Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I've mentioned the Sea Pines Forest Preserve several times over the years. It's one of my favorite spots on Hilton Head.  In all our visits, we'd never visited when the Warner W. Plahs Wildflower Field was in bloom.  What a treat!  It was my first opportunity to try out the new camera.  How perfect!

For the record, red poppies are one of my all-time favorite flowers.  I never could have taken this picture with my old camera so you can imagine how pleased I was after I saw how this one came out.  Obviously I liked it so much that I had to make it my header!


It was nice to see that Sophie enjoyed the flowers too!

The cheat sheet!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Call Me The Alligator Paparazzi!

This past weekend we took a family trip to Hilton Head to celebrate my birthday.

I was caught completely by surprise when Alain, Sophie & Clara presented me with a brand, spanking new camera as a birthday gift. Oh, I was so thrilled!!!  I could hardly wait to take it out and give it a spin.  The next morning we headed out to the Nature Preserve and I made the mistake of only taking along the smaller of my two new lenses.  As we were driving there, who did we see hanging out by a nearby pond?

Oh yes.

How wild is this picture?

I should tell you that every car, bike, person had stopped to stare and take photos. I was on a small peninsula across the pond along with three other people and we were all snapping photos.  I mentioned to the other photographers that these alligators have no idea how famous they are.  They're simply trying to get some sun and warm up and we're all flocking to take photos.  Then I proclaimed us "alligator paparazzi" and we all laughed pretty hard over that!  I wish someone had taken a picture of all of us with our cameras shooting away ~ that would be pretty funny.

A few minutes later we see these two gators hanging out by another pond. I was cursing myself that I hadn't brought along my better lens.  You can barely see them....

Never fear.

The next day we find this handsome fella catching some rays.  Lucky for me, I'd made sure to have the long lens along for our ride. This picture is taken over a great distance and it looks SO CLOSE.  I was seriously like a child when I saw how this picture turned out.  (Click on it to see how nice it is ~ I can't show it as big as the original size or it takes over the entire blog!).

This camera is seriously my favorite material possession.  I'm quite sure I'll have it plastered to my face for who knows how long!  I can't wait to share what I capture!

Friday, April 26, 2013


WOW. Here it is. I am 40 today. 

Unlike most people, I am more than happy to say good-bye to 39.  It had to be the toughest year on record for me. Raising Clara (who has to be one of the most demanding and highest maintenance babies to ever walk this planet!). No sleep. Losing Ygal. Hubbell losing an eye.  It seemed that the punches just kept coming.  I struggled almost daily.  I gained a tremendous amount of weight in a short amount of time.  I have to be honest.....it's not how I imagined I'd usher in 40.

Never fear.  I am not one to sit and lament. I welcome a challenge (and good thing!).  I see 40 as an open door, a clean slate.  And I will do my best to make up for what I will call "the lost year".  Please.....wish me luck.

In my annual tradition, I hereby present my list of 40.  I decided to include all photos from my 39th year.  Let me tell you.....I was hard pressed to find a picture of myself without Clara.  She is literally in almost every single photo of me over the entire year.  No wonder I had such a hard time! It was exhausting just looking back through my albums.  But okay, moving on....here we go....

 Happiness is:

~ when Alain makes me tea at night before bed.
 ~ when Alain wakes me up with a hot mug of coffee.

{Last year's birthday with my two girls}

~ when Clara has a good day and I really enjoy her company.
~ when Sophie writes me love letters.
~ when Sophie draws pictures for me.
~ when my garden grows well without a lot of effort on my part.

{With Clara, in Switzerland}

~ when I speak to my mom on the phone and I hear Kenzie making sweet dog noises in the background.
~ knowing Kenzie is in a good home with people who love her, maybe as much as I do.
~ being Mom to my sweet, one-eyed dog, Hubbell.
~ when Scout & Atticus are chirping and happy and flying around my head.

{With Sophie & my nephew, Emilio, in Switzerland}

~ how Scout & Atticus tilt their heads when I speak to them.
~ volunteering in Sophie's classroom.
~ when I can tell I've made a difference in the day of one of the children in Soph's class.
~ Clara's curls.

{Celebrating Clara's 1st Birthday}

~ watching and listening to Soph play (unstructured) when she gets home from school each day.
~ when my children choose to play outside or with toys rather than watch TV, which is almost always.
~ knowing that I'm living a more authentic life since I left work (as hard as it can be sometimes!).
~ cool weather.

{In Ocean Isle with my two girls}

~ having great neighbors.
~ my blogging friends.
~ all of the amazingly good books I've read lately.
~ a lovely birthday dinner thrown and attended by 13 of my girlfriends.

{Dolphin Watching, with Clara}

~ searching for dolphins with Sophie as we drive over the bridge to Hilton Head Island.
~ a nice, warm, comforting mug of hot tea.
~ having some quiet time to myself every once in a while.
~ a nice, long, peaceful night's sleep (yes, I still remember and long for them).

