the october cocktail hour: festivals, reunions, and farm tours, along with the more mundane things in life :-)

Saturday, October 15: Welcome to our October happy hour! Come right in, get comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink. It’s the perfect day to sit out on our screened-in porch.  Would you care for a Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice and ginger beer), an Appletini, a dirty martini, or a Cosmos?  I’m happy to say I’m expanding my bartending capabilities.  Of course there will always be the old standbys of wine and beer.

I can also offer soda or seltzer water with lime if you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage.

Please, do share what’s been going on with you.  I’d love to hear about the end of your summer and your early fall.  Have you been on vacation or explored new areas close to home?  Have you indulged in any daydreams? Have you changed jobs or gone into retirement?  Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you tried out any new restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  How’s your garden?  Have you had any special family gatherings?

Admittedly, I’ve been imbibing on whatever alcoholic drink I can find to drown out the sorrows and frustrations of this election season.  I’ve been spending way too much time reading everything that comes along in the news and on Facebook about the election, including keeping tabs on the various polls.  I have been trying to post only intelligent political articles on my Facebook page, without sinking to the level of the trolls and haters.  All my Facebook friends are perfectly clear on who my candidate of choice is and ISN’T.  As I don’t care to infect my blog with U.S. politics, I will not discuss my preferences here, other than to say I’ve been evaluating my friendships in light of all that I’m seeing and hearing.  In addition, though I’ve never been much of a political person, for the first time in my life I’ve actually donated money and volunteered to work the phone bank during a political campaign.  Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely despise making cold calls of any kind, so this is a big step for me, and one of which I’m quite proud. I cannot stand by idly and not participate when so much is at stake.

I’m not going to discuss the campaign any more except for some comments I’ll make toward the end of this post regarding friendships.  Enough said.

I totally missed posting a September cocktail hour because in the middle of September I organized a big party/family reunion for my dad’s 86th birthday.  The only person who didn’t show up was my youngest son, Adam, who is trying to settle in and carve a life out for himself in Maui.

Soon after we returned from Iceland at the end of August, we went with my sister-in-law, my son Alex and his girlfriend Ariana to Cirque de Soleil at Tyson’s Corner.  It was a spectacular show titled Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, with fantastic costumes, acrobatics and amazing feats.  What a way to immerse ourselves back home after our fabulous trip abroad.

You can read about our Iceland trip on my blog about my European travels: in search of a thousand cafés.

Cirque de Soleil - Kurios ~ Cabinet of Curiosities
Cirque de Soleil – Kurios ~ Cabinet of Curiosities

It was hard to return from Iceland’s cool and sometimes frigid weather to the heat and humidity in Virginia. I always prefer cold weather to hot, so I was glad for the escape.  But.  Maybe it was the sudden change from sweltering to cold and then back to hot that caused Mike and I to both get sick on the trip, that and the tendency to go, go, go while on vacation.  When we returned home, Mike got better while I got worse.  I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia and I suffered through three weeks of pure misery.  When I felt slightly better, I walked my daily three miles in the heat, sweated profusely, then got chilled; after these attempts at my normal routine, I was wiped out for days.  I repeated this several times, thinking I was better, but then was knocked back down.  Finally, I surrendered to the illness, rested a lot, drank fluids and pampered myself.  Finally, by mid-September, I was fine again.  What misery that was!

On September 4, Mike and I want to the Virginia Scottish Games and Festival at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia.  Mike was particularly interested in watching the Border Collie sheep herding, but it turned out there was only one Border Collie and he was herding goats.  Apparently this Border Collie costs $7,000!  He was very keen to round-up the goats when his owner gave the signal.  We watched a parade, ate haggis (which I’d never had) and Scotch eggs, and checked out the shiny British cars.

We stopped at the Living History exhibit, where a man taught us a bit about Scottish history.

