Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwback Thursday Summer Camp Style

I'm busy. Always it seems, and I accept that. 'Tis a season, and when this season ends there will be another season, because that's how mid-life goes. Not at all how I imagined it would be, but life is full of surprises and I mostly like surprises.

Anyway I have a lot on my plate today, so in the interest of time, I thought I'd join the Throwback Thursday Revolution and post something light.

That's me on the right, wearing braids and a blindfold and brushing someone else's teeth. Good Morning Campers!

They know who they are. They read here.

This weekend I'm headed back to camp. The place I spent many a summer first as a camper, later as a CIT, and then eventually a counselor. We used to on occasion have something called a counselor hunt, which was essentially a ginormous game of hide and seek. The way it worked was the counselors would hide from the kids and the kids would try to find them.  Relax...we weren't hiding to get away from the kids, we were hiding to avoid being caught, because if you were caught there was a penalty.

I was never ever caught. I had a most stellar hiding place and at age 18 was not afraid to squeeze myself under a building to avoid capture. Some counselors were always caught. Some didn't try very hard to hide, especially if they were with the younger campers, because they knew how much the kids loved finding their 'chief'.

Me, well my campers were teenagers, and I was all about not being caught. What can I say? I've always been competitive and teenagers love a challenge.

They never ever caught me.

Okay, I was caught once along with another counselor, and the picture above was our 'penalty'. We had to stand on a table in front of the group, I was blindfolded, and had to brush the other girls teeth.

I admit as a mother my first thought now is more along the lines of ewwwww, and picturing myself lying in the dirt under that building with all the creepy crawlies kinda makes my skin crawl, but...this is why camp is so awesome.

You do things like crawl in the dirt beneath a building and stand blindfolded on a table with a toothbrush in hand while campers cheer you on. You laugh and smile every single day, not because you're brushing someone else's teeth, but because you're just ridiculously happy to be in a place where you can spend your days outdoors, share life with friends, sleep under the stars, talk about the deep and not so deep, swim-sail-ride and pray.

Christian camp for kids and teens, and for the mostly college aged people who work there, can be life changing. For me it still is. We started these reunion weekends in the summer of 2010, and imagined they might happen every few years. As it happened though, that first one was so much fun we've made it an annual thing. It's a weekend I look forward to, and one I now view as a retreat. A time and place to reconnect not only with the people who knew me when, but also with myself.

Some of the buildings have moved and changed, and it all looks a little bit different not different. It's still the best place I know to sit in the middle of God's glorious creation and remember His goodness all those years ago.

...and His goodness still.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sum-Sum-Summer Hodgepodge

Welcome to this week's summery edition of the Hodgepodge! Answer the questions on your own blog, then add your link to that post at the end of mine. Here we go-

1. What summer activity most takes you back to your own childhood?

Swimming in an outdoor pool. I still love to swim, still love the sense of freedom I feel when I'm underwater. And if my sisters are with me watch out! We may still act like big little kids when we're together in a pool, even though we're all grown up. I don't get to swim outside nearly often enough these days.  

2. What's your favorite summer smell?

Coppertone. Although the other day hubs and I were driving home and smelled charcoal burning on someone's BBQ grill. That scent is a close second.   

3. It's beach season in the US of, how do you feel about sand?

Love it! I love the beach, love the way my toes feel in it, love the view when I'm plopped in a lounge chair on it. Must make that happen sometime this summer. 

4. Sun tea, SunChips, sunflower seeds, Capri Sun, Sunny Delight, Sun-Maid raisins, sun-dried tomatoes...your favorite food or beverage with sun in its name?

If I'm choosing I'll say sun-dried tomatoes. I have a fantastic dip made with sun-dried tomatoes that's a cinch to put together and is always gobbled up. Whenever I make it for someone new I'm asked for the recipe, and people are always surprised it's not complicated. It tastes like it could be complicated. 

5. What's your favorite way to cool off on a hot summer day?

See #1. I love a pool. Or a lake/river/ocean but especially a pool. We don't have daily access to any of that here in the wilds of northwestern NJ, so on super hot days I have to settle for air conditioning. 

