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A Photoshoot with the Littlest Princess

Sep 23, 2013 by     1 Comment    Posted under: Slice of Life

Hands down, my favorite thing about 2013 so far has been the birth of Sophia, my brother and sister-in-law’s first child, and my first niece. There’s something pretty spectacular about being an aunt (I know Rhiannon would agree), and something even cooler about the fact that Sophia was born the day before my birthday (Happy Early Birthday to me!) So when Bianca mentioned an idea she had for a photoshoot for Sophia about a month ago, I was thrilled, because I knew it’d be adorable. Little did I know that events would transpire that would put me in the role of photographer, but man, was it fun!

Because Halloween is right around the corner and we were dealing with a rainy forecast for the weekend, Bianca wanted to make sure we started out with her first Halloween costume (ever) – Snow White. With a borrowed bridge and mirror, a basket of apples, and the seven dwarves, we managed to stage a pretty magical outdoor retreat in just a few minutes.


This was Sophia’s first time playing in the grass, and we definitely had our hands full trying to keep her attention. But she was a trooper, and gave me enough time to take about 100 photos or so before she’d had enough of outfit #1.


Because Sophia was born right after my brother deployed to Afghanistan, she hasn’t had a chance to meet her daddy face-to-face yet. When Bianca told me what she had in mind for outfit #2, it took everything I had not to tear up. (I’m a total marshmallow.) While Bianca got Sophia ready, Chris and I set up the backdrop for our “Welcome Home, Daddy” pictures. Equipped with Sean’s white barracks cover, combat boots (which he wore while in Iraq) and dog tags, as well as an American flag, confederate flag and camouflage, we were ready to add Sophia.


My brother is coming home from Afghanistan toward the end of October, and I can’t wait for to see his reaction when he meets his little girl for the first time. Sean’s dog tags and boots were a hit with the littlest princess (which made all of us smile), and she put up with Bianca and I rearranging her constantly quite well, although toward the end of this round, she let us know in no uncertain terms that she was close to her limit.


Outfit #3 proved to be the last straw for our little darling, and she had a mini meltdown before letting me take any pictures. She still looked ridiculously adorable dressed up in the butterfly fairy outfit Bianca made for her, but she was tired and hungry and ready for a break.


I’m still going through all the photos I took yesterday, and haven’t had a chance to add any filters or make any edits, but as a proud auntie, I couldn’t help but share her cuteness as soon as possible.


Dad’s Birthday Adventure at Fort Matanzas

Jul 29, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Slice of Life

Fort Matanzas
To celebrate my dad’s birthday this year, we loaded up the car and made the 45-minute drive down to Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine. Located on Rattlesnake Island on the Matanzas inlet, it’s one of my dad’s favorite local haunts. We got to the park right right as the opened at 9 a.m. and were fortunate enough to catch the first ferry over to the island.

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For those of you not familiar with the history of this particular monument, Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1740-1742 to protect St. Augustine from British/French invasions to the south. The area got its name, “Matanzas” (the Spanish word for slaughter) because of the massacre of Ribault and his men that happened earlier in 1565 by Menendez.

I know a lot of general history about the fort from past visits, but the park ranger who led the tour on Sunday really knew his stuff, and I learned a lot. For instance, when the Spanish soldiers built the fort back in 1740, they used 400 pine trees to create pilings to bolster the marshy terrain. And when the Spanish controlled the fort, its coquina walls were plastered and white-washed, the main barracks had a stone floor, and personnel consisted of an officer, four infantrymen, two gunners and a dog.

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When the English gained control of Fort Matanzas in 1763, they bumped up the regular roster at the fort to 31 soldiers and nine dogs, replaced the stone floor of the barracks with dirt, and removed the plaster covering the coquina walls, which eventually led to the introduction of mold and mildew into the fort.

I could probably go on at some length about everything we gleaned from this as well as other visits, but instead I’ll finish up the history portion of this post with some other random fun facts gleaned from today’s adventure (I probably should’ve been taking notes):

  • The Spanish soldiers of that day and age were very short – usually around the height of a musket (just over 5 feet tall). 
  • If a soldier wore red, that denoted that he was a gunner.
  • The “men” who staffed the fort were actually boys 14-16 years of age.
  • In the Catholic church at that time, you could get married as early as 12 years of age with permission of the church, although St. Augustine was a bit more conservative, and required newlyweds to be at least 16.
  • Life expectancy at this time was 44-45 years.

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My dad’s a huge lover of history and made sure that all of us (Sean, Rhiannon and myself) got healthy doses of the local lore growing up. We spent a lot of time at each of the local forts: the Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas, and Fort Caroline, as well as hiking the trails through salt marshes, woods and beaches that make up each national park.