Living history
Living history
Scottish paraade
Scottish paraade
Scottish parade
Scottish parade

The week before the Scottish Festival, we had a faux painter paint our dining room (from a deep red to a Sherwin Williams Whitetail and Intricate Ivory using a troweling process); the week after, she did our foyer (using a stippling process with a Sherwin Williams Cooled Blue, Rivulet , and Thermal Spring glaze mixture).  I am pleased with the results in both areas. 🙂

It’s been a long year of renovations, painting, landscaping, and KonMari-ing, and our house feels like new now.  We’re exhausted by the whole process and are now ready to relax for a good long while.  We still have to renovate our upstairs bathrooms, but I won’t be ready to dive into that project for a long time.

Here’s our stippled foyer.  The three paintings to the right were ones I picked up at the Longji Rice Terraces in China and had framed.

Foyer with Chinese paintings
Foyer with Chinese paintings

I planned a big family reunion for my dad’s 86th birthday on the weekend of September 17.  My sister from California and my brother from New Jersey came, as well as my sister and her whole family from Maryland.  Sarah came for part of the time and Alex and his girlfriend were also here.  Adam was the only one missing, sadly.  We shared a lot of food and drinks and infectious laughs, especially playing Apples-to-Apples and a rip-roaring game of Charades.  My siblings and I have always been game players, so it was great fun for all of us to be together and let loose with some crazy competitions.

Sadly, I am unable to post pictures of our whole family together as my sister from California does not want her picture posted, and she of course was in many of them. 😦

On September 24, I went to Richmond to attend a day-long farm tour with my daughter.  Sarah wrote a great blog about it: Where Farmers Grow.  I hope you’ll check it out.  She’s a fantastic writer. 🙂

We started our tour at Victory Farms.

Victory Farms
Victory Farms
Victory Farms
Victory Farms
Victory Farms
Victory Farms

I didn’t know okra plants had such pretty flowers.

After touring three other gardens, we ended up back at Victory Farms, where we enjoyed a feast of small plates prepared by Richmond chefs.

Back at Victory Gardens
Back at Victory Gardens
feast at Victory Gardens
feast at Victory Gardens

Sarah’s friend Colin, marketing director of Ellwood Thompson’s, a locally-owned and independently operated natural food market, got us the tickets for this event.

Sarah and Colin
Sarah and Colin
Sarah and me
Sarah and me

Shalom Farms, our next stop on the tour, partners with community organizations and existing nutrition programs to meet the needs of families and children. Among others, their partners include after-school programs, food banks, and community kitchens. In 2015 over 200,000 servings of Shalom Farms produce was distributed through local partnerships to meet the growing needs of nutrition programs in the greater Richmond area.

We both found the work at this farm inspirational.

Shalom Farms
Shalom Farms

Shalom, a 6-acre sustainable farm at Westview on the James in Goochland, Virginia, is an agricultural learning lab for visitors and volunteers of all backgrounds. In 2014, over 4,400 volunteers and visitors gained hands-on education and experience, helping the grow over 250,000 servings of fresh produce, according to their website.

Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery , our third stop, supplies its brewery operations with on-site hop, barley, rosemary, hay and pumpkin farming.  We were able to enjoy a beer here and listen to some good classic rock-n-roll.

Tricycle Gardens is an urban garden whose mission is to grow healthy food, healthy communities and a healthy local food system. Their aim is to restore urban ecologies and create beautiful public spaces throughout Richmond, Virginia.

Tricycle Gardens
Tricycle Gardens

I made the mistake of standing in line at the porta-potty near the compost bins, where I was devoured by blood-sucking mosquitoes.  I must have been bitten at least 20 times, and it made the rest of my time at this garden miserable!

On September 30, Mike and I went into D.C., which we don’t do often, to China Chilcano for dinner, followed by a play at the Woolly Mammoth.

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

me at China Chilcano
me at China Chilcano

At China Chilcano, known for its union of Peruvian Criollo, Chinese Chifa and Japanese Nikkei, we sampled some Dorado Dim Sum (pork, shrimp, jicama, shiitake mushroom, peanut topped with golden egg), Bok Choy as Sillao (Baby bok choy, shiitake mushroom, oyster sauce), and Chupe de Cameron (Pacific wild shrimp soup with fresh cheese, choclo, rice, potato, poached egg).  For dessert we enjoyed Suspiro Limeña (Sweetened condensed milk custard topped with soft and crunchy meringue, passion fruit).

