Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Day in the Life of the Farmhouse

What goes on in that farmhouse up on the hill?

 This morning we woke up and smiled!  Well Logan, the 2 year old, smiled and his dimples and zest for life in the morning made the rest of us smile.  Two of us took turns eating breakfast and playing with the happy busy boy instead of going on that morning run.  One of us woke up and went directly into the back yard and began working on his van conversion project.  One of us slept in because she could!
Not a bad place to work on your van.
After we had exhausted the acceptable activities inside the house it was time for a change of venue.  Outside we went to harvest lettuce for dinner.  Logan was happy to investigate the van conversion progress, play in the golf cart, play on the lawnmower, tromp through the garden, play a little ball, and just run around the yard.  We needed a focused activity!  Let's go pick strawberries!

We woke up sleeping beauty upstairs, loaded the car with berry boxes, interrupted the van progress and all headed to the u-pick....only to find it was "closed for the season".  There goes the fresh strawberry jam for this summer!  Oops!  On to the next activity.  Let's go pick up the lobster for tonight's feast.

They were open for business!!!

We procured our lobster and headed home.  Time for lunch and naps.  By the time we got back the cloudy sky had cleared.  We had successfully killed a morning and tired out one two year old!  Nap time on a sunny day is the best!  Just imagine the gentle breeze blowing through the house, curtains slightly waving, the sound of leaves rustling on the trees outside and the radio softly playing some seriously good tunes.  We are all busy doing just what we want to be doing.
One of us is reading in the hammock

One of us is in the sunroom reading and napping

One of us is very happy with the ceiling in the van!

One of us dug those potatoes, cooked them and made them into
potato salad for dinner.  When I was suddenly hit with a blog idea....
The littlest one is napping upstairs and I don't dare open that door for a photo for fear of waking him.  Trust me, he is sound asleep  powering up for his run on the sandbars later this afternoon.
A perfect day....quiet, simple, and beautiful.
Just the way we love them!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Like Christmas in July

The last two weeks have been relatively quiet around here and I am not complaining.  They have been peaceful yet busy days. I would love to have one of these days in about a month, enough to keep me busy without the stress of missing out on valuable beach time or socializing. There has been a lot going on, it just hasn't been of  the usual frantic social nature.  It has been more in the line of washing winter from windows, planting flowers, mending screens, cleaning drawers that haven't been cleaned in 10 years and cleaning up "post construction" sawdust and know...the stuff you save for a rainy day.
Like this one...June showers bring July flowers right!?
June days are like that time before Christmas.  There is much to do in anticipation.  June is Advent at the shore.  I'm preparing the way for the family and friends who come in July and August.  Every song on my music library has been played in June because I work best with a soundtrack.  The early summer time up here is one of my favorite times.  Of course, I like all of the times up here but I've always been a big fan of anticipation.  The weather is more springlike in June so there is tender vegetation and flowers ready to burst open when it gets warmer.  The grass is bright green and new instead of dried up and brown.  Every day it seems there are new wildflowers blooming and the fields change colors daily.  The landscape is constantly changing!
These beauties opened a day ago!
 There are hundreds more of them about to bust open.
This year, in particular, I am embracing this quiet time.  Spring was spent at home being busy in our "real" lives and our first few weeks here were filled with fun travels.  These two weeks before most of the summer friends and relatives arrive have been perfect!  Enough socializing so TJ and I don't get tired of one another but not so much that we feel like we are always missing out on something.  Mostly, I have enjoyed the slow nesting process of the last couple of weeks.  Getting my house and cottage in order has given me the same pleasure I have when decorating my house for Christmas. I love reminiscing about or admiring each ornament as I put them out the same way I enjoy reacquainting myself with the cottage and farmhouse after our long winter away.  I found little treasures, like a journal I have kept since 1983 when we first bought our cottage.  That little gem cost me at least an hour of down time while I sat and read through 34 years!  It was full of treasures!  Definitely worth a blog post dedicated solely to that is priceless!  Beware's all about your growing up years...mine too for that matter!

This stained glass is one of the surprises I forgot all about!
Christmas involves much preparation (by some), followed by special family time.  This weekend begins a very special family event!  I don't remember the last time my husband's family spent Christmas together with all 7! siblings and spouses.  It will be Christmas in July this year.  They will all be here, together... with their spouses (minus one, who will be dearly missed!) to celebrate a significant birthday. Christmas in July!  This will be a perfect kick-off to the busy season at the shore!

