Return from the West

Posted: under Hiking, Photography, Travel, Traveling with children.
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Utah landscape


The lush green trees of Savannah were a welcome, familiar sight to our family as our plane landed at the Savannah airport.  We had returned from our grand tour of the west, and it had been a great success.



In nine days our family of eleven visited seven parks, most of us hiked more than seventy miles, and we traveled in our rented passenger van 1650 miles through breath-taking and awe-inspiring landscapes.  It was a trip we had dreamed about for years and years.  It was a trip we had procrastinated for years, too.  There was always a good reason for delaying it, but we felt like this was the year to tackle it.  Even though our youngest children may remember little of the trip, our oldest son is almost twenty.  Already he is making plans and interviewing for internships that will prevent him from returning to our home next year during his summer break. We needed to make this trip a priority before any of our baby birds left the nest.

My "big boy"

My "baby girl"









My husband took care of the logistics.  He made the itinerary, planned the route,  and made reservations.  He felt like every other family vacation was just practice for “the big one”.  He executed his plans flawlessly.

We flew to Las Vegas, rented a fifteen-passenger van, and visited the following parks:

Zion National Park












Bryce National Park










Capital Reef National Park










Arches National Park













Canyonlands National Park










Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park










Grand Canyon National Park






















In order to facilitate hiking with the older children, we brought with us a homeschool graduate to babysit the youngest children a few hours each day.  While it may seem unfair that the little ones missed the morning hikes, they really did not mind.  Remember, my children have been raised without television, so the opportunity to stay in a hotel room and watch cartoons is a BIG DEAL to them.


Hiking with the big kids

Outings with the little ones

Easy hikes together

Enjoying the view









With some variation, our daily schedule followed this routine:

1. Older children, husband, and I rise early for a strenuous hike.  We might be at the trailhead as early as 6 a.m. and hike as far as 12 miles.  The little ones sleep in, eat breakfast at the hotel, and watch cartoons with the babysitter.

2.  We return from our hike around lunch time and eat peanut butter and nutella sandwiches with everyone together.

3.  We load everyone into the car and do a “driving tour” of the park we are currently visiting, or drive on to the next park.  Our driving tours involve getting out at points of interest in each park and taking short hikes with all of the children. Most of these hikes were easy to moderate, with distances between 1 – 3 miles.

4.  We eat supper at a restaurant.  We never eat fast food.  Our supper time is an important time as we review our memories of the day and discuss our plans for the next.

5.  We return to our rooms, just in time to put tired little bodies to bed.

My husband’s plans were well-organized, but not rigid.  We had the flexibility to add to his plan a trip through Monument Valley and a tour of the Hoover Dam.  He referred to numerous guidebooks as he planned our route, but they could not substitute for a trip to the visitor’s center to speak with a park ranger about trail conditions and recommendations.  (Park Rangers are a resource that must not be overlooked! And besides, I think they are among the nicest people on earth.)

The Three Gossips - Arches NP












To say that the rugged landscape is “vast” is an understatement.  It is really hard to describe what we encountered without overusing words such as “awesome”, “amazing”, and “splendid”.  We did take more than 1200 photographs and I hope share some of these with you, that you, too, may marvel at the mighty workings of the Lord.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.  Psalm 65:8 ESV

Sand Dune Arch

Comments (1) May 31 2011

Lesson from the Depths: Roatan

Posted: under Photography, Scuba diving, Travel, Underwater photography.
Tags: , ,

Checking the flash

The downturn in the American economy is devasting to communities that depend on American tourists for their livelihood.  I saw these economics in action when I traveled to Roatan, Honduras, two years ago to go scuba diving.   Because my husband and I were traveling with a teenager and a nursing baby,  we chose a dive resort that welcomed families.




