Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Post-Irene Thoughts

Every now and then something happens in my life and I react badly. This might pertain to eating a food that I didn't realize would upset my stomach, or hearing about someone's struggle and responding in a way that I later regret. Generally, afterwards, I am overcome with the bewildering thought that maybe I don't know myself very well.

Here is the rub this time. The power in my community went down on Saturday and was restored today - four days later. Hurricane Irene did quite a bit of damage to our county - but by no means as extensive as the damage in the Outer Banks or in New England. Personally, the degree of my discomfort was based entirely on the inconvenience of the power lost, and the sadness at seeing the devastation. Still, packing bags and leaving somewhat abruptly Sunday afternoon to drive a little over an hour to stay at my brother's brought out a level of stress in me that has left me completely surprised. Again, I really don't know myself very well! The only excuse I can think of for this 3-day minor anxiety attack I am experiencing is just the sudden displacement. I'm cranky, snappy, weepy, unfocused and tired! (Some will say that's normal for me!)

I'm praying for peace in my soul and for the anxiety to subside. Meanwhile, I am so proud to be part of a community that comes out for each other. I live in a little beach town that still has Christmas caroling, a bonfire and visit from Santa in the meadow on Meadow Lane, and puts on a 4th of July parade and family beach party. Everyone was out on Sunday helping each other and so much was accomplished. In the greater Southern Maryland area, people have shown the type of small town spirit that you don't often hear about in our world of non-stop cable debates. I'm sad for the loss of so many beautiful trees and the families that still have so much work to do, but I'm proud and grateful for my small beach town life.

Neighbors out clearing yards. Note the "reddish" mass behind the Honda CRV - those are the roots of two trees that fell in the storm. The root mass is about 20 feet high.

The scene on Meadow Lane Sunday, just one house down from mine.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer's End

School starts tomorrow;  the beginning of Maddie's junior year. As the summer comes to a close my thoughts turn to how fast time goes by and how much I am not ready for certain passages. There's nothing we can do to slow down the pace of time, but we can start today making sure that we're making a life and not just watching it pass us by. I found this quote from Maya Angelou that really puts my state of mind in better words than I ever could.

"I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he-she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life. I've learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back. I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

~ Maya Angelou

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Vintage Source

Jessica and I took a drive down to Compton, MD in St. Mary's County to check out the once a month weekend sale of antique and vintage furnishings at The Vintage Source. The store opens at 8:00 a.m. We got there shortly before 9:00 which all but guaranteed that the items we fell in love with were either marked "SOLD" or were missing their tags - which meant someone was planning on buying! What a great place to go for ideas and fantastic finds.

Jessica loved this for her entryway but there was no tag - meaning someone else was coveting her item!

I took some pictures of items we admired but my camera battery died (story of my life) so I wasn't able to get as many photos as I would have liked. Jessica spent the entire time we were there, and most of the day, obsessing about a huge wrought iron gate, that she called a screen, that would look fantastic on the empty wall in her living room. The thing probably weighed 300 lbs., and was bigger than my rather large vehicle, so we had to leave it. And she second-guessed herself all day.

The wrought iron gate against the wall is the "screen" Jessica wants for her living room.

I fell in love with a couple of pieces but I've committed to not spending any money until I finish painting. I did walk around for awhile with an apothecary jar that held a coral-colored seashell ornament inside. Jessica reminded me that I could buy the jar at Homegoods for less, and that what really drew me to it was the ornament. They were not for sale separately. Plus the line was really long and didn't seem worth it for that one item.

The unpurchased apothecary jar with the seashell ornament, and someone's leg!

I've been looking for a vanity for Maddie's room and they had a lovely vintage vanity that was painted orange and would have been perfect for her, but the tag was missing. And there was a lovely woman camped out there waiting to see if the tag would return. We were rooting for her, but finally a boy came over and put a SOLD sign on it. We saw her later at another shop we stopped at and discussed the unfairness of it all.

We were so happy to find this great place and can't wait to go back. I posted on my Facebook page this morning that we were headed there, and heard from several of my deal-hunting friends that they were not aware of The Vintage Source. It's alway fun being the first to know! They are open again tomorrow and on the third weekend of every month.

I fell in love with this table. Fortunately there was no tag or I might have broken my no purchase vow!

