Merry Christmas from Florida

Spending Christmas in Florida is fun!  This is the first time my husband and I have been somewhere warm over the holidays.  After savoring a home cooked turkey dinner, we headed out to the hot tub and pool and got a little silly.  We talked about past snow skiing trips while enjoying the warm weather.

Not looking so happy here…

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Really happy here…

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The best Mother’s Day Gift

I had the best gift for Mother’s Day…time with my son!  My husband took us to see a movie of my choice…The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Not their cup of tea, but hey…it’s Mother’s Day and they always let me rule the day!  Then we went to the mall shopping for my son’s girlfriend’s birthday gift from me and had a delicious meal at the Cheesecake Factory.  I had the Shrimp Scampi with Steak Diane…sooo yummy!  When my husband asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day, I said “To spend time with you and Justin”!  All of our parents have passed away, so we have a small family now and I’m grateful for them.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

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Starr Family Photos

I had such a good time with my son’s girlfriend’s family today!  They haven’t had family photos taken in years, of all of them, and with Baby Zachary’s arrival a few months ago and little Colin growing up so fast, it was time.  For this photo, I told them to “Strike a pose” and I love how everyone looks so natural!

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Here’s my son and his girlfriend–Ashley.  She may look short here…but actually she’s 5’9″ tall…he’s a whopping 6’8″ tall!

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Fun Family Photography Shoot

Yesterday I had the pleasure of photographing a fun family!  As you can see from the photographs…they have a ton of personality.  I am friends with the parents.

After meeting at my house…I took this shot in my yard…

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We had less than 1 1/2 hours to complete the photo shoot, so I was walking fast!  Next we drove to the nature center near my home and the next three were taken there.

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70 is the new 60!

We’ve all heard that expression, 50 is the new 40, 40 is the new 30, etc., well my Aunt Colleen shows that 70 can be the new 60!  I attended her birthday party Saturday evening and my present to her was an enlarged photo of a small scanned photo of my late mother when she was in her 20’s.  When my mother passed away a couple of years ago, I remember my Aunt expressing an interest in this particular photo.  I asked that she open my gift first because I had another party to go to.  This photo is a little blurry, but there wasn’t another one of us.  I know it touched her because I took a couple of photos of her while she was opening it and it looked like she was going to cry.  Anyway, the party was so much fun.  It was held at my Cousin’s friend’s house, which was amazing and I’ll post photos of the house tomorrow.

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This is my Cousin’s wife Courtne with two of their children and my other Cousin’s daughter…

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Kissin’ Cousins

On Father’s Day this year, I visited my cousin and saw her new farmhouse in Batavia, Ohio (near Cincinnati).  She’s so much fun, is very upbeat and family is important to her!  She’s kissing her new kitten…Beau!  After discovering some mice, Ursula decided to make Beau a new part of the family.

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This cutey pie is another cousin…Domenic!  He’s part Italian and going to be a senior in High School this year.

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Spend a day at Caesar Creek

Caesar Creek State Park in Waynesville, Ohio has it all…boating, camping, hiking and fishing!  I’ve been visiting Caesar Creek for over 20 years now and took advantage of the beautiful day on Saturday to take our boat out for a few hours with my husband, son and his girlfriend…Ashley.

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My son confiscated my sunglasses!  I think they look artsy on him!  Ignore his tattoo…he got it when he was 18 years old and doesn’t like it now.  He’s thinking of getting something put around it to change the look of it.

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Fun with Bubbles

Blowing bubbles is not a children only activity!  After my fun afternoon at the Harmony Hill Vineyard, I went to my friend Kathy’s sister’s house that was only a few miles away.  It was a family gathering and they were celebrating the birthday of one of their children.

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Easter Day

My Easter Day today was great!  My son and his beautiful girlfriend (pictured below) spent the night and after a leisurely morning with coffee and internet time, I prepared some mushroom omelets and toast for breakfast.  He’s really tall–like 6’9″–so he makes her look shorter than she is.  We attended a new church today that’s very near our house and it was quite interesting.  To give you some background.  Although my family didn’t attend church,  I attended church with a girlfriend when I was 12.  And through the years have gone to a variety of churches…all different denominations…Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of God, Methodist, Catholic, Jewish, etc.  I have my own personal beliefs, as everyone does.  Anyway, the preacher at this particular church was quite loud and full of spirit.  He was so loud on the microphone that I had to plug my ears with my fingers throughout much of the sermon (but I could still hear him).  He would start off at a somewhat normal pitch and within a few sentences of each point would be almost screaming.  He said that he knows that hell is real because on YouTube he saw a video showing a team of scientists drilling into the core of the earth and their drill bit began to wobble after they were deep into the ground.  There are only two reasons a drill bit wobbles…either it is bent or you’ve reached an area without any matter…such as a cavern.  They placed a microphone down into the hole and heard human voices screaming.  Don’t get me wrong…I’m not poking fun at religion…merely repeating what I heard this morning.  Enough about that.