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We couldn’t have asked for better weather today as we explored the for: the sun was shining, and there was a great breeze. When we returned from exploring the fort on Rattlesnake Island, we “hiked” the short trail back on the mainland, watched the 8-minute overview and history of the fort and national park, and then combed the beach taking in the sights.

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Sean and I especially have some great memories at Fort Matanzas with Dad. He took us fishing at the park one summer, and we caught more than a dozen fish between the two of us. Dad spent so much time helping us take the fish we caught off the line (we were strictly catch-and-release), and baiting and casting our lines, that he didn’t get the chance to fish at all. And one of the best parts of that adventure was the fact that we each caught a fish that was our favorite color: green for Sean, purple for me (just ask my Dad, he’ll vouch for us). ;)

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We had a pretty awesome adventure today as well. While walking on the beach, we saw an army of fiddler crabs waving to potential mates, an osprey with a fish struggling in his talons, and a little green snake who’d fallen out of a tree at the edge of the beach. He was bright green, about a foot and half long and skinnier than a pencil. He was also having a difficult time getting traction in the soft sand, and navigating his way back to the brush at the edge of the marsh. My sister and I ended up using a couple of reeds placed in front of him to help  get back to his tree.

While I’m by no means an expert on snake identification, I’m pretty sure he’s what’s known as a “rough green snake,” and as such, nonvenomous. I know there are a lot of people out there that feel pretty strongly about snakes, but as far as this little fellow goes, I thought he was beautiful, and watching him stretch his body back up to the tree (no small feat, I wish we’d taken video), was fascinating.

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We wrapped up the day’s adventures with lunch at Mango Mango’s . Dad and I both chowed down on the Island Burger (my favorite item on the menu), complemented by a side of yucca fries (which are to DIE for).

As a family, we tend to do a lot of outdoor activities. How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?

[And to see more photos from today’s adventure, check out my gallery on Flickr.]

Day 7: Hooray for Birthdays!

Jul 7, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: 31 Letters in 31 Days

d7_2 Today’s letter is in celebration of my cousin Kristen’s birthday! I feel pretty fortunate to be so close to both my cousins (Kristen and her older sister, Kelli).  And they’ve both been taking the world by storm as of late – Kelli is off in China teaching English, and recently Kristen moved to Tennessee to work as a nurse.

My cousin’s one groovy chica, and she’s definitely been missed since her move to the mountains. Thankfully, we do manage to make the most of the times we do get to spend together (pics below serve as evidence). :)

Kristen, while it sucks that I can’t help you celebrate your birthday in person, know that you’re in my thoughts, and I’m wishing you a day that’s as amazing as you!



Day 5: Just Because…

Jul 5, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: 31 Letters in 31 Days


One of things that I’m already loving about the 31 Letters in 31 Days project is the fact that it’s motivated me to reach out to people I’ve truly been missing in my life. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hecticness of our day-to-day challenges and lose sight of the things that are really important, like cultivating and maintaining our relationships with family members and friends alike.

Today’s letter is for my Uncle David, Aunt Linda and cousin Nina who used to live just across town, but moved to Virginia a few years ago. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been able to see my Aunt Linda and Nina, but I was fortunate enough to spend some time last September with Uncle David. He’s in the Army Reserves and used to make semi-frequent trips to Camp Blanding. On that trip in particular, we ended up exploring Jekyll Island, taking TONS of pictures on the driftwood beach, then hopping over to Saint Simons to refuel (both the car and ourselves). Looking through the pictures is a great reminder of how much fun we had, but also how much I miss them.

While I may not be able to see them all as often as I’d like, I am fortunate enough that Facebook keeps us connected. And who knows, after this, I may be able to convince my cousin Nina to become a regular penpal. :) Uncle David, if you’re reading this, make sure to give Aunt Linda and Nina a big hug from me, okay?


Independence Day on Kingsley Lake

Jul 5, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Slice of Life


Every Fourth of July, Chris and I join his family at their lake house on Kingsley Lake, a tradition that I look forward to every year.


It’s a chance to disconnect (mostly) and enjoy the beauty of the lake – the sound of the water against the house (situated literally on the lake), the feel of the sun on the dock, and the cool, calm water after the heat has driven us from sunning on the dock.


It’s also a chance to reconnect with family and friends that we don’t get to see as often – some family from Thomasville, friends from Starke and more family from Gainesville.


This year, in addition to our  traditions of grilling out, swimming and taking the boat out, we came armed with fireworks, and joined the dozens of families around the lake setting off sparklers, roman candles, and fireworks into the intermittently stormy skies. It was a BLAST! (Pun intended.)

