I am not a street photographer

Asheville (1 of 13) We stopped in Asheville, NC on our way to visit Neel's family in Atlanta earlier this month. Callum calls it Hippy-town. He's probably right, but he should have seen our college campus!

Asheville (2 of 13)

Asheville (3 of 13)

Dogsasheville One night in this fun and funky town is not nearly enough. I was reminded as we walked down town looking at hippies for a place for dinner, that site-seeing and street photography are two entirely different things.

Asheville (5 of 13) my feet, reflected

Asheville (6 of 13) true sign of the south

Asheville (7 of 13) I imagine that to do street photography right, you need to not have a hungry husband and 11 year old tagging along. I saw so much I wanted to stop and savor with my camera. I wanted to take time.

Asheville (4 of 13) We were hungry. Not just Callum and Neel, but me too. So! Many! Choices! After passing The Southern (pictured above) and heading down the street to read menus outside Indian restaurants, American cafes and French Bistros (Bon Appetite, y'all!), we ended up right back here. When in Rome, y'all.

Asheville (9 of 13) Here we are from the inside/outside. After days and days of 90-100 degree heat, it was dreamy to sit outside in coolish air.

Funnyfaceasheville From street photography to portraiture, Callum and Neel practice their "camera-ready" smile.

Asheville (10 of 13)

Asheville (11 of 13) French 75 and some awesome beer that Neel loved for us to drink. Homemade pretzels and chutneys to dip, but why oh why did I not take a picture of Neel's chicken and waffles? Hello. That was yum. Even though I had pimento cheese crostini, we all decided that his dinner won. If I can get the chicken sausage gravy figured out, we're totally adding that to the rotation. Even if not.

Asheville (12 of 13)

Asheville (13 of 13) Callum and I went for ice cream after dinner. He had his usual: cookie dough. Mine, you ask? Brown sugar bacon maple. Yeah, it was good. After I had that puppy in my hands I was too busy eating to take more pictures. So it clearly is one or the other. I want to go back for more.

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new york, part 1, some things we saw




IMG_3643 Oh dear, so much editing to do. And so many stories to tell. I don't even know where to begin. And my photography teacher has asked for donations for photos to a clothesline art show to raise money for our local contemporary art center, and I'm feeling like none of my stuff is good enough to even consider printing. Sigh. I may throw a couple possibilities up here in the next day or so and see what you think.

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welcome home

IMG_4077 Well, we've made it home safely from our week in New York City. It was a wonderful trip that both exhilarated and exhausted. Man, it challenged my photography skills too, that's for sure. I'm not sure I managed to rise to the challenge, but I'll spend some time editing the 900 or so pictures I took in the next day or so.

IMG_4051 After an arduous trip home, we got in late Friday night. On Saturday we reunited with our neighbors for some music up at the university. Summer Saturday night, back with our peeps. Welcome home.

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we went away

We made a quick trip to Pennsylvania last weekend. Neel's aunt and uncle live there, as well as some friends of ours. It was the perfect time to go. Autumn in all its glory.  Neel's aunt and uncle have the most amazing home, straight out of the pages of House & Garden, and worthy of its own blog post - which I'll make you wait for. 

I got up before anyone on Saturday morning and raised the blind on a window in the living room. 

IMG_7919 This is what was looking at me.  My first thought was that these guys don't seem to be the type to have deer statues in their yard. And they aren't.  Turns out we weren't the only visitors that weekend.



IMG_7942 They came every morning around 7:30, and we sat so still, holding our breath as we watched.  Mostly doe, sometimes two, sometimes three, they were always alert as they munched on acorns and leaves.

IMG_8072 On the last morning, a buck came along with the doe, and it seemed clear that they were a family.

IMG_8081 My family was mesmerized.

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where I want to be right now

IMG_6669  My week has suddenly gotten very complicated (How is it that every single rental car agency in the area is SOLD OUT?  Seriously.), so of course all I can think about are the pools at the Thermal Hotel Visegrad.

