Staying Local – May 16, 2020

Today I decided to stay close to home when going out and about. We still have limited openings, and it was going to be a hot day (close to 80), so I didn’t want to wander too far from home.

I read some good news earlier in the week. One of my local favorites, The French Twist Cafe, re-opened on May 13th with limited hours. They were going to be open at 8AM this morning, so I wanted to get there as close to opening time as possible. I’m glad that I did. There were only three people in front of me when I got there, but there was a line that was starting to accumulate before I left.

Tempting as it might have been to get a crepe, I decided to go with an almond croissant and a Mocha Frappe. I missed this place, and they still have a great focus on quality. When I walked into the store, they had areas taped off for distancing as well as partitions. They wiped down the credit cards and all machines in between customer orders, so they were diligent with keeping with the current recommendations. The food is the main focus. Although I had been considering a crepe, the almond croissant looked too good to pass up. It was a really good croissant. The exterior was nice and crunchy, then you got some flakiness when biting through the croissant, and you ended up with the mild almond flavor. It was a very good almond croissant. The mocha frappe was delicious. I really enjoy their drinks, so I’m glad I was finally able to go back. The flavor and consistency were on point, as always, so they did not skip a beat in terms of quality.

Since it was still in the low to mid 70s in the morning, I decided to take a drive in the countryside and took a few moments to enjoy nature (from a relative distance). Sometimes we focus too much on what is behind us and what is directly in front of us, but we never consider to look a bit beyond and take an appreciation for what else is out there.

When it was time for lunch, I decided to stay close to home again and made my way back over to the Big Belly Deli.

I decided to go with the Italian Cold Cut sandwich. Bologna, ham, pepperoni, salami, lettuce, tomato, hots, red onions, Italian dressing and Provolone cheese on sourdough bread. This was a huge sandwich (it filled me up so much that I didn’t need to eat dinner. The combination of everything in this sandwich was just incredible. I especially like the hots, since they had a little bit of sweet heat to each bite. I didn’t just stop with the sandwich, though.

I also decided to go with a chocolate chip lava cake. If you think it looks good just like that, it was even better once I cut into it.

The liquid chocolate flowing out of this was truly a delight. The cake itself was really good, but having the liquid chocolate made those bites even better.

I was happy to stay local for breakfast and lunch (both within a mile from my house). I’m not sure if I’ll be venturing too far tomorrow, but today was definitely a good way to start the weekend and stay positive.


Patapsco Valley State Park – Maryland – 04/11/20

I’ve been back in Maryland for almost five years, and I’ve lived close to Patapsco Valley State Park for all of those five years, but I’ve never actually visited. I decided to visit today. There weren’t many people around, and once I started walking on the trails, I didn’t see anyone. There were some moments where I couldn’t hear cars, planes or people. The only things I could hear were the birds chirping, the wind blowing, the leaves rustling and the dirt moving. It was a nice feeling, especially just being outside and enjoying the fresh air.

I hadn’t specifically planned on going to the Park today, so I didn’t have the proper footwear, but my sneakers did the job for where I went. After today’s visit, I plan on going again, so I will make sure to wear some trail shoes the next time, and I will also plan on walking for more than an hour, which is what I did today.

Spring is here, but the trees haven’t all been given the memo yet, so there was some nice scenery of leafless branches, and then there were some trees full of leaves, and some trees that were just starting to see signs of new life. I’m glad I went today, since it was colder, and there weren’t a noticeable amount of bugs around.

I started my walking by trying to get to some higher ground, which provided me with a nice view of trees upon trees upon trees.

Doing a 180 degree turn, and I went from seeing little or no leaves to some full trees.

I have no idea what the different types of trees are, what the different types of leaves are, or what the different types of flowers are. If I saw something that looked appealing to my eyes, I took a picture.

I went from seeing the nice shade of green to a nice pinkish hue.

I really liked this one. I don’t know what it looked like before this state or what it will look like after this state, but I’m glad I got to see how it looks at this moment.

