A Grateful Heart

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

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Mourning Doves in the fall

Well, today is that glorious day we set aside here in the states to give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us from our gracious Heavenly Father.

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A fall walk

It’s usually a day spent with family, enjoying one another’s company,  grateful for each one gathered, while recounting another year of the many things to be thankful for. Our family is fortunate this year that we will all be present and accounted for…with a family of five siblings, that is no small feat!

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Toad tying not to be seen

Usually, I would be scurrying around preparing the corn pudding, baking pumpkin pies and the usual things I contribute to the feast. Today I will be doing those things and a few more at a leisurely pace, as our family will gather tomorrow so that all can be present.

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Purple Finch

 I am reminded this year, as in many past Thanksgivings, of the importance of counting our blessings and truly being grateful for what we have, even in the hard, and sometimes lonely times which we all go through in life.

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In doing so, I usually look back to a trip I took with members of my church to Haiti as a young adult. I vividly remember my first sight of the poverty-stricken country… I wanted to run back to the airport and catch the first flight back.  I had never seen such conditions up close and personal, and it left an impact on me I will never forget.

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A quiet bench in the fall

What impacted me more, though, was the absolute joy and gratitude, and what could only be described as graciousness, from the Christian people we had the opportunity to meet with while there. I recall going to a church out in the country-dirt floor, rough lumber for pews, no electricity-and the absolute spirit of thanks these people had as they
“showed off” their prize possession. We were also invited into their homes, where they shared enthusiastically from their very meager supplies, meals served with the greatest of hospitality.

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Glen Ellen Farms, upper Maryland

 After experiencing such phenomenal gratefulness in the face of such abject poverty, I remember getting back to the states where hearing complaints for the smallest of things felt like being slapped in the face with an ice-cold cloth.  And, after determining I would never grumble or complain again, sadly, I too, soon fell into my old ways of not always being thankful for even the littlest of blessings in life.

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Geese at Assateague Island, VA

Oh,there are many times I thank God just for hot running water, as there we experienced just a trickle in the shower, while some of the locals were bathing in mud puddles in the street.  And when I take my  first sip of steaming coffee in the morning, I am usually very grateful.

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But, there are those times, when I simply forget and grumble about the smallest of things when I have so, so much to be thankful for….a warm home, a loving family, friends, food, clean water, books to read and the ability to read them, the love and care of my Heavenly Father… the list could go on all day.

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Squirrel on island of moss

My prayer continues to be that I will always be grateful for even the smallest of blessings and be mindful of those less fortunate than myself.

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Wild turkeys encountered on a cycling trip

Wherever you are, whether celebrating Thanksgiving here in the States or elsewhere in this big, wonderful world, may you celebrate all the things to be thankful for in your life, this day and each day forward.

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Until next time

∼ Jen

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:1

 

Near Miss

I have been busy with Thanksgiving preparations but so enjoyed this blog post that I decided to re-blog for others to enjoy. Stewart is a wonderful story teller… browse his site, you’ll be glad you did!

Happy Thanksgiving all, we have much to be thankful for!

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

Storyshucker

Wait! Frantically I chased the bus trying to catch the driver’s attention. Brakes screeched and exhaust puffed as he threw open the door and impatiently waved me in. Out of breath from my unexpected sprint, I leaped onto the bus which jerked roughly into motion. Why does everything seem so urgent?

Ear shattering noises blasting from my alarm clock that morning had startled me into reality. Abusing the snooze button meant ultimately springing from bed in a hasty rush. After a speedy shower I dressed in a hurry and dashed out of my front door to see the bus pulling away.

And from now on I should hurry! I nearly missed it!

Anxiety at work as constant emails popped up. Between fast-paced phone calls I zipped out for a quick lunch and realized in a panic that I was late to a meeting. Choking down a sandwich while running, I…

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A Friend’s Thanksgiving

Oh! Think Not My Spirits Are Always As Light

…The thread of our life would be dark, Heaven knows
If it were not with friendship and love intertwined;
And I care not how soon I may sink to repose,
When these blessing shall cease to be dear to my mind.

 by Thomas Moore

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Of all the holidays and gatherings, I think Thanksgiving has to be my favorite.  It is a time  set aside to remember all we have been blessed with, giving thanks to God for all the bountiful gifts and blessings He bestows on us in so many different ways.  It is simple, unpretentious, not bogged down in commercialism…just a beautiful season of gratitude, because, in each season of life, we always have things to be thankful for.

