Travel has been my friend. It not only makes it possible for me to see new places, have new experiences and envision the world from other than my little corner of Georgia, it takes me to see the people I love so very much, a.k.a., my children! This past weekend I had the long-overdue and exciting pleasure to visit my youngest daughter in Houston. Abbie moved to Houston about four years ago (or is it five?) and has made quite a name for herself in the burgeoning art scene there. This past weekend she and her studio mate opened their new space for the first time for the community to come out and shop, enjoy some amazing refreshments, and to mingle. Here's how it all went down...
I tightened my seatbelt as my flight sat quietly on the runway just seconds away from takeoff. I don't especially love taking off. Even though it's exhilarating in its own kind of way, I feel much relief when my choice of travel reaches 12,000 feet and enters into a sort of "smooth sailing" as it nears its cruising altitude. I tend to think others might feel the same way because there is all kinds of chatter going on as the plane makes its way to the tarmac but, upon its stop to quietly idle for takeoff, everyone enters into this sort of silent reverence. I don't know if it's fear or if it's out of respect for the majesty of the big bird about to soar everyone away to a place of our choosing. Either way, I am glad when the quietness descends because this is usually when I am raising a prayer!
Upon our arrival into Houston airspace:), I snapped this image with my iphone. Houston is a huge city (4th largest in the nation after New York, L.A., and Chicago) and the vast area it covers is obvious as you cruise over the downtown area approaching Hobby. It's been two years since I visited Abbie in this metropolis she calls home, and that's waaaaaaaay too long. As the plane made its final descent, I wondered how I could have let my baby girl move to such a large unknown city without batting an eyelash. But my baby girl is brave. So much braver than her mama. And so, without even thinking about it, I tightened my belt again. And after everyone sighed relief upon landing (you know they did), I struck up a very short conversation with the beautiful young woman sitting next to me. There's something about landing together in a plane that gives you a sort of bond, even if it's only for a couple of minutes! As it turned out, she too is moving to Houston for her career, she is about Abbie's age, and she too has a mom at home in Georgia fretting about her baby girl being so far away from her. I told Erin to tell her mom that she will definitely be okay. If I can survive it, anyone can survive it. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
I read recently that Houston has several epicenters because of the intentional lack of city planning, but it has turned out to be a pretty good arrangement according to the article. I don't know exactly why but in my mind I'm assuming that, for the locals, it makes Houston more easily navigated and breaks up the horrendous traffic that is prevalent in any large city. Abbie picked me up in her little Honda Accord and flew me to the hotel where I felt like I might need a stiff drink upon arrival! But no worries, we checked in, then ventured into midtown where we ate pizza at one of our favorite italian "holes in the wall" and then back to the hotel where we drifted into lala land to the tune of HGTV. The next morning we made our way to her studio space for mama to experience for the very first time, but not before we had coffee at one of her favorite cafes, Tout Suite. I would recommend this place over and over again for its downtown industrial aesthetic, the great coffee, and a pastry case filled with the most heavenly delights you could ever feast your eyes upon! We went back for lunch the next day and it too was delicious. If you visit Houston, you gotta go to Tout Suite. After a few serene hours watching Abbie work a bit and prepare for the next day, we headed to pick up Hollie flying in all the way from Tegucigalpa, a whirlwind trip for Hollie but a gesture of pure gold in the love it represented to her little sis. Dinner was at a friend's house, where we celebrated Abbie's birthday and enjoyed downhome Houston hospitality. Cupcakes by Tout Suite!
Saturday was the day of the studio warming. As you might expect, it was packed with last minute things to do...a trip to Trader Joe's for flowers and wine...final studio preparations for the evening... By the time I returned to the hotel to shower and dress, I was already a bit worn out but at the same time energized for the evening's activities to come. I was a proud mama. Now this is where I get to brag on my girl, and I'm allowed since this is my blog, haha! Abbie is one of the most gracious, loving young women I know. She has a serenity about her in interacting with people that makes me so proud. She sees every single person, no matter their race or socioeconomic status, as her equal. As her work associates and friends and strangers alike filed in and out that evening, her smile and kindness flowed out to her guests and no one -- not one -- wasn't acknowledged, and her graciousness was awarded with the outpouring of support from her Houston family. I kicked back and breathed it all in. And then I took a walk around the other studios open in her building to see what else was coming down. And, I'm telling you, if you've never been to an art event in the middle of a large city where art is the reigning queen, you gotta do it, because it's an eye-opening experience and there are myriad sites to see. You see all walks of people, all ethnicities, people rich and poor, everything from doctors to the lowly, blended together by the common thread of the love of art. I see the power of art to bring people together like I've never seen it before.
