i'm still here

Maybe I'm on summer/lake/vacation time, but I just haven't felt the need to sit down and chronicle my days as much as I did during the school year. Time lately has been lazy and full and busy and quiet all at once, much like summer tends to be. The cicadas haven't hit full chorus yet, but I expect them to any evening now. Our magnolia tree has exploded in beautiful white blossoms and I like to cut off a few and bring them inside, filling jelly jars and mason jars with the flowers, the house smelling like a perfumery. 

We had a fun filled few days down on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. We filled it with morning chats over coffee with my father-in-law on our condo's balcony overlooking the cove below us, listening to the lake wake up with the sounds of geese and early morning fishermen in their bass boats. Later, we'd jet about the lake on my FIL's jet ski or laze around on our paddle boards, exploring near by coves, jumping into the water when we got hot.

Or getting caught by a rogue wave and, ahem, falling off your board and getting caught on camera by your wonderfully sweet husband. 

Really, a wave did get me (and that's my story and I'm sticking to it)!

David and I did shoot an enduro mountain bike race, sweating it out on a Sunday morning at Big Brushy Recreation Area in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains, about an hour's drive from Hot Springs. It was itchy and hot and a bit exhausting and I never had more fun. I made some connections and new friends, and David and I both can't wait to shoot the next race.

Hot Springs and Lake Hamilton, the two places that are my home away from home. David and I have been going to Hot Springs (and the lake) for 24 years and three months. I add the three months because I had just entered my third trimester with Meghan when we made our first visit in 1993. David's parents chose Hot Springs to retire after working in the government. It's a beautiful town, nestled in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains, but it's really the lake that we spend the most time on. It always makes me sad to have to say good bye to it whenever it's time for us to leave and come home, but it is nice to know that it's just 4 hours away and easy to get to. In fact, Meghan and I are planning a Girls Weekend next month, bringing my paddle board and my little underwater camera that is absolutely amazing and fun to shoot with. Really, the boys and I couldn't get over the quality of the pictures from just a little point-and-shoot. And I don't have to worry about using my second camera body in the water anymore, saving me quite a bit of anxiety, even with the waterproof housing on it.

So yes, I'm still here, trying to find the discipline to sit at my desk and peck out a few words to describe my days. I'm still busy taking pictures, of that I will never tire of, it's just the time sitting at my desk, culling and processing, uploading and sharing that I find a bit draining lately. There's just so much Out There to see and experience that I'd rather be doing instead. 

The freedom of summer time . . . .

paddling the white river

Oh, how I have missed this.

(All images taken with my Nikon D750 with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I used my Outex waterproof housing that I bought a few years ago, and now with summer coming and being around water once again, I really plan on utilizing it more and become better at underwater photography. It truly is a different world beneath the surface).

This Was A Long Week

But in the good kind of long. I kept thinking I was a day ahead of myself all week, and when I realized what day it actually was, I breathed a sigh of relief because summer ends this coming Monday when school starts back up and I lose my boy to the morning rush of getting out the door and to homework and to early bed times (well, for David and me anyway) and everything else that makes up a school year.

I think we had a pretty good summer. We had a wonderful, relaxing vacation to Wisconsin and Minnesota, a lot of mountain biking, a lot of laughs, a lot of quiet times, a lot of driving practice, a lot of family time. As much as I dislike the ending of summer break, I also like the beginning of the school year. For me, that's the Real New Year, a time to begin new projects, work on things around the house and a time for hiking and exploring. I learned this summer that breaking from routine and going with the moment is really liberating and I hope to keep that up for the upcoming year. Life is too short to stick to a rigid routine. You just gotta go with the flow.

On to the week that I thought was slipping by far too fast.

I visited the botanical gardens here in town and took far too many photos of butterflies and flowers.

I finished this book on my iPad and dove into this book that I borrowed from my parents before they give it to my brother for a present. You know, just to make sure he likes it and all.

I read this article this morning and felt like it really tied into one of my projects I have planned for myself this fall. We all could learn to become our own best friend.

Langley and I have walked and walked, one day walking seven miles because I was deep in thought about why the color was off in my main camera and what I could do to fix it. Langley kept looking up at me, begging me to stop or to at least slow down a little. She slept all afternoon when we got home. And that's the other good thing about walking instead of running: we have one very chilled out black lab now who does nothing but sleep all day. 

That's a good thing, a very good thing. Trust me.

It's supposed to be a rainy weekend, not what we wanted for the last weekend of summer. David and Joe were hoping for two days of mountain biking, and I wanted to tag along to take pictures. But it will be cozy and we will be together and we will make the most of these last few days of summer.

Now, how many more days till Thanksgiving Break?

Water and Horses

My days so far these last two weeks seem to have a common element to them: water. I recently joined David in taking up stand up paddle boarding, selling my beloved kayak to a good friend who I know will love Pocahontas the Kayak as much as I did. David and I went to a local lake last weekend for my maiden voyage and paddled five miles amongst giant lily pad gardens, along small bluffs and down a creek that connected further downstream to the White River. We saw a bald eagle, countless herons, a family of geese swimming in a perfect line and cows cooling off in the water. I even had a frog play leap frog across my board at one point. The skies were crystal blue and filled with puffy white clouds and all we heard were choruses of insects and the dipping of our paddles. I only managed to get wet twice, once on purpose when I knelt down in the creek to get a shot of David on his board; the second time, my board played a trick on me, getting it's rudder stuck in some shallow weeds and tipping me over. I shrieked and madly scrambled back to topside where I lay on my belly hugging the board, convinced that every snake in the lake was making a bee line for me. Ugh! Arkansas lakes have very slimy bottoms!

