The Queen's Hamlet at the Palace of Versailles

The Queen’s Hamlet

The Queen’s Hamlet.

Place d’Armes, 78000, Versailles, France.

Also known as Hameau de la Reine, the Queen’s Hamlet was the place I most wanted to see when we toured the Palace of Versailles.

Passport Ticket.

We purchased the Passport ticket which included admission to the entire estate at the Palace of Versailles. While the gardens are free to visit (except on days with there are musical fountain shows or musical gardens), the Passport ticket allows you to visit the Palace, the gardens on musical days, and the estate of Trianon (which includes the Queen’s Hamlet).

Free Entry for those under 18.

One thing that I appreciated while traveling in Europe is that many museums and places of interest (such as the Palace of Versailles) have free entry for visitors under 18 (under 26 if you reside in the EU). This saved us quite a bit as we were traveling with three teenagers. However, I would recommend that if your teenage looks questionable as to whether they are under 18, you make sure they have I.D. This did happen to us, but it only happened at the Louvre in Paris. My seventeen year old is 6’6″ and at one checkpoint they asked his age and at another they asked for proof. I did assume that we’d come upon this at some point. I used to carry his birth certificate in case we were ever questioned when we’d travel to Disney World (we never were).

Palace of Versailles.

I’ve shared some of my photos of the exterior of Versailles and from the inside of the Palace. In yesterday’s post, I shared a serene view across the lake found in the hamlet

The Hamlet.

Today, I thought we’d walk around some of the cottages found at the Queen’s Hamlet.

The estates of Trianon and hamlet are a somewhat lengthy walk from the gardens at Versailles. There are trains available for a fee that leave near the Palace and bikes available to rent farther into the gardens.

Things tend to add up quickly for a family of 5, so we decided to walk.

Queen’s Home.

When we visited Versailles in April, the Queen’s home was under restoration. They cover the buildings while work is in progress (something I witnessed throughout my European travels). The restoration is being sponsored by the fashion house Dior, hence the covering. According to the website, restoration will be complete in 2018.


The Queen’s Hamlet was built for Marie-Antionette between 1783 and 1787. It was a model village built around an artificial lake.


The cottages are set in a crescent formation along the eastern side of the lake.

Contrary to popular belief, Marie-Antoinette did not “play at being farmer”. The model village was a working farm at her insistence and served as an educational place for the royal children.


She hosted small gatherings of her friends at the village.

She took relaxing walks through the gardens.


Marie-Antoinette used the village to escape from the rigors of court life.


The Hamlet was designed by the French architect, Richard Mique. The cottages combine Norman, Flemish, and French styles.

Marlborough Tower.

Marlborough Tower stands overlooking the lake and adding to the fairytale ambience of the Hamlet.

The Moulin.

The Moulin was a watermill. The wheel was driven by a stream from the Grand Lake, but was used for decorative purposes only.


Not only was the architecture intriguing, but cottages meant a plethora of doors.

To see more doors around the world be sure to check out Norm’s blog where he hosts Thursday Doors.


Tranquility. Simplicity. Quiet.

It was easy to feel at peace while strolling along.

The area is spread out and there were not throngs of crowds (unlike the Palace and Gardens) as we walked at a leisurely pace.

While I don’t live in the stressful world of being scrutinized for being royalty, I do live in a world that rushes along at a frantic pace.

It’s always nice to slow down sometimes.

I can see why the Queen loved it so much.

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. - Henry David Thoreau

Let your light shine!



Photo Tour Royal Yacht Britannia

Photo Tour Royal Yacht Britannia


Royal Yacht Britannia.

A few weeks ago I shared photos of some of the doors to be found on the Royal Yacht Britannia. If you missed that post on the Britannia, you can find it here.

I found the views from the yacht to be beautiful. The yacht itself with its wood accents and attention to architectural details drew me in as well.

Photo Tour Royal Yacht Britannia

Photo Tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Today I’m sharing a few more photos of the beauty that I took in as I toured the boat.

Ancestral Journey.

That morning it had been raining in that gray, drizzly way that Scotland has a way of doing. The clouds still covered the sky as we arrived at the Port of Leith Cruise Terminal, the home to the Royal Yacht Britannia. A little wetness wasn’t going to dampen my spirits. I was in Scotland after all! This ancestral voyage with my mother and aunt…imagining the views that those from whom we descended had peered across.

