Sunday, July 31, 2011

Books and Reviews

My Beach House Books - a small sampling!
I am in the process of transferring my booklists from Visual Bookshelf to Goodreads. You can see below left that there is a link to my bookshelf at Goodreads. Visual Bookshelf was a service of Living Social and apparently the coupon business they run is doing so well, they've decided to focus on that! Fortunately, they provided a quick transfer link so export over to Goodreads. So if you're looking for a good book to read - check out my bookshelf. Reviews exported only to a file on my desktop so I'll have to add them over time. And if you need a book recommendation today - go with Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier or The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Have a great beach day!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lost Photos

Morning sky from the back deck of My Beach House

I have been sick, sick, sick since the discovery in the spring that I have lost a file of photographs. I take a lot of photos. The next best thing to being at the beach is photos of when you were there! In April, when Maddie turned 16, I poured over hundreds of photos to make a slideshow of her life to show at her surprise party. It turned out so well.

While going through all those photos I came to the conclusion that I have no real system for filing photos both on my hard drive and uploaded off-site. I have photos on my Mac, on my desktop at the office, uploaded to Picasa and Flickr and none of them are in easy to find files. After looking through the photos for the slideshow I decided that I needed to decorate my office at work with my own photography instead of someone else's art and I went in search of pictures to use. I have two picture frames that have three prints of flowers in each one and the mat is in good condition.  I decided that I would take three of my sunrise photos for one frame and three of my sunset photos for the other. And I knew immediately that I wanted one of the sunsets to be of the abandoned houses in the Pamlico Sound that I took from Bodie Island.

It was September 2007, and I remember Maddie and Betsy and I rushing down the sandy road past the Bodie Island Lighthouse to get out by the water before the sun went down. I took a photo of a crab in the water that turned out beautifully and about 20 shots of the sun setting with these abandoned houses on stilts out in the sound. Gone. That whole vacation is gone. I've been searching and searching. I took the hard drive of my old desktop to a computer guy and he is working on locating and extracting all photo files. I'm praying that he finds it.

In the meantime, dear reader, I'm desperately seeking a system for filing my photos to avoid losing them. I don't know how this happened but I probably have 3000-4000 photos that need to be organized. And I have another couple thousand old photographs that I've sent out to be scanned. I'd like to have a filing system in place by the time they get back. One My Beach House goals for the future is to be more organized. It's much easier to relax and fully enjoy beach life when one's surroundings are not in chaos!
Looking for the most zen of systems and I welcome your suggestions.

Here's the criteria for photo organizing and archiving. It need to be simple. It should include keyword and date and possibly name if a person is involved. It should be a workable system on the desktop and exports to whatever site should maintain the filing system. Please send me your thoughts. I'll print them here so we can all benefit from the ideas. Thanks!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Little Slice of Heaven

Breezy Point Beach, MD/Snack bar and bath house

Much of who we are can be traced to events and places and people from our childhood. I spent more hours than I can count and much fewer than I desired at Breezy Point Beach on the Chesapeake Bay. I have memories so vivid that I can remember how the air smelled or a particular expression on a persons face from those days. The snack bar and bath house and the beach out front were the scene of so many memories:

  • Jumping off the wooden rafts that were chained to log poles in the water into the waiting arms of my father. I remember he would lift us up and throw us out into the water or let us climb up on his shoulders and jump off.
  • My first job in the snack bar making cotton candy and how hot and sticky and sweet it was. I remember strands of cotton candy floating in the air and getting caught in our hair.
  • Groups of teens sitting in the sand making plans for a bonfire on the beach later or to drive over to a neighboring beach to hang out with other kids.
  • I remember the songs on the juke box. Mony, Mony and Wipe Out and the Beach Boys played while we sat at tables in the snack bar and played Canasta and Rummy in our bathing suits. 

Many lessons of life were learned here at the beach in the summer months. One Friday after football practice, my brother and his friends arrived and spent the weekend eating everything my mother put in front of them. The next week we were stunned to find that one of them had taken his own life.

Another time, we piled into cars and drove to the hospital when my other brother and a friend were in a car accident.

There is a Facebook page for those of us who spent our summers here. The girl who started it has scanned in hundreds of photos that bring back memories of a time when our world was so small. I realize now that the world was still tragic - these were the years after Vietnam and Watergate. But those things didn't seem to touch us here like they might in the other three seasons of the year. When we were here it was searching for sharks teeth and water skiing and crabbing and bonfires. It was dancing on the weekends to Junior and the Crystallaires in the Snack Bar. It was holding hands and walking home past the house where our parents were gathered and we could hear that Smitty was playing his guitar and they were singing, "Please release me, let me go..."