{Sophie's Birthday, Hilton Head Island}

~ birthday cards, gifts & wishes.
~ red wine.
~ a long, relaxing hot shower.
~ freshly manicured nails.

{At Temple, with Clara}

~ party planning (more to come).
~ having my first Mammogram and getting good results.
~  songs so moving they can bring you to tears.

{Hanging in Downtown Charlotte, with Sophie}

~ a traditional English breakfast (without the meat, of course!).
~ playing Mah Jonng each Tuesday with my three girlfriends.
~ reconnecting with old friends.
~ counting down the days to see The Great Gatsby.
~ being on vacation with my family.
~ being 40!!!! 


On this birthday, as with every birthday, I raise up a toast in memory of my dear friend and fellow free spirit, Brian Paul Mercado. Thanks to knowing him and in part because of losing him at a young age, I appreciate EVERY birthday and understand how lucky I am to live each day. Bri, you are still loved and missed, every single day!!! Cheers....

This now goes out to Ygal too.  Life.  It goes on for some of us.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring Snippets!

Spring is an appropriate name for what's been a particularly busy season for us so far!

Here are a few photos I've taken over the last couple weeks:

We spent the first half of Spring Break in Nashville. Here, the girls hang out at the zoo with our friend, Evelyn.

Flamingos are one of my favorite animals to photograph.

I think this was the one and ONLY time Clara has ever fallen asleep in her stroller. I HAD to take a picture. Otherwise, no one would believe me!  For the record, it didn't last long.

I have a thing for elephant butts. Am I the only one?

We spent the second half of Spring Break in Asheville. I REALLY like Asheville.

At the Western North Carolina Nature Center. I adore this picture.

Street performer in Asheville.

Since Clara did not let us sleep AT ALL while we were in Asheville, we were KNACKERED. On a very rainy day, we headed to the Grove Park Inn and all collapsed in some comfy chairs (with some spiked hot chocolate!) while Clara harassed the family next to us. It was so comical (and sad!) that I had to take a photo.

A wild turkey in someone's front yard!!!

After our trip, Sophie and I met my Mom in Greensboro to pick up Hubbell as she kept him during our trip.  While we were getting a warm drink, a man drove up in this AMAZING car. Sophie fell in love. The owner noticed and offered for her to sit in it. Wow, she was happy.  So glad I have a few pictures to share....

(Thanks, Mom, for taking care of Hubbs!)

Could you die?  That car is so adorable.  Can you even see Soph's tiny little head in there?

My first ever radishes straight out of the garden.  It took about 50 attempts. I have no clue why I have such troubles growing radishes.

They were beautiful on the inside with gorgeous white veins throughout ~ here's a photo of them in a salad I made....

Sophie picked out this dress for herself and it looks so cute on her!

The Jeep has been getting a lot of use lately.  Even tiny little Clara has learned how to push the gas pedal and drive it around.  Watch out, neighborhood!

Soph is such a good big sister.  Clara worships her!

Clara refuses to wear her sun hats but I've found that she really likes wearing mine.  How funny is she?

A close-up!

My first blueberry blossoms!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't wait for my first blueberry!  CANNOT WAIT!

My first strawberry bloom.

The flowers on the hill are in bloom!

I think I've created another birdwatcher!!!  A cheeky little birdwatcher!

Hubbell's new profile.  Still as handsome as ever!

Clara takes a walk with Daddy.

I love this crazy family of mine!

(That is very typical Clara, by the way ~ cannot be still for one second!)

The girls have been enjoying their new wheelbarrow.  We had the sprinkler on yesterday and they filled it with collected water (which was then recycled in the garden!).  It kept them busy for at least half an hour.  Thanks, Mom & Dad!

(Note: That is not a bruise on Clara's side....just something wrong with the photograph. I clearly don't Photoshop!  What you see is what you get!)

Hope your Spring is off to a great start as well!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Earth Day Series/Gift Wrap

Every other Tuesday, our lovely cleaning lady comes to visit.  She is a precious person and I love spending time with her when she's here.  This week, I was wrapping a kid's birthday present while she was working.  I was so proud of the freshly wrapped gift that I showed it to her when I was done.  The first thing she said was, "Did you take a picture of it?  You have to take a picture of it!".  

So I did.  

When it comes to gift wrap, I face a bit of a personal conundrum.  I LOVE GIFT WRAP.  To me, when a present is nicely wrapped, the presentation is better than the gift itself.  The paper snob in me often has fights with the treehugger in me.  Dead trees make wrapping paper......paper that, frankly, most people don't appreciate.  It just gets ripped off and thrown in the trash (for most people).  When Hubbs had his surgery a few months ago, my dear friend gave him a present. It came in a white bag and had the most adorable tissue paper.  Plus a cute dog-themed ribbon.  Of course I saved it.  When I went to wrap this present (a hardback copy of this book), I combed through my gift wrap collection, pulled out these tissue papers and put together the above present. I didn't spend ONE CENT on the wrapping.  No resources were wasted on new paper/gift bag, I had an enjoyable moment of creativity and, I hope the recipient and his parents will enjoy the presentation and appreciate the effort put into the wrapping.  For me, it just felt good and I was so happy to pass it on to someone else!  

