The Art of Doing Nothing

Make no mistake about it, we teachers live for spring break. We relish that week off from schoolwork and a chance to relax and unwind. This year, I can honestly say I needed my spring break more than ever.

I spent my peaceful week at Smooth Sailing, a beautiful beach house owned by my cousin, located at Hatteras by the Sea. Up until break, my only experiences near Hatteras had been visiting the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and catching a ferry to Ocracoke Island. This time I got to see what Hatteras really had to offer and learned there honestly is not a lot there. At first, this disappointed me, but after a day I realized life without Starbucks, a major grocery store, and an outlet mall was just fine. I truly mastered the art of doing nothing. I embraced the quietness and simplicity of my days. I walked. I read. I knitted. I slept late. I watched the sunset. I drank salty dogs. I sat in chaise loungers and adirondack chairs. I listened to the ocean waves. I watched kite surfers. I tasted salt air on my lips. I had messy hair. I possessed no technology nor had an agenda. I felt at peace with the world. There is something magical about feeling like it is ok to do nothing. As a teacher, I spend so much time worrying about others and having a plan. I had nothing I had to do for seven days and it was pure bliss. I didn’t need to be entertained with shops, a movie theatre, a Duck Donut or an iced coffee from Starbucks. I had all I needed. I had shelter in a wonderful house, the company of good friends, and an extraordinary ocean view. What more could a beachgirl want?

Beach views, Smooth Sailing and the walkway to the ocean

Beach views, Smooth Sailing and the walkway to the ocean

I will say that we ventured out during the week to do a few touristy things. We visited the Bodie Island Lighthouse on the way down and later stopped to see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. We ate delicious pizza from Rocco’s and had an amazing dinner at Dinky’s. My only shopping purchase was a Life is Good t-shirt at Kitty Hawk Kites. We visited the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum where I saw relics from Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge, as well as learned about fishing on the OBX, scuba diving and ironclads of the Atlantic. The best thing about the museum was seeing the original Fresnel Lens from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Bodie Island Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse

The Fresnel Lens, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Dinky's restaurant.

The Fresnel Lens, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Dinky’s restaurant.

Spring Break was as sweet as I dreamed it would be. I fell in love with Hatteras and look forward to a chance to return. I hope you can find pleasure in the art of doing nothing. Whether you are on a beautiful beach, or at that special place you love, take time to commune with nature and find inner peace. I promise you will return home refreshed and ready to move toward whatever door life opens.

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Up, Up and Away

This winter, I got a new “perspective” of my beloved Outer Banks by going on a Cessna plane ride from Barrier Island Aviation in Manteo.   The flight lasted 30 minutes and I saw some of my favorite places from an amazing aerial view. Even though the weather was cold, the plane was warm and the view spectacular. Our pilot gave us continuous information, via our headsets, as we flew by famous landmarks and over the Atlantic Ocean.

Upon leaving the airport, we flew over Manteo and the Roanoke Sound. We saw the massive dunes at Jockey’s Ridge and continued towards Kitty Hawk, where we flew close to the Wright Memorial. We turned and flew back south over the ocean. I could see all the fishing piers, Oregon Inlet, the Bonner Bridge and many boats in Wanchese. The last part of the flight took us close to the Bodie Island Lighthouse, one of my favorites.

Wright Memorial and oceanfront view

Wright Memorial and oceanfront view

Fish Heads Bar & Girll/Outer Banks Fishing Pier, Bodie Island Lighthouse and Bonner Bridge

Fish Heads Bar & Grill/Outer Banks Fishing Pier, Bodie Island Lighthouse and Bonner Bridge

If you find yourself in the area, taking a Cessna plane ride is a great way to see the OBX and it’s a wonderful gift idea.   I purchased the Standard Cessna 172 tour as a present and got to enjoy the experience myself.  The plane holds up to 5 passengers and flights go out daily. You can book directly from Barrier Island Aviation or through Kitty Hawk Kites. I hope to return when the weather warms up for a ride in their beautiful, red bi-plane. Now that would be a great adventure for this Redhead Beachgirl.

Checking out the view, and the biplane and Cessna (Both available for aerial tours)

Checking out the view, and the biplane and Cessna (Both available for aerial tours)

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Mountain Girl Too

No doubt I am a beachgirl, but there’s nothing like a trip to the mountains in the fall. Virginia has beautiful mountains, and this year I was blessed to spend time there with family and friends. It was peak season and the trees were a kaleidoscope of colors. Moreover, it was the perfect time of year to purchase crisp, juicy apples from local orchards and farmer’s markets.   My fall trip to the mountains afforded me the chance to experience nature as well as partake in great tastings.

