Hello 40! in St. Lucia

Our group of friends decided a few years ago that if you’re going to have to turn 40, you should celebrate that milestone surrounded by ocean air, cold cocktails and people you love who share your delusion that you’re still college-aged. And thanks to the extreme Type-A personalities among our crew, we put this plan in place a long time ago, giving us the ability to find the time and gather the resources (and bribe the husbands and children) to make it happen.

Side Note: If you’re in the market for a travel agent, we can’t recommend Ansley Bentley with ProTravel International enough. Her recommendations were spot-on, she was super organized, very responsive and got us great deals. As much as I love travel planning, I think I might be a convert to working with a professional.

When I count my blessings, these ladies — and the other rare gems who round out our group but couldn’t make the trip this time! — are always on the list. Life is so much sweeter when you can share it with people who forgive all of your faults, laugh at your jokes, and give you honest advice when you need it most but still swear they hardly notice the gray in your hair.

I’d love to start this post at the beginning of the trip, but Delta left me stranded for a day in Atlanta. Whoopsies.

Picture me with a sad face, watching our plane pull away after racing over from my delayed connecting flight.

Plan B came together pretty quickly, though! There were no other options for getting to St. Lucia on Wednesday so I asked for someone find my bag in the bowels of Hartsfield and the Velmers graciously took me in for the night.

Well, the Velmer boys took me in. Micki was safely aboard the plane, texting instructions on where to find the good wine. Lord bless her.

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All in all, not a bad day! After all of our years of frequenting Brick Store Pub, I finally got to sit at the bar like a real grown up and I got to hang out with these two cuties with their matching smiles and matching jammies.

Meanwhile, the girls sent me photos and videos from Cap Maison.

It looked really awful.

I couldn’t wait to get there.

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Thursday brought Take 2!

Delta got me to the island and the hotel sent a race car driver to take me the 90-minute route to the hotel. I made it with enough time to drop my bags, change into a dress and we were off to the sunset cruise which was included with our booking.

That’s Captain Bebe at the helm.

That’s Captain Bebe at the helm.

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Friday morning, Kristen, Ash and Amy took off in a rented car for the other side of the island to hike Gros Piton while Micki, Viv and I headed for the beach.

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First morning for me = much relaxing and very little documenting. We had lunch at The Naked Fisherman right on the beach and generally had a very lazy day.

After enjoying some cocktails at lunch, Vivian and I thought it would be a great idea to try paddle boarding in the ocean. Which was hilarious. And not like paddle boarding in a lake whatsoever.

We entertained everyone on the beach with our frequent spills into the salt water but we avoided major injury on the rocks just below the surface and eventually we got the hang of it.

Late in the afternoon, Vivian went off to join Micki at the Cap Maison spa and I went for a walk around the property with my little Fuji.

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Around dinnertime, the hikers returned! They were exhausted, stinky and absolutely beaming from ear to ear with accomplishment. From what they told us, their experience was much closer to “scaling a mountain” than “hiking a trail.”

These ladies are kicking 40’s ass.

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Feeling more rested, we beach bums signed up to take a shuttle from the hotel to a local street party. Apparently there are two towns on the island that make this a tradition every Friday night and we were excited to experience more of the local culture.

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Dinner was at Duke’s Place — a fairly small open-air building housed the bar, colorful picnic tables and lots of stray cats and dogs filled the yard, and hungry party-goers waited in line to grab whatever was hot off the charcoal grills when their turn came.

For us, it was a big filet of Marlin, rice with some sort of onion-y slurry/salsa and a couple of cold Piton lagers.

So good.

Saturday morning, it was the hikers’ turn to be lazy at the beach and we went off on a full-day excursion to Soufriere, the first town to be settled on the island in 1746, organized by the hotel.

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We started with a quick shuttle to the marina at The Landing, where we set off on a 90-minute cruise around the island to the Port of Soufriere.

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After leaving the boat, we headed through the town to the Toraille Waterfall.

Our guide for the day, Chaka, was a pro at timing our stops to avoid the large crowds of tourists coming from the bigger resorts like Sandals which was nearby.

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Cold!

Cold!

Next we headed to the Sulfur Springs.

St. Lucia is a volcanic island and warm, black, sulfur-rich water flows to these pools where you can soak, basically curing any ailment from bug bites to insanity. After a short swim, you paint yourself with white mud, decorate with black mud, pose for campy photos, then head back into the black pools to wash off.

Like Micki said, “If this place isn’t legit, how hysterical is all of this to the locals running the place?”

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After our sulfur and mud bath, we went to see the source of the springs, at the Caribbean’s only Drive-In Volcano site. Word on the street is that it used to be the only one in the world before the park rangers at Yosemite stole their idea.

It was pretty smelly, but very cool to see the bubbling pools all along the rock face. Up until about 1990, tourists could walk right up to the hot spots and cook a potato (I’m envisioning them roasting on long sticks over the insanely hot vents in the rocks like S’mores). But then a guide slipped in while jumping up and down on some rock, demonstrating that it wasn’t totally stable (Here’s Your Sign) and they built some fences and changed the rules. The guide was able to escape serious injury and works in the Soufriere marina these days.

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That mountain behind us in the photo on the right and below in the harbor shot?

That’s Gros Piton which the girls hiked. #rockstars

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After a local lunch, we headed back to the boat and cruised about halfway back where we stopped to swim and snorkel. I don’t have a lot of experience snorkeling but it was so peaceful and incredible to see the reef and all of the sea life.

I might have been the only one who felt that way, though, being the first in the water and the last one to get out.

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Sunday morning, we met for breakfast and then Amy and I went down to the beach for one last hour before showering and packing up. We squeezed in a little paddle boarding and made it to the return shuttle to the airport just in time.

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I think this little guy was sad to see us go.

I think this little guy was sad to see us go.

We spent the rest of Mother’s Day together, traveling back home to our babies and husbands, shaking off some nausea from the ride to the airport, and mentally getting back to Work and Mom mode.

But what an amazing time it was.

Here’s to many more girls’ trips in the years to come! I love you guys! xoxo

P.S. Scroll past the rest of the photos I couldn’t leave out — many not taken by me! — for our Girls’ Trip Superlative Awards.

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The Annual Girls’ Trip Superlative Awards (in alpha order)

AMY

  • Most Likely to Start a Rapping Career, Known as Lil’ Dirty Feet

  • Most Likely to Charm the Locals, Working “Y’All” Into Every Conversation

  • Biggest Champ on the Winding Drive to the Airport

ANNE

  • Most Likely to Drain Your Aperitif for You

  • Most Likely to Be Carried Away By St. Lucian Mosquitoes

  • Best Janet Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction Impersonation

ASHLEE

  • Most Likely to Recreate A Real Housewives Moment

  • Best Post-Champagne/Pre-Dinner Costume Change

  • Most Likely to Open a St. Lucian Animal Resort for Furry Friends

KRISTEN

  • Most Comfortable Bosom for Snuggles

  • Most Likely to Lead an Expedition to Mars and/or Drive a Taxi in London

  • Best Floatie Flair and All-Around Zen Mama

MICKI

  • Most Likely to Surprise Herself with Her Own Friendliness Toward Strangers

  • Best Late-Night Mac n’ Cheese Chef

  • Best Damn Wing-Woman During Travel Snafus

VIVIAN

  • Villa DJ in Chief: Reggae All Day

  • Most Improved Paddle Boarder and Over-comer of Wildlife Fears

  • Best Honesty Bar Customer (When She Has a Pen)

Jan. 'n Feb.

Hello 2019!

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So far, Ella finished up basketball season.

So far, Ella finished up basketball season.

Miss Kate turned 18.

Miss Kate turned 18.

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Michael fake-played his way through the 4th grade recorder concert.

Michael fake-played his way through the 4th grade recorder concert.

The flu hit.

The flu hit.

Ella baked.

Ella baked.

We visited the 6th Floor Museum.

We visited the 6th Floor Museum.

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Henry’s been hitting the books. We’ve got high hopes he’ll be caught up before second grade starts in August.

Henry’s been hitting the books. We’ve got high hopes he’ll be caught up before second grade starts in August.

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Kate performed in her final high school musical,  Newsies .

Kate performed in her final high school musical, Newsies.

We made cake for the winter birthday girls.

We made cake for the winter birthday girls.

And the only good sense Matt showed while teasing his wife for being older than him, was the fact he did it from a safe distance.

And the only good sense Matt showed while teasing his wife for being older than him, was the fact he did it from a safe distance.

Track and Field season kicked off with a frigidly cold meet.

Track and Field season kicked off with a frigidly cold meet.

And Brisket continues to live the good life.

And Brisket continues to live the good life.

I Was Kidnapped By Aliens?

I honestly couldn’t tell you how it happened, but it’s Christmas in a few days.

What have we been up to since Labor Day weekend?

Ella started 7th grade athletics, beginning with volleyball (her favorite non-soccer sport so far).

Ella started 7th grade athletics, beginning with volleyball (her favorite non-soccer sport so far).

Michael hit double-digits.

Michael hit double-digits.

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Henry logged another season of baseball.