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A few year ago I decided I would like to have a “Friends Thanksgiving” to celebrate the wonderful friendships in my life.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by family, and we have our day of celebration on the actual holiday, but during this season I am also reminded of the absolute blessing that real friends bring to our lives.

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Over the weekend we had a gathering of our closest and dearest friends along with their kids who are now treasured friends of our kids…double blessing!  It was a night filled with much laughter, good food, and just plain fun.  Among my dearest friends is one I have known since first grade.  We could spend hours laughing till we cry reminiscing over past memories.  She is my fellow nature lover, photographer, and incredible artist who hasn’t met an artistic medium she can’t conquer.  She is a teacher any parent would love to have for their child because of her caring heart and common-sense approach.  Long ago school days, ice-skating on frozen ponds, hiking through woods, cycling nature trails and kayaking all while solving the world’s problems then laughing hysterically are all cherished memories with this incredible friend.  Knowing my love for plants, she brought me the beautiful rosemary plant pictured below, which Kitty has adopted.

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Another treasured friendship is from my  single, college days.  This is my very practical friend, also a nature/animal lover and the one who taught me all a dog owner ever needed to know about cats.  We call her the cat whisperer as she is the one who first dared hold the wild cats that showed up in our yard that we have since adopted and love…yes the one above was “wild.”  I have so many fun memories of silly things single girls do and then the memories continued as we both went on to get married and have kids within the same few years.  As our kids grew up together we shared play-dates in the park, baseball games, basketball games as the crazy moms on the top bleacher, family cycling days, campfires, beach days, and more recently, hikes through West Virginia.  She gave us all a scare this year with a cancer, but thankfully she is well, and it was another reason to set aside a day and give thanks for her friendship.

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Last, but not least, is a more recent friend made when our kids were older elementary-aged.  She is also practical, but fun-loving and a loyal, trusted friend.  We, too, have shared cycling trips, field trips with our kids, coffee time on our porches, pool days, Easter egg hunts and tears and laughter as we tried to figure out the crazy teen years together!  She is an incredible mom, as are my other dear friends, and I have been blessed with her wisdom and understanding as I navigate through the stages of motherhood.

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As I look at the fading beauty of the mums on my porch, I am reminded that the beauty of true friendships never fade. As I tell my sons, if you have even just one true friend in life, you are blessed- someone you can laugh with, cry with, be yourself with and be loved through the good times and bad…in essence, “family.”

May you treasure the beautiful friendships in your life!

Until next time

∼ Jen

Simply Fall…

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Late Autumn by William Allingham

October – and the skies are cool and gray
O’er stubbles emptied of their latest sheaf,
Bare meadow, and the slowly falling leaf.
The dignity of woods in rich decay
Accords full well with this majestic grief
That clothes our solemn purple hills to-day,
Whose afternoon is hush’d, and wintry brief
Only a robin sings from any spray.

And night sends up her pale cold moon, and spills
White mist around the hollows of the hills,
Phantoms of firth or lake; the peasant sees
His cot and stockyard, with the homestead trees,
Islanded; but no foolish terror thrills
His perfect harvesting; he sleeps at ease.

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Geese grace the autumn sky at a local state park

  I have enjoyed reading many Autumn poems this season, and it would be interesting to know, of the four seasons, just which one has inspired more poets.

While each season holds its own special enchantment, fall definitely has a magic of its own…the cool, misty mornings; later sunrises, earlier sunsets; trees bedecked in jeweled tones; leaves dancing on the breeze before floating gently to the ground, scents of smokey fireplaces drifting in the night air; outings to pumpkin patches and wandering through corn mazes, while pumpkins, gourds and mums decorate the landscape.

For this post, I simply wanted to share some of my favorite fall pictures, past and present.  I hope you enjoy!

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The above picture of the snail posed perfectly on the pumpkin greeted me as I stepped outside one crisp, fall morning.

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Mature trees lining the streets make fall an especially favorite time for walks….

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A  pair of geese enjoyed a few hours on a fallen log one autumn afternoon…

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and my buddy “Harold” remained longer than expected as we kayaked into view another fall day…

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Fall colors through the window of a favorite reading spot…

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Green makes way for fiery oranges, yellows and reds …

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Geese honk their arrival in the evenings as they rest for the night on the peninsula, and at a favorite park during the day they glide over then land with a splash…

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I hope this season finds you joyful and well!

Until next time!

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∼ Jen

“Almost Heaven” in the Fall

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
–  Albert Camus
 

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How does a landscape go from beautiful to spectacularly beautiful…..it gets clothed in the magnificent colors of that breathtaking season we call fall.