The quiet two weeks of advent were lovely and just what I needed to make me appreciate this place for its subtle, quiet way of making me love it more every year.  I also love it for its inviting way of bringing people together.  The weather can be perfect or it can be crap, regardless, people come and love the pureness of this place.  Let the season begin!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Tale of Two Boats

Sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone to get the good stuff!  Boats are not my comfort zone.  I prefer to see my azure blue waters from the sandy shore sitting in a beach chair or enjoy a river from a nice riverside cafe with a glass of wine.  It must be my new maturity, now that I have entered another decade of life but I voluntarily went on two boats in the last month.  Two very different and yet very similar boat tours.  While I am still not going to line up to ride in anyone's speed boat I have a new respect for leisure boating.

Before we went to Portugal I had read about the famous caves in the cliffs along the coast.  Everything I read said the coast was best viewed from the water, which meant a boat would be involved.  As much of a "non-boat person" I am, I am even more a "spectacular view" person... so I found some courage and scheduled a boat tour of the caves.  It was the best time I have ever spent on a boat!  

Our water craft
 I was "all in" and could not wait to see the sights.  When we entered the first cave I was hooked.  The colors on the rocks went from purple, to green to gray.  Against the blue water it was so stunning I totally forgot I was on a boat.  Bring on the next cave and the next one and .....
Going in...eerie and stunning.

Going out....breathtakingly beautiful!
 I was always in awe of the color of the water when we headed out of the caves.  I think we were lucky to tour on a clear, relatively calm day.  It was purely by luck and not design.
I think the heart formed by this ceiling says it all!
 The sole motivator for this tour was to see this one cave.  Benagil Cave is famous.  I guess if you were/are a good swimmer, like TJ and our friend Yvon are, you could swim to the cave.  But then where would I keep my camera?  As we rounded the corner into this cave it absolutely lived up to its billing.  Jaw dropping and like nothing I've ever seen before.  We saw 20 caves and each one was a bit different.  The views from the water were definitely worth an hour or so in a boat, driven by a very handsome young man.  I could have been on a magic carpet for all I knew.
At this point in the tour I wanted to jump out of the boat
and join in the circle of love in the sun!
 Fast forward a week to Chicago.  It was time to celebrate my birthday with my three daughters.  I may just celebrate this birthday for the rest of the year!  Why not?!
One of the weekend activities was a lake and river cruise... a two hour tour.  (now once again to the Gilligan's Island tune)  It was a hot day in the windy (literally) city.  The tour began cruising up and down the river while being awed by and educated  about the architecture.  They really have done a wonderful job upgrading the river walk and cleaning up the river.  The ride was peaceful and scenic.
Calm, clear blue waters and some pretty sweet views!
Then we left the river and headed out into Lake Michigan.  On this hot, windy day the lake was a bit choppy.  This is the point in the tour when I remembered why I am not a boat person.  There were a few times I wondered how far out we were going to go into the lake and exactly how long we were going to be there.  This is usually how every boat ride goes with me, how long are we going to be on this thing?  I will say that the view made it worth the ride in this case.
Goodbye Chicago.....

The lighthouse and tall ship were beautiful distractions.

Ahhh, back in the safety of the river....are we there yet?
Safely back in the river I breathed a deep sigh of relief!  I never knew how welcome the river would feel.  The city certainly showed its best side from our view in the water.  

Two very different boat trips.  One in a small craft being blown away by nature's architecture and the other in a very large boat being awed by man's architecture.   Our world is a feast for they eyes!  Maybe I am a boat person after all.....only if the view is worth it!  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Goodbye 50's....Hello 60's

When I turned 50 I went skydiving with 3 out of 4 of my children and 10 friends.  Was it a metaphor for my 50's?  Maybe.  Take a chance, do things you have always wanted to do, live for today, start writing a blog, surround yourself with friends and family.  My 50's were some of the best years of my life... so far!  If you are 50-something, my advice to you is "enjoy it"!  Enjoy the empty nest.  Enjoy what is left of your smooth skin and firm muscles.  Enjoy your confidence.  Enjoy your independence.  Enjoy your health!  One day you will wake up, 60 years old and wonder how the time flew by so fast and ask yourself "why does my skin sag?".

This is my last blog post as a woman in my 50's.  Tomorrow I turn the big 6-0.  I will not be jumping out of an airplane.....been there, done that.  I will jump out of bed and greet the day!  TJ and I already took a fantastic trip to Portugal in order to celebrate changing the first digit in my age!  It only took a month or two for me to choose my destination.  I made a very good choice!  So, if Portugal is a metaphor for my 60's I think I'm going to love being 60!  Bring on the blue skies, red roofs, white houses, Piri Piri Chicken, perfect weather, good wine and friendly people!  I can do this!