If you’ve been following the blog for some time the you know that the majority of the Scottish line that we’ve traced is from the region around Glasgow. Many coal miners and weavers, the first surnames being Scott and McLachlan.

I also have a strong lineage traced back to England, although I’ve not been to visit there yet. My maternal grandfather was half Scottish and half English, his mother being a Simpson from Wigan, England. Amongst the tracings from the lineage of numerous Englishmen, one line that my father traces back to is one of the four Spencer brothers who came to America in the 1600’s. There is various research that shows a probable distant relation to the late Princess Diana.

While I did not follow much of the royal family’s comings and goings while growing up, I was enamored with Princess Diana as much as the next person. She married when I was almost 4 and passed away right before I turned 20. I remember reading a story about her childhood and I was the type of girl who dreamed about being a princess.

I grew out of that when I realized that I wouldn’t want the daily dose of public scrutiny.

History Preserved.

One of the things that I found fascinating about the Royal Yacht Britannia was how history was preserved. It felt like walking back through time.

Have you ever visited the Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World?

It takes you through the past and into a perceived future. Growing up in Florida, I went to Disney World some as a child and more as an adult. I loved being taken to places of nostalgia…places I’d only heard about in tales from my grandparents.

That was how the interiors of the yacht felt. Classic, yet from a place in the past.

I’ve only included the interior of the bridge in this tour, but be on the lookout for more from the inside in a future post.


As a Native Floridian (transplanted these past four years in the mountains of Virginia), I have a love for water.

The views from the port were stunning.

Bell and Binnacle.

Prior to entering the Sun Lounge and State Apartment tour of the yacht, you can see the bell and the binnacle. The binnacle, housing the ships compass is carved from a solid piece of mahogany. Two of these were originally on the Royal George. They were subsequently fitted on each Royal Yacht, although only one was fitted onto the Britannia.

Phantom V.

Of course, I had to capture the Rolls-Royce Phantom V that travels aboard the Britannia. 

Swan in Leith, Scotland


One of the fascinating facts that I learned while in Scotland is that all of the swans in the United Kingdom belong to the Queen.

When I checked this fact upon returning home, I found that she owns any unmarked mute swan.

But still!

That must be a lot of swans.

I thought it so appropriate that there should be swans swimming around the Royal Yacht Britannia.

This pair caught my eye as I finished up my tour of the yacht.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this photo walk about the the yacht along with my ramblings.

She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well. - George R.R. Martin

Let your light shine!



Recipes Tried In November – Round 4

November Recipes.

I still can’t believe that I have completed the process of making 26 “new to me” recipes.

Only 4 more days to go!

I was talking to my mom the other day and I told her that I thought I would crush my November ChallengeHer response was, “and do you know why?”. My reply was, “because I don’t like to lose?”

We had a good laugh about this fact. She reminded me that I was the reason that all of the grandkids are told “you know the rules right?” when playing board games with her. To which they respond “no throwing a fit if you lose”. I’m not really sure what her definition of a fit is, but she reminded me that if I was losing, in say Monopoly, it was very obvious that I wasn’t happy when I gruffly said “here then, take my money!”

I promise that I’ve learned a lot about losing gracefully since then.

However, I don’t want to lose against myself.

So I’m hoping to continue crushing my monthly “year of 40” challenges.

But you came here for the recipes!

If you missed earlier rounds you can find them at these links: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3.

As before, the recipes are linked to where I’ve saved them on Pinterest and I’ll share any substitutions that I made and what I thought of the outcome.

Here we go!

November 20th.

Butternut Squash Smoothie.

The one thing about making a new recipe a day is that quite often there are remaining ingredients…fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables…

I’m not a fan of food waste (even though I waste way more than I should) so I was looking for a smoothie to use up some butternut squash puree that I had. I suppose some people might just eat the puree. I just can’t do the baby food thing. Maybe if my teens were still babies… anyway!

I don’t have a “scoop” in my protein powder, so I used 2 Tbsp Organic Rice Protein Powder and my milk of choice, as usual, was Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk.

I still expected this to have the potential to be something that I would gag down. Instead, I found it surprisingly tasty and will likely make it again.

Assessment: Surprising Win!

November 21st.

Banana Almond Flax Smoothie.