For my first walk around the Park, this was really nice. I enjoyed not having a lot of people around. I don’t go out and about in nature all that often, but when I do, I would prefer that it be a more personal time for me. Not too many outside sounds, not too much commotion, just the essence of the moment with nature. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the feeling of the breeze as it hits my face.

It felt good to have a nice sense of calm and a momentary reminder that there is life outside of the bubble in which I live (figuratively speaking). It’s easy to stay positive in moments like this.

Disney Cruise Lines – Very Merrytime Bahamian Cruise – December 2019

This past December, my family went on a Disney Cruise. It’s the third time we have gone on a Disney Cruise. This was a 4 night cruise embarking from Port Canaveral with a stop in Nassau and a stop in Castaway Cay (Disney’s island). The ship that we took was the Disney Dream.

Instead of doing a day by day recap of the cruise, I thought it would be better to talk about some of things we did, and then share photos of the food, the scenery, and some miscellaneous fun stuff.

If you have kids who enjoy Disney, or if you are a fan of Disney, this would be a great cruise for you to take. This is a kid friendly cruise, but it’s not just for kids. They have areas that are for adults (18 and older), as well as some nightclubs and lounges that are geared for those of drinking age. There are “Youth Clubs”, where you can drop of kids of various age groups for activities and fun, while you can do your own thing.

The cruise ship will rock from time to time, so keep that in mind if you have any issues with motion. It won’t be as bad as on a small boat, but it is still there.

There are plenty of things to do while at sea. You can watch movies or shows in one of the theaters. You can shop until you drop. You can ride the AquaDuck (not on all Cruise Ships). You can play video games or sports. You can have spa treatments. You can workout. You can eat as little or as much as you want.

I enjoy food and I enjoy scenery, so my focus for this post will be on those.

I’m going to start with the food. Instead of going into the details of every little morsel that I ate, I want to share some pictures of the food (with a few comments here and there). There are three main restaurants that were part of the cruise, and we had a dinner schedule. Not everyone goes to the dinners, but it is an option. There is also a buffet open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as some snack and quick bite places. There are fancy restaurants at an additional cost, so if you want to dress up and have a more intimate dining experience, you can do that as well.

The first day, we had a good lunch. I ordered a Molten Chocolate cake with Hazelnut Gelato for dessert, and it was absolutely incredible.

My choice for dinner the first night was a Lamb Salad. Not too heavy, which was a good thing since I had already eaten more than my fair share of food.

When I sat down for dinner the second night, the napkin was folded to look like a Hawaiian shirt. I thought this was really neat and an added touch that provided a little more fun for the night.

I started the meal with a French Onion soup. The flavor of the broth was better than I could have expected and this was probably the best French Onion soup I’ve ever had.

When it was time for the main course, I went with duck (sorry Donald and Daisy). The duck breast was good, but the tender and juicy drumstick was the star of the meal.

Dessert was an Opera Gateau, which was a delicious finale to a great meal.

The next night was Christmas night. I went with a Horseradish Crusted Rib Roast. I don’t order steak a lot, but thought I should live a little with these meals. The steak was cooked perfectly and the bites of the edges with the meat, a little fat, and the horseradish were pure joy to my tastebuds.

I ordered the Yule Log for dessert and it was another delicious end to the day.

For the final dinner on the cruise, I decided to go with a Ginger-Teriyaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin. The flavor of the steak and the sauce were off the charts. The carrots were cooked to perfection. But the best part of this meal was the Wasabi Mashed Potatoes. It had the nice flavor of wasabi, without too much of the heat (which I would have been okay with). The combination of the wasabi, ginger-teriyaki, and bok choy made this a true feast for the palate (this was from Animator’s Palate).

The final dessert of my choosing was a Cookies ‘n Cream Sundae, which continued the streak of great desserts.

There was a coffee bar called Cove Cafe, which served espresso drinks (and alcohol). These drinks cost extra, but they were worth it. I ordered a frappe every day. The first picture is from the first morning on the ship. A delicious Peppermint Mocha Frappe with a cinnamon bun (no extra charge).