Needless to say, the weekend was a success. I boarded my plane back to Atlanta Sunday evening, but not without a great satisfaction of having been, having done, and having thrived in a weekend filled with love and friendship. And, of course, not without first tightening my seatbelt.
Thanks, Houston, for your hospitality. It was truly three days I will never forget.
We are quickly approaching the Day of Love. It's the day during the year when love is talked about more than any other time, and most of the connotations have to do with romantic love. I have had my share of romantic love stories over the years. Stories of great gifts, lousy gifts, and teenage heartbreak on the day when love is supposed to be magical. There are women out shopping this very moment for the right lingerie to make Valentine's Day magical in the you-know-what department. There are men making expensive restaurant reservations so that they don't come up short when they get home from work and find no dinner and the wife already dressed up and ready to party (or at least eat out). The men are catching a break this year because Valentine's Day falls on Sunday and they have an entire day to come up to speed before the evening hours catch them unprepared.
I've talked about Valentine's Day before and how the hubs and I celebrate. Pretty much we don't. We feel that we don't really need a day to celebrate our love; we try and do that every day. Cheezy, but oh-so-true. Plus, have you ever tried to get into a nice restaurant on Valentine's Day? It's like all the crazies come out for the very first time and decide they simply have to eat at that restaurant on that day because, well, it's Valentine's Day! Some of us very lucky ones have been blessed to find "the one" in our lives. We have found soul mates. And even though it's not always exemplary of a marriage made in heaven, we can't imagine life without this man that day in, day out, for better or worse, sleeps beside us each night. We have shared experiences, made babies together, suffered through hard times, skipped through good times, and he is the one who fills in all the gaps when life gets a little like a piece of swiss cheese -- filled with holes and pretty stinky. But then there are others who for, whatever reason, are not sharing Valentine's Day this year with their significant other simply because there is no significant other. This Valentine's Day post is for you, baby!
When our children were young, we celebrated Valentine's Day as a family. We cooked a great meal together (with a special dessert), ate as a family with candlelight, decorated the living room with paper hearts and banners, and put on music and danced. Those are great memories now that won't ever be forgotten. May I make another suggestion? Even though there might not be a romantic interest in your life right now, don't let the big day come and go without showing your affection for someone you love and whom you know loves you. It might be your parents, your BFF, your children, a work associate...it literally could be anyone who has found a place of adoration in your heart. Chances are, they are feeling a little under the romantic-love-weather as well and could use a pick-me-up for this overly commercialized holiday. One of my favorite things to do for Valentine's Day in the past has been to remember those folks that might not be remembered on this day. It might be the little old lady in your neighborhood who lost her husband this past year, I don't know. But I do know that we all have people in our lives who need love. Be creative!
Which brings me to another thought for this holiday. I consider myself a creative and I love paper crafts and all things having to do with cutting, folding, and gluing paper. As you can see in the photo, I have already been stocking up on cute paper bags and stickers. It's the perfect holiday to indulge your inner-craft person that you know is longing to emerge. I found these adorable bags, stickers, and baker's twine at my local Target but Michael's and Hobby Lobby have equally cute ideas for crafting a homespun Valentine's Day. Fill up little goody bags and give them to anyone -- even strangers. As a child, I have wonderful memories of buying a box of cutie-pie valentines (a whole $1.29 for an entire box) and then sharing them with my classmates. We hand-delivered them to the (also adorable) Valentine boxes we each crafted out of shoeboxes. You can still find a box for $1.29 but the quality is indeed less. People don't save things anymore. Today's boxed Valentine's are what I call instant...readable, then thrown away. So sad. To this day, vintage Valentines hold a special place in my heart -- no pun intended!
There are two other things I absolutely love at this time of the year...CHOCOLATE AND FLOWERS!!!! There is no better time than Valentine's Day to indulge in these two luxuries, but any other day of the year will work as well. And you know what? You don't have to wait to be given chocolate or flowers. I treat myself to chocolate numerous times over the course of the year (uh, or the week) -- and flowers as well! My sweet little daddy keeps a bowl of Hershey kisses in his room at his assisted living which he shares with all the staff who come in to check on him and it's no wonder that those ladies LOVE my dad! We don't have to wait for any holiday to indulge in this "super food" which can legally be called that now because of the benefits found in quality dark chocolate. A small square of the rich stuff is enough to satisfy and provide important brain nutrients which rev up your feel-good factor. Ditto with flowers. If there's anything that cheers me up more on a cold winter's day, I don't know what it is. Indulging in fresh flowers any old day of the year brings spring in the winter, happiness when you're feeling blue, and solid proof that Valentine's Day is the snobbiest of all holidays!