My banana wasn’t frozen, but I added more ice. As the commenter on the pin stated, this had a milky consistency. I had made this smoothie in a single serving blender cup. Normally, I would have transferred it to the larger blender and added more ice to get the consistency that I prefer. I needed to get dinner started (still have to feed the hubby and teens even if it’s not a new recipe), so I chose to drink it as is. I don’t like milk. Even when the milk isn’t cow’s milk, I don’t like milky consistencies. I finished it, but not without trying not to feel grossed out.

Assessment: Add more ice and try again.

November 22nd.

Creamy Feta Dip.

This was the day that Big Mr had his wisdom teeth removed. I was also prepping some things for Thanksgiving, so I needed an easy snack. I didn’t realize that I did indeed have a lemon, so I used squeeze lemon and dried lemon peel. I served it with pita chips. Two of my kids asked if somebody had been sick in the house. When they discovered it was this dip, they refused to try it. I didn’t think it smelled awful. It tasted pretty good. Mostly the hubby ate it.

Assessment: I may look for other versions…but I also may not.

November 23rd.

Herbed Nut Roast and Mushroom Gravy.

My sister-in-law was doing all of the traditional cooking for Thanksgiving. I know…I’m so lucky! I made some pies, but wanted to bring something different as well. As luck would have it, this recipe came across in my emails. One of the people that would be at Thanksgiving Dinner is a vegetarian, plus I would like to try to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my life. This nut loaf is actually vegan.

I could not find cremini mushrooms at my grocery store, so I substituted baby bella. I also didn’t have fresh sage and substituted dry. In the gravy, there wasn’t dried porcini mushrooms, but I did find a Bistro Blend which contained oyster, shiitake, porcini, and black trumpet.

This was a time consuming recipe. When I went to put the mix into the loaf pan, it looked too dry to me. I did not have time to have anything go wrong, and it was a pricy recipe to create as well. I added enough water to have it stick together (probably less than 1/2 cup). The loaf held together when I transferred it to a serving platter at dinner.

The gravy threatened to do me in. It was no fault of its own. When I went to sprinkle in some pepper, the larger opening popped open and poured into the pan. That’s what I get using the measuring pepper instead of the pepper shaker. I took paper towels and blotted out the pepper that wasn’t covering mushrooms, dabbed the mushrooms… took a deep breath, put the tears back into their bay, and carried on.

The loaf was okay. I ate its leftovers. It was not my preference of foods. The gravy…Ahhmazing. I ate it on a baked potato after I ran out of loaf.

Assessment: I won’t be making the loaf again, but the gravy may become a new regular.

November 24th.

Lemon Garlic Zucchini Noodles.

I’ve been wanting a spiralizer for ages. I decided to purchase a cheap one to see if I would actually use it before considering the possibility of getting the Kitchen-Aid attachment for my stand mixer. This was the first chance that I’ve had to try it out. I considered an avocado pesto recipe, but I was missing a few ingredients.

This was hands down one of my favorite recipes….maybe one of my favorite recipes of the month. Proving that sometimes simple is the best.

Assessment: Major Win!

November 25th.

Healthy Shamrock Shake.

The recipe was more of a jumping off point. I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk instead of coconut milk. I added 1 Tbsp of coconut oil, just in case it needed some coconut taste. I probably would have used coconut sugar, but I had already added the maple syrup and vanilla extract so I didn’t want it any sweeter. The amount of mint called for wasn’t clear to me. I was trying to use up the mint I had remaining before it went bad. I probably would have used more, but I just prefer my minty items on the more minty side. It was creamy and tasted pretty good.

Assessment: Keep tweaking.

November 26th.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole.

This was so good, but so rich! In the future, I’d half the recipe and bake in a smaller dish and serve it with a salad.

Assessment: I wouldn’t make this on a weekly basis, but I would make it again.

Did you see any recipes that you found appealing?

Stay tuned for next week when I share the remaining four recipes and my thoughts on the recipe challenge.


Let your light shine!


30 Days of...

30 Days of… December Challenge

30 Days of...

Can you believe that it’s almost December?!

Given that my November Challenge was a cumbersome undertaking, I thought that I’d take on an easier challenge for December.

Holiday time tends to make life a little more chaotic as well. Right?!

Commercialism tends to take so much away from the season that I’ve decided that my December Challenge will be:

30 Days of Gratitude

The Real Gift of Gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become. - Robert Holden

My original plan for December was to have 30 days of “random acts of kindness”. My thought wasn’t to have each day be some type of extravagant kindness, but more moments of telling somebody when I liked their shirt or haircut…you get the idea. Taking time to notice and stepping out of my comfort zone into being a conversation initiator.

