Small Pleasures: March 2017 Edition

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I’m going to go ahead and say this has been the most unusual (in a good way) March of my life.  My husband and I just returned from French Polynesia where we spent fifteen magical days celebrating our 25th anniversary.  Without a doubt, the trip was filled with big and unique pleasures (i.e., scuba diving for the first time, watching performers from the Marquesa Islands, waking up in an over-the-water bungalow to a turquoise sea and an unobstructed view of Moorea, etc.).  I want to talk and talk and talk about all that.  But not today.  Instead, I’m remembering those small things that made my big adventure that much more delightful.  Here are my small pleasures of March…

  1. Word Trek.  This phone app takes the word search to a whole new level by using every single letter of the search format to form words.  The game tells you how many words to look for and the number of letters in each word and you have to discover the rest on your own.  As you move through the levels, the number of letters in the search and length of the words increases.  I downloaded the game before we left on our trip and Jay and I chewed up hours of airplane and yacht downtime trying to decipher the puzzles.  It’s fun and I feel smart when I play it.  That’s a first class win-win in my book.
  2. The Body Shop’s Coconut Body Butter.  In my humble opinion, this is the creamiest, most delicious smelling lotion ever.  It comes in a jar, which also makes it a smart travel choice.  It’s the perfect accoutrement for sailing around tropical islands.  I polished off one whole container on our trip so it was a small pleasure I indulged in with abandon.
  3. Chocolate croissants.  French Polynesia is an interesting amalgamation of Polynesian and French cultures and I was surprised by the large population of French people who lived throughout the islands we visited.  Perhaps that’s why the croissants were so good.  I consumed a ridiculous number of big, flaky chocolate ones while on vacation which I always spread with an embarrassing amount of butter.  They were something wonderful to wake up to each day.  (Now my mouth is watering.)
  4. The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny.  Cruising around French Polynesia provided plenty of opportunity for reading.  So did 28 hours of airplane time.  In total, I finished five books over 15 days.  Two of those books, A Fatal Grace and The Cruelest Month, are part of a murder mystery series by Louise Penny that I am really enjoying.  The setting for the books is the area in and around a small, picturesque village in Canada near Quebec and the characters are singular and likeable.  The murders aren’t graphic and end up being a catalyst to delve deeper into the worst (and best) of human nature. I’m currently reading the fourth book, A Rule Against Murder, and will definitely continue with this somewhat fluffy but well-written and satisfying series.
  5. Snorkeling.  Because snorkeling is something I only get to do when I travel, I could label it as a big, special pleasure.  But the act is so simple and has such a high happiness quotient for me that it feels more like a small, intimate joy.  Every time I put my face in the water and get a peek at the vibrant world under the waves, I get a thrill.  And yet, there is also something meditative and mindful about snorkeling.  I breathe deeply and regularly, I float languidly, and I am forced, because of my mask, to look closely at what is directly in front of me.  I slow down and am able to see details I might otherwise miss (like a blue-spotted boxfish resting at the base of some coral or a single clownfish hanging out in an anemone).  Snorkeling almost always ends up being a spiritual experience for me.  I am so thankful for the opportunities I had to indulge in this pleasure this month and I’m sure it’s one of the reasons I came home feeling so rejuvenated.

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{ Double-Saddle Butterflyfish – Taha’a  (photo taken by Jay Yoder) }

So tell me, what small or not so small pleasures have you been enjoying lately?

 

Washington, D.C. Highlights

 

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Washington, D.C. was our first family travel destination of 2017.  We spent Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend there, seeing the sights and witnessing the city’s monumental preparations for the Presidential inauguration.  Over the course of four days we visited the International Spy Museum, the National Zoo, Ford’s Theater (where Abraham Lincoln was shot), the Petersen House (where Abraham Lincoln died), the National Archives, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Holocaust Memorial Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, and Mount Vernon (George Washington’s home).  We logged 22 miles on the pedometer for the weekend but, because most of the museums closed by 5 pm., we were always back in our hotel rooms by early evening, sipping milkshakes from the Shake Shack and watching movies or reading with our comfies on and our feet propped up.   We had fun, learned a few new things, spent quality time together and even enjoyed some downtime.  Really, what more could a person ask for?