6. Share a favorite song with the word sun or sunshine in it's title.

Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles.  There were so many to choose from, but this one always makes my heart feel lighter. I especially love to hear it played at the end of a long cold winter, or if we've been dealing with something that finally works itself out.  Hello wedding date. 

7. Tell us about a time when you had an exceedingly good or a truly awful customer service experience. If it was awful, did you report it? Ever go back there again?

I'm not sure if this was due entirely to awful customer service or if it was also partly cultural, but it happened back when we lived in the UK. My girls and I were doing a little window shopping at our local 'mall', and spied a cute, very simple, T-shirt style sundress on a mannequin in the front of the store. It wasn't in the window, it was on a mannequin on the actual sales floor. 

Daughter1 said she liked it so we popped in for a try-on. Easier said than done! There were none in her size on the rack, but I noted the one on the mannequin was her size. Rather than just pulling it off and leaving a bare model, I told my daughter to go ask the sales girl if she had another or could get that one for us.  

No she could not. Ha! 

Gracious, such ridiculousness. First she said, 'Let me ask the girl in charge of dressing the mannequins.' We're talking H & M here, not Harrods and the dress cost just £10. A second later she came back and said, and I quote, 

'The dresser said she just ironed that one. If she hadn't just ironed it and put it on the model she'd take it off and let you have it, but she just ironed it.' um, okay? Let me insert here for the record, had we purchased this dress that would have been the last time it saw an iron. It was a wrinkle free knit. 

She followed this up by saying, 'She says you can come back tomorrow and she'll take it off then.'

But not today? Now? While I'm standing here with cash? In your store? Apparently not. We all kind of stood there scratching our heads. It felt like there was something obvious we were missing, but we never could figure it out. I finally found my voice and said, 'Isn't the reason you put something on a mannequin in the front of the store to draw customers in and hope they buy?' We laughed about that for a long time. 

Did we go back? Of was H & M. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

We've got ourselves an official date people.

I cannot begin to tell you what it has taken to get here, but we have a wedding date. Written on our calendar. In ink. Whoohoo!

A few have asked, but I'm leaving some things purposely vague, either to allow the bride herself to share, or for privacy reasons. The important thing is we have a date and it's official! Here comes the sun!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hodgepodge Questions-Volume 179

Welcome to another summertime edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge! Answer the questions on your own blog, then hop back here tomorrow to link up with all your friends and neighbors.  See you there!

1. What summer activity most takes you back to your own childhood?

2. What's your favorite summer smell?

3. It's beach season in the US of how do you feel about sand?

4. Sun tea, SunChips, sunflower seeds, Capri Sun, Sunny Delight, Sun-Maid raisins, sun-dried tomatoes...your favorite food or beverage with sun in its name?

5. What's your favorite way to cool off on a hot summer day?

6. Share a favorite song with the word sun or sunshine in it's title.

7. Tell us about a time you had an exceedingly good or truly awful customer service experience. If it was awful, did you report it? Ever go back there again?

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Feelin' Crabby

We had a fun full weekend, and I thought about just throwing a few pictures up here and letting it tell itself.  

But of course I won't. Ha!  

We spent the weekend in one of our favorite places in the whole wide world-Annapolis and the surrounding creeks, rivers and Chesapeake Bay. As some of you know we lived in the area for nine years, and still have lots of good friends there. Also a big ole piece of our hearts. We always feel like a trip back there begins at the bridge....

When we get a glimpse of the bay rolling in the direction of 'our river', our stomachs get all knotty and our hearts lurch just a little.  

I cannot explain in words why this happens, but it does. 

Well I could explain in words, but it would take many, and I'm already planning to use more than my allotted amount. 

See how many I used just to explain why I can't explain? 
How 'bout a picture? 

Very special friends, whose children grew up with ours, invited us down for a weekend of all things Maryland, aka-crabs-boating-water. They've just purchased a brand new boat, and wanted us to come play. We spent many a weekend together back in the day, our boat rafted up to theirs, the radio on, small people with purple noodles and bouncy pony tails splashing in the water beside us.  We all get a bit of an achy breaky heart when we remember those magical summer weekends of yesteryear.  