Diving head first into my 60's!
This is the part of the blog where I shift, ever so cleverly, from turning 60 to telling you how great Portugal is/was!  I was given the choice to go "anywhere".  Portugal seems really random doesn't it?  I had heard good things about it and after doing my due diligence I decided we should go see for ourselves.  This time we would actually visit a place close to tourist season.  After visiting Croatia and South Africa in the "off season"  I was ready to go someplace where the restaurants were open and I did not freeze.  We found it!

Espresso next to a construction site....welcome to Portugal!
This picture reflects my arrival experience.  I made it to Lisbon but my luggage didn't.  It was expected, as we RAN to catch our connection...there was no way my bag was going to make it.  Thank goodness I packed a "back up outfit" and toiletries in my backpack.  Being "almost 60" has its advantages...namely, experience.  After we were able to drop our....well his....bag in our apartment, we took off for a bit of sightseeing.  Lisbon is a hill town.  There are narrow stairways that lead up or down to other streets.  We were climbing up some stairs in a narrow passage, TJ was ahead of me.  I opened my purse, got my phone out to check our directions when I felt and saw a hand from behind me going into my purse.  I instantly slapped the hand and loudly said, "Get out of my purse!".  I turned around and two men were behind me.  They started waving a map saying I had taken their map....yeah...right.  I said, " were trying to get in my purse!"  Meanwhile, I started checking my purse for my wallet and passport.  They can have all the lipstick they want!  TJ was about 10 steps ahead of me and telling me to get away.  I did not understand that he just wanted me to get some distance between me and them.  I was MAD!  I could not believe someone had tried to pickpocket me!  They continued with their map story and I confirmed all my possessions were still in my possession and I told them they had no business in my purse and we left.  Welcome to Lisbon!  I must say I totally surprised myself!  You never know how you are going to react in a situation until you are in that situation.  I did not even think about it, I just slapped him!  Go figure!  No harm was done but I did not have to worry about any jet lag after that....I was very awake!
Since we were so wide awake, we climbed to the top of a castle!
 TJ was in big trouble in Portugal.  There are many miradouros (viewpoints) in Lisbon and they are all high up somewhere.  As you may all know, I love going to the top....skydiving on my 50th!  Gotta get the best view!  We had to climb to the top of every castle, hill or cliff so I could see the view.  He did not embrace it all but I will say that by the end of the trip he had come a long way.
We actually rode e-bikes to this hill top.  TJ was "all in" on the bike ride!
 On our second day, our friends from Montreal joined us for the rest of the trip.  They and their luggage made it!  We kept them moving through their first day and ended our night in a port bar.  When in Portugal you must try the port!  I never knew I liked port!
Just passed by this place on our walk home and had to stop!

Watch out behind you!!!
 One of the most unexpected finds in Lisbon was found through wandering.  My friend and I saw a very nice clothing shop and slipped in to do a little shopping.  Meanwhile, TJ explored the area.  I joined him in a playground, high up, with a great view.  I would take my kids there every day just to enjoy the view!  In addition to a wall of morning glory vines in full bloom, down below was what looked like ruins.  Such a contrast!  We found our way down to he ruins and realized they were a sort of shrine decorated by someone with "found garbage".  It was one of the most unique things I've ever seen.

The view from above

And down below

                        Caught in the act of a selfie!
I just love finding undiscovered corners of cities.  We had lunch at a very nice cafe, outside, off the beaten path and it was just right for us!  We did plenty of the classic Lisbon tourist activities but every once in while it's nice to feel like you are paving your own way.  
One thing we followed the crowd on was tasting these delicious pasteis de nata!
 We each ate more than one pasteis de nata during our time in Portugal.  Our friend, Yvon, had the perfect description for them.  Creme brulee in pastry.  Ponder that!  Flaky pastry with delicious egg custard browned to sweet perfection.  They were decadent!
What would it be without a parade?
We went to mass on Sunday.  Noticed there were people making arches and banners with real flowers.  They told us they were having a parade later in the day.  We explored the Belem area and on our way back we just happened to see the parade.  I loved he flowered arches and the families parading, showing their faith openly for all to witness.  We followed them for a bit and admired the decorations.  It was definitely a good few days.

We headed south the next morning.  Lisbon is a beautiful city.  There are many areas to explore and we barely made a dent!

