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bikes on the beachbeach bike rideIMG_7233st. augustinest. augustinefreedom trail st. augustinetaco shopcastillo st. augustinefort st. augustineAh, vacation. Let’s all just take a deep breath and beam ourselves back there. Shall we?

Reflections:

This comic made me laugh, but I don’t agree. To my mind, there is no better place than a beach to read (about) Russian literature. More on that later.

The quality of light when the sun shines through Spanish moss is one of life’s small pleasures.

Augustine helped Luke realize he’s homesick for history. Even though he’d never been particularly interested in it back home, now that we live in a relatively new city, the monotony of concrete, steel, and cookie-cutter brick houses has him longing for the cross beams of a black and white Tutor. Go figure.

Drinks in the oldest drinking establishment in the US.

Wouldn’t you like to interview someone who lives in a year-round tourist town like St. Augustine? Or beach town? How do you end up there? Where do locals go when they don’t want to be surrounded by tourists? How does anyone ever get any work done? What are the skin cancer rates?

New life goal: Spend at least one day a year in a beach chair. Alternate as follows: read a little, nap a little, read a little, take a dip, read a little, nap a little. That is all.

Hope you’re vacationing well. Where are you off to?

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It wasn’t long after we got back from our trip to England and Europe this summer that Luke turned to me and said something surprising. “I’d really like to go back for Christmas,” he said. “Would that be okay?”

I can assure you, he was not going to have to twist my arm. I love England and I love visiting his family, so of course I was game. Was I a little surprised that he wanted to spend money on a second set of plane tickets when we had just been there five months earlier? Definitely. Especially considering we were there for two months. But as he pointed out, it had been two years since we’d spent Christmas in England and, as I mentioned in my last post, Christmas is a special time for his clan. So, to England we went.

It turned out to be an extra special trip as my mom joined us for part of it. Here she is having just arrived after spending several hours delayed in both the Pittsburg airport and Euston station in London because of inclement weather on both ends of the Atlantic. Before this trip, she’d just found out she had a torn rotator cuff(!), but you would never have known any of that to look at her. What a trooper. Quite the contrast to Luke and me after a long journey that included our own 4 hour wait in Euston station. On that day, I took the first offer of a nap in someone else’s bed and peaced out. I really need to learn how to sleep on an airplane. 

It was very much a food and drink-centric holiday. Here we have exhibit 1.

Exhibit 2. Pepper the German spitz, ever hopeful. Also, fruit cake (or Stollen) and cheese may be the single greatest food combination ever.

Exhibit 3. Going out for coffee is not limited to the beverage in the Harwood house. Also, a walk has little appeal without the promise of coffee at the end.

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Exhibit 4. More trips out for “coffee.”

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Exhibit 5. In London, my sister-in-law and her friend prepared an absolutely delicious Togolese feast of fish poached in a chili and tomato broth and served alongside a dish that she compared to grits but made from cassava. So yummy!IMG_6689

Exhibit 6. Having tea with a veggie English breakfast on the way. Exhibit 7. So many sweet tooths in the bunch.

Exhibit 8. Nothing like warming up by the fire at an old pub after a cold day exploring castle ruins.

It wasn’t total gluttony, though. We did go on a fair few walks to temper the amount of food we consumed. Like this one to Attingham Park. Does anyone recognize the bridge? Here’s a clue (start watching from 11:16).

Did I mention my mom joined us for a week? It was so lovely having her there. Luke took us on a walking tour of Shrewsbury one day that was, erm, entertaining to say the least. It went a little like, “This building is old and important because… well, I’m not sure why, actually.”

Mom being there also gave us the excuse to be tourists, which we managed quite well in spite of the rain and cold.

Here’s another relic from the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol, which was filmed in Shrewsbury. Luke was good enough to include a visit to St. Chad’s graveyard on his walking history tour of Shrewsbury. Bless.

