Monday, August 31, 2015


I don't mind the month of August coming to an end and flying by because today is my birthday. I've always thought that it's a great time to have a birthday - holiday (in the US) weekend, still nice hot n sunny weather and the end of the month so you can look forward to it for 30 days. Now that I am, ahem...older ..I still look forward to having a day to reflect on where you've been and where you're going. It's all good. Now on to August.

I started out the month with a girls weekend to Helen, Georgia. Didn't turn out as planned and the trip got cut short but I am still happy I was able to see some of my favorite people who I don't get to see very often. Mr. UR and I traveled to Ohio for a very, very short trip to attend his high school reunion. Lots of fun, laughing and driving. And we also took a quick trip to Florida to visit his folks - they have just moved into assisted living and this was my first time visiting them since the move. No major trips but some fun all the same!

I always have lots of good eats but I had a coupla favorites this month.

We ate lunch at Cafe International in Helen and I had a really delicious bavarian ham and cheese sandwich. Their specialty is a reuben - but I am just not a fan so I went with the bavarian ham. And it was yummy!

Next up is my friend Wayne's incredible bruschetta - he is the bruschetta master!

Beyond yummy! I could eat that whole plate full!

I had a bit of down time this month so I got some reading in. I have enjoyed the Maisie Dobbs mystery series for awhile now and I read her newest edition, A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear. These are books about private investigator Maisie Dobbs that take place in the 1920's and 1930's. I also read Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus. I have to admit that this one got a bit over my head. For whatever reason, it was a very confusing mystery and I kept having to re-read and check back on past facts. I also read the non-fiction Stumbling Upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. I usually enjoy "happiness psychology" books and articles but this one also proved to be over my head. I enjoyed his style of writing but I really had to concentrate on each sentence so no light reading for me on this one. Last but not least, I read a fluff paperback, Hidden Summit, by Robyn Carr. This was very light reading and didn't take long. I am now enjoying some chick-lit, Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan, which takes place in Cornwall in England

So that wraps up August! How was your month? Any travels, good eats or reading?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge

Sanibel Island is a barrier island off the coast of southwestern Florida. Known for an abundance of shells, beachgoers assume the "sanibel stoop", it is a popular vacation spot with resorts and house rentals available all year round. Many people don't know, however, that Sanibel Island is home to a National Wildlife Refuge know particularly for it's migratory bird populations.

Jay Norwood Darling, also known as Ding, was a cartoonist who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his editorial cartoons, headed what is now the US Fish and Wildlife Service for 2 years, and in 1936 created the National Wildlife Federation. In 1945 he was instrumental in blocking the sale of environmentally valuable land on Sanibel Island  to developers and President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was renamed the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge in 1962.

Today you can visit the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge wildlife drive for a mere $5 per carload,  or $1 per pedestrian or bicycle.  It is open year round. The visitors center is free of charge and you can check out the details on dates and prices here 

We visited early on a Sunday morning which was the perfect time to visit. There were few other visitors and no traffic.There was a family visiting like we were, many photographers and a dad and son heading out in their kayak. There are several pull-offs on wildlife drive and you can take as much time as you want to explore. But know that the speed limit is 15 and it can take some time to do the drive. Mainly we saw birds - no gators this time!

This refuge is known for it's "Big 5" birds - the American White Pelican, the Mangrove Cuckoo, the Reddish Egret, the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron and the cream of the crop, the Roseate Spoonbill.  Commonly mistaken for a flamingo, roseate spoonbills are naturally pink and darken with age. We were lucky enough to spot a few of them - can you see them in any of the bird pictures above?  If you can't here is what they look like.

I'm glad Mr. Darling had the foresight to save this land from developers and I'm glad I was able to spend a peaceful morning here. If you're a bird lover, give it a visit. And even if you're not, it's a short, enjoyable excursion on Sanibel.

Hint: In the top photo, there are a coupla  roseate spoonbills in the left of the photo - look for the hint of pintk - and in the fourth picture, it is located third from the right..

I'm linking up with Friday Postcards at Walking on Travels, Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections En Route and  Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox! Hop on over and find some travel inspiration!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Colorado Grand

Don't you just love it when you visit somewhere and you happen upon a festival or event or fair  that you didn't even know was happening? Me too! And that's what happened when we visited Lionshead Village at Vail, Colorado last fall.

