The Most Amazing (Amateur) Christmas Light Display!

Right around the corner from our house is a home that has the most amazing display of Christmas lights I have ever seen on a private residence.

IMG_3532From a distance, you can see it lighting up the night sky! It looks like every inch is covered in lights!


There are all kinds of stuff! A buffalo statue, the Statue of Liberty and this display of uniforms.


There’s even a pumpkin. I don’t get it. But it’s festive! IMG_3544


Hope your holiday is merry and BRIGHT!



Love Cooking Shows? I Have Netflix Recommendations For You!

I love cooking shows! Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. It’s relaxing. There’s no conflict or trauma or horror to rock my insides. It’s peaceful.

2. Usually, the photography or filmography is beautiful.

3. The dialogue is usually calming and soothing. (I don’t really like cooking competitions because they’re stressful.)

4. I’m learning something.

5. It’s creative.

Netflix is really making some great shows and movies lately. And I found a BEEE-utiful cooking series called Chef’s Table.”

Image result for chef's table massimo bottura

The series interviews and films several famous 5-star chefs from around the world. It shows how their style evolved and it is very, very interesting. Every episode ends by showing how each chef is working to help the environment or people. This chef, Massimo Bottura saved people with parmesan cheese. Really!

My daughter, knowing I loved “Chef’s Table,” told me about a series that I just finished last night. It was a total binge! I watched all episodes at once! It’s called “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.” In this series, Chef Samin Nosrat explains the 4 basic elements of all cooking. She travels the world and shows the different cultures that have perfected one of the four elements.

Chef Samin is very entertaining and is “Wow-ed” by everything! It’s worth a watch.

And if you want a good laugh, check out the mockumentary on Netflix called, “Documentary Now!” Fred Armisen and Bill Hader do an amazing, amazing, amazing job of recreating and making fun of documentaries. So, they poke fun at “Chef’s Table” in Season 2, Episode 2, “Juan Likes Rice and Chicken.” You have to watch an episode of the real “Chef’s Table” first to get the humor. It is totally worth the watch!

Happy bingeing!










Why I Love Virtual Photo Walks

vpw postcard

I’ve mentioned Virtual Photo Walks before and I’ll probably keep mentioning it because I think it is SO great!

When I was in my 30’s my older sister was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and given a few months to live. Being a stubborn, disciplined person, she did everything the doctor told her to do and she lived 6 years longer than they expected. I was one of her main caregivers. Having 2 small kids and caring for her was quite a challenge. My kids spent much of those 6 years in waiting rooms, hanging out with my sister as she gradually became housebound. We watched a lot of TV. We watched all of the O.J. Simpson trial. All of it. (Can you detect my sigh and eye rolling?)

Fast forward to 2015. My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like my sister, I walked by her side until she passed. Again, I spent many hours and days in waiting rooms and hanging out at her house watching TV and dreaming of trips we could take if we could.

I don’t know how I forgot about Virtual Photo Walks, but I did. Too many things on my mind, I think.

I remember when I initially found it I thought, “This is the greatest idea ever!” And when I ever have time I’m going to volunteer to be a photographer for them.

Since I’ve “retired” I have started volunteering with them and I want to spread the word, that’s why I’m writing another post about it.

What Is Virtual Photo Walks? 

VPW is a non-profit organization run by volunteers who are passionate about giving those isolated by illness, age or disability the chance to “escape” their isolation and travel the world!

John Butterill, the founder, organizes the walks through a video conferencing app called Zoom. Photographers from all over the world work with John and plan walks and visits to sites from archaeological digs in Russia to volcanoes in Hawaii to sites in Japan. John sets up the video conferencing meeting and connects the participants who may be in their homes or rehabs, day care centers, nursing homes or are in the hospital and they connect with their computers to participate in the walk.

“The Secret Sauce” 

The magic of Virtual Photo Walks is the live, real time interaction the participants can have with the photographer and also the others who are on the walk with them.


The participants can talk to the photographer, ask questions and make requests like, “Can we see what’s to your right?” or “Can you take a photo of that tree?” Everyone laughs together and are amazed together in real time. It is a completely different experience than watching a video.

I joined a walk to Yosemite a couple of weeks ago from my office. It was so moving to be with the other participants as we saw the mountains and a beautiful waterfall together. On another walk to an archaeological dig in Russia we had participants from Israel and Japan. It was so interesting.