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm so excited that I found Pinterest. Pinterest is "a virtual pinboard, that lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web." Like clipping pictures from a magazine and tacking them to a bulletin board, Pinterest is your online board. For years, I've been bookmarking pages which you then have to click through to try to remember why saved it in the first place. But Pinterest "pins" the picture to your board and allows you to make a caption.

You can have multiple boards. I've created five to start: Beach House Decorating, for interior design ideas; Beach House - Dream Home, for exteriors and home plans; Books Worth Reading, for books I've loved and ones I want to read; Places I'd Like to Go; and Stuff I Find Fascinating. I may do two more in the new future for recipes and clips related to my work in Elder Care.

Another great feature of Pinterest is that you can follow other members and check out their boards. You can "re-pin" items from others boards to yours. And because you're browsing through other boards with the same focus, it's almost like having access to hundreds of magazines or idea books without having to flip through the advertisements and articles that don't interest you!

Check me out on Pinterest @ BeachHouseBooks.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Beach Day Interrupted

An old friend was in town and wanted to take a walk on the beach in my community. I explained that between Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and subsequent storms in 2006 and 2010, we weren't left with a lot of "walking" beach. We used to be able to walk from our community up through two or three community beaches, but the storms washed out the sand and, unless you wanted to swim, there was no way around the sea wall at the end of our beach.

I decided that we could get a good walk in at Flag Ponds Nature Park, a twenty minute drive away. Flag Ponds is a nature preserve in Calvert County that has a beautiful beach and several miles of hiking trails. There are freshwater ponds and you can walk down the beach to the famous Calvert Cliffs, the largest fossil-bearing deposit of Miocene marine sediments exposed on the East Coast of North America. The Miocene era fossils found there date anywhere from 10-20 million years old.

The walk from the parking lot to the beach is only a half mile and I imagine we got in another 3/4 mile walk on the beach. It was hot and humid and there was a wood burning smell in the air. In the hour or so we were there, it went from fairly clear to smoky. We finally decided to call it a day when my eyes started to burn. After returning home, I searched on the web for the source of the smoke and was surprised by the following:

"A strong burning smell from smoke wafting through portions of Maryland is from an unprecedented wildfire raging 200 miles away through the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia and North Carolina, authorities said Saturday."

If you live or visit the area, and it's not too smoky, check out Flag Ponds. For $4 fee per car, you can enjoy a full day on the beach - sunning, swimming, shelling and fishing, plus hiking and picnic area in a relatively uncrowded setting.
Flag Ponds Park - before the wind shifted! This view is from the beach looking back towards the park.

View of the cliffs and Nuclear Power Plant from the beach. The power plant is completely obscured by the smoke.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Here I go again - get organized, complete projects, start exercising, etc. I managed to get up two days in a row for a 6:30 a.m. walk with my neighbor. She's taking care of her elderly mom and has to go early. Although, I fight discipline with every fiber of my being, I'm forcing myself to change my thinking. If what you focus on grows, then my focus on being lazy is having great success on my rear. So, up I go. Shoes on and out the door. Tomorrow I need to take the camera because I forget how beautiful it is here sometimes. When we walk, this is what we get:

Breezy Point Beach, MD view from the harbor

Breezy Point Beach, MD looking toward the harbor

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mermaid Cottages

I found this beautiful website and Facebook page for the Mermaid Cottages on Tybee Island, GA, and am smitten. I can't stop looking at all the photos and decorating ideas of the different cottages available for rent on Tybee and although I desperately want to plan a trip there, how can I choose which one I want. Each is so completely unique - with colors both fun and serene, and furnished with items old and new.  I am struck with how different they are yet how each captures the essence of my idea of beach house living. I can't show you all of them here; you'll have to lose yourself in the website yourself, but here are some of the photos I love the most and some ideas I'd love to incorporate here.

This table is perfect for a beach kitchen

Screened porch - what's not to love?

The hammock, ceiling fan and repurposed bed - so inviting.

With the exception of the dark paneling - this room is perfect!

Love the beach glass colors!

I want to sit and read on this porch!

From the Paula Deen cottage - love that chandelier

Saved my favorite for last. If that window has a waterview, I could live here forever!

I have visited and loved many newer cottages with all the latest ideas of how to live a comfortable and laid back beach life, but for me the best "new" cottages incorporate so much of the old. A wide, screened porch with enough room to sit and read or for the kids to play on a drizzly day. A well-placed hammock in the quiet corner of the wrap around, towel hooks instead of bars in the bathroom, an outdoor shower, a deep seated, slipcovered sofa, a usable but small kitchen, and shells and signs and candles are all part of beach house living in my mind. I've dedicated a large portion of my daydreaming to designing and decorating the beach house in my mind over the years. Finally, the message is clear - appreciate what you have.

