What's Up Lately Episode 005

What’s Up Lately Episode 005

What’s Up Lately.

Episode 005.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since I was here with my last update.

That update coincided with my husband’s birthday.

Smith Mountain Lake.

We decided to rent a boat and spend part of the day cruising around Smith Mountain Lake.

The lake is the largest man-made lake in the state of Virginia.

It has 500 miles of shoreline.

So while we did lots of exploring, we were only seeing a tiny portion of all there is to see.

We decided to anchor in a cove to see how cold the water was. If you know me, you know the cold and I do not get along AT ALL. Even the Atlantic down in Florida is often too cold for my liking. I jumped in once but quickly climbed back out. It wasn’t the cold, but the eerie feeling that some lake monster might be hiding in the depths ready to eat me.

The average depth of the lake is 55 ft with a maximum depth of 250 ft. I’m a Florida girl and lakes mean alligators.

My rational brain said it was much too cold for that, but the irrational part said there were still unknown large animals down there. I got in once more and swam out to my husband. The water was very cold, but I could have acclimated. The depth and unknown still freaked me out and so I climbed back aboard the boat and basked in the sunlight on the bow.

I think I could get used to the scary waters. It’ll just take some time.

Do you ever frequent lakes? What’s your take on them?

Soccer Tournament.

The following weekend, Miss Sunshine had a soccer tournament in Virginia Beach.

Virginia Beach is about a 5-hour drive from Roanoke. It’s the farthest that we typically travel for a tournament. However, we always stay oceanfront so it’s a fun time.

Miss Sunshine and her team won the championship. That was despite being down a few girls who couldn’t make it and then down a few more due to injuries sustained during the weekend.

Since it is such a long drive home and there was school the next day, the team didn’t stay for the medaling ceremony (that would have added many more hours to the day).

There were plans to get their medals at practice that Wednesday.

However, rain canceled practice.

Flash Floods.

On Thursday, Hurricane Michael made its way to Roanoke.

I’ve shown you all the dry creek in my yard before. Any time it rains heavily, the creek runs with the water draining down the mountain. If you look into the background of the photo, you will see the row of Evergreens that we planted a few years ago. There is a road behind them. That road is covered is flash flooding water. The road to my driveway was covered in flash flood water.

You may have seen photos on the news of Roanoke covered in flooded water.

This photo is early into the flooding. Shortly after this, I was pacing the floor. Mr. D has early release for Seniors. I didn’t know if his Mustang would make it on our street. At the time, I had no clue what the rest of the county looked like.

About 15 minutes after the early release Seniors left school, I received a call that they were immediately releasing the schools due to increased flooding.

Mr. D made it to our neighborhood entrance, but then could tell that he would not make it any farther. He turned around and called me to pick him up at a nearby office parking lot. I took out the Jeep. Leaving our neighborhood, rocks had been pushed across the road and a car had been pushed to the side as well. The jeep had no problem making it across the rocks.

I picked up Mr. D and then had to make my way to the high school to get Miss Sunshine and Mr. D’s girlfriend. Many of the roads that we would have normally taken were closed due to flooding. Even the one that Mr. D had made it through 20 minutes earlier had a car submerged to its headlights. We finally made it to the girls and slowly made our way back through traffic. What normally is 20ish minutes round trip was over an hour and a half.

When I left, I didn’t know if the flooding would continue to get worse. However, the rain slowed and had receded from many roads by the time we made it home.

It was a mentally taxing afternoon, to say the least.


The Roanoke Go Outside Festival was this weekend.

After all the craziness, I was ready to go walk around, listen to music and drink a few beers with my husband.

It was a good ending to the week.

How has your week been?

Part of her mystery is how she is calm in the storm and anxious in the quiet. -jmstorm quote

Let your light shine!


Snorkeling with Jolly Pirates in Aruba

Snorkeling in Aruba


Stunning turquoise waters!

That was reason #1 for our choice to head to Aruba.

Following closely behind were: we could get a good flight there, we had friends who had been and loved it, and another big factor is that Aruba is the most revisted Caribbean Island.