Let's get back to present day which was positively splendid. 
We won't mention the boat hair. 

Ya just gotta deal people. 

We arrived at our friend's house early afternoon on Friday, loaded up in their brand new boat, and motored off. We meandered around a while before crossing the Bay into Maryland's Eastern Shore.  

We pulled into a spot called Hemingways for an early dinner, and in my opinion the only thing better than dining al fresco is arriving by boat. 

Hubs is in his happy place doing boat type chores. He misses owning his own, but it's just not practical for our crazy life right now. Soon though! I annoy him just a teensy little bit by saying things like park instead of dock, ropes instead of lines, and front instead of bow. Mostly though, he's just glad I love being on the water as much as he does.

Quite often me and motion don't mix, but the rivers and Bay around Annapolis are like a tonic to my soul. My stomach seems to sense this and cooperates. 

The weather was glorious. Truly, a picture perfect day, so we sat outside and talked while having a leisurely meal.  

We let the water and the sounds and the scent seep into our pores. 

After dinner we flew back across the Bay into Annapolis.

We love this town. If you take a trip to our nation's capital Annapolis makes a great side trip.

There's a whole lot happening on the water in Annapolis on a Friday night.

We 'parked' the boat, walked a bit, then headed back to 'our river' for the ride home.

Saturday the weather was a little iffy, but we were on a mission to get crabs for lunch so back to the Eastern Shore we went. By car this time, to Harris's Crab House. You can get steamed crabs a hundred different places on our side of the shore, but we were going to a little party on that side later, so decided to eat over there.

Plus you can't get these homemade nutty buddies on our side of the water, and we all wanted nutty buddies. Yes, it's as big as it looks, so we shared.


Hubs makes fun of me, because everytime we have crabs I take the same picture. I can't help myself. The sight of these beauties makes me happy and it screams for a photo. There is nothing better than Maryland blue crabs. 

Except maybe the nutty buddy.

Sunday morning I got up and had my coffee here.
I need this every day.

We took another boat ride around our old stomping grounds, and contemplated  how difficult the re-entry into New Jersey was gonna be in just a few hours.


Crossing that Bay Bridge heading home isn't nearly as much fun as crossing it in for a weekend on the water.

So thankful for good friends and the ties that bind.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

So I Think I Was Talking About Portugal

Yes, still. I had one more day of traipsing around Portugal to recap here on the old blog, and then life rolled along, so today's the day.  You can read the whole thing beginning with the post found here. 

Three of the seven couples had to leave on Sunday, but the four couples remaining had a splendid day driving up the coast to a town called Sintra. 

The coast is stunning. 

Truly. We all said we'd love to come back and spend some time here, walking along the high coastal path and sitting in one of the many seaside cafes watching the waves roll in. Hubs wanted to get down on the wooden walkway hanging out over the sea, but we needed to be on our way, so I vetoed that idea. Plus I thought the higher portion looked questionably attached to the cliff, so it was back to the cars and on to our planned destination.   

The town of Sintra was much different than the area around Obidos, and the first thing you noticed was how lush it felt. Sintra is jam packed with castles in the cliffs, beautiful buildings in town, winding roads, narrow lanes, and wonderful shops and restaurants. No wonder it was a favorite summer retreat for the kings of Portugal. I'd liked to have had another day to explore here, but we take what we can get, right? First things first-espresso! Must fortify ourselves for the trek up the mountain.

Gosh I love these people. 
And also Portuguese espresso sipped while sitting in an ancient city square.

Since we had limited time here and so much to choose from, we opted to visit Parque da Pena, a palace and surrounding parkland built on the highest peaks of the Serra de Sintra. The castle ruins you see high on the hill in the picture above are not the ones we visited. They are a place I'd like to visit, but that will have to wait for another day. Castelos dos Mouros is a thousand year old Moorish castle, about a fifteen minute walk from our destination, Pena Palace. 

Pena Palace sits above the Moorish castle, and was built in the 19th century on the ruins of a monastery founded in the 16th century. Portugal's Prince Ferdinand was cousin to Bavaria's crazy King Ludwig (if you've been to Neuschwanstein you're familiar with him) and also England's Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria.   

