A sign of the times.

Baby J wants to try my fall mask . . . I can’t imagine how we will get her to keep one on when she turns two. Enough said.

Linville, NC

I love the way the clouds settle into the mountains, becoming part of the landscape. Grandfather Mountain is completely obscured in the background.

For: Lens-Artists Challenge #119 – My Hideaway & Festival of Leaves 2020

This year more than ever, it has felt like an escape to head north to the beautiful rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. We first came up to the area knowing no one, and as the years have gone by our hideaway has been filled with new friends and existing friends who have joined us in this peaceful slice of heaven.

Jealously, I had hoped in this year of Covid, with all festivals and events canceled, that the NC High Country would be our secret. But as more Americans have sought refuge in the great outdoors, the area has actually been pretty crowded.

As the leaves have fallen, the crowds have diminished, and I feel like it’s all ours once again.

When leaves are way past their prime, off the trees, dried-up, and crinkly – then it’s time to play! These leaves are made for stomping, shuffling, jumping, and tossing in the air – who knew it could be so much fun.

Fall color, Linville, North Carolina
Fall colors in Linville, NC at 5,000 feet, about a week past peak color.

Miami Villagers
Coral Gables’ Douglas Entrance, the first historic building saved by The Villagers.

I’ve said it before and will say it again, Miami has some interesting, and often very entertaining, history.

Most of my Miami friends know I am involved with a historic preservation group called The Villagers. Formed in 1966, the group is the oldest preservation group in the area and has been the catalyst for identifying and saving much of Miami-Dade’s unique history, with more than 150 projects funded, benefiting more than 75 historic sites and organizations.

That being said, even those who support our fundraising events often don’t understand how we put our money to work. The group has just completed a two-and-a-half-minute video (see below) that demonstrates the types of restoration The Villagers fund.  It features work-in-progress at the iconic Vizcaya, historic properties of the Coral Gables Garden Club and Coral Gables Woman’s Club, and the Doc Thomas House which is home of the Tropical Audubon Society. Check out The Villagers’ website for more details.

Ripkin Lake, Tennessee

Fall colors X 2.

Old Salem, NC

Old Salem, NC

Even though it’s getting close to Halloween, don’t confuse this Salem with witches, rituals, and trials. Old Salem, NC is a historic living history museum, the site of a Moravian community of German-speaking immigrants who settled in the area in 1766. Steeped in history, the Salem Tavern once hosted George Washington while he was touring local battlefields. Usually, Old Salem is a thriving area featuring reenactments of life as it was in the 1700 and 1800s, with visitors roaming the streets moving in and out of the buildings, about 70 % of which are original. In normal times, several restaurants are open, historic shops sell deliciously sweet Moravian sugar cookies, and historic buildings house all sorts of demonstrations and exhibits.

Old Salem, NC The iconic and beautiful Moravian star.

These days the shops and sites are closed due to Covid-19, but the grounds are open to visitors.  It made a nice setting for a photo walk/drive, a pleasant diversion during our recent task-oriented visit to Winston-Salem. It was a nice contrast to my past visits and although I missed the chance to get some cookies – there is always their mail-order museum shop! Tourists might be scarce, but workers were busy with restoration work in some of the buildings as well as on the streets.

Trivia Tip of the Day: Salem was originally known as Wachovia

Salem College, Old Salem, NC Founded in 1772, Salem College was the first all-girls school in the US and the oldest women’s college in the South.
Old Salem, NC The Mickey Coffee Pot Marker was erected in 1858, originally outside a tinsmith shop. The 7′ tall pot would be able to hold 740 gallons if any giants are interested.
Old Salem, NC The Single Brothers’ House was completed in 1769 and housed the unmarried men of the community. Old Salem, NC
Restoration work never ends.
Fall in Banner Elk, NC.

I had a really tough time trying to decide what inspired me, which is why I am so tardy with this post (Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #115: Inspiration). Finally, I decided I’m inspired by change. Half a century ago, a famous politician said, “Change is the law of life.” I won’t name the politician because I don’t want this to be considered political. Change really is a constant factor in life, bad or good. I simply feel with all the chaos in 2020, the world is ready for something different.

Fall is a season of change and October the beginning of my favorite time of the year. I am working hard to focus on the positives this year’s global changes have brought (time to think, focus on family, a pause for the environment, reconnecting with friends . . . . you can fill in others.) I don’t want to just wait for change, this year has inspired me to make some personal changes as well.

So, on that note . . . here’s to a Happy Fall Y’all.

Fall in Linville, NC.
From our house to yours – enjoy the season.
Fall in Banner Elk, NC.
Mountaineer Garden Center, Banner Elk, NC

Flowers on the Deck


Time for a feel-good flower pic. Welcome to my kitchen deck! I took this shot right before the cold snap, a last look at summer.

When I think “up close and personal” the first thing that comes to mind is my sweet granddaughter, Baby J. I just can’t get enough of that face! Here she is the center of attention at her first birthday party, right before the world closed down because of Covid 19.

At first, Baby J didn’t know she could touch the smash cake, so she dived in, face first. It didn’t take long to get the proper hang of it.

Beijing, China
Mansion of Prince Gong

I seem to be drawn to architectural features when I am taking pictures. In these shots from Beijing, China we can see the incredible (and colorful) symmetry of Chinese Imperial architecture, in contrast to the contemporary formation of soldiers practicing drills.

Thanks to Patti Moed for another thought-provoking challenge and to Cee Neuner for her Fun Foto Challenge to feature colorful buildings. I hope I have managed to capture both.

Beijing, China
Reflection on pond, grounds of Prince Gong Mansion
Beijing, China
Tiananmen Square by the Forbidden City
Beijing, China
Temple of Heaven

Middleburg VA

This is the first is a series of things to do and see just a short drive from Washington DC.

Louden County is home to DC suburbs, Dulles airport, and beautiful rolling hills dotted with horse farms and vineyards. It has great country roads for scenic drives and it is packed with American history.

One good destination is the charming village of Middleburg and we had no trouble finding a pleasant outdoor spot for lunch right on the main street. The Red Horse Tavern’s menu had something for every taste. Since it was chilly out, we opted for a warm comfort food lunch of a crock of onion soup (a bargain at $5) and a grilled cheese sandwich. The staff was great, social distancing and masks in place, and menu through a smartphone scan.

I’m guessing the streets are never this uncrowded on such a nice fall-ish weekend, but it was a great opportunity to stroll leisurely and window-shop the interesting variety of independent shops. No chain stores crowing these streets. The village is also home of The Red Fox Inn & Tavern an 18th-century treasure on the National Register of Historic Places that has been visited by many famous individuals including George Washington and John F Kennedy.

Historically known for fox-hunting, today the area has quite a reputation as DC’s wine country, with more than 40 wineries in the County along the Northern Virginia Wine Trail. Organized into six clusters, many are centered around historic towns such as the vineyards we saw near Aldie and Middleburg. Another group is near the National Historic Landmark village of Waterford, and yet another by a town originally named Harmony (now Hamilton). These days you gotta love the idea of a town named Harmony.

If wine is not your thing, there are also more than 30 craft breweries in the area.

One place I definitely want to visit is the Cider Barn at Mount Defiance. On a hill just outside Middleburg, the Cidery looks like the perfect fall destination (and often food trucks are on-site).

I can’t wait to visit post-Covid and spend some time antiquing, visiting some vineyards, and staying in one of the area’s historic inns.

Middleburg VA
The Red Horse Tavern, Middleburg VA
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