Family Travel.

This trip was taken over our teenagers’ Spring Break. If you are new to my blog or have stumbled across this post, the hubby and I have three teenagers. Currently, Big Mr. is 18, Mr. D is 16, and Miss Sunshine is 14.

Our teenagers like adventure and so we knew that we’d want to have some scheduled during our time in Aruba.

Snorkeling with Jolly Pirates in Aruba



Of course, we decided to begin our Caribbean Island vacation with snorkeling!

With my teens and I having been born and raised (ok…they’ve not been fully raised-we’re approaching year 5 of living in Virginia) in Florida, we aren’t strangers to snorkeling.

However, this would be our first time in waters this clear.

Jolly Pirates.

We decided to book our snorkeling trip with Jolly Pirates.

We wanted to maximize our time on the water and opted for their four-hour sail, snorkel, swim, and swing.

This trip would take us over the WWII wreck of the SS Antilla, Boca Catalina, and Malmok Beach.


We booked our trip and also filled out the waivers online prior to heading to Aruba.

This made the check-in process very quick.

The building for check-in is located right behind MooMba Beach, which you can see in the background. While I didn’t get a chance to visit MooMba Beach (something I’ll need to remedy…we aren’t so good at making food reservations when traveling with five people who are hungry at different times), it comes highly recommended as a must visit beach bar and restaurant.

I snapped the photo for my Thursday Doors friends, but I also love that they list their crew.

The Crew.

The crew was amazing!

We sailed on Easter Sunday.

Julio was the captain of our ship.

Johan and Milton were also part of our sailing adventure.

I’m pretty sure Tony was our lifeguard, but since I don’t see his name on the board, I’m questioning whether I heard (and remembered) his name correctly.

The four-hour sail included an open bar, plus lunch.

All four of the guys were kept busy and yet were still always full of smiles.


Fins, Masks, and Snorkels.

Fins, masks, and snorkels are included in your trip.

We did contact them prior to booking our trip to be sure that they could accommodate Big Mr.’s size 16 shoe.

They could!

This was wonderful because we were traveling with carry-ons only and needing to carry a set of fins would have been a hassle.

Turquoise Waters.

Yes, the Caribbean waters are as stunning as you see in magazines!

My favorite part of snorkeling was seeing all the brightly colored fish.

There is something quite serene about gliding along under the clear waters with them.

Pirate Ship.

This was a view of another of their ships for snorkeling.

There is a palpable excitement about sailing on a pirate ship.

Or perhaps that’s just gypsy wanderer in me.

Toward the bow of the ship, you can see someone jumping from the platform. While the hubby and teens did use this approach into the water (Mr. D even did a flip from it), I preferred to climb down the ladder.

Rope Swing.

However, I did get brave enough to step from the platform and ride the rope swing into the water (albeit, not on Johan’s back. The really brave piggy-backed on Johan while he swung and then did a flip in the air.)

As I mentioned in this post, as I released from the swing, I pinched my nose to avoid the water shooting up into it. Apparently, too hard when you wear a nose ring because I came out of the water with a nosebleed.

The crew was amazing, grabbed some toilet paper, and the bleeding stopped almost as soon as it had started. They checked on me again later in the trip. It was a minor thing, but I’ve made a note to myself to remove my nose ring before future snorkeling trips.

In that same post from last Friday, I shared more of my personal experience surrounding the snorkeling and the little clip Miss Sunshine took of me snorkeling.

She also made a compilation of some of her own snorkeling, which she has said that I can share with all of you.


I’ve mentioned one of my favorite parts of traveling with my teens is the memories that we create.

We created many memories during our brief time in Aruba.

I’ve shared a few photos from Aruba in this post and in the future I will be sharing more about our time there.

Stay tuned.

Have you been snorkeling?

Where? And did you enjoy it?

Let your light shine!



*please note-all opinions are my own. No compensation was given for this review.

Friday Faves Edition 60

Friday Faves Edition 60


It’s Friday! Did ya’ll miss me last Friday? I missed all of you!

That Thursday was a full day of travel for us.