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Weekly Photo Challenge — My 2012 in Pictures

2012 was a year of discovery and fun!

I participated in lots of activities…

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Pinterest inspired me to make over 125 new recipes!  My husband gained a few pounds.

And…I made homemade Febreeze, carpet stain remover, deodorant, In a Pickle Bag, scarves made from t-shirts, and these beautiful Easter centerpieces…

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I attended lots of fun festivals, farmers’ markets, parties, and concerts!

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I was a tourist in my own hometown of Cincinnati and the surrounding areas…

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And–had so much fun seeing familiar places with new eyes through the lens of my camera!

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In May/June, I camped for 26 nights of the 40 nights I spent touring seven AMAZING countries in Africa.  You can read the first post here!

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Met unforgettable people and had once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

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Strangers opened their homes to me in South Africa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida–through an organization called Couchsurfing!

It is an amazing way to meet new people, make travel affordable, and get tips from locals on what to see and do!

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My six week-4,200 mile-USA road-trip through North & South Carolina, Georgia and Florida was an adventure!  I left in late October and returned home in December.

I so enjoyed walking through all of the cities I visited!

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There is so much beauty in the USA!

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Florida was too pretty for words!!

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I took a wine painting class with girlfriends, went to Columbus, Ohio for a girls’ weekend, and had girlfriends visit me in Florida!

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Last…but most importantly…had quality time with family!  I thank my husband for being a good sport concerning my passion for travel!

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My cousins and I had fun taking photos with Santa!!

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I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve such a rich life…but I’m truly grateful and if 2013 is as good or better than 2012…then all I have to say is…”LIFE IS GOODGREAT IN YOUR 50’s”!

Christmas Celebrations…a time for Friends, Family and Gratitude

I’m sure most of you have multiple Christmas celebrations…with all of the divorced families and grown children splitting their time between families.  I enjoy being able to have lots of opportunities for spending time with family and friends!  My first celebration was with my son and his girlfriend last weekend.  He is spending Christmas with his father, step-mother and sister in Texas.  He was excited about seeing his 14-year-old half-sister and I’m so happy that he’s happy!

I received a really special gift from him this year…one of my favorite photographs that I took in Namibia, Africa…framed!

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Friday night we spent a wonderful evening with my long-time girlfriend from middle school and her husband.  She prepared a delicious fish entrée and then we had game night…a couple games of pool and Wii bowling.  Downstairs was decorated for a party their teenage daughter was having the following night.

The photo on the top right is after we arrived home…Randy bringing wood in for the wood burning stove.  That’s how we heat the house in the winter!

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Saturday night we had lots of fun at a friend’s (more like family) house, along with my brother, his wife, and my niece and nephew.  Lynne…the hostess had decorated the table so festively…

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We had a different wine with each course…

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After the gift giving and white elephant…we sang songs…mostly Christmas songs using a Karaoke machine that hooks up to your I-pad, that Lynne received as a gift.

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I was a bit obnoxious with my camera…snapping photos throughout the evening.  But, hey…that’s my thing!

My husband was a bit melancholy because all of our parents have passed away.  It can be a difficult time for people…but I read an interesting article recently that helps people control and redirect their thoughts.  Basically…imagine there is a computer in your head along with a trash bin that you can drag negative thoughts into.  I’m usually quite optimistic, so I don’t need to utilize the technique extensively, but it’s amazingly effective.

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Christmas day we’ll go my cousin’s in the afternoon and then to the neighbors’!  We’re blessed to have such good friends and family!!

 

Family Fun

Friday night we went out with my son and his girlfriend (pictured below).  Originally we were going to go out to dinner and then to a haunted theme park, but it was raining, so we had dinner and then went bowling.  I haven’t bowled in a few years…it was fun!  We went to a place in Franklin, Ohio called J.D. Legends.  It was our first time there.  They also have outdoor sand volleyball, concerts, a bar and restaurant.  Sometimes it can be a challenge to find something to do (that everyone wants to do) with an adult child!

