Amsterdam Bike Town

Amsterdam – Bike Town



I’ve returned from my first journey overseas. While technically my first stop was Frankfurt, Germany for my layover and also my first passport stamp, Amsterdam was the first city in which I got a view of more than than just a runway.



The weather in the spring can be fickle, and it proved so on our journey. Amsterdam was a little more wet and cold than we had originally thought that it might be. It worked out well for my photo of the I amsterdam sign. I don’t know anyone in this photo, but it was the only occasion on my 2 1/2 days there that the sign wasn’t swarmed with tons of people. That is the Rijksmuseum in the background.


In case you missed it, we did not take only carry-ons. However, that decision was made 45 minutes before we got in the car to drive to D.C. and included dashing to the store to buy two medium suitcases and rapidly moving our clothing from two of the carry-ons…which meant I did not actually get to take more clothes, only that my camera traveled in its padded case. Priorities… ūüėČ


The view of the Earth from the sky was beautiful. We watched the sun set and rise again, over the ocean. After we landed at the airport and collected our luggage, we decided to take the train and then tram toward our hotel. Amsterdam has a good public transport system. We purchased a 3 day travel ticket.  This was good for trains, trams, ferries, metros, and buses operated by GVB. I will note that this is 3 physical days, not 72 hours. We were there for 2 1/2 days and did try to see if it was valid to take the tram to the train station our final day, at less than 72 hours. It was not.

IMG_0743.jpgWe stayed at the Hotel City Garden, which is located on P.C. Hoofstraat. Finding accommodations for a family of five is never easy. Add to that fact that we were traveling during prime tulip and spring bloom season, wanted a hotel that made the city walkable, and did not want to stumble into the red light district (which we did anyway…but that is a future post) and this hotel worked well for us.

We had the room listed as Souterrain family 5 person. ¬†It has 5 single beds, although 2 are pushed together, so if it’s a friend group going, you should make sure you don’t mind feeling like you’re in a king bed together. Our room was located in the basement, with a window opening into an enclosed garden. Since it didn’t appear that there was air conditioning, the window came in handy.

Right at the end of these buildings is an entrance to Vondelpark, which is a beautiful 120 acre park that we spent a lot of time strolling through.


I will tell you that this was the location where we most encountered the scent of marijuana, so if you are hoping to avoid that smell, this probably wouldn’t be a lovely stroll for you.

But then again, Amsterdam may not be for you if you think you will avoid the smell. We smelled it here… we smelled it near the I amsterdam sign…. we smelled it down at the fun fair in Dam Square… and probably tons of other places.

Personally, I think it smells better than cigarette smoke, the scent of which seems to be more prevalent in Europe than it does in the parts of the U.S. that I frequent.

And yes, Amsterdam is known for it’s legality of pot and prostitution. But I went there for its tulips, its architecture, its canals, and its friendly reputation.


On the train from Schipol Airport to Zuid station, we were trying to make sure that we were going to get off at the right stop and this lovely girl informed us that this was the correct stop. ¬†When we got off the train, we were looking at the map that came with our ticket. The girl had walked toward her destination, and she turned around and came back to us and told us how to get to the tram station. It was a welcome experience upon my first interaction with a foreign country. We made it to the tram and were trying to figure out how far until the stop listed on the directions to our hotel. A gentleman offered to look it up on his google maps (and yes, I had this app downloaded, but was so overwhelmed that I hadn’t thought to use it yet. It would prove to be a lifesaver throughout Paris and extremely helpful in Amsterdam).


Another thing that Amsterdam is well known for is…

Its bikes.

And there were bikes everywhere.  They have their own lane and lights.


I took the photo above while on the canal cruise. ¬†It had just stopped raining so there were still raindrops on the windows. ¬†That’s an entire parking garage of bikes!


The kids really wanted to rent bikes and go for a ride, but the weather was mostly drizzly and our time there brief.

What I found most surprising was how many children just rode behind a parent on the little metal piece over the back fender. I don’t tend to take pictures of strangers unless they happen to be in my shot so I don’t have any examples of how it appeared. One child was toddler age and the mother rode along with her arm behind as a back rest holding the child in place.


Quite often there are baskets attached so they can carry the groceries or other purchases.