IMG_6373(Resize)Would love to hear what traditions your family has for the 4th. Feel free to share them in the comments below!

31 Letters in 31 Days

Jun 25, 2013 by     2 Comments    Posted under: 31 Letters in 31 Days


For our anniversary this year, Chris gifted me a subscription to a monthly service called My Olive Box. Despite my daytime dealings as a social media director, I have a deep-rooted love for papercrafts – so the subscription is akin to getting a surprise present each month full of my favorite things. (Isn’t my hubs the BEST?!) The items in the box vary – sometimes you get cards or books, other times it’s artwork or gift wrap – but each one is crafted according to a surprise theme and delivers a delightful mid-month treat.

In May, the box included a book, Snail Mail My Email, which has inspired me to renew my own personal correspondence, hence the purpose of this post. During the month of July, I’ve set a personal goal to send 31 letters in 31 days. Now obviously, given holidays and weekends, my mail-sending won’t line up perfectly with sending one letter per day, but I will be sharing one letter a day on my blog and social channels. (Please forgive the irony.)

The letters will vary from handmade to letterpress and from postcard to packages. Brainstorming all the notes and their recipients has been a blast, and I can’t wait to get to work on my first batch.  The fun kicks off next Monday on the blog, so stay tuned!

Father’s Day: A Hike Down Memory Lane

Jun 19, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Slice of Life

Father's Day CollageOne of my fondest memories as a tween/young teen was not actually a singular moment, but rather a collective recollection of trips taken with my dad and brother to the Willie Browne trail, part of a trail system in the Theodore Roosevelt area of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.  (If you recall at all from recent posts, Chris and I rediscovered the Willie Browne trail back in February after several weekend trips to the Fort Caroline area, relying on my childhood memories of the journey, to find the entrance to that specific area of the park.)

Recently in a conversation with my dad about our explorations, he mentioned how cool it would be to go back and see how everything changed in the years since he’s been on the trails. Thus my idea for the perfect Father’s Day adventure was born.

Sunday morning dawned bright and perfect, and it was with a giddy enthusiasm that Chris and I packed up our hiking supplies – namely bug spray and heaps of water – and headed out to meet my parents at Tombo’s for breakfast. I think I was probably borderline irritating at breakfast, because I couldn’t stop fidgeting due to my excitement about the day’s planned activities. After what felt like hours (but was really just one), we wrapped up our meal and headed to my car to begin part one of the day’s adventures.

The drive over to the Willie Browne trail isn’t a long one, but it felt like forever. When we finally turned onto the supposedly two-lane dirt road, I think everyone was ready to get out of the car and stretch their legs. At this point, I think it’s important to note that when it comes to the great outdoors (especially hiking), I am definitely my father’s daughter. He and I matched each other stride for stride as we set out from the beginning of the trail head, all the while making frequent (and often sudden) stops to point out various wildlife – mostly skinks and anoles – and to reminisce about our favorite discoveries down offshoots from the main trail.

I think one of my favorite things about this particular area of Jacksonville is that the wildlife and various ecosystems transition abruptly – one minute you’ll be walking through a longleaf pine sandhill, then a few steps will take you into the salt marshes, and then by climbing up several shell mounds, you’ll find yourself in a scrub forest with sandy soil littered with deer moss.

Fallen Cedar Tree

One of the neat things we observed on this particular trip was a fallen cedar tree about 30 yards off the main trail. A short trek to the base of the fallen tree afforded us a peek inside its split trunk, which was full of cedar trunks (great fire starter if we’d been looking to camp out).

Salt Marshes

This is the view you’re rewarded with if you make it out to the Willie Browne observation deck. It’s a view that really makes me appreciate the wonders of home, and no matter how many times I’m out there, it never gets old.

Oyster Bar

I always forget to check the tide when we head to the trails, but going at low tide is usually interesting because walking out to the flats allows you to observe the hustle and bustle of the local crabs while listening to the smack and pop of the oysters.

Sea Oxeye

The sea oxeyes were in full bloom this trip, which meant that the whole area around the observation deck was drenched in color (and butterflies). Over the course of our two and half hour adventure, we saw a myriad of yellow barred and orange barred sulphurs, one or two palamedes swallowtails and dozens of zebra longwings. (As an aside, I have the Jacksonville Zoo to thank for my butterfly classification abilities.)

About two-thirds of the way through our hike, we decided to take part of the loop toward Spanish Pond and discovered the area where UNF students are digging in search of the original Fort Caroline. There were several roped off areas and a whole series of squared off holes, stakes and tarps where there work was in progress. I’ll admit the sight triggered thoughts of Indiana Jones, and made me wish all over again that I’d taken more classes in archaeology when I was at FSU. (And speaking of FSU, along our hike, we ran into three separate groups of hikers that consisted of FSU graduates and their folks taking in the sights of Fort Caroline – it almost felt like a mini-reunion.)