On the subject of being American tourists, my mom and I joined forces and persuaded the others to visit a nearby castle on one of the sunnier days of the trip. Stokesay Castle was suggested as neither of us had been there, even though it’s just right down the road from Luke’s hometown. It was such a quirky little place and really everything a medieval castle should be: moat, great hall with roasting spit (evidence of), archers’ alcoves, lush tapestried master bedrooms, and stunning views of the countryside.

As it is the English countryside that Luke and I miss the most (second to family, of course), we made sure to sneak a trip up the treacherous road that crests the Long Mynd in Church Stretton, a favorite spot of ours. Yes, that is a sheer drop to the valley below on my left. And yes, that road is one car’s width. Thankfully, we never had to find out what would happen if another car came up in the opposite direction. I hid behind my camera so I wouldn’t have to think about what I was seeing. 

It had been a gray rainy day, so we weren’t expecting much when we got to the top. However, we were rewarded for our efforts with a glimpse of the setting sun (at 4:00) over the clouds and hills. Stunning!

Take away point? Some trips are simply worth the journey.

cumberlandislandWe’re officially into my favorite season now and, make no mistake, the pumpkin-scented blog posts will soon start inundating your inboxes. But before I get carried away with homemade chai recipes and cold weather book recommendations, I thought we could all enjoy the last rays of fading summer sunlight together. It was a good one, no?

st marys georgiaIMG_5395 IMG_5393cumberlandislandbeachIMG_5420 IMG_5446 IMG_5457 IMG_5504 IMG_5524We bid farewell to the season with a high humidity camping trip to Cumberland Island. Similar to Assateague Island, which we visited a couple summers ago, Cumberland boasts wild horses and a complex coastal ecosystem. Unlike Assateague, Cumberland is pedestrian only. During the day, the place looks like any other popular (if somewhat out of the way) southern natural attraction. It’s after 4:00 when the last ferry chugs away with the last group of day visitors, that you realize you’re the only one walking on the beach and have been for the last mile, and, why yes, those are wild scuppernongs hanging on that low hanging branch along the trail you’re hiking. No other hikers saw them, because no other hikers have been on the trail that day. IMG_5555 IMG_5479

labordaycalendarLooking ahead to a long labor day weekend camping trip. The plan is to catch the ferry over to Cumberland Islandoff the Georgia coast, and enjoy three days of sand, sun, water, and cloud-gazing. Cars are not allowed on the island and it’s only accessible by ferry. Doesn’t that just sound perfect? Also, apparently, Cumberland Island has some of “America’s most beautiful coastal walks.” I don’t know why I’m always surprised when Georgia pops up on the odd “Top 10 such and such” in travel magazines. It’s not a bad place to live, politics aside. 

However, I will be sad to miss this.

A few more things:

I have been that person at a party before. Heck, I’ve been that person when I meet another women’s college graduate. Social alienation ensues.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Iceland is breathtaking. Maybe for labor day weekend next year? I can dream. Make sure to watch the video in HD.

Mmmm, tempura squash blossoms. Whose garden will I be raiding?

After yesterday’s post, I was feeling guilty about going out for breakfast so much, so we made enough of these to last us through the weekend. Used Deb’s recipe (naturally). I must say, it gave all our favorite pancake pervaders a run for their money.

With the money we would have spent on breakfast this a.m., I bought a book last night. 

Heading to Sweetwater this afternoon. Not the brewery. I used to think our friends were serious boozers for going there what seemed like every weekend. Even so, it sounded like a magical place. Hiking, creek swimming and beer? Then we realized the brewery must have been named after something and turns out it was. That’s not to say we won’t be making a detour on our way home… jk?

 

Otherwise, just daydreaming about this jagged, beautiful mountain. A few pics I don’t think I’ve shared yet from France. mont sainte victoireIMG_4164 IMG_4163 montsaintevictoiremont sainte victoiremont sainte victoireHope you have a refreshing weekend!

labordaycalendarLooking ahead to a long labor day weekend camping trip. The plan is to catch the ferry over to Cumberland Islandoff the Georgia coast, and enjoy three days of sand, sun, water, and cloud-gazing. Cars are not allowed on the island and it’s only accessible by ferry. Doesn’t that just sound perfect? Also, apparently, Cumberland Island has some of “America’s most beautiful coastal walks.” I don’t know why I’m always surprised when Georgia pops up on the odd “Top 10 such and such” in travel magazines. It’s not a bad place to live, politics aside. 

