Vermont's Newest Fans

The family and I returned home this week from our camping adventure in the wonderful wilds of Vermont.  I have been intrigued by this state within our union for some time.  Being a progressive hearted and minded woman and hearing about all the amazing things they are doing in this mountainous, mostly agricultural state of roughly 600K residents, naturally, I just had to experience it myself!  

Besides all the delicious offerings of maple syrup, bakeries, cheese, ice cream and wineries (and breweries) Vermont's on the cutting edge of technology in renewable energy!  They are helping to preserve natural resources by harnessing and producing sustainable, renewable electric power to 100% of its residents within their largest city, Burlington.   Everywhere we traveled, we noticed solar power panels in farm fields, on rooftops of homes and even noticed a small solar powered camp site where we pitched our tent for 5 days at Button Bay State Park.  Even the bath houses at the park had solar panels!  They are putting the environment and their people first and foremost for the good of all - what's not to LOVE?!  

Our first stop:  beautifully tranquil Lake Champlain    

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Our first full day in Vermont was spent exploring Burlington and Waterbury.  It just so happens that a fellow high school classmate of my husband's (another Twin Valley grad!) owns and operates a bakery & café in Burlington, about 2 blocks from Burlington's Shipyard on Lake Champlain called August First.  This was our first stop for an early lunch.  They serve breakfast all day on Sundays and the menu was chock full of amazing offerings - there aren't many bakeries/cafes where we live that offer tofu scramble or avocado toast with feta cheese and roasted red peppers, if any for that matter!  August First is also a wifi-less, real face-to-face conversation encouraging kind of place.  They even offer shelves loaded with books and kids toys to interact with as opposed to the screens of today.  Wow, how refreshing this was!  Not only was their fare deliciously nourishing, the down-home ambience and top-notch service was pleasing to the senses.  We were sad though that we missed Kurt's classmate, Jodi and her husband, but it was so neat to meet their adult daughter.  It would have been great fun to see Jodi after all these years.  Many fond, generous thanks to August First for the treats and smiles!!  Keep up the good works, friends!          

After lunch we walked down to the shipyard.  I spotted a loon dipping and diving under the water.  What a life to live on the water! 

Rocks, rocks and more Rocks!  These girls love to collect them!  Anybody else find rocks galore in pockets, under the car seats, in between car cushions... after your own excursions?

Then we were off in search of ICE CREAM!!  And, guess what!  We found it!  Ben & Jerry's factory tour was as flavorful, colorful and euphoric as you can imagine only Ben & Jerry's to be!  Nobody is allowed to snap pictures within the factory - so you'll just have to go yourself and experience the tour.  You won't leave hungry, and that's a promise.  I did manage to get a few shots though to share with you...  

I love how forward their thinking is and how they are making a positive impact on our planet and its residents with sustainable practices and only non-GMO ingredients in their goodies.  Our tour guide told us that he is given 3 pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream a day (a day?!) - holy cow!!  Talk about earning company dividends to enrich and nourish your, uh, tummy!  ;)  How thoughtful of the kind and generous folks at Ben & Jerry's to take such good care of their employees.     

A new day and a new bottle of maple syrup to keep the family smiling first thing in the morning.  Kurt whipped up some good ol' fashioned flapjacks on the griddle over the Coleman stove.  

Well, not everyone in our family has a happy face first thing in the morning... 

We were off in search of a boat rental.  A canoe, more specifically.  I was a bit hesitant and nervous to take my gear out on the water, but the adventurer in me said "go for it!"  Thankfully, all went well and we had smooth sailing.  We found the available rental at the next state park to the north of Button Bay - Kingsland Bay State Park.  Another absolutely beautiful park to visit. 

The next few images are common scenes for summertime in the Vermont countryside:  bales of hay; classic New England architecture; an organic vegetable roadside stand; and miles and miles of farmland (with solar panels).  

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Storm warning!  I captured this one with my iPhone as thunderstorms moved in over Lake Champlain and rained on our parade.  It wasn't for long, as they traveled fairly light (lucky for us campers!). 

The morning after a rainy, dewy night always brings some beautiful surprises all its own. 