We arrived at the airport in Aruba early since we knew that U.S citizens go through customs at the airport in Aruba instead of when they land in the U.S.

Based on our time waiting in customs at the D.C. airport after our return from Europe last spring, I’d have to say this process was much quicker.

We also only took carry-ons (raise your hand if you audibly gasped). I’ll be sharing some things I learned about that in a future post. We had a direct flight down to Aruba but had a short layover in Boston on the return. After landing in D.C., we made our way to our vehicle for the 3 1/2 hour drive home. We collapsed into bed around 1 a.m. Friday.

Friday Faves.

Of course, I have so many Friday Faves to share.


We spent spring break in Aruba.

I did share some of our travels on my Instagram stories.

I’ve saved some of them to the Aruba recap on my Instagram highlights if you’re interested in seeing those.


We arrived in Aruba on the day before Easter.

That day we had a leisurely day.

Easter Sunday, we had a snorkeling excursion booked.

Just prior to our vacation, I read this post on Becoming Minimalist. It talks about jumping while you can. It resonated with me because this year for me is about pushing comfort zones even more. It is about learning to dare greatly.

And so I knew that I would attempt new things.


I have snorkeled before. I did not enjoy it. I always felt like I was struggling for air (which makes me feel claustrophobic). I swim, but would not consider myself a “strong” swimmer. However, when we went over the Antilla wreck, which is in 50-60 feet of water (well out of my comfort zone from a depth perspective) I decided to go in the water. I didn’t dive below the surface..and I didn’t stay in as long as everyone else

…but I jumped.

The second snorkeling spot was 10-12 feet deep and was my favorite of the three. The water was so clear and the fish were stunning. Miss Sunshine captured a video of me at this location.

Rope Swing.

At our third snorkel stop, which was about 14 ft deep, you had the option of swinging from the rope swing into the water.

I didn’t think that I was going to attempt it.

But then I remembered about wanting to push myself…I remembered how I was so fearless when I was younger

…and I jumped.

(yes, there is a video of that. no, I won’t be sharing it)

I plan to do a longer post about our snorkeling trip in the future, but we absolutely loved it (minus the fact that I was the one person on the ship who got a bloody nose when jumping from the rope swing. (note to self: if you plan on holding your nose, take the nose ring out)


Safari Tour.

If you saw Wednesday’s post where I shared some photos from Aruba, the one above will look familiar. This was from our safari tour. I’ll be sharing more about that in the future, but it was an awesome day out as well.


Tube Ride.

Miss Sunshine had already convinced her dad and Big Mr. to go on a tube ride earlier in the week. We had loved our snorkeling tour so much that we had booked another one for the day before our departure. Unfortunately, they had some technical difficulties and had to cancel our trip. Miss Sunshine really wanted me to tube with her. I really didn’t want to tube

…but I decided to jump.

Even though I was petrified most of the time, I can say that I’m glad that I did it. The ride itself wasn’t scary…it was tons of fun. I was worried about flipping into the water (which had happened on their last tube ride).

We used to have a boat and a tube. I have a distinct memory of flying out of the tube and having the wind knocked out of me as I landed into the water.

I was in my early 30’s then…how much worse would it be at 40!

My secondary…yes secondary…fear was that a shark might be lurking below the surface. The last time I had fallen out of a tube was in Lake Placid (Florida) and my fear of alligators is stronger than that of sharks.

I held on for dear life on this tube ride. So tightly, that my biceps hurt for the next two days and I’m still sporting a friction burn on one of my knuckles.

…but I jumped (metaphorically).




While I absolutely loved the sunshine and the salt air, one of my favorite parts of the trip is that we made so many memories.

I cherish these moments with my children. Big Mr. heads off to college after this summer. Mr. D is only a year behind. Miss Sunshine is around a little longer, but I know that it too will pass quickly.

These are fleeting moments with all my children still living at home and I am searing them into my brain.



Sunshine and Salt Air.

But I’m not gonna lie, the sunshine and salt air did make the memories a little sweeter.

These photos of my teens were taken at Baby Beach. I wish we’d have spent more time there, but it wasn’t in the cards that day.