Henry logged another season of baseball.

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And Ella played her first season with the Rockets.

And Ella played her first season with the Rockets.

That was September.

October brought more volleyball.

October brought more volleyball.

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And our annual pumpkin carving mess, I mean, afternoon.

And our annual pumpkin carving mess, I mean, afternoon.

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Ella the Elephant

Ella the Elephant

Plus a pretend pirate and a knight who didn’t want to wear any part of his costume except for the tunic. Based on the candy haul, the night was a success.

Plus a pretend pirate and a knight who didn’t want to wear any part of his costume except for the tunic. Based on the candy haul, the night was a success.

Next up: Henry’s birthday month.

After an 11-month wait, we hit the road for Galveston to catch our Very Merrytime Disney cruise to Cozumel. Henry was pretty excited about the McDonald’s pancakes.

After an 11-month wait, we hit the road for Galveston to catch our Very Merrytime Disney cruise to Cozumel. Henry was pretty excited about the McDonald’s pancakes.

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Checking out the Port of Galveston before we set sail.

Checking out the Port of Galveston before we set sail.

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Mmm, breakfast buffet.

Mmm, breakfast buffet.

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So many activities!! (Joke for two.) Despite the fact the kids weren’t interested in any of the Disney Clubs, we were entertained all day every day.

So many activities!! (Joke for two.) Despite the fact the kids weren’t interested in any of the Disney Clubs, we were entertained all day every day.

We made pretty good use of the Concierge Lounge and it’s juice, hot chocolate, fancy little snack plates that the kids wanted to taste but not actually eat, and all of the coffee.

We made pretty good use of the Concierge Lounge and it’s juice, hot chocolate, fancy little snack plates that the kids wanted to taste but not actually eat, and all of the coffee.

The shows! This was my favorite part of each day. Henry was on the edge of his seat for this one.

The shows! This was my favorite part of each day. Henry was on the edge of his seat for this one.

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We woke up and found we were in Cozumel.

We woke up and found we were in Cozumel.

But we had some time to kill before we were allowed to disembark.

But we had some time to kill before we were allowed to disembark.

Cue: Shuffleboard

Cue: Shuffleboard

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We made it! Swim with Dolphins Day!

We made it! Swim with Dolphins Day!

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Back to the boat.

Back to the boat.

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By the last day, Henry was happy to chill in the room with some Frosted Flakes. All of those trips to the souvenir shop to decide how to spend his allowance must have really worn him out.

By the last day, Henry was happy to chill in the room with some Frosted Flakes. All of those trips to the souvenir shop to decide how to spend his allowance must have really worn him out.

Note to self: Save $200 and skip the Disney photo pass next time around.

Note to self: Save $200 and skip the Disney photo pass next time around.

Back home, we gathered with family to celebrate Henry’s 007 birthday.

Back home, we gathered with family to celebrate Henry’s 007 birthday.

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Our nearly 13-year old has been stricken with a familiar problem. She can’t eat a s’more without taking a photo of it first.

Our nearly 13-year old has been stricken with a familiar problem. She can’t eat a s’more without taking a photo of it first.

Thanksgiving at the Farm! Where Mom has a 5-gallon bowl ready for mixing the oyster dressing.

Thanksgiving at the Farm! Where Mom has a 5-gallon bowl ready for mixing the oyster dressing.

Gigi and Poppa came to visit!

Gigi and Poppa came to visit!

Here are a couple of outtakes from our last-minute Christmas card photo shoot.

Here are a couple of outtakes from our last-minute Christmas card photo shoot.

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Drew’s birthday falls right between Henry’s and Rocket’s.  When you’re sixteen, nearly all of your presents fit inside envelopes. Time flies!

Drew’s birthday falls right between Henry’s and Rocket’s.

When you’re sixteen, nearly all of your presents fit inside envelopes. Time flies!

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Rocket’s 70th birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day this year. xo

Rocket’s 70th birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day this year. xo

It’s been a tough year, but that makes us all the more grateful to be #TeamRocket and celebrate our favorite man with a mustache!

It’s been a tough year, but that makes us all the more grateful to be #TeamRocket and celebrate our favorite man with a mustache!

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Moo.

Moo.

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Let the holiday season begin! Gigi and Poppa helped us deck the house and put some yummy decorative touches on gingerbread houses.

Let the holiday season begin! Gigi and Poppa helped us deck the house and put some yummy decorative touches on gingerbread houses.

On to what’s left of December!

Merry Christmas Y’all.

Lake Time, Horse Rubs, School Days, and Mountain Views

Knowing we'd miss Labor Day weekend at the lake, the five of us sneaked over to PK in August for one last summer splash.

We've just about mastered anchoring at Hell's Gate.

We've just about mastered anchoring at Hell's Gate.

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Our captain for the last summer sunset cruise was suspect.

Our captain for the last summer sunset cruise was suspect.

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The big kids took lessons this summer and were a little sad to say goodbye to their barnyard friends right before school started. When I asked Henry if he wanted to take lessons next year he quickly replied, "NOPE." He does like hanging with Buttons the donkey, though. 

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Cash

Cash

Josie

Josie

Buck

Buck

Speaking of school starting...

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For Labor Day Weekend, Wes and I took Ella up to Colorado while the boys enjoyed a sister-free weekend.

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We wandered around downtown Denver on the first afternoon.

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16th Street Mall

16th Street Mall

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While Wes watched the rest of the Georgia game at the hotel, Ella and I struck out at the Unsinkable Molly Brown Museum, so we walked down to the Denver Museum of Art for a quick visit before dinner.

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Dinner on Larimer Square...we highly recommend Osteria Marco!

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Sunday, the Frays were nice enough to invite us out to their home in Boulder. What gorgeous views and wonderful company!

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Baby Judah

Baby Judah

And Miss Aubrey

And Miss Aubrey

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That afternoon, we headed to visit Justin and Cindi in Bailey. Another heavenly spot on a mountain! (Ella is already researching universities in Colorado so she can live there in a few years.)

Monday morning, the Pritchards were brave enough to take us three city slickers out to Arapahoe State Park to hike.

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Trail mix!

Trail mix!

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The morning was cool and overcast; I couldn't help but feel like we were somewhere in the UK.

The morning was cool and overcast; I couldn't help but feel like we were somewhere in the UK.

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In the distance is Mount Bierstadt, a fourteener. Ella was pretty excited to see snow blowing up at the top. I think it might have been even more exciting than the trail mix.

In the distance is Mount Bierstadt, a fourteener. Ella was pretty excited to see snow blowing up at the top. I think it might have been even more exciting than the trail mix.

Vegan Jerky?

Vegan Jerky?

Monday evening, we headed to Red Rocks with tickets to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.

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Not a bad place to see a show. :) I think we'll be back.

Summer Vacation 2018

This summer's family vacation started the same way many do.

With a tearful "see you soon" to Brisket and a speeding ticket in Louisiana.

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The last 200 miles took about 6 hours so the kids burned off some energy as soon as we put the car in Park. (Fat lotta help they were with the luggage.)

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Us grownups were happy to just sit.

Us grownups were happy to just sit.

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Beach!

Beach!

Jennifer figured me out this time around. She wanted nothing to do to with E-E (Aunt Anne) and her annoying camera so no Jen-Jen smiles from this trip, but lots of curious looks. Next time I'll win her back over.

Jennifer figured me out this time around. She wanted nothing to do to with E-E (Aunt Anne) and her annoying camera so no Jen-Jen smiles from this trip, but lots of curious looks. Next time I'll win her back over.

Every good beach trip needs some good downtime to balance out the sand and sun.

Every good beach trip needs some good downtime to balance out the sand and sun.

Jen-Jen sure loves her Poppa.

Jen-Jen sure loves her Poppa.

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And her Gigi! <3

And her Gigi! <3

Aunt Kristi turned the big 4-0 during our time together -- and she has great taste in cake! Among many other things.  We wish her the happiest year ahead!

Aunt Kristi turned the big 4-0 during our time together -- and she has great taste in cake! Among many other things.

We wish her the happiest year ahead!

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Joshua wasn't up for family photos this night -- but we got a couple of him a few days later!

Joshua wasn't up for family photos this night -- but we got a couple of him a few days later!

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Jen-Jen called both Michael and Henry "Baby" on the first day we were together. To tell them apart, Michael became "Baby Mi-Mi" and he quickly became one of her favorites.

Jen-Jen called both Michael and Henry "Baby" on the first day we were together. To tell them apart, Michael became "Baby Mi-Mi" and he quickly became one of her favorites.

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Kristi and I took time out one morning to take the kiddos to The Factory while the boys played golf.

Kristi and I took time out one morning to take the kiddos to The Factory while the boys played golf.

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Girl enough to want to wear mascara. Tomboy enough to not give a crap when it's smeared on her face.

Girl enough to want to wear mascara. Tomboy enough to not give a crap when it's smeared on her face.

One of Jennifer's MOs is to find anyone who will walk with her the direction she wants to go.  Uncle Wes was a very willing sucker. (So was I, not pictured.)

One of Jennifer's MOs is to find anyone who will walk with her the direction she wants to go.

