Category Archives: Family Adventures

How Motherhood Changed Me …

Click through the image below to see my story on how motherhood has changed me … Told using Adobe Slate.


Shells & Alice Walker


Yesterday afternoon we were wandering along the shoreline, playing in the surf and happening upon gorgeous shells that were strewn along the shore.  Gorgeous shells just cast about like little gems.  No matter how many times I visit this part of the Gulf Coast – Marco Island and Sanibel Island – I’m always amazed by the shells.  Amazed someone has not already scooped them all up and hauled them away.  Surprised that there are always more.   And thrilled by all of the beauty that you will just stumble upon.


As I woke up this morning and reflected on our experiences yesterday, I was reminded of this poem I love – on what we love and value.   Its a perfectly timed reminder to be present and elevate and focus on what really matters.  Thanks, Ms. Walker.


We Alone Can Devalue Gold – by Alice Walker

We alone can devalue gold

by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.

Feathers, shells
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.

This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
what’s scarce.

Wonder! Stunning Exhibit at Renwick

We were in DC a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our oldest daughter’s 21st birthday.  I was excited to fit in a visit to the Renwick Gallery to see their exhibit – Wonder!   I love that  the exhibits were large and immersive – experiences that you could take in with all of your senses.  In the exhibit they basically turned over the museum space to nine contemporary artists, who filled the space with large, immersive and stunning exhibits.    The boys and I had a great time exploring the museum.  Highly recommend!

Check out this link to take a virtual tour of the exhibit.  It’s absolutely worth a visit the next time you are in the DC area.

Wonder! at the Renwick Gallery     The building itself is gorgeous!


A few of our favorite images from the exhibit.

from the Patrick Dougherty exhibit


from the Gabriel Dawe exhibit



from the Tara Donovan exhibit



from the John Grade exhibit



from the Janet Echelman exhibit


from the Jennifer Angus exhibit



from the Chakaia Booker exhibit


from the Maya Lin exhibit




Christmas Decorations – Maker Style

The boys and I headed down to 757 Makerspace today after a little bit of a hiatus.  Great to be back and such a fun afternoon!

We got to use silicone molds to cast some snowflake ornaments, the customize some glass ornaments with the laser cutter.  Creative, hands-on afternoon and some really original ornaments to bring home.  Justin said we should plan to make a custom ornament every year.  Great idea!!

Here are a few pics.

We worked with the liquid plastics last year when we were first introduced to mold-making.  Last year we made this cool storm trooper using the same technique.


This year Beau had snowflake molds already made up and ready to go.


Both times we used Smooth-Case liquid plastics, mixing two part solutions that you pour into the mold, wait for it to cure, and voila!  (provided your measurements were solid) 🙂

Most times we have tried it it worked great.  Today one of my my snowflakes flopped, but we quickly mixed up another one.



While the casts were curing, a small group of us headed over to the laser cutter.  We were able to design the images and text that we wanted on our ornament, then watch as the laser cutter did its magic.


Pretty amazing that the laser cutter can hold and laser cut so many different substances – even wood, stone, and in our case glass.


Always lots of great creative energy around Makerspace – and today was no exception.  🙂




Shop Small Saturday 2015

After staying home to relax on Black Friday, I am ready to get a little holiday shopping done on Small Business Saturday.  Hope you will be supporting your local small businesses today!  We are always sad to go visit a local shop that is shuttered – and we always talk with the kids about how important it is to visit and support the shops we like so they can stay in business and grow.  So lets celebrate the great local shops and businesses that make the area so unique.  FinalLoveVA_colorlogo_lge

So here’s my Saturday roundup of local faves, many repeats that are on the list every year and one or two newbies:

Gift the Give of an EXPERIENCE:  Love the idea of giving our friends and family experiences that will make memories.  Our favorite place for terrific family adventures in 2015 has been …

757 Makerspace – it’s a community workshop for creating and tinkering, with a huge array of tools and equipment and wonderful hands-on classes each Saturday.  We joined last winter and its been awesome.  Try it out this year – for just $100 you can get 12 day passes to create at makerspace.  They if you love it half as much as we half, you can join once you have used your passes up.   Here’s a link to my blog to check out some of what we have done with them.  My Maker Movement at 757 blog

Music: must visit Birdland Music!  They always have a terrific curated selection of up and coming artists, and I never leave without Barry recommending someone I have never heard of and always love.  And of course they have new and used vinyl so always an adventure to see what you will find.  Birdland Website