I don't think I thought a lot about these things for years, but somehow reaching middle age leaves me nostalgic for the small things and moments that shaped me. The first bite of a summer peach reminds me of the boy I fell in love with the summer I was 14, because a bunch of us would meet up at the peach orchards! Because some of us settled here, we run into one another from time to time and shake our heads about how much freedom we had; none of us willing to loosen the reins on our own children in the same way.

When I look through the pictures that are being posted of that time I realize how blessed we were to have this little slice of heaven. When I see the comments others have posted it's obvious that little fact is not lost on any of us.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sweet Summer Sunday

I've been thinking a lot about going to church. We haven't been churchgoers for a little over two years now. Not since the great shunning of 2009, which is a story that I should import from my old blog rather than take the time to write about it again. But let's just put it as gently as possible: we were dismembered along with 4 other families. It was messy - arms and legs everywhere and lots of anger and hurt feelings. But after some time and much prayer, it was revealed to me that we were lucky. A lot of people are still there - being deceived every Sunday. Going back to church is not something we will take lightly. As I said, it's been on my mind, and recently some friends mentioned their new church to us and suggested we check it out. We went today and enjoyed everything about it; so I think we'll go back.

Church and breakfast with the Wattersons (l-r) Maddie, Sarah, Sami, Jessica

Afterwards we went out to breakfast and caught up. It was really nice, plus Mike picked up the tab because he's awesome like that! Our plan was to furniture shop in a couple of antique and used furniture stores in Annapolis for Jessica's new house but I ended up buying four awesome pieces for the beach house (I'll showcase them in another post). Before we finally headed home we stopped by Skipper's Pier Restaurant in Deale, MD for fried green tomatoes, cream of crab soup, crab-stuffed baked oysters and fried flounder. All delivered by our beautiful waitress, the lovely Sami Watterson, with whom we had earlier attended church!

Rockhold Creek - Deale, MD

Rockhold Creek - Deale, MD
When we got back in the car, I had to stop and take a couple of photos of Rockhold Creek. So we began the day hearing God's word and ended it thanking Him for the beauty that surrounds us.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Adding Widgets and Gadgets and Wombats

Okay, so we don't add wombats on Blogger, but adding the Facebook 'LIKE' button and other things to your blog is a pain in the butt when you're a complete technological loser. As of 45 minutes later, the Facebook like gadget still has not appeared but I'm not going to stress about it.

Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not a web design expert. Perhaps you could just mosy on over to my new Facebook page "My Beach House" and like it so I won't be devastated if the widget never appears!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Favorite Subject

One of these days, I'm going to take a class on digital photography. I've enjoyed taking pictures ever since my daughter was born and although I've managed some passable photos, I'd love to be able to understand the science of taking great pictures. I've been lucky with a few Kodak EasyShare Digital Cameras and have a photo library that, at the very least, is a catalog of our lives. But before the grandkids arrive (in the next ten years or so!), I hope to get a real education before I begin to stick my camera in their faces ad nauseum!

A bonus to being a beach lover is an ever ready setting for taking pictures of your subject. And my favorite subject has always been my daughter. When she was four, we spent a week at the cottage of a relative at Bethany Beach, Delaware. Since our little beach house is on the Chesapeake Bay, this was her first experience with the ocean and she had so much fun running towards and away from the big waves. Last month we traveled for the third time to the Gulf Coast of Florida for a beautiful vacation on Anna Maria Island.  Nothing brings me greater joy than watching my daughter at the water's edge. While we had a bit of a rocky start - she did not like being in the water until she was two or three - she fell in love and has gotten such great pleasure at the shore. Somehow these two photos - bookends perhaps of her life at the beach - tell me that beach life is as much a spiritual experience for her as it is for me.

Bethany Beach, DE 1999

Anna Maria Island, FL sunset 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In the Beginning

In the beginning, there was George and Agnes and their two sons and one lovely angel of a daughter (that would be me!). In the beginning of beach house life, it was the 1960's, and George and Agnes would take their brood to a quaint little haven on the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay called Breezy Point Beach. They would rent a little cottage and spend two weeks every summer at Breezy Point Beach and their children would run free and half-naked through the sand and all was perfect in the world. This is how a beach/beach house lover was created. There was no stress in life that an hour and a half's car ride away from the Washington, DC area to the Chesapeake Bay could not cure. This little community, Breezy Point Beach in Calvert County, Maryland, has meant everything to me since I was a little girl.

George and Agnes, with Steven & and a topless Lee Ann (no comments from the peanut gallery!). My brother David probably was behind the camera. 