My parents and one of my sisters like hot coffee drinks, and the Cove Cafe added art to the foam, which was fun and different depending on the day and time of day.

My nieces shared a special sundae from Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats Shop (extra cost). The ice cream and gelato were really good, and they got to keep the “Go-Kart”.

I went back to Vanellope’s and ordered a Ginger Chocolate cupcake. There was a mild ginger flavor, but it was a very good and flavorful cupcake.

Another fun thing that Disney does has to do with housekeeping. When they get the room ready for night time, they have towel art creations. Here are the different ones we had each night.

The third one was special for Pirate Night. 🙂

There was some fantastic scenery as well. I enjoyed getting up early in the morning and going for walks around the deck (joggers are welcome there). We had a concierge room with a great view.

Picture from Deck 3. This was taken on the second night of the cruise.

Sometimes the scenery says it all.

This was taken on Castaway Cay, which was the stop on Christmas Day. I thought the position of the sun was perfect for this picture.

This is a view of Castaway Cay from the balcony of our state room.

We had some good rain on the last day at sea, but there was a moment where the sun broke through the clouds, and I was lucky enough to be in a position to take these pictures at that very moment.

If you made it this far, I hope you had fun reading through my non-sequential recap. If you have any questions or if you want to share your positive experiences, I would be happy to hear from you.


Visiting ZooAmerica in Hershey, PA

During my visit to Hershey Park, I also visited ZooAmerica. You can go to ZooAmerica separately from Hershey Park, but there is also an entrance to ZooAmerica while you are inside Hershey Park, so you can break up your day and visit the Zoo in the middle of your Park visit.

This American Elk Statue is inside Hershey Park, close to the entrance for ZooAmerica.

Right before I entered into the main part of the Zoo, this sign provided an overview of what was to come. Once you are inside, you have the ability to walk around wherever you prefer, but they also have signs for a “Suggested Route”, which are the signs I decided to follow. I was able to see a lot of animals, but not able to capture all of them on camera. Some of the pictures are a bit fuzzy since the animals were far away, some were in a dark enclosure, some were moving around, etc.

Roseate Spoonbill

American Alligators.

Burrowing Owl

Desert Tortoises

Roadrunner – I was fortunate to get this while it was still. Once it started moving, it would go running all over the place.

Ocelot – This was in a dark enclosure and took me quite a few takes to be able to get a picture (no flash).

Snowy Owl – I wish I could have gotten a better close up.

Bald Eagles – I love seeing Bald Eagles and was fortunate that they were hanging out pretty close to where I was standing.

Canada Lynx – This was tough to capture since it was just sitting up on a hill and far away. This was as zoomed in as I could get.

There were a lot more animals that I saw, including mountain lion, wolf, black bear, elk, ringtail, coati, to name a few.

This last picture was a surprise to me. These two were hanging out at the top of a tree about 10 feet off the ground. These are porcupines! I had no idea they were tree dwellers.

I enjoyed my time in the Zoo. I made my way around in just about an hour, so it was a nice middle of the day break from the park. I would visit again and would hope to get some better pictures and have some more close up experiences with some of the bigger animals.

Visiting Gettysburg National Military Park – November 16, 2019

Yesterday, I took a trip to visit Gettysburg. I have been there once before and wanted to go back. I was originally going to visit last weekend, but I was having major issues with shin splints in my right leg and decided to wait. I expected to be walking somewhere around 10 miles, and the pain was mostly gone when I started the morning. It was a cold morning and I ended up leaving about 40 minutes later than I had originally planned. I still got there early, just not as early as I might have wanted. The drive is just over 1 hour, so it’s not too bad.