At any rate, hope you have a happy Valentine's Day, with or without Mr. Right!
Lately I've been thinking about the simple act of reflecting and how reflecting, whether we are the entity reflecting or the entity being reflected upon affects every single person. My first thought is about mirrors. I use mirrors a lot in my decorating, and there is hardly a room in my house where there is not a mirror on at least one wall. Mirrors are a great way to increase light in a room for their reflective qualities and for making a room seem larger.
Many of us have a love/hate relationship with mirrors. When we're feeling good about our self and have our hair done and our makeup on, we don't mind standing in front of the mirror so much. And I'll admit it, when I'm feeling positive I might stand there a moment longer and enjoy feeling good about myself (not too long, though!). And I know you do the same thing. Come on, now; you know you do. If we have a new outfit or a great new pair of boots, we examine every angle in the mirror to make sure the "reflection" is acceptable. After all, we want our reflection to be positive. But I, for one, tend to avoid mirrors when I'm not feeling so great about myself. With no makeup, a few extra pounds from too much holiday over-indulging still hanging on, and unkempt hair, the mirror is not my friend. My eyes tend to go straight to the belly bulges, the blemishes, and the scraggly hair that is about three inches too long and roots that, as much as I try to deny it, are mousier gray than the little critters that live in the field near my house.
So I guess mirrors are a reflection of what is real, at least most of the time. Recently in a hotel, the full-length mirror was on the "thin" side; do you know what I mean? It made you look at least 10 pounds thinner. I think that's probably a pretty smart strategy for a hotel because they want folks staying in their facility to feel good. And if they're feeling trim, they're more likely to indulge in the French toast they offer for breakfast or the late-night calls for room service. But not long after that, I was trying on a jacket in a store in front of a mirror that made me look frumpy and about 20 pounds heavier. I can never figure that one out because what store wouldn't want their mirrors to make you look your absolute best? It would be a minor investment with major results! Needless to say, I put the jacket back and didn't buy it. Because of the many variations in mirror quality, we may never know exactly how we look, if it's the truth or a lie, and that is fine by me when it comes to body image. I choose to believe whatever is more positive. I guess I'm an optimist to the core.
Other things are reflectors as well. Shiny metal reflects and is another way to "up the light-factor" in a room. The moon reflects the light from the sun and gives us just enough light to rest at night, yet not be in complete darkness (well, the moon and the stars). In the right lighting, a pond can reflect the trees and clouds that overshadow it, pulling out oohs and ahhs for the beauty it produces. In photography, light reflecting onto the subject is imperative for a good, clear image. Our minds can reflect as well...on important issues, intimate experiences, things that marvel, or troubling confrontations perhaps. The act of reflecting or being reflected is a pretty deep subject on which to "reflect," haha. The greatest reflectors I can think of are people themselves. But the difference is we, as the reflectors, reflect back to others what we see in them but also what we reflect from the inside about ourselves. When we have a child and our mannerisms, good looks, and positive attributes are reflected in that child, we are so proud. But not so much when they reflect something we've done or said or acted-out that is less than positive; then we are ashamed. I tell my children and my good friends with young children they must be careful with their little ones in what they do and say, and in the actions and attitudes they reflect, because children are like little mirrors...good or bad, you see yourself in them.
What do you, as a human mirror, reflect back to the people who look at you day in and day out? Are you reflecting joy and happiness to be alive and have yet another day on planet earth to bless and be blessed? Are you reflecting indifference as someone who has no passion for anything, and even less passion for people? Are you reflecting bitterness or anger for something that has happened in your life or for someone who has wronged you? Are you reflecting positivity to them by encouraging words? Whatever our experiences, it is possible that we can be reflectors of good. It's not always easy, but it's always possible. Light is the most positive thing we as human beings can reflect on other human beings. Because to reflect light is to pay it forward. When you reflect light onto someone else, they pass it along and reflect that light onto another. Darkness and negativism might be passed along as well, but it will never have the happy ending that comes when light is emitted.
I love a lot of natural light in my home. The first thing I do every morning once the sun is up is to throw open all the curtains and blinds and let the glorious light in. If it happens to be rainy or an overcast day, I may pull the blinds all the way up in order to catch every single bit of light I can. As half of a couple who buys houses to fix up and resell as part of our living, I will only approve houses that have a lot of natural light or that can be made to let in more natural light. Light is not only pleasing to me, it is almost as important as food and water when it comes to my wellbeing. My husband relies on me to see the possible places that have potential and for me that potential always includes a lot of natural light. I believe most people are like that. We need food, we need water, we need love, and we need light to be completely healthy.
