Travel and Chocolate: When Books Inspire

Lately I’ve been devouring travel memoirs. And they’re fueling my wanderlust.

From a trip to Scotland last year. A very rare bird in Loch Lomond.

I love that about books. The ability to influence and inspire.

I was around eleven when I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The chocolate river. The candy (side note: twenty years later a made up story about a candy store would be my kids most requested bedtime story).

The story hooked me. Oh, and the chocolate bar that you could grab right out of your tv?

Magical. And I wanted some of that magic.

At the time we lived on a Coast Guard base in New Orleans and there was a tiny convenience store on the corner. They had candy bars.

I scraped together some money (sorry dad, I dipped into that change jar in your armoire).

And then, naturally, I sent my nine year old sister to get me the candy bar. I had a book to finish. (Thank you, B!)

I love that I can immerse in another world via a book, but it really does feel like magic when you nurture the opportunity to bring some of that story world into your real life.

And then those new memories inspire your own creative work…

And so on. Ad infinitum.

Bird is waving hello (there is a chocolate bar behind that other wing, I’m sure of it.

 

If you like travel memoirs, I enjoyed these:

At Home in the World, by Tsh Oxenreider

My Part-Time Paris Life by Lisa Anselmo

The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World by Torre DeRoche

Where I’m off to next: 

A cabin in the woods. For real. I’m doing a short–solo– writing, hiking trip. I’ll keep you posted! Follow me on Instagram for real(er) time updates.

Then this summer, we’re off to ALASKA. We’ll be stopping in all the usual places so if you have a favorite coffee shop, hike or food must eat, let me know!

Also, if you have a must read, perhaps one that  inspired you to action, I’d love to hear about it!

Happy Spring (and reading) friends!!

The Curious Case of Cumberland Island

Last week the hub and I drove to Georgia and took a ferry from St. Mary’s to Cumberland Island National Seashore.

We were greeted by a boulevard of trees.

hiking cumberland island national park

Welcome!

The island is mysterious and kind of dreamy with it’s gnarled oak trees and Spanish moss, mansion ruins, unspoiled beaches—and wild horses.

We stopped to take a few photos, others disappeared into the maritime forest in groups and pairs.

Except an older woman, setting off solo, down the boulevard of trees.

Something about this woman had me looking over my shoulder for the rest of her party. But I didn’t see anyone else. She lagged behind them, taking it all in, I supposed.

Cumberland island tree trail

We hiked the island. Trails led to ruins, wildlife.

The forest opened to marsh lands. Marsh turned to dunes, and then the unspoiled beach.

The ocean.

white horse Cumberland island

And there was the woman. Sitting on the beach. Alone. She had a book, or a journal. This time I noticed she looked to be about my mom’s age.

And again I was curious that she was by herself.

I wondered about her. And for a moment I considered myself in her shoes.

Because there are two familiar thoughts that I peck around at lately: freedom and need.

woodpecker cumberland island

Pileated Woodpecker on Cumberland Island

Right now I feel like I’m in the thick of the “empty nest” transition.

There’s a lot of freedom in my life right now. Great, yes, but also unnerving to go from so much mothering responsibility to so little.

And I’ll admit my first instinct was just to jump right in and fill those spaces.

birds in a row Cumberland seashore

But I’ve started to realize the freedom has more to do with figuring out my identity now and where I want to fit…

and that takes time

and exploration

but then there’s these wide open spaces of needing to be needed.

cumberland island horse tree swing

And yeah, I want to fill those too.

But well, time, and exploration.

Cumberland Island wild horse grazing

At the end of the day, after an exhausting, but exhilarating hike, I saw the woman again. At the ferry dock.

She was barefoot.

She got up and I overheard her ask someone about the bathrooms. When they didn’t know I pointed her in the direction. She then proceeded to carefully pick her way over the gravel and sticks.

It took her awhile and I wondered why she didn’t put her shoes on.

And I wasn’t the only curious one. Someone said something about her feet and the rocks, but I couldn’t hear the woman’s response. Only this from the other curious hiker:

“Well, sounds like there’s a story there!”

Curiouser and curiouser.

And here, my practical, yet need-to-make-you-smile-over-something-silly side, compels me to add that I also suddenly wondered how she got to the ferry dock without shoes. You only have to hike for 5 minutes to realize that the almost 200 wild horses on the island consider every footpath and sandy trail as not only their home but their bathroom.

Rocks and sticks aren’t the only landmines. Cumberland Island is very natural.

Anyway…

We got on the ferry and I only saw a glimpse of her after that: she

boarded the ferry barefoot, no shoes in hand.

I don’t know why I was so curious about this woman. I thought of my earlier emotions. Those conflicting feelings of freedom and need that came to mind when I considered a moment in her shoes.