I started off by parking close to the railroad station. I had a general agenda for the day. First was to get a coffee drink at The Ugly Mug Cafe, followed by walking over to Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters. Next would be going to the battlefield, visiting General Meade’s monument, and visiting the Pennsylvania Monument. There was mention of Devil’s Den the last time I visited, so that was a thought, but it was a bit far for walking and I wasn’t sure if I would do it (I did). On my way back, I was planning on walking through the downtown area, possibly visiting the Jenny Wade House, getting another coffee drink, and then going back to the car. The final part of the Gettysburg National Military Park visit would be to head over to the museum.

I wasn’t sure if it was going to be really crowded. Even though the Battle of Gettysburg took place July 1-3, 1863, the Gettysburg Address was on November 19, 1863. I was later informed that they were expecting the crowds to be in the next weekend, so I lucked out, since it wasn’t overcrowded.

It was a bit cold when the day started (low 30s) and it was very bright and sunny. The sun wreaked havoc on my pictures, since it was at the wrong angle for some of the shots. I’ll share them anyway. This isn’t for a photography portfolio, so I don’t mind if they aren’t perfect. All of the pictures were taken with an iPhone 6 which may not last much longer (had to charge it twice while I was there).

When my day in the Park was finished, I had logged about 13 miles walking around. My legs were struggling towards the end of the day, but they made it. There are a lot of hills in the area, so it’s not just walking, but it’s going up and down hills, climbing up a couple of rocks here and there (my choice), and making stops here and there to look at landmarks. There are a lot of monuments and markers in Gettysburg. I barely touched the surface. If I was there for one week of non-stop walking, I might be able to see most of them.

There were some decisions that I might reconsider next time. I did not have any liquid with me. Other than the coffee drink early on, I didn’t have anything else to drink until I was back in the downtown area, about 4 1/2 hours later. I wore hiking boots. Most of my walking was on paved paths, which made it rougher on my feet, but there were areas where I was climbing on top of rocks, so having the boots were good for that. There is a self-guided auto tour, which is where I was doing most of my walking. It might have been easier to drive around, stop, take pictures, and go to the next. But I think I enjoyed the challenge of the walk. My shin splints started back up when I was walking between the Pennsylvania Monument and Devil’s Den. A couple of sharp pains that had me cussing under my breath. But I continued on. I really can’t complain, though. Shin splints and sore legs are nothing compared to the pain the soldiers went through while they were fighting or after they were struck. When I got back to the downtown area, I had an option to walk over to the Jenny Wade House, but it was a little more walking and there was a line, so I opted against it. That can be seen on another visit.

I’ll share some pictures and a few comments here and there. I hope you enjoy!

There are quite a few buildings that have this Marker. It would be a challenge to find them all, but it could be fun…

The C.W. Hoffman House was built around 1843.

This is General Lee’s Headquarters. It was more North than I expected, but it has been preserved well.

There are a lot of cannons all over the place, which is not surprising, but I still think it’s pretty cool to see them (even if they did not see action during the Battle of Gettysburg).

I made my way over to the Gettysburg National Cemetery. The first picture shows a number of gravemarkers that are listed as “Unknown”. There are also names on some of these as well. The other two pictures just give a small glimpse of the markers in the cemetery. There were more than 50,000 killed, wounded, captured, or missing.

The Lincoln Address Memorial is not where the actual Address was given, but it is a nice monument (especially when the sun isn’t covering it with shadows).

There are many monuments and markers.

This is the Major General George Gordon Meade Monument. He led the Union to victory.

I wanted to take a picture of the monument with the sun shining above and the monument casting a large shadow. One of the instances that the sun worked out okay.

The Copse of Trees was the focal point of Pickett’s charge during the last day of the battle.

The Pennsylvania State Memorial stands along Cemetery Ridge and was completed in 1914. This is a beautiful structure (there is much more to it than is shown here). There is a very narrow spiral staircase that allows you to get to the upper level. No problem for me on the way up, but missed a step on the way down and tweaked my left ankle. You can really see the Battlefield when you are up above, so I would recommend it if you can.