There were only three other divers staying at our resort the entire week -two women and a man from Hawaii.  They were technical divers, a joyless bunch.  They bickered and quarreled continuously  each afternoon as they made plans for the next morning’s dive. As a recreational diver, I am limited to depths less than 100 feet.  These divers went well below 200 hundred feet!  They used re-breathers, carried extra air tanks, and had all sorts of redundant equipment for emergency back-up.  I suppose they had their reasons for seeking such depths, but I found the photographs of barrel sponges they took at 260 feet to look remarkably like the sponges I photographed at 60 feet.




Spotted drum


Tiny shrimp








One of the advantages to the light season was that for most of the week, my husband and I had the dive master to ourselves!  On one afternoon we did have to share him with a group of business men who were taking a diving excursion from a cruise ship.  They were an amusing bunch.  Their equipment was sparkly and new.  When they squeezed into their wet suits they looked like well-fed pythons.


Some dive masters treat scuba diving as just a job.  They seem interested in just getting you down safely, leading you along a planned route, then showing you back to the boat.  Our dive master, a local man named Shervan, delighted in his job. Shervan’s fins were mismatched.  And he didn’t use a diving computer.  He used a watch and a depth gauge.  Yikes.   But he was so excited to share with us the underwater world of his homeland.

Look close! The brown "twig" is a tiny crab!












With the help of Shervan’s keen eye, I saw many tiny sea creatures I had never seen before.  One of my favorite is the nudibranch, or sea slug.  They are very tiny and colorful.  As the current carries you swiftly past colorful coral, it is easy to overlook them in the splendor.














One of the main reasons we chose Roatan was because I had just passed my “Night and Limited-visibility”  certification test.  I was eager to dive the “World Famous Spooky Channel”.  But alas, the winds changed.  High winds pounded the island on the east, the seas became rough, and strong currents forced the cancelations of all night dives for the week.   We did get to dive on the western side of the island, and saw enough spectacular sea life to compensate for our disappointment.

I love trying to photograph the beauty that we see when underwater, but it is a real challenge.  I am moving.  The fish are moving.  The camera is being pushed about by the current and pulled up by its own buoyancy.   The visibility is compromised by the diminished light and the scattering sand.  Only one shot in twenty is okay. Usually I don’t even bring the camera.

Smile for the camera














Some of these creatures I photographed; some my husband photographed.

Tube worm

French angel fish








But I took the video of the enormous eel.

Did I tell you about the eel?  Now there’s a lesson for life.

We encountered another party of divers, about six.  Their hand signals indicated that they had spotted a seahorse.  Now seahorses are a treat to find.  They are tiny and well disguised.  These divers were going crazy.  They were each striving against one another, trying to get a look at the seahorse.  They were stirring up sand and making a mess, really decreasing the visibility.  I watched them from a distance, waiting for them to get their look and move on.

They never saw the enormous moray eel emerge from the rocks nearby.  It was the largest one I had ever seen.  Moray eels are not terribly dangerous, but they can bite.  The eel swam under the divers who were looking for the seahorse AND THEY NEVER EVEN SAW HIM!

On the video you can see the eel swim under the dive master.  You can see the divers in the distance briefly.  I stopped the camera briefly when he swam under the divers because I did not want to run in to them myself.  But then he emerged from beneath them and made quick time swimming into the current.  I am not streamlined for underwater, so he quickly escaped me.

Click below to watch video.  The first link is .m4v.


Roatan Moray Eel

The second link is on YouTube.  It is only about 1 minute, 20 seconds long.


Lesson to self:  Never become so fixated on the minutiae that you lose sight of the big picture.

I am not alone in my wonders of the sea.

O LORD, how manifold are your works!  In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.

Psalm 104:24-25 (ESV)


Marvels of the deep



Ultimately, my patience paid off and I got a close view, and photograph, of the tiny seahorse. I even saw a second one on this dive!  I have only ever seen two.


Returning to the surface

I am sorry to say that things have not gone well for Roatan.  The resort we visited closed the following year.  But the waters around the island are truly “teeming with creatures innumerable”. Praise the Lord!