Now her missing shoes.

And I came up with different stories. The first was imagining my heavy thoughts weighing her shoes down until she could no longer carry them.

Because I like to look for answers. And make things connect.

Or find meaning.

But some days I just like to take a hike and see wild horses in their element, and get a laugh out of hearing my husband yell, “Poop!” over his shoulder to warn me of another landmine as we walk.

Besides, maybe those shoes were in her bag

and she just wanted to be barefoot.

seagull cumberland island fly

 

Do you make up stories about strangers? What do you think happened to her shoes?

HAPPY MONDAY!

xo

 

 

The Cheesy Finish to My Summer Road Trip and a Bit of Greige

Hey all!
Um, please excuse the paint.

Greige paint

Nine shades of greige

We’re sort of swimming in a sea of greige right now.

According to our realtor (and more importantly, Pinterest), greige is the BEST paint color to sell your house. So we’re awash in neutral.

Anyway, back to where I left off weeks ago. Which was that pretty cool Pacific Northwest road trip we took in early June. For weeks I’ve been blogging in my head about it (and other topics my mind would like to figure out, like how I might sell dust bunny crafts on Etsy, bc I’ve found OODLES of dust bunnies behind bookcases my friends), but as cool as you all are you probably can’t read my mind (this is a good thing, it’s dusty in there).

So without further ado, here’s the last bit of our trip.

Oregon Coast highway

The Oregon coast highway 101

The BEST part of this day was waking up knowing that the only thing on our agenda was getting from point A to point B, with miles of awesome stops and discovery along the way.

oregon beach sand monster

Sea monster on the beach…or driftwood?

oregon coast views

The views on the other side of the road were spectacular too.

netarts bay oregon oysters

Netarts Bay. Loads of clams and crabs. And muck. 

Dear mystery couple in the muck,

I’m sorry for taking your picture.

And for being entertained by you.

And for using you as entertainment here.

That’s all. xo

nye beach oregon

This is Nye Beach.

It’s like a million miles to the water’s edge here, but we stopped at plenty of beaches along the way. Including one with dozens of ladybugs on the sand.

Unexpected. And pretty cool.

ladybugs at the beach oregon

Ladybugs are my jam.

tillamook cheese factory

We like factory tours. Tillamook was delightfully cheesy.

gluten free grilled cheese tillamook oregon

A Tillamook grilled cheese sandwich with gluten free bread. Yay!

Have you ever found something unexpected or interesting at the beach? Or been to a factory tour?

Happy Friday!

xo

 

 

Finding the Big and Tiny on the Avenue of the Giants

Since we got home from our Pacific Northwest vacation last month, I’ve basically been busy in a “middle place”.

There’s been some pulling books out of the brain writing.

Books mind writing - Allocation of Memory Landis art

Saw this artwork – Allocation of Memory by Malia Landis – in a Eureka, California bookstore.

But there’s been more working at the library and house stuff. Did I mention we’ve started the process to downsize from the big house we’ve lived in for 20 years to a smaller one? #emptynestchanges

Northern California road

Yup, another winding, somewhat foggy journey.

But like the road above, the journey has got some cool stuff to discover.

California Redwoods panoramic perspective

Avenue of the Giants, California

Ever since we visited the Redwoods, the idea of big vs. small has been on my mind.

Especially because lately there’s been so much living in the in between space. There’s the daily work  that has to happen–and even the stuff that perhaps doesn’t (the part where I become one with my TV).

shelter cove California crab

A crab at Shelter Cove beach in California (Sometimes I’m crabby and like to hide too). 

The middle, at least for me, is not really the place where I do creative stuff. But sometimes I really like when I have work that makes me feel mindless. Where I can take a break from thinking, I suppose.

Drive thru tree Redwoods California

Drive thru tree. Do not try this at home.

But then there’s that big and small thing. I love when I discover and enjoy those really small things. Maybe it’s a great cup of coffee. A new book. Or maybe, you happen upon a quirky realtor at an open house, who drives a mini Cooper (complete with British flags covering the side mirrors) and tells you a funny story (in an accent of course) and just makes you laugh.

tiny snail avenue of the Giants California

Or you find a TINY snail on a leaf in the middle of all those giant Redwoods.

Then there’s the big. For me the Big Picture is made up of the dreams and hopes and awesomeness (read: whatever is your personal fairy dust)  that honestly make me feel like ME.

California redwood

When I first walked through the forest of gigantic trees, I thought, It’s nice to be tiny. I could breathe (and it wasn’t just the woodsy freshness). In that moment, I wasn’t in charge. And honestly, I felt relief.

I can just be.