On occasion, I will purchase a roll of fresh, new paper.  I go for the high-quality stuff since I buy it so infrequently.  Paper Source Wrap is 100% recyclable and is made from 30% post-consumer waste....which makes me feel a little less guilty about buying it!  My most recent purchase is the hedgehog paper below.  Love, love, love.  It looks great with simple twine wrapped around it and a mushroom-shaped grocery store bag card (wish I had a photo to share).

PS Wrapping Paper

This is thick, hardy paper that can be reused over and over again.  It's so beautiful that I can't bear to think of the recipient just balling it up and throwing it in the trash.  I have one piece of this paper that I've now reused three times!  And, in case you're wondering, this is in no way a sponsored post ~ I know it sounds that way!

I adore being at a party or shower with someone's grandmother or great aunt  or senior friend/relative who can't bear to throw gift wrap away.  I love when they regale party guests with tales of surviving The Great Depression and not believing in throwing anything away.  Those great ladies can teach us a lot!

I have to say, also, that I'm always a little crushed when I receive a gift and it's been thrown in a cheap, ugly, Dollar Store gift bag with some crumpled up tissue paper.  Am I the only one?  You see, I call myself a paper snob for good reason!

I keep a Pinterest board just for gift wrap ideas and I look at it often for ideas and inspiration! There are some GREAT recycled gift wrap ideas on there!

I decided to write this post because I'm curious what others do.  Do you recycle gift wrap, ribbons, bows, etc?  What's your gift wrap philosophy (yes, there is such a thing!)?  Do you buy the cheap stuff (since it will likely be trashed) or invest in the good stuff?  Do you appreciate a nicely wrapped gift?  Are you as passionate about gift wrap as me?  Please share!!!!  

I could seriously talk about gift wrap all day long.....


As an aside, I once used a sweet owl print wrapping paper for a baby shower a few years ago. (I am SO NOT a traditionalist when it comes to gift wrap ~ I refuse to use pink wrapping paper for baby girls ~ girls are SO MUCH MORE interesting than that!) The gift wrapped in the vibrant green and orange with the adorable little owls really stuck out on the gift table and lots of women commented on how much they liked the paper.  One lady went up to my friend afterwards and asked if she could have the leftover owl wrapping paper.  She liked it so much that she wanted to frame a little piece of it for her daughter's bedroom and reuse the remainder! That made me smile from ear to ear.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Reading, Watching, Listening


With both of my girls out of school recently (Clara for two weeks and Sophie for one), I barely had time to read.  Somehow, on our Spring Break trip, I managed to finish Code Name Verity.  This was one of my rare fiction reads for the year.  I have to say that I do quite enjoy historical fiction.  This book was an Honor title for the 2012 Michael L. Printz award.  Code Name Verity is the story of a secret agent captured by the Gestapo in enemy territory and her efforts to evade execution.  I love all the historical detail and I found the story pretty gripping.  This book is a good read and one that I'd definitely recommend to others! 

I have several books on the back burner just waiting for some free time. These include Gone Girl and Wonder.  I've been wanting to read both for a long time!


I don't know about you but I love the few months following the Oscars, when all of the nominated films come out on DVD.  Last week we rented and watched both Lincoln and Argo.

Lincoln.  I particularly love books and movies that trigger some interest and further study on a topic. Lincoln was one such movie for me.  In particular, I became very interested in the story of Mary Todd Lincoln.  I had no idea that she and Lincoln had four sons and that three passed away during Mary's lifetime.  She was also sitting right next to Lincoln when he was shot/assassinated.  Can you imagine such tragedy?  Then, after her third son passed away, her eldest and only remaining son had her committed to an asylum.  (How would you not be crazy?) Because of that, they were estranged until shortly before her death.  Um yeah.  After some research online, I requested Jean H. Baker's biography of Mary.  I can't wait to read it!  

Argo. I can see why this movie won the Best Picture award.  I was quite young during the Iran Hostage Crisis so I was googling away during the movie.  There were so many "characters" and I had no idea who they were!  So it was nice to get a short little history lesson.  I was so nervous watching the movie that I thought I was going to be sick.  I'm still amazed that Ben Affleck's character was able to pull off the escape of six hostages.  I'm really not sure how those six hostages were able to keep their nerves in check!  


I am rather obsessed with this song.  I mean obsessed.  I can't remember the last time I liked a song this much.  The video is horrendous (in my opinion) but just listen to the song and look at something else while it's playing (ha!).  Does anyone love it too? 

How about you?  What have you been reading, watching, listening?  Anything good?
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