So on the eve of my last night in my 50's I say thank you to all of you for reading for the last almost 10 years.  I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts, dreams and experiences here on the blog.  I may be a bit less diligent in posting but I am not quite ready to say goodbye to this part of my life.  To new horizons!  Cheers 50's, hope my 60's are just as good or better!  Stay tuned for the rest of Portugal, the best is yet to come.  Hmmm, maybe it is a metaphor for life.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Tour de Texas

I've seen miles and miles of Texas over the last few weeks.  I guess before I go north for the summer it's good to see what I'll be missing.  Mother Nature has surprised us repeatedly with cool front after cool front, blue skies, low humidity (a rarity here!), moderate temperatures and a spring that has gone on much longer than usual.  These conditions have made driving back and forth from Houston to Baton Rouge, Houston to Dallas and Houston to Austin a real pleasure...even for a person who does not love driving long distances.

This is considered a "scenic overlook" in Texas
With the latest ventures across the state I have also noticed the different personalities of the cities in our state.  Dallas is new, shiny, and glitzy with nicer topography than Houston and a very "Texas" feel to me.  If Dallas were in high school it would be that popular football player or the cute cheerleader or the studly cowboy whose family has the biggest ranch in town.  Austin is hilly, lovely, the state capitol, home of the University of Texas....and it prides itself on being weird.  I like that!  Mix politics, education, music and a little weird all together and you get Austin.  If Austin were in high school it would be the artsy, tattooed, smart, more liberal, alternative kid with a future in politics (hehehe).  Houston is home... so my eyes don't really see it as others might.  To me Houston is big, diverse, industrial, a bit posh in places, not as pretty topographically speaking, with a little something for everyone.  Hard to say who Houston would be in high school but possibly it would be all the rest of the kids in the spectrum between the popular kids and the alternative kids.  Don't you just love stereotypes?  I must say I enjoyed experiencing each of these cities and seeing their unique personalities.

A fun Sunday night at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar in Austin!
Sight of the most fun I've ever had on 6th street!

Everything is bigger in Texas!
 Especially our football stadiums!

Back home in Houston, I realized it was less than a month before our departure to Nova Scotia.  This brought mixed emotions, as I knew it would.  Life at home has been good.  No complaints!  Usually I have the stifling weather to drive me north... not this year.  Usually I am bored with the everyday-ness of my life and am ready to change things up.  Usually the call of the shore beckons my soul well before I am able to leave.  The call is a faint whisper right now.  I know in a month it will be a shout that I will feel deep inside and won't be able to resist.  Heart vs. mind... a challenge in so many of life's choices.  In my mind, I know the reasons for our early migration and they are all legitimate and logical.  In my heart, I can't quite get there and embrace it yet.
This face is one reason my heart is hesitating to migrate so soon!

I know that as soon as I see the farmhouse, smell the fresh salt air, see my first of many beautiful sunsets and let myself enjoy the slower pace of life at the shore my heart will catch up with my head and all will be right in my world again....but until then I will be the one dragging my feet, struggling to figure out what to pack in my bags and burning daylight.

Monday, April 10, 2017

10 things I've Been Doing Instead of Writing

1.  I've played a lot of golf.  It's spring in Texas and that means sunny skies, moderate temperatures, green grass and plenty of time to play golf.  In my group of golf friends a few of us leave town for the summer so we are taking advantage of being together with many rounds of golf.  I lost my game somewhere in November and have been searching for it ever since. It's finally getting closer to something more enjoyable and less frustrating!
TJ and I  got to play like the pros at the Shell Open tournament course.
There is a reason we are not pros!
2.  I've spend some time with Logan.  Being in town has its advantages when it comes to grand parenting.  I've been able to pitch in a bit when he has a sick day and we have occasional Gigi play dates.   Logan loves his Grampy and runs into the office looking for him as soon as we come in the back door.  He likes him best because he plays baseball with him...I just do things like torture him by taking him to get his hair cut.  An event Logan was less than thrilled about but he sure did look cute afterward!
Playing with this guy....much more fun than blogging!
3. I have taken many walks with Ed Sheeran.  I bought his latest album and am in love!  I find myself wishing I could dance my way along the sidewalks instead of walk when he is singing in my ears.  His music puts me in the best mood!  The song Perfect is....PERFECT!  I see many brides and grooms dancing their first dance to this song.  I could write an entire blog post about this album, each song tells a story and I love all of them.  So many different styles of music and yet it is all Ed.  I am pretty much obsessed!