Books: And speaking of well curated collections – I always so happy to know that Prince Books has thrived while so many indie bookstores have gone out of business across the country.  But that only occurs because we shop there – so do.  You will love their selections, and the booksellers always have great reading recommendations.Prince Books website

Coffee:  New Entry this year!  You must visit Three Ships Coffee Roaster.  I am thrilled that my former colleague and his wife, Brad & Amy Ewing, have launched this roaster and coffee shop with so much character.  The coffees are always fantastic, and I just love the atmosphere of the place.  Who doesn’t love great coffee – gift some this holiday season!  Three Ships Coffee Website

Gifts & Crafts & Pottery: Every time I visit the Creative Wedge its like a different shop – so many new items.  They call it an ‘artisan shop’ – which is perfect because they have such an assortment of hand crafted things that I would have trouble describing it otherwise.  From pottery to artistically decorated glasses, and artwork to jewelry.   Love it!!    And if you are in Norfolk, don’t forget to visit Kitsch – fun assortment of crafts that make terrific and fun gifts.   Creative Wedge and Kitsch

Food: We adore all of the infused oils and flavored balsamics from Experience Olives and Grapes in Chesapeake.  One of our all time favorites is the Tuscan Herb infused olive oil.  The balsamics are so good you can sip them straight … I’m sort of partial to the sweet ones like Cinnamon Pear or the Honey Ginger balsamics!  Yum!!  check them out here: Experience Olives

Hope you find gifts that are fun, meaningful and make wonderful memories!


Arizona Adventures

What a wonderful little escape to the Southwest!  I had to be in Scottsdale for a conference, andBryce and the boys came along for a little Arizona adventure.  I know how much Bryce loves the southwest from his time at NMMI, and was really glad to get the boys experience a completely different landscape.   I left AZ today grateful for the adventure, but also feeling like I hadn’t done justice to everything that Phoenix and Scottsdale had to offer.  So many more things I would love to explore.  But I suppose that’s just a great reason to return.  Normally this post would be full of gorgeous images … but with my camera inadvertently left at home, I will leave some of this to your imagination.

The Landscape

the landscape was dramatic and gorgeous, and a complete change from autumn on the east coast.  the property was nestled at the foot of Mummy Mountain, looking out toward Camelback Mountain straight ahead.  The wide open spaces make the sky seem so much larger.  And the dramatic shape of the rock formations against that sky were just so beautiful in an exotic and unusual way.


Photo Credit: JW Marriott Camelback Inn

The cactus formations were fun … somehow more than I remember in prior years.  So many quirky and interesting cactus formations.  Sort of like a Rorschach ink blot test … what do you see when you see this cactus?? 🙂

photo 4-1



All around the city there were gorgeous bright desert flowers and bushes dotting the landscape.  Bright fuchsias and oranges – just gorgeous!  I wish I knew their names, will need to look them up next time.


The Property

We stayed at the Camelback Inn, which I love and was glad to return to.  Lots of things to love about the property – but I think my favorite is the way they really value and spotlight the landscape.  The property dates back to the 1930s and has so much character.  The main building has the feeling of a luxurious lodge – is open and spacious, with lots of character: wood beams and carvings,  beautiful Native American artwork.  The rooms are little ‘casitas’ scattered across the property, with beautiful walkways weaving from place to place.

The walking paths around the property wind through the neighborhoods of casitas, surrounded by the beautiful plants and flowers of the desert.  I loved the windings paths … sort of a walking meditation to meander around, not the efficient straight lines we are all accustomed to in the city.  The boys and I  enjoyed some great rides – about an 8 mile hilly circuit up and around Mummy Mountain.  Josh was riding fast and loving git!  For Justin, it was the toughest ride he had ever done – but he loved the adventure, and was ready to go again on the next couple days.



The Art

I love cites that really embrace art and find ways to design it into their urban spaces.  Phoenix and Scottsdale do that so well- tucking little touches of art and beauty all around the city!  From the sculptures that we saw all around the city, to the Phoenix mural project, the western charm of old town Scottsdale, and even artistic touches along streets and highways.

We visited the Heard Museum and spent so much time exploring their Mercado Del Las Artes that we hardly saw the museum at all!   We also missed the Museum of the West so that’s definitely on the return trip itinerary.    So much history to explore that I am sorry we missed it this trip.