And for the record, I named my paddle board, Sacagawea. Apparently, she has a sense of humor.

I've also taken to walking Langley every morning. My knees had developed early arthritis over the years, but I kept on running anyway, taking two Aleve before heading out the door in the mornings. My orthopedist told me a couple years ago that I could continue running, but just to avoid hills. I just looked at him and said, "You do realize we live in the Ozarks, right?" But this summer, nearly 34 years of running has finally taken it's toll and I decided to begin walking my morning miles. It's actually been quite a pleasant transition, an easier one than I thought. Langley loves it, my knees love it and we both come home ready to tackle the day. I think it wasn't as emotional or depressing to quit because I was able to quit on my own terms and not by a doctor telling me that my knees are blown and that I have to quit running. We walk my old running routes and the other day, we hiked the bike trails at Lake Fayetteville, where I decided that next time we go out there, we'll walk on the paved trail, out of sight of the lake below us.

I'm still practicing with my underwater housing for my camera and still having a lot of fun with it. With the hot spell we're in right now, the neighborhood pool has been a perfect place for practicing with it. Meghan and I hit the water recently and spent more time just lolling and floating about than really taking pictures. It was so relaxing and nice. It still amazes me that I can put my camera in a rubber housing, dive under water, take pictures, come home and "undress" my camera and have it still work like it had never been underwater. 

And now comes the bit about the horses. 

I had reached out earlier this summer about volunteering my photography services at a local equine therapy center about twenty minutes south of Fayetteville called "Courage Therapeutic Riding Center". Their tag line is: "Strengthening self, one hoofbeat at a time." I stayed and took pictures for almost two hours, blown away by the therapists working with the young clients mounted on horse back, how gentle the horses were with the children and how much joy and fulfillment was floating about in the air. I'm going to really enjoy volunteering there . . .  it is horses, after all ( and for the full gallery, please click here).

Currently

Currently . . . 

It's as hot as blue blazes out there. I've been leaving for my morning runs as near to 7 a.m. as I can every day, hoping to escape some of the heat, but to no avail. I come home dripping and drenched with sweat, my shoes squishing. I think we all got spoiled by our cool, rainy June last month and now Ms. Summer is taking her revenge upon us. But, we're heading to Hot Springs this weekend and I plan on doing nothing but play in the lake, play in the pool, play in the lake some more, kayak on the lake, practice my underwater photography in the pool, do cannonballs off my FIL's boat . . . just stay wet all weekend. It's been far too long since we've been to the lake!

Currently . . . 

I'm reading the following books:

The Art of the Photograph by Art Wolfe

The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum

My Sweet Kitchen by Linda Lomelino

Food Photography by Corinna Gissmann

Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton

and I'm expecting this book to arrive on Friday: Feast For the Eyes by Susan Bright.

I think I should be fixed up for books until Christmas!

Currently . . . 

I went shopping the other day and scored some cute little pails and a candle holder that is holding the lime in the photo above this one. I also bought some candy molds and made home made sugar cubes. After scouring the local grocery stores for ready made cubes, I turned to Mr. Google (because he really does know everything) and asked him to find a DIY sugar cube recipe and sure enough, he delivered. It's as simple as can be, too:  1/4 cup sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon water. Stir together until crumbly (you may need to tinker around with the water to sugar ratio. I did, but then I was making 24 sugar cubes) and press a heaping teaspoon of the mixture into a candy mold, pressing down firmly. Let the cubes harden overnight and then store them in an airtight container for up to 2 years. (Here's the link to the full recipe: DIY Sugar Cubes).

Two year old sugar cubes . . . not sure if I really want to use two year old sugar cubes, but it's good to know that we can have sweets on hand in case of a zombie apocalypse! 

Currently . . . 

Last Thursday, I met up with Meghan after she got off work and the two of us first did a little shopping before heading out to dinner and then First Thursday. First Thursday is an arts festival held every first Thursday of the month on the Fayetteville Square. Last year it seemed that whenever it rained, it always rained on Thursdays, so I didn't go much last year. This year looks to be a bit more promising, so I plan on continuing visiting the festival. It's a great place to people watch, which is one of my favorite things to do. 

Currently . . . 

I've been playing around with a new toy I ordered last month and have been having lots of fun creating my dark and moody pictures that I like to make and that David gives me grief about.

So I made a bright and cheery one just for him!

Currently . . . 

I'm out of news. 

Over and out. 

 

"What Did You Do Over Summer Vacation?"

We saw the St. Louis Arch, posed with the First Family, rode mountain bikes, hiked and were attacked by mosquitoes the size of small horses. We found ladybugs crawling on buildings in downtown Milwaukee and stayed the night in a renovated life insurance building from the late 1800's. We marveled at beautiful motorcycles and wandered around the Public Market before strolling the promenade along Lake Michigan. We rode and hiked some more, this time getting soaked to the skin in a sudden downpour. (The threatening skies should've warned us.) We spent  Father's Day at the legendary Lambeau Field and David was like a child on Christmas morning. He literally glowed all afternoon. We even did the famous "Lambeau Leap". We wandered along the water later that evening and stumbled upon an amusement park that brought out the child in me. 

We saw skyscrapers and food trucks in Minneapolis and pastures full of storybook barns and beautiful skies. We saw lots of people and ate delicious food. We were quiet and we were silly. We saw lots and lots of things we'd never seen before and that was what we did on our summer vacation.