Saturday, October 12, 2019

Rearranging That To-Do List

It was a beautiful fall day here yesterday, and even though we have no business doing anything but taking care of what feels like a million things that need taking care of, we decided instead to carpe diem. 

Because sometimes you just must.

I find a walk in the woods is the best way to clear my head and should regularly be at the top of my 'to do' list. Pretty sure the world would be a nicer place if we all spent more time in the hushed stillness of God's green earth.

Hubs and I packed a lunch and headed to nearby Whitewater Falls because we haven't seen those up close and in person yet. We only argued a little as to which blue blaze trail marker was the correct blue blaze trail marker, and of course hubs was correct because he's always correct in matters of direction. Why does he even ask me which way I think we should go when he knows I'm always pointing left when we need to go east or up when we need to head south? He likes to talk about where the sun is in the sky and blah blah blah.

Let's just walk, k?

For the record, I don't mind getting a little lost, figuring it out as we go, maybe seeing something unexpected, and just enjoying the sun on my face and the silence of the forest. Hubs however is a man on a mission and we must get to those falls in a timely manner or die trying.

We began the day at the Upper Falls overlook which is a short easy half mile trek (plus 154 steps) to magnificent.

Did I mention we had the pup with us? He only wrecked my zen a little and had an absolute ball. He ran most of the way all day long and could have done another six miles if hubs and I had said let's go.

We did not.

Because the lower falls trail (once you're on the correct path, ahem) is steep and we were tired. I'd visited the website to get some approximate directions prior to leaving home and the lower falls hike was described as roughly two miles in and out. We must have hopped on from a different starting point because our hike was roughly six miles in and out.

We moved the car to catch the lower falls trail which was a mixture of an up and down wooded path, rocky in some spots, a few downed trees to climb over or slip under in others, tree roots to trip you up if you weren't careful, and a brilliant blue sky overhead reminding you no matter what you're walking through beauty is found when you look up.

I thought we'd see more color here but autumn is rolling in to the Upstate ever so slowly this year. It has been hotter than the double hockey sticks and temperatures plus the humidity level have only recently begun to settle down.

One of the prettiest spots on the lower falls trail was right here-

In fact one of us would say it was their favorite part of the day-

He would have been happy to stay right here all day, but we still had a mile and a half-ish to go so we crossed the bridge and carried on.

And as we walked I thought about some stuff. Thinking deep thoughts and hiking go hand in hand which is one reason I enjoy hiking. It's hard to think deep thoughts when you're staring down your to-do list and see a floor that needs vacuuming and clothes that need washing and suitcases that need packing.

Soul searching comes naturally when you're away from it all.

It happens when you're walking along a mostly flat, mostly clear path until suddenly you're not. You encounter rocks and roots that can trip you up and irritate, and the easy pace you were enjoying begins to feel like a slog you need to just get through.

Your destination begins to feel further and further away, but if you put your head down and press on you'll discover those rocks and roots and irritating big and little things you had to get around or over were part of your journey to something beautiful.

Life, y'all.

Then your hubs the planner whips out his little camp stove and makes you a cup of hot apple cider on the spot...

And you're so glad you didn't quit before you got to where you were meant to go.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Big Easy

Way back when, before we knew our baby girl was moving to South Korea, before we knew our baby girl would be having a baby in this calendar year in South Korea, we made plans to spend a long weekend in New Orleans with college friends.

And even though we're trekking across the world later this fall we still spent an extended weekend in New Orleans last week because why not?

Several in our group hit a milestone birthday this year and we wanted to mark the occasion(s) with a fun trip. Some of us (me included) had never been to New Orleans before but we did have one friend with us who had an office in the city so he steered us in the right direction in terms of where to stay, what to eat, and how to enjoy.

First things was hot. We have humidity in the Palmetto State, but yowza this town takes it up a notch. They pretty much take everything up a notch in NOLA including the butter, the cream, the cocktails, and the crazy, but the humidity is for real y'all.

We stayed in the very lovely Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter and it was a great location for accessing all that we wanted to do.

And by 'do' I mean eat. I was looking through my pictures and more than half are snapshots of my plate with some delicious something or other front and center. Case in point-waiting on their BBQ shrimp in the photo above, and my baked apple with a praline oatmeal topping from our breakfast at Brennans below-

A whole wonderfully delicious fish at Emeril's restaurant (NOLA)-

Sampling one of the famous hurricanes from Pat O'Briens-

Too sweet for me (the Pimms at Bar Napoleon is more my cup of tea), but I'm pretty sure the law says you have to taste a hurricane while you're here.