After spending several hours in the heat, and walking all over the trail system, we decided to turn back toward the car so we could rehydrate. To bring our trip down memory lane full circle, we ended up at the Bono’s on Merrill Road – our go-to refueling station after soccer games, soccer practice and hiking back when we lived in Arlington. All-in-all I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the man who encouraged my insatiable desire to explore all the beauty this world has to offer…my dad.

Dad & Daughter

Giving Thanks

Nov 22, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Slice of Life

In keeping with the theme of the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I’d share a short list of some of the things I’ve been especially grateful for this year.

      1. My husband. So I’m sure many of you might write this one off as a given, but I think that our relationships with our loved ones are often some of the more obvious and thus overlooked blessings we have. One of the things that I’ve really come to appreciate about my relationship with the Chris is the fact that he encourages me to embrace my inner child. As a self-diagnosed workaholic, I’m often absorbed in my projects of the moment. Thankfully, I have a friend and partner who understands my special brand of OCD, supports my neuroses, but also finds playful ways to level the playing field on that elusive state known as work/life balance.
      2. My siblings. 2012 has been a VERY exciting year filled with special milestones for each of my siblings.  Rhiannon turned 16, can drive and started her first job (at Moe’s Southwest Grill, in case you were wondering). David turned 21 (hooray beer!), is enjoying college life and has a better idea of what he’d like to do with the rest of his life. Sean has probably the most exciting news of all – he and Bianca are expecting! He’ll be the first of us to have a little one.  Current anticipated due date is late March/early April. I CAN’T WAIT to be an aunt!
      3. My job & my coworkers. Remember how I mentioned I’m a workaholic? That’s only the case because I happen to LOVE what I do. I’ve been with the Dalton Agency for nearly two years, and the time has flown by incredibly fast. (Our agency mantra, “Work Hard. Play Hard.” isn’t just lip service.) Our social media department has grown tremendously this year, and I feel blessed by the fact that I’m surrounding by such a talented team.
      4. New friends. This year, I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people on the board of the Jacksonville Chapter of the American Advertising Federation. We’ve had some pretty incredible adventures this year. In addition to our monthly meetings, we’ve traveled to district conferences, gone kayaking, enjoyed a low country boil, participated in the Color Me Rad 5K, celebrated house warmings, socials and more. What started out as an opportunity to network with like-minded professionals has really blossomed into priceless friendships with passionate, creative people that I have the privilege of calling my friends.
      5. Good stories. As a child, someone told me that the only things that really change a person from year-to-year are the people they meet and the books they read. For some reason, that statement has always resonated with me, perhaps because those are probably my two favorite things in life – meeting new people and discovering new stories. While I love to read, I have to expand that statement to include compelling story lines in general in order to encompass my other passions: movies, music, comics, manga, anime and video games. ^_^ There’s nothing quite like the relationship between a storyteller and their audience; that meeting of minds, where imaginations collide.

What are some of the things you’re especially grateful for this year?


Sean Gets Beef Tacos!

Mar 19, 2010 by     No Comments    Posted under: Slice of Life

Sean was able to call my parents from his patrol post in Afghanistan to give them an update yesterday afternoon. It looks like he’s been getting our packages faster if we have the post office mark them “perishable.”

With the two boxes he just got from Mom and Dad, he was able to have the first good meals he’s had in awhile: beef tacos (complete w/ mushrooms and real Babybel cheese) and Cap’n Crunch. Read more »

Shen Yun: A Journey to China

Feb 4, 2010 by     No Comments    Posted under: Reviews

This week has flown by in a flurry of activity, but I really wanted to sit down and write about Shen Yun, the show that Rhiannon, Mom and I saw last Saturday night.

The evening started with an amazing dinner at Bistro Aix. Mom had some scallops “aixoise”, Rhiannon devoured their duck breast and I had the roasted chicken or coq au vin if you prefer. ^_^ (Dessert was a decadent apple cobbler a lá mode.) Yum!

From there, we headed to the Times-Union Center for Performing Arts. As we made our way to our seats in the balcony, we were stopped by an usher who informed us that we wouldn’t be able to sit in the seats we’d purchased (which were, for the record, front & center of the balcony). Apparently, the show would be utilizing projectors and the staff handled all of that manually to ensure timing was absolutely perfect. We made our way down to the box office to figure out where we’d actually be able to sit and were upgraded to seats on the main level in the front middle section. Score! Read more »