Life has been pretty busy lately. Sometimes a little too busy. It hit me the other day that though in a comment on my last post I promised that I would never again wait three whole weeks to write another post, it has now been six weeks. Not so great. And after a while of not posting, the list of things to cover in a getting-back-to-it post got to be rather sizeable. Small mountain-sized. But, I reasoned, unless I’m going to end the blog (nope), gotta climb that mountain. So – full permission to fast-forward if you get bored – here’s a recap of our last six weeks:
My last post was on Halloween, but I didn’t talk about what we did for Halloween, so I’ll start there. Our Halloween was good. We spent the evening at a friend’s house eating all sorts of yummy goodness and snickering at the rave reviews of my pumpkin molasses whoopie pies. Get the recipe here from the aptly-named blog “My Baking Addiction.” The original baker calls them pumpkin molasses sandwich cookies – but they are the exact replica of a pumpkin whoopie pie I ate from a little bakery in Austin, Texas. (I even ever-so-carefully brought one home on the plane because I just had to have *A* try it…) The next day, even though it was technically post-Halloween, *A* and I did our traditional viewing of the only scary movie I will watch, Sleepy Hollow, and we each carved pumpkins. *A*’s pumpkin was a cat in a shoe (on the left). Mine was a skull and crossbones. Pirates on the mind. In any case, pumpkin carving is one of those family traditions that *A* and I do every year. We’re definitely looking forward to doing this with our Littlest.
In November, we celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary (which was actually on October 24th) with a trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. We stayed on Ocracoke, an island at the southern-most part of the string of islands that form the Outer Banks. To get to Ocracoke, have to take an hour-long ferry ride, then drive down a 13-mile narrow stretch of land to reach Ocracoke Village. To give you an idea of what I mean by narrow, and this goes for much of the length of Highway 12, the main highway that runs north-to-south on the Outer Banks, when the dunes weren’t to high to see over them, on one side you could look out and see the Sound and on the other side you could see the Atlantic Ocean. Sort of a weird driving experience.
Ocracoke is a small village that has some interesting maritime history. It was one of Captain Blackbeard’s haunts back in the early 1700s. (I think I’ve mentioned my fascination with him before). Other pirates hung out here, too, but the history of the life on this pretty isolated part of the coast is really interesting. You can drive in the village, but most people ride bikes or walk. We explored the island on the first two days of the trip, seeing the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, the British Cemetery, and spent time drinking coffee and eating fantastic cinnamon rolls at the great little Ocracoke Coffee Company (twice!). The evening of the second day, we drove out to see the wild ponies – these are descendants from a herd that folks figure came over with the first ships to visit the Outer Banks. They’re no longer wild, but penned in a many-acred pen and taken care of by the National Park Service.
One of the not-quite-so-wild anymore ponies. At least they’re taken care of.
Across the road from the pony pens is access to the beach. It was late afternoon, the sun was going down. Perfect time to watch a sunset on the beach. We stayed out there quite a long time, watching the sun go down. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more beautiful sunset.
(Above) Same day, just about 10 minutes later than the first one.
I climbed a dune to get a better vantage point – this was about 15 minutes after the first picture.
From a little earlier that day, the Ocracoke Light, which is still used today.
We had no idea where to stay on the Outer Banks, and were initially planning to stay somewhere like Kill Devil Hills or somewhere further north. We’re SO glad we didn’t. Ocracoke was just our style – a place you could get around by foot and get a much more unique experience than the typical beach scene. We used vrbo.com to find a place to stay and ended up staying at a place that is a renovated 1930s bungalow. The owner runs a shop in the first two rooms, but the back of the house and the top floor are a completely walled-off apartment. It was a great place to stay and the owner was super nice.
We spent the third day driving up all the way to the northern-most part, Corolla, where Highway 12 famously melts into sand. If you’re brave enough, you can let half the air out of your tires and drive out over the sand. We weren’t. We got to see quite a lot of landmarks – which means, for those operated by the National Park Service, I got to collect a few more stamps in my NPS Passport book. (Super nerdy, I know…) We saw Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and the Currituck Lighthouse on day three. On day four, as we drove home, we stopped to see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, and Jockey’s Ridge State Park (giant sand dunes). It was a great trip – we got to see places we’ve wanted to see since we move to North Carolina five and a half years ago.
A model / replica of the 1903 Wright flyer that completed the first 4 successful heavier-than-air airplane flights. I had no idea how this thing worked. Pretty neat to see it.
(Above) Cape Hatteras Light. And lots of fog.
Bodie Island Light. More fog. Sort of a theme for the top half of our last day. The lighthouses on the Outer Banks (with the exception of Currituck) are painted in black and white stripes, and each is a different pattern.
Before we headed for home, I wanted to check out Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which amounted to several acres of giant sand dunes. Here, *A* can give you some sense of scale. I’ve seen bigger dunes out West when I was a kid, but this was still pretty interesting. Moreso if you couldn’t hear traffic on the other side of them…
Tucker thought it’d be great to see what sand tastes like. He got a little big of off-leash time (shh!!), as we were the only ones there.
This was a good trip – and a much needed break. We even managed to think about the adoption wait a tiny bit less. We’re not really beach people (not in the hang-out-on-the-beach-and-tan way or any other kind of sedentary way) but we’re glad we went.
After we got back, it was just a couple of weeks until *A*’s birthday and Thanksgiving. We invited my parents and sister to share both events with us this year, so they got to visit us for a few days at our place. It’s always good to have the chance to see the folks! I made *A* a German chocolate birthday cake, but I really think her very first pecan pie was better…
Isn’t it beautiful? 🙂 Good job, babe!
The folks left on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and per our usual tradition, we decorated the house for the holidays that weekend. Last year, I talked about how decking our halls generally rolls out.
This year, we went to a choose-and-cut place near Boone, where *A* picked out a great (and quite tall) tree.
Then we came home to decorate the tree, put out Christmas books, *A*’s nutcracker collection, and hang lights (including our special Moravian star).
Looks really cool on our front porch at night.
I guess that brings everyone up to speed on our recent happenings. Just trying to stay busy, keep our minds occupied. The holidays, while a happy time of year because of all of the good will and cheeriness and family and so forth, are also proving to be a little tough for us this year. I guess they serve as kind of a marker of the passage of time – we’ve hoped all year that this would be our first Christmas with our Littlest. I’ve been especially guilty of being down and out the past few weeks – suggesting at one point that we even maybe skip the whole thing, a la Christmas with the Kranks. That won no approval whatsoever from *A*, and I admit, in retrospect, that it was a dumb idea.
I think the one thing that helped me get into the spirit of things this year more than anything else was following *A*’s suggestion that we adopt an angel off the tree at our local library. We had a great time shopping for this little person and it really helped us focus on what the season is about. Though it’s something we’ve considered before as part of how our family will celebrate the holidays, we feel even more strongly that helping /volunteering / giving gifts to someone in need is an experience we really want to be part of how our Littlest understands Christmas-time. Actually, we want those experiences to be year-round, and for all of us.
Now -I’m finishing up our snail-mail holiday letters, so I can mark that off the to do list. And I absolutely promise that it will NOT be a ridiculous amount of time before my next post. I’ve even started working on it. Honest!