We were off again!  This time in search of waterfalls and possibly some hiking.  We heard from the locals that there was a well known swimming hole with falls in the quaint town of Bristol called Bartlett Falls running along the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest.  Before seeking out the falls and swimming hole, we decided to explore Bristol and get some lunch.  I was enchanted by this sweet Vermont town of Main Street shops and businesses and the variety of goods and services they had to offer to local residents, as well as visitors passing through.  A common thought continuously ran through my mind by this point in our VT visit, "how do the local people sustain themselves so well?"  Over and over again we hear about small businesses, "mom-n-pop" shops shuttering as the corporations move in and "progress" takes over.  The bulldozers come and level ground, large department stores are built and then the inevitable happens - small businesses suffer the cost and close.  I felt like we had gone back in time somehow as we traveled around Vermont's countryside and even in their larger cities.  There was an independent sensibility that kept bubbling to the surface for me.  I couldn't help but deeply admire this paradoxical spirit of forward thinking and innovation found in the care and resourcefulness of Vermont's energy policies, yet rejection of "progress" in the form of large corporate owned businesses, bulldozing their way through the small towns.  It's apparent to me that Vermont's way of doing business, maintaining a sense of independence while respecting their natural resources is something of a learning curve for all.  By George, I think they've got it!          

Cubber's Restaurant, with its streaming 80s music and wall-to-wall nostalgic throwback images, was packed full of patrons during lunch hour on a Tuesday.  Another chance to feel like we had gone back in time, recalling songs we hadn't heard in decades!  What a classic gem this eatery served up!  Their food was exceptional, taking care to cater to the vegetarians amongst us!  And the complimentary fruit infused water was absolutely refreshing!!  We can see why they were so busy on a hot summer day - without A/C, no less!  Stop by when in Bristol and tell them "Pizza, Love & Harmony" is the perfect recipe!!  :)  

After peering into most all of the main street businesses and spending some dough, we found the falls and the swimming!  There were a lot of folks out sunning themselves and dipping in the water to cool off.  

As a kid, I did a load of camping every summer with my dad, stepmother and sister at state parks (and off trail, too!).  I can remember that some of the best parts of camping in state parks were the friendships that were formed with other campers.  And even though the friendships that were made were brief in the grand scheme of it all, those new friends are still some of my fondest memories of camping.  So, when we (the girls included) noticed a bright, energetic girl biking around the campground who happened to be at the campsite across from us, and who looked to be about Emilia's age, I nudged the girls to go introduce themselves, say "hi!"  They rejected my suggestion, playing shy, until their curiosity finally took over.  After that they were so thankful that they made new friends, spending as much time together as possible.  See, sometimes wisdom in years does pay off. ;)  

Anyhow - funny story to share!  It was our last night of camping and the neighbors invited us over for s'mores!  Sure thing!!  Who doesn't love s'mores?!  Plus, getting to know new friends is always great fun!!  So.  While preparing for the s'mores, our new friends' grandpa injured his thumb while whittling the end of a stick for marshmallow toasting.  He thought a band-aid would do the trick, but inevitably the cut was too deep and had to go to a hospital for suturing/bandaging.  We all felt terrible for him.  But we pushed on and while he and his son-in-law spent the evening at the hospital we sat around the campfire making s'mores, the kids played with other neighbor kids and we got to know one another a bit more.  In all the commotion of the injury, and the s'more date our hosts had forgotten to put their trash away before it got dark.  Kurt noticed it first.  "Is that a skunk?!"  Sure enough a rather large skunk had entered the campsite and proceeded to dig in the trash, finding his "spécialité du jour," ... a grilled cheese sandwich!  Yikes!!  Tail up and not intimidated by us humans whatsoever, we all just kept our distance as we watched him (or her?) hungrily devour his score.  We tried shining a flashlight directly into his eyes - and at first it didn't seem to phase him - but then became irritated and growled at us!  YIKES!!  Tail up, but he eventually gave up and scurried back into the tall brush and trees along the shoreline of the lake.  Whew!  Quickly, our hosts cleaned up and put their trash away.  Our new friend, Kera, named Mr. Skunk "Grilled Cheese."  And it stuck!  We finished up our s'mores and had some laughs about the craziness of the night and off we went to bed.  The next morning we found out that "Grilled Cheese" came back for dessert - s'more remnants - at the feet of the ladies waiting for their guys to return from the hospital!!!  Talk about an exercise in patience and steadiness (and not freaking out!!!).  Eventually, "Grilled Cheese" had his fill and scurried off again.  The ladies were fine, nobody was harmed or caught wind of "Grilled Cheese!"  Talk about an eventful night of camping stories to pass along!  