Uncle Wes was a very willing sucker. (So was I, not pictured.)

A little early this year, the jellyfish came to swim along Gulf Shores. They didn't know what accomplished jellyfish hunters would be there to greet them though.

A little early this year, the jellyfish came to swim along Gulf Shores. They didn't know what accomplished jellyfish hunters would be there to greet them though.

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The ocean is Joshua's happy place.

The ocean is Joshua's happy place.

Jellyfish hunters in action.

Jellyfish hunters in action.

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Family picture day, take two!

Family picture day, take two!

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I want to go this way. No, I want to go this way.  Who's in charge here?

I want to go this way. No, I want to go this way.

Who's in charge here?

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Bye-byes to the beach! We can't wait to see everyone again.

Bye-byes to the beach! We can't wait to see everyone again.

We decided to break up the drive home so Saturday morning, we got up early to be among the first aboard the USS Alabama in Mobile.

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It was a hot day, but we were so grateful to have the ship nearly to ourselves for the first hour. Between the machine guns, giant chains, cannons, narrow passageways and getting a glimpse into what life would have been like on a real battleship during wartime, it was hard for us to decide what we enjoyed learning about the most.

It was a hot day, but we were so grateful to have the ship nearly to ourselves for the first hour. Between the machine guns, giant chains, cannons, narrow passageways and getting a glimpse into what life would have been like on a real battleship during wartime, it was hard for us to decide what we enjoyed learning about the most.

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After visiting the airplane hangar (and the gift shop), we hit the road toward New Orleans.

Dropping our bags with the hotel, we walked over to Royal House for the first of two great NOLA meals.

Dropping our bags with the hotel, we walked over to Royal House for the first of two great NOLA meals.

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After a failed attempt to tour St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in the blistering heat, we defaulted to Jackson Square where we found the nicest caricature artist ever.

After a failed attempt to tour St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in the blistering heat, we defaulted to Jackson Square where we found the nicest caricature artist ever.

Then we hopped on a horse (mule)-drawn carriage ride around the French Quarter...

Then we hopped on a horse (mule)-drawn carriage ride around the French Quarter...

...with Bob and Big Freida, the mule.

...with Bob and Big Freida, the mule.

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After a short respite at the hotel, we took our sweaty, under-dressed kids to one of the nicest restaurants in the Quarter. They didn't get us kicked out, which was great.

After a short respite at the hotel, we took our sweaty, under-dressed kids to one of the nicest restaurants in the Quarter. They didn't get us kicked out, which was great.

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To really wear the kids out, we bought seats for the 8 p.m. show at Preservation Hall. It was authentic, crowded, steamy hot and completely amazing. We were inches away from the eight-piece accomplished jazz band but were not allowed to take photos of the performance.  Somehow, Henry conked out in my lap and I carried him back to our hotel through the revelers on Bourbon Street in the rain. I was pretty grateful for everyone aiming their bodily fluids away from the kid, and I'm pretty sure they were confused about why kids were there in the first place.

To really wear the kids out, we bought seats for the 8 p.m. show at Preservation Hall. It was authentic, crowded, steamy hot and completely amazing. We were inches away from the eight-piece accomplished jazz band but were not allowed to take photos of the performance.

Somehow, Henry conked out in my lap and I carried him back to our hotel through the revelers on Bourbon Street in the rain. I was pretty grateful for everyone aiming their bodily fluids away from the kid, and I'm pretty sure they were confused about why kids were there in the first place.

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NOLA, we can't wait to go back.

Awesome Possum Kingdom

It always takes so long to get here, and always goes by in a blink. The Cowgirls' annual Possum Kingdom lake weekend, was by all accounts, a bit more successful than last year's. 

  1. I didn't wreck the boat into the dock.
  2. I didn't run the boat over a dock cable that got sucked up into the prop requiring substantial repairs.
  3. I didn't fling the girls out of the tube so quickly that one gave another a big bruise on her forehead.
  4. I put worms on hooks. And removed the remains of worms that the fish turned down.
  5. I took a crappie off the hook and only screamed a little while he flopped around. 
  6. I learned what a kill switch is and why it's required for boat operation.

This list is beginning to feel like it's all about me.

But it's really all about these girls. They mean the world to me and I am so grateful we can find this time to spend together each summer -- relaxing, cooking, inventing cocktails, floating on the boat or off the dock, looking up at the stars together and solving all of the world's problems. We never seem to run out of conversation, laughs, hugs or good-natured eye rolls. I think it's rare to find such a group of friends that are always supportive, never judgemental, and ever-willing to tell it like it is when that's what you need to hear.

Aside from all being really awesome people, I'd also like to point out how great these ladies are when it comes to serving up a beautiful meal, paired with just the right bubbly.

Aside from all being really awesome people, I'd also like to point out how great these ladies are when it comes to serving up a beautiful meal, paired with just the right bubbly.

I'm pretty sure that when Jill was dreaming up her wish list of places to have a Baby Sprinkle, Possum Hollow was at the TOP. She was a wonderful sport and made everyone's night at the local dive.

I'm pretty sure that when Jill was dreaming up her wish list of places to have a Baby Sprinkle, Possum Hollow was at the TOP. She was a wonderful sport and made everyone's night at the local dive.

We made a gametime decision to bench the tube and pull out the kneeboard for this summer's watersport adventure. Solid decision!

We made a gametime decision to bench the tube and pull out the kneeboard for this summer's watersport adventure. Solid decision!

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Without further ado, and in alphabetical order....

The 2018 Awesome Possum Kingdom Superlative Awards!

Ashlee** -- Most Likely To Kiss a (Stuffed) Possum's Bottom for the Sake of a Photo

Elizabeth -- Least Likely to Eat a Doritos Salad at Any Gathering

Jill** -- Most Likely to Soldier Through a Weekend with Inebriated Friends Like a Saint

Megan -- Most Likely to Spend the Night with the Rubber Dockie

Micki -- Most Likely to Discover Jewelry In Her Swimsuit

Vivian -- Most Likely To Haul @ss Out of the Lake After a Snake Sighting

**Runners Up for Most Likely to Win a Charcuterie and Cheese Spread Competition

xoxo

It's a new day.

**CORRECTION**

Ella read this post and was incensed that I called the baby goats baby lambs. I am so so so sorry. She will be proofing all future posts.

***

 

New year, new goals! When I first started these posts, Ella was a toddler and they went up every week, or sometimes every two. This year, my goal is to get four posts completed. Which would be better than zero.

Hanging in there. That's my personal theme for 2018. :)

Like they say at Llama Productions: Trying Hard Every Day to Suck Less.

Kate turned 17.  I can't. We can't. None of us can.

Kate turned 17.

I can't. We can't. None of us can.

Ella played indoor soccer this winter. Under horrible lighting conditions.

Ella played indoor soccer this winter. Under horrible lighting conditions.

And when Ella got sick (unrelated to poor indoor soccer lighting), the boys set up target practice as close to where she was trying to watch a movie as possible.  Brothers are the best.

And when Ella got sick (unrelated to poor indoor soccer lighting), the boys set up target practice as close to where she was trying to watch a movie as possible.

Brothers are the best.

The Cuestas came for a visit, and we took them to see cows, and chickens, and lambs (in leotards), and questionably constructed carnival rides.

The Cuestas came for a visit, and we took them to see cows, and chickens, and lambs (in leotards), and questionably constructed carnival rides.

Ella loved the Ferris Wheel; Michael was undecided.

Ella loved the Ferris Wheel; Michael was undecided.

But the day was redeemed when everyone got to hold a baby lamb.

But the day was redeemed when everyone got to hold a baby lamb.

And then we went to our favorite lunch spot beside the Trinity River.

And then we went to our favorite lunch spot beside the Trinity River.

The next day, we went to see cows at the farm.

The next day, we went to see cows at the farm.

Valentine's Day came and went, with the usual classroom party shenanigans.

Valentine's Day came and went, with the usual classroom party shenanigans.

Michael couldn't resist sneaking a (not very sneaky) video of his sister and a friend playing Just Dance!

Michael couldn't resist sneaking a (not very sneaky) video of his sister and a friend playing Just Dance!

Baseball is back in season and Henry is in hog heaven. Sometimes though, he gets a little distracted in the outfield.

Baseball is back in season and Henry is in hog heaven. Sometimes though, he gets a little distracted in the outfield.

But coach is pretty good about getting him back on task.

But coach is pretty good about getting him back on task.

There's always one that has to be different.

There's always one that has to be different.

Outdoor soccer is also back in season. Go Hurricanes!

Outdoor soccer is also back in season. Go Hurricanes!

Again, sometimes Henry is super engaged and ready to play.

Again, sometimes Henry is super engaged and ready to play.

Other times, the dirt is more interesting and we're just waiting for him to get smacked in the head with a ball. Thank goodness for protective gear.

Other times, the dirt is more interesting and we're just waiting for him to get smacked in the head with a ball. Thank goodness for protective gear.

Easter egg hunt!

Easter egg hunt!

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This year's Easter family photo involved one less broken toe, but the photographer still needs to work on her Self Timer skills. At least this is a patient group.