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In the summer, my son and I were able to enjoy some of the natural beauty the picturesque state of West Virginia has to offer… I shared a post with some of our highlights here.  I was once again able to enjoy its beauty, but this time in its fall glory, on my yearly, girl’s-weekend getaway with a few treasured friends. In this post I’ve gathered some pictures from that trip and also a few from our past fall trips; I hope you enjoy!

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Trails were marked with a kaleidoscope of colors and leaves decorated fern, moss and rocks like nature’s confetti.DSC_0087

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They softened the path as we walked and the ones that didn’t make it to the ground graced the evergreens like natural Christmas ornaments.

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The countryside was decked out in all its splendor…

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while fields of gold nourished the lingering butterflies.

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Dolly Sods was a mosaic of colors resembling nature’s quilt on one side…

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while showing off its grandeur, tinged in autumnal hues, on the mountainside.

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The many waterfalls and creeks in this state are only that much more scenic when fall is in the air…

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Douglas Falls, Thomas WV

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Blackwater Falls, Davis WV

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Mountains, valleys, creeks and rolling pastures, Autumn in West Virginia is simply spectacular!

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A special thanks to our husbands for, once again, manning the “home front” while your wives hiked the trails!

As in the last post, pictures of West Virginia wouldn’t seem complete without its most famous song…enjoy!!

 

∼ Jen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumnal Frog Contemplations

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Frog Autumn

Summer grows old, cold-blooded mother.
The insects are scant, skinny.
In these palustral homes we only
Croak and wither.
Mornings dissipate in somnolence.
The sun brightens tardily
Among the pithless reeds.
 Flies fail us.
he fen sickens.
Frost drops even the spider.
 Clearly
The genius of  plenitude
Houses himself elsewhere
 Our folk thin
Lamentably.


 I came upon this poem while reading some fall poems earlier. It reminded me of a recent picture I took of a frog by our pond surrounded by fallen leaves and acorns. I can only imagine his thoughts may be something close to what the poet penned.

∼Jen

Morning Time – September

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joys­
This is September.

Hilaire Belloc

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Third or fourth generation Monarch butterfly

Ah, beautiful September…how did you pass so quickly?

October is my favorite fall month, but September begins the beauty of it all.  Now that it is behind us I feel like I somehow missed it…like I blinked and it was over. I have spent many hours inside with my nose buried in math and Spanish curriculum, but on the bright side, I’m sure it’s a wonderful Alzheimer’s preventative.

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Frog basking in morning sun

I have given myself permission to take the day off from curriculum and enjoyed a walk with my dog Princess earlier this morning.  I have missed writing so much I decided I would also take the time to enjoy doing just that when I returned from the walk.  Already six days into October, it was past time to pull up my September morning-time pictures.

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Praying Mantis I discovered one morning because of kitty’s growls:)
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Another morning frog, I believe the Southern Leopard frog
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Argiope aurantia beside porch

Thinking about writing a new blog post I asked myself, like probably many bloggers do….why on earth do I think people really want to see pictures of my flowers, birds, dog, Harold….or read the ramblings and memories of a mom going through beginning empty- nest stages?

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Mother cardinal bringing sunflower seed to young
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Juvenile female cardinal
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…obviously the awkward looking stage

And yet, I continue to write, because like other bloggers I enjoy the creativity it allows and the connections formed with other bloggers along the way.  The latter was something I was told would happen by a friend of mine, whose blog I have admired for years, but I really had no idea what she meant until I started blogging myself.

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Ferns getting their fall color
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Gabby, a visual reminder to cut back ferns for sake of the birds….

I find myself thinking of the people whose writing I have connected with….the elderly widow who writes of her granddaughter and grown sons and her transition to a smaller home, leaving the place where memories were made as she raised them; the writer who has written her first book and has found a purpose to enjoy in her newfound retirement as she plans another book; the man who so artfully writes of the beauty of childhood memories and an almost forgotten time of past societal innocence; the teacher who brings nature into the lives of his young students, reminding me of my own former joy of teaching little ones; the many gifted artists in photography and drawing, who bring beauty to my world and others by sharing their talents…all these people and many more have enriched me in many ways.

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Autumn Sedum

 

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I call this my “hello-goodbye” plant…blooming when I got it and not again till September, its final show

Though I will most likely never meet any of them, I am grateful for their presence…

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My morning buddy, Harold

They have enlightened me, inspired me, entertained me, and like the nature I am surrounded by, have added beauty to my life in many different ways.