I have read that bikers get irritated if you are in their way. I don’t know if this is sometimes true, but there were accidental moments of stepping onto the bike path because it seems like a sidewalk. They would ring their bell as they approached and you would realize your mistake and move. Never once did I see anyone angry about anything.


While most bikes are purely functional, there were quite a few that put time into making their mode of transportation unique.

I did not even capture a fraction of the amazing bikes or multitude of bikes around the city.



Another sight that seemed so romantic were the girls who were probably in their early 20’s riding sidesaddle behind what I assume was their significant other. ¬†They were just sitting on the metal plates over the back fender. I wondered how in the world they could stay up there, but given the fact that they had probably been on a bike since infancy, it was probably deeply ingrained into their being.


Amsterdam definitely stole a piece of my heart.

I’m only just beginning to process through my pictures and have so many more to share.


I hope that you’ll check back as I share more about my excursions in Amsterdam and then over to Paris!

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions"

Let your light shine!







Upcoming Travels...Amsterdam...Paris...Scotland

Travel Tuesday…advice and opinions


In less than three weeks, I will be boarding a plane for my very first overseas trip!

Most of you who have been following a while already know about my trip, but some of my new readers might have missed it.

Over spring break, the hubby and I and our three teenagers are flying to Amsterdam and will have about 2 1/2 days there.  Then we are taking the train to Paris and will have about 3 1/2 days there.

I’m not gonna lie, while I’m extremely excited, I’m also very nervous. ¬†I like my little comfort zone. ¬†I drive the same square around town… gym…grocery store…. middle school….high school…home. But this was the year to continue to press outside of my comfort zone. ¬†And what better way than to fly across the world! ūüôā

We’ve done quite a bit of traveling around the East Coast of the United States, but always wanted to take the kids to Europe before the oldest left for college. ¬†He’s now 17 and a junior in high school so we figured it was time. The kids have not been on a plane since they ranged from ages 2-6. I have never been outside of the continental U.S. and figured it was about time for me to travel too!

I have saved¬†and read through many “must sees” and itineraries on my Pinterest account, but I wanted to get my reader’s opinions on what you all think should be on my list.

Keukenhof Gardens has been a regular recommendation. I definitely want to see fields of tulip blooms since we will be there in April.

For those that have visited the gardens, do you think this would hold the interest of 13,15, and 17 year-olds? Any opinions on Zaanse Schanse?

I understand that our time is limited and I don’t want to try to pack to much in. ¬†We will be staying near Vondelpark and I know that the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum are nearby. I really wanted to take the kids to the Anne Franke house, but when I checked for tickets 3 weeks ahead, they are sold out. ¬†Given our short time there, if the line has a multiple hour wait, this won’t be an option.

Of course Paris is also filled with more than we can fit into our time as well. ¬†We are considering a day trip out of town to see some more of the country. ¬†We considered the Chateaux’s of the Loire Valley, but once I realized that was were Fontevraud Abbey was located (I am intrigued by Eleanor of Aquitaine), I’m thinking that needs to be its own trip. ¬†One of the children has asked if we are visiting the Palace of Versailles since they have learned about that in history class.

If you have visited the Palace, do you think this makes a nice day trip out of Paris?


I am also working on my Scotland trip with my mother.  We are considering moving it up to the end of May.  It just works better for me if my kids are still in school.  The tentative plan is to fly into Edinburgh and then we have 6 1/2 days before flying out.

The dilemma is that we want to see it all….and cannot.

We want to make our way to the Isle of Skye, which is a huge time allocation. ¬†We also will not be driving a car. ¬†I’m not prepared this early into my international traveling to drive on the opposite side of the road on skinny, winding roads.

Besides our time in Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye (probably staying nearby as I think all the hotels there are already booked), I think we really would like to add in Stirling and Glen Coe and whatever else we can squeeze in (Doune Castle… I’m a Game of Thrones fan). ¬†If I had all the time in the world, I would want to see Old Castle Lachlan since we know that we have McLachlan ancestors. ¬†And of course, all the other beautiful castles. ¬†We will be traveling to Airdrie, hoping to get a glimpse of some of the areas that our family lived. ¬†We think we are pretty confident of the church where Agnes McLachlan and James Scott (my great-great grandparents) were married. We will also checking out the surrounding area of Glasgow where other family lived. A few of the other surnames that we are working on are: Scott, Baird, Munn, and Johnston. ¬†Of course most of those surnames have areas that they originate from as well. ¬†In all likelihood, we will need to plan more than 1 visit. ūüôā

Until we have a general plan around our itinerary, we can’t book the hotel rooms. ¬†So I am seeking your input.

