire it, but I never sought them out. I shared in this post how stumbling upon Thursday Doors changed the way that I view the every day world.

I don’t participate in many challenges, but I do love how they tend to make me stop and think.

To take notice of something.

To think differently.

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I think 99 times and I find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me. -Albert Einstein.

That’s why when I was catching up on blog reading and saw that Nikki at Flying Through Water was starting her first creative prompt and theme was RELAX, I knew that I’d have to join in.

I am not very good at relaxing.

I often like to relax with a good book or walking along the shore of the ocean.

But today, a stroll through some beautiful doors of Edinburgh, Scotland changes my focus and relaxes my soul.

I shared in last week’s Friday Faves about the Bedlam Theatre whose door is shown above.

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Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax. -Bryant McGill

As promised, here is the building in all its neo-gothic glory. Bedlam is a fully operational 90-seat theatre in the heart of Edinburgh. It is both a listed building and a historical landmark.

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Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. – Chinese Proverb

The door above I spied from across the street.

I loved the symmetry of the lampposts and the rounded double doors with the rounded window above.  I didn’t want to cross the street and thought the interesting paint job with its blacks and silvers of the car complemented the building.

It wasn’t until I was processing the photo that I noticed there was sign indicating the nature of the building.   This is the door to St. Mark’s Unitarian Church.

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Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you. -Anne Lamott

Door searching has become such a part of my life that both my aunt and mother would point them out saying “Ooh Amy, here’s a good door”. So now they notice doors as well!

The door above was near Edinburgh Castle.

It is St. Columba’s by the Castle. An Episcopal church that describes itself as a progressive congregation worshipping in a mid-19th century Victorian church located just off the Royal Mile in the centre of Edinburgh’s Old town.

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Things become complicated only when we think about them. -Alan Watts

On the door above, I didn’t write down its location. Given that the photo is sandwiched between St. Columba’s and the photo below, I think that it was a side door to the building shown below.

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Live your life by a compass, not a clock – Stephen Covey

This building is The Hub.

The building was originally built between 1842 and 1845, as the Victoria Hall, to house the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  It was created by architects James Gillespie Graham and Augustus Welby Pugin.

In 1999, the building underwent a transformation to create offices and performance space for the Edinburgh International Festival.

As well as having the Cafe, there is also space for weddings and many other types of events.

 

I stumbled across one of my favorite doors on a drizzly day out in Edinburgh.

We had purchased our pulled pork sandwiches at Oink on Victoria Street.  The shop was crowded so we decided to head down to the Grassmarket to find a place to sit.  We ended up ducking into what we thought was just a close (an alley), but really was roadway that was to a gated section of George Heriot’s School. The school is speculated to be the inspiration for Hogwart’s due to its architectural style. Another fact of the school is that the pupils at the school belong to one of four houses: Lauriston, Greyfriers, Raeburn, and Castle.

Curious…

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You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens. -Many Hale

We moved out of the close and down to catch the sightseeing bus that we had a 48 hour ticket on. While tasting a piece of my aunt’s scone, I spied this door across the street.

41 Grassmarket.

The door itself isn’t quite that spectacular, but the windows and potted flowers draw your eye in and create a tranquil scene.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little stroll along some doorways that I found while meandering along the streets of Edinburgh.

I hope that you find moments to enjoy the little things and notice them with a new set of eyes.

Eyes that seek the beauty to be found everywhere.

If we only pause.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

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Since I returned home from Scotland last Thursday, I’ve been playing quite a bit of catch up in every aspect of my life.

One of those areas was the gym. Monday I went to Pilates, Tuesday to Bodyflow (I’ve talked about this class here. It’s similar to power yoga) and Pilates today. I expected my arms and abs to be sore, but not my legs.

My mother showed me what info is stored on my health app on my iPhone. I’ve never even looked at it before! I don’t typically have my phone with me when I exercise, but it happened to be our map so was with me at all times. From the time we landed at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday until we went to bed the following Tuesday, I logged 47.5 miles, 106,211 steps and 170 floors!

The day after we arrived we took the train to Stirling Castle. The people working the ticket counters are amazingly helpful. We ended up getting a groupsaver ticket because there were three of us.  With all the train travel that we did, this savings was a welcome surprise.

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Besides staring at the beautiful countryside, I sent the kids some Snapchat filtered pics.

The walk from the train station from Stirling Castle is VERY steep. I wish I had captured photos of it, but I was too busy getting there. My aunt asked a gentleman if we were heading the right way (she didn’t always trust my map 😉 ) and he told us “Up,up, up. You’ll know that you’ve made it when your thighs are burning.” My mom mentioned that we must already be there then.  We had a good laugh and continued up, up, up.

I did not expect my thighs to burn because while my calves and arches will talk to me on long uphill hikes, my thighs are usually good. For example, when I hiked Dragon’s Tooth (which I looked back at my app and found that I climbed 84 floors), my thighs did not burn.

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We finally came to a sign telling the direction of the castle and the church.  You can see the Church of the Holy Rude up ahead. We did not buy tickets to see Stirling Castle prior to heading to Scotland. The weather was forecast to rain the entire week and I wanted to play it by ear of whether we would go. I popped into the tourist information area and bought tickets there. They don’t offer a discount, but they are fast-track tickets, meaning that you don’t have to wait in line at the castle to purchase them.  This would be especially helpful as summer progresses and the lines can be an hour or more.