This tree talked to me while I was heading over to the Pennsylvania State Memorial. As I was getting close, I could hear some creaking from the branches. I stood underneath and could hear the crunching as the wind was blowing through the trees. It was a nice, serene moment. I took a step back for this picture, since the sun shining through seemed to capture this moment nicely.

Devil’s Den had it’s name prior to the Battle, but during the battle it was the location of many casualties.

There are crevices throughout the rock formation. Not sure what it looked like back in 1863, but it was interesting to see.

This picture is from the top of the hill, since you already saw the picture from below.

Providing a closer view of how the fencing was constructed. This is all over the place, but I think this shows the intricacies of a “simple” construction.

Not sure if you can really see this, but this was taken around noon and there was still some ice on this little puddle of water.

General Meade’s Headquarters and Barn.

Making my way back downtown, and I saw this sign. I never really think too much about town names, but Gettysburg was named for James Gettys. He purchased 116 acres of his father’s property in 1786. In the same year, he divided the land into 220 lots and held a lottery where citizens in the area could purchase the rights to one or more of those lots. Thus the beginning of Gettystown, which would be named Gettysburg in 1811.

There are “Witness Trees” in Gettysburg, which were alive during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Jennie Wade was the only direct civilian casualty of the Battle of Gettysburg, killed by a stray bullet on July 3, 1863. She was only 20 years old. I wasn’t able to make it to the house where it happened, but was able to pass by her birthplace and where she lived when the battle began. She had gone to her sister’s house on July 1 to help her sister with a newborn baby, and was struck on the morning of July 3 while kneading dough for bread.

After making it back to my car, I made my way down to the Museum. I thought this was fascinating to see the ammunition still lodged in the tree trunk. I cannot imagine the pain that those soldiers felt when these went through their bodies.

Just a few more pictures from the Museum.

These weren’t all of the pictures. I had a few that I took that were more scenic views of the Battlefield, and some that were just too overtaken by shadows. I hope you enjoyed this. If you’ve made it this far, I thank you and would love to hear any comments or feedback you have!

Wednesday Morning in Westminster, MD for a Good Cause

When I have time on Sundays, I try to buy a couple of the Sunday newspapers. I was fortunate to get the local newspaper this past Sunday. There was an insert for Boscov’s and it mentioned a special event they were going to be doing today, starting at 8:00 AM. It is Boscov’s 23rd Annual Friends Helping Friends event. If a customer wants to donate $5 to one of the participating non-profits of their choice, they will receive a coupon for 25% off. Since that sounded like a good idea to me (even if I didn’t end up buying anything), I decided to plan my morning. We were scheduled to get some heavy rain starting anywhere between 10AM and 12PM, so I knew I would need an early start.

The two places I wanted to visit before Boscov’s were JeannieBird Baking Company and Birdie’s Cafe. They are about 3/4 of a mile apart. I decided to park close to Birdie’s Cafe and then walk down to JeannieBird, and then come back up. Sometimes a walk can do you good.

When I arrived at JeannieBird’s, there was not a long line (this was around 8:30 AM on a weekday morning, so it’s not surprising). I looked through the different sweet options since I had ordered a savory breakfast sandwich the last time I was here. The thing that caught my eye was Pumpkin Rolls. Think Cinnamon Rolls, only with pumpkin. I asked if there were raisins in it, and thankfully the answer was no. I had three options, though: regular frosting, cream cheese frosting, or crumb topping. I decided to go with a crumb topping, and I’m glad that I did. They warmed it up for me, which was even better.

The three main components to this are the dough, the filling, and the topping. The dough had good flavor. Not a heavy yeast flavor, not too sweet. And cooked to the right consistency. The filling was also very good. The spices and the pumpkin blended well together, so the pumpkin wasn’t overbearing, but it was definitely there. The crumb topping was great. There was a texture that I wasn’t used to in crumb topping, and it worked really well. I thought that it might be oats, so I asked the team, and they confirmed with the chef that they indeed use oats in the crumb topping. This was definitely a good choice by me, and something that I would order again.