For that, I am grateful.

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

A Stroll Through the Park and Memory Lane

An accumulation of a lifetime of memories does create a musical score that we can assess from an artistic if not scientific perspective. Each happy memory generates a beat of minor joy that when strung together form the musical notes demarking a person’s prosodic inner tune.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls

dsc_0610-black-bird.jpgOne of my favorite places to visit in our area is the local park.  I have taken my sons there since before they could walk and have fond memories from my own childhood visits there.  There were family picnics, outings with my mom and grandmom, racing around the top of the big, brick, circular wall-which is still there-and sledding down its big hill with a send-off from my dad in the wintertime. It has, of course, changed some over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the gift of memories and nature it still provides.

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Boys when young enjoying the same circular area I did as a child…deer statue new

DSC_0599When my sons were young, I made it a habit to turn necessary appointments in the area into fun outings by picking up lunch afterwards and heading to the park to picnic with the geese and ducks.  I have many happy memories of my two little boys feeding bits of their lunches to the geese and then running along side them squealing and playing.

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feeding the geese

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 feeling safer watching from table-top:)

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Those outings, like many things, have sadly ended as my sons have grown, but I managed to squeeze in one more just before school began this year with my youngest.

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As usual, we were greeted by the ducks like long-lost friends. We know better than to be  flattered as we are well aware they are excited about the scent of our curly fries and not so much us. We can no longer feed them, as it is now forbidden, but that doesn’t stop them from coming close to get a whiff and pose for pictures.

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On this particular afternoon the birds seemed to be quite noticeable, so I was able to get many photographs of them as well as the waterfowl…I found this robin very agreeable to a photo session.  I had no idea how different our American robin is from the European robin until I saw one posted on the blog 30daysofwildparenting. For the absolute cutest picture of a robin ever, check out his picture here.  I actually thought it was fake at first glance….it is seriously adorable!

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This cardinal was in a tree just over a path we took, and he was content to sit and preen while I took dozens of pictures.  It’s obvious these birds are used to humans because the cardinals in my yard fly away at the slightest movement.

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Cardinals are one of my favorite birds… besides being beautiful, they are very attentive parents sharing the duties of nest-building, feeding and training their young. They are also very docile at the feeders, unlike mockingbirds and feisty little hummingbirds.

We ate our lunch on a quiet bench in a shaded area with this tree directly in front of us.  If I was in a fantasy world, I would swear this massive, barked image with leaf bangs was watching us…it did bear a striking resemblance to Treebeard!

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After wandering the park for a bit, we ended our outing by the river and enjoyed one last look at the ducks before heading home.

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Another beautiful day to add to the precious memory book of life….

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Until next time…

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∼ Jen

Sunset on the Delaware Bay

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Sometimes the best things in life are found right in your own backyard…not literally my backyard in this case, but close enough!

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We have recently discovered that it isn’t always necessary to get in the car and drive to a destination two days away, or hop a flight for a trip half-way across the country, or even out of the country for that matter, we are surrounded by incredible beauty in our own little corner of the world…and for that, we are very thankful.

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One of our favorite places to visit lately has been the Delaware seashore and the quaint little town of Lewes. Founded by Dutch settlers in June of 1631, and named Zwaanendael, which means “swan valley,” it was the first European settlement in what would later become the first state, Delaware.

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On our last trip we arrived shortly before sunset, and walked out on the long pier just inside Cape Henlopen State Park. The park is one of my favorite cycling destinations, and is also where my husband and I had our first date:)

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The lighthouse is visible from the pier, and I can’t look at it without remembering a kayak ride I took there with a dear friend.  She had a tandem kayak and on her last trip out she was surrounded by a pod of dolphins and wanted me to enjoy the same experience.  I was all for it, until we got close to the lighthouse and I started to realize kayaking on a bay is a whole different story than kayaking on a creek.  The waves (I tend to get seasick-that’s an understatement), lack of dolphins, and visions of getting swept out to sea made me wimp out and our trip was cut a bit short. DSC_0160

From where we stood, we were able to see a Cape May-Lewes ferry coming back from its 17 mile journey across the bay to Cape May, New Jersey.  We made a few trips on the ferry when our children were younger to visit the Cape May zoo.  It is a fun trip for kids and adults alike.  It is also a top spot in the fall for bird migration, and I hope to be able to experience that for myself someday soon.  DSC_0081

