Adventure Time: Norfolk, VA Edition (Round 4 – LanternAsia 2018)

We got to experience LanternAsia for the second time with Casey and Beth! We went to the Norfolk Botanical Garden on Saturday, April 21st.

If you’re interested in the exhibit, you still have time! LanternAsia will be there until May 13th.

Enjoy the photos!


This beautiful fountain was at the entrance of the exhibit.

The entrance gate.

One of the first displays.

Each arch represented a sign of the Chinese zodiac.

One of the garden’s buildings / exhibition halls.

This stage was set up at the beginning. There were multiple performances every evening.

A contortionist.

Foot juggling.

The “peacock” Chinese folk dance.

Chinese yo-yos.


Then, after the performance, we walked through the garden. The displays were dazzling, and gorgeous!

Al and Beth are fellow Oxen.

I am a Dragon!

Beautiful lanterns. They also turned and moved!

It’s a whale!

Swimming fish.

The stunning display of porcelain bowls, plates, and cups.

The Venus fly trap. Several of them opened and closed!

The giant cabbage.

My phone died about halfway through our walk, so several of these photos are borrowed from either Casey or Beth.


I think this one was my favorite.

The “Love Gallery.”

I love the aerial displays.


The chameleon display changed colors multiple times!


Beautiful butterflies at the end of the exhibit.

This was so much fun!

Thanks to Casey and Beth for coming with us!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth

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Adventure Time: Norfolk, VA Edition (Round 3 – American Red Cross “Celebration of Heroes” Luncheon)

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This was the luncheon program. I think the “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Acts” tagline is so fitting!

I had such a unique and special adventure today!

My dad and our church have been honored several times from the local chapter of the American Red Cross, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia.

Today, my dad, Jim, and two co-coordinators of the church blood drives, Kathy and Michael, were honored and recognized as the American Red Cross Coastal Virginia “Blood Drive Heroes” during the “Celebration of Heroes” luncheon. It was held at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel. It was outstanding!

Shannon Revels, our blood drive Donor Recruiting Account Manager was the one who submitted the nomination. We were also introduced to Marissa Nihill, Executive Director, Coastal Virginia American Red Cross, Norfolk.

The room was full. Kathy and I had the opportunity and honor to sit with heroes Daniel “Dan” Jones and Gilbert “Smitty” Smith. Dan saved a woman from drowning in the James River in Richmond last summer, and Smitty performed the Heimlich maneuver and other lifesaving acts on a family member, thanks to his first-responder training.


Photo montage!

The tables were beautifully decorated!

The welcome slide of the PowerPoint.

Blood Drive Heroes!

The food was amazing!!

Emcee Ashley Smith, from 13 News Now, was outstanding!

Marissa Nihill, Executive Director, delivers closing remarks.

Every hero/heroes had a framed biography / back story outside the ballroom.

This is Dad’s award. Kathy and Michael’s are identical, with their names engraved.


I know I’m a little biased, focusing on Dad, Kathy, and Michael. However, every single person who was honored today has an amazing story. Everyone was so humble and appreciative!

Here’s the full list of heroes:

  • Disaster Response Hero – Keene Black
  • Coastal Chapter Humanitarian Hero – Jennifer Boykin
  • Community Impact Hero – Judy Fundak
  • First Aid Hero – Daniel Jones
  • Services to Armed Forces Hero – Jason Redman
  • Community Impact Hero – Samuel Clyde Smith
  • Emergency Responder Hero – Gilbert “Smitty” Smith
  • Lifesaving Heroes – Shane McCoy & Clifford Johnson
  • Water Rescue Heroes – Desiree Joseph, Sean Logan, Josh Turner
  • Blood Drive Heroes – Jim Stricker, Michael Strickland, Kathy Williamson
  • Corporate Humanitarian Hero – Dollar Tree

Together, these heroes provided significant relief after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, saved people from drowning and choking, served our country bravely through the military, organized countless blood drives, and much more. It was incredible. Kevin Gaydosh, Co-Chair, Board of Directors of the Coastal Chapter, gave several statistics about the chapter’s efforts in 2017. We noted that there were more than 48,329 units of blood donated!! That’s incredible.

It was such a special event. I got emotional several times. Several heroes received standing ovations. It was incredible to witness, and I’m glad that I was able to be a part of it.