This year's Easter family photo involved one less broken toe, but the photographer still needs to work on her Self Timer skills. At least this is a patient group.

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Batter up!

Batter up!

Wrapping Up 2017

Time flies when you're...well, whatever, time just flies.  Here we are in mid-January and I thought it might be a good time to finish up posting some of our favorites from October, November and December. So I can start stressing about keeping up on 2018 posts, of course.  ;)

No. 16 always has a loud cheering section.

No. 16 always has a loud cheering section.

This fall, Henry got to try out playing catcher a couple of times.&nbsp; He didn't catch a whole lot, but the extra accessories were a hit.

This fall, Henry got to try out playing catcher a couple of times.  He didn't catch a whole lot, but the extra accessories were a hit.

Happy birthday, Dad.&nbsp;

Happy birthday, Dad. 

Oh here we go. Time for the annual family photo shoot.&nbsp;

Oh here we go. Time for the annual family photo shoot. 

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Happy Halloween!&nbsp; From our mime, her friend the Frappucino, Indiana Jones and his friend the Grim Reaper, and of course, Iron Man (who decided he didn't like the light-up mask and gloves he HAD to have.)

Happy Halloween!  From our mime, her friend the Frappucino, Indiana Jones and his friend the Grim Reaper, and of course, Iron Man (who decided he didn't like the light-up mask and gloves he HAD to have.)

Brisket-Bear

Brisket-Bear

Supporting Kate at the Annual JDRF Fundraising Walk

Supporting Kate at the Annual JDRF Fundraising Walk

Wes had a short-lived, but fun to watch, soccer coaching job for the Hurricanes.&nbsp; With a 1-1-0 record, he declared he's officially ready to retire.

Wes had a short-lived, but fun to watch, soccer coaching job for the Hurricanes.  With a 1-1-0 record, he declared he's officially ready to retire.

Henry turned SIX! It was his turn for a party with friends, so we headed to Main Event for some arcade-time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cake and pizza.&nbsp; Smiles all around.&nbsp;

Henry turned SIX! It was his turn for a party with friends, so we headed to Main Event for some arcade-time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cake and pizza.  Smiles all around. 

They're young enough to think raking is fun.&nbsp; Well, it probably is when you get to jump in them and throw them in the air instead of stuffing them into lawn bags.&nbsp;

They're young enough to think raking is fun.  Well, it probably is when you get to jump in them and throw them in the air instead of stuffing them into lawn bags. 

Gigi and Poppa came for a visit!&nbsp; Good sport that he is and much to the boys' delight, Poppa got more than one lesson on Wii games.

Gigi and Poppa came for a visit!  Good sport that he is and much to the boys' delight, Poppa got more than one lesson on Wii games.

That same weekend we celebrated Hank's birthday, along with the rest of our winter birthday family peeps.

That same weekend we celebrated Hank's birthday, along with the rest of our winter birthday family peeps.

Drew is 15! Fif-teen...*sigh*

Drew is 15! Fif-teen...*sigh*

Ella insisted on lighting the candles for our six special winter birthday honorees.

Ella insisted on lighting the candles for our six special winter birthday honorees.

Claire-Bear

Claire-Bear

The leaf pile got bigger!

The leaf pile got bigger!

Favorite meal of the year. Hands down.  I'm working on how to convince Nana to do this bi-annually. Quarter-annually. Monthly? There must be a way.&nbsp;

Favorite meal of the year. Hands down.

I'm working on how to convince Nana to do this bi-annually. Quarter-annually. Monthly? There must be a way. 

Lake! It's a short weekend after Thanksgiving, but we wouldn't miss the chance to escape the city.&nbsp;

Lake! It's a short weekend after Thanksgiving, but we wouldn't miss the chance to escape the city. 

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Back home after the lake, we ran happily into full-on Christmas-mode.&nbsp; This year, we took a carriage ride around Town Square after the kids put in their top requests to the man with the beard.&nbsp; (New soccer cleats, a blue elephant and Wonder Woman. Check!)

Back home after the lake, we ran happily into full-on Christmas-mode.  This year, we took a carriage ride around Town Square after the kids put in their top requests to the man with the beard.  (New soccer cleats, a blue elephant and Wonder Woman. Check!)

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There's no more magical place to fall asleep than in front of the Christmas tree.

There's no more magical place to fall asleep than in front of the Christmas tree.

Ella turned 12! And had a couple of friends over for a sleepover.&nbsp; With the Pie Face game.&nbsp; Which, of course, the boys had to try out, too.

Ella turned 12! And had a couple of friends over for a sleepover.  With the Pie Face game.  Which, of course, the boys had to try out, too.

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Brisket lives for 8 p.m. every night.

Brisket lives for 8 p.m. every night.

Christmas morning dance!

Christmas morning dance!

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After exploring the stockings that Santa stuffed, the kids got to open one joint present.&nbsp; Which led to a bit of a scavenger hunt.&nbsp;

After exploring the stockings that Santa stuffed, the kids got to open one joint present.  Which led to a bit of a scavenger hunt. 

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Twelve clues later (thank you Internet!), the kids got their golden tickets to a Disney cruise.&nbsp; (Which we'll take in a super short 11 months. LOL.)

Twelve clues later (thank you Internet!), the kids got their golden tickets to a Disney cruise.  (Which we'll take in a super short 11 months. LOL.)

The 2017 edition of Christmas Pickles may be a real collector's prize. I'm thinking we'll change things up for 2018.

The 2017 edition of Christmas Pickles may be a real collector's prize. I'm thinking we'll change things up for 2018.

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The week after Christmas was filled with fishing, poker, more birthday cake, fires, cuddles and maybe a few work emails (not pictured).

The week after Christmas was filled with fishing, poker, more birthday cake, fires, cuddles and maybe a few work emails (not pictured).

When the air is a heck of a lot colder than the lake water.&nbsp;

When the air is a heck of a lot colder than the lake water. 

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Happy New Year!!!&nbsp; Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018!!

Happy New Year!!!  Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018!!

NOLA

It took us 18 months to find a weekend that would work, but we made it to New Orleans. 

Well worth the wait!

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This cracked us up.

This cracked us up.

Can you smell it?

Can you smell it?

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I regret not picking up one of these CDs.&nbsp; Or at least taking a clearer photo so I could read their name.&nbsp; Anyone?&nbsp; Know these guys?

I regret not picking up one of these CDs.  Or at least taking a clearer photo so I could read their name.  Anyone?  Know these guys?

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We were a day early for the Treme Fest (whoops) but we can say we stood on the street where Jazz was born.&nbsp;

We were a day early for the Treme Fest (whoops) but we can say we stood on the street where Jazz was born. 

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Being in NOLA, we figured we should sign up for the Drunk History tour.&nbsp; Not sure we learned much but it was an entertaining walk around the French Quarter.&nbsp;

Being in NOLA, we figured we should sign up for the Drunk History tour.  Not sure we learned much but it was an entertaining walk around the French Quarter. 

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Some strong cafe au lait, a muffaletta and live Jazz helped soothe the after effects of Friday night.&nbsp;  We've officially aged out of the peak demographic for Bourbon Street.&nbsp;

Some strong cafe au lait, a muffaletta and live Jazz helped soothe the after effects of Friday night. 

We've officially aged out of the peak demographic for Bourbon Street. 

Our mule's name was Lestat.&nbsp;

Our mule's name was Lestat. 

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, the oldest building in the U.S. housing a bar.&nbsp;

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, the oldest building in the U.S. housing a bar. 

The famous  Cornstalk Fence Hotel .&nbsp;

The famous Cornstalk Fence Hotel

St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square

St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square

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Michael Turned Nine.

Whaaaaa???

We can't believe it either.

We can't believe it either.

His birthday wish was to have hibachi for dinner and go to an FC Dallas game with his best bud.&nbsp;

His birthday wish was to have hibachi for dinner and go to an FC Dallas game with his best bud. 

I'm kinda stubborn about putting together homemade birthday cakes for the kids.&nbsp; Unfortunately, Michael's cake was an epic Pinterest #fail this year.&nbsp;  You'll need to use your imagination, but this was supposed to be a three-layer gooey chocolate-chip cookie cake, with vanilla buttercream between the layers.&nbsp;  Oh well, the one layer that turned out was tasty and it was a Happy Michael Day after all.&nbsp;

I'm kinda stubborn about putting together homemade birthday cakes for the kids.  Unfortunately, Michael's cake was an epic Pinterest #fail this year. 

You'll need to use your imagination, but this was supposed to be a three-layer gooey chocolate-chip cookie cake, with vanilla buttercream between the layers. 

Oh well, the one layer that turned out was tasty and it was a Happy Michael Day after all. 

Freebie pistachios!&nbsp;

Freebie pistachios! 

And a skateboard!&nbsp; Best birthday ever, according to this kid.&nbsp;

And a skateboard!  Best birthday ever, according to this kid. 

One Day, We'll Be Caught Up to Present-Day

But for now, it's July on the blog.  Of course, it hit 96 degrees in Texas this week, so maybe it's not such a mental stretch. 