While this week has mostly been playing catch up on emails, reflecting on last month’s challenge, going to soccer games, taking care of household stuff, and finishing up some loose ends for my trip to London and Scotland next month, I did give myself a gift.

If you saw Tuesday’s post, then you already know that day was my 19th wedding anniversary.

Your Instagram bio is supposed to be important for people deciding whether or not they are interested in following you. I’ve always struggled with exactly what I’d like it to say. You only have so much space.

Not long ago, I took out the section that stated where I had lived to add the lines with #travel and #nature and the wannabe photographer and wordsmith. The hubby thought I should take out the word “wannabe”. While I did agree to some level, I also left it there to keep my fear of failure satisfied. If I said “wannabe”, I was acknowledging that I have a long way to go.

…but I also wasn’t giving myself credit for how far I’ve come.

Or giving my dreams the fair shot that they deserved.

So, on my anniversary, I gifted myself with the removal of that word. In doing so, I felt that I gave myself permission to keep growing and granted my soul a belief in myself.

Do you have dreams that you want to pursue, but you let fear hold you back?


This week I’ve chosen a song by Sleeping at Last. I love his music and had a hard time choosing which song. I chose this song because it reminds me of the commitment that I made when I chose to have children. Those commitments have been at the forefront of my thoughts this week.

I hope that you have a soul-filling weekend and smooth sailing throughout next week.


Let your light shine!



Houseboat of Amsterdam Part Twee (Two)

Houseboats of Amsterdam Part Twee (Two)


Although my time spent in Amsterdam was very brief, I loved every minute of it. We filled our days with many adventures.

One of those adventures was a boat tour through the canals of Amsterdam.



Amsterdam’s canals are filled with houseboats. In fact there are around 2,500 legally moored houseboats in the more than 100 km of canals found in Amsterdam. But you may have already known that fact. Especially, if you’ve read Part One of my Houseboats of Amsterdam series.

Let’s head off for part two.

It’s never too late in life to have a genuine adventure.

– Robert Kurson

To live is the rarest thing in the world.

Most people exist, that is all.

– Oscar Wilde

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.

– Susan Sontag

If you think adventure is dangerous. Try routine. It’s lethal.

– Paulo Coelho

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

– Helen Keller

I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.

– A.A. Milne


I hope you’ve enjoyed this houseboat tour of Amsterdam.

If you’re a fan of doors, be sure to hop over to Norm’s blog where door lovers of the world meet each Thursday.

If you’d like to see more posts from my time in Amsterdam, you can read about our visit to the Anne Frank house here. I’ve also shared about stumbling into the red light district with a set of teens.

If you are a fan of architecture you can find a tour of doors here or a stroll along the streets here.

Of course, another thing that Amsterdam is well known for is all of the bikes and I’ve share some photographs of them in this post.

Have you visited Amsterdam? What was your favorite place to visit?

Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures. -Lewis Carroll

Let your light shine!




Friday Faves Edition 49

Friday Faves Edition 49


I hope that you all have had a beautiful week. I also hope that you have had more sunshine than me (unless, of course, you don’t love sunshine…and then I hope you’ve had whatever weather lifts your spirits). This was a long week to Friday. The teens haven’t been to school for the ENTIRE week. As I mentioned in Monday’s post, and you probably already know, it was a holiday in the United States. Tuesday had already been scheduled as a day off for students and a day of work for teachers to finish up end of the quarter grades.

The little snow symbol kept coming and disappearing on my weather app. Would it come? Would it pass?

The snow came….

Its last minute decision to actually show up meant that the phone call to close school came in the early morning. 5:21 a.m. on my phone, to be exact. Since it wasn’t planning to melt and the roads would be icy…no school on Thursday. I was hoping for a 2 hr delay for today. But nope! Cancelled again!

The teens being home means that most things take me longer because things are more chaotic in general. Music playing, people talking, food to be made, wet clothes to dry, snow and salt and mud to clean (from boots and dogs, mostly).

Friday Faves



Friday Faves.