I will likely incorporate this into my December Challenge, but it will be a secondary challenge for myself.

Why? you might be asking.

In any given moment we have two option: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. - Abraham Maslow

The problem for me came at the end when I would be talking about whether or not I accomplished the goal.

It felt like it would become a “Hey look at me being a decent human being. You know…the kind that I always should be.”

So while I will be incorporating throughout December, I will likely only address snippets of what I learned and likely not the kindnesses I offered.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Quote by Maya Angelou

That is how I came to decide that December would be focusing on the many things that I am grateful for.

To give me a specific daily goal, I did some digging around the Internet. I didn’t want to write out my own gratitude challenge since then I would already have thought of my response as I wrote it.

You can find the 30 day challenge that I’m opting to follow here.

The challenge was originally used on their blog for gratitude during the month of November.

I will be using the daily prompts as a focal point. I don’t know if I will use photos or words or a combination of both as I reflect on my gratitude.

The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things- Henry Ward Beecher

If you are joining with me on 30 days of gratitude throughout December, be sure to let me know in the comments.

I’d love to have you along.

Sprinkle some random acts of kindness throughout the month as well. Words are free and they have the potential to change somebody’s day.

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. - Lao Tzu

Let your light shine!




Friday Faves – Edition 41


It really doesn’t feel like Friday. When there’s a disruption to the school/work routine, it throws things off. Tuesday felt more like Friday because everyone took Wednesday off.

Monday was really my only day that stayed on schedule. Tuesday I had a kid that needed to leave school early because they didn’t feel well. It was one of those situations where you need to decide whether it’s a doctor visit worthy sick. That took the mental energy I had reserved for other things. Wednesday was the day Big Mr. had his wisdom teeth removed. He’s doing remarkably well.

There has been a palpable shift to the weather here in Virginia. The winds have blown steadily through many nights and along with the cold, they have taken most of the leaves.

Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving.

A time to gather with our Virginia family and eat tasty food while enjoying laughter and nice conversations.

A time of thanks for the many blessings we have in our lives.

Moments to pause in gratitude for all that which I so often take for granted.

I’ve been continuing with my November Challenge of making a recipe a day. Quite often there are smoothies because they are easy ways to pack in nutrition. And let’s be honest, a new recipe a day for an entire month was a very ambitious challenge. I was making pies on Wednesday. Since they aren’t new recipes they didn’t even count! But I still managed to make a new recipe and a new one on Thursday as well! Stay tuned next week for how they all turned out.

I decided to finally put my money where my mouth is. I substantially reduced my plastic straw usage during my September ChallengeSaying no to a straw is easy enough when we go to a restaurant, but occasionally I end up with a drink from a drive-thru (mostly when we are traveling for soccer). I wanted straws that could also be used for smoothies so I ended up with these stainless steel straws. I’ve only had a chance to use them once, but I think there’s potential.

I am still continuing with my October Challenge, 53 days and counting. Even though I do specifically set aside time for a quiet music or guided meditation, I still find moments of peace, gratitude, and calm in my walks amongst nature.

There are trees that maintain their green…

And ones that are still boldly announcing their presence.

I breathe deeply in these moments that the sun is still shining brightly. I place these moments into little pockets in my memory so that I can draw upon them as the days turn colder and more gray.

I seek the beauty.

Even as the colors fade there will always be a trace of beauty waiting to be found.

And I will be the seeker.

The band I’m sharing this week was mentioned on a post by a blogger that I stumbled upon. Actually, she stumbled upon me and when I visited her page I found this post. Since I am a lover of music, I had to check the band out. Of course when I mentioned it to the 17-year old, he was like “Oh yeah, I used to listen to them”. I’m guessing it was around the same time that he listened to Tame Impala daily. This band is Beach House. They are from Baltimore, Maryland and formed in 2004.

I hope that you’ve all had a beautiful week and that as you go into the weekend, you seek all the beauty that surrounds you.

When life seems overwhelming...pure bedlam...find a quiet place, close your eyes...and just breathe. -Amy Lyon Smith

Let your light shine!


Recipes Tried in November - Round 3

Recipes Tried In November – Round 3

November Recipes.