Comments (2) May 18 2011

A Mountain Escape

Posted: under Travel, Traveling with children.
Tags: , , , , ,

Looking Glass Falls

When we moved to Savannah, Georgia, ten years ago, my oldest son was elated. “We live in a vacation destination!” he said. That may all be well and good, but sometimes, even when you live in Savannah, you feel like you have just GOT to get away.  Those feelings seem to strike me the strongest around the end of August, when I have sufffered through weeks of unrelenting heat and humidity.   It is true that we could pop in the car for a short drive to Tybee Beach, or a little further to Hilton Head Island and enjoy playing in the surf and sand.  But when we are seeking an ESCAPE, we dream of MOUNTAINS.


It was a wonderful thing when we identified Brevard, North Carolina, as a destination for quick summer get-aways. The distance from Savannah to Brevard is about 250 miles.  That is short enough that we can leave after work on a week day, arrive late, and get up the next morning with a full day of fun and adventure ahead of us.  We don’t lose a whole day traveling.

Brevard, the “Land of Waterfalls”, offers an abundance of wholesome, outdoor activities for a family to enjoy. A good place to “get your feet wet” is at Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest.  Close to the parking area is an observation point for the waterfall.  A short descending stairway leads to the base. Whether intentional or accidental, the kids are going to get wet, so plan ahead. Remove shoes and bring a towel! Hopping on rocks and searching for salamanders and crawdads under creek bed rocks were beloved past times of my childhood, but unique experiences for my Savannah-born children.

Rocks to explore

River rock fun








The largest tourist attraction is Sliding Rock, and it is worthwhile. Sliding Rock is always anticipated by my family with dreadful delight.  Or is it delightful dread?  A large rock creates a natural slide, with a rushing stream to carry you along and plunge you into the icy water below.  We always go after public schools have started, and so there is never any crowd.  That means no long lines and no audience.  The rock can be rather hard on the tailbone, but the ride down is a thrill.   The sensation of plunging into 55 degree water initially takes your breath away.  Then you become acutely aware of every pore in your skin.  Then there is a warming sensation as the blood flow returns. It feels exhilarating!

Bracing for the plunge

Sliding Rock









Our family’s favorite waterfall is the Courthouse Falls.  We enjoy the pleasant drive to the trail head, and then the short hike to the base of the 45-foot waterfall.  The setting is serene: shady and cool, scented of earth, and serenaded by trickling water.  The water is cold and clear.  The older half of the family jumps in and swims to the base of the falls.  The younger half climbs rocks and wades in the shallows.  If we could visit only one waterfall, this would be my choice.



Courthouse Falls

Exploring the shallows








Racing toward the water












Dupont State Park offers other waterfalls to explore.  We enjoyed Triple Falls.  I highly recommend parking at the bottom of the falls and hiking to the summit, rather than the reverse, especially if you have children in tow.  That makes the return trip a fun, downhill dash.

Brotherly love

Rock hopping action








Good clean fun

Boys and sticks








A short drive from Brevard is Hendersonville, a major apple-growing town in North Carolina.  When we visit in late August we find an abundance of delicious apples to be purchased or, better yet, picked at “pick-your-own” apple orchards.  We pick as many apples as our car can hold.  Apple pies, apple butter, fried apples, candied apples, apples dipped in caramel… 80 pounds of apples never last long in our household!

Sampling the apples

Apple picking





Tasting the bounty

Flat Rock is also close to Brevard.  The home of the famous American poet, Carl Sandburg, is in Flat Rock.  While we have little interest in his poetry, we think his wife’s goats are terrific!  Lilian Sandburg was an amateur geneticist and a master of animal husbandry.  She bred world famous goats, and descendants of her goats still live on their estate.  There are also hiking trails on the property that lead to breath-taking views.

Mrs. Sandburg's goats

Petting the goats







Is this the rock of Flat Rock?

Breath-taking views







We have found a wonderful place to stay when we visit Brevard, and I believe it is a BEST KEPT SECRET!  We stay at Ridge Haven Conference and Retreat Center.  Ridge Haven was established by the Presbyterian Church in America.  I first learned of it when a son attended camp there.  They have all sorts of accommodations – camp sites, lodges, motel-type rooms, apartments – that anyone can rent!  They are comfortable and affordable!  And if you visit after the busy camp/retreat season, you may have Ridge Haven to yourself!  The scenic beauty is superb and the lake offers great fun for everyone!