At the Woolly Mammoth, we saw another avant-garde play: Collective Rage: A Play in Five Boops.  Woolly Mammoth is always on the cutting edge with their performances, and this one is no different.  In Jen Silverman’s absurdist romantic comedy, five different women named Betty collide at the intersection of anger, sex, and the “thea-tah,” according to the playbill.  I enjoy it, but am always a little taken aback by the radical ideas in these plays.

Wooly Mammoth
Wooly Mammoth

Before the play, we sat and enjoyed a glass of wine, which was included in the price of our theater ticket.  Mike was awfully blue and I awfully pink. 🙂

We haven’t done much else these two months other than taking our trip to Iceland and recovering from said trip.  I have watched a number of good movies, notably Hell or High Water, in which a divorced father (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother (Toby Howard) resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas. I enjoyed this movie and felt some satisfaction at the brothers’ attempts to get back at the bank that tried to cheat their family out of its inheritance.

I also enjoyed the atmospheric The Light Between Oceans, in which a lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat.  I went to see this with my sister from California as she stayed an extra two days after the rest of the family left the reunion.  After the movie, we enjoyed sushi and Sapporo and hot sake with Mike at Arigato.

One day last week, I went to see The Queen of Katwe, in which a Ugandan girl’s poverty-stricken life becomes more promising after she is introduced to the game of chess, for which she has great aptitude. I love this movie, as I always love movies that take place in foreign and exotic locales and feature an underdog rising up to meet success.

As for books, I have read some captivating books.  Here’s what I’ve read since we last met for a cocktail hour: Glaciers; And the Mountains Echoed; The Disappeared; 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.  I listened to my first ever audiobook, Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (read by Hope Davis).  I’ve never listened to an audiobook because I can be a terrible listener, with my mind always wandering off.  But, despite a few wandering thoughts where I lost the thread of the story, I was engrossed in this book and LOVED IT!! I’m now sold on audiobooks.  I’m looking forward to listening to a lot more during my daily 3 mile walks.

I’ve now added another exercise to my walks, a Tuesday-Thursday Pilates class.  I’ve never done Pilates, but I’ve done Yoga.  Both of them I find excruciatingly boring.  But I’ve decided I like Pilates better and I think I’m getting stronger as a result of it.

In addition to Pilates, I’m taking a Memoir class at the Reston Community Center on Monday mornings.  The class is for 55+ people — that includes me!  I’m finally beginning to write a memoir; I’ve dreamed of doing this for a long time; because of the weekly deadlines, I now have four chapters under my belt. I’m getting positive feedback on it too, which encourages me to go on.  Because of this class, I’m reading Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach.  I’ve always been told that if you want to write in a certain genre, you should read a lot in that genre, so in that vein, I read and enjoyed immensely Pat Conroy’s The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son.

Of all the books I’ve read, I think I enjoyed The Disappeared the most.  Here’s the review I wrote about it on Goodreads: This book tells the poignant and tragic story of a young Cambodian man who was forced to leave his country during the Khmer Rouge reign and genocide, and who, while in exile in Montreal, meets and falls in love with a 16-year-old Canadian girl. Their love is beautifully and poetically rendered, and is physical and spiritual at the same time. The story is written in 2nd person, an unusual point of view. When the borders of Cambodia open again, Serey, the Cambodian student and musician, feels compelled to return to his country to search for his family. It is over a decade before his lover, Anne Greves, is able to travel to Cambodia in search of him, and when she finds him, they live together with the dark cloud of the country’s genocide hanging over them and reverberating through their lives. Serey is secretive about his days and when Anne comes to find out he is working for the opposition, she rebels against his secrecy and fears for his life. Beautifully rendered, this book reminds us of sweeping tragedies in countries where peasants or the disenfranchised take up arms and kill off intellectuals and musicians and teachers. Like China’s Cultural Revolution, and like the Nazi extermination of the Jews, it is a dark and grim reminder of the horrible things human beings do to each other when embraced with hatred and fear.

I guess this book struck home with me because of the political atmosphere in our country during this 2016 election.

