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Emelia has been painting up a storm and her new favorite subject matter is the two of us.





You might think this was a pair of snazzy ducks but in fact it is me and Emelia under a blue sky and fluffy white clouds dancing on a field of tulips.

The only part she's not quite happy with is that her hair isn't the right color.  Mine is right, she says, since I dye it...but she didn't have the right shade of brown to get her's quite right.


The next one is a little worn and wrinkle as it's aged over the last 6-7 years hanging on our refrigerator.



A gift one Mother's Day from Max.  I'm a little more proportionally sized but still came out with a  Gru like nose and wearing a full body suit at the beach, 

They might see a duck or a large nosed giant when they look at me but they also both always add  smiles and open arms when they paint me and at the end of the day (which it is..the very end of the day) that is all that I could hope for.

I wonder if I could paint myself with as much joy?  

Today I am 39 years, 3 months, 2  weeks and 2 days old.

Back 3 months, 2 weeks and 2 days ago the day I turned 39 I promised myself 2016 was going to be different

The Year of Julie if you will...





So far, things aren't going too bad.   I have a new job and we have a new house and most days I feel like this:





.
After a few years of feeling unsettled, these grounding changes are so welcome.  But....

But, personally, feeling more settled has only made me want more.  More joy, more creativity, more me!

So, in a way that is totally unlike me, I am not going to make any sweeping declarations, goal lists or unattainable plans to rehaul my life.  I love my life, imperfections and all.

I'm just going to start with one thing.  Write everyday.  I love my brain when I write.  I love solving  the problems and being surprised at where my mind takes me.  For me writing brings me closer to myself and doing this one thing enriches my life so much.

Write everyday for one week.    

No pressure, no expected outcomes and no wrong way to do this...just write.

I encourage everyone to pick one thing this next week that brings them closer to themselves. Make sure you are avoiding those things that you think you SHOULD  be doing.  No workout plans or diets (unless of course working out is your jam!) This challenge is all about a week of connecting back to that one thing that you have gotten out of practice of...that one thing that makes you, you!

Good luck!      


Allow me to reintroduce myself-



Julie, owner/writer of this blog who just happens to be refreshed and back from a wonderful summer vacation that was spent enjoying my kids and the beautiful seacoast of New Hampshire.  People and places of which I have a newfound appreciation.

I will flat out state that I didn't do much work this summer (writing, house or otherwise) and despite my lack of productivity I will let you know that I don't feel one bit of guilt.  

Cozy up, while I explain myself.

Last summer we set off to Maine to try and open a restaurant.  As you can read about here, here and here- it didn't go so well.  

Even though this business didn't succeed, my husband and I put 100% of ourselves into the venture.  So much so, that our children (who were still lovingly cared for by us two crazy overworked people along with major help from our families)  missed out on almost every summer thing they had been accustomed to doing.

 "Look at the big picture," we would say to the kids when they asked why we couldn't go to the lake or the beach that day and then again to each other as parental guilt threatened to eat the both of us alive. The stress of balancing a business start up and family was overwhelming and despite trying to convince ourselves that we could do it all, family fun was entirely absent from (almost) the whole summer.

"Look at the BIG PICTURE" may have been the battle cry of last summer but in reality the picture was grey, fuzzy and void of happiness.    

Though we will be dealing with the aftereffects of last summer for quite a while it turns out our failed venture will only be a side note in my family's big picture. 

But these guys...


 
these guys are the stars. 

So this summer we went to the beach

























We roller coasted, swung and bumper boated.

























went to the zoo, sight saw and festivaled (yeah, that's right... festivaled)
























and cheered our way through this summer.
























Despite things not working out as we originally wanted, I feel at peace as our summer has officially ended because this Big Picture is one I'm going to want to look at for years to come. 








 





 
 



 
 








Staying close to home again as I warm my children up to the idea of a few hours in the woods.  The Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a natural oasis with civilization that surrounds all its sides but when you are in the middle it is easy to forget how close you are to everything.

 
 
 
Because the UFC is so close to our house, this was an impromptu hike because my son and his friends were bored and had nothing fun to do.  (I'm not sure they're going to say that again around me!) 
 
Though because it was a late afternoon idea I broke my number one rule when hiking with any little ones but especially mine.  Do it early in the day, when they have energy!!   Emelia was less than enthusiastic and had to be carried about half way through.    Max and his friends on the other hand did great and enjoyed being able to go a little bit ahead of us on a trail Max knows very well. 


 
 
Emelia on the other hand tried to make the hike go as slow as possible by hiking backwards.   

 
She stayed behind almost the whole way until her whines could be heard at Market Basket and subsequently rode piggy back the rest of the way.  


This is not a long hike but there are bridges, crumbling foundations, ponds and waterways that give you landmarks to get your kids excited about. 