Surf bike








Kayaking at Ridgehaven

Twice we have visited Brevard.  We have arrived late on a Wednesday night, hiked and explored for three full days, worshiped at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Brevard on Sunday morning, then returned home in time for supper on Sunday night.  We pack a lot of fun into a few days.  But each time we have returned truly refreshed and renewed.

The heat of summer will soon envelope us.  Perhaps your family needs a plan for escape.  I know where I want to go!

Ice cream break





Comments (0) May 16 2011

Photographs and Memories: Old and New

Posted: under Photography, Travel.
Tags: , , , ,

Bill and Dell

After my father proposed to my mother, he took a job in Austria working for the State Department.  A year later she flew to Austria and married him.  That was quite an adventure for a farmgirl from Tennessee!  The year was 1956.

My parents took every opportunity to explore Europe.  My father bought a VW bus and most weekends they would travel, sometimes in one direction until they spent half their money, then head home.

They would ask farmers if they could camp in their fields, and often were invited in for a meal.  My father was an honest-to-goodness polyglot.  He knew so much of so many languages, he seemed able to communicate with anyone anywhere.  I wish I had inherited his gift for languages.  It was a tremendous comfort to him during his retirement when he suffered from chronic insomnia.  He would listen to foreign radio broadcasts on his short-wave radio for hours on end.

My parents saw a Europe that was rapidly passing away.

Austrian parade










My father captured great images with a camera, taking more than 2000 slides.  He photographed not only the tourist highlights, but also street scenes and landscapes.

From the Tower of Pisa

Austrian border








Unfortunately these wonderful images were stored in carousels, and  packed away, where the slides were deteriorating and the images fading fast.  Spots were developing and everything was turning yellow.

San Marino elections

My dad, looking mysterious








Dad and his VW bus

Looking oh-so European










I love how the photographer is captured in the mirror!

After twelves months, my parents returned to the United States.  Because of family obligations and health problems, they never again traveled to Europe.

Dad's VW lowered onto American soil. The first one in the state of Tennessee!


I wanted to rescue these family heirlooms from ruin.  I sent the slides off to a company called Fotobridge and had them scanned, saved as jpegs, and transfered to DVDs.  I was so please with the results.  They not only took care of the originals, but also white-balanced the images.







So why I am telling you this?  Because few things seem to glue memories into our mind as well as photographs.  Even though I was not with my parents in Europe, their photographs recall to me the stories they told me of the places they traveled and the things they saw.  It seems like every parent owes it to their children to document those memories.


Even if “shutter speed” and “f-stop” are like foreign words to you, there is almost no excuse for not taking good photographs of your children.  Decent digital cameras can be easily acquired, and there is an abundance of tutorials available to guide anyone to better results.  But the next important step is to keep the camera available and readily USE IT.  You may snap a hundred exposures before achieving one fabulous shot, but it will be so worth it.  Our children grow so quickly and change everyday.  The experiences that are fresh and new to them today may seem uninterestingly familiar tomorrow.


This was brought home to me this past Sunday, on Mother’s Day.  My goal was to tidy up the kitchen and then dress for morning worship.  My baby girl was determined to twart me.


Caught in the act - again!

My children had given me two bouquets of apricot-colored roses.  My favorite.  My husband had given me a bouquet of spring flowers, which he had delivered  and had waiting for me at the Pink House Restaurant when he took me there for dinner on Friday night.  Very classy.

Touching the flowers

Smelling the flowers

Sharing her bagel









Every time I turned my back, my baby girl was up on the table, messing with the flowers.  Touching them.  Smelling them.  Feeding her bagel to them.  She was delighting in them, and I could not keep her away.  I had to set aside my frustration and instead take pleasure in the moment. I grabbed the nearest camera and tried to capture her joy.