IMG_6398 On our first day there, Neel had to work on his talk, but Callum and I put on the fluffy robes that were left in our room and headed down to the spas where the pools were located.  There were five pools in all, if you count the giant indoor/outdoor pool as one. 

IMG_6400 The Danube is bordered by thermal springs, and one of these springs feed the pools at the Thermal Hotel.  The air was chilly that first afternoon, and I told Callum that if it was too cold in the water, I wouldn't swim too long.  Duh. Thermal spas.  

IMG_6480 The water temperature was a perfect 80-85 degrees (although the air was cool enough on that first day that I wanted to keep my shoulders submerged!), and one of the smaller indoor pools was warmed to 95 degrees. It was heaven.

IMG_6671  The pools were made entirely of 1 X 1 mosaic tiles in graduating shades of blue and had carefully located benches and crafty alcoves throughout.  At random times fountains or jacuzzis would bubble up, creating fun currents and soothing muscles. 

IMG_6477 After several times of thinking, "It smells so good," I realized that these fountains were lightly scented, and that whenever they went off they released both a torrent of cool water onto the shoulders and delicate scent into the air.

IMG_6485 The outdoor pool connected to the indoors through a passageway with a flap.  The blue tiles were darker here, but just as many benches, alcoves and fountains...both overhead and bubbling up from underwater.

IMG_6486 Also indoors were two still pools (this one at 95 degrees) and the Aquamarine Bar!



IMG_6488 This was clearly a place to come and take the waters.  Callum and I were often the only English speakers which, I think, added to our relaxation, and there were several people on crutches and many, many elderly men and women.  It was not unusual to see two elderly men sitting on one of the underwater benches and talking, as the water bubbled around them, for hours.  Also not unusual were the European swimming costumes!  Callum asked me at one point, "Momma, why do the men's swimsuits have so little cloth?"  Good question, son.

IMG_6469 We soon learned that the fountains went on and off in a specific pattern, and this area, which we called the current, was our favorite.  The current blew water in that roundabout, creating a... you guessed it, current of water to swim in.  All of the thrill of being swept away, with none of the danger.  Speeds got quite impressive, if you stayed to the outside wall.  Callum and I kept racing, and if you weren't careful, you'd either take over or get taken over by the people around you.  As I said before, we were often the only English speakers, but regardless of the language, our experience was common in this roundabout.  Giggles and shrieks of delight and sighs of bitter disappointment when it was over. 

On our last morning, while Neel was still in talks, Callum and I went down to the pools quite early.  The cycle of fountains hadn't been turned on yet, but when Callum and I got into the roundabout, someone must have noticed and turned the current on just for us!  Just us two and it seemed to last forever! 

IMG_6666 This was by far the most exhilarating and luxurious swimming pool I have ever experienced.  Some of us, myself included, didn't want it to end.

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what I learned along the way

IMG_6382 I haven't decided if European travel is exhausting or exhilarating, and I'm sure that's because it's both.  What I do know is that the travel part makes a difference, and I'm totally crushing on Delta right now.  Hello, free beer and wine?  Three (3) movies?  Two hot meals?  So even though I'm dragging right now, the getting there and getting back felt totally manageable.  And guess what!  I'm not a miserable packer.  I did a much better job this time.  One bag and one carry-on for the three of us (Although I still had this bag, which was one of the best purchases I've made in awhile - it held my camera, a water bottle and Mr. Guidebook, no problem. Callum had his own carry on too.  It held his DS, some planes and a few books.)  There are still some things I'd change.  Neel and I both felt underdressed, and while he took too much, I probably didn't take quite enough.  So a little tweak to the ratios and we'll be good to go.

IMG_6417 Moonset and sunrise on our first morning in Hungary.

Apparently, I can nap in Hungary but not in America.

IMG_6400 Hungarians love swimming.  They take advantage of the thermal waters all up and down the Danube, and also build indoor and outdoor pools any chance they get.

