It has been rather chilly in Michigan these past few days, and while the temperature was still on the low side, the lack of cold winds and bright sun made it feel good to be outside.
So, when lunchtime came, Donald and I decided to make a quick trip down the road to Quarton Lake for a walk around the water.
These bright blue flowers were blooming in yards surrounding the lake. Siri thinks they are called Scilla. 😀
The birds (mostly robins) were chirping away and foraging, and the squirrels (both black and red/gray) were having fun running in and around the trees.
Quarton Lake is in the middle of a residential area in Birmingham, surrounded by large houses of varying architectural styles.
There are so many different species of pine tree here in Michigan. This one reminded me of the Torreya pines in Florida which are very rare. However, the needles on this one were a lot softer than on the Torreyas.
On the Maple Rd side of the lake, there is a small park that includes this white fish sculpture. And, of course, the waterfall. 😀
The watershed from Quarton Lake feeds into the Rouge River (or so I would assume from the signage on the bridge 😜). Some of the houses in the neighborhood were lucky enough to have the river on their backyard.
I’m no nature expert, but I think these yellow flowers may belong to a Forsythia bush.
This pine tree had thin, delicate branches with soft, short needles. Very pretty!
At the south end of the lake, there is a grist wheel and a plaque to let people know that Quarton Lake used to be called Mill Pond and was the site of a grist mill which ground grain into flour for the Birmingham community.
Just a couple of the beautiful houses surrounding the lake.
This view is from the north side of the lake. Our lunchtime walk took us completely around the lake. It was great to get out of the house for a bit and enjoy the sun on our faces!
After work today, we decided to get out of the house and spend some time at Lake Ella. We stopped by Black Dog Cafe and got a couple of their Lattes of the Day and some small snacks. We sat on their deck (which has a new roof/awning) and enjoyed our bagel and pastry and read awhile. Once our pastries were finished, we wanted to walk around a little.
We stopped for a moment and sat on this bench swing, taking in the peacefulness of the afternoon. We saw a couple Spin scooters nearby and I joked about renting one for another ride. They are a lot of fun, but after Donald’s near-miss and my accident (which I’m still recovering from), we think that we should invest in some helmets (and perhaps other protective gear) before we ride the Spins again.
I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of our photos from our walk! We will certainly have more adventures to share soon!
It had been a little while since we had taken a hike during lunchtime, so we were eager to get back out there – even though our time was very limited.
We had visited the Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park during a previous lunch excursion, but hadn’t had the time then to climb the two mounds. This trip, we only had time for the mounds. 😂
It’s such a beautiful time of year here in northern Florida. Spring is already well under way and the forests are brightened with the colors of flowers and the intense green of new growth. The first flowers I saw were these tiny purple flowers in the parking lot. There were also small yellow flowers scattered throughout and occasionally a white flower on a 4-5 inch stem (making it taller than the surrounding ground cover). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a great photo of the white flowers, but they were very cute.
Right off the parking lot is the smaller of the two mounds. There are stairs built in, which both help people ascend to the top and help to prevent damage to the mound caused by foot traffic.
We spend a couple minutes at the top of the mound looking around and speculating what they could have been used for. Perhaps a high ground in case of local flooding, or where the people would have a tactical advantage in defending their homes? Maybe a place of honor for important individuals in the community?
Since we only had a short lunch break and I had a meeting immediately following, we quickly made our way further into the park and across a small creek to see the larger mound.
I happily jogged up half the stairs (then got tired and walked like a normal person). The views from the larger mound were even prettier than from the smaller mound. I took a short 360 degree video clip of the view, read the sign posted at the top about what the area had looked like (or could have looked like?) when it was inhabited by the indigenous people.
Too soon, it was time to head back home.
On the way back down the stairs, I spied a lizard! I love these fast, little guys. Donald pointed out that this was a green one, which is the good kind. These lizards (or well, anoles) are native to the area and can change color from green to brown to help camouflage themselves from predators. There are other anoles which are only brown, and these are an invasive species that competes with the green anoles for resources.
Donald got this next photo of the anole – a great close-up! It looks like our little buddy is looking right at the camera!