What would be on your absolutely “must see and do” list if you were in Scotland? And relying on public transport and taxis!

Thank you all so much ahead of time for any comments you have to offer!

Any tips on travel, avoiding jet lag, packing, and amazing places to eat (we are foodies)… add those too!


Let your light shine!





Are you Irish Dna Testing

Are you Irish? 


Kiss me, I’m Irish.

Just kidding about the kiss me part.  Not about the Irish part. (I love snapchat filters even though I have no intention of snapchatting anyone other than my daughter.)

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.

A celebration of the patron saint of Ireland.

Today, I’m going to share a little about my DNA, history, and ancestry. And some news I’ve been dying to share!

If you’ve been following me for a while then you know that I had my DNA tested last year. I mentioned in yesterday’s post¬†that I expected to be more Scandinavian. ¬†I also expected to be more Irish.

Prior to my testing, I had stumbled across some Irish mythology on the Tuatha de Danann while initially researching some Welsh mythology.  Some of the stories have overlapping similarities.

There are some claims that based on descriptions of the Tuatha de Danann [tall, red or blonde hair, blue or green eyes, pale skin, came from the sky on ships] that these were really Nordic vikings on ships, the likes of which had never been seen, emerging from the mist.

When I read about that, I thought… AHA! ¬†When I take my test it will show Irish, but it will ¬†be ancestral Scandinavian and will answer why I am not petite and am pale.


I mean look at my dad…red hair, freckles, pale (Florida sun hides this reality).


One of my children was born with red hair.

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 9.54.01 AM

Alas! ¬†I am 10% Irish. ¬†Less than my husband’s 20%.

I have also run my DNA results through (you can upload your raw DNA here and find matches who may have used other testing companies).

There are admixture with oracle-4 tests [I am still learning which to choose- I chose the MDLP K23b. If you are knowledgeable in this area, feel free to jump into the comment section as I am claiming no knowledge, only sharing my results].

These tests can also show a breakdown of your ethnicity. I have read that if your ethnicity is as homogenous as mine, these programs have a hard time really pinpointing the region that your DNA comes from. ¬†I don’t know if this is true or not.

The 1 population approximation lists me as (top 3 and the @ is distance from similar ethnicity.):

  • English @ 3.29 (I’ve rounded these numbers)
  • Irish @ 3.34
  • English_Cornwall_GBR @ 4.16

The 2 population approximation is 50% German-Volga + 50% Orcadian @ 2.62.

3 population approximation is the same, they just change it to 25% Orcadian + 25% Orcadian

The 4 population approximation is:  German-Volga + Irish + Orcadian + Scottish-Argyll-Bute-GBR @ 2.57.

I do have an ancestral history of Germans who emigrated to the United States from the Palatinate region.  Palatinate Germans were some of those who emigrated to Russia upon invitation by Catherine the Great.  Perhaps that is why I show German-Volga. In case you are wondering, Orcadian is the native population of the Orkney Islands of Scotland who are historically descended from the Picts, Norse, and Scots.

While I think the ethnicity estimate is an amazing tool, most things will remind you that your genealogical research is always key.  I am by no means an expert when it comes to genealogy.  I am barely a beginner.

I’ve shared before that I was not interested in history until I took this DNA test. ¬†This history became tangible when I applied it to people that I descend from.


One of my distant relatives, my paternal 8th great- grandfather, was William Durkee. He was born about 1632 in Ireland (I’ve seen it listed at Meath, Ireland). ¬†He is thought to be one of the first Irishmen to settle in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. ¬†He arrived in Massachusetts on November 9, 1663 as an indentured servant to Thomas Bishop. ¬†He came from Barbados and is thought to have been sent there during Cromwell’s military invasion of Ireland (There is a lot of controversy surrounding myths and facts about that situation. ¬†I am not a history major…not even close. ¬†I will not be addressing that.) ¬†The reason so much is known about his indentured servitude is because there are court records.