But then lately, as I step away from the middle place and participate in my BIG: write, doodle, find the story in a photo.

Create.

I feel relief too. And I need to make the time for my big stuff–as well as note all the good in the tiny joys

snail California Redwoods

Another Redwoods snail

–because then, not only can I just be,

I can just be me. 🙂

Note: The Avenue of the Giants has a picnic spot and Los Bagels in Eureka, California is a great spot to grab a gluten-free lunch before driving down.

gluten free man hole cover cookie Los Bagels California

They have giant gluten-free cookies too!

What tiny joys make you smile? Have you experienced the Redwoods? 

Happy Monday!

xo

 

When the Fog Lifts: Crater Lake National Park!

 

road to crater lake oregon fog quote

So driving, or rather co-piloting, on a foggy mountain road in the rain is kinda one of those life defining moments.

Turns out I’m sweet, patient, and my language completely complies with all FCC broadcast regulations.

Yup.

And here’s a beautiful view of Crater Lake:

Fog at Crater Lake Oregon

June 1st at Crater Lake National Park Lodge, Oregon

Okay. So the view was non-existent (and I’m a nutcase when it comes to mountain roads).

The first 24 hours the weather was rain, freezing rain, sleet and then snow. But the worst was the fog.

I really wanted to see the lake!

A remnant of Mount Mazama after a volcanic eruption, Crater lake is the deepest in the United States, and a beautiful blue.

So they say.

The hub and I went for a hike anyway. We walked the rim, trying to find the water, the blue, something.

clarks nutcracker crater lake oregon

A Clark’s Nutcracker (name derived from William Clark from the Lewis & Clark expedition)

This little bird wanted to hang out. Much to the worry (or quite possibly egging on?) of his/her family/friends. The other birds chirped loudly every time this bird perched near me.

Rebel bird (or the one who drew the short straw). 🙂

We moved on and well, like it does (even when it seems like you’ll never get clarity), the fog lifted.

Wizard island crater lake national park oregon

Wizard Island. Magical.

road trip to crater lake oregon

Totally worth the wait (and okay, the scary drive on the mountain road).

crater lake oregon panoramic view

This was what was behind all that mist and fog!!

Then we also walked the Sun Notch hike.

At the top there’s a viewpoint

Phantom ship crater lake oregon

The Phantom Ship

Crater Lake is awesome.

And right before we left, we really got to see the lake in full color

crater lake blue

Blue.

Crater lake national park mountain road

Bye bye, Crater Lake.

Btw it’s easier driving on the non drop off side. 🙂

crater lake lodge rocking chair view

Note: The lodge at Crater Lake is really nice. Somehow I got the impression it would be rustic. So I was pleasantly surprised. Bonus, both the dining room and the casual eatery, Annie’s Creek restaurant had plenty of gluten-free options.

Next time: California! And if you missed the last stop click here: Columbia River

How do you feel about driving on mountain roads?

Happy Wednesday!

xo

Gorging on the Columbia River Scenic Byway (and Doughnuts)

And the road trip continues…

Vista House Crown Point Oregon

Twenty four miles from Portland, Oregon is the Vista House at Crown Point 

Vista House ceiling oregon

View from inside

Vista House stairs oregon

Stairway to vistas

Vista House view Columbia River oregon

The Columbia River Gorge is gorgeous!

8 miles from the Vista house…

Multnomah falls Oregon

Multnomah Falls seems to be the must see waterfall in the Columbia River gorge area

but I really liked Latourell falls

even though the Multnomah stop had ice cream

Latourell Falls oregon

It’s a quieter spot compared to Multnomah

and you could feel the spray of the falls. 🙂

skidmore bluffs Portland Oregon

After our hike we headed back to Portland,

and searched for a spot to watch the sunset.

Skidmore Bluffs overlook is tucked away in suburbia

and stay as long as you like because Voodoo Doughnuts is open 24 hours

Voodoo Doughnut Portland Oregon

Is it really necessary to put frosting on a fritter? 

Okay, so that question may be sparked by jealousy, as Voodoo doesn’t have gluten-free treats.

But I found plenty in Portland, my fave being the Back to Eden Bakery (for regular eats with gluten-free options we also really enjoyed Teote and The Tin Shed Garden Cafe).

Next post: Snow in June? Stay tuned. 🙂

And if you want to see our first stop it’s here: Seattle

So do you think fritters should be frosted?

Happy Monday!

xo

My (Almost) Summer Vacation

Warning: Vacation pictures ahead.

The hub and I just got back from a road trip (my favorite kind of trip!). We flew to Seattle and then rented a car

and drove 1700 miles in 7 days.

This is just the beginning…

flying clouds

Peaceful space above the clouds. A sharp contrast to the turbulence in my mind (I’m still a work in progress when it comes to zen and the art of flying).