What are you reflecting today?
I love the way the light dances off my girls' hair in all three of these images!
"We will be remembered for what is reflected by us and through us and ultimately out of us onto others. We are like mirrors that give back to every person we encounter, but it's always what we put in
that is reflected back."
I was armed and dangerous. And by that I mean I had on my very best walking shoes, my antibacterial wipes, and my wallet tucked safely in my purse with said purse hanging safely over my shoulder. Upon entering I actually found a cart that did not squeak, did not have something yucky stuck on it, and did not pull to the left when I wanted to go to the right.
I absolutely despise going to Wal-mart. And in case you're thinking I absolutely despise Wal-mart, there is indeed a difference. I like Wal-mart; I think Wal-mart has decent products and even better prices. I just hate the "going-there" process. The hubs and I have shopped at Wal-mart since pretty much day 1. Now, you might not remember a world without Wal-mart, but I do. Before Wal-mart there was K-mart. K-mart was our "go-to" discount store on Friday night back in the early nineties. We loaded up the family, ate dinner out at Long John Silver's fish restaurant and headed to K-mart where we spent the whole $65 we had allotted from that paycheck to purchase household items such as cleaners, personal items, paper products and the like. K-marts are almost extinct today as are Long John Silver's, but I remember those Friday nights fondly. It's funny what things are remembered fondly when your kids are all grown-up and you're thinking back. I also remember the very first time I heard the word "Wal-mart." What was this strange new store my sister-in-law spoke of? She thought Wal-mart was the answer to all the world's problems and still to this day loves Wal-mart. I guess I do too if I had to choose between love and hate for that magical place. I just hate the process of going there.
Why? So glad you asked. First of all, I have to psyche myself up for Wal-mart. Wal-mart is not like Publix where shopping is always a pleasure and there is help around every turn. Publix is always well-staffed with people who truly care and who not only are willing to help, but actually desire to help. I never have to wait too long in line. And I betcha if I remembered something I forgot while checking out, one of their employees would hop on over to that aisle and nab it for me. They insist on taking my bags to the car for me and refuse to accept a tip. Wal-mart is also not like Target. Target is a cut-above I would say in the products they offer and it's the kind of place you can go late at night and literally get lost in there looking at all the pretties. But when I go to Wal-mart I have to wrap my head around it. No such thing as me just "hopping by" Wal-mart in the late evening on the way home. Nope, not me; ain't gonna happen. I wait in the car while hubby runs in and usually returns in no less than 30 minutes, because there is no such thing as "running in" Wal-mart. So here's the thing. Most of the Wal-marts around where I live are the super Wal-marts that span several acres, and I am notorious for starting on one end of the store and working my way to the other, only to realize I forgot something I needed and have to return to exactly where I started in the first place. So I have to prepare my mind and body for the possibility that this may happen and be prepared to endure the miles walked (thus, my best walking shoes). Another thing I have to be prepared for when I shop at this neighborhood store is the strange sights that might possibly be seen and the strange noises that might possibly be heard. I've seen and heard strange things in Wal-mart stores and parking lots, and you simply cannot be offended by those things. I also have to be prepared to stay on budget because, although it may sound like a contradiction, I actually do find products I love there at great prices. So if you're willing to walk several miles, willing to face the strange sights and sounds, and willing to either check yourself out or wait in line sometimes way too long for another to check you out, then a trip to Wal-mart could be considered part of a really good day. So today a visit to Wally World as we lovingly call it was indeed a part of a really good day. I made sure I had time to just leisurely peruse the aisles, weaving in and out as I crossed the store slowly enough that I didn't have to backtrack. That in and of itself is a victory. I picked up items that I knew were better prices than I could get anywhere else in town so I helped to protect the family budget. And, last but not least, I stocked up on the super cute toddler dresses in the picture you see, and isn't that really all that matters? When you are a crazy Nana like me, you have to find deals for your grandchildren; otherwise you'd end up spending the grocery money on them every time. Oh, sorry, I didn't get many groceries, honey, but I got some adorable clothes for little P. Not something the hubs wants to hear.
Some other products I find exceptional at Wal-mart that are worth a trek over? The new dishes and serve ware by The Pioneer Woman. Super-colorful, well-priced, and cute patterns and pieces. The Better Homes & Gardens home decor line is worth a look too. Also, you simply cannot beat Wal-mart for clothes and toys for the kidd-os. Ditto for hair products, bath products, and pretty much all grocery items. But walk away from the meat. I do NOT like Wal-mart beef and refuse to buy it. Sorry, guys, but I'm picky about my meat. Literally all week I've been trying to psyche myself up to do the Wal-mart thing. And every day until today, I've talked myself out of it. But today I woke up strong. Today I woke up determined. Today I woke up with the mentality that whatever came my way, I would face Wal-mart with a positive mind and a strong body. I determined that I would conquer Wally World, and I certainly did.