While making the walk from JeannieBird’s to Birdie’s Cafe, I saw a couple of neat signs. The first was in front of the Post Office building and the second was on the building itself. I don’t remember when or if I’ve seen a Fallout Shelter sign before, so I thought this was pretty cool.

Snowbird from Birdie’s Cafe

Birdie’s frozen coffee drinks are called Snowbirds, which is a pretty fun take on their name. They have plenty of options as well. Since we are still in the season, I decided to go with the Pumpkin Snowbird. There was a nice pumpkin flavor, which was not too heavy, and a very subtle spice flavor. This was not icy at all. The straw was very thin, and there were no issues drinking this, which means there were no chunks of ice to clog things up or get stuck on the bottom. Very good drink and one I’ll get again. I’ve been to Birdie’s Cafe several times, but haven’t had a chance to write about it until today.

I took a couple of tree pictures, but this was the best of them. Quite a few colors, which made for some nice scenery. I was walking when I took this one. There were some other tree ranges which looked really nice, but I saw them while I was driving. There are signs that indicate no stopping unless for emergencies, so I couldn’t stop to take pictures.

I did finally make my way over to Boscov’s. I paid $5 for a non-profit of my choosing, and got a coupon. I only bought a couple of clothes that were already on sale, so my 25% got me less than $5 off, but I was perfectly fine with that. I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy anything. I had to assess my needs versus my wants, with a little grey area for in between. My wants included an all in one turntable/CD player/Radio/Cassette, but that was not something that I really need right now or have the room for in my house right now. There were some cooking appliances that fell into that same category. It didn’t matter to me, since I was just there for the $5 to a non-profit anyway.

The rain started to pick up a little after 10:30AM, so it was while I was finished shopping at Boscov’s, but still running errands close to home (grocery shopping). I took a video of the sounds of the rain from my enclosed patio. Feel free to check it out on my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr account if you would like.

There are days when I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. Today was one of those days. I can’t help but feel positive after a morning like this.

A Nice Saturday Morning in Columbia, MD

It’s nice when a plan works out as intended. I had an idea for how I wanted my morning to go, and it ended up going pretty well. I would have preferred my football team won, but that was beyond my control (even though I was wearing my lucky shirt).

Today was a great weather day. Low 50s when I left, low 60s when I was out and about, and low 70s when I got back home. I started the day off by heading down to Wegman’s. I got myself a breakfast sandwich and a pumpkin frappe, so I was off to a good start. I then ran a couple of errands, which included heading over to Big Lots. When I was leaving Big Lots, there were some Canada Geese in the parking lot.

Not surprisingly, they do not walk in a “V” formation. 🙂 It’s not unusual to see them walking around in Columbia, but it was just one of those things that made my morning even better. I ran a few more errands and then made my way over to The Mall in Columbia. There was one main reason for to go there, and that was to try the new Pumpkin Spice Chocolixir at Godiva. I walked through a few stores along the way, and showed some good restraint by not making any purchases.

When the drink was being made, I was asked if I wanted some of the cinnamon mix blended into my drink, and I answered in the affirmative. I am glad that I did. The drink was put together nicely, with the added touches of the drizzle on the side and on top of the whipped cream. The consistency was very much like a thick milkshake, so they were successful there. With my first couple of sips, it tasted just like a pumpkin pie. There was a very strong pumpkin flavor in those first few tastes. As I drank more, the cinnamon mixture that was in the drink and swirled on the sides and on top started to become more integrated into the drink. This added a nice layer of sweetness to the drink, which brought a nice balance to the pumpkin flavor. When I finished up the drink, the consistency was still there, so I was happy with the overall experience. This was the first time I ordered this drink, and I will get it again if they bring it back next year.

I still had a few more errands to run before I picked up lunch. While driving, I noticed some really nice scenery. When I was walking out of Barnes & Noble and heading over to my car, some nicely colored trees in the distance caught my eye. I drove over to the parking lot and decided to take some pictures of the trees and leaves. All pictures were taken with my iPhone 6.

