Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas With the First Lady of Georgia

Today we had such a special morning.

Each year the Georgia Governor's Mansion is decorated for the holidays and open for tours and this year the theme of the Governor's Mansion Christmas is "With a Servant's Heart." The house and Christmas trees in the house are focused on celebrating service and volunteerism. Now if you know anything about me, you know this struck a chord with me.  Each of the rooms on the tour were decorated with a theme and focused on topics such as health, human services, the arts, literacy, the environment, wild life and of course, United Way was featured front and center.  It was because of United Way that I received an invitation to come to the Governor's Mansion for a closed tour along visit a with the First Lady.  Wow, what a special way to celebrate the season.


I just loved these rockers that seemed to be waiting for the Governor and the First Lady to take some time to sit and simply enjoy the day.  

While I was posing for a photo with the First Lady I didn't realize at first that the Governor had joined his wife and was standing right behind me.  Thank goodness my son said something!  It was quite a surprise and yet such an honor to be in such good company early on a Saturday morning. We are so lucky to have such good people in state leadership.  I was both honored and humbled to have been invited for this special tour and even happier that my family was included to be a part of the event.
While touring the house there were so many details to be enjoyed.  Everywhere you looked there were bits of Georgia history, culture or environment and there seemed to be a story behind nearly every little detail.  The china used in the dining room tablescape was hand-painted and every piece was different, representing different Georgia wildflowers.  The silver pieces in the dining room too represented so many facets of Georgia and was I understood that many of the pieces had once been on a ship by the name of Georgia.  



But the real focus throughout the house was volunteering. (Yay for volunteering!)



And be still my heart when anything to do with ballet is in the room. Don't you love these tree "skirts"?





And then there were simply moments of Georgia pure and simple. 


Yes, that is a copy of Gone With the Wind. 


I love the dried hydrangeas used here.



Having been a librarian for many years it was great to see the Library Association and a focus on literacy!
Merry Christmas from Georgia!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

It Felt Like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation! Win a Starbuck's Gift Card

This time of year many of the movie classics come to mind and one that always surfaces at some point in the season is that zany Christmas movie with the Griswolds.   I recently felt like I was living one of the Griswold family moments on a trip to Mexico.  I'll tell you the story and when you get to the end, please leave a comment letting me know what you would have done if you'd been in my shoes. My son who made the journey with me will be the judge of the best response. One lucky winner will be selected to receive a $10 Starbuck's gift card. Oh yes, AND YOU COULD WIN STARBUCKS FOR LIFE!  Be sure to read about the Starbucks giveaway.

Just before Thanksgiving my son and I traveled to Mexico to visit San Miguel de Allende and as we made our travel plans we realized we would be in Mexico at the same time the Monarch butterflies arrived from their winter migration.  Both of us were so excited to be able to visit the Mexican forest to see the butterflies.  We tried to book a tour beforehand but ran into some language barriers and decided that we could take care of setting up our tour as soon as we arrived.

On our first morning in SM we woke up really early (too early) and walked to the town center. Nothing much was opened accept this beautiful coffee shop known for some of the best churros in town. The cafe is owned by Margarita Gralia and the shop is always packed. In fact she came in for a meeting while we were there.
We finished an early breakfast and set out to find a tour company and as luck would have it there was a tour company just a few doors down.  I was even more excited when I realized the woman in the shop spoke English so no language barriers - booking should be easy. We were told that our guide would pick us up at our hotel at 7:00 the next morning and she further explained that we would be back home by 7:00 in the evening.  Great. So off we went to enjoy our day.
The next morning we were standing outside our hotel at 6:45 a.m. having had no coffee but so excited to make the journey to see the butterflies.  We waited, and waited, an by 7:15, I called the guide.  It sounded as if I woke him up but he closed with, I'll be there by 7:30.  With coffee on my mind I called him back and asked him to pick us up at the local Starbucks which would be open at 7:30.  (I'm one of those people who functions much better after having my morning coffee). Starbucks opened promptly, I got my tall dark and by then it was about 7:40. Suddenly a nice-looking guy was in my space saying "are you waiting for a guide?"  This guy quickly let me know our guide had arrived.  My son and I walked out of the Starbucks AND "what to my wondering eyes should appear but a..." BRIGHT ORANGE 1977 VOLKSWAGON BUS with a driver, 2 small children, a man asleep in the floor of the bus and the slick nice-looking guy.  Could this be right?  I couldn't think fast enough to decide whether to get in the bus or skip the butterflies and try to fight the bank charges to get my money back.  Would this old vehicle be able to make the trip? Oh and let me add the bus had been customized so we were missing some seating to make way for the cabinet & sink - yes a little sink!  I told my son to get in the front seat and everyone cleared a path for me to have a seat in the back seat.  All the while I'm thinking to myself this guy must be dropping his family off somewhere.  But no, the guide announced that we were on our way to pick up the English-speaking woman from the tour office.  Meanwhile the guy asleep in the van obviously had a rough night the evening before and remained passed out, oblivious to the long bumpy drive on cobblestone streets as we make our next pickup.  Have you ever been around people who've had too much to drink?  The bus reeked.