It was just a quick stop, but it felt great to get out of the house and take some time to see the nature bursting forth practically in our backyard!
We had set out a goal for ourselves to explore the coast of Florida. I mean, in general, we are trying to travel EVERYWHERE, but in particular, we wanted to visit all of the named beaches in the state (as well as visit all of the state parks, etc., etc.).
We had decided earlier in the week that we wanted to drive out to Jacksonville this weekend and find something to do. Of course, we also wanted to make sure that we made it out to the ocean at some point during the day. Jacksonville is about a 3 hour drive from Tallahassee, to it’s at the edge of how far we want to travel for a day trip – to make sure we can get there, spend some quality time seeing things, and get back without exhausting ourselves too much or feeling hurried.
I woke up extra early in the morning on Sunday and started Googling things to do around Jacksonville. I read about Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks and thought they looked cool and had plenty of nature to explore and enjoy – just our thing! So, I’m pretty sure I hopped out of bed and started getting ready for the day – waking Donald up in the process and letting him know that I had an IDEA!
We were up, caffeinated, showered, ready, and on the road by 8 am. Amazing what a little motivation will do (I’m not lazy, but I will resist giving up on cuddles). Before we knew it, 3 hours had passed and we had arrived. Our first stop was Kayak Amelia, where we rented some beach cruiser bikes. We headed north out of Kayak Amelia toward Big Talbot Island State Park, first crossing a section of road that was one lane wide, and the traffic alternated directions. Bikers were directed to wait until the car traffic had crossed the bridge, then cross the bridge using the full width of the lane while traffic in both directions are stopped.
There are limitless times to stop, look, and capture. We cannot catch them all, nor should we.
We appreciated the slower pace the bikes offered us vs. traveling in our car. We really had an opportunity to view the scenery and take in the beauty of the park. We could speed up and feel the wind in our faces, or stop and hop off the bikes to look at something closer.
The branches were thick and twisty, below which grew dense patches of ancient palmettos.
I loved the variation in the colors of green and the interplay of the sunlight shining through the leaves. Such a mix of light and dark produced beautiful scenes that filled me with awe as I rode. I don’t know how many times I said, “Oh! Look! It’s so pretty!,” but it was always applicable. Donald really helps me to slow down and appreciate these things around me. I like them, but I am usually driven to go-go-go and see the next thing. He helps me to slow down and really savor where I am.
The bike path wound through the most lush canopy. The shadows danced on the ground before us.
The sky was bright and as energetic as the shimmering Atlantic waters.
After we had biked a while (a few miles?), we came to a long, wooden boardwalk overlooking some water. I’m always a sucker for water, and it was fun to ride the bikes and hear the sound that the tires made on the boards. We saw a lot of shore birds, but most of them were across the waterway from us, so I don’t have good photos of them. At some point, I want to invest in a good zoom lens for my camera, but on this trip, we just had the GoPro and our phones (more portable).
A long boardwalk guided us over tidal intercostal waters.
In the distance white-capped waves can be seen far from the coast.
We finally made it to where we could see the Atlantic Ocean! I don’t think I can stress enough how beautiful it is here. The sunshine and the salt in the air…. delightful!
The coastal islands seemed small and distant but held much life including many dunes.
I could have spent the whole day on this beach, just listening and watching the waves roll in.
Busy shore birds pay little attention to us as they work the sands in search of a meal.
So many birds! They weren’t afraid of any rogue waves and would walk right in the water. There were some seagulls, but also many smaller birds like this little guy. So cute! Donald has an owl call (at least, I think it’s an owl?) that he makes to try and attract the birds.
Dead wood is so alive in the stories it holds of the storms and other happenings it must have seen.
This stretch of beach in Big Talbot Island State Park is known as Boneyard Beach. The description from the Florida State Parks website, “Sculpted by nature, this shoreline boasts 30-foot bluffs and a striking beach peppered with massive driftwood trees that recall images of an elephant graveyard.”
Some dead wood can be functional and serve as a walking stick. Maybe this is one is a bit too large.
