Safari’d

This past Sunday I learned through social media that the Virginia Safari Park now has penguins! Cue freaking out and begging husband to go. I’d already been wanting to go, but the penguins were a nice additional bonus!

 

SO I talked hubby into going after church “C’mon it’ll be less busy on a Sunday, and its been raining, it’ll scare people off, but its really not supposed to rain very much anymore…” Against his better judgment he concede.

Then, there was this hour long windey drive through the mountains, eh. Then, there was this just about hour long wait in line in the car just to pay the fee to enter…eh..

We started with the drive thru portion. I’d always heard and read from others to take the wagon ride as the animals and animal feed will make a mess of cars. I wanted to do the wagon ride too because I figured it’d be better for pictures…but we entered the park after the last ride was over.

We drove into the drive thru portion and there were hordes of llamas everywhere. They were hustling around the cars. We scored 2 buckets of feed for free for signing up for yearly memberships, and I was conscious of the need to spread out the feed. All too soon I met my first guests. The white llama was so soft. I gave him/her a little feed and then we drove past other cars.

One car was feeding this giant beast. He turned and looked at me and I thought “no sir”. I know what those big animals could do! (eat all the food).

We drove on further feeding various types of deer and some more llamas. It seemed that the tinier deer were more skittish of the cars and wouldn’t come over. There were antelopes but they were more interested in fighting each other.

We turned the corner and the soft drizzle became a heavy down pour. At this point many of the herds of animals were escaping the rain under the trees. We shook our buckets at various animals, hoping something different would come by. James would just stick his hand out the window to hide from the rain, I completely would roll down the window.

Then I met this one giant deer. Let’s call him Ancient Bob. He is a Pere David’s Deer. He was under the trees and he took several minutes to waddle over. I was thinking “yay! He’s coming over!” and guys, he literally waddled, like he had bad hips or something. So I’m feeding him from the bucket and he pushes his head hard down, with antlers scraping down too near my arm, and there goes my bucket. At least there was only half left at that point. Looking back later in the picture I realized there’s another bucket on the ground, this guy knows what he is doing!

So we continued to drive around. We met a few determined llamas, they didn’t care it was pouring down raining, they stood in the road regardless, with their ears back, looking pathetic. I was just “sorry bud, that last guy stole my bucket”

When we finished the drive thru we headed for the gift shop area to have our seasons passes made. I wandered the store to discover this awesome shirt. We were pushing it a little bit financially by signing up for passes…but I’m getting this long sleeve shirt next time!

Next we walked around the village as the rain was mostly a light drizzle at this point. We wandered through to the penguins! At the entrance the guest services worker told me that the penguins had been here longer than she had, but that they had a new area in their exhibit, a slide. So I don’t know if it was just a Re-grand opening. However, the penguins are also not listed on the website which makes me think they are still pretty new? There was supposed to be a keeper talk, but none ever showed. Maybe next time I’ll be able to find out able this waddle.

The penguins huddled about doing what the others were doing. They seemed very curious in exploring their area, each other, the humans, and their pool. The pool seemed small, but it was awesome to see them dive in and swim around fast almost running into each other!

Across from the penguins were the tigers. The Orange Bengal tiger kept acting like my cat at home, stalking his roommate the White Bengal tiger for no reason. It was fun to see this in action as they growled at each other for a few moments.

We ambled through the Kangaroo area, but they were pretty much all escaping the rain in their barn. I can’t say I blame them. There was one mama hanging out with her joey in her pouch!

James seems to understand farm animals pretty well, we always enjoy ourselves at petting zoos. He says the secret is the scratch the animal where they are scratching so you win their love and affection. I don’t recommend this, but he then cuddles with the goats, in this instance putting his face near their antlers.

I loved the antics of the baby goats. There were various sizes, and several rambunctious ones jumping around, jumping on each other. Towards the end of our visit one baby came over. It had the softest ears! I petted it for a bit and it ended up poking its head through to chew on my jeans. Guys, can I please have a baby pygmy goat????!

I’m so excited that we purchased a seasons pass, even if I’ll never look forward to the windey drive to get there. Sometimes James and I struggle to come up with “couple hobbies” but I’d say that interact with and feeding animals is high on our list.