Happy Monday!

I managed to complete Round 3 of my November Challenge. 

If you missed Round 1 and Round 2, be sure to check those out.

As in the rounds before, I’ve included links to where I’ve pinned the recipe to Pinterest. I’ll also let you know if I made any substitutions and my opinion of the dish.

Let’s dive in!

November 13th.

Mexican Lasagna.

I didn’t write down how much salsa I needed prior to the trip to the grocery store (you’ll notice a trend over the week). 16 oz. is not 2 1/2 cups. I compensated the difference by adding more water to the mixture. I already had shredded cheese in a mexican blend so I used that. I’m sure I added more cheese than was called for since I love cheese. I did not add sour cream to the end of the cooking process. Some in the family don’t like sour cream. I added it to the top of mine prior to eating. I was going to slip in some butternut squash puree because I had some left over…but I forgot.

Miss Sunshine didn’t try it on account of the salsa and her dislike of tomatoes. The rest of us loved it.

Assessment: Into the family rotation it goes! I may work on tweaking leaving salsa out of a portion, but that will be trial and error with liquid requirements.

November 14th.

Greek Vinaigrette Dressing.

The next night was leftovers for those who were home. I made up a salad to go with the leftovers and decided to make this dressing. I still had some fresh oregano so I substituted that instead of using dried. Some comments were that they cut down on the amount of vinegar. I love vinegar. I’m the girl who will sit down and eat the entire bag of salt and vinegar chips. I thought it was fine. I had the hubby test it before adding it to the salad. He thought it was good as well. No teens were joining into the salad eating so I didn’t ask their opinion. Since I had leftovers for lunch, I only ate the salad and added feta cheese to the top of mine.

Assessment: Yum!! And no strange ingredients!

November 15th.

Mug Brownie.

Miss Sunshine had a final soccer practice this night. It was a “fun” practice and ended up being at a different location than where I originally thought it would be held. My chosen recipe of the night was more time-consuming so I put it off until the next day. This meant I needed a recipe to make when we got home from practice and it needed to be with ingredients already contained in my home.

That was when I stumbled across this recipe.

I followed it exactly. Luckily, I did have canola oil and that is what I used. I decided to use these CorningWare mugs that we sometimes use for eating soup. I wasn’t sure how much the mixture would rise and I didn’t want to have to clean out the microwave. A smaller mug would have been fine. I cooked it for about 1 1/2 minutes. Times will vary with different microwaves.

To my surprise, it was actually good. I topped it with my remaining Talenti gelato (the brownie cuts the milky taste), grabbed two spoons, and Miss Sunshine and I devoured it.

Assessment: This was a very quick and very easy recipe. I may make it on occasion for fun.

November 16th.

Spicy Ethiopian Lentil Stew and Indian Style Rice.

I had been planning this meal for some time.  The lentil stew requires a spice called berbere spice blend. I looked at my grocery store and could not find it. During a future spice shopping expedition, I did discover that they carried it… but had alphabetized it under “A” because its description on that label was African Inspired…berbere spice blend. At this point I had already ordered it from Amazon. I used a heaping Tbsp because I was worried about spiciness.

This recipe is pictured with a yellow rice so I found a recipe to make. My rice was not as yellow. I’m sure more turmeric would have fixed that.

Mr. D, the hubby, and I all tried both. We liked it. The hubby and Mr. D added sriracha because they like to abuse their tastebuds eat spicy food.

Big Mr and Miss Sunshine only tried the rice. Miss Sunshine thought the rice was a little bland. I could see what she meant, but have no clue as to why since it’s laden with spice. Big Mr doused his rice in sriracha and happily ate it.

I had the same experience as the last time I tried Indian food. It’s good, but after a bit it seems unappealing. I really think it’s cumin. The smell of cumin makes me sort of nauseous. Strange? Yes. But it is what it is. I will keep trying because the benefits are so good.

Assessment: While I wouldn’t make the stew weekly, I did like it a lot. I will keep working on a finding a rice that I actually enjoy.

November 17th.

Blueberry and Spinach Smoothie.

Normally I would not include this photo… but I have no others. Bear in mind, I’m not a food photographer and ignore its flaws.

My smoothie did not come out a purple as the author of the recipe. I don’t drink milk so I substituted unsweetened vanilla almond milk. This may have attributed to the color change or I may have packed my spinach tighter. I opted for honey. I also add ice because I like a slushy smoothie. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t care about the color so much as long as it tastes good. This one was tasty and packed with superfoods.