The law also says you can pour the leftovers in a to-go cup and walk around town with it which seems kinda crazy, but hey that's New Orleans. 

Speaking of crazy, let's talk crazy good and pause for a moment to give the beignet it's due. Not sure there's such a thing as a perfect food, but the beignet has got to be awfully close.

The food in this city is fabulous and many well known chefs got their start here. We were a group of ten so booked our dinners in advance and most of the nicer restaurants offered reservations. 

There's always some sort of celebration happening in New Orleans which means the town is hopping and the restaurants are busy. If you go, book ahead for the more well known venues. My favorite was Commander's Palace which is something of an institution here. They still like for men to wear jackets and boy do they know how to celebrate a special occasion.

We had five birthdays in our group and there were balloons on the table and big hats for the honorees. The service is five star and the food wonderful. I ordered their famous bread pudding souffle for dessert and was not disappointed. Hey, how about a picture?

In other foodie news, we all signed up for a cooking demo one morning at the New Orleans School of Cooking, and this I highly recommend. So much fun! Our chef (Harriett) was funny and had a wonderful way of engaging the audience in what she was cooking.

We ate as the morning went along starting with a delicious corn and crab chowder, pralines, a shrimp creole and the grand finale-bananas foster, which came to fame at a New Orleans eatery.

It was okay I guess.

Harriett  managed quite the flame and then sprinkled cinnamon on top which caused it to sparkle. We definitely plan to try this at home, but will likely do ours outside.

Six of our group also spent a day trekking out to Oak Alley Plantation and really enjoyed the visit. It's about an hour outside New Orleans, but our bus driver was really good in sharing information about the city and it's history as well as the surrounding area.

My first time driving over the mighty Mississippi.

We took a guided plantation house tour (after we hydrated because did I mention the heat here???) and they do a good job contrasting the hard life of a slave to that of plantation owner.

The slave quarters are still on site too and you can peek inside several buildings.

We walked the grounds afterward and spent the rest of our visit in awe of the giant oaks. They're beautiful!

Such a fun weekend! Besides all of the above we also managed a short visit to the WW2 Museum (really well done), a walk around the Garden District, a trolley ride, and as always happens when we're together, lots and lots of belly laughs. Cheers to 40 years of friendship!

And here's to 40 more!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

September Is My Favorite

Sometimes I sit down to catch up on my blog and instead end up reading back through old posts feeling envious of my former self. The one who wrote about what she saw and felt and thought instead of the girl I am now. The one always playing catch up with lists and what I did on my summer vacation type posts. I try to give myself grace because it's been a weird hard year, but I miss that girl.

I plan to bring her back here one of these days.

But not today because today is playing catch up with a list and a what I did on my summer vacation type of post. Might as well embrace it, right?

I celebrated a birthday yesterday. My birthday is the third family birthday in the month of September so everyone's a little caked out by the time mine rolls around.

Not so caked out we won't dive into this scrumptious German Chocolate Fudge Pie Daughter2 baked for her momma, but we won't eat it all in one sitting either. My favorite man cub face timed so he could join in the singing of Happy Birthday and also help blow out the candles from 7000+ miles away. The happy birthday song is in his current list of top ten favorites.

Hubs suggested we go out for my birthday but we eat out a lot, and on my birthday I want a home cooked meal I don't have to home cook. I love something on the grill that I don't have to a) plan for b) shop for, c) prepare or d) clean up. Honestly I'll eat whatever is put in front of me if I don't have to do any of the above.

Hubs obliged by grilling the most delicious pork chops he'd purchased from his guitar teacher/ pig farmer and Daughter2 made garlic mashed potatoes and a spinach salad and that fantabulous pie and it was all pretty perfect.

Low key is the name of the game this month because next month we will amp up into supersonic speed with four separate trips covering multiple states, flights, road miles and countries so we're trying to rest up. Hubs doesn't quite get the concept of 'resting up' but even he's not operating at 150% power like he normally does.

It has been exceptionally hot and humid here for the past month but this morning we woke up to 70 degree weather and sipped our coffee under a blanket beside the fire on the porch. Pure bliss in my book. Fall is my favorite and I'm so ready for it this  year.