I like how this picture turned out. I think the cloud formations in the background add a nice element to this one. There is a nice combination of colors in this tree.

I wanted to get a little closer, just so you can see the different colors that are coming through in this tree.

Even closer still. The colors were more vibrant in person, but the camera doesn’t do them justice.

This was another tree that I saw and enjoyed visually.

I tried to get a close up, but I don’t think it came through very well. There are some leaves that have changed colors, but there are also some leaves in there that had already changed color and were starting to shrivel up.

This leaf was laying on the ground. I like how you can see the red and orange, as well as some yellow in the veins.

This was another leaf that caught my eye because there was still some green in the veins.

This last picture of a leaf was on the parking lot, not too far from the others (they are all from the same tree). The red in this leaf was much more prominent than the others.

When I have mornings like this, I can’t help but be in a good mood (even with only 4 hours of sleep). I had a rough outlined of my morning planned out for more than a week. I added a couple of errands yesterday, but was really happy to have the extra bits of nature highlight my day. I look forward to what tomorrow brings, even if it doesn’t go exactly as I might hope. I’ll just stay positive and keep on smiling!

Easy Like Sunday Morning

I tend to be a morning person. I usually wake up before 5AM, sometimes before 4AM. I might be a bit sleepy and tired at first, but I’m usually perked up and ready for the day after about 3 or 4 minutes. This past Sunday morning, I was a bit off. I was not “feeling it” at all. I am not sure why, it’s just how it went. I don’t think it was due to the overtime loss of the Caps the night before. I don’t think it was due to the gloomy weather (which I prefer). Sometimes things just are a certain way and we can’t explain them.

I ran some errands early on, but being out and about in perfect Fall weather didn’t help. I had originally planned to drive down and visit the Sykesville Farmer’s Market, but I didn’t have the energy or the drive to do it. I knew I had to get myself out of this morning funk, so I went out the front door and started walking, with the intention of walking to the Farmer’s Market. When I first got outside, the temperature was a nice, cool upper 50s/lower 60s and slightly overcast, which is my kind of weather. But I was still not perking up. Then, I started to listen to the silence. There was noise, but it was not people or cars or a train or anything else. It was different birds, frogs, insects, and more. Just listening to the sounds of nature and then looking at the trees helped get me going in the right direction.

I walked around the Farmer’s Market very briefly. I just did a quick walk-through without stopping to chat or really look at anything. I decided to get a Pumpkin frappe at French Twist Cafe, which was good as usual. When I was waiting for my drink, a couple walked in. They said it was their first time there, but they had heard about the place before and wanted to try it. They asked me for my opinion, and my face just lit up. I let them know about the coffee drinks and the crepes, and how good they all are. I was sure that they would enjoy anything they got, and the quality would be outstanding. The couple seemed to be really excited about being there, and I completely understood. If I’m in a a new place and I’ve heard good things and the menu looks good, I get really excited. If I’m talking about food, I am usually in a happy place. So this was the final step of me getting out of my funk and feeling better about the day.

I walked home and just enjoyed all that nature had to show me. The squirrels were running around trying to snatch the nuts that were falling from the trees. There was a lot of rustling in the trees and the bushes, so there were some other creatures that were enjoying the day. I had a really nice time for that 20 minute walk home. This is despite the walk home being mostly uphill. But those 20 minutes were more appreciated than a 5 minute drive would have been.

Sometimes we have bad days. Sometimes we have bad moments. But if we can try to find ways to get the negatives out of our heads and bring in the good moments, no matter how brief, it can help make for a better day. I took a few pictures on my walk, and wanted to share them.

This is just a picture of some trees. They aren’t uniform, they aren’t standing out. They are just there. But that’s what I enjoyed about them.

