In all the years I’ve been here I had yet to do a session among the cherry blossoms at Red Wing Park. We had so much fun making little “R” squeal with the raining blossoms. And I adore her blonde curls.
I’m going to shift this blog to the more personal. So many changes are underway for me and my family with preparations for our overseas move to Atsugi, Japan. I’m starting to get the itch badly. The need to move on, the feeling of limbo. We just put our Virginia Beach home on the market and a huge weight will be lifted once we sell it. I have big plans to take the boys on a road trip: a month in Minnesota, a month in Colorado, and a month or two in California until we have a home set up and ready to go in Japan. I actually told my husband that if the house sold before I was ready to leave Virginia Beach me and the boys would just tent camp for a month. He thinks I’ve lost my mind.
In the midst of overseas prep chaos, we’ve done some traveling. I notice I’m most calm and present on a trip. Is that weird? I have anxiety at home as my to-do list approaches the floor. The outdoors is my happy place. I’d love to share a few Instagram pics of our recent trips. The first was when Virginia Beach was struggling to come out of winter. We had snow in March and towards the end it was having a hard time inching out of the 50′s. I could feel the winter blues had set in so I told hubby we had to drive south until we found 70-degree weather. For my sanity. And because he is so amazing to me, he obliged and we set out to South Carolina with kids and dog in tow.
(All images taken with my iPhone 4s)
Next came a last minute trip to Key West with just the hubby. Sunshine, blue waters, and no kids…. BLISS. I’m so grateful when family is willing to spend a few days with our boys to give me and hubby some time to ourselves. The hardest aspect of living a military life is being so far from family and the support that brings. Rarely do we get a night out to ourselves. Even more rarely do we get out with friends alone as they are usually our go-to sitters. So when we do, we make it count. I flew down by myself to Fort Lauderdale and took a rental car the rest of the gorgeous drive down to Key West. Hubby was already there on a detachment. I’ll admit I had my doubts when the construction barriers confused me enough to miss my exit and I detoured through Miami without a phone charger and about to lose battery power. (Why did I not take the state map the rental agent offered me?) Hubby had a drink and a smile on his face when I finally got there though and I quickly remembered how amazing the island life is. Before we regretted it another year, we decided to spend the money visiting the Dry Tortugas. The only thing I regret is not having more time to do an overnight camping trip there. What an amazing experience that would have been.
No sooner did we get home from Key West we were saying goodbye to grandparents and hello to a sister who flew out from Colorado to drive the 9hr trip to the Smokey Mountains sitting between two giant car seats and fighting kids. (We love you Haley!) Hubby took a few days off work to make the trip worth the drive. We all could not stop commenting on how green it is there with the fresh spring canopy and wildflowers blooming everywhere.
Now I’m afraid we’ll be tied to the house the next month or so to make ourselves available for house showings. I’m praying for a quick sale since keeping a house “show ready” with young kids living here is a full time task. Thanks for stopping by to read what our family has been up to. I am posting more and more these days to Instagram since deleting my personal Facebook account (which I’m so happy I did!) so feel free to follow along there if you’d like.
This was a special homecoming for me. Tiffani is a dear friend of mine. And while I’m terribly behind on blogging, I’ve been thinking about her more and more these days. This homecoming was right before Christmas. (Yes, I’m that behind. But as quick as he was home, he was gone again.
We are about to embark on another sea duty. More deployments and less precious time together. Except my boys are older now. Old enough to feel the absence of their favorite person. Old enough to miss the bedtime stories and the conversations over dinner. Old enough to start asking questions. To feel sadness and anger. I pray that I can find the patience and strength like Tiffani has. To teach them to love harder when he is home. To miss him like crazy but to fill our time with adventure and laughter. To help others when they need it and to be thankful for the life we have and the time we have together. Most importantly, to remember the moment your heart flutters and you finally get to see him after so many months away making the deployment almost worth the time lost.