 
A beautiful spot to take a break for snacks about halfway through
 
 
I did not take enough pictures because I was trying so hard to get Emelia to walk on her own but it really is a lovely 2 mile (roundtrip) hike.  

Difficulty: Easy  There are several hills as well as the a slightly rocky descent once you reach the water that could be difficult for disabled hikers.  The majority of the paths are wide and well maintained. 

Cost: Free


Urban Forestry Center

Hours of Operation:Office - 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday - Friday
Trails - 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM Every day

Address:  45 Elwyn Road, Portsmouth, N.H. 03801-5701
Telephone: (603) 431-6774

Hours of Operation:Office - 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday - Friday
Trails - 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM every day

http://www.nhdfl.org/land-conservation/urban-forestry-center/trails.aspx
(Warning:  Images and words used throughout this piece are graphic and may not be to everyone's liking though they are currently out in the open for everyone's viewing at spots in and around Portsmouth, NH)


I have been trying to gather my thoughts on graffiti over the last few weeks and even tried to explain them to my husband last night. He thinks I'm crazy.  The fact of the matter is I'm torn when it comes to the subject of graffiti.  

The first part of my dilemma is I am not opposed to graffiti everywhere.   Even though I know it's illegal I find something beautiful and illuminating about brightly colored swatches covering abandoned walls or dreary overpasses.  I know, I should hate it all.  But I don't.




This is one of the bunkers in Odiorne Point.  Sure there is stuff like "Hail Satan" and a lovely reference to a "bag of dad dicks" but for the most part the mishmash of sayings and pictures melts into the cacophony of color.  Nothing here is amazing but the combination of the pieces of many people's thoughts is beautiful to me.  Even if the majority of it is juvenile.  

I don't know if it's the fact I grew up in the 80's, my love of the Breakin' movies or my appreciation of art in all forms but I feel like spaces such as these are open canvases.  You can tell they get painted over occasionally but as long as I've been coming here the spray paint always comes back. 

Then there are the amazing street artists who use of spray paint is considered genius.

The following pictures are from:
Photographer Mike Buchholz's website captures some great Portsmouth, NH pieces.












 (Please visit here for more great photography)

Everyone has an opinion and many of you won't agree with me on this subject.  Even some of the pieces above caused trouble between the citizens of Portsmouth when they emerged with permission from the building owners through Portsmouth Museum of Art's exhibit in 2011.  Art is subjective and throughout history has caused a wide range of feelings in people. 

After much thought these are my rules (flimsy as they may be) for any aspiring Suburban Graffiti Artist out there:

1.  Pick Your Places Carefully-Anything Natural Is Off Limits!:  (Just a reminder...all places are illegal)   If you have a can of spray paint burning a hole in your pocket as you're walking through the forest or along the beach resist the urge to take it out (unless it is actually on fire and subsequently burning a hole in your pocket then by all means)



























2. Spell Check/ Commit to the Dialect:
Seriously, I can't stress this one enough.  Do some rough drafts.  Get a friend to spell check...something so I don't have to look at these as I'm pausing to look at the view.  Also, if you are going more for a dialect then proper grammar thing then commit fully.  Yes I'm looking at you: "Dem the Bomb". 




 
 
3. Have Something To Say:
 
   Seriously, guys come on.  You are our disenfranchised youth, I'm sure you can come up with something better than:
 
 
 
Even standing over this one, I'm not sure what it says: "Fuck Humanwich" is the closest I got.

 
For the record both could be something important and I am just too old to get it and in that case rock on (except you broke rule #1 so in my book it still sucks.) 
 
 
 
 

5. Be Able To Draw: Finally, and most important, if you have failed every art class you have ever taken then please do us all a big favor and put the cap back on.  If you don't have a notebook where you are working this shit out before you start defacing property then you are going to end up with things like this.  Which, by the way, my children need to climb over while they are looking for sea glass:



(This last one gets a slight shoulder shrug as at least they are trying for something, it didn't work. Still a big fail but I feel like an attempt at creativity was made) 
 
 I could keep going: don't deface playgrounds, cemeteries, religious centers, historical sites but then I end up confusing myself because the bunkers at Odiorne are definitely historical and I could be open to some tasteful playground art work.   Do you see my dilemma?  I am a walking contradiction.
 
 In the end what it comes down to is amazing work beats all.  Rule #5 can always change my mind.  If you have the ability to share something brilliant I will most likely be amazed no mater where or what you stick.  Though, remember, one person's amazing could be another person's horrifying. 
 
For the record, to break Rule #1 this piece of artwork would have to be spectacular.  Nothing I've ever seen has made me come close to changing my mind on that one.   Come on guys!!  Nature is beautiful enough.   
 
What are your thoughts?  Where do your graffiti lines fall?
 

No one likes to take small steps.  We want to take big, giant, effortless leaps to our next big adventure. 

I fall into this frame of thinking a lot. 