Assessment: Win.

November 18th.

Cheeseburger Casserole.

I needed a quick meal and this one said it took 30 minutes. Bingo! Here’s the problem when you are in a hurry. You don’t always read things fully. The hubby ran to the grocery store to pick up what I needed. I wrote 1 can of diced tomatoes. That’s what the recipe says on Pinterest…and it’s true…but when you go to the actual recipe it says 1 (28 oz) can. I didn’t discover this until I was ready to make the meal with my 1 (14.5 oz) can. So I did what any good cook does…I worked with what I had. I happened to find a 14 oz can of tomato sauce in the pantry and used that in place of the other portion of diced tomatoes. I’m sure this changed the overall end result, but nothing else could be done. It tasted like many other casseroles that are similar and I don’t think ziti is my favorite pasta shape because I don’t love it thickness.

Assessment: It’s not likely that I will try this again. I did not properly follow the recipe so don’t let my assessment sway you from trying it if it strikes your fancy.

November 19th.

Guacamole Stuffed Chicken Nuggets.

I don’t know what to say about these except that I loved them. I was a little nervous about the ground chicken because I don’t often use ground turkey or chicken. But I’m a huge lover of avocado and cilantro so they were right in the sweet spot of my palate. Big Mr. doesn’t like cilantro so he didn’t try them. The hubby said he could have done with a little less cilantro, but that didn’t stop him from devouring them. Mr. D liked them. And even Miss Sunshine liked them. I did read where somebody substituted spinach and I can see how that would be tasty as well. I will note that she reminds you to check the internal temperature which I did. I recommend cooking them on low because the outside appears done before the inside actually is.

I also like that these didn’t include wheat. I am once again going to be trying to cut back on that. I don’t have celiac disease, but I do have digestive issues. I’ve cut it out completely in the past (under my doctor’s knowledge) and I feel better when I eat less of it. Plus, for some reason I seem maintain an extra 10 pounds when I’m regularly eating wheat (my doctor thinks this may be due to the fact that when I am gluten free, I naturally eat less processed foods. That may be the case!)

Assessment: Major Win.

Did you see any recipes this week that you think you’ll end up trying?


Let your light shine!


Friday Faves - Edition 40

Friday Faves – Edition 40


Today is Edition 40 of my Friday Faves. I feel like I should have a celebration or something. Edition 40 during my year of being 40. Seems special… right?!

Anyway, just know that I’m doing a happy dance to mark my excitement.

I know that might make it seems like my faves this week will be something phenomenal. But, no… it was just a week.

In fact, I have no idea how this day came so fast. Each day I had to remind myself which day of the week it was because I was certain it was really the one before.

When I shared my faves in last Friday’s post, I told you that Miss Sunshine and I were heading down to Greensboro, North Carolina for her final fall soccer tournament. In true teenager fashion, 10 minutes before we were going to head out the door, she discovered that her undershirt (because it was going to super cold!) was at the bottom of her soccer bag and smelled. We ran it through a quick wash and then got it mostly dry and hung it in the car for the drive down. We weren’t really on a timeline. It just gets dark and 5:30 pm and I prefer to travel to parts unknown in the daylight. 3/4 of the drive in daylight wasn’t horrid because the directions were pretty easy.

After checking in to the hotel, Miss Sunshine and I went to eat at Logan’s Roadhouse. I don’t know if you have these where you are, but it’s a chain. There are barrels of peanuts around and pails of them on your table. The shells are thrown to the ground.

This place would be a horror to anyone with a peanut allergy. Luckily, we don’t have that problem. We had a nice steak dinner while Miss Sunshine regaled me with ideas for an invention she must think up as part of an essay to apply to a specialized high school around these parts.

Her first game the next morning was delayed due to the earlier games needing to start later… because there was FROST on the ground. That game was tie. The later game they won 11-0. They needed to keep it a shut out from a point system, but as the score climbed, the players were moved around to positions they don’t often play in order to not humiliate the other team. Sunday was an 8 am game. Ugghhh… This meant that I got up at 5:45 am. I don’t even do that during the week. We watched the sun rise over the highway on the drive to the fields. They won that game 8-0. This meant they would head into the championship against the team that they had tied the previous day.