Later, in the early 70's, after George passed away suddenly, Agnes bought the home that my daughter and I live in now. She bought it for her children, but I think also for my father's memory, because all the memories of her years with my dad were even sweeter at the beach. Behold, My Beach House:

Our little piece of heaven

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Red Daisy

Whenever we're in the Jacksonville, Florida area, my daughter insists that I take her to Al's Pizza in Atlantic Beach. On the way, we called friends to meet us and while we waited for them we took a walk around the shops around the Atlantic Boulevard and First Street intersections. We stumbled on a couple of nice little shops but one in particular stood out. 
Tracy Raymond's Red Daisy Shop in Neptune Beach, FL is a sweet find. She has some whimsical and lovely items all reasonably priced. We loved her store. She had a wide selection from vintage cottage interiors items and garden accessories to unique jewelry, purses and scarves. That's Tracy standing by the Red Daisy sign. If you're in the Jacksonville Beach area, take a ride up to the north end of 1st Street and pay her a visit. And don't forget to try the legendary pizza at Al's Pizza while you're there.

Tracey Raymond of Red Daisy

Vintage cottage interiors 

Love the old-fashioned lockers

Courtyard features eclectic array of planters and adirondacks for kids!

Candles and wall art and tableware

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Local Book Stores - Part 2

An area that draws us back year after year is the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Generally, our trips involve a weekly rental in Duck or Corolla with side trips out for two of our favorite things: books and coffee. If you're dedicated to patronizing local businesses, there are a few great choices for books where you know your money supports the local community.

Take a drive down below Kill Devil Hills and cross the sound to Manteo on the eastern shore of Roanoke Island. The little historic district of Manteo is reminiscent of 16th century England that offers something for everyone - from a walk back in time at Roanoke Island Festival Park, or the George Washington Creef Boathouse and Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, part of the North Carolina Maritime Museum, to outdoor water adventures such as fishing and kayaking, to shopping and dining. Manteo Booksellers is a lovely store with a fabulous childrens section and showcases local authors. Don't let the facade fool you - there are literally thousands of titles tucked in. One of my favorite memories of Manteo Booksellers is my daughter playing with the house labrador who was more than happy to let a little girl use him as a pillow to lean against while she read. During that same visit, an old woman parked her car right in the middle of the street to pop in and drop off some leftover bones for the dog!  

Manteo Booksellers

Duck's Cottage at the waterfront shops in Duck is both a book store and a coffee shop - my favorite combo! Not just a book store that sells coffee, owner Allen LeHew went to great lengths to educate himself about coffee and determine the right blend for his customers at Duck's Cottage, a signature blend from a small company in Lexington, VA that ships weekly for the highest level of freshness. LeHew offers many different options of specialty coffee drinks, but a nice drip house blend is just as satisfying. I like to browse through the books with a special "Nutty Duck Latte" that includes hazelnut syrup. The Duck's Cottage serves up an eclectic assortment of reading along with its coffee. From their website, "Books for cooks, books for kids, books for sports fans, travel buffs, book clubs and beach bums," and they even find the room for a few magazines, newspapers, notecards and stationary, and a few lovely gift items. Enjoy your new book purchase and your coffee out on the front porch of the cottage.

Duck's Cottage

Although they have several locations throughout the Outer Banks, my favorite Island Bookstore location is in the old Corolla Village. Here you'll find a two-story house, every inch packed with books. The sections are laid out nicely with a lovely and rather large children's section in the back complete with a few chairs for the little ones. Island Bookstore in Corolla has a nice section of Pirate and Outer Banks tales, including several books on the subject of the Lost Colony of Roanoke that I have enjoyed. Lots of employee recommendation cards located throughout the store to help you make your decision. This location is located in the old town section of Corolla behind the Currituck Lighthouse area. 

You can probably guess that I've purchased quite a few books over the course of my annual Outer Banks trips for the last 7 years. I'll be posting my book reviews to this site as time allows. You might even be able to guess which ones were purchased locally at these stores.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Never-Ending pursuit of Beach Life

It's not just the beach house or even the beach itself, although those things count in a thousand different ways. It is the never-ending pursuit of beach life which must always include taking moments to appreciate what you've already been able to achieve in your pursuit. I believe there will never come a time in my life when I say, "This is it, I've finally achieved the ultimate in beach living and there is nothing left to do." There will always be another shell, another trip planned, another bottle to be filled with sand from a beach we are visiting for the first time. And although I have been a lover of the beach and beach life for all of my life, the real acknowledgement of my pursuit has come with my insatiable desire to impart this love to my child. 

Honeymoon Island, FL
It was 2000, the summer after Maddie turned five, I took her to Disney World. Friends of ours from church offered us a week at a timeshare in Indian Rocks Beach, FL on the Gulf Coast which I readily accepted. One day I took her to Honeymoon Island, a lovely state park with pearly sand and very few visitors on the edges. The rest of the week, we enjoyed the lovely blue-green waters of the Gulf Coast and the incomparable sunsets. 