It was my first visit to Vail. I hadn't made any plans or done much research beforehand except that I knew Oktoberfest was happening over the weekend. Our first stop was the excellent Visitors Center at Lionshead Village, which is a small European-like village a few miles from Vail Village. The lady at the Vistors Center not only helped us with our plans for the day but she also told us that there was a car show going on - only until noon so we needed to see that first.

The car show was the Colorado Grand, an annual charity tour for 1960 and older sports and race cars. According the the website, every September approximately 85 cars are driven 1000 miles through the Rockies in five days. A charity event, each year the Colorado Grand generates about $300,000 for charities in Colorado. And the day we were in Vail was the culmination of the tour. Lucky us!

You can see Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Bentley's,Aston Martin, and Jaguar's. They also claim several 1920's and 1930's cars are usually included.And in such a beautiful setting!

In most of the towns that the cars stop for lunch on the tour, spectators are invited to see the cars and talk with the owners. This years event is scheduled for September 14 - 19. So if you are a car gal or guy and you want to see this event in person you can go to the website here to find out more info.

Are you a car aficionado? Have you been to the Colorado Grand?

I'm linking up with Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections En Route, Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner and Thursday Travel Photos at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Go give them a look see for some travel inspiration!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


My two daughters and I were headed by train from Shinagawa  Station to Harajaku Station to visit Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. In a major case of serendipity, we stepped off the train to see Takeshita-Dori , the famous teen-age shopping street where the Harajaku girls trend began. In doing research on visiting Tokyo I had read about this area but only a slight memory of Gwen Stefani and her Harajaku girls was all I knew about them. Apparently, American civilians and soldiers lived in this area post-war and Japanese youths who were curious about the different cultural aspects started visiting here. Then fashion designers started settling in the area and the movement took off.

Takeshita-Dori (or Takeshita Street) is a trendy pedestrian street with shops, restaurants and crepe stands. Crowded with not only shoppers but also tourists, it's a wall-to-wall people watching delight. Teens dressed up in all different styles frequent here - from cosplay (costume play) to punk to Lolita(Victorian style dress)- you can find all kinds of trends and this is where they started.

Known for their outlandish fashion and make-up, the teenagers who frequent Takeshita-dori dress the part. Crazy hair colors, baby doll clothes, matching outfits and platform shoes are the norm. The stores here are also very interesting with hawkers standing outside to push their products.

Around the corner from Takeshita-Dori is Ometesando, Tokyo's version of Les Champs-Elysee. We tried to find a cat cafe but it was closed. So we took a seat and viewed all the chaos. It was incredibly crowded with shoppers, trucks promoting Japanese boy bands and no restrooms to be found.

But Takeshita-Dori is not only known for their crazy  fashions, but also for it's crepes. Flavors and flavors of crepes at crepe stands with long lines. Delicious crepes.

I'm so glad we happened upon Takeshita-Dori. I'm not sure I would have sought it out but it was a fun coupla hours wandering the area and eating crepes. If you love people watching and sweets, then Takeshita-Dori is your kind of place!

Have you been to Takeshita-Dori? What did you think?

I'm linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels so go check 'em out!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Snow Canyon State Park

In the far southwestern corner of the state of Utah, just outside the town of St. George, lies a little known gem of a state park that was created to protect the desert tortoise and it's habitat. Amid striking desert scenery you can hike to lava tubes, climb to view the canyon, play in a big sand dune, view history, camp, bike ride, view wildlife, enjoy 15 miles of equestrian trails and picnic. All for only $6 per vehicle (with the exception of camping which is $20 for non-hookup sites and $25 for hook-up sites)

We brought a picnic lunch on a still-cool May morning and other than a tour group of college kids and a few other picknickers, we pretty much had the state park to ourselves. We checked out some of the pull-offs and viewpoints, did the short walk to view the Pioneer names and had a nice lunch.

A group of college students hiking to the lava tubes (start left below the just below the rock and follow - can you see them?)

Pioneer names from the 1890's

Part of the sand dunes

If you're in Southwestern Utah to see The Big Five,  put this state park on your itinerary. Maybe not in the heat of the summer but any other time of year it's worth a stop!

You can visit the Snow Canyon State Park web site here.It is  located a few miles outside of St. George, Utah which is one hour and 50 minutes driving time from Las Vegas, Nevada.

I'm linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Traveler's Sandbox, Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections En Route and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner so check em out!