But I definitely found time to embrace some things to share for my Friday Faves.

On Monday, the hubby and I went out to lunch at the Green Goat Restaurant, here in Roanoke. I checked out their menu ahead of time since this is my month of going vegetarian. I remembered having had (and liking) the eggplant fries and a Crankpin wrap (lightly breaded portabella mushrooms constitute the “meaty” portion of the wrap), so I knew I would choose that again.

The restaurant is located beside the Greenway, which lends itself to eating outdoors when the weather is warmer. The hubby has actually joined in this challenge so he got their 3 cheese veggie sandwich and we split our dishes. With no room for dessert, we called it a success, left to brave the frigid cold…all the way to the Jeep….and then to settle into the warmth of the house.

Tuesday, I put together the post about the Paul Villinski exhibition at the Taubman Museum of Art. As mentioned above, everything took twice as long due to teens being home. I also started editing my photos for Wednesday’s Photowall post, since I had put my canvas print together over the weekend.

I’m so glad that I put that “ahead of time” work into Wednesday’s post because a good snow requires some time out playing in it.


The snow wasn’t that deep, but it was enough for Miss Sunshine and I to go to a nearby hill and take down the snow tube. I shared a video of me flying down the hill on my Instagram story. It’s still in the highlights if you are interested in watching.

Well… then she took me over to the next hill. She tells me that you have to slow yourself down a little toward the end to keep from flying into the ditch. It isn’t a deep ditch…maybe a couple feet. I didn’t record this ride because my phone got covered in snow on the last one and I didn’t want to damage it.

I start down…about halfway down I start trying to dig in my feet. The thing about tubes is they spin. I see Miss Sunshine at the top of the hill…. I’m not stopping…. I yell… “Mis-s S-u-n-s-h-iiii-N-E” (only I use her real name, which slightly shorter, but you get the gist). Oh no, I feel myself flying up over the rise…I know what’s coming… My life is flashing before my eyes (a bit melodramatic?! Yeah, my husband accuses me of that too). I land on my back. The wind should be knocked out of me. I lay there assessing. My wrists hurt. I must have caught myself with them. My left shoulder hurts. I turn my head to the left and see grass poking out of the snow. Ahh… a mound that was higher is what my shoulder landed on. The base of my skull hurts…the last to land.

Miss Sunshine yells down “Are you OK?” She isn’t 100% sure I’m conscious (it really wasn’t that bad of a landing, I just didn’t get up immediately because I’m 40 and things hurt a little more when they are crashed upon….plus… I may have being a little melodramatic because she had sent me spiraling toward my death). She asks me to head to the next hill. I decline, but say that I will go get my camera to take some photos and watch her do the final hills.


I’m still sifting through my handful of snow photos, but I thought I’d share a few of them. On our walk back home, I was fiddling with something and dropped my glove. I liked how it landed to appear as if there was someone clawing their way out from beneath the snow.


The next two photos are to share how much a filter can change a photo. The photo above I took to capture the fact that the sun just could not break through the clouds. Miss Sunshine was wearing ski goggles and commented on how amazing the sun looked trying to peek through the haze. Then she took her goggles off and realized it did not look exactly the same. She handed me her goggles to check out what she saw.

Through the Ski Goggles.

Looking through the ski goggles definitely created a different image. Her goggles are small so the distortions at the edges were the only way to actually capture the scene and see the difference a filter makes.

I know that I’m always most amazed by the sky when my sunglasses have amber tinted lenses.

Have you ever noticed the color difference in the sky between sunglasses or not? Or the different colored lenses of sunglasses?


You’ll notice that I didn’t mention anything about the gym. I’ve been trapped! Cabin fever! I shoveled the snow from our entire driveway. I have three teens who could have done it. Two of which are strapping young men, who stand over 6′. I needed to do it. I could feel my anxiety rising and it helped burn through some of it. Then today, I got to go to Pilates! My first time in the gym all week. I will probably hurt tomorrow.


In yesterday’s post on our hotel stay in Edinburgh, I mentioned that one of the major things I’d been working on was travel plans. While my mother and I are still working out the plans for a trip together, it is looking like it’s firming up to be a return trip to Scotland.