It is very hard to walk away from a beautiful sunset…

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But eventually we pulled ourselves away and enjoyed strolling the streets of Lewes.  We talked with an exceptionally nice man who worked at The Inn at Canal Square, and he gave us the grand tour.  He also told us about a few movie stars who stayed there, or rather one…the other refused (she shall remain nameless) because she did not think that Delaware was up to her standards.  I really don’t care about movie stars or their opinions, but I did find it ironic when walking through town later, we happened upon this beautiful sight…DSC_0197

and then read the sign just beside this view…..DSC_0201

We also discovered a cafe on a side street that warrants another trip back…

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Just before we headed home I found one more thing to make the night just that much more special…
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It was on a bench where we sat overlooking the canal, but I didn’t know until we got home that I was supposed to re-hide it to bring a smile to another person.  I guess that just makes one more reason we’ll have to go back very soon!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoy all the beautiful treasures in your little corner of the world!

∼ Jen

Morning Time – August

August has passed, and yet summer continues by force to grow days. They sprout secretly between the chapters of the year, covertly included between its pages.

Jonathan Safran Foer

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Lantana blooms

  August seems very much to me like March in that it “comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” The hot, humid days slowly turn to cooler mornings and evenings, and time to linger outside is welcoming once again. I have collected some of my morning time pictures to share from this last month of summer, sad to see the blooms prepare to leave but excited for the glorious season of fall that will soon be upon us.

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The very appropriately named Devil’s Walkingstick,Aralia spinosa,

As soon as the humidity that slapped me like a wet blanket disappeared, I once again ventured out for mornings on the porch and saw some old friends…

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One of our many pond frogs
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Red-bellied woodpecker
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“Harold” fishing for breakfast and grouchy as ever

I enjoyed the flowering hostas, liriope, and marigolds as they put on their final show…

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I also noticed this little guy come out of the shadows when he lunged for some creeping insect passing by-picture was taken while he was enjoying his meal…

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Six-lined racerunner

My feathered friends were more visible after I refilled the bird feeders.  I leave them empty for June and July so they can help control the insects and teach the young how to feed from nature, but… I hate doing it.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and was ever so glad to give in and fill them. Also, the migrating birds will need to have food stations along their travels, at least that’s what I tell myself.

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Chickadee
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Tufted titmouse

The first to arrive were the chickadees and tufted titmice, with the cardinals and finches following soon after, the latter two still donning their bright courting colors…someone needs to break the news to them.

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Male cardinal
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American Goldfinch

I also cleaned and refilled the hummingbird feeders one last time before they take off on their long migratory flight south, some travelling as far as 900 miles.  One morning I was treated to observe this juvenile male sitting on a hydrangea branch preening himself outside my bedroom window. The red dot visible on his neck in the picture on the left is the indicator that it is a male juvenile ruby-throated hummer.

This summer’s group has been a rather feisty and mischievous bunch….I actually noticed one chase a peacefully munching titmouse off of the bird feeder and into a nearby tree!  Of course, they are constantly giving each other chase through the yard, and their aeronautical feats never cease to amaze me.

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Peeking through the window at me from a favorite perch

The squirrels have yet to notice the feeders have been filled or they are simply off hiding their store of winter nuts. I’m convinced the nut-hiding is just for show as they eat their fill of bird food each winter (and spring, summer, fall) instead.  Either way, they are still entertaining me during my coffee time.

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The bird pictured above in the grass is, I believe, a summer tanager. I just happened to notice his head pop up but was not able to get any good pictures of it when it flew off to a nearby tree.

I also noticed the head pop up of a chickadee having a good splash in the bird bath on the same morning…

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With the cooler days, I have once again enjoyed my daily walks…crepe myrtles, wild daisies, and even tasseled grass make the walk that much more beautiful…

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I even happened upon some “silver dollars” on one of my morning strolls…

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Annual Honesty (Lunaria annua)

My son shared the below picture he took one morning…a picture of days and morning memories long gone by…

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Forgotten swing covered in honeysuckle, photo by Anson

Opening the blinds on another morning gave view to this unexpected and delightful sight….

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Beautyberry

These Beautyberry are my favorite fall bushes and I look so forward to them blooming each year.  Besides being gorgeous, they are a wonderful feast for some species of birds.

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I will end with the first glimpses of fall color I observed peeking through a sunlit tree by the creek…

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and a tiny damselfly on a favorite hanging plant, the fiery orange begonia…

 

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It’s been a summer filled with many kinds of beauty-now, onto my much longed for season…fall!

 Until next time!

∼ Jen