Most of the court records that I have seen deal with the fact that he impregnated Martha Cross, who is believed to have worked in the house of Thomas Bishop.  There are records of them coming before the court, charged with fornication, and the option of being whipped or paying fees.  There are records of a suit by her father for abuse of his daughter (the impregnation) and a counter-suit by William for her father withdrawing consent to marriage.  They would marry December 20, 1664, and two weeks later my 7th great-grandfather, John Durkee, would be born. For some time, William Durkee was not able to purchase land because he would not renounce his Catholic faith.  I have seen that he eventually did purchase land, but am not sure what led to that possibility.

Almost all of the Durkees in the United States and Canada descend from his 3 sons. If you’re curious about my line it’s: William Durkee>John Durkee>Stephen Durkee>Phineas Durkee> Experience Durkee>David Woodbury>John Milton Woodbury>Laura Louise Woodbury (my great-grandmother).


The only other family line that I’m pretty confident originates in Ireland is my maternal great-great grandmother, Agnes McLachlan Scott (in the picture above). I’ve shared a little about my Scottish history in this post.

A synopsis is that Agnes McLachlan was born in 1865 in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, Scotland. She was the daughter of Hugh McLauchlan (the census spells the name differently repetitively) and Agnes Baird.  On December 20, 1889, she married my great-great grandfather, James Scott (son of James Scott and Mary Munn).

James Scott was a miner and this would lead them to immigrate with their four sons to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1911.  Based on the typical naming pattern used in Scotland, I was able to discover that my great-grandfather, George Brown Scott, was actually named after a stepfather.  Mary Munn married George Brown in Barony, Lanarkshire, Scotland on December 30, 1872 (I do not know what happened to James Scott) and appears to have had 4 more children bearing the last name of Brown.


My McLachlan trail is hard to follow as there are many Hugh McLachlan’s in the area. My reasoning for believing that at some point it becomes an Irish history is because of the McLachlan name itself.

The Clan MacLachlan is a Highland Scottish clan that claims descent from Lachlan Mor, who lived on Loch Fyne in the 13th century. Tradition is that he was a descendant of Anrothan, an Irish prince of the O’Neill dynasty who moved to Scotland and married the daughter of the King of Argyll. ¬†Further back, the lineage claims descent from Niall Noigiallach (Niall of the Nine Hostages), High King of Ireland in the 4th-5th century.



Remember some weeks ago when I shared that I was planning a trip with my mom and aunt?

Well we haven’t actually booked the tickets yet, but I can’t stand it any longer!!

My mom’s passport came in…

and at the end of the summer…

we are planning to take a trip…


Not only do we plan to see the sights, we are hoping to find some of the places listed on the census records and stand on the streets where our ancestors feet have stood.

Any tips or words of wisdom are greatly appreciated! has a referral program that saves you 10% on the kit and rewards me $10 if you purchase through them. ¬†You can find my link on my twitter account, which is in the side menu of my blog. This post has not been sponsored by them. ¬†The referral program is offered to any person who purchases a kit through them. And even if you don’t use my link, they run specials all the time with a percentage off of the full price (usually around holidays when you might like to know your lineage).


Let your light shine!









Hiking Dragon's Tooth - Virginia

Hiking Dragon’s Tooth in Virginia


Hiking, anyone?

You might remember from my Friday Faves post that I mentioned that I like to hike.

Usually, I just go on short hikes.

And I’m gonna be honest about why…

I don’t want to have to pee in the woods. I have no problem with the woods, just the fact that these trails are highly traveled. But I was talking with my oldest son recently about how I mostly follow these outdoorsy people on Instagram since that’s what I’m photographing and how I like outdoorsy product and clothing lines…and he said, “well then you’re going to have to actually get out and camp and do more outdoorsy things.”

I knew that was true, so I decided to get over my panic and hike Dragon’s Tooth with the hubby.


Since he knew about my panic, he threw a roll of toilet paper in our backpack supplies. ¬†I was like “really?!”, but it turned out to be a good thing since the toilets at the beginning of the trail were out of toilet paper (thanks hubby). There was hand sanitizer, but next time I’ll remember my own. ¬†I’m pretty opposed to antibacterial stuff in daily use, but do own sanitizer for soccer events (porta-potties…no explanation necessary).

Dragon’s Tooth is located on Catawba Valley Drive in Catawba, Virginia. ¬†We just used the GPS on our phone, but we got off at exit 141 on I-81 South. We turned left onto N. Electric Rd and then took a right onto Catawba Valley Drive. After almost 10 miles, the sign for the entrance to Dragon’s Tooth is on the left. Prior to that entrance, you will pass another well-known hiking entrance- McAfee Knob.