And they came out the victors!

They won the game 1-0. I’m not going to delve in too deep about the poor sportsmanship shown by the other team during the game. I will say that in the 7 years that Miss Sunshine has played soccer, I have never seen a player stand there at kick at another player’s ankles while they are waiting for a throw-in. Which happened right in front of the sideline. You get injured in soccer. I get that. Miss Sunshine had a nasty bruise on her inner lower leg. I have no problem with that. It’s the unfortunate mishap when two people are both going for the ball. I do have issue with the dirty, sometimes dangerous moves that were happening. The center ref did not have control of the field and we’re lucky none of the girls were seriously injured. And in true poor sportsmanship fashion, the other team did not even attend the medaling ceremony to collect their medals.

But enough about that!

Here’s how I entertain myself while I try to stay warm in the car during her warm-ups.

Aren’t Snapchat filters so much fun! I felt just like a sleepy bear needing to hibernate for the winter. But I did get to pull out that cashmere scarf that I bought in Scotland! FYI- if you haven’t been around the blog long enough to have read about my trip to Scotland, the scarf was Made in Scotland. You have to see those words on the tag to know that it was actually made there. I’m glad somebody gave me the heads up about that before I traveled there.

So…speaking of filters.

Miss Sunshine had a presentation to do in Spanish today. It required photos of the family. This is the one I chose of me. The hubby took this shot while we were at lunch at Mabry Mill. The lighting was harsh and showed how badly my face needed some lotion or some makeup (and maybe 20 years taken off). I did let her take in a selfie of the hubby and me that wasn’t edited, but this wasn’t going up on a Powerpoint in front of the class without some editing.

I don’t often talk about my editing because each photo is different. Some are edited, some are not. Some a little, some a lot. I don’t have Lightroom yet.  That’s next on my list, but my laptop is almost out of space so I need to migrate my photo library to an external hard drive and I get scared about losing my photos in the process

I thought that just for fun I’d tell you how I edited this photo of me.

First of all, here are the settings for the Sony Alpha 7 II:  ISO 250 | 28 mm | f/4.5.

It was shot on Aperture Priority. I was the one who chose the depth of field. I’m a fan of shallow depth.

Right now I just have the Sony FE 3.5-5.6/28-70 mm OSS lens. I want to add a 50 mm f/1.8 so that I can have an even shallower depth. The issue is that the Sony lens costs 3x more than a Nikon or Canon one. You can buy adapter rings for those lenses to fit…so it’s just a matter or deciding which route to go.

But back to the editing.

I edited this photo in the Snapseed App on my phone. Sometimes I also use the VSCO app or A Color Story app for certain things, but I predominately use Snapseed.

Miss Sunshine needed to get this into her Powerpoint, so I needed to edit quickly. I’ve never used the “looks” part of Snapseed, but I checked out Smooth. It made me look fake. I did not want that (heck, I left all those forehead wrinkles that show up when I raise my eyebrows. Ok… they sort of stay there even when my eyebrows are in a normal position. 36 years in the Florida sun with fair skin will do that. Add four more years of dry, cold Virginia winters…and…yeah). The portrait “look” was a more realistic filter so that was what I used. Under Curves, I added U01. I liked how it added a tone reminiscent of an 80’s film photograph. Then it was time to tune the image and make it a little more unique than just laying filters on it. Here’s what I chose: brightness +4, contrast +2, saturation +7, ambiance +5. I actually start from the bottom of this list and work my way up, adjusting to my preference. Sometimes I may work with highlights and lowlights after that, but not always.

And there you have it!


I picked up a new journal this week. Not because I needed one, but because I thought it was pretty. Sometimes you just need pretty. I haven’t decided what I want to fill its lines with. Will it be a story? Will it be lists? Will it be thoughts?

Big Mr. applied to his first college and is working on a few other applications. Mr. D becomes a solo driver tomorrow. Each of those things makes me realize how close we are moving to them flying from the nest.

As I think about the leaves that are now falling from the trees, I recognize a new season approaching.

Both in the weather and in my life.

The song I chose this week is by the Australian, Xavier Rudd.

I made the executive decision this week to push my 5k goal into the spring. The cold and I don’t get along and I want to enjoy my first race.

This presents a training issue. I gave up my yoga classes to run…and I miss them. I don’t want to give up my Pilates classes either, so I’ll have to rethink my schedule.