One of the highlights of our trip was the opportunity to travel with a few awesome friends and photographers. I think I might need to take a personal entourage of photographers on all our vacations from now on. I’m sure others can relate when I say I hardly have any pictures with me in them and the reason why I treasure these so much! Thank you ladies for capturing me and hubby!
Here’s the gang on the ship! Lots of fun nights watching bad karaoke. Photo credit goes to Chelsea’s hubby Rusty. We are training these hubbies good! Left: Kay, Lindsey, Amanda, Amanda, Me, and Chelsea
Me and hubby from Amanda at Kimberlin Gray Photography
And a few more from Chelsea of Bit of Ivory Photography
And I was able to snap a few of the others!
Thank you ladies for making our trip a fun and memorable one! And thank you to Chelsea of Orchestrated Stylized Shoots for your grand vision!
I’m continuing on this week with more images from our cruise. This time from Greece and a quick stop to Split, Croatia.
Our first stop in Greece was the beautiful island of Santorini. The hubby and I rented a car to explore this small island and arrived in Oia before the town awoke with tourists. 20 minutes without tourists flooding the small cliffside corridors is almost magical as you weave in and out between blue domes, coffee shops, houses and windmills.
The red sand beach of Santorini and one of the black sand beaches.
Time was running short in Santorini and the line to take the cable cars down the cliff wasn’t moving so we decided to take the long walk down the stairs. Going down wasn’t too bad as long as you watched where you stepped. We definitely smelled like the donkeys by the time we got back to the ship but I loved the experience. You can see the switchbacks climbing up the island.
The shear size of Athens is absolutely impressive and overwhelming. You can see it sprawling past past the ruins in a 360 degree view as far as you can see.
One sight hard for a dog lover to see were the stray dogs everywhere in Athens. They seem to be well taken care of and well mannered though enjoying free roam of the ancient ruins.
In Mykonos we didn’t venture far past the main town where we could walk to from the ship. Mykonos is beautifully bright but filled with tourists when the big cruise ships are in port. I’m sure it’s a love/hate relationship the locals have with them.
I don’t have much to say about Corfu, Greece. We rented a car with one of our favorite couples and had enjoyed a beach day in this little heaven of a cove.
Split, Croatia was our last stop before heading to our end port in Venice. We almost decided not to get off the boat here as exhaustion had caught up with us but decided to forego seeing more ruins at Olympia instead and I’m so glad we were able to see Split. It surprised me in so many ways. I would love to go back and explore the natural beauty here. Hubby and I would have loved to gone canyoning or kayaking here but just didn’t have the time in port to travel very far.
Friday will be my last post on our trip! I’m excited to show you some pictures of the hubby and I captured by a few talented photographers and a few that I took as part of the Orchestrated shoot in Venice!
I’ve been debating how to share these images from our cruise to Italy, Greece and Croatia. I have so many that even I am overwhelmed. So I’m splitting them into 3 posts and I still think I might overwhelm a few. But we had such a fantastic time. We missed our boys fiercely but I’m so glad we took the time for ourselves and had the boys well taken care of by family.
We flew into Rome a few days before our ship left. What I remember most about Rome was the church bells. You could almost get lost walking though the small lanes in search of the bells echoing off the walls. I fell in love with cappuccinos in Rome and had my first taste of gelato. We walked everywhere we could. One morning walking out of our hotel room at 9am to explore the city we were greeted by absolutely no one. Sleepy Rome it seems enjoys their nights and their mornings even more. There were only a few people throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain. We walked to one of the Piazzas and watched the Farmers market come alive while we started and finished our American omelet as the only patron’s in the restaurant.
Cinque Terre was one of my absolute favorite places. Our day visit was way too short to see these cliffside villages. Last year they were devastated by mudslides but seem to be well back on their feet. The wine growers have built terraces on the hillsides for the grapes to grow. They use a roller coaster looking machine to bring them up the hillside to harvest. Having grown up near the wineries in California this was so intriguing to watch. The villages can be reached by train, boat or trail depending on which village you are trying to get to. The Lover’s Lane was another highlight. When they built the lane, it allowed for courting between villages. Young lovers would lock their love on the trail.