So, as I look through the photos and note what I would love to do with my house, I am mindful that I already have a beach house.  Leafing through the pages of a decorating book or clicking through the photos on a website can make you wish you had something different. In this small, old, in "terrible need of work" house, I spent summers as a teenager, rocked my daughter to sleep, received friends after my mother's death, and started a business.  It doesn't look like these houses yet, but it is a work in progress and while I can dream of visiting one of these places and using some of the ideas in my own home, the home I have contains the story of my life and I am pretty happy with how that story is turning out.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Maddie's Pictures

I love looking at my daughter's photos. She takes so many pictures with her cell phone and uploads them to her Facebook page. Sometimes she uploads them first to Picnik and manipulates them in different ways. She's so creative so I thought I'd give her some props here (plus you probably already know that I never miss an opportunity to talk about my awesome kid)!

Seabrook Island, SC (l-r: Sarah, Taylor, Maddie, Christian)
When we were at Seabrook Island, SC for spring break 2011, our teenagers took lots of walks on the beach. And they took some great photos. I love this one of the group, especially since it's with her best friend and her cousins from Georgia that we don't see near enough.

She's so wide awake at 6:50 a.m. waiting for the bus
She likes to take pictures while she waits for the bus, and has several great ones. Here's a self-portrait.

Coronado Beach, CA 12/10

She has taught me alot about shooting from the ground. This is a great one from our Christmas vacation to San Diego.

Sunrise from the bus stop

Another bus stop shot!

Gettysburg, PA Tournament 2009

Gettysburg, PA 2009

These soccer shots were uploaded and enhanced at one of her favorite sites Picnik. Enhancing the color and inserting text are just a few of the fun effects.

Winter sunrise at the Beach House
Above and below are photos she took in the winter. The one above was another bus stop photo after having several snow days off in 2010. And the one below was taken on a sunny day after a March snowstorm in 2009 on the road leading up and out of our little neighborhood.

Breezy Point Road, March 2009
Photos by Maddie Stedman!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Steamed Crabs

Steamed Blue Crabs with Old Bay Seasoning

We are getting crabs this Saturday - it's a girls afternoon with Maddie and Jessica and Betsy. We've been talking about getting blue crabs for a few weeks and we're excited. If you've never eaten steamed Maryland Blue Crabs, you haven't truly experienced Chesapeake Bay beach house living.  Crabs are messy and not very filling but so much fun and delicious to eat. When I play the list in my head of my greatest beach life memories, there is a place for blue crabs. Catching them, cooking them, steaming them. Years ago, the little beach community I live in used to have an annual crab feast and it was a fabulous time when the neighborhood came together for a full day of fun, food and fellowship.

Everything you could possibly want to know about crabs, the history of the crabbing trade on the Chesapeake Bay, and the lives of the watermen can be found in a delightful book, Beautiful Swimmers by Willam W. Warner. This is the crab lovers Gift From the Sea! The writing is beautiful - describing both the lifecycle of the crab and the lifestyle of the weather-worn and hard working watermen in a romantic prose.  The book even gives you instruction for eating crabs - which is not exactly an easy feat. You will really be amazed at how taken you are by the lyrical writing of this not-to-be-missed book.

I've heard from neighbors that crabs are plentiful this year and there's been a rumor that the crabs from the Patuxent River are fatter than the Bay crabs. So I'll be driving across the river to Benedict, MD on Saturday to pick up our crabs. I drove down there yesterday and did a little recon so I can get around the boaters that will be down there launching. It's a beautiful little community sitting right down on the river.  Naturally, I had to take a picture!

Patuxent River, Benedict, MD
After we get home with our crabs, we'll layer brown paper on the table, pour a little apple cider vinegar out, maybe melt a little butter and put out some crab seasonings that they'll give us with the crabs. Some people use crab mallets but we use the handle of the knife to crack open the claws. The mallets have a way of smasking the shell to smithereens! We'll have the paper towels handy and extra water bottles or whatever we're drinking so we don't have to put our crabby hands all over everything. Just to give you a taste of what we're going to be doing, watch this video about how to eat blue crabs. And if you like what you're seeing, come join us on Saturday!