While in the Charlottesville area, I went to Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, where I purchased Peach and Cranberry wine, as well as Mead (honey wine.) I also visited Delfosse Vineyard and Winery where I tasted many delightful wines, and a few more bottles ended up in the back of the car. I went to Bold Rock Cidery, which I had not visited since it moved into it’s new building. I sampled all the products and fell in love with their newest creation, which is an IPA. They have yet to produce it in bottles, but hope to have it ready by the end of the year. I went to Devil’s Backbone for lunch and enjoyed a tall glass of their famous Vienna Lager. There is no way a wine/beer lover can come to this area and not stop for a tasting or two or three….

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Two of my favorite wineries and Bold Rock Cidery

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Good friends, views from Hilltop Winery and Devil’s Backbone

As mentioned, it was the perfect time of year to stock up on apples, and I visited Flippin Seaman’s where I bought a half of a bushel of Fuji, Granny Smith and Pink Ladies. I also stopped for cider at Saunders Bros. Farm Market, and went to Carter’s Mountain Orchard where I bought apple cider doughnuts and had an apple cider slushy drink. So good!!

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Apples, Pears, and Pumpkins at Flippin Seaman’s and Saunders Bros. Farm Market

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An old, rustic barn down the road from Delfosse winery, enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery, and creative pumpkins at Carter’s Mountain Orchard.

Indeed I am a beachgirl, but being in the mountains during peak season is a pure delight. The beauty of both makes me reflect on this wonderful world of nature.  May you too experience peace, beauty and gratitude when you visit the mountains (and the beach.)

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Redhead Beachgirl Goes to the Big City

A few weekends ago, I attended EdScape, a technology conference, in Woodbridge, New Jersey. I rode up with a few colleagues and when we found out the metro station was near our hotel, we planned a quick evening trip into New York City. Our five-hours in the city was fast paced. Upon arriving at Penn Station, we walked to Times Square. I always stand in awe as the bright lights and large marques amaze me. It was a cool night, but in that area, the massive crowd and the intense lights made it feel warm. We walked along the theatre district where we saw show signs for The Lion King, Kinky Boots and other productions. We ate authentic New York pizza and went to Junior’s Bakery where I had a divine slice of raspberry swirl cheesecake.

Tina and I on the metro and snapshots from Times Square

Tina and I on the metro and snapshots from Times Square

Authentic New York pizza and Junior's Cheesecake

Authentic New York pizza and Junior’s Cheesecake

We went to a few shops and then Tina and I decided to go to the top of the Empire State Building. Once inside, we went through an airport-like security check and then were lead to elevators. The ride up to the 80th floor was fast! The rapid acceleration upward caused my ears to pop. Once we got off the elevator, we were led to another elevator that took us up the final few floors.  As we stepped off, we headed to doors that led outside and the view was breathtaking. I don’t know that I have ever seen so many lights. The sensation of being up that high felt odd as I looked straight down. Things that look enormous from the ground appeared small from 86 stories up. It was chilly and windy up there and the crowd on the observation area was large.  No doubt the Empire State Building is a big tourist attraction, even after 10 PM.

Views for the top of the Empire State Building

A pic of the Empire State Building and views from the top

We found our way back to Penn Station and boarded the nearly hour train ride back to New Jersey.  We crawled into bed around 1 AM, knowing we had to be at a conference early that morning, but it mattered not. We had a fun, flying trip into the Big City and we left with memories.  Priceless!

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Thanks WHS Dukes (Ryan, Sarah, Maggie, Angel, Danny and Tina) for making this experience memorable.  Let’s do it again next year!

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A Chance Meeting and a Love for Art

I have always been an art lover. I envy the creativity, the talent and often the patience it takes to produce a work of art. I used to make jewelry, so I understand the desire to create something unique and the need to have the right “mojo” to complete the perfect product. All forms of art inspire and fascinate me, but paintings are probably my favorite. My home has turned into a personal art gallery. I love the fact that most of the paintings in my house have been done by people I know. My walls tell a story about me, and the things I hold dear to my heart, like the beach.

A few years ago, while visiting the OBX, I ran into a gentleman sitting at a bar in Mulligans. He was quietly sketching on a napkin. I watched as his hand moved with swift, deliberate strokes and marveled at the fishing boat that soon appeared. I eventually leaned over and started talking to him. His name was Larry McCarter, and I later found out he was a popular artist on the beach and had quite a story to tell. As I talked to Larry that evening I found out that he had lived in many parts of the world, spoke various languages and had grown up in Hatteras Village.  I never forgot meeting Larry that evening and I left with an autographed napkin “doodle” of a beach scene he drew specifically for me. I still have that napkin today, and had no idea I would reconnect with him and get to see some of his amazing paintings.