As I sat today, in day 48 of meditation, I realized that I often make my life more complex than it needs to be.

I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend. It’ll be my first without a soccer game, but Miss Sunshine has to finish up a project for Science so I’ll likely be around the house. Sounds like a good time for some book reading. I need to make some headway on Middlemarch.

In any given moment we have two option: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. - Abraham Maslow

Let your light shine!


Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Company.

37 rue de la Bûcherie. Paris, France.

Shakespeare and Company is an Independent Bookstore in Paris. From the moment that Helen commented that I should visit there while in Paris, I knew that this was one of the destinations on my “must see” list.

As I mentioned, after our visit to Sacré Cœur, we decided to head to Shakespeare and Company. Somehow I managed to navigate us getting off at the wrong Metro Station. I’m still not sure how that happened as Google and Apple maps were very reliable during our travels. Since I would need a few minutes to gather our bearings and somebody needed to use the bathroom (this is an inevitable, frequent occurrence when traveling in a party of 5), we decided to head into a nearby restaurant for lunch.


We were somewhat surprised by the service, or lack thereof. This is also the restaurant where I obviously did not understand what they meant on the sauce description. When it said egg, it wasn’t part of the sauce. It was actual raw egg, placed on top of the pasta. I ate around it the best I could and ate whatever leftovers the teens still had on their plates.

As we began our journey toward Shakespeare and Company, we discovered that while we had felt confused by where we exited the Metro, we were in fact very close to the Louvre.

It occurred to us at that point that we were probably eating at a touristy restaurant, which would explain the high prices combined with lack of service.  Next time I visit Paris I will actually look at Yelp reviews and try to find restaurants loved by Parisians. I’ve specifically not shared certain names of the places in which we ate because I don’t like to add to negativity, but they were ranked in the lower third of reviews.

Panorama of the Louvre.

Since we were passing by the Louvre, I decided to experiment with capturing a panorama. Of course that would be the moment that vehicles would pass through!

A second try was much more successful and we then continued on our way toward Shakespeare and Company.

If I had been a person with a pre-planned itinerary, we would have visited the bookstore on the day that we visited Notre-Dame. It is located on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame.


Shakespeare and Company was founded in 1951 by the American, George Whitman.

The building it’s housed in was constructed in the 17th Century and was originally a monastery.

When the bookstore first opened it was called Le Mistral. Whitman changed it to its present name in April of 1964, on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth.


He did this in honor of a bookseller he admired, Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919. Her bookstore had been a gathering place for expat writers at that time…such as Hemingway and Eliot.

He endeavored to carry on that spirit. Allen Ginsberg and Anaïs Nin are just a few of the literary expats who gathered here.

Aspiring Writers.

Shakespeare and Company is considered one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world.

An estimated 30,000 aspiring writers have bunked at Shakespeare and Company.

I knew that I had to walk along the floors, smell the scent of old paper, and touch the worn bindings of the old books.

So after capturing some of the doors for my Thursday Door friends, I entered.

The hubby and teens decided to rest their weary feet and sit outside while I perused the bookstore.

Inside, there are new books as well as old.

They request that no photos be taken inside to respect the privacy of the patrons. As much as there were places inside that I would have loved to photograph, I chose to respect their request.

A google image search of the staircase will show you one such photo that I was tempted to take.

Up the Staircase.

It spoke to me because upon it was written so much of what I believe to be true.

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. -Hafiz

The red stairs are well worn. I wonder how many feet have walked up that stairwell. I pause and look at things pinned here and there… and words…everywhere are words.I ponder the magnitude of how many written words are contained in this space.

As I meander about the rooms at the tops of the stairs, my mind travels to the writers who sat here pouring out their thoughts. I run my hand along the spaces. If there is any magic here, I want it travel through my fingertips. I want it to take residence in my brain and then find its way back out and through my fingertips into written words.

However, I am conscientious of the fact that I have left my family waiting for me. I know they are tired and we still want to see the Eiffel Tower from its base.

I want to stay here and soak up this magic.

To breathe in the creativity.

But I must go.


I leave, but I know that I will return again someday.

Once again, I slowly ascend those stairs, and this time I will sit upon the chairs.

I will breathe deeply in that creative space.

And I will think on those whose written words have made it from their fingertips and on those whose words are still waiting to be written.

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. - Jack Kerouac

Let your light shine!