International Spy Museum.  (A combination of espionage history and James Bond movie artifacts make this a fascinating and fun experience.)

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{ James Bond’s Aston Martin }

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{ Metal dentures belonging to Bond villain Jaws – the actor could only keep them in his mouth for about 40 seconds at a time because they were so painful to wear. }

The National Zoo.  (Home of pandas and other adorable critters.  Unfortunately, winter offers limited viewing of many of the animals.)

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Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House.  (Informative museum outlining events leading up to President Lincoln’s assassination.  The bedroom where Lincoln died felt especially eerie.)

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{ The gun John Wilkes Booth used to shoot Lincoln. }

The National Archives.  (Highlights include the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and one of the few remaining original copies of the Magna Carta.  No photography is allowed in this building).

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The National Air and Space Museum.  (A popular museum chronicling the history of flight and the exploration of space.  This was by far the busiest museum of the trip. }

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The National Holocaust Memorial Museum.  (An emotionally taxing experience, but it should not be missed.  The world needs to remember human rights atrocities so they are not repeated…)

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{ Portraits of families and friends from one Jewish village in Poland taken before the war.  Most of the villagers were killed during the Nazi occupation. }

The Lincoln Memorial.  (After visiting the Ford Theater and Petersen House we felt compelled to see this monument.  It was interesting to observe the preparations for the inaugural celebrations but the set-up was bothersome when it came to taking those iconic photographs.)

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Arlington National Cemetery.  (The resting place of more than 400,000 active service members, veterans and their families.  It is also the home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.)

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Mount Vernon.  (The rural estate of George Washington overlooking the Potomac River.  Washington’s tomb is located on the grounds.)

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All in all, it was a great getaway and a great beginning to 2017.  I’m looking forward to the other travel experiences this new year brings my way.

A Quest for the Soul of Scotland

Last year was full of milestones for my family and, to celebrate our accomplishments, we traveled to Scotland for some time together and a little adventure.  In a trip that was incredible from beginning to end, our most favorite experiences happened in the wilder places of the country.  That is where we encountered the soul of Caledonia.

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{ Coastal walk to Dunnottar Castle}

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{ Beach below Dunnottar Castle }

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{ Dunnattor Castle from beach }

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{ Corrie Fee, Glen Clova }

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{ Corrie Fee, Glen Clova }

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{ Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye }

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 { Steahl Falls, Glen Nevis }

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{ Steahl Falls, Glen Nevis }

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{ Steahl Falls, Glen Nevis }

Discover quests of all kinds at The Daily Post.

The Cherry on Top: Old Hill Cidery

This week’s prompt for The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge is “Cherry on Top”.  As an explanation, Michelle offers:

“The cherry on top. The icing on the cake. Or, as the straightforward folks at Oxford Dictionaries explain it, “a desirable feature perceived as the finishing touch to something that is already very good.”

My most recent “cherry on top” experience happened on the return leg of a road trip through Virginia Jay and I took for our anniversary a few weeks ago.  From the beginning the vacation was exactly what we hoped it would be: relaxing at a gorgeous resort (Primland) between hikes in the Blue Ridge mountains with a very few touristy destinations (like Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and Chateau Morrisette Winery) thrown in the mix.

The last stop on our journey home required a short detour off Interstate 81 to the town of Timberville, VA.  Our destination? Old Hill Cidery, which we found nestled among rolling hills in the Shenandoah Valley.  The grounds were adorable, the cider tasting was educational and fun, and because we were the only customers in the shop at the time, we enjoyed a friendly conversation with the young woman who ran the shop.  She then directed us behind the shop, where we found a unique “Virginia is for Lovers” sign with a quintessential rural Virginia view.  It was the perfect ending to our anniversary trip, an unexpected and delightful “cherry on top”!

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{ View from the parking area of Old Hill Cidery }

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{ Cider Tasting }

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{ View of the Shenandoah Valley }

Check out other “cherry on top” offerings at The Daily Post.