If he looks tall compared to her…he is.  He’s 6’9″ tall and I’m guessing she’s about 5’4″!

I tried to get a few “artsy” pics…

Don’t most bowling alleys have dusty disco balls?

Posing for the camera!  I’m such a ham.  At least I admit it!

I’ve never taken photos of people bowling, so it was fun to see everyone’s style (or lack of — on certain throws).  Randy looks like he’s going to fall here…

Justin has a long way to get down…

Ashley beat us the first game.  One of the cool things this facility has is the ability to display how fast you are throwing the ball.  I was the slowest…usually clocking in around 13 mph, then Justin and Ashley around 15-16 mph and Randy around 17 mph.  Randy’s fastest ball was over 20 mph.

Randy said I looked like “Tinkerbell” walking down the lane and releasing the ball.  But, I got the most strikes in a game!

Although we have a small family, all of our parents are deceased, and we rarely see our siblings, I’m grateful we have each other!

My Old Kentucky Home

Had a great weekend!  Went 4-wheeling/gun shootin/fishin and of course photographing in Kentucky at my husband’s cousin’s cabin.  My son and his girlfriend joined us and we brought our dog “Jake” for the first time on a car trip longer than 30 minutes.  It was a 3 hour trip and he panted the entire way there.  Next time I think we need some doggie downers!  He had such a good time exploring the property and tracking all of the smells…the ride was worth it!

Here’s some of the land surrounding the cabin…

After unpacking the vehicles…I made sandwiches for them and had a huge salad for myself.  They snacked on organic cheeries/grapes/strawberries/blackberries and celery/carrots/apple with hummus.  I tried a trick with the apple that I found on Pinterest…cut the apple and put a rubber band around it so it won’t brown.

Then…it was time for the 4-wheelin fun!  We used to own 4-wheelers but sold them about 10 years ago…so it was a treat to get to ride again.  Here’s my son and his girlfriend looking like “The Terminator”…

After taking a quick ride, my husband and I went for a hike.  We walked in the glorious sunshine and stopped occasionally for me to take some photos…

We came up through the woods to find our way back to the cabin…

Then it was time for more photo fun…

I like it when people aren’t afraid of looking silly!

The porch had a lovely view of the fishing pond and was a great place to kick back!

This was calling my name….”take my picture—please”!

We did lots of target shooting!

A different perspective.

I brought along the ingredients for Se-mores…but I was good and only had a chocolate bar!  The next morning the lighting was different so I took this photo of the cabin…

We went fishing and I caught one.  This photo is of my son taken from the cabin with my zoom lens…

Jake wanted to ride in my lap for a few minutes on the drive home…

It was a wonderful weekend and we’re blessed to have our family and such a wonderful place to visit!  I hope you had  a great one too!

Peace in the Face of Death

As each day goes by, my mother approaches her impending death from Stage IV cancer…with acceptance.  We talk about death and what both of us envision after life will be like.  Although she has rarely gone to Church, she believes in God and Jesus and hopes that she will be with relatives that have already departed.  Her life has been difficult, having grown up very poor, one of eleven children, and having gone through most of life’s greatest stresses…divorce, the chronic illness and death of her second husband and most of her siblings and parents, and many more of life’s disappointments.

I think about what it will be like once she’s gone, when I forget and want to call her on the telephone and realize…she won’t answer.  Grinning, she says, “Once I’m gone, if you feel fingertips brushing your arm, it will be me”.  You see, she’s been the type of mother that would do anything in her power to protect her children, blurring the line between motherly nurturing and co dependence.

She tells me the same story every week of when I was little and looked up from my stroller and said, “Me push Mommy, let me push”, and of how independent I was, even then.

I am proud of the grace that she is showing during this process and realize I am my mother’s daughter.

TED Talk…achieving work/life balance

I’ve been a fan of TED talks for a while now. The topics are varied and given by a diverse group of individuals…from Elizabeth Gilbert (author, Eat, Pray, Love) to Bill Gates. This particular talk is given by Nigel Marsh, the author of Fat, Forty and Fired, and discusses the difficulties of achieving work/life balance. In summary, he thinks that it’s the small things we do that can make the biggest difference.