Pena Palace is unusual in that when a Republic was declared back in 1910 the palace became a museum, and has been preserved exactly as it was when royals lived there, furnishings and all. 

The views are tremendous and you can ramble all over the castle and surrounding grounds, climb towers, and even sip a coffee or have lunch on the terrace.

Wandering around a castle is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.

These four. 

They had themselves a little fun on the way down the mountain. We'd taken taxis to the top, but you had to ride the bus down or else hoof it, about thirty minutes along a steep path. One couple opted to walk, but not all of us had the proper footwear for hiking down so we got in the bus queue and waited. We had the bus timetable and three scheduled stop times came and went, still no bus. By now the queue had grown quite long and loud and a little restless, which made us wonder if a bus did eventually arrive would the crowd storm the doors? One of the guys managed to snag a taxi and suggested the girls ride down and the guys would walk and meet us below.

So we girls sat in a little outdoor restaurant and figured we'd have at least a thirty minute wait. Ha! We should know better than to underestimate their resourcefulness. We'd just gotten settled in our seats when the guys came round the corner laughing and singing. Turns out a very sweet young Italian couple took pity on them and picked them up part way down the mountain. The couple tuned their car radio to a station that played old 'American' music and they sang the whole way down.

You can always count on the Italians to love life wherever they are.

After a very late lunch we did a little shopping up and down the narrow streets of this charming city before heading back to the hotel to pack up. Sob.

I compartmentalize pretty well, and most days I just get on with things. This trip reminded me though, of how very much I miss my other life. Foreign cities and old buildings and new places and accents and languages not my own. A big wide amazing world that most days feels really far away from the New Jersey suburbs.

Don't misunderstand...I like the suburbs and I love America with all my heart, but still...sipping coffee on a castle terrace in the hills of Portugal makes me long just a little for all the world out there I'll never get to see.

Thirty years ago I never imagined I'd be that person who wants to see the world. In my mind those people were 'out there'...the fringe. They wore Birkenstock with thick socks and walked around airports with ginormous backpacks. They were adventurers, daring embracers of change and all things new.

But hey, did you know it's also possible to see the world with a too heavy great big suitcase checked through to your destination? To be a little bit adventurous and a little bit chicken all at the same time? To embrace change but insist on a few constants too?

 Trust is. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summertime and the Hodgepodgin' is Easy

Welcome to the Hodgepodge Hodgepodgers! Glad you've joined the party today...don't forget to add your link at the end of my post. Here we go-

1. Since you weren't Hodgepodging last Wednesday, how did you pass the time?

I was gallivanting around Portugal. 

I wrote about it in great detail (don't I always???) starting with the post found here.

2. What's the first word that comes to mind when I say marriage? Yes, one word.


3. Summer officially arrives in the Northern hemisphere this week. Does it feel like summer where you live? Describe your idea of the perfect summer day.

Today yes (it's Tuesday), but check back with me tomorrow because that's kind of how the year has gone weather wise. Ka-razy! We endured a relentless winter, followed by a really wet spring. In fact I don't feel like we had much of a spring this year, there were so many cold-damp-gray days. On the bright side, our water bill should be way down this month.  

My idea of a perfect summer day would be my toes in the sand at the edge of the water, a good book in my hand, hubs and my girls in beach chairs beside me. Add in a beautiful sunset and fresh seafood for dinner and yeah, I think you can call it perfect.  
4. "Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability."(Sam Keen) Is laziness ever respectable? Do you have a lazy summer planned or something semi-ambitious?

I don't think summertime laziness fits the strictest definition of the word. Laziness to me is doing nothing when you should be doing something. Summertime laziness is different. We all need time to slow down, breathe deep, and find rest for our world weary souls. Summer is often the perfect time to do just that. 

We have a few things on our calendar, but nothing too ambitious. Mostly enjoying friends, family, and evenings around the firepit in our own backyard.  

5. Past or present, who's your favorite television dad? Why is he a favorite? Is he anything like your dad?

Well I've always loved Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show). He had integrity, was calm, fair and a protector of his family and community.  My dad was a man of great integrity and always made his family feel safe, so in that sense they were similar. He could not however, play the gi-tar or sing. Nor was he a sherrif, although he did maintain the law in our household. 