However, I will be sad to miss this.

A few more things:

I have been that person at a party before. Heck, I’ve been that person when I meet another women’s college graduate. Social alienation ensues.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Iceland is breathtaking. Maybe for labor day weekend next year? I can dream. Make sure to watch the video in HD.

Mmmm, tempura squash blossoms. Whose garden will I be raiding?

After yesterday’s post, I was feeling guilty about going out for breakfast so much, so we made enough of these to last us through the weekend. Used Deb’s recipe (naturally). I must say, it gave all our favorite pancake pervaders a run for their money.

With the money we would have spent on breakfast this a.m., I bought a book last night. 

Heading to Sweetwater this afternoon. Not the brewery. I used to think our friends were serious boozers for going there what seemed like every weekend. Even so, it sounded like a magical place. Hiking, creek swimming and beer? Then we realized the brewery must have been named after something and turns out it was. That’s not to say we won’t be making a detour on our way home… jk?

 

Otherwise, just daydreaming about this jagged, beautiful mountain. A few pics I don’t think I’ve shared yet from France. mont sainte victoireIMG_4164 IMG_4163 montsaintevictoiremont sainte victoiremont sainte victoireHope you have a refreshing weekend!

globe/map decor IMG_5141It’s not something I’ve considered much. The fact that I like to surround myself with the world. Doesn’t everyone hang maps in their homes? It’s true though: I gravitate toward map (and book) decor a bit more than the standard household. Always have. Two large maps flanked my bed growing up, given to me on request for my tenth birthday; a globe appeared on the kitchen table on my twelfth. I was fascinated with National Geographic from an early age (but then, what kid wasn’t?) and collected the maps that came with them every few issues. Blue tacked them onto my closet door. Just last year my sister gave me an up-cycled map lamp for Christmas. She knew it wasn’t just a childish proclivity. I still love maps.

Strange as it is to admit, it wasn’t until these handmade Map Drawer Pulls popped up in my email feed that I realized I had an obsession a thing for all things cartography. So in the spirit of claiming our quirks, here are a few pieces that I’m ready to sweep up this very minute.

worldmapdecalThis world map wall decal. It’s beautiful enough to stand on its own.

nationalparkchecklist

A check off map of the national parks. It would serve as a subtle reminder to book our next camping trip. northcarolinaprint

A print to remember where I grew up. And another for where my heart currently resides?

myrootsliehereAnd this one for Luke (impressively close to Luke’s actual hometown).

Do tell: do you have any decor collections? obsessions? tips? I’d love to hear them!

IMG_5128… that made me happy this week. Gooey brownies and hot fudge sundaes (I used Deb’s recipe for the fudge sauce — perfect!). I don’t often get a sweets craving, so when I do I like to go all out. These were all out there. gonegirlA new page turner. Seriously, on my day off yesterday, it would have taken a series of natural disasters to get me look up from my book. That said, I’m now a few chapters into Part II and I’m feeling less great about this psychological thriller. We’ll have to have to chat about it next week.mesaNMHearing my mom’s stories about a camping/hiking trip she recently took to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Seriously proud of that lady and mesmerized by her pics. Luke and I have never been out west, but now we’re seriously looking into planning a trip out there in the next couple of summers.

A few more things…

Speaking of wanderlust: Jaipur.

How many accents can you put on? More than 21?

I don’t want to know what a Freudian would say about this being my new favorite blog. But I don’t really care — it’s so fascinating!

Speaking of gender, did you hear the Queen will no longer be the only woman on British money? And not just any woman will be joining her.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! What will you be reading?

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