I love Donald’s whimsical and playful side. It comes out at various times, but especially when we are interacting with nature. OMG, that branch. I’m pretty sure it would have held off even the Balrog. “Thou shalt not pass!”
So much life lives at the intersection of ocean and land.
I get it. The Atlantic is generally darker and grayer than what you see here. We have taken creative license with our image editing, but I’m enjoying the higher saturation images, even if it makes the Atlantic look more like the Caribbean. 🙂
The many shades of green present from the oaks to the palmettos seems endless when the sun strikes them.
The beauty of the sun filtering through the dense foliage… there are no words. So here are some photos, so you can see a little bit for yourself.
The paths are endless. So much to see around every bend.
Towards the end of our bike trip from Kayak Amelia, I was getting really tired. We had ridden almost 10 miles total on these beach cruisers where you stop moving fairly quickly if you stop pedaling. However, just before we needed to cross at the one-lane area of road, there was an offshoot path. Donald was riding ahead of me, so I called out that I was going to explore it and deviated from the sidewalk, thinking he was going to catch up soon. The path was darker and twisty, and went downhill. It was dense with plants and roots and pine needles. I had initially thought that it was just going to parallel the bike path, but it was taking me deeper into the forest, and I wasn’t hearing Donald behind me, so I finally stopped to catch my breath (and take this photo).
What I didn’t know, was that he hadn’t heard me and had spent some time riding back and forth on the bike path, until someone mentioned seeing me go down this trail. (I suppose I can get distracted by new sights and adventures.) He caught up to me and we decided to bike back out (instead of taking the trail to the end). It was pretty, but we were tired and looking forward to our next adventure on Amelia island, just north of where we were (our next blog post!).
In today’s note, “Little Year” falls on February 4th this year, and officially kicks off the Spring Festival season. There are two main activities taking place: honoring the kitchen god, and preparing your home.
First, you need to tidy your home and declutter it of items you no longer need. Cleaning now is intended so that you do not have to clean in the first days of the new year (Feb. 12th), to not “sweep away” your good luck.
After you have tidied your home, you will want to decorate with symbols to usher in blessings for you and your family. (Also, apologies… as we go, I’ll be taking some phrases directly from the note card and paraphrasing others. All my info I got from Cynthia, so she gets all credit. 🙂 )
For our Day 2 gift, we received some posters to help decorate our homes. The Fortune poster is supposed to be hung upside-down because the word for upside-down in Chinese sounds like “arrival,” so it signifies that Fortune is on its way to you! I put mine on my front door, so Fortune can come right in like a favorite guest. 🙂
The other poster says “Year of the Ox.” I put this one in the dining area, so it can be seen from the kitchen and the living room (and the office, if you leave the door open).
After some friends shared that one of their favorite winter celebrations was Lunar New Year, I was intrigued to find out more about this holiday. As it turns out, Wonton in a Million was selling her Lunar New Year Advent Calendars (for the second year) and mentioned that she learned a lot about her own culture while she was putting them together.
So I snagged one of the last kits available and will be sharing my journey here. 🙂
The Advent Calendar comes with 15 presents and Cynthia has labeled them with the day that you are to open them. Most of the gifts will be planner-related, since that’s the typical demographic for Wonton in a Million. There are little cards inside explaining something about that day’s gift.
Day 1 was marked to be opened any day (as soon as you got the kit in the mail, if you wanted!), since it contained a lot of items that could be used to decorate your planner, and – in general – planners like to pre-plan!
I opened my Day 1 as soon as the box arrived, but since I didn’t want to spoil anyone, I waited until now to post (Day 2 is marked for Feb 4th, so I figure the latest for Day 1 would be Feb 3rd). my intention is to post the morning after the day, so I don’t ruin it for others. E.g. I technically will open Day 2 (Feb. 4) today, but I’ll set the post for tomorrow morning.
The notes for Day 1 let me know that the Lunar New Year is celebrate by over one-fourth of the world’s population! It’s considered to be good luck to decorate your home (and planner!) in advance of the New Year (officially February 12th this year). This year is the Year of the Ox, according to the Chinese Zodiac.