Playing on the beach - Honeymoon Island, FL

Sunset Indian Rocks Beach, FL

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Local Book Stores - Part One

Maddie with her toes in the sand - Coronado, CA

My Beach House is an advocate of local book stores. Not only do we live at the beach, but we do our best to travel at least 2-3 times a year either to check out a new beach location or return to tried and true favorites. Regardless of where we go, I make it a point to seek out and spend money at a local book store.

Beach lovers everywhere can attest that one of life's great satisfactions is reading a book while sunning on the beach or by the pool. I can not remember a time when I packed for a vacation and took less than two books - even though I know that I will purchase more when I get where I'm going. Maybe the media is right and soon everyone will be reading electronically, but I intend to do my part to keep the book business alive and along with it, the local bookstore.

As I usually have several books "on deck" to read, I don't always get to my new purchase right away. Recently, I read The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton. When I opened it, a bookmark from Bay Books on Coronado Island, CA fell into my lap and I was instantly reminded of the lovely vacation we took last Christmas to San Diego. We stayed in a small condo on Mission Beach and visited with my niece's family in Escondido. One day, Maddie and I drove over to Coronado Island and explored the shops, the beautiful Hotel del Coronado, and walked in the sand on a late December afternoon.

Heart in the sand by the vast Pacific Ocean

Hotel del Coronado

A little LOVE in the sand

By the way - I enjoyed The Forgotten Garden. What did you think? 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good - Official Movie Trailer


Actor Gary Sinise has been serving our country by serving our troops and their families. The Gary Sinise Foundation, seeks to serve our Nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities. Please visit the foundation website and find out what you can do to help him continue to serve our military.

One of the ways that Gary serves our troops is through his tireless performance with the Lt. Dan Band, named after his character in the movie, Forrest Gump. You can watch a trailer of the movie that documents the efforts and impact of the Lt. Dan Band:

Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good - Official Movie Trailer

and don't forget to visit the Gary Sinise Foundation's and the Lt. Dan Band's Facebook pages.

Vacation Finds

I was fortunate during our vacation to find several items that I just couldn't live without! I don't usually come home from vacation with so much loot, but I think the conditions were better for shopping than laying out by the pool or beach. We also drove quite a distance and stayed in several different towns, so the opportunities to find unique items for the Beach House were greater!

Beautiful aqua beach bag - lined with plastic, from the Egret's Nest on Anna Maria Island, FL

This beautiful lantern was found at Joann Lefner's Bella By The Sea Boutique. Joann is kindly shipping it to me. I think it will look beautiful either on the mantle of My Beach House (pictured below) or on the hearth below. Maybe a large candle in it or filled with shells. 

The mantle at My Beach House. A work in progress.

Cozy Cottage

We stayed at the Cozy Cottage on Anna Maria Island, FL for the last week. The facade of the cottage does not give you any idea that this house is a very comfortable and spacious 3 bedroom/3 bath.

Nor does it provide any public view whatsoever of the lovely oasis awaiting us out back:

I didn't take any pictures inside, unfortunately, but the owner has done a lovely job of marrying beach house decorating with shabby chic. The third bedroom with two twins - where the girls stayed - was a very colorful patchwork beach theme. And the other two bedrooms with queen beds were painted very light green and gray and the beds had lovely shabby chic quilts in faded tiny floral patterns. It really made me think about my own room back at My Beach House which has been decorated for the last few years with a taupe shell print quilt as the center. With only one window getting any sun, my room is not very bright. On one of our cloudy day outings we found Beall's Department Store and I purchased this  lovely beachy quilt set for $52.00 - originally priced at $129.99. I'm sure there are better deals out there, but when I put the set on my bed, I instantly felt sunnier. My room is very tiny, but I don't think the color overwhelms at all. Do you?

I received an email from my BFF and vacation buddy, Betsy, that the new quilt would look better as pictured below. Hope she's happy!

I think she's right!

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July

Some of my fondest memories of My Beach House life are from July 4 celebrations of my childhood. When I was a child, we would spend two weeks every summer here at Breezy Point Beach which always included the July 4th holiday. There was a neighborhood parade which ended at the community beach where there were games and food and swimming and sunning and prizes for costumes and decorated bikes and floats. Here is a photo of me with my brothers, David and Steve, around 1968 in front of one of the cottages we used to rent, "The East Wind." 

Welcome to My Beach House

Welcome to My Beach House

 - a place for musings on my special life and the things that make it both awesome and crazy: a 16-year old daughter, a small business, an old beach cottage and being single and sober. I'll post some book reviews and travel photos and question people and life in general. I'll also talk about my relationship with God, which is great, and my relationship with the church, which isn't. And I'll probably go on and on about the love of my life, my daughter Maddie. Thanks for dropping in - hope to see you again!