IMG_6443 The Danube Bend is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  There was no train on our side of the river. but snaking along those hills was a train track, watching its path and the barges make their way downstream was like watching a piece of history.

IMG_6457 I may have mentioned this, but Hungarians love their meat.  Neel calls this trip the meat parade.  Mr. Guidebook says that Hungarians look upon vegetarians "with suspicion," and I believe it! I'm not a vegetarian, but I jumped right in and ate things I never dreamed I'd eat. Heavenly, tender, well flavored hearty sauces. If you're gonna do it, do it well, and they do.




IMG_7004 Someone, and it may have been Mr. Guidebook, told me to be sure to "look up."  I'm glad I did. The architecture, from Visegrad (our first stop) to Budapest was simply spectacular.  Hungary was never on my top ten of places to visit, and now I'm not sure why.  We loved it.

IMG_6396 The view from our room at the Thermal Hotel Visegrad.

IMG_6774 The view from our room at the City Panzio (Hotel) Mathais in Budapest.

Apparently I love having a view.  We got pretty lucky in both spots, didn't we?  Although I did pay an extra 10 euros for that Budapest view.  Totally worth it.

IMG_6715 Hungarians still use thatched roofs.  These were in a museum, but we saw many average homes along the roadside with their own thatched roof.  Apparently they are popular enough that there are laws regulating them now.  Like how often you must change the thatch.  We saw storks nests in light poles too!

IMG_7021 The Hungarian language is nearly incomprehensible to me.  Well, to most anyone really.  It's most closely related to Finnish of all things, but that's way down the linguistic family tree.  They have 20 vowels, the keyboard was tricky to figure out, and their longest word is 24 letters long.  When we came back from Greece, I had a smattering of words (Callum had far, far more, and he's retained them.  Still, even he got out of Hungary with only "Thank you."  Don't ask me to say it.), but I couldn't manage anything linguistic in this land.  Most Hungarians speak English, which made getting around quite easy. What you have to wonder is how isolating this must be?  And hope, despite the fact that we can't understand a thing, they keep this language of theirs.  It's part of them.


IMG_6881 Hungarians love soup.  I confess, I took a meat break at lunch in Budapest, so we had a cheese plate (The cubes in that top picture are ewe's milk, and that big wedge in the center is butter...fortunately we figured it out before plopping a big chunk in our mouths!) The soup is chilled sour cherry with whipped cream.  Nothing else needs to be said.

IMG_6845 I didn't knit a stitch.

IMG_7005 I read a lot though, finally digging my way through Anna Karenina.  Seriously, what took me so long?  And how did I go this far without learning what happens to her?

IMG_6857 I learned some other things too.  We tend to gear these trips around Callum (and therefore how much whining we can handle), so we quite willingly miss a lot: museums, famous sites, things a ten year old may not just lo, in order for everyone to have fun.  But there were things I missed on this trip that I wished I hadn't.  Hungarian folk art, for example. We stumbled across some at a bookstore on our last day, and I was blown away. I wish I'd had more time to explore it there, but I definitely will explore it more from home.

And I learned that I can always be more adventurous.  I did better this time ("Who wants a meaty treat?!"), but Neel is such an easy, relaxed traveler that it's almost too easy to let him take over.  I need to get better about that.

And I've decided that I want to move to Europe.  Even if it's just for a year.  I have Neel working on this, right honey?  And Callum said to me on Friday, "Momma, you already have us moved to Europe in your head, don't you?" Ahh, how well he knows me.  But what a great experience that would be.  I'm aquiver with imagined possibilities.

Apparently if you touch this 200 year old tree on the Margaret Island at Budapest and make a wish, your wish will come true within a year.  Of course, I tried to bend the rules and wondered if compound sentences counted.  I'll let you know in a year if my wish(s) came true.  Following in my Dad's footsteps, Neel tried to get Callum's wish out of him, but he wouldn't budge.  But let's think about this.  Hungarians love meat, swimming and soup.  And so does Callum.  I'm betting he wished to go back.  I do too.

