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

DC’s Wine Country & Middleburg, VA

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

Sunflowers have to be some of the happiest flowers.  Just seeing them has to make you smile. No matter the size or the variety, I love the way they turn to face the sun as the day progresses. We are in the Fraser Fir capital of the country and there is a Christmas tree vendor not far from me. Every fall, a few months before the trees are cut, the lot is filled with blooming sunflowers, and every year I intend to take pics.  This year I did.

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There is a little park in Banner Elk, NC that is home to dozens of ducks and geese. It’s fun to visit and feed them but be forewarned (as we were, thankfully), the geese can be aggressive! Our Baby-J stayed safely in the arms of her Daddy and although she is an expert food-thrower, only managed to drop her breadcrumbs straight down at her Father’s feet.

Just up the road (an easy walk) is the beautiful Linville River with a bridge and a great view of the water flowing over a small dam – it’s picture-perfect.

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Was it a tribute to lost love, complete madness, or savvy entrepreneurship?

In the Miami of the 1920s, a diminutive Lithuanian immigrant named Ed Leedskalnin worked alone and in secret for 20 years to build a massive stone tribute to the love he lost.  Or at least that the widely known legend.  Defying the obvious laws of nature he did most of his work at night to carve and place these huge rock pieces. Decide for yourself if it was really a labor of love with more details in my previous blog post about the Coral Castle or an article I wrote published in South Florida’s Pinecrest Magazine,”Magic, Madness or Marvel?”

Kitty Konundrum.

Our family includes two cats. Ziggy, a fluffy Himalayan, who lives with my daughter and her family and our cat, Pippi. Pippi does not like Ziggy. Ziggy just wants to be friends and thought his new lion cut would make him seem more approachable. Apparently not.

Enter sweet Baby-J. A whirlwind of non-stop motion who loves them both and has given them a common fear. Baby-J is learning fast how to win over kitty-hearts.

Treats are the key! And, it’s always important to know your cat’s measurements.

Getting kitty toys organized, searching everywhere, and finally, she found Pippi!

One for Pippi  . . .  and then one for Baby-J.

Mama says it’s time to go read a book!

 

growing – crowded – tangled – exuberant – comfortable 

This is what makes photo challenges so much fun – looking at an archive from a different perspective. My offerings are as diverse as the chosen topics, selected to match each of the descriptive words above:

GROWING

Nothing beats a child growing. This was our Baby-J just a blink ago.

CROWDED

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Crossing Prague’s Charles Bridge on a rainy day. I bet it’s quite a different scene these days.

TANGLED

Wires, wires everywhere in the Old Section of Hanoi.

EXUBERANT

To me, nothing is more exuberant than fireworks, these from a July 4th at Linville Ridge, NC.

COMFORTABLE

Back to an image of the South African leopards, just couldn’t get enough of them.

 

 

It’s still hard for me to think about, or even plan, travel at this time – but I do miss the adventure. This year’s cancellations were, of course, due to Covid-19; but the year prior we had some cancellations for a much happier reason, the birth of our first grandchild! Family-time with grandkids trumps even the best trip!

We are blessed to have so many wonderful travel memories, this one from a favorite trip to South Africa:

Africa

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For years my husband has been picking up feathers for me. I don’t know what it is I love so much about them, I just know I do. In Florida, he finds a lot of peacock feathers, but here in North Carolina, it’s usually turkey feathers. As it turns out, our cat, Pippi, also loves feathers, so I’ve had to keep them far out of reach from frisky paws.

For as long as I can remember I have kept a feather in a cup of pens on my desk. Maybe it’s linked to my love of history, but I enjoy the symbolism of the quills famously used by early writers. My vase of feathers has long been a conversation piece in our home, although it’s not as noticeable these days perched on a high mantle, thanks to Pippi.

I now know feathers are hard to photograph. I think what makes them so special is what also makes them hard to capture with a camera. Each unique color and barb seems to absorb light differently. Even using my Nikon 60mm macro lens I wasn’t getting the sharpness I wanted, so I defaulted to some more artistic close-ups.

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“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul . . . ”  ~ Emily Dickinson

Historic Baker Barn, Madison County, NC

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This is actually part of a re-post, with an update, from a topic I wrote about last year.

Rural barns. Old barns are disappearing way too fast throughout America’s countryside and the backroads of North Carolina are no exception. This topic was also perfect for A Photo a Week Challenge about Nostalgia as well as Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge about old buildings, including barns.

The Appalachian Barn Alliance is a not-for-profit group dedicated to preserving rural history in part of western North Carolina by documenting historical barns and the traditions they represent. Last summer, my husband and I took one of their self-driving tours and visited the barns of Walnut Township in Madison County, near Asheville.

Once in Madison County, we followed winding country roads for about two hours to nine different barns the preservation group researched. There were many other old barns and farm buildings along the route, turning our drive into a sort of barn-treasure-hunt.

IMG_8861A few of the barns were not exactly where we thought, but the directions got us close enough to figure it out. Most of the structures were eventually used for tobacco drying of some sort, and many were originally built to house livestock. The history of each barn was as interesting as its deteriorating appearance and we could soon spot the distinctive monitor roof and gambrel roof designs. Along the way, we read about many used as flue-cured tobacco barns and converted in the 1920s to air-cure burley tobacco (used primarily for cigarette production). Many early barn-owners sold (or bartered) their barn roofs for advertising . . . maybe our first billboards? Does anyone else remember those “See Rock City” barn ads?

This year, due to Covid-19 the group has had to cancel many fundraising events but has come up with a great way to still conduct tours. Participants travel in their own cars and follow the researcher/guide as he conveys info by phone or walkie-talkie, during the 3-hour tour ($45pp).  Once at a barn site, the guide uses a microphone and it’s easy to keep socially distanced.  For info email info@appalachianbarns.org. There are so many routes still to explore and we plan to try one of these tours sometime soon.

For more details about the covid-era tours and self-guided tours check out their website appalachianbarns.org It’s a wonderful way to spend a beautiful day.
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