However, we did firm up spring break! Just like that gloved hand saying “get me outta here”…. we decided we wanted a warm weather vacation.

So we’re going to Aruba!!!

Even though I was born and raised in Florida, I have no recollection of crystal clear water. I grew up on the Gulf Coast, where the water appears. blue-gray. Once, I traveled to Key Largo and snorkeled in the canal behind the house, but don’t remember much about the water beyond that. Finally, I lived on the East Coast of Florida and only recall one day out on the boat where you could see down into the depths, but never at the shoreline. To say that I am excited is an understatement.

I will be bringing lots of sunscreen because not only did I come out of the womb pale, my legs have been hidden from sunlight since there was even a glimpse of winter on the horizon.

Any tips for a Caribbean vacation?


Of course, you have to already know what song I have picked. As soon as we decided on our travel plans, it popped into my head and the singing has been going on ever since.

Aruba, Jamaica… Ooh, I wanna take ya…

Bermuda, Bahama, c’mon pretty mama…

I actually saw the Beach Boys in concert when we lived in Florida and had annual passes to the theme parks.

We are continuing to thaw out and should see warm weather this weekend! I hope that you find a moment that warms your heart in the coming week.

Even if your body wants to rebel, I hope you get out there and find the freedom of adventure that you had as a child. You might find yourself landing in a ditch, but it’ll be exhilarating until then. 😉

Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young. - J.K. Rowling | Albus Dumbledore

Let your light shine!



Friday Faves Edition 33

Friday Faves – Edition 33

It’s Friday!!

One one my favorite things about this week is that the hubby took today off so that we can have a day exploring.

So my faves will be short and sweet since we are heading out after we finish breakfast.

After Miss Sunshine’s soccer game last Saturday, the hubby and I went to downtown Roanoke.


Since it was so stinking hot.

We decided to try something new to us. Indian cuisine. There is a place called Nawab located at 118 Cambell Ave SE, right in the market area of downtown Roanoke. It was a buffet lunch, so no pretty pictures since I was trying a little bit of everything and my plate looked like a train wreck. The hubby loved everything. Indian cuisine went right along with his palate. Even though I know the spices are amazing for your health, I was not as in love. However, I would return and just fill my plate with the things that I found very tasty, like Tandoori Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala.

I believe the dessert, which I did take a photo of, is called Gajar Halwa. It had carrots and almonds, and butter amongst the ingredients.

We took a walk through a part of downtown that I hadn’t frequented, and stumbled onto this complex. I love the differentiation of colors as it progressed down the alley.  It reminded me of Victoria Street in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I love going to the library. I constantly have a book going and have a deep appreciation for the fact that I am entitled to read whatever I want.

In fact, this is my current read…Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. So far, I’m really enjoying it.

One of the things she said that I loved is “You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousand of years of makers.  Decorators, tinkerers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem-solvers, and embellishers — these are our common ancestors.”

I think that is so true!

If you’ve followed my blog this week, then you know that on Tuesday I wrote a post in honor of it being my mother’s birthday and then on Thursday I wrote a post in honor of it being the hubby’s birthday.

When we hiked Dragon’s Tooth, this was one of the photos that I took. The hubby has asked me to have it blown up. Repeatedly. Since February. I’ve been reluctant because I have a tendency to be critical of my photos and what if it didn’t turn out the way I thought it should. I decided to finally give in and have it blown up to a 16×20 on canvas as his birthday gift. He loved it and plans to hang it his office.

I’ve been trying to find “new to me” artists to share each week. This week I’ve chosen a band that is well known and that I really like. I chose this song because after I titled Tuesday’s post, this is the song that kept going through my mind.

I hope you all have an amazing weekend. I’m off to explore the countryside with the hubby. I hope to have lots of new photos from our adventures!

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

Let your light shine!


Friday Faves Edition 19

Friday Faves – Edition 19


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.


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!


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.


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?


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.


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.