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who wants a meaty treat?

IMG_6825 So we went to Hungary.  Neel had a conference, and we felt that Callum just shouldn't miss this opportunity to travel to another country.  He's a lucky kid, having now been to Europe three times in his first decade of life. 

IMG_6443 We decided that the refrain we use when it's time to give our dogs their treats should be Hungary's national anthem.  Go meat.

IMG_6439 I have so much more to share, and I learned so much (not least of which is that we should have stayed another day), but I'll get to all of that.  Once I rest up, do some (!) laundry and slog through the 600 photos I took.  Go Hungary, but good to be home.

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lowcountry, part 2 (the kid version)

IMG_5688 When we got to South Carolina, Callum disappeared into the bowels of the house, only to reappear at meal times or to be spotted as he dashed from room to room...much like dolphins moving their way up and down the Atlantic coast.  ("There's one, did you see it?!").  However...

IMG_5733 Clearly.

IMG_5732 These children.

IMG_5738 Are up.

IMG_5798 To no good.

IMG_5811 Even.

IMG_5812 The dog.

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IMG_5670 Callum's had to say goodbye to a lot of friends this summer.  Before our neighbors moved, friends from school headed south, away from us, but last week he and I piled in the car for a quick road trip to pay them a visit in their new digs.

IMG_5665 It's funny how much I dreaded the drive.  I have a half hour commute each way to work every day, and somehow the prospect of six hours in the car filled me with nothing but ill feeling.  It was fine though, far better than I expected, and so worth it to see our friends.

IMG_5745 Can you believe Neel's never been to Charleston?  I love this part of the world.  I grew up splitting vacations between the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  South Carolina sings to my soul.  The ocean, the marshes, the salty smell and the old old oaks bejewled with Spanish moss.  My mom comes back to this part of the country twice a year, and I can see why.  I'm grateful to have a reason to visit.  

IMG_5667 Of course we went to the beach every day.  This sweet house has access to chairs and towels and umbrellas, when the wind's not whipping.  The beach itself ain't bad either.

IMG_5728 On our first night, we went to Brookgreen Gardens.

IMG_5689 I love curvy trails that could reveal hidden surprises.

IMG_5706 Like this. (Gator, not croc.)

IMG_5691 And this.

IMG_5712 And this.

IMG_5699 Otters get itches too.

IMG_5747 After the animals, we moved on to the sculpture garden for some live music. 

IMG_5743 I'm a dork and I know it, but coming upon scenes like this can move me to tears. Simply the beauty of the place, combined with the sound of live music filtered through the night and the burble of happy voices.  Those are the times you know you're touched by happiness.


IMG_5750 We got through one song, fortunately a favorite of mine, before the skies opened up.  After that it was a dash to find kids and then back to the car.

IMG_5761 After dinner, we had drinks on the upstairs porch as we watched the dark settle around us, earlier there so much further south.

IMG_5765 This photo is for my mom.  We did not have lunch here.  I thought I'd save it for when we're all in town together.

IMG_5767 We did have lunch here, and I can't even remember the name.  Avocado soup that tasted more like cucumber, and we split crab and pimento dip and shrimp salad...all southern comfort food.

IMG_5779 Drinks again that night, this time a walk away at The Carriage House.  I had a Sapphire and tonic, of course.  Did you really have to ask?

IMG_5808 The whole weekend was like that.  Go to the beach. Do something fun.  Have a cocktail. Eat an amazing meal, whether it was $5 crab cakes delivered by Crab Cake Man or Shrimp and Corn Chowder.  Easy to be with old familiar friends (Although let's face it, they haven't been gone that long.)  The only hitch was not having Neel there with us.  I think we'll have to bring him next time we come.  It's funny, I thought I took so many pictures of the house and the kids, but I guess I didn't.  Sometimes you just have to live your life instead of photographing it.

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