Acting so innocent

She is already a bigger girl than she was a few days ago.  And the flowers have lost their magic for her.  How thankful I am that I captured a few snapshots of her delight. When I am an old lady, I should like to remember that day.




Comments (2) May 11 2011

Jellyfish Island

Posted: under Boating, Traveling with children.
Tags: , , , ,

Jellyfish Island



Some weeks are long, and some weeks are longer. We had one of those weeks where the domestic peace of  every evening was disrupted by a meeting or outside obligation.  So it was with great joy that we awoke on Saturday morning to find perfect weather.

The sun was shining.  It was warm, and not a bit hot. The sky was what I call “Savannah Blue” – an intense, clear blue.  If you stare into a Savannah Blue sky, you can see the blood cells flow through the capillaries in your eyes!


We have a boat, but we had not taken it out even once yet this year. And in a few hours we would again feel a crush of obligations and deadlines.  Without a moment to lose, we grabbed our life jackets, swim suits, and sun screen. There was no time to hunt for fishing gear or the cast net. The tide was going out!  We didn’t even take time to pack a picnic lunch.  Instead we stopped at a grocery store on the way to the marina.  There I bought highly processed foods that my children LOVE and that I SELDOM buy:  Cheezits, Nutter Butter cookies, and Fruit Gushers.  (Hmmm… dairy, grain, protein, and, ummm, fruit.  A square meal, right?)


We loaded up the boat and headed out of the marina with no destination in mind.  We ended up in the Calibogue Sound, a body of water south of Hilton Head Island and north of Tybee Island.  The sound is frequented by dolphins and on this day the water was as smooth as glass.  Off of Daufuskie Island we encountered an enormous sand bar.  We decided to anchor the boat to explore it.

Checking the depth

Cannonball Jellyfish

Cautious investigation








The sand bar was littered with cannonball jellyfish, also called “jelly balls”.  I have been told that they are not poisonous to humans, but we were content to study them from afar.


Having great fun












The children romped in the tide pools, discovered hermit crabs, explored the drift wood, and watched rays swimming in the shallows. Jets flew overhead, skywriting advertisements for the Beaufort Air Show.  You don’t see skywriting everyday!

Exploring driftwood

Little adventurer











We could see Hilton Head Island.  We could see the Tybee Island lighthouse.  And yet we felt so wonderfully remote.  Such perfect peace and quiet.  God blessed us with a perfect outing.

Impromptu footrace

Quiet reflection












After about 45 minutes, we had to pull up our anchor and leave.  Low tide was approaching.  While we loved our “island paradise”, we didn’t want to put our towing insurance to the test.  On our way back to the marina, we stopped along the banks of the Tybee Cut, where the children found shark teeth and, unfortunately, a vulture skeleton.

Shark teeth

Checking out the wildlife










It was not a thrilling day.  Or an exciting day.  But it was exactly what we needed:  a time to rest from our toil, enjoy one another, and delight in Creation.

I know that in a few hours after our special time, the high tide covered our sandbar and obscured our “island”.  If we went back to that location again, I do not know if we would find our sandbar the way we remember it.  That is the nature of tides, the sea, and the sand – always changing, always being changed.  But I do believe that my children will never forget the day they discovered “Jellyfish Island”.









Comments (0) May 08 2011

Fig Bread: Inspiration to Execution

Posted: under Baking bread, Cooking with children, Travel.
Tags: , , ,

Market Day

Travel to a foreign country is often enhanced by a visit to the local market day.  It can be a feast for the senses and a real education to mingle with the locals and observe where they shop.  On a visit to Provence, France, my husband and I saw the quaint village of Saint Remy-de-Provence transformed on market day.





Saint Remy-de-Provence

Happy shoppers










It was a pleasure to see the fine, fresh foods available from the local farmers.