Cuddled and Adopted a Penguin

The weekend before last, I celebrated my birthday up north at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. According to my research its the closest zoo that offers penguin experiences/encounters. (And just $45 for a cheek to beak experience). I’d already lost my heart at one experience with Busch/Seaworld, but I wanted to see the penguins at one of the newest/most advance penguin facilities.  They can host up to 100 penguins, and have one of the most successful breeding colonies in North America. They’ve been able to raise over 900 penguins since 1967! (Plus hubby has family in Maryland)

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***Disclaimer*** Not all penguin experiences are the same. Some seem to be more conservative in which the trainer holds the penguin and you are allowed to pet it with two fingers on its back. Other experiences allow the animals to walk around and you to interact more freely with them. Whichever experience you get, remember that the safety of the animals is #1 and you are lucky enough to interact with an endangered exotic (amazing) animal.

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We got to the zoo upon opening, lingering in the warm gift shop as it was windy. I may have been canoodling with a penguin who threatened to fly away in the breeze. The zoo opened at 10am, but our experience wasn’t until 11am.

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We explored around the Penguin Coast, watching the penguin feeding, and saw the Polar Bear eating snacks.

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Finally, the time came. Another couple was waiting and we chatted about the upcoming experience. In my normal over thinking thing I’d mused to hubby “what if I see them and I don’t like them any more?” (as I have a tendency to be zealous about things and then abruptly not) Hubby stared at me and rolled his eyes.

We were led into the area by the keeper, Steven. He showed us the small kitchen, where he explained the food prep process and that penguins can eat up to a 1 lb of fish a day. I was jittering with excitement and I’m sure I squealed when he said that we’d be meeting 7! (In my last encounter I just saw 1 walking around!)

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Then, we entered a small room. At this point we were told not to touch them, but that they’d wander up to us. We were given a plastic pool tie type device to play with them (picture a sort of cat toy). They waddled around all seven of them: Winnie, Peach, Hope, Lilly, Eddie, Dawn, and Tetra. I was in heaven. Fiddling around with the plastic toy I discovered that some of them would respond like cats playing, and once I even spun one in a complete circle chasing it! Steven also answered various questions about his waddle of penguins. Of course, I always think of a bazillion questions later.

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After a few moments we were ushered to an outside area, now we were allowed to pet the penguins if they came up to us. Cue the most magical time of my life! Most of the time the penguins would stay in a group, leaving 5 of them huddled around you (Two were excluded as they are continuing to train on being nice to people). I was consumed with petting them, sometimes a penguin for each hand. I continued to play with the plastic tie with them.

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Husband was just as enthralled, practicing talking to them, finding Peach to be the most vocal. Meanwhile, my favorite was the sweet Lilly, who just stood next to my side for several moments wanting to be petted. She also had the softest feathers.

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Once outside the guy of the other couple took his girl aside, while asking Steven to video for him. He got down on one knee, and proposed. She said yes, complete with many penguins in their video. Just adding the magic on.

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Towards the end I was surprised when a penguin named Hope, jumped in my lap. She’d looked at my lap earlier, and Steven confirmed that if anybody would do it, she would. I tried to convince her at that time, but she didn’t do it. It made it that much more surprising when she did. I had a few moments of cuddles, before the queen bee, Winnie, Matriarch of the waddle, pecked her and she hopped out. I was so happy, I didn’t even think to chastise the bully Winnie!

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For the rest of the day I was in shock that a penguin had actually jumped in my lap. Even now I keep staring at the pictures/video incredulous!

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So, like I blogged a few weeks ago, I want to save penguins. One of my birthday gifts was a check, so I decided to use it for a penguin adoption through Sanccob. Right now, through the end of December, a local agency will double any penguin chick adoptions. Basically, due to abandonment of chicks due to the parents’ molting process (and inability to catch fish for the young) 500 chicks have been rescued from the South African coast to be hand reared by volunteers. This is an expensive, tedious, and sharp beak infested process, hence the need for donations. If you make a R600 or R700 adoption ($50) you also are allowed to “name” “your” penguin and will learn about the brief history while being rehabilitated.

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Once I obtain the info of “my penguin” I’ll share it with yall!

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Well, in honor of my sweet penguin cuddles with Hope, the penguin I “adopted” is also named Hope. These penguins were listed as endangered in 2009, but there is so much work being done to save them, there is so much hope for their loud kind. :0)

 

 

 

Visited Mill Mountain Zoo

 

 

 

 

 

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I was craving another animal experience for my birthday, even if it couldn’t involve penguins. Luckily for me, a local small zoo, Mill Mountain Zoo had a free admission day during my birthday weekend, so we were able to check something off the local bucket list!

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I quickly learned that it is difficult to take pictures of creatures as they are behind fences, but was able to get creative with this limitation.

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Some of the staff walked around with some of the ambassador animals. This little ferret was soft and reminded me of ferrets we had growing up: Sissy and Sassy.