Storyville coffee Seattle

Ah. Coffee. The best? Storyville Coffee at the Pike Place Market.

Note: We passed seven Starbucks (in less than one mile) to get to it.

pike place fish market Seattle

 So I’m conflicted as I post this pic seeing as I tend to post more lively photos of wildlife, 

but it is a big part of the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

And I could not stop looking at the eyes on that pink fish!
cinnamon works gluten free cookie

And now in case you need soothing, here’s a monster cookie. 

And bonus, if you need, it’s gluten-free, from Cinnamon Works.

(Another great gluten-free option at the market: Coffee & Specialty Bakery)

Salmon seattle aquarium

A more lively bunch of Salmon at the Seattle Aquarium.

Seattle aquarium

This guy was a total ham for the cameras.

mt Rainier Seattle great wheel view

Mt. Rainier as we saw it from Seattle’s Great Wheel.

piroshky seattle

This was my hub’s favorite snack. A smoked mozzarella mushroom and broccoli pie.

He enjoyed it so much he immediately got back in line to buy the sweet cinnamon cardamom braid. 🙂

Seattle pike place market urban garden

A good spot for eating your market snacks is the Urban Garden at Pike Place.

Whimsical, right?

post alley Seattle

This is a popular section of post alley at the market.

Reminded me a bit of Diagon alley from Harry Potter,

except if you look very closely at the walls

you will see

Seattle post alley gum wall choose love

Gum. Lots of it.

Some of it artistic. Some philosophical like above. #chooselove

And yes, a wee bit gross.

So hypothetically, if you were to leave your gum mark in Post Alley, what flavor would it be? 

Me? Cinnamon Trident.

Next stop: Portland, Oregon. I think. I haven’t gone through all my pics yet. But Oregon for sure will be represented!. In the meantime, it’s back to work!

Happy Tuesday!

xo

 

Some (More) Reasons I Love New York

 

i love new york mural nyc_opt

I love New York.

Maybe it’s because I was born in New Jersey and lived my pre-K years with a view of the Manhattan skyline.

manhattan nyc ferry view

Or maybe it’s just because NYC is awesome.

There’s always something new to see–and taste!

For me last weekend, that was at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (East Village)

big gay ice cream nyc_opt

Order the Salty Pimp (don’t be shy)

Chocolate dipped soft serve injected with salted caramel (even the cone–which can be gluten free if you need!)

It’s SO good.

And zero guilt, because in NYC you can just walk it off

central park nyc_opt

Which we did in Central Park!

high line sunset nyc_opt

And the High Line 

high rock park staten island nyc_opt

And at High Rock Park, Staten Island (just a ferry ride away)

love nyc_opt

And lots of walking on the streets! 

Luckily a good coffee boost is easy to find in NYC.

My latest fave is the cappuccino at 12 Corners (Lower East Side)

cappuccino nyc_opt

Coffee that shimmers!

I loved this cappuccino so much I went back for another the next morning. 🙂

(Bonus gluten free tip: Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery has the best coffee cake.)

But by far my most FAVORITE reason to visit New York now?

family nyc_opt

It’s where my daughter lives. 🙂

Where have you been hanging out lately? Any cool treats or sights to share? 

Happy Weekend!

Photo Essay: Vermont Farm and City Life (and Tall Stuff)

Vermont cow_opt

Got milk?

Ariella (a six year old Brown Swiss cow at Shelburne Farms in Vermont) does…

…about eight gallons a day.

vermont sheep_opt

This is a sheep, but she was a total ham. #smile

vermont goat

Oh that moment, right before you leap.

Chicken round up Vermont_opt

At Shelburne Farms they let you lead the chickens back to the coop.

I could use some corralling when it comes to hanging out on the Internet.

Vermont chicken

Someone takes their job seriously. This chicken probably never procrastinates.

Chicken coop Vermont

Back stage after the show. 

Americana Vermont

On the road again. So many barns…

Burlington Vermont people

But this was something new! 

According to a friend on Instagram, this is a lamplighter bicycle.

How do you stop without falling??

Tallest filing cabinet Vermont

Burlington, VT also has the world’s tallest filing cabinet.

Takes organization to new heights.

lake Champlain earth clock

Tall rocks make up Burlington’s Earth Clock

Lake Champlain Burlington Vermont

We saw beautiful views of Lake Champlain (and the Adirondack mountains in the distance).

We did not see Champ, the lake’s resident monster. 

Oh well, maybe next time.

 

Have you seen (or been on) a lamplighter bicycle? What interesting roadside attractions have you found? 

Next time: The hills are alive in Stowe, Vermont!

Happy Wednesday!

Coleen

xo