We chose Dragon’s Tooth for our first long hike because it was shorter (mileage wise). It is 2.4 miles one way (I’ve read some accounts that say it is longer). ¬†There is a gain of around 1500 ft in elevation. Always pay attention to the signs as there are intersecting trails. ¬†This trail has a blue blaze.

I mentioned that my hiking boots did not work out in this post. I have not replaced them yet. ¬†I hiked in running shoes. ¬†I’m not sure I’d recommend this. ¬†I saw plenty of people on the trail with them. ¬†My feet are in-between sizes and my shoes were a little big and the bottoms were a little too worn. ¬†This will matter on the boulder section.

The beginning of the hike meanders through an enchanted forest along a stream.

It was in the low 50’s (F) when we started and a little chilly in the shade of the trees. ¬†But don’t worry, the steady climb will warm you right up.

I’m always amazed by the trees as I travel along the forests in Virginia. My husband laughed at how many I “hugged.” ¬†Some were so huge that I wanted to see if my arms would even go half way round (and I have long arms).


I think about how long they must have been growing on that mountainside and how long they’ll be growing after I’m gone.

I think about how nature is continually growing and thriving while we try to battle it in our yards.  I, personally, rarely battle it, preferring to give it its say.


In the forest, everything works together, creating this beautiful cycle. Once we were away from the parking area, we were surprised by how quiet it was.  The random calling of a bird and the answer of another. Otherwise, silence.

It reminded me of growing up and made me miss the silence of the country and of a sky filled with stars in the darkness.

And just when I began to wonder when we would reach the Appalachian Trail….there we were.

I got engaged on the Appalachian Trail. We weren’t hiking it. We had traveled to Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee and then meandered down part of the trail to a quieter spot, where he asked me to be his wife.

It’s amazing to me that this trail goes along all the way from Georgia to Maine. About 2,200 miles.

Around some corners, you can begin to get a glimpse of the mountains.

The .7 miles is much harder than the part you have already climbed.  You will now be following white blazes.  There is a reminder to pay attention for them.  Do this.  This is a boulder climbing section.  You need to know which direction to go.


You also need to be prepared for obstacles.

This tree was across the most obvious path.  There was a newly worn path going around the upper portion of the tree.  We opted for that instead of going over because we were letting a group of people pass us while we took a water break.


My shoes did not have the kind of traction that I would have liked in order to have gone over the tree.  They had a tendency to slide a little on some inclines.


We packed the cameras away for part of the boulder climb so that things would not get bashed or fall.  You really should google some images.  The real climbing begins at an area that runs along the edge of the mountain. I knew I could get up, but was really worried about my descent.  The are also a few spots where bars are embedded into rock because of the steepness of the trail.


When you get to the top of the boulder section, there are a few overlooks. I took a break to enjoy my moment at the top of the world. ¬†The hand out of view is gripping the rock since it’s a long way down!

It is about another 1/10 of a mile, following blue blazes again, to get to Dragon’s Tooth.


Dragon’s Tooth is named because of the giant Tuscarora quartzite spires. ¬†The tallest “tooth” rises about 35 feet. ¬†The only shots that I was semi-happy with did not include the entire spires. I’m hoping for better lighting (and better photography and/or editing skills) the next time I do this hike.


I did not climb to the top of the tooth. ¬†I don’t know if I would even if my shoes were a proper fit.


The trip down requires as much work and concentration as on the way up. I was really nervous about the spot that I call the “steep cliffside descent” (I found somebody’s 30 second YouTube video of the spot here. ¬†This still doesn’t show that beside that face is just straight down and you are thousands of feet in the air).

I was seriously wondering whether I would descend it barefoot. My husband jokes about my “monkey toes”. ¬†I can pick things up with them if I’m too lazy to bend over. ¬†My feet are also strong from lots of balance work in yoga. I figured they would be better than sliding down the rock or having my shoes trip me up. When I got to the spot though, it was no where near as frightening as what I had built up in my mind. ¬†I made my way down. ¬†From there on it’s smooth sailing. ¬†Ok. ¬†That’s an exaggeration, but nothing scary remains.