The first stop on our trip back in time is to Puerto Rico.  The kids were either at camp or the farm (having the time of their lives and not missing us a bit) and we took off to use up some hotel points and escape responsibility for a couple of days.

We visited the only rain forest managed by the US Forest and Parks Service.&nbsp; Our guide made that seem like a big deal.&nbsp; We mostly just enjoyed the views and hiking in the pouring rain.&nbsp;

We visited the only rain forest managed by the US Forest and Parks Service.  Our guide made that seem like a big deal.  We mostly just enjoyed the views and hiking in the pouring rain. 

View from atop an observation tower in El Yunque rain forest.&nbsp;

View from atop an observation tower in El Yunque rain forest. 

Definitely my favorite part of the trip (not including those 20 minutes when I took an actual nap on the beach), we kayaked 2.4 miles through a mangrove forest to reach this bio-luminescent bay.

Definitely my favorite part of the trip (not including those 20 minutes when I took an actual nap on the beach), we kayaked 2.4 miles through a mangrove forest to reach this bio-luminescent bay.

Our morning in Old San Juan was a hot, muggy mess but we were glad to see the city and explore El Morro.&nbsp;

Our morning in Old San Juan was a hot, muggy mess but we were glad to see the city and explore El Morro. 

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This big guy hung with us at the pool on the morning we were flying home to Texas.&nbsp; He sure could swim quickly for a lizard that spent the previous hour only moving his eyeballs.

This big guy hung with us at the pool on the morning we were flying home to Texas.  He sure could swim quickly for a lizard that spent the previous hour only moving his eyeballs.

Although we spent just a short time in Puerto Rico, we fell in love with it. 

“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

As we watch the weather news, with Hurricane Maria set on the same path as HurricanesHarvey and Irma which passed over Puerto Rico a few short weeks ago, we picture the places we visited and the people we met, enduring yet another catastrophic storm.  Our hearts go out to them and we are reminded of the power of travel and understanding people and places that are unfamiliar to your own. 

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you'll know that we have been matching donations made to JDRF with donations for hurricane relief organizations. 

We look forward to doing even more. 

Back at home in Texas...we are taking solace in the fact that Kate is not yet a senior.&nbsp; These photos were made for her adventures in theater.

Back at home in Texas...we are taking solace in the fact that Kate is not yet a senior.  These photos were made for her adventures in theater.

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I grabbed a few photos of our handsome nephew that same evening.&nbsp; His shirt was definitely the right color!

I grabbed a few photos of our handsome nephew that same evening.  His shirt was definitely the right color!

With such busy months in June and July, we also made time to head out to the lake a few times in August.&nbsp;

With such busy months in June and July, we also made time to head out to the lake a few times in August. 

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Kitchen Duty

Kitchen Duty

Uno

Uno

Suddenly, it was the first day of school.&nbsp;

Suddenly, it was the first day of school. 

"I'm not sleepy at all," she said.&nbsp;

"I'm not sleepy at all," she said. 

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The first day of school collided with the solar eclipse.&nbsp;

The first day of school collided with the solar eclipse. 

Possibly more exciting than the eclipse to the kids, we had a few deliveries that left us with big cardboard boxes to decorate and re-imagine as planes and rockets.&nbsp;

Possibly more exciting than the eclipse to the kids, we had a few deliveries that left us with big cardboard boxes to decorate and re-imagine as planes and rockets. 

With the start of school, comes the start of fall sports!

With the start of school, comes the start of fall sports!

With the Minions largely heading their separate ways, several of the boys have joined an Evolution team for the year.

With the Minions largely heading their separate ways, several of the boys have joined an Evolution team for the year.

Back at the lake for the weekend, Henry's always the first to tucker out.&nbsp;

Back at the lake for the weekend, Henry's always the first to tucker out. 

Deciphering a recipe for scones.

Deciphering a recipe for scones.

That gleeful look of a cheater, cheater, pumpkin-eater.&nbsp;

That gleeful look of a cheater, cheater, pumpkin-eater. 

Oh it was funny.&nbsp; For a minute.&nbsp;

Oh it was funny.  For a minute. 

Then Kate got her revenge.

Then Kate got her revenge.

And Ella couldn't let her brother escape the same fate.&nbsp;

And Ella couldn't let her brother escape the same fate. 

Friends again.

Friends again.

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It took a while, but we finally had a return drive to the city where we had time to stop at this mural for a photo.&nbsp;  It was a little sunny.&nbsp; But I'll take it.&nbsp;

It took a while, but we finally had a return drive to the city where we had time to stop at this mural for a photo. 

It was a little sunny.  But I'll take it. 

Drew is playing baseball for the high school now and his debut pitching effort was fun to watch.&nbsp;

Drew is playing baseball for the high school now and his debut pitching effort was fun to watch. 

Gator rides at the farm!

Gator rides at the farm!

Followed by a little swing practice.

Followed by a little swing practice.

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It was Roland's, Sandy's and my turn for our quarterly family birthday celebration.&nbsp; Any excuse to get together for THAT CAKE.&nbsp;

It was Roland's, Sandy's and my turn for our quarterly family birthday celebration.  Any excuse to get together for THAT CAKE. 

Fall ball!

Fall ball!

Sometimes, things get a little slow when playing in the out-...well, no, he was playing in-field.&nbsp; Same difference in U7 ball, I think.&nbsp;

Sometimes, things get a little slow when playing in the out-...well, no, he was playing in-field.  Same difference in U7 ball, I think. 

Batters up!&nbsp;

Batters up! 

One of Henry's favorite parts about playing baseball is getting to use Drew's batting helmet.&nbsp;

One of Henry's favorite parts about playing baseball is getting to use Drew's batting helmet. 

When Ella decides she wants it, she gets it!

When Ella decides she wants it, she gets it!

We're looking forward to many more (cooler!) games as the fall goes on.&nbsp;  Go Hurricanes!&nbsp; Go Evo!&nbsp; Go Red Sox!

We're looking forward to many more (cooler!) games as the fall goes on. 

Go Hurricanes!  Go Evo!  Go Red Sox!

Not Everyone Looks This Fabulous at Ninety

July 4 is always cause for celebration, but this year set the bar awfully high!  The matriarch of my father's family turned 90 fabulous years old on Independence Day and we all high-tailed it to Fort Wayne to celebrate in person with the birthday girl herself. 

She goes by many names--Mom, Grandma, Granny, Ella Lue--but is loved equally and deeply by everyone who is blessed to know her. 

With all of our extended family in town, we did our best to get together a few times over the holiday weekend.  Saturday night, everyone came by the house Rocket rented downtown so that all of the Texas crew could be together.  It was wonderful to catch up with cousins, aunts and uncles and meet many little ones who joined the family since the last time we all saw each other!

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Sunday, we headed to the greatest zoo in the U.S.A.

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Somewhere at the farm, there's a photo of me at this age with my head stuck inside the same lion's head.&nbsp;

Somewhere at the farm, there's a photo of me at this age with my head stuck inside the same lion's head. 

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Monday!  Party day!

These girls looked a little too grown up sitting at the bar, working on cards for the party.&nbsp;&nbsp;

These girls looked a little too grown up sitting at the bar, working on cards for the party.  

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Eleven great-grand children (+ one on the way!), eight grandchildren, three children, several (very!) significant others and one amazing woman.&nbsp;

Eleven great-grand children (+ one on the way!), eight grandchildren, three children, several (very!) significant others and one amazing woman. 

The great-grands

The great-grands

The grands

The grands

The kids

The kids

The Tidwells

The Tidwells

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The Indiana Feighners

The Indiana Feighners

The Texas Feighners

The Texas Feighners

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Happy 90th Birthday Granny Lue!  We love you!

Our (New) Annual Manning Beach Adventure

We're all about adding family traditions -- especially if they involve getting to spend some down time with our most favorite people.  We're already starting a countdown to next June. 

Ah, the good ol' fashioned family road trip.&nbsp;

Ah, the good ol' fashioned family road trip. 

With lots of bridges.

With lots of bridges.

Toward dusk, the kids began to spy water.&nbsp; The noise level increased exponentially inside the car.&nbsp;

Toward dusk, the kids began to spy water.  The noise level increased exponentially inside the car. 

While the Florida weather didn't want to cooperate for our whole trip, we were lucky to have a great hotel pool complex with lots of activities for the kids to enjoy, rain or shine.&nbsp; In this photo, baby Jen had just enjoyed a (watermelon?) treat!&nbsp;  And because I know some of you are probably thinking it, I didn't use "Iris Enhance" even a smidge on this little beauty.&nbsp; Her eyes, not unlike her mama's and her brother's, are just crystal clear and gorgeous.&nbsp;

While the Florida weather didn't want to cooperate for our whole trip, we were lucky to have a great hotel pool complex with lots of activities for the kids to enjoy, rain or shine.  In this photo, baby Jen had just enjoyed a (watermelon?) treat! 

And because I know some of you are probably thinking it, I didn't use "Iris Enhance" even a smidge on this little beauty.  Her eyes, not unlike her mama's and her brother's, are just crystal clear and gorgeous. 