The following morning the girls met at one of their favorite spots, The Watering Hole.  ;)  They played as we packed up the car to head home. 

I asked "Emmy" what was her favorite thing about camping in Vermont.  She replied, most assuredly, "making new friends and Grilled Cheese!"  Thanks for all the fun memories new friends! :)  If you're ever in our neck of the woods, you'll have to visit with us for s'mores (no Grilled Cheese involved!!).  ;) 

Leaving Vermont taking the Champlain Bridge into New York and heading southward, home.  I think our girls had a blast and made memories to last a lifetime.  :)  We <3 VT!!!  

The August Break, 2017: Part One

The August Break is back!  This may very well be the only time of year that I attempt a photo a day based on a prompt designed by another photographer that I have had success in completing.  I did attempt the "biggie," the 365 Project, once many years ago with a photo a day, without prompts, and made it to October which I thought was decent, however unfinished it was.  So, with a brand new August at hand and 31 prompts to keep me grounded (and focused), I'm giving "The August Break" another go around!  I try not to read the prompts - or commit them to memory - more than a day or two ahead to keep it fresh, a somewhat meditative practice.  I will post here every few days or weeks while allowing my images to speak for themselves.  I hope you'll join in The August Break too and if so, please be sure to comment below with your blog link or online sharing site so I can follow along with you and your daily images.  Thanks!     

1:31  Morning

2:31  Gold

3:31  Roses

4:31  Where I live

5:31  Bicycle

Here is a copy of the prompts for you to play along, too!!  :)  

A photo a day, slowing it down and paying attention to what catches your eye and heart. 

A photo a day, slowing it down and paying attention to what catches your eye and heart. 

I realize I haven't posted in a while (shaking my head at myself).  I hope you are having an absolutely wonderful, Terrific, super-charged summer, my friends!!  I have so much to catch you up on!!!  Life has been full ON!  Until next time, keep your eyes peeled for all the beauty that surrounds you and soak in summertime's wonder.  

P.s.  To see last year's project, please visit this link: Break for August Part One and Part Two.

Favorite Five for Friday

This was quite the week!!  I wrapped up portraits at a childcare center, Little Mates in Morgantown.  It was kid wrangling fun, super-charged silliness and lots of singing, and I'll tell you what - I needed a nap afterwards!  I'm hoping to do more school portraits in the coming months.  It's an area of portrait photography that begs to be expressed with natural light, in my humble opinion anyhow - I may be a bit biased, though.  

I also wrapped up a large family portrait session of 9 at a friend's home.  She and her family are very private and wish not to be shared in the social blogosphere.  OH, how I wish I could share their portraits with you, because they are beautiful!  We managed to get our session in just after a thunderstorm, which has been a frequently occurring weather trend this past week (that, along with loss of power as a result of the storms - ugh).  

I'm also prepping the house, yard, art activities, journaling prompts, yoga poses, games, and overall gearing up for the start of our summer camp for girls, beginning on Monday.  Busy Bees is coming up quickly and I'm finding myself excited for it, eager to see the girls and have fun with them, yet also mildly panicked as I juggle all of my creative projects.  Must remember to breathe.  Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming... ;)  

We, the girls and I, attended a Summer Solstice Bubble Festival at the Berks County Heritage Center in Reading with our fun-fabulous neighbor, Jo!  I was thrilled Jo let me know about it and invited us to go!  It was a wonderful way to usher in the joyful celebration of summertime!!!  I, of course, had a blast making photos of the people gathered, enthralled with wonderment at the ever changing shapes and colors, and then... popping of BUBBLES created by the one and only, Grandpop Bubbles!!!  Such a neat event complete with live music, sundial crafts, a fire pit to roast marshmallows and/or hot dogs, and refreshing ice cream!  We screamed for ICE CREAM!  :)  Many terrific thanks to you, my dear friend, Jo, for including us!  