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Huge jump at the quarry today 🎥: @taylorlovingg

A post shared by Hunter Smith (@hunter02222) on

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?).


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.


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!




Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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!


Let your light shine!









Reflecting on a Door


I love old buildings.

Some buildings, I’m sure, were admired from the moment they were built.  Others, perhaps not until well after their builders and original occupants had long since moved on.

And not every building is admired by every person.

The same thing could be said about humans.

downtown 3

He has made everything beautiful in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

This building is in downtown Roanoke, Virginia.

I have admired this building since first moving here in 2013. Perhaps it is because of the symmetry… the double arches over the windows, the black rectangular word boxes drawing the eyes upward, the green window frames along the alley side popping off of the brickwork.

It wouldn’t be until later that I would realize this building now houses Walkabout Outfitter, a store that I mentioned in this Friday Faves post.

But another reason that I came to love this building is because of a surprise door in the alleyway.


Every exit is an entrance to somewhere else. -Rebecca Puig

This door.

This door would open up a whole new world for me.


Because about three months into my blogging journey I would stumble upon Thursday Doors. Hosted by Norm 2.0, it’s a place where door lovers come together to share wonderful doors from around the world. Now I wouldn’t have considered myself a door lover. I was working on my photography skills and had found various photo challenges hosted by other bloggers and also one hosted by WordPress.  I found Thursday Doors intriguing because it forced me to look at details that I usually miss in the rush of everyday life. I was practicing living in the present and what better way than taking the time to notice one of the most important features of a building: the way inside. The welcoming point (or perhaps, as can be the case of an alley entry, a place only known to the inhabitants).

This door would become my first post published and shared on Thursday Doors. A chance encounter.  We had spent the day downtown.  I was looking for the door that I might want to showcase, but none had caught my eye.  We were heading back to the parking garage when this door caught my eye.  I snapped a few shots, did what little editing I knew how to do (if I weren’t leaving town so soon, I might have tried my hand at finding the original and re-editing), and shared the post here.

This week I was thinking about Thursday Doors because I will soon be heading off to Europe (Amsterdam and Paris) for the first time ever and I am sure to encounter amazing architecture and beautiful doors. So I looked at my first door post.  Imagine my surprise to see that it was published one year ago, tomorrow. So much of the blogging community that I interact with has been met through Thursday Doors. I am not as active there this year because I had no archives and my recent journeys have not afforded me time to stop at many doors. Even still, when I do not have a post to offer, I stop by and visit many people’s door posts each Thursday.

That journey that began with that first door has changed the way that I view my every day world. I still notice doors as I pass. I wonder about the occupants. I marvel at the intricacies. I am present. I am living in that moment breath by breath.

I hope that you have the time to read the original post (it’s a very short read), but I will offer the part that left me in awe as I re-read the words that a penned one year ago.

I have not yet left this country so I have not been able to gaze upon some of the stunning overseas architecture that I have seen in pictures. I hope to someday walk among some of those streets, standing in awe, and creating my own moment in history. -Amy Lyon Smith

Tomorrow, exactly one year after I published those words, I will board a plane and leave United States soil for the first time.  I will walk the canal-filled streets of Amsterdam. I will admire the tulips and walk among history. I will travel to Paris and walk along the Seine. I will see sites that I have only witnessed on TV or in the pages of a magazine.

I will marvel at the works done at the hands of people who are long gone and in some cases long forgotten.

But that brick that they lay or that cobblestone that they placed is there… a reminder that they existed.

A small change they made in the world by showing up and doing what they were meant to do.

How will you show up today? What difference will you make in the world? Every choice has a ripple effect. Even if you don’t think that you are making a difference… You Are.

I hope that you have a lovely day. I will be pretty scarce on the blogosphere over my vacation. I’m hoping to schedule some posts, which I have never done (that’s right, you usually get it fresh from the presses), so we’ll see if that works. I do plan to update Instagram and hopefully post some things to my story (if you haven’t used these, just click on my IG profile pic if there’s a colored circle around it… that means that I have a story to be seen).

I hope that you have an amazing day filled with sunshine and smiles!


Let your light shine!