Half-price pool-side smoothies = yes.

Half-price pool-side smoothies = yes.

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These two were inseparable.

These two were inseparable.

Training for early retirement.&nbsp;

Training for early retirement. 

Boy vs. Ocean

Boy vs. Ocean

These three. &lt;3

These three. <3

Jen had the right plan for beach time.&nbsp;

Jen had the right plan for beach time. 

When dinner service is taking a little while, Uncle Wes entertains with dock views.&nbsp;

When dinner service is taking a little while, Uncle Wes entertains with dock views. 

When the beach day was a complete wash-out...we headed to the (super-overcrowded) skating rink and arcade.&nbsp;

When the beach day was a complete wash-out...we headed to the (super-overcrowded) skating rink and arcade. 

Michael is working on his short game.

Michael is working on his short game.

Shish-ke-bab Duty

Shish-ke-bab Duty

Rosy Cheeks

Rosy Cheeks

Gigi Time

Gigi Time

Bingo!&nbsp; We won. Twice.

Bingo!  We won. Twice.

More rosy cheeks.

More rosy cheeks.

After taking family photos during the wait for our table, I'd say our group was super gracious in agreeing to a Pineapple Willy's shot.&nbsp; Sunburnt, tired and hungry...this turned out pretty well!

After taking family photos during the wait for our table, I'd say our group was super gracious in agreeing to a Pineapple Willy's shot.  Sunburnt, tired and hungry...this turned out pretty well!

Sun!&nbsp; Beach!

Sun!  Beach!

(Double Red Flag Day...shhhh.)

(Double Red Flag Day...shhhh.)

It would be so much cooler if I captured the water gun Henry was weilding in this shot.

It would be so much cooler if I captured the water gun Henry was weilding in this shot.

Trump hair, what?&nbsp; This girlie makes it look good.

Trump hair, what?  This girlie makes it look good.

Kite success!

Kite success!

Is there a name for how things along a coast look much closer to you than they actually are?&nbsp;  We thought it would take us 20 minutes to walk down to the break-water and back...it only took about three times that long.&nbsp;

Is there a name for how things along a coast look much closer to you than they actually are? 

We thought it would take us 20 minutes to walk down to the break-water and back...it only took about three times that long. 

While technically a terrible photo, this one really cracks me up.&nbsp; Jen looks like she's posing for a magazine shot and Henry is so dang tickled with himself.&nbsp;

While technically a terrible photo, this one really cracks me up.  Jen looks like she's posing for a magazine shot and Henry is so dang tickled with himself. 

We'll take what we can get in order to get these five into one frame!&nbsp; Love having them altogether.&nbsp;

We'll take what we can get in order to get these five into one frame!  Love having them altogether. 

Cowgirl Up!

What is happily turning into a long-time tradition (we won't talk about how long, exactly), a group of us ladies like to gather in Texas for a little girl-time.  This was back in June, but I can't bring myself to skip ahead to August. 

Who wants to pretend it's the beginning of summer again?

Group swag!

Group swag!

Between the eight of us on the trip this year, we have 18 kids.&nbsp;  This is what it looks like at the beginning of 48 hours of dads being in charge.&nbsp;

Between the eight of us on the trip this year, we have 18 kids. 

This is what it looks like at the beginning of 48 hours of dads being in charge. 

They wanted "wild" rides, they said.&nbsp;&nbsp; I should have known better...

They wanted "wild" rides, they said.   I should have known better...

Next year, we're going to start a friendly scoring system to determine who's meal really was the best.&nbsp; For now, it's a friendly 5-way tie.&nbsp;

Next year, we're going to start a friendly scoring system to determine who's meal really was the best.  For now, it's a friendly 5-way tie. 

There were a few outtakes on the journey to this orderly group shot.&nbsp; (See below.)&nbsp; Or maybe it was the first shot that was orderly and we lost it from there?

There were a few outtakes on the journey to this orderly group shot.  (See below.)  Or maybe it was the first shot that was orderly and we lost it from there?

Until next June!!

Until next June!!

Our English Adventure: Part Four

This one will be shorter than Parts One, Two or Three -- promise!

On the final day of our trip, we explored a bit more of Bath, including Bath's Abbey and the Roman Baths, then headed back to London for our flight home the next day with a quick stop along the way. 

Day Seven: Bath Abbey, Roman Baths and Avebury

Here is  Bath Abbey .&nbsp; Well, not the one on the left, that's just another church in Bath.&nbsp; But the two on the right are definitely the Abbey.&nbsp; On the far right, you can see angels climbing their way to Heaven.

Here is Bath Abbey.  Well, not the one on the left, that's just another church in Bath.  But the two on the right are definitely the Abbey.  On the far right, you can see angels climbing their way to Heaven.

From the Abbey, we went to the  Roman Baths .&nbsp; This area felt so much like Italy, it was a little eerie.&nbsp; I asked Sue how long the Romans were settled in this area, after seeing the elaborateness of the architecture and engineering involved.&nbsp; She said, "Oh not that long.&nbsp; 500 years give or take?"  America isn't even half that old yet.&nbsp;

From the Abbey, we went to the Roman Baths.  This area felt so much like Italy, it was a little eerie.  I asked Sue how long the Romans were settled in this area, after seeing the elaborateness of the architecture and engineering involved.  She said, "Oh not that long.  500 years give or take?"

America isn't even half that old yet. 

In this corner, the water flows directly from underground out into the main baths.&nbsp; Its heavy mineral content produces some very intense colors.&nbsp;

In this corner, the water flows directly from underground out into the main baths.  Its heavy mineral content produces some very intense colors. 

While fairly crowded on this particular day, the museum was wonderful to see.&nbsp; Apparently tossing coins into a fountain isn't such a new thing.&nbsp;

While fairly crowded on this particular day, the museum was wonderful to see.  Apparently tossing coins into a fountain isn't such a new thing. 

These small, metal tablets represent a sort of ancient Roman justice system.&nbsp; If someone was wronged by another, they would pay money to a scribe, assuming they didn't have the necessary skills themselves, who would then produce one of these tablets.&nbsp; The lines would often include the names and deeds of the guilty parties and a requested punishment from the person who would toss it into the water.&nbsp;

These small, metal tablets represent a sort of ancient Roman justice system.  If someone was wronged by another, they would pay money to a scribe, assuming they didn't have the necessary skills themselves, who would then produce one of these tablets.  The lines would often include the names and deeds of the guilty parties and a requested punishment from the person who would toss it into the water. 

Steamy.

Steamy.

In case you're wondering, yes, you can taste some of the healing waters from the Baths.&nbsp; Heavily filtered of metals that might kill tourists, of course.

In case you're wondering, yes, you can taste some of the healing waters from the Baths.  Heavily filtered of metals that might kill tourists, of course.

Wandering around the city of Bath a bit more before lunch.

Wandering around the city of Bath a bit more before lunch.

No. 15,  Avebury .

No. 15, Avebury.

Similar to Stonehenge, this is another ancient site of standing stones.&nbsp; Unlike Stonehenge, this site is far larger (nearly 30 acres) and you are free to walk right up to the stones.&nbsp; And pet the sheep.&nbsp;  Just don't tell the officer at customs that you pet the sheep.&nbsp;

Similar to Stonehenge, this is another ancient site of standing stones.  Unlike Stonehenge, this site is far larger (nearly 30 acres) and you are free to walk right up to the stones.  And pet the sheep. 

Just don't tell the officer at customs that you pet the sheep. 

Peek-a-boo.

Peek-a-boo.

Our stop was brief, but I was thoroughly awed.&nbsp;

Our stop was brief, but I was thoroughly awed. 

Also in Avebury, we found  Silbury Hill .&nbsp; Made largely of chalk, this Neolithic mound is the largest man-made of its kind in Europe.&nbsp; Its breadth and height compare to the contemporary Egyptian pyramids; its purpose is still a mystery to modern researchers.&nbsp;

Also in Avebury, we found Silbury Hill.  Made largely of chalk, this Neolithic mound is the largest man-made of its kind in Europe.  Its breadth and height compare to the contemporary Egyptian pyramids; its purpose is still a mystery to modern researchers. 

After leaving Avebury, we mostly sat in traffic to get back into the city on a Friday afternoon.&nbsp; St. Ermin's was a familiar, welcome sight.&nbsp;  We said our thank yous and reluctant good-byes to Sue, dropped our bags and ventured out to a restaurant that was thankfully a short walk from the hotel.

After leaving Avebury, we mostly sat in traffic to get back into the city on a Friday afternoon.  St. Ermin's was a familiar, welcome sight. 

We said our thank yous and reluctant good-byes to Sue, dropped our bags and ventured out to a restaurant that was thankfully a short walk from the hotel.

Exhausted, happy, heads spinning with all of the beautiful things we got to see and the wonderful weather luck we had, we enjoyed one last Mother-Daughter dinner together.

Exhausted, happy, heads spinning with all of the beautiful things we got to see and the wonderful weather luck we had, we enjoyed one last Mother-Daughter dinner together.

Mom and Molly got busy repacking and organizing for our early morning departure.&nbsp; Maybe I was already done?&nbsp; Little did we expect the next day's adventures.