In regards to that, I’ve been looking closely at and evaluating my friendships.  I read a great article posted by my favorite philosopher, Alain de Botton, on Facebook, from The Book of Life: What is the Purpose of Friendship?

The article starts with: “Friendship should be one of the high points of existence, and yet it’s also the most routinely disappointing reality.”  And then it goes on to say that relationships have a purpose which are boiled down to the following: networking, reassurance, fun, clarifying our minds, and holding on to the past.  I know I can look at most of my friendships and say they have one of these purposes.  They say friends come into our lives for a reason, or a season.

I truly wonder if we can hold on to friends forever.  Maybe I lived in a fantasy world, but I used to believe I could.  Sometimes I still like to believe it is possible.  But how can I really be friends with people who don’t share my basic values of inclusiveness and love for all of mankind; how can I be friends with people who harshly judge and even condemn those who are a different race, religion, or sex than us? How can I be friends with those who condone ugliness and hatred?

I’m beginning to think that I agree with the final paragraph in this article: “We should dare to be a little ruthless. Culling acquaintances isn’t a sign that we have lost belief in friendship. It’s evidence that we are getting clearer and more demanding about what a friendship could be.”  That’s where I am now.

It’s been the nastiest time I’ve ever lived through in the history of my country.

So, on that note, I leave you to go forward into this great month of November, when the election will be upon us, and to make decisions with good conscience. What we decide in November will be of grave consequence to the future of our country.

Cheers!!

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cocktail hour on the patio: the mid-autumn edition

Sunday, November 1:  Hello there and welcome!  It’s been too long since I’ve been able to host a cocktail hour on my patio, but I’m so happy to have you drop by this evening.  Since my last one on September 6, a lot has happened, at least in my life.  I can’t wait to catch up with you to find out what you’ve been up to during these two months.

It’s a cool fall evening, a little overcast, but still nice enough to sit outside.  Please, make yourself comfortable.  Would you like a glass of my new favorite wine?  It’s a Montes Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile; it’s quite mellow. I discovered it one evening when I went grocery shopping at Whole Foods.  I quite like going grocery shopping around 4:30 on a weekday afternoon.  I conveniently manage to finish up around 5:00, when the wine bar starts serving wine, and I often park my grocery cart beside me at the bar, where I sip a glass of wine.  That’s where I discovered the Montes.  Someone also gave us a bottle of Wild Boar Tavern red wine, which I haven’t opened yet. It’s from one of the Virginia wineries: Stone Tower Winery in Loudoun County.  I also have some white wine, my Bud Light Limes, and one of Mike’s Fat Tire beers if you’d prefer.  If you don’t care for alcohol, I do have some apple cider in the refrigerator. I can heat it up, with some orange juice, lemon juice, cloves and cinnamon, or I can serve it cold. 🙂

So, what have you been up to?  Have you enjoyed the change of seasons?  I don’t know about you, but autumn, especially October and November, is my favorite time of year.  I love it when the air turns crisp and cool and the orange, yellow and red leaves rustle over my head as I take my morning walks.  I also love pumpkins, scarecrows, corn mazes, mums, odd-shaped squashes, multi-colored corn cobs, and jack-o-lanterns.  It’s so festive, as if the earth is shouting its last hurrah before it shuts down for the winter.

Have you been to any plays or concerts?  Have you seen any good movies?  Have you been on any fall outings?  Have you gone away for a long weekend? Have you learned something new or met any new people?  Have you taken any fall hikes?  Have you read any good books or watched any interesting TV series?  Have you completed any house projects?

Since September 6, I received two of the boxes from China I had mailed right before I left on July 15.  Everything was intact, happily. One never knows how things that come from China will end up.

I worked the first two weeks of September on a pre-task we had to do for the CELTA course (University of Cambridge Certificate of English Language Teaching for Adults).  The actual course began on September 21.  It was a month-long highly intensive course.  It took me 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours each way to commute to the Teaching House office in Washington for the course.  In addition to the nearly 3 hour round-trip commute, I had to complete 2-3 hours of work every night.  We also had intense assignments to do every weekend until the course ended on October 16.  Preparing for and taking the course took nearly every minute of my time during that period, but it was well worth it.   I only wish I had taken the course BEFORE I started teaching abroad; it would have helped me immensely.  But alas, I guess it was better to take it later than never.  Even with all the work, I really enjoyed the course; our tutors were excellent and inspiring!