The road turns to the right by the Church of the Holy Rude and travels upward to Stirling Castle.

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Prior to beginning to study my ancestral history, my only knowledge of Stirling Castle was from Braveheart. After beginning to study my ancestral history, I learned that this movie is historically inaccurate (to be fair, I’m sure that was talked about at the time, but I was 17 when it came out and actually fell asleep in the theater because it was so long. By the time I watched it many years later, I wasn’t fact checking movies).

I have mentioned that the majority of my traced Scottish heritage is from areas near Glasgow. I do have a 5th great-grandmother, Esther Palmer, listed as being born in Stirling around 1777. I have not yet discovered why she would have been born in Stirling. Her father, Alexander Palmer, was a coal miner. Her mother’s name was Nelly Shaw and I believe they were both born in Renfrew, Scotland. By the 1841 census Esther Palmer is living in Redtown, Renfrew, Renfrewshire, Scotland, where she would live until her death on October 12, 1861.

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Stirling Castle was built upon Stirling Sill, an outcropping of quartz-dolerite that is about 350 million years old, above the River Forth.

The meeting place between the Highlands and the Lowlands.

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The first record of Stirling Castle is 1110, when King Alexander I dedicated a chapel there.

Most of us have heard of Stirling Castle because of the role it played in the Scottish Wars of Independence.  The Battles of Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn taking place nearby. During the Wars of Independence, which were civil wars as well as between Scotland and England, the castle changed hands eight times over 50 years.

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There is much history to be held at Stirling Castle.

The childhood home of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The crowning of Kings and Queens.

And lesser know tales of old.

One such tale is that of James Damien.

In 1507,  James Damien, who was an alchemist (a precursor to the modern day scientist) donned a chicken suit and declared that he would fly to France. He leapt from the battlements, flapped his wings, and plummeted into a muck-heap below.  He survived with only a broken leg. He blamed the type of feathers used on his dramatic descent.

If only he could see the flying mechanisms of today!

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Walking along the castle wall, you could see what a fortress Stirling Castle was, set high above the surrounding landscape.

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We spent most of an afternoon exploring Stirling Castle. We didn’t make it to Doune Castle during this trip, and while we missed the opening hours of the Church of the Holy Rude, we did wander around its graveyard for some time.

Even though the sun didn’t shine, the rain only sprinkled. I wandered around soaking in the vast amount of history held in just this tiny fragment of land in relation to the whole of the Earth.

I hope that you’ll check back as I share more from our day in Stirling and even more from my travels to Scotland.

Have you traveled to Stirling Castle before? Or have you visited Scotland?

Oh, and the day in Stirling and upon returning to Edinburgh… I logged 9 miles that day. 20,175 steps and 28 floors.

In case you are wondering, my thighs never burned that day. But after 3 days of pilates and yoga, my quads and glutes are talking loudly.

Those plié squats get me every time!

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland

National Monument of Scotland

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I am still sorting through photos from my trip to Scotland, but I’m so excited to share some of the sights that I thought I’d just start at the beginning.

We landed in Edinburgh around 10:00 in the morning. After getting my newest passport stamp, I collected my luggage.

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We then made our way to the tram information center. The tram was not running all the way into the city centre stop that we would need because of an accident. We were advised to take the bus instead.

We would later find out that there had been a horrific accident involving a bicyclist getting her wheel stuck in a tram track on Princes Street and subsequently being hit by a bus. Unfortunately, she did not survive.

We took the bus to Waverly Bridge and relied on Google and Apple maps (who would prove to be one of the most useful items brought with me). We followed the little blue man walking on my map to Waterloo Street. I did not see an obvious sign of the hotel so I pulled up my reservation. I matched the picture to the building across the street and found that there were signs, just not visible from where I was standing due to the bus stop alcoves.

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To our surprise, the room was ready.  We dropped off our luggage and went across the street to Howie’s where I had the casserole of the day.  We then decided to split a chocolate & beetroot torte served with Mackie’s vanilla ice cream.  It was De-Li-Cious!

From our outdoor table we could see Calton Hill was a short walk away. After lunch, we decided to take a stroll there.

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Calton Hill is marked as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are sweeping views from the Hill as well as some iconic Scottish monuments and buildings.

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One of which is the National Monument.

The foundation stone was laid in 1822. It is a national memorial to the fallen Scottish soldiers and sailors who died during the Napoleonic Wars. It was inspired by the Parthenon of Athens. Only half completed due to lack of funds, it has stood as it is, with its 12 Doric columns rising up from its base, for almost 200 years.

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I was surprised to read that it is sometimes called “Scotland’s Disgrace” amongst a few other negative names due to its lack of completion. I guess beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. I found this monument to be an impressive feat of craftsmanship perched high atop the hill with the piercing blue sky shining through its ordered columns.

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It was a beautiful day.  Perfect for lying in the grass, face up to the sun. Which is exactly what I did (after sneaking in a shot of my aunt and mom).

Nelson Monument is the building rising to the right of the National Monument.  My mother and I climbed to the top for a 360˚ view of Edinburgh.

But that is a photo story for a different day.

The four photos here that were taken on Calton Hill were captured with my Sony Alpha 7 II. I was very pleased with the additional crispness and vibrancy that this camera brought to capturing my adventures.

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Let your light shine!

Amy