Mom and Molly got busy repacking and organizing for our early morning departure.  Maybe I was already done?  Little did we expect the next day's adventures.

Waiting for a taxi that was booked for an hour later than we needed to get to the airport.&nbsp; Whoopsie-daisies.

Waiting for a taxi that was booked for an hour later than we needed to get to the airport.  Whoopsie-daisies.

After commandeering someone else's taxi (with insistence from the concierge), we made it to Terminal 5 in record time.&nbsp; So that we could wait for more than two hours to check our bags since British Airways was evidently experiencing a massive, world-wide technology failure that day.&nbsp;

After commandeering someone else's taxi (with insistence from the concierge), we made it to Terminal 5 in record time.  So that we could wait for more than two hours to check our bags since British Airways was evidently experiencing a massive, world-wide technology failure that day. 

One by one, all of the flights around us were cancelled. Thousands of passengers filtered back out to (possibly) claim luggage and wait in more lines to make alternate arrangements.&nbsp; We thought surely we'd be next, and lucky us, we'd be at the end of the lines of irritated travelers.  But for some wonderful reason, our crew was extremely motivated to get our flight to DFW, home of American Airlines which is a major partner of British Airways.&nbsp; It took a few more hours, but after each piece of luggage, catered meal, passenger and hand towel was manually manifested and we got a physical signature from air traffic control in the tower, we were green-lighted to take off.&nbsp;

One by one, all of the flights around us were cancelled. Thousands of passengers filtered back out to (possibly) claim luggage and wait in more lines to make alternate arrangements.  We thought surely we'd be next, and lucky us, we'd be at the end of the lines of irritated travelers.

But for some wonderful reason, our crew was extremely motivated to get our flight to DFW, home of American Airlines which is a major partner of British Airways.  It took a few more hours, but after each piece of luggage, catered meal, passenger and hand towel was manually manifested and we got a physical signature from air traffic control in the tower, we were green-lighted to take off. 

A few final iPhone memories are all that's left!  Our luggage may have taken a week to find us at home, but I suppose the universe has to balance things out somehow.

xoxo

Our English Adventure: Part Three

If you're just jumping in, and need to kill some time, here are links to Part One and Part Two.

At the start of Part Three, we head out for another day of exploring smaller villages, most of which I can't name, on the Western-most side of Cornwall.

Hm, I think we may have messed up the map a bit. Oh well, we'll go with it.

Hm, I think we may have messed up the map a bit. Oh well, we'll go with it.

Day Five: Charlestown, Mousehole, Bottalack's Tin Mines and St. Ives

Our first stop on Day 5 was to Charlestown.&nbsp; I think No. 10 is supposed to represent it on the map, but it's actually one bay to the East, before you get to Fowey.&nbsp; Oops.  This area has also been used as a frequent filming location for  Poldark .&nbsp;

Our first stop on Day 5 was to Charlestown.  I think No. 10 is supposed to represent it on the map, but it's actually one bay to the East, before you get to Fowey.  Oops.

This area has also been used as a frequent filming location for Poldark

A few of my photos are reminiscent of  Where's Waldo  cartoons.&nbsp;

A few of my photos are reminiscent of Where's Waldo cartoons. 

We met a few characters along the way.&nbsp; This gentleman gave us his dog's Facebook profile address before we parted ways.

We met a few characters along the way.  This gentleman gave us his dog's Facebook profile address before we parted ways.

Next we went to Mousehole (pronounced "Mouz-uhl") for lunch.&nbsp; A cornish pastie, for tradition's sake, and the best sparkling water I can remember having.&nbsp; I need to do some research on where to buy Folkington's in Texas.&nbsp;

Next we went to Mousehole (pronounced "Mouz-uhl") for lunch.  A cornish pastie, for tradition's sake, and the best sparkling water I can remember having.  I need to do some research on where to buy Folkington's in Texas. 

Next!&nbsp; One of our absolute favorite stops.&nbsp; No. 11, the  tin mines in Bottalack .&nbsp;

Next!  One of our absolute favorite stops.  No. 11, the tin mines in Bottalack

This view serves as the cover art for more than one edition of the  Poldark  books.&nbsp;

This view serves as the cover art for more than one edition of the Poldark books. 

Back on the road, we got back to St. Ives, No. 12 on the map, in the late afternoon.&nbsp; There wasn't quite enough time to see the Tate St. Ives (connected to the Tate Modern in London) so we had to make do with shopping and browsing menus for a dinner spot.&nbsp;  Vacation is so taxing sometimes.&nbsp;

Back on the road, we got back to St. Ives, No. 12 on the map, in the late afternoon.  There wasn't quite enough time to see the Tate St. Ives (connected to the Tate Modern in London) so we had to make do with shopping and browsing menus for a dinner spot. 

Vacation is so taxing sometimes. 

I fell short of my desired scone intake.&nbsp; Guess I'll need to go back.&nbsp;

I fell short of my desired scone intake.  Guess I'll need to go back. 

Day Six: Tintagel Castle and Wells Cathedral

Packing up, we headed East, back toward London, stopping first at No. 13,  Tintagel Castle .

Packing up, we headed East, back toward London, stopping first at No. 13, Tintagel Castle.

On the walk out to the castle ruins, which were once the legendary home of King Arthur, built in the 12th century.&nbsp;

On the walk out to the castle ruins, which were once the legendary home of King Arthur, built in the 12th century. 

What goes down...

What goes down...

Trust us, it was quite a climb.

Trust us, it was quite a climb.

In the photo on the right, there are the foundation remains of the most ancient dwellings on this site, dating back to the Dark Ages.&nbsp;

In the photo on the right, there are the foundation remains of the most ancient dwellings on this site, dating back to the Dark Ages. 

Within the remains of a walled garden on the highest point, you can find a brief telling of the story of the lovers Tristan and Iseult.&nbsp;

Within the remains of a walled garden on the highest point, you can find a brief telling of the story of the lovers Tristan and Iseult. 

King Arthur, is he fact or fiction?

King Arthur, is he fact or fiction?

Not having taken enough steps yet that day, I went down to the sea-level where there's a small waterfall.&nbsp;

Not having taken enough steps yet that day, I went down to the sea-level where there's a small waterfall. 

And Merlin's Cave.

And Merlin's Cave.

A nice, light English lunch.&nbsp;

A nice, light English lunch. 

No. 13.5,  Wells Cathedral .&nbsp;  We sort of missed making a dot for Wells, so imagine there's a No. 13.5 just to the Southwest of Bath (No. 14.)

No. 13.5, Wells Cathedral

We sort of missed making a dot for Wells, so imagine there's a No. 13.5 just to the Southwest of Bath (No. 14.)

What I would call a quad, surrounding the cathedral.&nbsp; It was a popular spot for kids just out of school that afternoon.&nbsp;

What I would call a quad, surrounding the cathedral.  It was a popular spot for kids just out of school that afternoon. 

The dates on this particular tomb caused both Mom and me to pause.

The dates on this particular tomb caused both Mom and me to pause.

Wells Cathedral turned out to be my favorite of all we visited.&nbsp; Actually, my favorite would be to mix the facade of Salisbury Cathedral, with the interior of Wells Cathedral. But if I had to choose just one, Wells wins.

Wells Cathedral turned out to be my favorite of all we visited.  Actually, my favorite would be to mix the facade of Salisbury Cathedral, with the interior of Wells Cathedral. But if I had to choose just one, Wells wins.

Back on the road for our final leg of the day, we ended up in Bath where we stayed at the  Royal Crescent Hotel .&nbsp;  It gets it's name from being part of the Royal Crescent, a near semi-circle of historic residences.&nbsp; The hotel was recently renovated and spans both No. 16 and No. 17 of the original buildings.

Back on the road for our final leg of the day, we ended up in Bath where we stayed at the Royal Crescent Hotel

It gets it's name from being part of the Royal Crescent, a near semi-circle of historic residences.  The hotel was recently renovated and spans both No. 16 and No. 17 of the original buildings.

The view of Bath out the back of the hotel.

The view of Bath out the back of the hotel.

Off to dinner.&nbsp;

Off to dinner. 

Italian this time.&nbsp;

Italian this time. 

After dinner, we wandered around a bit.&nbsp; We found the Circus and peeked in a few real estate office windows to see what the going rate would be for one of these beauties.&nbsp;  (The kids can get scholarships, right?)

After dinner, we wandered around a bit.  We found the Circus and peeked in a few real estate office windows to see what the going rate would be for one of these beauties. 

(The kids can get scholarships, right?)

Back at the hotel, we stopped in the garden for a glass (or two) of wine.&nbsp;  And tried not to think about going back to our regular lives of work, housecleaning, eating the kids' leftover lunches as our meals and opening a week's worth of bills would feel like.

Back at the hotel, we stopped in the garden for a glass (or two) of wine. 

And tried not to think about going back to our regular lives of work, housecleaning, eating the kids' leftover lunches as our meals and opening a week's worth of bills would feel like.

Our English Adventure: Part Two

If you missed Part One, you can find it here.