We had 9 CELTA candidates in our class.  We originally had 10, but one dropped out because he got too far behind after missing one day due to sickness.  That’s how intense it was!

At the end, because it takes 8-10 weeks to get our actual certificates, we gave mock certificates to one another.  My certificate said “the person most likely to turn in a novel as a lesson plan.” 🙂

Here are some of my fellow candidates from our final class party.  I didn’t get pictures of all of us.

For the first half of the course, half of us taught pre-intermediate adult students and the other half taught upper-intermediate.  Halfway through the course, we switched and taught the opposite group.  Here are some photos of the students, who were from countries as far-ranging as Argentina, Colombia, Morocco, Austria, Cote d’Ivoire and many others.

students with Eric in front, and me in the middle right
students with Eric in front, and me in the middle right


As you can guess, that course has been the reason I’ve been unable to blog for so long.  I could hardly breathe, much less do anything extra.

Before the class began, I took a trip to Richmond to visit Sarah and Alex.  We had a Japanese dinner at Akida Japanese Restaurant, did some shopping the next day, and then had a vegetarian lunch at Fresca on Addison.  The Fan District in Richmond has so many cute corner restaurants, I feel like I need to sample a few every time I visit there.

On Saturday, September 12, Mike and I went downtown to Arena Stage to see Destiny of Desire, a telenovela comedy by Karen Zacarias.  It was about two baby girls born in Bellarica, Mexico, one into a life of privilege and one into a life of poverty. When the two babies are switched at birth, it leads to some hilarious situations.  We enjoyed the play, even though, like a telenovela, it was meant to be overly dramatic.

I went to see Learning to Drive, starring Patricia Clarkson, at Cinema Arts Theatre and then met some friends for dinner at Season 52 at Tyson’s Corner.  I also saw Lily Tomlin in Grandma the next day.  I enjoyed them both, but I especially loved Learning to Drive.

On the night of September 18, Mike and I went to see a play, Women Laughing Alone with Salad, at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre downtown, after a dinner of tapas at Jaleo. It was very risque, and highly entertaining.  The Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s mission is to produce plays that “explore the edges of theatrical style and human experience,” and this play certainly was representative of that mission.

Playbook from Women Laughing Alone with Salad
Playbill from Women Laughing Alone with Salad

The play was inspired by the 2011 blog post of the same name by Edith Zimmerman on the website The Hairpin. According to the playbill: “the eighteen photos were portraits of women, many of whom were attired in tasteful, neutral ensembles of relaxed casualwear against white or blank backgrounds, posing with bowls of salad.  Which they seemed to really enjoy! … The post went viral, becoming a known ‘meme’ or cultural thought.”  The playwright, Sheila Callaghan, created three female characters, each of whom has her “own complicated relationship toward the supposedly ‘ideal’ women depicted in the stock photos.”  The one male figure, Guy, is the fulcrum which “allows the play to enter a conversation between the sexes about how both are affected by the pathologies of the feminine and masculine ideals.”

Me at the Woolly Mammoth
Me at the Woolly Mammoth – all I need is a bowl of salad!

The week I started the CELTA course, on September 22-24, the Pope visited D.C.  We were so worried about making it downtown on metro during all the festivities, but we managed to do so quite easily as government employees opted to work at home on those days.  I didn’t see the Pope because I was busy in my classes.

On Saturday the 26th, Mike and I went to see Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, which we both found hilarious!  I also went on my own to see The Martian, with Matt Damon, and I was happy to find it wasn’t just another space movie with one mishap following on the heels of another, although it did have some of that.

On Friday, October 2, Mike and I went for happy hour and dinner at Season 52 at Tyson’s Corner.  We love that place because it has healthy seasonal food and good wine.  I like meeting somewhere during the work week to break up the monotony of work.