I've been reading a lot of books and hubs and I have binged on The Americans on Amazon Prime. I really need it to end so I can quit thinking about it, but we're almost there. My Bible Study group is back in session and I've also started a book club in my neighborhood which has been fun. And because it can't be all cake all the time I'm still plugging away at my exercise class a couple of days a week too.

Also today's weather is not the norm so we're still boating and swimming and we're not even mad about it.

The air still says summer but the sunsets whisper fall.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Monday's Child

My favorite second born baby girl celebrates a birthday today. She's told me in years past that reading my blog on her birthday is one of her favorite things so I try hard not to drop that ball.

Putting words to feelings has sometimes felt like too much this year. Too complicated, too personal, too everything.

But today I'm going to try.

Because the birthday girl has taught me so much, and while we often say we just want to forget all the painful things we've ever walked through I don't.

I want to remember how my bright eyed baby girl has looked for joy in the middle of a hard thing.

I want to remember the wisdom she's shown and how she's grown in ways she maybe didn't want to grow, but she pressed in and pressed on, and in so doing found her faith to be a sure sure thing.

I want to remember the way she has doled out grace by the bucketful and I want to do the same.

Happy birthday to my bold, big-hearted, beautiful girl.

It is my great great joy to be your momma and I pray this next year is filled with God's tender mercies and blessings abundant. May you always laugh easy and love great big xo

Friday, September 6, 2019

Long Time No Blog

I do still have a blog, I just haven't been here in a while. Nearly a month but who's counting? No worries, I excel at cramming a month's worth of happenings into a single post so strap in.

Actually no need to strap in because it's been a pretty low key month round here. Our definition of low key that is. Other people might say we're still awfully busy but we've managed not to leave town so that's something.

Wait. Hubs left town. He popped over to Tennessee for a couple of days to visit his mom, but other than that we've been planted here at the lake.

And maybe instead of telling you ALL the things I'll pick just five that stand out in my mind-

1. The dogs. Y'all. It's almost like hubs has a job, and the responsibilities of that job are focused primarily on wearing out the newest addition. Hubs takes the little brown dog for long walks, he swims with him, he kayaks with him...well hubs kayaks and little brown dog sits on hubs lap the kayak, but even when he's just sitting he's on alert. He knows as soon as that kayak hits the beach hubs will throw the baton into the water approximately 47 times and he will fetch it all 47 times. Then they'll kayak back to the dock and little brown dog will launch himself off the dock after that same baton another 47 times, and even after all of that the little brown dog will not seem overly exhausted.

Hubs on the other hand...

And Daughter2's dog has been sick since Sunday so she has needed watching. Normally the greyhound is super low maintenance, in fact we joke she's like living with a stuffed animal, but then hubs spent all of Tuesday morning with her at the vet because Daughter2 needed to go to work and great dads step in where they're needed. Hubs is a great dad.

For people and for animals.

2. Also he's a whole year older.

He had a big birthday recently, and we had the best time celebrating his special day. We invited a whole slew of friends and neighbors to bring their favorite raft or noodle and come for a 'float party'.

The weather could not have been more perfect and it was a great way to ring in a new decade.

photo credit: Pam N. 

Still young at heart!

3. We've done lots of face timing with our daughter and grandson in South Korea this past month, and we love that. Facetime really does make them feel not so far away. Daughter1 generally calls in the evening which is their tomorrow morning and that works on both sides of the world.

They've settled in beautifully and if you're not following her blog and/or YouTube channel you should. She has made several short videos that are wonderful and give you a fun glimpse into life overseas. Click here for her YouTube channel and click here to visit her blog.

4. We've had lots of relaxed evenings with nearby friends and neighbors, most recently at a local brewery where the Cousins Maine Lobster Truck made an appearance.

It also happened to be the night of the Clemson home opener (they killed it btw) so downtown was hopping, but we enjoyed that. Even better Daughter2 offered to hold a place for our gang in the super long line, and we all gave the lobster rolls two thumbs up! You should know that lobster tots are a thing and they're delicious.

The Cousins have a great story, but essentially they got their big break on Shark Tank after being asked more than once to audition for the program. Turns out producers of the show were some of their earliest customers and eventually convinced them to try out. They have over twenty trucks now in something like thirteen cities, and ours was I think from Charlotte.

5. Lastly but not leastly we have marveled at God's handiwork in a water colored early morning sky-

Been sun kissed-

And heaven blessed-

Not quite ready to let summer go...