Where I left off, we were in Wareham for the night.  The following morning, we hit the road bright and early.

Day Three: Durdle Door and Dartmoor National Park

No. 5:  Durdle Door
Arriving early has it's perks.&nbsp; We had Lullworth Cove all to ourselves.&nbsp;

Arriving early has it's perks.  We had Lullworth Cove all to ourselves. 

Okay.&nbsp; If Sue would have said, "This is it!"&nbsp; I would have been completely happy, snapped about 100 photos and trotted back up to the van.&nbsp; But instead, she laughed at how long I was lingering on this side of the peninsula and said, "You realize we haven't even gotten to the Durdle Door part yet, right?"

Okay.  If Sue would have said, "This is it!"  I would have been completely happy, snapped about 100 photos and trotted back up to the van.  But instead, she laughed at how long I was lingering on this side of the peninsula and said, "You realize we haven't even gotten to the Durdle Door part yet, right?"

Still lingering.&nbsp;

Still lingering. 

And finally, we moved on to see the 'door.'

And finally, we moved on to see the 'door.'

It was windy, y'all.&nbsp; We didn't want to make a phone call to Dad describing how we lost Mom over a cliff in a stiff breeze.&nbsp;

It was windy, y'all.  We didn't want to make a phone call to Dad describing how we lost Mom over a cliff in a stiff breeze. 

Walking barefoot on these large pebbles felt like a foot massage.&nbsp;  At first.&nbsp; Then I was mad at myself for walking so far away from my shoes.&nbsp;

Walking barefoot on these large pebbles felt like a foot massage. 

At first.  Then I was mad at myself for walking so far away from my shoes. 

On the road again.&nbsp; Leaving Durdle Door, we set out on the longest stretch of our trip, from Lullworth, through Exeter and the Dartmoor National Park, all the way to the North side of the coast.

On the road again.  Leaving Durdle Door, we set out on the longest stretch of our trip, from Lullworth, through Exeter and the Dartmoor National Park, all the way to the North side of the coast.

No. 6  Dartmoor National Park   You might be thinking, that photo doesn't look like it's from a national park. And you'd be right.&nbsp; We drove for a lot of hours that day but never did see much that resembled the park we expected.&nbsp; We did, however, stop to wander around this little village.&nbsp; We enjoyed it, but I cannot remember the name.&nbsp;

No. 6 Dartmoor National Park

You might be thinking, that photo doesn't look like it's from a national park. And you'd be right.  We drove for a lot of hours that day but never did see much that resembled the park we expected.  We did, however, stop to wander around this little village.  We enjoyed it, but I cannot remember the name. 

To add to our mountain of largely useless knowledge, we learned that there is a significance to whether or not and how the legs of Crusader's memorial statue are crossed.&nbsp;  Crossed at the ankles = Survived 1 Crusade  Crossed at the knees = Survived 2 Crusades  Crossed at the groin = Survived 3 Crusades, perhaps working as a career accountant  At any rate, this gentleman was clearly skilled at dodging swords.&nbsp;

To add to our mountain of largely useless knowledge, we learned that there is a significance to whether or not and how the legs of Crusader's memorial statue are crossed. 

Crossed at the ankles = Survived 1 Crusade

Crossed at the knees = Survived 2 Crusades

Crossed at the groin = Survived 3 Crusades, perhaps working as a career accountant

At any rate, this gentleman was clearly skilled at dodging swords. 

All of the detail and columns inside each arch was hand-carved from a single block of wood.

All of the detail and columns inside each arch was hand-carved from a single block of wood.

We stopped for the first of three nights in the  Boskerris Hotel  in St. Ives (No. 12 on the map).&nbsp; Well, it's not actually in St. Ives but in nearby Carbis Bay but I suppose they get more bookings with the St. Ives ruse.&nbsp;  Sminings.  While a little out of the way, it was a lovely, friendly hotel and we enjoyed the quiet view.

We stopped for the first of three nights in the Boskerris Hotel in St. Ives (No. 12 on the map).  Well, it's not actually in St. Ives but in nearby Carbis Bay but I suppose they get more bookings with the St. Ives ruse. 

Sminings.

While a little out of the way, it was a lovely, friendly hotel and we enjoyed the quiet view.

Once again, waiting in a comfy sitting room where they serve appetizers and take pre-dinner drink orders while your table is being prepared.&nbsp; Someone seriously needs to make this a trend in the States.&nbsp;

Once again, waiting in a comfy sitting room where they serve appetizers and take pre-dinner drink orders while your table is being prepared.  Someone seriously needs to make this a trend in the States. 

Day Four: St. Michael's Mount, The Minack Theater and Another Village or Two I Can't Name

Beautifully colored lichens cover pretty much anything that will stand still for a century or so.

Beautifully colored lichens cover pretty much anything that will stand still for a century or so.

When we arrived at St. Michael's Mount, the tide was out and so we could walk across to the island.&nbsp;&nbsp; Four hours after this photo was taken, all of the moss and rocks were back under several feet of the English Channel.&nbsp;

When we arrived at St. Michael's Mount, the tide was out and so we could walk across to the island.   Four hours after this photo was taken, all of the moss and rocks were back under several feet of the English Channel. 

The variety of flora across the island was unexpected.&nbsp; Who knew so many tropical-looking plants grew in Western England?

The variety of flora across the island was unexpected.  Who knew so many tropical-looking plants grew in Western England?

There's a fable about a giant who was defeated on top of the mountain and ultimately fell down into the well on the left.&nbsp; I apparently didn't listen closely enough to the story; I photographed the large rock on the right assuming that was the giant's heart.&nbsp; Instead, it's a heart-shaped pebble in the walk to the left of the sign (not pictured).&nbsp;  Maybe our definitions of Giant differ somewhat.&nbsp;

There's a fable about a giant who was defeated on top of the mountain and ultimately fell down into the well on the left.  I apparently didn't listen closely enough to the story; I photographed the large rock on the right assuming that was the giant's heart.  Instead, it's a heart-shaped pebble in the walk to the left of the sign (not pictured). 

Maybe our definitions of Giant differ somewhat. 

Mom and Sue taking a rest on the climb up to the castle.

Mom and Sue taking a rest on the climb up to the castle.

The people of Cornwall often see themselves as being separate from England; this is their Cornish flag.&nbsp;  Being from Texas, we could relate.

The people of Cornwall often see themselves as being separate from England; this is their Cornish flag. 

Being from Texas, we could relate.

After walking back to the mainland, we were off to lunch.

After walking back to the mainland, we were off to lunch.

And then to No. 8 on the map,  The Minack Theater.

And then to No. 8 on the map, The Minack Theater.

On what was our only drizzly day of our trip, we saw  Under the Milk Wood  in this gorgeous outdoor theater.&nbsp; To be honest, it was hard to focus on the plot rather than the scenery.&nbsp;

On what was our only drizzly day of our trip, we saw Under the Milk Wood in this gorgeous outdoor theater.  To be honest, it was hard to focus on the plot rather than the scenery. 

From there, we drove to a little village and this cove, which fans from the current PBS series of  Poldark  might recognize.&nbsp; It's been used on several occasions.&nbsp; We were hoping to have a cream tea in a nearby cafe but they were closed for the day.&nbsp; Wandering around was a treat all the same.

From there, we drove to a little village and this cove, which fans from the current PBS series of Poldark might recognize.  It's been used on several occasions.  We were hoping to have a cream tea in a nearby cafe but they were closed for the day.  Wandering around was a treat all the same.

Not to be completely skunked, we stopped in another seaside town to take a break, have some hot tea, watch the surfers and laugh about how well our hair was handling the humid day.&nbsp;

Not to be completely skunked, we stopped in another seaside town to take a break, have some hot tea, watch the surfers and laugh about how well our hair was handling the humid day. 

Finally back at the Boskerris Hotel, nursing our sore feet, calves and backs after so many steps and so much climbing, we walked down to a waterfront restaurant for dinner.&nbsp; And then hired an Uber to take us back up to the hotel.&nbsp; It might have been the smartest decision we made all day.

Finally back at the Boskerris Hotel, nursing our sore feet, calves and backs after so many steps and so much climbing, we walked down to a waterfront restaurant for dinner.  And then hired an Uber to take us back up to the hotel.  It might have been the smartest decision we made all day.

That's it for days three and four!  With a few more iPhone shots, I'll close out this post and get started on the next. 

Our English Adventure: Part One

This trip was an amazing trip.  Inspired by the Poldark books, authored by Winston Graham, and the 1975 BBC mini-series that followed, Mom has been talking about seeing Cornwall, England for as long as Molly and I can remember.  The books are currently being filmed again as a miniseries on PBS (Season 3 coming soon to the U.S. and now airing in the U.K.)  If you're a fan, you might recognize some of the places we visited later in the trip. 

Due to a little Vacation Research Scope Creep, we ended up seeing much more than just Cornwall, packing a heck of a lot into eight days.  This first post covers days one and two...so maybe there will be four parts in all? Can you stand the suspense?

Rather than try to remember all that we learned and surely get something (eh, most things) wrong along the way, I'll link to all of the historical site websites throughout