4.  I enjoyed bluebonnet season and practiced my photography skills a bit.   Bluebonnets just beg to be photographed.  I took pictures of Logan in the bluebonnets.  I took pictures of just plain wildflowers.  I took pictures of Flat Stanley (see #5) in the bluebonnets.
A 2 year old moving target

5.  We hung out with Flat Stanley.  Our grandson's 3rd grade class read Flat Stanley and we helped the class out by taking his version...Flat Daniel, on a few field trips.  It is funny how you see the same things with different eyes when you have a little crayon colored all looks interesting and beautiful.
Welcome to Texas!
6.  I've been living vicariously through my kids. My son is in India having the ride of his life.  He is doing The Rickshaw Run... 2700km from the north of India to the south in a tuk tuk.  Every morning I grab my phone to check for the latest updates and photos from the road.  If I were only a 32 year old guy, I'd be there with them!  Thank goodness for social media.  My youngest is spending her spring break in Japan so I now get to check for her updates and visit another country through the wonders of the Internet.
India via tuk tuk

7.  I've been shadow dancing.  We have had some amazing clear, crisp days and while I've been walking with Ed Sheeran the shadows have been beautiful.  Just enough leaves in the trees to make things interesting but not too many to block out all the light.  Daylight savings time also enables me to take late afternoon walks... my favorite time of day!


8.  I've been drinking a lot less.  We both decided to give up drinking during the week (we have our limits) for Lent. After a couple of weeks I don't miss it that much, except on particularly lovely evenings when sitting outside with a nice glass of wine would be my "go to" activity.  I must say, I feel a lot better in general and appreciate a nice glass of wine even more on the weekends.  If you ask TJ what he thinks all I can say is by Thursday afternoon he comes up with comments like, "This is going to be the best Easter EVER!"  and I don't think he is talking about the spiritual aspect of the day.

9.  I've been washing a lot of workout clothes!  I noticed as I folded the laundry the other day that about 90% of it is exercise related.  Bike shorts, bike shirts, yoga clothes, golf clothes, gym shorts, sports bras, and lots of socks.  You would think we would be in better shape with all of the exercise we get!

10.  I've been planning a trip to Portugal.  I will be celebrating "that" birthday in June and TJ is taking me on a trip at the end of May.  I have spent many hours reading, researching,  and reserving.  Portugal looks amazing and I am very excited!  So every time I sat at the computer over the last month I have been planning and dreaming about our trip instead of writing.

Finally, I have been thinking of things to write, starting to write and then deleting it all and starting again hoping to get something coherent enough to post.  When all else fails....write a list!  Done!

Friday, March 17, 2017

It Was..."The Year Of the Cat"

One of my absolute favorite songs of all time is Al Stewart's "Year of the Cat".  I'm sure I listened to it over a thousand times my second year of university.  My most sincere apologies to my roommate, who probably has a much different reaction than I do when she hears the song now.  It popped up on my playlist last week during my morning walk and made my day!  I was 19 again and replayed it at least three times to accompany all of the memories that were passing through my head!  I played it again when I got home at ear shredding volume just to hear the instrumentals!  This song makes me wish I could play the piano and the saxophone.  It also brings me back to the year that changed my life.

 Feel free to have a listen while you finish reading the rest of this post.

My second year in university was one of my favorite years.  It's the year I finally got the hang of going to college, the year I was a resident advisor in a freshman dormitory, the year I finally declared a major (which I never used) and the year I met my husband.  I have fond memories of that year and they all flood back when I hear this song.  I am sure I have romanticized those memories to some extent which only makes them better!

Getting the hang of going to college, in my case, involved figuring out how to study.  I cruised through high school, making mostly A's, B's and the occasional C with just enough effort.  In retrospect, I could have done so much better but things like boys and my "cool" reputation were much more important to me then.  What a self-centered mistake all of that was!  Anyway, I figured out just how much more effort was required in order to make good grades, while working and remaining socially active (I still had my priorities!).  Some of the classes were even interesting!  Tax Accounting was not one of them... second year literature was!  This should have been a red flag for me to study something other than accounting.  If I only knew then what I know now....alas, hindsight is 20/20.

I met my husband at the first football game that year.  We were set up by mutual friends.... it was an old fashion blind date.  He came to my dormitory to pick me up for the game and I remember seeing him for the first time in his brown leather huarache sandals, plaid polyester cuffed bell bottom pants and thinking he was very thin and not as tall as I had expected (the only thing I knew about him was that he played a lot of basketball thus my expectation of someone about 6' 3" or more)  He was smart, funny, ambitious and a gentleman. Due to his persistence we continued to date that year.  I like a guy who knows what he wants.

I spent many an evening studying to this song, talking on the phone to this song, hanging out with my dorm friends to this song, shooting pool in our favorite watering hole and dreaming about life to this song.  I never expected that 40 years later I would hear it and have the same feelings I did way back then!  It stirs something inside me.  Music can do that.

Some songs I can't really associate with a specific time period or year but The Year of the Cat will forever remind me of my second year at LSU.  Good times!  If I had to go back I would do it all over again....and maybe study something other than accounting.
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