I kept my husband amused by yabbering away. ¬†Finding sticks, and rocks, and acorn tops to play with along the way. ¬†When I could see the end in sight, I showed him my legs weren’t completely dead, doing some squats and a tree pose.

I was excited that I had conquered Dragon’s Tooth, earned a little outdoorsy credit (and didn’t have to pee in the woods)!


Let your light shine!



*WPC-Against the Odds.  Celebrating my victory!




A Short Tour of the Historical Area of Explore Park in Roanoke Virginia


You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself. – Alan Watts

Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it.

This past Sunday, my husband and I visited Explore Park, located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 115. ¬†The day was gray and overcast, with rain coming in the afternoon. ¬†I didn’t expect to get too many shots as the light was not in my favor. ¬†I opted not to¬†bring along the tripod since it was more of a scouting expedition. ¬†Also, I had some new hiking boots that I needed to take out on a trial.

We decided that we would head to the Park’s historical area. ¬†I was hoping that there would be some interesting doors for Thursday Doors. ¬†If you aren’t familiar with Thursday Doors, it’s hosted by Norm over at Norm 2.0. Today, he’s asked us to share some doors that remind us that there is beauty in the world. This is in light of the recent tragedy in Quebec City, which is very near his hometown.

While I may not always succeed at it, my goal is to spread love and light and kindness… through my blog, through Instagram, and hopefully to those I meet in my daily walk through life.

The upper photo was posted on Instagram on Monday.  I liked the perspective and the depth of field.  There was a sense of beauty in it to me. I usually try to find a good quote to go with my photos when I put them out there (I spend way to much time hunting for the right ones!)  When I came across that quote by Watts, it made me think, in the same way the photo made me think.

It wasn’t one of my most liked photos, but it is one that I personally enjoy. ¬†I was capturing what it looked like to peer between the timbers of the shed in the photo below. ¬†This shed (or whatever it was supposed to be) was one of my favorite structures. ¬†I loved how the light filtered between the logs.


As I wandered around the historic area, I thought about what it would be like to stand on the inside of the buildings.  I looked around at them and wondered about the hands that had built them and the feet that had walked around inside them.  Humans, like me, making their way through this world.


There were some buildings that were replicas and some that had been moved from their prior location and given a new home. Most are not available for public admittance, but there are two buildings that have been repurposed for recreation programs or rented for events (those buildings are not included in this photo gallery).


The home above was originally built in 1837 in Roanoke County. You can read more about it and some of the other historic buildings here.   It is representative of the type of home that most middle-class farmers  from this area owned. This home came from an 80 acre farm where 40 acres were actively farmed.


There are great plans in place for the development of Explore Park.  There are plans for camping, fishing access, a zipline, a bouldering wall, kayaking and canoeing through rapids, and tons more amazing things. If you are interested in the long term vision you can check that out here.

The upper and lower door photos came from the backside of the barn that is planned to be used in the future as a venue site. I loved the rustic vibe of them.  These doors are below the main structure of the barn, so there was an underground feeling when you peered inside. I have this irrational fear that somebody is going to pop up when I look inside old buildings. One too many scary movies!

After these shots, I turned to watched a train chugging along the mountainside in the distance.  It is in moments like that, standing there breathing in the crisp mountain air, feeling like I am a tiny part of the whole, that I am able to appreciate my move to Virginia.


One of the buildings is an original one-room schoolhouse moved here from Franklin County.

It reminded me of my grandmother¬†, and her tales about when they went to live with her grandmother, Ella Tewksbury (yes, I believe she was married to that family line of Tewksbury’s. ¬†But before being a Tewksbury, she was born a Redwine and married a Yount and one of her numerous children was my great-grandmother).

When my grandmother was a teenager, they¬†lived with Grandma Tewksbury¬†for a while up in the mountains of Arizona. ¬†There was not power, just kerosene lamps and candles. ¬†They used an outhouse and went to a one-room school. ¬†My grandmother always described that time as one of the best in her life. ¬†A place where life was so simple and when the school had a production the entire town would show up to watch, even if they didn’t have kids in school.


She told tales of skinny dipping with her cousin and sister in the river. ¬†And of the time that the ranger came up on horseback and stood there talking to them them while they tried to get lower in the water and pretend that they weren’t naked. ¬†And how it would just so happen that her mother and aunt were up visiting another ranger in the fire tower when the call came over the radio about some teenage girls out skinny dipping. ¬†They thought they had been so clever. ¬†Needless to say, it was a small enough place that their mother’s knew who was being talked about. ¬†I still laugh when I think of her telling that story.