On Saturday, October 3, on a weekend I had my biggest assignment due for the CELTA, I took some time out to have lunch with Farah, an old friend of mine.  Every time I get together with Farah, we end up laughing our heads off at some silly thing.  This time, both of us were agonizing about our children, but we laughed so hard we were almost crying as we told stories about their “angst” and “dilemmas.”  It was great to make light of something that has been stressing me out big time since I returned home from China.

On the last week of the CELTA, on October 14, Mike and I went to see Benjamin Clementine at the Barns of Wolf Trap. According to Wikipedia: Benjamin Clementine: “Clementine is a British-French singer-poet, pianist, composer and musician from London, England.  During his spell whilst singing [as a busker] in Paris, he broke free from the traditional song structure, inventing his own dramatic and innovative musical territory and consequently became a cult figure in the music and art scene.” It was an interesting concert, unlike any I’ve attended.

On the last night of our CELTA course, October 16, all the teachers (us) and students went for beer and wine at Church Key, a craft beer bar not far from where my Chinese student Christine and her mom stayed when they came to visit.

On the Saturday after my class ended, on October 17, we walked with Adam in the morning along the Fairfax Country Cross-County trail.  I love getting outdoors for walks at this time of year.  We’ve been having a lot of struggles with Adam lately as he tries to “find himself” and it was a welcome and relaxing break from many stressful conversations.

The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT
The Fairfax CCT

Later that same evening, we went to see The Intern, which I adored.  I love Robert DeNiro, and having been one of the world’s oldest living interns myself for 4 months in 2007, 3 months in 2008 and 9 months in 2009, at ages 51-52, I could really relate to the story.

On Sunday, October 18, we went to The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant in Reston, to celebrate my 60th birthday with the family. It was a week before my actual birthday, but it was the only time we could get the kids to come.  Sarah and Alex were supposed to come from Richmond, and Adam was already here.  However, Sarah, as usual, didn’t plan ahead, and didn’t make it.  Alex drove up from Richmond by himself. So it was just the four of us for my family birthday, and it was really nice! (Sorry about the quality of pictures from my iPhone.  It takes the worst pictures!).

I had been exercising so well before my CELTA course, and now that it’s over, I’m back to it with a vengeance.  One of my favorite places to walk is around Lake Audubon in Reston.  This is my favorite view.

view of Lake Audubon
view of Lake Audubon

On Monday evening, the 19th, I had dinner at Sweetwater Tavern in Sterling with one of my oldest and dearest high school friends, Nancy, who lives near me in northern Virginia.  She’s a schoolteacher and is really busy, but we try to get together at least once a year. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures of our fun evening together.

On Tuesday the 20th, I met Toby of Travels with Toby: My Few Hours in Washington, D.C. at the National Gallery of Art. She was mostly interested in seeing the Impressionists, but we saw a number of wonderful artistic delights too.  I’ll write a post about it soon.  It was so nice to meet Toby after reading her blog over the last couple of years; we enjoyed a fun lunch at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana before she had to go back to Reston to pick up her mother.

me and Toby at the National Art Gallery
me and Toby at the National Art Gallery

On Friday the 23rd, painters arrived to paint our three upstairs bedrooms, which hadn’t been painted since the boys were little and still had babyish wallpaper borders, stars on the ceilings and stenciled star borders.  The biggest bedroom is now a robin’s egg blue and the two smaller rooms are a Sherwin Williams “Online” gray.

Finally, the highlight of my October was a trip Mike and I took for my birthday weekend to Chincoteague.  Leaving Saturday morning, we drove 3 hours to Assateague and then to Chincoteague, where we stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast, Channel Bass Inn, run by a Barbara, a fun-loving Brit who makes some heavenly scones, and her husband David.  We took some short hikes in Assateague, saw a few of the famous wild ponies, hiked and bicycled in Chincoteague, and ate some great seafood.  I’ll write more about that later.

As you can see, it’s been a super busy time for me, but I hope things will settle down now that my course and my birthday are over.  I can’t wait to hear about what you’ve been up to, so please leave some comments below about your autumn adventures.  If I don’t answer right away, please be patient; do rest assured that I read them as soon as you comment. 🙂

Thanks so much for dropping by.  It’s so nice to see you after my two-month blogging hiatus. 🙂