In newer programming I like Phil Dunphy from Modern Family. He's funny, cares about his family, and his optimism is refreshing. 

6. June 18 is International Picnic Day...share a favorite picnic memory.

I haven't been on an honest to goodness picnic in quite a while. Some of my favorite picnic memories are from my own childhood. My parents best friends also had four children of similar ages, and we'd often load up the station wagons for a picnic someplace. Sometimes my mom would fry chicken and sometimes we'd bring a little Hibachi grill with us and cook hamburgers. 

We always played games too, wiffle ball, baby in the air, and one I especially loved called Kitty in The Corner. One person was dubbed 'the kitty' and everyone else spread out and took a 'corner'. The object was for two players to switch places without the 'kitty' beating you to the spot. Does anyone else remember that game? 

7. The travel site Trip Advisor lists the top five islands in the world for 2014 as-Ambergris Caye in Belize Cayes, Providenciales in Turks and Caicos, Bora Bora in French Polynesia, Marco Island Florida, and Lewis and Harris in The Outer Hebrides (Scotland).  Have you been to any of these? Of the ones listed (and if price were not a factor) which would you most like to book for a holiday?

When it comes to island holidays I'll pretty much go anywhere.  The only one on the list I've been to is Marco Island. It's my family's favorite vacation spot in the world so I'd never turn down a trip there.  

Best sunsets in the world are found there too, just fyi. 

Of the islands listed I'm going with Bora Bora. I've never been and it's on my list. 

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I do believe planning a wedding is a lot more fun since the advent of Pinterest.  Just sayin'. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Aaaaand, She's Back...

The Hodgepodge that is. So happy I scheduled a little break last week. I needed it, and now feel ready to get back to our regular Wednesday happening here on this side of the pond. Answer the questions on your own blog, then come back tomorrow and add your link to the party. See you there!

1. Since you weren't Hodgepodging last Wednesday, how did you pass the time?

2. What's the first word that comes to mind when I say marriage? Yes, one word.

3. Summer officially arrives in the Northern hemishpere later this week. Does it feel like summer where you live? Describe your idea of the perfect summer day.

4. "Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability."(Sam Keen) Is laziness ever respectable? Do you have a lazy summer planned, or something semi-ambitious?

5. Past or present, who's your favorite television dad? Why is he a favorite? Is he anything like your own dad?

6. June 18th is International Picnic Day...share a favorite picnic memory.

7. The travel site Trip Advisor lists the top five islands in the world for 2014 as- Ambergris Caye in Belize CayesProvidenciales in Turks and CaicosBora Bora in French Polynesia, Marco Island Florida, and Lewis and Harris in The Outer Hebrides (Scotland). Have you been to any of these? Of those listed (and if price were not a factor) which would you most like to book for a holiday?

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, June 16, 2014


I still have one more day of recap to write in order to wrap up our Portugal trip, but I'm saving that for tomorrow, because today...TODAY hubs and I celebrate thirty years of married life. Whoohoo! Go us! 

Hubs likes photos and loves music, so I put together a little Smilebox to mark the occasion. Before I post the link though, here are 30 random things I noted as I was searching for pictures of just the two of us-  

There aren't many.

When we find a jacket we like we wear it for years. 

We're somehow older.

Although I was sad at the time, I'm glad hubs shaved off his mustache.

360 months. 

My hair!

London. Sob. 

I wish they hadn't figured out tanning is bad for us. 

1565 weeks. 

My girls came into this world adorable and have remained so ever since.

They're grown ups now. 

That makes me far happier than I could have imagined twenty years ago. 

Hubs was a red head. 

To quote lyrics sung by Karen Carpenter, 'I've been so many places in my life and time...'

There's more to see. 

10957 days. 

We like our sunglasses round here. 

Laughter is a good thing. 

We are equally at home in tuxedos or hiking boots. 

six states. 

I need a trip to Paris. 

262974 hours. 

eight cities. 

a million laughs. 

30 amazing years. 

My heart is full. 

One unbroken promise. 

One lasting answered prayer. 

What was still is.

A picture is worth a thousand words-

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