Fresh cheeses

Olives of every kind

Handmade sausages








As we prepared for our afternoon hike, we were most interested in the fresh bread.  There were many familiar loaves and baquettes available, but we were interested in the whole grain breads.  The loaves were enormous. They were not purchased by the loaf, but instead chunks of the bread were purchased by  weight.

Bread for sale












How would we ever select between so many delectable varieties?  My husband, who has an incurable sweet tooth, wanted fig bread.  Now apart from chocolate, I am rarely tempted by sweets.  I wanted olive bread.  It was the old  sweet relish vs. dill relish conflict that plagues our refrigerator.   So we compromised and bought both,  a chunk of fig bread and a chunk of olive bread.  We added to that a couple of rounds of fresh goat cheese, some locally made tapenades, and we were set  for lunch.

My husband declared that the fig bread was one of the most delicious things he had ever eaten.  What does that mean to me?  It means a personal challenge to recreate and surpass that fig bread.  Add to that challenge the fact that he keeps bringing home containers of figs from the grocery store and reminiscing about “that wonderful fig bread we had in Provence”.

Now it’s not like I have a lot of time to spend experiment with bread recipes, so I enlisted the help of my seven-year-old son and (dare I say it) the bread machine.  I know how to bake bread.  I know how to capture wild yeast from the air and transform it into an awesome loaf of sourdough bread. But now is not the time. And besides, I believe my son has the potential to become an excellent baker.  He is good at math, follows instructions well, and has an extra dose of sensibility. And he’s the only child who ever remembers to wash his hands.

Fig Bread alá Provence

(reinterpretation of a raisin bread recipe)

2 cups bread flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons butter

1 cup finely chopped figs

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 package instant yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

Baker in training












At this point we put our ingredients in the bread machine, set it to “Quick Bake”, and enjoyed hot, delicious fig bread in less than two hours!  But for you purists, I shall add baking directions.

1.  Mix ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover with a towel and allow mixture to rest for 10 minutes. (Called “autolyse”, this method allows the flour to hydrate and makes the dough easier to handle.)

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes.  The dough should become pliable and elastic.  Resist the urge to incorporate a lot more flour.  It will make the dough stiff and the bread tough.

3.  Cover with a towel or large overturned bowl and allow to rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Punch the dough down.  Shape it into two loaves, and place in two 8×4 inch loaf pans.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise, about 45 minutes.

5.  Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees for 40- 45 minutes. (How do you know it is done?  Measure internal temperature with cooking thermometer.  It should be between 195 – 205 degrees.)

6.  Allow to cool at least a little bit before slicing, or you will flatten the moist bread.

A note about ingredients:  I only use King Arthur flour.  I used KA Bread Flour and KA White Whole Wheat Flour.  If there is a better flour available to the home baker, I have never seen it!  I like to use white whole wheat.  It lacks the tannins that can make red wheat unpalatably bitter, and it creates a delicate loaf.  You may omit the butter, but it creates a softer crumb.

I would show you a picture of our fig bread, but we ate all of it.

Nothing left but the mess

Comments (1) May 05 2011

My Traveling Pharmacy

Posted: under Traveling with children.
Tags: , , , ,

Cast netting in Captiva

Captiva Island is one of my favorite beach vacation destinations.  Getting there, however, is rather complicated.  It lies off of the coast of Ft. Myers, Florida.  You must travel through Ft. Myers, cross a lengthy causeway to Sanibel Island, pay a hefty toll ($6), then travel the entire length of Sanibel Island.  While Sanibel is not a long island, the road is characterized by low, well-enforced speed limits.  Once you reach the end, you cross a little bridge onto Captiva.  We like to stay on the far north side of Captiva, which means traversing that entire island, too.

Here is what happened.  One night while visiting Captiva, one of my sons woke up around 11 p.m. with a high fever and a bad case of croup.  Everyone was well when we left home, so I had packed no medicines.  While I administered the usual remedy of steamy showers to my son, my husband went for fever medicine and expectorant.  It was like that old song “To Grandmother’s House We Go” – over the island, through the toll, across the causeway, in search of a late night drug store.  It seemed like he was gone for two hours!  It was then that I resolved to prepare for our family a “traveling pharmacy”.