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It wasn’t as cold as it could be for December, but this little animal still had the idea, sitting under its heat vent.

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Husband being a goober in front of the cage trying to see if he could merit a response from an animal.

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My favorite animal of the zoo, and probably the most exotic was the Snow Leopard. I was entranced, just watching it lounge about. I watched it for so long that husband actually walked away and didn’t realized I’d stayed in the same spot. Obviously, this leopard’s life is so hard.

 

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Watching it, I remembered my love for big cats when I was younger. I identified with them, because you were able to watch their mannerisms and see the same mannerisms in house cats. In this moment the leopard decided to scratch his cheek against the top of his enclosure. I also couldn’t get over how thick his its tail was!

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Husband, as always, enjoyed the petting zoo animals, easily making friends.

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Kissed an Alpaca in Amish Country

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This was another year where I did not have the chance to leave the country, but I was able to visit an Amish community and appreciate their culture. Husband and I drove to his hometown area to watch friends be wedded, so my mother in law, and sister in law decided to visit Amish country.

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Of course, you aren’t allowed to take their pictures, so I made sure to bring my pancake lens. The children all scurried away from me anyways whenever the camera would point in their direction (when I wasn’t paying attention).

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One of the first places we visited was a toy shop. We were some of the only customers. After exploring and making our purchases the shop owner decided to have fun with us. He had made these contraptions meant to play tricks/gags on people. I didn’t play along, I struggle with being made to look silly, but my sister in law was nice enough to try to figure the puzzles out.

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The area was absolutely beautiful. There were houses on hills, around dirt roads. It was a quiet area, and it felt like we were in another country.

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We also made sure to visited a quilt shop. We spoke with the shop owner at length while we browsed the items. The handmade items were gorgeous and made with intricate detail. While browsing I kept thinking about how my best friends would be moving to a different state soon taking their 2 year old (now 3 year old) with them. I was heart broken, so I kept picking out presents for her. I mentioned this to the shop owner, and she shared about how her children were moving to a different house further in the area, and she was also sad that she would not see her grand children as often. Sure, my friend was moving states away, and her family was only moving a few miles away, but due to their limited technology the distance would feel the same. It was neat to share that despite our cultural differences.

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In the area, not owned by the Amish was an Alpaca farm. We toured the pens, learning everything that we could ever think to ask about Alpaca’s. The owner teased us into kissing them, and of course my sister in law and I couldn’t resist the photo opportunity!

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I’d never been up close to an Alpaca before, and I was struck by how laid back their personalities were. There were some young ones, cousins, and if the babies went to the other mothers they’d spit at them, so that was entertaining to watch.

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And of course, we couldn’t leave without getting some yummy handmade fudge!

I hope 2016 also has some fun travels :0)

Weathered a Hurricane in OBX

Another “Favorite Unblogged 2015 moment”

Like most summers/fall we were able to vacation again in the beautiful Outerbanks. We looked forward to this break from work, a chance to travel and relax with friends. As the trip neared closer there was the chance of ugly weather (as there usually is when we plan the trip for off season) but we shrugged it off.

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Due to successful persistence (aka obnoxiously repetitive comments) husby had agreed to sign us up for a wild pony tour. This is the most wished for experience that I’ve wanted to try the past several years I have traveled to these beaches. He checked the forecast and and scheduled the tour for the morning of the least amount of rainfall.

At the beach we enjoyed the house and watched the weather reports. We called the morning off, listening to the news, but were reassured, “honey we have hummers, we won’t cancel for rain” So we drove north, smile on my face.

We arrived, and when I heard a worker saying, “yeah we are about to close up shop” I had an awful sense of foreboding, I knew something was wrong. Husband went to check in, and began to talk with another employee. This man began his comments about the problem being about how far the water was inland “There is just no beach to drive on.” He continued to the point of saying that the tour was cancelled, and that they would probably not open again until the next Tuesday…when we were leaving on Sunday. Before he was finished explaining, I pulled my hood up over my head, and began to bawl/ugly cry like a small child.

I hadn’t realized how much I had been looking forward to this experience, and when it was finally on the schedule. We returned to the car, to try to redeem the day. We did find some fun things to do, even if I was crushed.

This was as close to a Pony as I got:

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The next morning was when hurricane Joaquin came to visit, although to be fair, I think it was the outer storms, and not even the most powerful part of the hurricane. Of course, my curious self had to go out and explore it. At first I attempted to put my phone camera in a plastic baggie to document the moment, but then a friend let me borrow his waterproof camera as they all laughed at my silly nature.