The Hospitality

Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport declared itself the Friendliest Airport – and we agree!  I cannot say enough about the phenomenal service we received.


Just one of several examples:  an airport employee headed to a meeting (not someone we would typically think of as customer-facing), dropped what she was doing for not less than 10 minutes to find us a wheelchair for Bryce and guide us through the very long construction walkway twists and turns to the proper terminal, not leaving us until we were in the hands of a ticketing agent.  She was friendly and cheerful and helpful –  and didn’t think twice about changing her plans of the moment to make sure that we had a great experience.  And the same was true for almost all of our encounters this trip.

Excited to get back to the Southwest next year sometime with the family for a more extended visit.  (with my camera this time!)

Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze

I’m a sucker for good old-fashioned, electronics-free fun!  So what could be better than an afternoon at a local farm

  • exploring the pumpkin patches,
  • getting lost in the corn maze,
  • wandering through the field of sunflowers,
  • taking a hay ride on the tractor around the farm
  • eating apple cider donuts, and
  • watching the kids come up with simple and silly games involving hay bales and dried ears of corn.

Triple the fun by visiting your local farm with a couple other families because the more the merrier!  (Plus –  I wouldn’t dare venture into a corn maze alone … bit of a scaredy cat!) 🙂

Here are a few pics from our weekend adventure at Cullipher Farms here in Virginia Beach.

Best buddies on the top of the world – making it rain corn!
love the dots of orange all across the pumpkin patch
they made a track out of hay bales – which they were our size
they even had a sunflower maze!
one of the sites from our hayride
added bonus – got to spend a beautiful fall afternoon with a couple of my favorite gals!

Tackling Sugar Pumpkins

They look so darn cute, that for years I just bought them as decorations.   Somehow I think some of you might have done the same??  But this year I decided to try to roast them and use fresh pumpkin instead of canned for our pumpkin bread.  And as a little bonus, we made some toasted pumpkin seeds to boot!  So I recruited Justin to help me.

Now I will admit – the skin of these little sugar pumpkins were stubborn!  But once we got past the first step, it was easy sailing.  And I’m excited to see how my pumpkin bread recipe will be different from fresh pumpkin – fingers crossed on that.


Our first sugar pumpkin – from Farm Chicks Produce CSA.


Justin was ready to help remove the stem and cut the pumpkin in half … til we realized that it seemed to be made of titanium and would require a little more elbow grease than he had.


So first we removed the step and top section of the pumkin


Then we cut it in half and scoped the seeds and fleshy center into a bowl – for toasted pumpkin seeds later.  Definitely save the seeds!


We placed in a 350 degree oven, covered in foil, and roasted for about an hour.  Depends on the size of your pumpkin.  You know its ready when the pumpkin flesh can be scooped with a spoon or fork.  (the instructions I used online said the skin would be very soft now – mine was not, but the pumpkin was still soft and ready.)


Ta-da!  Freshly roasted sugar pumpkin.  You can then use it in recipes … pumpkin bread for breakfast tomorrow.

Now for a little bonus, we whipped up the toasted pumpkin seeds.  Justin made these – though he thought it was pretty gross to have to separate the seeds from the stringy pulp in the center.  I think he washed his hands 10 times during this part 🙂  All you do is:

(1) separate the seeds from the stringy, fleshy center

(2) rinse in a colander and drip dry (don’t use a paper towel – the seeds will stick)

(3) place the seeds on a greased cookie sheet and toss with olive oil and spices (we did garlic olive oil and several herbs … so many possibilities.)

(4) bake in the same oven as the pumpkin you are roasting, but only for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

(5) yum!

Gorgeous Sand Sculptures

Sand sculptors from around the world are competing in the Neptune Intl Sand Sculpting Championship.  They are creative, complex and amazing in any medium, but this is SAND.  Heck, I can’t even get a basic tower out of a sand bucket intact so these are fantastic accomplishments.

Josh and I headed down to the oceanfront yesterday afternoon to check them out.  The weather isn’t great this weekend so hope plenty make it down in spite of the weather.  All is safe and dry under the tents.

Here are a few of our favorites.

ETC Indie Music & Art Festival

I love that we have so many terrific festivals here in Hampton Roads in fall.  Although the temps today felt more like a return to summer … but still.  The boys and I headed down to the waterside at Towne Point Park today for the ETC Indie Music & Arts Festival.  We have had a great time the last couple years!