I found Larry a year or so later via Facebook and started following his page, where he often posted paintings, sketches or photos. I seemed to hit the “like” button everyday and eventually sent him a private messages to ask if he remembered the redhead from the bar those years ago. Funny enough, he did, and we started chatting about his work, my desire to see more and a possible blog feature. Lucky for me, he was intrigued, and I met with Larry one evening this summer and visited his studio in Wanchese.

'Bahama Blues'

‘Bahama Blues’

'Down in Elizabeth City'

‘Down in Elizabeth City’

Larry is beyond talented. He has had no formal art training, thus born with “magic hands” that hold paintbrushes, pens, pencils, pastels, and charcoal to create works of beauty. He has an eye for lighting and shadowing, therefore, he is also a great photographer.  While in Larry’s studio, I got a one-on-one showing of his latest creations. I felt honored and privileged as he shared pieces with me that no one else had seen yet. He had large oil paintings propped on the floor that were encased in wooden frames that he made himself. He had watercolors hanging on the wall, and many unframed pieces stacked on a shelf that he pulled out one by one and shared with me. I asked what inspired each and we talked about his choice of paints, colors and even the type of paper he used for each medium. As I listened to Larry, I could hear pride and confidence in his voice, and his raw honesty about each painting was something I appreciated. I marveled in his use of texture, and I learned a lot about an “artist’s eye.” There was one watercolor he had of a beach that I can close my eyes and see in my mind. It spoke to me and somehow gave me the sensation that I was being pulled into the water. It was simply complex, like many of Larry’s creations. It played a trick on my eyes and I found myself feeling drawn to look deeper. I guess that would be the ultimate compliment to any artist…knowing that their work could transform one in such a way.

'Fall in Nags Head Woods'

‘Fall in Nags Head Woods’

'Elsa'

‘Elsa’

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‘Norma’ (from the Opera Norm)

Larry’s finds inspiration from places and events in his past.  He has expanded his art collection to portray subjects that range from the south of France to our beloved Oregon Inlet. When I asked Larry if there was one artist who had influenced him, he mentioned Winslow Homer, an American painter from the 1800s. Larry plans to travel and participate in some big art shows in the near future. He just launched a new website where he is currently posting his latest pieces and contact information. I’m lucky to have a few of what Larry calls, “doodles” at my house and to me they are as splendid as his large masterpieces. Who knows, maybe one day my den wall will adorn that mesmerizing beach watercolor I admired so much. I hope you find yourself as awe inspired as I am every time you see his work, and may you find an empty spot on your wall that needs a Larry McCarter original. (See more of Larry’s work at http://www.larrymccarter.com)

Larry McCarter

Larry McCarter

Posted in North Carolina | 1 Comment

Messages from the Sea

Jimmy Buffett sings, “Mother, Mother Ocean, I’ve heard you call.” I hum that tune often as I walk along the shore…beachcombing and soul searching. I was lucky enough to get the chance to “listen” to the ocean for a couple of weeks as I wrapped up my summer vacation.

I spent my beach time with amazing friends and was able to enjoy many hours walking the shore searching for treasures. I stayed in Kitty Hawk, near the 4.5 milepost and found that it was a haven for seaglass hunting my last week. I strolled each morning and afternoon and collected not only 70 pieces of glass, but found beautiful shells and a fossilized shark’s tooth (about the size of a quarter), which I learned is a minimum of 10,000 years old! Fulgurite was plentiful during my visit and I collected many pieces. Fulgurite is sand that has been struck by lightening and formed into a rock/glass-like substance. Finally, I found hearts. Yes, hearts….shells, rocks and even fulgurite that were shaped like hearts. It became comical and ironic that each day when walked along the shore, I returned with things that looked like hearts. It was like the ocean was sending me a message as I found hearts daily waiting for me to collect and take back home.

Seaglass collected in Kitty Hawk

Seaglass collected in Kitty Hawk

My pile of fulgurite (petrified sand)

My pile of fulgurite (petrified sand)

 So…what could “Mother Ocean” be trying to tell me? The possibilities are endless! Our hearts are precious and fragile. Mine has been broken and betrayed a time or two, but though damaged, it still beats and it still believes. So, to me the sea’s message was simply, “Believe dear redhead. Open your heart. Don’t let the past make you guarded and afraid. Take a leap of faith, for the rewards can be bigger than the ocean.” Each day as I walked back to the cottage with heart shells in my pocket, I knew this was happening for a reason. These gifts from the sea were special messages just for me!