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It was neat to experience, to feel the power of the waves, I felt my breath catch in my chest and my body tense up in response. The waves were driven in high, and you could see where debris were floating onto the beach.

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When the rains stopped, husband and I ventured out for lunch. We wanted to see how deep the puddles were, and if we needed to leave our trip early so we wouldn’t be trapped on the Island. I enjoyed the signage. Husband and I planned to leave the next morning.

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That evening sitting around in our wonderful theater room, a friend came up and said, “The sky is beautiful right now, we are all trying to take pictures of it, and it dawned on us that you LOVE taking pictures” so they ushered me outside and several of them committed to try to help me rig up a tripod (since I hadn’t brought mine–we stolez it from the provided telescope) to marvel at the moonlight streaming on the calm ocean. It was incredible to think of the change from that morning, but the relationship aspect of the moment will last with me forever. I’m not good at making friends, as I documented at that recent wedding, and the fact that they were pursuing me, and embracing this wonderful moment with me, was such an incredible gift. I wanted to bask in that feeling.

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So husband and I plan to leave, only to wake up to the gorgeous sun shinning down, and decided that we might as well celebrate the sunny day that the beach was giving us (even if we’d postpone more significant anniversary celebrations).

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And that sunny day I ensured that I did all of the things that I hadn’t done yet on the trip: swimming in the ocean, relaxing in the hot tub, etc. Definitely our most memorable beach trip ever.

 

Marveled at a Lindsey Stirling Concert

Another in the “Favorite 2015 Unblogged Moments” series.

Randomly, I discovered Lindsey Stirling and her unique sound of dubstep beats mixed with classic violin via Pandora, and she’s been on of my favorite artists since. Her story of overcoming a horrible critic during America’s Got Talent, is inspiring.

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In 2015 I was lucky enough to attend one of her concerts in Charlottesville, plus it was a fun opportunity to grab a meal with friends that live in the area. We ate at Citizen Burger.

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Our friends brought their dog with them, so we decided to try to eat outside on the patio, braving the mean looking skies. We figured, hey, there are umbrellas, right? And we were warned by the wait staff that we could be outside as long as it wasn’t windy enough to take down the umbrellas.

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Well, a few minutes later, and ALL THE RAIN happened. We ended up sitting across a couple we didn’t know in an effort to have everyone seated quickly so we could make it to the concert. I was incredibly nervous, especially as the most extroverted of the remaining of us (the guy went to return their dog to their home). We made some small talk, discovered they were also going to the concert, it was fun.

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I really enjoyed the opening performances, though I’d never heard of EchoSmith before I was quickly singing “wish that I could like like the cool kids…”

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The excitement to see Lindsey Stirling perform was palpable. I’d only brought my small pocket camera, fearing the predicted rain. This turns out, was a very wise decision as the water flowed down the sloped amphitheater.

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I pushed my way to the side front to snap some better pictures. I found myself down there when one of the dancers through some sort of black cloth towards the audience. I believe it was some sort of clothing prop. Somehow I managed to catch the thing! My victory was short lived as another guy also co-caught it at the same time. I tried to persuade him to let me have it, playing the girl card, but the girl that seemed to be the leader of his small group also decided to paw at it. I realized that they were never going to let it go, so I resigned myself to have a fun story to tell, rather than a physical object. Le sigh.

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It was incredible to see the concert with my best friend R-Belle as she kept fangirling over all of the dancers. I learned that many of them had recently been on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

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Turning the flash off, and snapping quickly to hoping to freeze the motion, I managed to get some fun pictures.

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I hope to get to see her again in concert, and definitely upgrading to the meet and greet VIP package.

 

 

Celebrated the 71st Anniversary of DDay

Another post in the “Favorite Unblogged 2015 Moments” series.

My in laws tend to visit in June when they can, and we found ourselves near the DDay Memorial on the 71st Anniversary! I was excited about a fun opportunity, despite that husband was leery of the crowds. We visited later in the day and enjoyed the special events taking place. We missed the music and speakers, but there were still tents and many other things to explore.

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I think you’ll be able to tell from the pictures that husband actually ended up having the most fun of all of us on that very hot and sunny day. He enjoyed scoping out all of the different artillery.

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Plus, it was a fun chance to test out my new Tamron 24-70 2.8 lens. Apparently, working has its perks, even if it takes me away from fun things like blogging.

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This is BY FAR my favorite picture of the day, my husby, he’s kind of handsome.

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A friend of ours in the National Guard had the opportunity to travel to Normandy France for the 70th anniversary celebration ta-d0. I enjoy his stories of meeting people who lived there through the experience, and he enjoyed his trip so much that he plans to return for the 75th anniversary. This means I’ve got a couple more years to talk husby into it and save up!