This past weekend we celebrated Father's Day with our favorite guy, Kurt.  We had the good fortune of having family visit with us from Maine!  Kurt's sister, Jeri and her husband, Scott were in town for a day or two.  We celebrated an early Father's Day with a cookout on Friday night, including Kurt's adorable mother and his brother, Jeff and his lovely wife, JoAnne.  We shared a beautiful evening and a delicious grilled meal together.  Our Emilia even had the special opportunity to play round after round of chess with her uncle Scott, who explained the game with utmost patient care.  Thanks, Uncle Scott!  Oh, and now, that's the only game she wants to play!  

And with that...  I'll share my favorite 5 frames from this past week.            

I shared more of the Bubble loving, summer welcoming crowd and event over at my personal Facebook page:  click here to view.  And on my Flickr photo stream:  click here to view !  So many bubbles, so many smiles!  Such a treat!!  :)  

Pool time is an everyday occurrence around here lately.  Yay, for cool fun!!!  I am relishing in this image of my healthy girl, Alanna, as she enjoys a renewed vigor for life.  With shouts of, "Mom, watch this!"  Be still, my beating momma heart.  

Kurt and his mother share a loving embrace during our family get together.  I love this so, SO Much.  The one bit of marriage advice I would hand out to women considering a mate for life is this: make certain he Loves, Respects and Honors his mom.  You won't go wrong.  If he shows this love and admiration for his mom to you and everyone, than he's a keeper.  

Normally, the girls and I would cook up a breakfast fit for a king to serve in bed for our favorite guy on Father's Day, however... this year was different.  We were unable to make this happen as we were without power for more than 12 hours.  So, instead of cold cereal, we took him out for breakfast to a local diner.  I caught this moment on my cell phone and it speaks volumes.  He's an All-Star Dad (note the t-shirt) and I'm so proud of him and all the love he has for all of his girls, including me and Chelsea.  This guy took on the world for me as a single mom over 20 plus years ago with a ready-made family and an ex-husband who was present in our life while Chelsea was growing up.  He continues to take on the world and give us his all, everyday.  There's nothing in this world I wouldn't do for him.  He's a keeper.    

Thanks for stopping by to view, hear all about the latest happenings with me and the family, and for your constant support.  I appreciate your encouragement, my friends!  What have you been up to lately?  What's on deck for you?  How was your Father's Day?  Do share in the comments below.  As always, I'd love to hear from you!!

Happy Solstice!  Happy Summer to you!! 

Five Frames for Friday

The family and I kicked off summer vacation with a visit to Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster.  The shows and rides were a sweet treat for us all!  The expert divers in The Princess and the Frog show made quite a splash!!  It was more than welcomed since temperatures were summer-like, in the low 90s.  A Wonder-full day was had by all!  

Dutch Wonderland's gardens were also quite the treat!  The beautiful roses that followed us all over the park were in full bloom.   

Speaking of blooms!  The catalpa trees (aka cigar tree) are in full bloom!  How I've never taken closer notice of their almost orchid-like blooms I have no idea!  They are sweetly scented and breathtaking!! 

My hydrangeas did not bloom last year - possibly due to the harsh winter, or they didn't get enough hydration in early spring.  I'm not completely sure why, but am SO HAPPY to report that they are all budding and bursting forth like the beautiful mopheads they are joyfully known to be.  Oh, happiness!!      

The sunsets have been amazing lately!  Seems that summer is actually here to stay - for now.  Yay for summertime beauty!! 

Wishing you a happy Friday and weekend ahead!  Keep your eyes pealed for all the beauty that surrounds you each day.  Thanks for stopping by, my friends.  :) 

I believe Magic does happen

When in the throws of life, the day in and day out, all the repetitively natural reflexes and inherent motions we go through, we don't usually find time to take a breather and look with reflective "goggles" at all the magic that is clearly happening at the tip of our noses!  At the end of each school year seems like one such perfect time to take stock, look back at the current school year coming to an end and realize what amazing things actually occurred.  And amazing, magical things have transformed our lives this past year!  I'm a bit overwhelmed by it all...  