What VPW Can Do

I remember spending endless hours, days, months and years indoors with my sister and later, my best friend. Too weak to go out and sometimes even to leave the bed. Both of them had to restrict their exposure to germs so even though they might have felt okay, it was too dangerous for them to go out. It was isolating! They were lonely!

Virtual Photo Walks can give people who are isolated a chance to travel to another place and do it with a community of people! Nobody cares what you look like – you can cut the camera off to yourself so no one sees you if you’re worried. Everyone is just glad you joined. And away you go to some beautiful or interesting place together to get away from your bed or hospital room for an hour.

It really does carry you away for a while. It’s magical.

Please Share! 

Here is a great video about VPW. Please share with people you know. Share on social media!

As I said, VPW is a non-profit organization. It’s free to join. The participant just needs internet access to their computer.

You are required to make a request to join because John makes sure all the participants are safe and he protects their privacy.

If you or someone you know would like to participate in a walk, you can join here:

If you’d like to volunteer to be a photographer and share the beauty of the world around where you live or where you travel, you can volunteer here:

You’ll need a smart phone, a good data plan and a tripod.

If you’d like to donate, that would be amazing! Please share with businesses who could possibly donate to help provide equipment and internet access. Donate here:

Thanks for your help in this very worthy cause!






Blackberry Winter


I know these are not blackberry flowers. They’re pea blossoms in the husband’s garden. But it’s freezing cold outside and I heard a local person call it “Blackberry Winter.”

Even though I’m a Southerner, I had to look it up. It refers to a cold snap right at the time that the blackberries are in bloom. Well, the blackberries are not in bloom, but I think it can mean an unusual cold snap when it’s supposed to be warm.

That much is true!

Husband is out in his vegetable garden in a hoodie. So, I know it’s cold!

I grew up in North Carolina and I never thought of myself as a Southerner. Southerners were from the Deep South, the Delta, out in the boondocks, never wearing shoes, wearing overalls that are cut off below the knee, eating weird animals like possums and speaking with such a drawl that you can barely understand them.

But anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line (which is a line that runs between Pennsylvania and Maryland at 39°43′19.92216″ N) is considered the South. It was a line dividing the states that supported slavery and those that did not.

Given where I grew up, where I have lived and my family heritage. I am a Southerner. It’s hard to be completely proud. I mean Southerners were slave holders, considered ignorant and are known to give you that Southern hospitality all the while stabbing you in the back. And we lost and were humbled by the War for goodness sake. Can we hold our heads up at all?

But there is beauty, humor, grace and a restrained politeness that belies a stubborn strength here in the South.

I live near Atlanta and there are very few born and bred Atlantans anymore so my ears perk up when I hear that native tongue. My Aunt Mary (pronounced “may-ree”) had the real accent. It’s a beautiful, lyrical sound. Vivian Leigh in “Gone With the Wind” almost had it, but not quite. It truly is a beautiful accent, not strained or clumsy at all. It’s like hearing nails on a chalkboard when I hear someone in a movie trying to do it and miss it.

I can hear a few true Atlanta (pronounced, “ayut-layn-tuh”) accents around but you have to get way out from the city to hear the really wonderful Southern sayings like:

“I’m wore slap out!”

“It don’t make a hill of beans to me.”

“I’m fixin’ to go over yonder.”

“That’s slap my mama good!”

“The pot liquor is the best part of the greens.”

“Bless your heart, honey, but you’re a dumb as a stump.”

“I declare he is funny as all get out.”

“Heavens to Betsy I’m as full as a tick!”

“She’s got gumption but she’s too big for her britches.”

“Well, I s’wanee he did eat the whole plate of biscuits.”

I grew up hearing these phrases and it just makes my heart warm up when I hear them being used.

Where they came from I’m not totally sure but I do know that some words and pronunciations and sounds in music came from the Scots-Irish that settled this part of the country. The slaves from Africa totally influenced Southern food and music.  There is also a sprinkling of Dutch and German. There is also an echo of the Native American presence especially in the names of places.

The South is a beautifully unique blend of cultures.

I cringe when I hear people insult the South and Southerners. I mean, it’s like anything or anyone, you can’t really judge it until you know it.

To me, it’s familiar, it’s home.

I know I have a lot of readers from other countries. What is unique to you? What phrases? What food? I’d love to know!