I took a backpack, the kind with wheels, and filled it with new containers of the kinds of medicines my family uses when sick.  You know what medicines your family prefers; it may resemble ours.  I also threw in a variety pack of bandages and some new toothbrushes (someone inevitably loses, forgets, or drops his in the toilet. I’m not kidding.)  I store this bag in the medicine closet and add it to our pile of suitcases whenever we travel.

This bag is NOT for our toiletries.  Each child is still expected to pack up hairbrushes, toothbrushes, medicines, contact lens fluid, whatever, that they normally use on a daily basis.

This bag is NOT a first aid kit.  I try to keep first aid supplies in a kit in each car at all times.

I do NOT store this bag in the car.  High car temperatures could damage medicines, and I don’t want bored children rifling though or tampering with my supplies.

I do NOT store prescription medicines in this bag.

I keep these supplies fresh and “in date” by using this bag as the “go to” source when we run out of medicines in our medicine closet.  For example, if we are out of ibuprofen, I get a new bottle out of the “traveling pharmacy” bag, and add “ibuprofen” to my grocery list.  I will replace the ibuprofen from the bag with the newest bottle.  Because these are medicines that my family actually uses, and because we are a large family (and always passing around things), we do not have a problem with items expiring.

This “traveling pharmacy” has saved us hassles on countless trips.  If someone develops diarrhea, I reach for the loperamide (Imodium).  Hives? I reach for diphenhydramine (Benadryl).  A persistent and productive cough? Guaifenesin and dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM).  It helps us get back to the business at hand, which is having fun and building memories.

Fun in Action

Fun and games till the sharks arrive


Catch of the day

Bowmans Beach on Sanibel

Comments (0) May 03 2011

Poppies in Provence

Posted: under Travel.
Tags: , , , , ,

Poppy fields near Ochre Quarry

The older I get the more I realize that is it unusual for a day to unfold the way you expect.  It doesn’t matter how many lists you make, appointments you schedule, tasks you delegate.  The expecatations you had when you awoke will likely be confounded.  This can be a great temptation for anger, self-pity, or  frustration. But sometimes the unexpected can bring amazing experiences – and I am not just talking about opportunities for practicing patience or other forms of character development.  Sometimes the unexpected leads to adventure.

On the occasion of our twentieth wedding anniversary, my husband and I traveled to Provence, France. Because we had our ten-week-old daughter, our ninth child, in tow, we chose to spend our week exploring the countryside hiking, with her in a backpack.   On a fine, sunny day we set out to explore the ochre quarries near Roussillon.  Our guide book, which had proved trustworthy thus far, seemed suddenly vague.  At a junction we were to take the right path, which descends steeply, follows a ridge, passes through woods, till we can look down into the quarries.  We could not find this junction.  At last we found a path, which descended gently.  We followed a ridge and there we saw one of the most spectacular sights my eyes have seen-  acres and acres of wheat fields covered in poppies!  “Breathtaking” is an understatement!  We walked on, expecting at any time to enter woods that would lead us back to our quarry.  At long last, we knew we were lost.  Well, not really lost, but diverted.  Time for a picnic!  We pulled from our packs hunks of fig bread and olive bread, and a sampler pack of locally made tapenades.  There is no food quite so delicious as food eaten when you are truly hungry!  We traced our path back uphill.   We searched hard for our path.  We had to decide where it ought to be.  It was little more than a goat path, well obscured by brush.  But it did descend sharply, along a ridge, through the woods, to the quarries.


view of the ochre quarry


Red ochre

Checking the guidebook

Ultimately we walked many miles out of our way.  Many.   Like maybe five.  However I would not trade that experience for a perfect hike.  I find myself often reflecting on that hike.  I comfort myself on days when the unexpected happens, which is almost every day, with the memory that sometimes the unexpected can lead to something wonderful, like a field of poppies.


A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.  NKJV Proverbs 16:9

Comments (4) May 01 2011