My girls were both sad this morning, knowing it was the last day of school.  Say wha?  They LOVE school -- even when they complain and make statements to the contrary, they thrive within the classroom, with their friends, and with their brilliant teachers.  Our girls are fortunate to have some of the best, most creative, talented teachers.  We are all grateful for their tireless dedication, hard work and the ability to bring out the best in all the kids, helping them to grow and stretch their own gifts that much farther, expanding their worlds.  

To get this shot below I had to do some major prodding and gleeful cheering!!!  C'mon girls!!  Work with me here!!  1, 2, 3, jump!  Happy Summer!!!  

(L) First day of school, August 2016, Alanna {5th grade} and Emilia {2nd grade}.  (R) Today, last day of school!  Wow!!  Am I right?!!  You see it too?!  I'm crying over here... whaaaa... my babies! 

Alanna has gone through so much this past year while battling Crohn's disease and is now successfully in remission.  This disease wreaks the worst kind of havoc on anyone effected by it, but most especially children.  Bluntly speaking - it sucks!  It sucks the joy out; the healthy growth; the energy and strength.  Watching Alanna get on the bus carrying her violin case and backpack at the beginning of the year was painful for us, her parents, as she struggled to get up the steps - the bus driver would have to help her by holding her violin.  Breaking my heart in a thousand pieces!!  These past few months though, as she regained her strength and vitality, she easily climbed up the steps taking each one without blinking while carrying her violin!  We couldn't be happier for our precious Alanna's renewed health and vibrant glow (and the rosy cheeks have returned!!).  We have the pediatric GI doctors at CHOP, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, to thank (an amazing team of professionals).  I'm convinced our greatest wealth in life is our health.  I will never again take my childrens' health for granted, ever.   

I am me.
I am calm, thoughtful and cheerful.
I wonder why the world is so cruel.
I hear books flapping around me, the sound of splattered ink.
I see the wrinkled pages. 
I want books on my shelf.

I am calm, thoughtful and cheerful.
I pretend I have imaginary friends.
I feel a cloak, wand and glasses. 
I laugh at Luna trying to eat my hair.
I worry I will never write.

I am calm, thoughtful and cheerful.
I understand, that I need to help everyone.
I believe Magic Does Happen
I try my best at things. 
I hope I can become a writer. 
I am calm, thoughtful and cheerful. 

by Alanna (age 11)

The last assignment for the year in her language arts class is a memoir project.  She put together different pieces of writing about her life - such as the day she was born, where her name came from, stories, 10 bits of advice, and more.  Plus, this poem titled, "I am me."  She, as many of you already know, is a Huge Harry Potter fan and she dedicated her project:  "This memoir is dedicated to all my friends & family who have shown me what type of person I am. And to my idol, J.K. Rowling, for opening so many doors for me!"  What a kid, I tell ya!!  So Super proud of her!!! 

Emilia, 8, finished up her 2nd grade year with a wonderful group of friends under the caring guidance of this ever-so-patient, loving, super creative, Wonder Woman of a teacher, Mrs. Herbine.  She had a "Beach Party" today as their final day of fun together!  We can't sing Missy's praises enough (and notice her t-shirt - she's a keeper!)!!  She helped Emilia (who tends to be unorganized, unfocused, artsy type of kid - reminds me so much of another precious someone I know very well - she could also be her twin!) grow and blossom a great deal this year!!  We love you, Mrs. Herbine!  We will miss you, but wish you a terrific summer of relaxing fun!!!  And, yes, we'll keep up our reading and chore chart throughout the summer! ;)  xoxo  

With all this growth, healing and stretching of the school muscles we welcome our summer vacation!  I'm so proud of my girls and know they will continue to do amazing things and keep on growing and changing.  But, just for this moment, it's especially wonderful for me, the momma, to reflect on all the incredible changes, and to celebrate all the challenges we've faced together as a family this past school year as well.  My heart is full of gratitude.  And I do believe... it's been magical

Happy S U M M E R to all!!