I want to lose (a lot of) weight.
I want to publish a book.
I want to travel the world.
I want to hike the (48) 4,000 peak mountains of New Hampshire.
I want to hike the Appalachian Trail.

These giant ideas occupy a lot of my mind and sometimes make it hard to get the mundane things in my life completed.  Who would want to stop thinking about those wonderful thoughts to go wash the dishes.  Not me, as my currently full counter of last night's dishes can tell you.  It has not escaped me that these grandiose ideas come to me when I am struggling with arduous, non exciting tasks.

I can rationalize this obsessive daydreaming to myself in a way that would never hold up to explaining my feelings out loud to an outside observer.   I know they are a distraction.  I know I am escaping.

It's easier to imagine these giant feats than try to chip away at the crap no one wants to do.  Taxes, laundry, that never ending pile of frickin' dishes.  Lately it seems the older I get even the small steps take more effort than it feels like I am capable of sometimes.  

But it's not and I can.

(Though sometimes my effort feels more like this... my daughter who decided that she would rather hike backwards)



 I've been lost for the last few days in a daydream.  Fueling this daydream have been two really interesting and informative blogs on thru hiking the Appalachian Trail

Walking With Wired

and

The Kallin Family

Both are two amazing accounts of what it's like to hike the Appalachian Trail and even overlap their hikes with each other which is a cool thing to discover as you're reading both. 

As I go through each of these account I realize that these amazing adventures weren't done in one day.   The 2,185 mile journey wasn't done in one week.  It was done one step at a time.  20 miles (give or take) a day.  Week after week.  Month after month.   

I wrote a book a year and a half ago.  At a 103,000 words it is mostly done (It can always be improved) and after a year of editing I am going through the tortuously slow process of trying to get it published.  But I didn't start out with over 100,000 words.  I started with an idea and one word at a time I chipped away at trying to get this idea on paper.   My first draft I logged about a thousand words a day and  after a year of editing I have slowly been able to see a completed story. 

It's a good reminder for me that the small things add up.  The walks I take.  The desserts I don't eat.  The few words I manage to write a day all add up to hopefully turning my daydreams into reality. 

But in the meantime, reading about the hard work and preparations both of those groups needed to complete such an extreme endeavor I also am reminded that I can't let the mundane crap build up while I am chipping away at my dream.  Those tasks are the foundation of any big dream. 

With that thought in mind, excuse me while I go wash my dishes. 


 

With an eleven year old and a four year old, hiking is not always easy.  The eleven year old would rather be doing just about anything else and the four year old is an unpredictable as New Hampshire weather.  

When Emelia was still small enough to fit in the backpack and Max was still young enough to want to hang out with us, we would take small hikes more often. 

The past two years it has been pretty non existent for us and this summer getting back on the trails is a habit I'd like to pick up.  So if you see a crazed woman dragging her children through the forests of New Hampshire say hi...it's probably me. 

In the spirit of baby steps and not biting off more than I can chew our first hike was just down the road, but it ended up being the perfect blend for my two kids.

  (This was in April, as you can see the leaves have yet to pop out.)





They are doing an extensive invasive species removal throughout the park so there are portions of the hike that look like a tornado came through but even in this early month walking though portions of this work in progress were peaceful and beautiful. 

 


When we started Max was the one complaining.  He was bored.  He didn't want to hike.  We've done this a thousand times...you get the idea. 


 

Then we veered right on a path that we had always gone left on because we had always been doing hikes for very little legs.  We were rewarded by our choice with an enormous bunker filled with inappropriate spray painted slurs of one kind or another.  Pretty cool for these two.

 
We made it to Frost's Point and had a few moments of tranquility as well as a completely private beach completely to ourselves.

 
With Cool Rocks.
 
 



After the walk everyone's mood lightened.  It's amazing what an hour in the woods can do.   It took a little motivation to get Emelia excited at the end but for the most part she's pretty easy to distract.

I highly suggest this park for anyone who is looking for a hike that delights with lots of different sights.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: As much or as little as you want.  It took us an hour with some really sidetracked    rambling.
Cost: To park your car its $4 for adults; $2 for kids 6-11 Children under 5 and NH residents over 65 are free.  Season passes are available


 (If you are interested in doubling the hike with a visit to the Seacoast Science Center you will pay an additional fee to enter the Center.)

   


Odiorne Point State Park

570 Ocean Blvd
Rye, NH 03870
Odiorne: 603-227-8722
603-227-8717 (Events/Group Use)
Seacoast Science Center: 603-436-8043

http://www.nhstateparks.org/explore/stateparks/odiorne-point-state-park.aspx



Here is the path we took in yellow.  It was about two miles, give or take a few steps.   If you have extra time go play on the playground or explore the rocks past the playground.  We have always had the best luck finding sea glass there.  Also if you are lucky you might find some rock sculptures like these.