My beach heart collection

My beach heart collection

My time at Kitty Hawk yielded not only great beach days, but time well spent with great people. The weather was near perfect with little spare time to do anything but soak up the sun and feel the cool ocean waters. However, we did hit a few good shops and of course made a pitstop at the outlets. We savored Black Pelican stone oven pizza (Aloha is my favorite), had delicious shrimp and queso dip at Red Drum, had the best clams and conch fritters at Sunset Grille, and made a couple of trips to Duck Donuts when a late night hankering for something sweet hit me. We visited the Little Red Mailbox of Hope where I again left a message inside the notebook. We drank Salty Dogs and listened to the Daniel Jordan Band at Captain Andy’s on the Nags Head Pier. We even drove to Corolla and parked on the beach where we played corn hole, swam near dolphins and had an awesome picnic in the sand. We swung in a hammock under the cottage, had massages, watched a meteor shower on the top deck, read good books, knitted, got up early to see the sunrise over the ocean, and rested like babies each night dreaming of our next beach day. These were golden days indeed at the OBX!

A happy redhead beach girl, my favorite blue chair, entryway to the beach, and the awesome fossilized shark's tooth I found.

A happy redhead beach girl, my favorite blue chair, entryway to the beach, and the awesome fossilized shark’s tooth I found.

Smiling at the Little Red Mailbox of Hope, lifeguard stand just after sunrise (photo taken by Celeste Knoll), and the Daniel Jordan band playing country tunes on the Nags Head Pier.

Smiling at the Little Red Mailbox of Hope, lifeguard stand just after sunrise (photo taken by Celeste Knoll), and the Daniel Jordan band playing country tunes on the Nags Head Pier.

As summer comes to a close and we teachers are once again back in our schools, we hold on to our summer memories and start our countdowns to the next vacation days. I often joke and say that August feels like one long Sunday night. The whole month I know my carefree days are coming to an end. However, starting a new school year is exciting! Challenges lay ahead and 40+ hour workweeks begin once more, but the rewards are priceless…just like those messages from the sea. I plan to put a heart shell on my desk. It will be a daily reminder of beach walks, fun summer days, and special messages from beloved “Mother Ocean.” As you walk along the shores of a beach near you, open your eyes and your heart. No telling what messages from the sea are awaiting you.

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Hello Philly!

Last month I spent several days in Philadelphia. I was there for ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, conference. I had not been to Philly since I was a kid and was excited to not only see this city again but to also learn some of the latest trends in technology.

ISTE was like something I had never experienced. It was in a conference center that stretched city blocks and I was amazed at the number of people present. Being from a small, rural district in Virginia, it was neat to see people from all over the world and hear the innovative ways they are using technology to enhance education. I was surrounded by extraordinary educators and thousands of nerds! I got the chance to hear inspirational stories, learn new things I want to try this upcoming school year and was teased with the possibility of going to next year’s conference in Denver.

Having fun at the exhibitors hall at ISTE

Having fun at the Exhibitors Hall at ISTE

As stated, I hadn’t been to the big city of Philly since I was a kid and had hoped to have time to take in some sites. However, the conference kept us busy from early mornings until late evenings. We stayed downtown at The Westin and walked through an area each day that had giant checkerboard, chess and monopoly piece statues as well as massive dominoes. Very cool!

Large dominoes and game piece statues

Large dominoes and game piece statues

The buildings in Philly were huge and the architecture was intricate and ornate. I had not been around such tall buildings in quite a while. During the day, inside the conference center, I could not see sunny skies as the building were so tall they blocked the sun.

Beautiful buildings and churches

Beautiful buildings and churches

We did get to see the Liberty Bell and were able to walk through “Love Park” on the way to dinner one evening. We ate at some great places, one called McGillins, which is Philadelphia’s Oldest Tavern established in 1860. It was a “hopping” place and I did what any out-of-towner would do at an eatery in Philly, I ordered a famous Philly cheese steak sandwich. Yum! I would highly suggest McGillins if you visit the area, as well as would encourage folks to consider Moriarty’s, an Irish Pub with great fish and chips.

The Liberty Bell, a group pic of my friends/co-workers and a selfie

The Liberty Bell, a group pic of my friends/co-workers and a selfie

Tina and I at Love park and an example of unique artwork throughout the city

Tina and I at Love Park and an example of unique artwork throughout the city

Two great restaurants, my nightly dinner dates and a close up of the Love statue and fountain

Two great restaurants, my nightly dinner dates, and a close up of the Love statue and fountain

While leaving Philly, we rode past the Philadelphia Museum of Art where I was able to get a quick glance of the Rocky statue and the iconic steps he ran up in the movie. I hope to one day go back to Philly and experience some of its historical landmarks, museums and maybe catch a football or baseball game. This fast-paced city surely has much to offer and was a great venue for us educators at ISTE.

Special thanks to my colleagues and friends, Tina, Karen, Carolyn, Hattie and Lynn, who made this experience memorable.

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