After two hours that turned out to be pleasurably engaging and pretty much void of strange sights and sounds, I emerged victorious with some great deals, my sanity intact, and my feet ready to conquer another mile or two.
I even had a little cash left in my wallet. Cha-ching!
If you follow me on Instagram, you already know I've been in heaven the last few days, heaven as in the "Holy City" as it is lovingly called and it's none other than the exquisite Charleston, South Carolina. It is known as the Holy City, if not completely then partially, because of the beautiful churches, both Catholic and Protestant, that breathtakingly line the main corridors and deep into the residential areas as well. Their architecture is stunning with their steeples reaching far into the sky as to keep watch over the city. Their history is fascinating, and just their stately presence is something to behold. These houses of worship boast some of the most breathtaking architecture in the southeast.
The hubs and I had the pleasure of visiting this past weekend for a much-needed (did I say much-needed?) getaway. When you can't even remember the last time you traveled together without a gaggle following you (meaning all your kids and grandkids), it's way past time for just a "you and me" kind of weekend. We were not disappointed. Every stroll, every turn around every corner afforded something delightful for our senses. You might wanna take notes, for this getaway weekend might be yours in the near future...Btw, I didn't include any food pics this time because it would've only been pizza and hotdogs and Thai food. But it was delicious.
We arrived on Friday to great accommodations at the brand-new (four months young) Hyatt on King Street. The room was large with a king bed and very spacious living area with a sectional that also pulled out into a bed (which, of course, we did not need because no children accompanied us!). Now that I think about it, I believe it was a handicap-accessible room; was there special meaning to that? There was an acceptable continental breakfast, the facility was immaculate and the staff friendly and helpful. The first full day there, we went exploring and by day's end had logged over eight miles. I might add here that one of my absolute favorite things about Charleston is that it is a walking city. You can park your car when you arrive and not see it again until you leave unless, like us, we kept remembering things we'd left in the car and had to make the trek back to the parking deck. Parking is limited in Charleston and a bit pricey, but to me it is totally worth it. We walked everywhere we needed to go, got in our daily steps, ended up in a few places we did not intend but were glad we did, and then headed back to the hotel in the evening. This was our place to get in our choice of exercise but if that is not your idea of a vacation, just take the trolley. The trolley loops to the very end of the peninsula and back. It is provided by the city and is completely free. A great service!
As we explored Charleston on foot, we marveled at the many historical and architectural wonders. I had visited with girlfriends a couple of years ago, but the hubs had not been in 20-plus years when, at the time, we had our girls with us and were completely absorbed with keeping two young ones entertained. At the time they were not so much into history, but I think they'd love to visit now and take in all the history offered. Plus when you're visiting with girlfriends (grown or otherwise), shopping is an understood activity and involves bouncing into all the many shops that line the roads. If you are a shopper, you'll be happy to know that Charleston is a shopper's dream. But in the absence of "others," we were able this time to absorb some of the history and enjoyed doing it so much. Even visiting the cemeteries is fascinating. Some of the graves date back to deaths in the mid-1800's. Why is it as you get older you enjoy history more and marvel at tombstones? Is it because you're becoming a bit ancient yourself and a bit closer to your own grave? Maybe so!
Enjoy some of these images of things I love most about this splendid city!
I love "considered" doors because, for me, doors offer the first glimpse of what is to be found inside. Some doors are immaculate and others a bit distressed, revealing that inside there is probably a reno going on or, at the least, some tender loving care being shed upon these wonderful homes. Note the large stone for a step in front of the lower black door. Now, that's an idea! Make your door a take-note color and give those passersby a smile for their day. Your front door is not just your front door; it's the portal to your life...
The beautiful flowers and boxes that line the many windows along the streets. You don't see many flowerboxes around where I live, but in older cities they are alive and well. A gorgeous way to set your home apart from others...
The architecture and pastel colors that inspire me are abundant. I could photograph the old homes all day long in this marvelous city; just think, if I lived in Charleston I could have a pink house! Or baby blue. Or fern green...
The alleyways and "off the beaten path" curiosities found...they are endless here! Loving' the blue Vespa...
The romance of the old south that permeates every corner and crevice of this great city...
And is there anything more romantic than a horse-drawn carriage down a centuries-old-street?
“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.”
- Nicholas Sparks
Posted by CC
I love to write; you love to read...let's share!