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Watched Otters Play at Maymont

This is part of the “favorite moments of 2015 that I never blogged about” series. Once upon a time I started this thing called a career and since then I haven’t quiet figured out balance between work and personal life.

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In January we always find ourselves in Richmond lobbying the capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. With my love for adventure and travel I’ve been able to convince hubby to have us visit a stay a day early in order to explore. This past January we visited Maymont, detailed as “an American estate” I was curious about the animals and gardens on the 100 acre area.

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It was slightly misty, rainy when we arrived, but we enjoyed it anyways!

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There were all kinds of animals to enjoy, though many of them I couldn’t get good pictures of since I hadn’t brought my longer lens, the black bear and bald eagles were further away.

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Inside one of the buildings is a petting zoo, despite that most of the animals weren’t out and about because of the rainyish weather.

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Husby and I walked around in the Nature Center, exploring it like children. It was entertaining to watch him and capture fun moments to digital film.

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Husby was trying to get the fish to follow his face, and I’m pretty sure it did!

My favorite moment at all during the day was watching the otter play. A young boy had brought a soccer ball with him, and rolling it around, discovered that the otter interacted with him, and pawed at the glass to get the ball. It was one of those moments as a photographer that you hope for, I couldn’t get enough pictures of the otter displaying his famed personality :0).

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In that one, you can just see his sad little puppy dog eyes as he couldn’t get to the ball and really play with the little boy.

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Otter paws! The otter would press its paws against the glass, before spinning/turning around, and zooming in the other direction.

I can’t wait to find myself in Richmond again soon so I can explore Maymont some more! In googling the website again they seem to offer animal encounters now, even more specialized animal experiences! I might need to add some of these to my 2016 list!

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Challenged My Mane Style

Hello April!

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This month I’m thinking a light-hearted challenge: 30 days of different hairstyles!

Back in February I went to the hairstylist. In preparing for this hairdo appointment I was brainstorming for AGES trying to figure out what I wanted. My first instinct was the cut it all off, I was tired of it being filled with static and stringy, despite hubby’s love for the long hair.

BUT, I was brushing it in the mirror a few days before the appointment and realized that I like its silky longness, and it really can be beautiful, so I planned to keep it. If I cut it short now, it’d be awhile before it would be long enough to try all of those fun braids that I keep telling myself that I’m going to try…so I decided to get it highlighted instead!

Dimension for the win!

Now is the time for this fun challenge, I need to try to learn all of these crazy braids that I see on Pinterest. As someone interested in Youth Ministry it really is time that I learn how to do a french braid, let alone how pretty are those waterfall braids.

Its going to take determination, patience, and YOU! I figured I needed some accountability to keep up with this, so find my on my instagram with #erinsmaneevent (This pun may or may not have been crafted while listing to my Disney station on Pandora).

Got some good hairstyles you think I should try? Feel free to send them my way!

Reviewed My 2014 Travels

Unlike any other year, because of my brief stint in a full time soul-consuming job, I became behind in my life documentation practices (both scrapbooking and blogging). Also posts were delayed due to taking thousands of pictures with the DSLR in each trip that required sorting and editing.

The main thing that sticks out to me about 2014 were all of my amazing opportunities to travel across the United States! I traveled more this past year than I have in many years, even if I never left the country. And in these travels, it wasn’t just about the places I got to see, or the ways in which I was entertained, I was changed by my experiences in these new locales. Plus, I was able to deepen my relationships with others in the process.

So here is the list and review of all of those wonderful memories that I’m finally posting about (in chronological order):

January: Richmond-Lobby Day, Walked Richmond’s Canals

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February: Florida- Fallen in Love with the Emerald Coast, Fed Penguins at the Gulfarium, Piloted a Ship, Been Snowed-In in Florida

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Arizona- Discovered Desert Beauty, Toured Old Town ScottsdaleVisited My Mom in Arizona

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May: Visited New York City, Toured Chinatown and Little Italy, Seen Daniel Radcliffe on Broadway

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SummerBeen Pickpocked at the Fair

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SeptemberExplored Manteo in OBX

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October: Staycationed at Smith Mountain Lake

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NovemberNature-walked with Family

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December: Celebrated My 27th Birthday, Pet a Penguin at Busch Garden’s Christmas Town, Christmas Towned at Busch Gardens,

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Upstate NY- Christmas’d in Upstate New York in 2014, Toured the Zippo Case Museum

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Here is to traveling with you in 2015 (in a more timely manner of course)!