I adore that we we have such a gorgeous waterfront venue – green space, water views, multiple stages, and wonderfully thought out seating areas to make it feel more like outdoor living space.  It’s colorful and inviting and I always love spending time there.  Today was no exception.

We caught music from some great bands – The Dahus, KOA, and local singer-songwriter Skye Zentz.  The music was terrific, the crowd was having fun.  I only wish more people realized what a great scene and festival it was … there was plenty of room for more people.  Hopefully the turnout will be good this evening for the featured band – The Mowglis.  Sorry to miss them but schedules just weren’t going to work for that.


We LOVED the game area that they setup for the festival.  Justin settled in and went from being ready to leave quickly to having a great time and not being in any hurry to leave.    Ping pong, giant Jenga set, foosball, checkers.  Classic games that had kids meeting and playing with other kids, challenging their parents, and basically just hanging out.  My kind of setting!   And there were some great artists too – found a piece of pallet art that I loved and brought home … nice Welcome sign for our entryway.

3N2A1446 3N2A1440 3N2A1427 3N2A1417 3N2A1413 3N2A1390 3N2A1388

And the sky was AMAZING – gorgeous blue with cloud formations sprinkled across the sky.  We sat along the deck and had lunch, watching the sailboats and enjoying the beautiful view.

3N2A1409 3N2A1403 3N2A1399

Kudos on a great job with this festival!  Our family had a great time and it will definitely be back on the calendar next year.

Flip the Classroom!

Open House … we enter the 7th grade hallway into Justin’s next class.  Balance balls,  talking about a student-centered classroom, online video and quick assessment at home, individualized guidance and instruction in class.  Wow – a whirlwind of new information and concepts!  Welcome to 7th grade math for Justin this year  at Landstown Middle where his teacher is Flipping the Classroom.  I was SO intrigued that after hearing about the approach I came home and did a little research.  I’m excited to see how it goes this year.

The question – how can our teachers get kids more engaged in learning, and individualize their teaching more than in the normal lecture style.  Not sure about your kiddo, but our youngest can definitely zone out in a lecture where he is just taking notes.  The Flipped Learning concept tries to change that – flips introductory learning to online videos and quick assessments to see what kids understood/retained, the the work to apply the concepts (what was HW before) is done in the classroom, with individualized attention based on their prep work the evening before.    And since our kids’ generation is so comfortable with online content, so the instructional videos may work out.  And we can watch them together so that we can see how the concept was taught and help them if needed.

I love the little graphic below:  teacher goes from Sage on the Stage … to Guide on the Side, coming alongside the kids to reinforce the concepts and help them apply it.


Our kids grew up in Montessori settings through about second grade before they went to mainstream schools, and that individualized approach is what we have missed at times.   And I especially like the idea of elevating the level of activity and engagement while the kids are in class vs passively listening or taking notes.

Not sure how many teachers are trying this at LMS, but excited to be a part of it!

So here’s how it works:

  1. Teachers create/post instructional video content on a secure teaching site (we are using Edmodo)
  2. Kids have a short homework segment – 15 to 30 minutes to watch the video that may introduce a concept, then take a quick assessment to help the teacher gauge their level of understanding.  (what would have been taught in class in the traditional classroom)
  3. In class, the teacher can then individualize the instruction to the students – meet them where they’re at.  (what would have been homework in the traditional classroom.)

I will try to post updates periodically on how the ‘flipped classroom’ is working out for us.  Would love to hear from anyone else who has experienced a Flipped Classroom.  Fingers crossed!

Love that our middle school is trying out these innovations in learning!!  Go Landstown Middle School!! 

Sulley – Adoption Love

Our house is pretty head over heels over Sulley, the adorable dog that we adopted from K-9 Justice League this past winter.  We are just so grateful for this loving, sweet and gentle dog.  He fits our family like a glove.  Hard to see this frisky, happy dog now and recognize any shred of the neglect that was a part of his life before he was rescued. I’m glad his days are brighter now – ours are too!

Sharing a few pics from a recent romp in the yard with our oldest son and Sulley’s best buddy.   Please consider adopting instead of shopping.  There’s a dog out there whose life you can turn around if you do.

Love this shot. Best buddies
Love this shot. Best buddies
Sulley Valentine
Sulley Valentine
The presidential pose - Josh & Sulley are the best ticket!
The presidential pose – Josh & Sulley are the best ticket!