We arrived at the woman's apartment and she came out wearing a long flowing flowered skirt that appeared to be a few decades old, sporting a pair of Birkenstocks, loaded down with homemade granola bars. She got in the bus and somehow we managed to make room for one more person.  Surprise!  Everyone in the van would be making the trip to see the Monarchs.

So off we went and once we were on the highway things were fine for a while. Someone decided we needed to have some music so the driver popped in some mariachi music mixed with sappy tunes from the 80s. It was then we learned that the guy who was sleeping in the floor plays in a mariachi band and had been playing all night. The two little boys in the back of the bus belonged to the guide and were out of school for a school holiday which is how they ended up on the tour.  The hippie woman was Canadian and had been living in Saskatchewan working with tribal women victims of domestic violence.  She told us that woke up one day a few months ago with an urge to move to San Miguel so she bought the VW bus and drove by herself to SM and planned to live in her bus and figured she could learn to speak Spanish once she got settled. I've never met someone who just picks someplace on the map and moves there.  The slick, nice-looking guy gave no clues about himself nor did the tour guide but truthfully, I was fine with not knowing too much about them.

We drove for about 2 hours before stopping in a small town at what looked to be a market and we were told that we were stopping for breakfast. We marched past the long line of women waiting for milk vouchers, past the vendors selling all kinds of junk, past the open-air butcher, veggie stand, etc. and walked up to a counter and the guide ordered breakfast for all of us. We were served up a couple of tortillas with meat and a bowl of soup.  I was genuinely hungry by this time so I didn't ask too many questions.  Also, I was a bit concerned about the roadside dining and risking Montezuma's revenge but was I trying to be brave.
We spent some time waiting for the two guys in our group.  We were told they needed to go take showers and to myself I'm thinking that's a good thing because of the bad smells in the van.  So while we waited I walked around and ran into the sweet potato lady.
We got in the van and drove for another hour or so and this time ended up taking a bathroom break in the cutest town ever and guess what - you'll find some of Santa's workshop in this village!  The town is Tlalpujahau and we learned some very interesting facts about where we were. Besides being a place where Christmas ornaments are made, Michoacán just happens to be the kidnapping capital of Mexico! Shouldn't someone have mentioned this to us before we made this trip? 


Can you see our bus on the right?
I was so distracted by all the Christmas joy that I didn't notice until we were back on the road that the guy I nicknamed "sleeping beauty" was now up and sipping  drinking TEQUILA!  He'd packed him up a little cooler and was working on his hangover.  

At this point we are just a short distance from the butterfly reserve and I was totally focused on getting there and making the trip worthwhile.  It would have been nice to have gotten information about the area we were in but the guide didn't seem to want to share much information though he was a very good driver.
I loved the farmer wearing the cowboy hat.  He truly loves the land and all of God's beautiful world.  Not pictured - the hippie woman - she went to put on warm clothes.

Sleeping Beauty - in this photo this guy had enjoyed several beverage refills and has filled his pockets with magic mushrooms!




Eventually, we made it.  It was beautiful and one of the farmers who owns the land served as our guide.  To him the land is sacred and he earned my respect as he took us up the mountain, guiding us through some gorgeous woodlands pointing out native lupines, salvia, thistle and orchids all in bloom before we reached the butterfly area. Just imagine thousands of butterflies.  The day was overcast so the butterflies were not as active as I'd hoped but you could still see them clustered on tree trunks and we also spotted hummingbirds too.  It was breathtaking.  The farmer told us that he is 65 years old and he described the decreasing number of butterflies arriving each year by showing us how much of the forest they used to inhabit compared to these days adding that we must do something to save our environment.  

As we began our journey down the mountain "sleeping beauty" stopped to point out some very unique mushrooms. When we got in the van to make our journey home he couldn't quit laughing about what was in his pocket. He'd loaded his pockets with magic mushrooms!  

It started raining on the drive home so it took us nearly 5 hours to make the trip. It was the longest 5 hours of my life but I was so happy we survived. There are so many more small details I could share but lesson learned.  The next time I decide to book a tour, I will be checking references before booking. I try to be an adventurer but this went way beyond adventure in my book.

The next day we stopped in to BajioGo Tour &; Shuttle Company and the agency's staff was appalled at the price of our tour, the crazy vehicle they used, 15 hour drive, the fact that meals were not included in our ticket price and that we were exposed to some of the craziest and most unprofessional experiences. Just in case you decide to go to San Miguel (and you should, it's wonderful) be sure NOT to use the tour company services of AVENTURAS SOL Y LUNA SN MIGUEL!!!