Cynthia included a game to play with friends/family: a Dimsum bingo! To play, you order a dimsum feast and invite people to eat with you. The first person to eat all the items in a row to make a bingo wins! (Or really, you all win, because Yum!)
When I adhere to it, I really am loving my quiet morning routine. After getting ready for the day and having some breakfast, I sit down for some spiritual reading time. This morning I continued reading in Pope Benedict’s Infancy Narratives, concerning John the Baptist.
Music helps to influence your emotions, so while I tend to listen to upbeat music when getting ready (this morning, it was classic Christmas tunes), when I’m reading in the morning, I like to switch over to something more … churchy. This morning I put on some Gregorian chant.
The best mornings were the mornings that I got to go to morning Mass on my way in to work. We would gather at 6:30 am in the Day Chapel at Our Lady of Good Counsel and pray together. At the end of Mass, Jesus would be put out on the altar and we would sing O Salutaris Hostia to Him. That’s something I miss, so I think at the end of my spiritual reading time, I’ll bring that song back.
I find that it always helps my work day when I pray first. I feel that I am more kind, more productive, and more focused, than days where I don’t take explicit time to pray.
There’s always something printed on my vitamin packet, whether a quote or a question. Today, it was:
“We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.”
I’m not sure who Elizabeth Gilbert is, but I feel that supreme self is the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
December starts now. The last month of a very unusual year. I’ve been attempting to create more routines to my days, and am trying to build in specific times during the day where I can read, pray, and reflect.
This nighttime one can be difficult, because I’m very good at working or distracting myself until exhaustion, then falling into bed. Even now, it’s quite late, but I wanted to jot down a few thoughts.
Going into Advent, it’s supposed to be this quiet, penitential time where you prepare yourself for the miracle of God made flesh. Too often, it ends up being a blur of planning and frenetic activity as the days tick by faster than ever. We have decorating to do, cards to send, presents to buy and wrap, outfits and meals to plan, and countless other tasks that seems to all gang up and attack you at once.
I have this vision in my head of winters as being a time where you can curl up under a blanket with a hot chocolate and a good book. My winters are not often this way. I don’t take that space in the cadence of my days to lean into the change of the season.
Do I want to change? This is a good question. I quite like being busy and feeling productive. But productivity without real purpose feels like so much wasted effort. In 6 months, will the things that I have chosen to do have benefited me in some way?
What work am I doing within my soul? How are the choices I’m making (or not making!) helping me to be the person God envisions me being? What good can I do in the lives of others, if only I take the time to get out of my own thoughts and look outward?
We shall see. 🙂
Let me know what your dreams are for yourself this December.
I attended a Zoom meeting last night with Laken and some members of her PlanWithLaken community and for 2 hours we discussed topics related to goal setting and personal growth. I love the encouragement and inspiration which comes from this community.
A particular app came up in discussion (which, to be honest, has come up before and I’ve downloaded it, but I never actually got around to setting it up) – Routinery. Spurred on by the discussion, I finally opened the app and set it up with a Morning Routine, Lunch Routine, and Evening Routine.
I don’t really have anything too surprising in there right now, but I did add in some skin care, time set aside for spiritual reading, and making a habit of doing the dishes during lunch (it just has been a successful time for me to do them).
At first go, I’m seeing that there are things I can do to prep for my routine that will make things go smoother, like making sure that you have pre-opened the box containing your vitamins, and having an idea of what you want to wear for the day (probably also having clean clothes, LOL). I baked into my Evening Routine some things like putting things away. I love coming into the office to start the day and having a neat desk. I’d rather do that at night than quickly cleaning it up in the morning before I log in to work.
I added some reading time in to my Morning Routine. Not that I – in general – have difficulty finding time to read, but that I don’t necessarily make time for spiritual reading and reflection. At least, not a consistent time. One of the things that I miss about the pre-pandemic life is that I used to be able to attend Mass at 6:30 am before work. I liked the idea of starting off the day with God.
I know it’s not Advent yet, but I thought it would be good for me to read Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI. Reading it now will set the stage for me to enter into Advent with a prayerful heart and really experience this season of hopeful waiting that we are about to enter into.
Do you have anything you are doing to prep for Advent?