I’m not sure if these are coming through very clearly. I took one picture of the tree and then a close up. There are huge nests on these trees. The first time I saw these, I was driving up the 97 and had no idea what they were. If they were spider webs, then those spiders must have been big (I’m thinking Lord of the Rings big). But they were all over the place and some were up to 3 feet long. I thought these were tent caterpillars, but they are apparently web worms. Not just for the Internet, I guess. 🙂 Still pretty cool to see, though.

I thought this nest was particularly fascinating. The picture doesn’t do justice to the intricacies of this structure.

I liked the colors on this tree.

I zoomed in so you could see the different colors. Yellow, green, light green, yellow with brown creeping in.

After I arrived home, I decided to take a picture from my enclosed patio. I have a really nice view, but don’t take advantage of this as often as I should. I have to clean up the chairs, since they have a lot of dust and pollen sitting there from the Summer. But this will be a nice area for me to just sit and read or reflect or listen, now that the temperatures are comfortable.

I may have started the day negative, but I was able to get out of it and end it feeling positive.

The Smell of Rain

Since Autumn/Fall has arrived, I hope for there to be an increase in rain activity. Not just because it reminds me of the B.J. Thomas song – written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, but because it reminds me of the smell of rain.

I spent a large chunk of my early years on the East Coast. We had plenty of rain and I never thought too much of it. I enjoyed it at times and was annoyed by it at times. When I was in college in Maryland, I remember getting hit with rains that were so hard that you didn’t really need to use your windshield wipers (I still used them). The rain came down so hard and fast that it was almost like another layer of glass that you could see through. Heavy flooding would cause major puddles and driving over the hidden potholes were nerve wracking, but I enjoyed it. Not something I would want to do all the time, but for those moments when there was a massive rainfall, I found joy in the experience.

When I moved to Southern California, things definitely changed. I drove across country and when I arrived in Southern California, they were at more than 200 days without any real rainfall. I think they had broken a record at that time. So that was quite a shock to the system.

After I had started to get used to living in California, I was able to recognize the smell when rain was coming. It was something I never paid attention to in my time on the East Coast, but I finally started to recognize that there was something familiar about the scent. The first time I mentioned the coming rain to my co-workers, they snickered at me. They couldn’t smell anything and didn’t believe I could smell when the rain was coming. But…I was right. It did rain. And then there was another smell that came after the rain.

I remember going on walks/runs with one of my sisters in California and we would talk about the smell of rain coming and the smell after the rain falls. We both knew it was a thing, even if other people thought I was completely off base on this. And we both really enjoyed the aroma, even if it meant we were going to be rained on sometime during our runs.

When I moved back to the East Coast, I decided to drive across country again. When I drove across country the first time (from Maryland), I took a Southern route, leveraging the I-40. I drove through Oklahoma, Northern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, so there were definitely some nice sites to see. When I drove from California back East, I decided to take the I-80, which took me through Utah and Colorado. I was fortunate to witness some incredible rains during that drive. Not only was the rain coming down hard for good portions of time, but there were some flashes of lightning that lit up the sky. I had a feeling of pure amazement as I could see those bolts of lightning in the sky some 2 miles ahead or 1 or 2 miles behind me. I might have had very different feelings if those bolts were a few feet away, but being able to see them from a distance was something that I can still picture in my head, four years later.

You can look things up on the internet pretty quickly now, so you can learn that the smell before rain is the aroma of ozone that is being picked up by the winds. And after the rain hits the ground, the scent is known as petrichor. I’m not a scientist, so I won’t go into the chemical and scientific meanings for these experiences.

Now that I’m living on the East Coast again, the smell of impending rain and the smell of rain falling on the ground is something that I gladly welcome to my senses again. Some people hate the rain. Some people tolerate the rain, but don’t really like it. Some people like the rain, but only from a distance. Some people absolutely love the rain and would sing and dance in the rain all the time if they had the chance. I appreciate the rain. Not just for what it does, but for what it means on a personal level. It reminds me of past conversations. It reminds me of past moments when I’ve had those same smells. It reminds me of some fun times driving I’ve had in the rain. It keeps me positive.