I always found it fascinating that she loved that rural place so much when the next move her family would make was into the heart of downtown Los Angeles.


Since I was testing out my hiking boots, I thought I’d try to play around taking some shots of them. ¬†I am fascinated by the types of shots that I come across on Instagram that have a vibe about them that I can’t describe. ¬†I think it’s the way they are edited, but I still haven’t figured it out. ¬†They are typically found with hashtags like: #livefolk, #folkgood, #folkcreative, #artofvisuals, and #visualsoflife. ¬†I did not succeed in capturing the vibe I wanted, but I’ll keep trying.


The hiking boots will probably be returned (they said I had 90 days and the ability to test drive them-I’ve never actually done that before-so we’ll see). ¬†The boots kept pressing into my achilles tendon on the downhill and bothering my leg on the uphill. ¬†They were great on flat land, but I no longer live near flat land. ¬†I may just need to go with a shorter style.


The shot above was a barn.  I am amazed at the skill that goes into building something like this.

And lastly, we come to a work of beauty.

Slone’s Grist Mill.


It was built between 1880 and 1890 in Franklin County.  I find water wheels to be a spectacular feat of engineering and a thing of amazing craftsmanship.


I hope that you’ve enjoyed my little tour of the historic area of Explore Park.

As well as my regular send off, I’d like to leave you with these thoughts as you wander about in this world we all share:




Let your light shine!



WPC: Graceful



I have to admit when I saw “Graceful” as the photo challenge of the week, I was a bit stumped. ¬†There are no photos of swans, ballerinas, or princesses in my archives. ¬†And, alas, I was not going to be able to find any to go out and photograph.

Those¬†are the things¬†I think about when I hear the word graceful. As I pondered it more and thought through the description used in the photo challenge: “something that exists harmoniously with its surroundings,” I decided on a direction.

I think the city and surrounding area of Roanoke, Virginia does just that.

Downtown- facing the city market building (shorter brick building in center), the Norfolk Southern building (Hi-rise in center.  I assume it will get a new name since it was sold when Norfolk Southern relocated most of their people to Norfolk and Atlanta), and Mill Mountain (If you look closely, you can see the famous Roanoke Star atop it.)

If you aren’t familiar with Roanoke, it is located in the Southwestern portion of Virginia. It also happens to have become my adopted home for the past 3 1/2 years.

According to the City’s government website, the first pioneers explored the Roanoke Valley region as early as the 17th century. As a side note, my genealogical¬†¬†search has turned up with family lines in the surrounding counties as far back as the late 1700’s.

The city of Roanoke was originally called Big Lick, named after the salt that fed the wildlife along the Roanoke River.  The town was established in 1852 and became the town of Roanoke in 1882 and a city in 1884.

Its location helped it flourish.  To me, the downtown area has a industrial/urban feel.  This may be biased as I come from an area of South Florida, where there are no railroads and little to no manufacturing since the establishment of the area was at a much later time.

I like this urban feel to the downtown area.  The area has been undergoing a revitalization for some time.  I did not move to the area until the summer of 2013 and quite a bit had already taken place in the pedestrian friendly downtown.  Since then, more shops and restaurants have spread beyond the initial square to create even more space to wander downtown.  Condos have have been built in the upper floors of the historic buildings.

There is almost always something going on. There are festivals, 5k’s and for any of you that are hard core runners (this is not me…my zen is yoga, but one of my 40 before 40 goals is to run a 5k!) the Blue Ridge Marathon¬†will begin and finish downtown in April. ¬†Elmwood Park’s amphitheater and The Berglund Center have both been venues for some amazing concerts. ¬†There is a Greenway that runs along the Roanoke River, filled with runners, walkers, and bicyclists.

Taken from the Roanoke Valley Greenway

Given the history of having a child involved in a accident and being medflighted to a Level 1 Trauma Center with a brain injury when we lived in Florida, I was relieved to find out the city I was moving to had a Level 1 Trauma Center located in it. ¬†It’s not something that I would have ever thought about before living through it. ¬†Minutes are critical when there are life-threatening emergencies involved.