Congratulations if you made it all the way to the end of the post and I hope you'll leave a comment letting me know what you would have done.  Happy trails!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bronnie Masefau and Mum

Over Thanksgiving holiday in 2010 my son and I made an amazing Christmas trip to New York.  One of our very first stops was Serendipity to enjoy one of those famous frozen hot chocolates.


While waiting on our dinner that night we struck up conversation with two very wonderful people - Bronnie Masefau and her Mum.  I posted about this chance meeting back in 2010.  From the moment we met I knew I'd met two very inspiring and incredible women, but more important, I'd met two people that are very important to me.

This week I was at the airport in Atlanta headed to NY for work and I can't tell you how overwhelmingly joyful I was when I saw a Facebook post where Bronnie shared that she and Mum were also headed to New York!!!

And so we met up again four years later, this time at Grand Central Station.
It was fabulous to see these two women again.  Do you know Bronnie?  If not you should!  She's an Australian designer with a focus on family-centered design.  She is powerfully inspiring with her message of authenticity, faith, family, passion and beauty.   I was so excited to learn that Bronnie is soon to release another new book!

From the moment I met these two women I knew there was a reason they were put in my path.  Our meeting was more than serendipitous.  I'm convinced there is a greater purpose for our meeting. Do you believe in miracles?  I do, and being able to meet up with these two was nothing short of a small miracle.  I feel so honored, amazed, honored, inspired and JOYFUL!  It's a powerful message - believe, be faithful and continue to follow your heart. Thank you Bronnie and Mum!  I can't wait to see you again and the next time we WILL meet up in Australia.  Meanwhile, I 'll follow your blog, read your newsletter and look for your next book!  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thinking About Cornwall

I'm not a person who gets too excited about the fall but I do have to say when I wake up in October and there's not a single cloud in the sky, and it's that perfect azure blue color, I'm reminded of Cornwall and one particularly beautiful and memorable fall weekend.

The year I turned 40 my husband took me to London to visit family and upon arrival my brother-in-law picked us up and drove us to Cornwall.  I've had the good fortune of being able to travel a lot but I have to say that every year around my birthday I'm reminded of this memorable trip. The Cornish coast remains one of my favorite places in the world not just because it was beautiful but because it seemed a bit magical too.  

We visited in October at a time when the area wasn't too crowded and we were there at the time of a full moon.  One of my favorite memories was seeing St. Michael's Mount against a midnight blue sky under the full moon.  If only I could paint that memory.  We stayed with a friend who at the time owned a little place called White Horse Cottage (Don't you just love houses with names?) in Marazion.  It was adorable!  In the morning when we first woke up I went to the kitchen, opened the dutch door, walked out into tiny rose garden, took a tiny set of stairs upward to reach a lookout and low and behold.  There was St. Michael's Mount against a perfect azure blue sky.  The tide was out and people were walking out to St. Michael's Mount!  
Postcard photo found online
Did you ever read any of Victoria Holt's books?  In high school I read every one I could get my hands on and with each read my mind's eye would imagine Cornwall.  It was incredible to be able to see this place that I'd  only imagined in my younger years and I think the reason my trip to Cornwall stands out as one of my favorite trips is because of all of the Gothic romances I read.

While visiting the area we were able to visit Mousehole (pronounced "mausul"), Penzance, Land's End and see such sights as The Merry Maidens, the Minack Theatre and walk the coast.  Sadly there were no performances at the theater but it was beautiful just to imagine.  While walking and enjoying the Merry Maidens there were lots of people walking the area with divining rods and I found that so interesting too. When I asked someone what they were doing I was told they were getting energy. I had no rod but I've often thought I must have gotten extra energy too.  And I can't share the highlights of the area without mentioning the incredible Cornish pasty.  Fast food never tasted so good. 


While I do have a few photos from that visit, mainly I have memories and they are amazing.  Happy fall y'all.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Planning Memos, Birthdays and Balance

I've really missed blogging. 

I've thought about my blog a lot over the past several months but I was always short on time, couldn't come up with something good to post and never seemed to have a good photo to share.  In part because over the past many months I've given my all to my work or to work-related projects which is great I guess but it has taken so much of my energy and it has cut into my family time, friend time and my time to daydream.    

One of the most consuming things I worked on was a big event and many times during the months of preparation I thought about how blogging had inspired me and given me so many creative ideas to prepare centerpieces, videos, promotional material and entertainment.  Just checkout this great video for a flavor of the event.  

So now that the event is over, things have gotten back to normal "busy" thank goodness.  Now at work it's time to plan next year's budget and write our annual planning memo.  And I've also just had a birthday.  Thinking about being a year older and at the same time thinking about making plans for the coming year has had my head spinning.  What goals should I set?  What should I be aiming for?  What do I hope to achieve? 