A private tour brought us to the Amalfi Coast with friends. We spent the day driving along the coast, shopping and chatting. We talked about how the Amalfi coast reminded us of the Pacific Highway in California. Except imagine lanes half the size with big tour buses coming through. I was very thankful we had a hired driver. We had a quick stop in Pompeii before heading back to the ship.
I’m skipping ahead of Greece to our return stop in Venice. We decided to stay a few extra days in Venice to relax and explore. Venice took a few days to open up to. Our first experience off the cruise ship was St. Mark’s Square. Surrounded by crammed tourists at every turn it was hard to appreciate the beauty that was Venice. Our hotel thankfully was outside the main tourist areas in the park at the fish tail. We enjoyed walking and getting lost among the bridges and canals. We never had a plan and our only decision was usually to go left or right. One of the most beautiful memories I have of Venice is seeing a gold and red adorned gondola floating under the bridge we were about to cross over. We stopped for a minute to watch a bride and her mother/grandmother arrive at the church for her wedding. As soon as she stepped out of the gondola the church bells went crazy. We could still hear them about 5 minutes later as we walked out of the area and decided on a restaurant for lunch.
We spent one afternoon island hopping to Burano, known for their brightly colored houses and handmade lace. We also stopped by Murano, known for their beautiful handblown glass before heading back to Venice for more exploring.
If you are enjoying these travel images I will have another post on Wednesday to highlight our time in Greece and Croatia! Santorini was absolutely breathtaking!
With the weather turning cold I thought I would bring back the beach weather and share a few sessions I had yet to blog over the summer. Looking back at this family session reminds me of their zest for life. An infectious energy that the bring with them. A session where you return home and can’t stop smiling.
The USS Enterprise returned home this past weekend and this lucky lady was one of the first to greet her husband in the 1st wave of homecomings. After two extensions and a hurricane delay it was an emotional sight to see the ear to ear grin on her face. Thank you for your service and sacrifice and WELCOME HOME!!!
Are you brimming with eggplant like we are this fall? We started our CSA (community supported agriculture) with New Earth Farm a few weeks ago and I’m so excited to start cooking with some new and local produce. I thought it might be fun to start sharing a few recipes that I come across using our local Virginia produce. Hubby picked this recipe out for a few of the eggplant and I began tweaking it.
Roasted Garlic Eggplant and Feta Dip (original recipe found here)
2-3 smaller variety eggplants (or 1 medium eggplant)
1 head of roasted garlic
2 T lemon juice
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c feta cheese
1/2 c chopped onion
1 small bell pepper chopped
1 jalepeno pepper seeded and minced
2 T fresh basil
1 T chopped parsley
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 T honey or to taste
To roast the head of garlic, begin peeling the outer shell while keeping the individual cloves still intake as a whole. Cut off the tips of the cloves and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in tin foil and bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until the cloves are easily squeezed out of their shell.
To roast eggplant poke a few holes into the eggplant and place on baking sheet lined with tin foil. Broil the eggplant turning often. Smaller eggplant will take about 10-12 minutes to broil. Increase the time for thicker eggplant. Like the original recipe says, skin will be charred and a fork easily inserted at the top of the eggplant near the stem when it is ready. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes to touch.
Cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the flesh. Add lemon juice to flesh. Add oil and stir. Add remaining ingredients including the roasted garlic cloves and stir. Serve warm with pita chips.
Spicy Roasted Eggplant
Tomato sliced thin
Extra virgin olive oil
Red Pepper Flakes
The upper right picture is the roasted spicy eggplant that I came up with. It makes for a super easy lunch. Cut eggplant into thin 1/4″ slices. Top with thin slices of tomato. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Top with italian parsley and roast on baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes or until done.
Hope you enjoy!