Located near the hospital is the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. I find it absolutely fascinating that this is happening where I live. Before I moved, I had gone back to school to work on a degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. The area I was living in Florida had a strong biomedical community and the Bachelor degree was being offered¬†at the local State College. It had great potential because I was busily raising kids, so going off to a¬†University was not an option. I didn’t get too far along before we moved (but I aced Chemistry, Statistics, and A&P after being out of college¬†for 18 years!). ¬†My focus changed when I moved here, but I still hold a special place inside for medicine and how the human body functions.

The Roanoke Valley (which encompasses the city and county of Roanoke and the city of Salem) exists harmoniously within its environment. ¬†There is a love for the outdoors. ¬†A love for green space. ¬†It’s nestled between the mountains. ¬†Everywhere that I drive, I am facing a mountain range.

And the Blue Ridge Mountains are a sight to behold. ¬†My photos only offer a glimpse of the spectacular scenery. ¬†A great website to check out about the area is¬†Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. ¬†They have great things on their blog about things to do and see in the region. ¬†They also share some amazing Instagram photos (one of mine is in the first snow of 2017 photo album).

Quite a few people travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway every year. Excepting the photos in the city, all of these photos are taken on the Parkway from either Mill Mountain or Roanoke Mountain.  The loop road on Roanoke Mountain is now closed for the season.  If you plan to travel the Parkway in the winter, always be sure to check with the National Park Service for road closures.

City view from Mill Mountain.

If you should find yourself this way, I think you’ll agree that the cityscape and the surrounding natural landscape exist in a symbiotic relationship. ¬†That there is grace and harmony in their coexistence.

Sunset view from Roanoke Mountain

Let your light shine!


The Name Game


It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.¬†‚Äē W.C. Fields

What’s in a name? ¬†

Most of you know me as Amy. Some know me as mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend.  There is one who knows me as wife.  Not one of those names are unique, belonging only to me.

And yet, I am unique.  There is not one duplicate out there who is exactly like me.  There is no one out there who is exactly like you.  It is in that fact that our world becomes even more amazing.

Many of our deepest motives come, not from an adult logic of how things work in the world, but out of something that is frozen in our childhood – Kazuo Ishiguro

I mentioned in another post that my blogiversary was coming up. Today is that day. 1 year ago I set out on a blogging journey to discover me.  To find what made me unique.  To see if there was more to me than just the names assigned to me.

And while I didn’t arrive at an epiphany, I did make steady forward progress.

I’ve learned that I do enjoy taking photos and that this year I should actually learn the technical aspects of photography so I can achieve some of the types of shots that I haven’t mastered yet.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to need to step back and process what I’m doing to be sure that it’s the direction in which I want to continue.


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

I’ve learned that there is peace in simplicity. ¬†I’m still purging unnecessary items from my life. ¬†It is a continual process, but I am learning to not become discouraged along the way.

I’ve learned that there is beauty to be found everywhere…if we just look for it.

I’ve learned that pushing my boundaries helps me to find myself. And helps me learn more about those around me.

I’ve learned that my needs are just as important as those I care about. ¬†And that being kind to myself, in turn, makes me more kind to them.


Kindness is like snow –¬†it beautifies everything it covers. -Kahlil Gibran

We have had our first snow, which I have learned to embrace by finding its beauty.

We received our passports and now I can press my boundaries and comfort zones even further.

Our first trip out of the country has been planned for spring break!  My first overseas adventure will be flying to Amsterdam for three nights and then taking the train to Paris to spend four nights before flying home from there.

I’m excited and terrified at the same time. My kids haven’t flown since the 13 year old was under 2. ¬†We did opt to pay the extra to pick our seats so I could be sure that she wouldn’t end up sitting alone. ¬†We also paid extra for the oldest to have an “extra legroom” seat. ¬†With him being over 6’5″, we thought that was the only option for an 8 hour flight. ¬† The trip won’t be until mid-April (hooray for tulips in Amsterdam!).

I was a little disappointed to learn that my passport will only have one stamp even though I will have layovers in Germany and will be staying in both the Netherlands and France.  I guess that means I will just have to take more trips!

If you have any tips on how to pack, must see sights, places to eat (especially if you know of any gluten free options for a picky eater), or anything else I’m forgetting… please let me know in the comments!


Travel far enough, you meet yourself. -David Mitchell

Let your light shine!