Today I had a birthday lunch with my dear friend Susan and many thoughts crossed my mind after we met. I want to share a few things that I need to remind myself.  

Always be open to friendship.  I've always believed that friends are rarely found in the workplace but I've been lucky to discover a friend in an unlikely place. Find a balance, even if you love your work.  The work I do is powerful and makes a big impact in lives and in the community but it also involves me making personal investments of time and energy outside the work day.  When one gives so much to others, it's important to remember to refill one's own cup.  Planning a head and anticipating big things can be great but by doing so one can miss some terrific moments. Living in a constant state of preparation or anticipation isn't really living.  Find time to see friends, enjoy family, get in touch with nature, experience the seasons and walk in the sunshine.

Somewhere I got it in my head that as you got older life would slow down a bit.  I've learned that it doesn't, it hasn't and I don't think it will any time soon.  There's always more to do, more to worry about, more to tend too and never enough time.  So as I write my planning memo for the coming year, I'm going to remember my birthday wish. I'm not going to share my wish here for fear it won't come true but I can tell you that I'm counting on enjoying the year. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What Would You Wish For?

Nowadays I'm not so sure that summer is still a time for "those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer," but it is a time when there is a little slow down.  And when things slow down, I daydream. I've always been a daydreamer and some of my most inspired thoughts come to me when there's enough slow time for some blue sky thinking. Sometimes those daydreams are so far-fetched or deep-seeded that they've been buried or tucked away deep in my mind.  But if can take time to remember those wishes, most of the time the ideas are still good and every now and then it's nice to remember some of those dreams and think about possibilities.

Last month I was visiting Lemon Lane's blog and I spotted something that caught my eye.  Do you see the festive colorful rags made into a garland pictured in this photo?
http://lemonlanecottage.blogspot.com/2014/06/vintage-markeplace-burlap.html
This photo is property of Lemon Lane
In India quite often in the temples you will see rag garlands but they aren't for decoration.  They are for wishes.  When you visit the temple you make your wish and tie a piece of fabric on the garland.  When your wish comes true you are to return to the temple and say thanks, then remove your piece of cloth to make a space for someone else's wish. 


These rag garlands were tied and hung in Jaswant Thada in Jodhpur (yes, home to the real jodhpurs - these fancy pants came from India)!  Jaswant Thada is a beautiful mausoleum made of white marble and the grounds feature a lovely garden with gazebos and a great view of the Jodhpur area.


Isn't this window breathtaking?
And such a beautiful door
I'm sorry to say that while I had a small piece of cloth with me and wanted so badly to make my wish, I was concerned that I wouldn't make it back to say thanks and somehow it seemed wrong to take space for someone else's wish.  So for now my wishes are swirling around in my mind.  Guess I'll have to wait for Thanksgiving and go for the wishbone. Do you still make wishes?  Shhhh...remember, make your wish, but don't tell anyone. We want our wishes to come true!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Just Being Silly

How often do you laugh?  I don't mean chuckle, I mean really laugh.  You know, a real belly laugh,  The kind of laugh that takes your breath away.  Probably not often enough and today I was reminded to live a life that includes humor, laughter, fun and yes, even silliness.

I went to a wonderful memorial service today. This particular memorial service celebrated the life of a wonderful woman who enjoyed being silly. She shared her good humor, wisdom and kindness with everyone she met.  I didn't know the woman being remembered. I'm good friend with her daughter. My friend, like her mom, always seems to find humor and laughter in nearly every circumstance. In fact, she sent THE funniest email after her mom died as she and her sisters tried to write the obituary in honor of their mom. It seems each of the daughters inherited the same delightful sense of humor.

During the memorial service we heard many delightful stories, like the one about Safety Man.  When Safety Man was mentioned there were a few giggles in the crowd and we later learned that my friend's mom took a driving trip to Mexico alone and decided to travel with a "companion."  She bought a blow-up "friend," dressed him in some great outfit and drove to her vacation destination with Safety Man to keep her company. After the road trip he became a significant character in her life's history.

She planned a European vacation for herself and two daughters using a guidebook titled, "Europe on $15 a Day." The travel experience made for some crazy and funny travel adventures. (I think the $15 a day was intended for a single traveler....)

Each of my friend's sisters shared some of the most delightful stories about a woman who lived a life focusing on joy, humor, happiness AND silliness.  And she shared these gifts. I was reminded...we need more silly and we need to share it.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Potting Benches and Mailboxes

Some of the fun aspects of the Hydrangea Festival are some of the various activities and competitions.  The theme of this year's competition was OZ and there were some of the cutest garden additions but the prizewinning mailbox was so creative! Yes, behind that bicycle is a mailbox.




Wouldn't you like some glittered clogs?

And I love the potting bench competition.


I love this one!   An old secretary and window frame.  So cute!!