It’s fitting this luncheon was held a week before our next blood drive. It’s also our 18th Anniversary blood drive! If you’re in the Hampton Roads area on Saturday, April 7th, we’d love to see you stop by and Give the Gift of Life.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Newport News & Williamsburg, VA Edition (Greyhounds, Colonial Williamsburg, and Romantic Escape Package)

Al and I had a great weekend! We got to meet and greet some greyhounds, and then spent some time at The Williamsburg Winery!

We went to a meet-and-greet with Old Dominion Greyhound Adoption. This was their first meet-and-greet at the Care-A-Lot in Newport News. There were nine greyhounds there, with their owners, along with the Director of the group. Everyone was so nice and friendly! The dogs were incredibly sweet. We went home with an application, and are excited to start this process!


After the greyhound meet-and-greet, we went to Colonial Williamsburg for lunch. The Trellis Bar & Grill is a really nice restaurant, right in the heart of Merchants Square.

We enjoyed a hearty lunch – Al had “The Burger” and I got their tortellini.

I love the unique touches, from their birdcage lanterns, to their cute salt and pepper grinders.. Their water comes in epic bottles!

We weren’t quite full after our entrees, but we decided to spring for dessert and their signature mock-tails. For dessert, I chose their Flourless Chocolate Torte, and Al had their Burnt Sugar ice cream. Al had the “Moscow Pony” mock-tail, and I had their “No-Jito” mock-tail. They were awesome!


After lunch, we ventured 12 minutes away to The Williamsburg Winery. Al won a very generous gift card at his company Christmas party in December, which allowed us this experience!

We chose the Romantic Winter Escape Hotel Package:

  • One Night in a Tradition room, with king-sized bed and wood-burning fireplace*

  • A Tour and Wine Tasting for two at the Williamsburg Winery, including a tour of the barrel cellar and a tasting of seven wines

  • Bottle of Williamsburg Winery wine

  • Artisanal chocolates

  • $100 Dinner Voucher for Café Provençal

  • European-style Continental Breakfast for two including croissants, pastries, fresh fruit and more

We got to the winery around 4:00. We checked in around 4:15, which gave us just enough time to unload the car before the 4:30 tour and tasting.

These are the giant oak barrels where the wine is stored!

Barrels of wine in the cellar.

This is the “reserve cellar,” where a more extensive tour and tasting is held.

The shelves hold different vintages of wine, dating back to the late 1980s.

These are the three concrete eggs that hold the white wines.

Once the barrels are past their prime (Their life span is about 10 years), they are sold to private collectors, or used as trash cans in places like Colonial Williamsburg.

The tour and tasting were fabulous. Our guide, Stephanie, was incredibly knowledgeable and awesome! We tasted several different wines. It was really nice and relaxing!

The view from our hotel window. That’s the winery in the distance.

Our room at Wedmore Place was the “Brittany.” I felt like we were in Europe! The bed was incredibly comfortable. I wanted to take the mattress home!

I got to wear my new LuLaRoe Maxi!

Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes.

Filet Mignon.

Poached Apple Tart.

Pumpkin Cheesecake.

We had an amazing dinner at Cafe Provençal, which was located in the lower level of the hotel. Everything was divine! Al got the Caramelized Onion Soup (no photo), and the Filet Mignon. I had their delicious Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes, along with a glass of their A Midsummer Night’s White.

For dessert, Al got the Pumpkin Cheesecake, and I had the Poached Apple Tart.

There were exquisite pieces of furniture, like this, throughout!

The courtyard.

Our complimentary bottle of merlot, wine glasses, and artisanal chocolates!

Part of the package was a bottle of wine of our choice, wine glasses, and artisanal chocolates! We took it home. With our complimentary tour glasses, we have four new wine glasses at home!

On Sunday morning, we ate breakfast at the cafe. It was a lavish feast, with fresh fruit, strong coffee, assorted croissants, and quiche! We took our time, and checked out about an hour later. We went back to reality quickly – Getting gas, grocery shopping, getting ready for the new work week.

It was a much-needed mini-getaway. A piece of Europe is only 45 minutes away!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Scottsburg, VA Edition (Round 6 – The Bengdaro Wedding!)

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This was the bottom of their Polaroid photo-esque hanging photo booth!

This was the weekend we’d all been waiting for. For nearly two years, we eagerly cheered on Nick and Savy as they planned the wedding of their dreams!

Come along with me as I take you on this grand adventure!


Friday, October 13th

Al and I got up at 4:15 a.m., our normal weekday wake-up call. However, we quickly drank some coffee, and made sure we had everything important in my car. We left our driveway at 5:00 a.m. sharp!

Aside from one hasty bathroom break for me, we made it to the Beautiful Morning Farm (a.k.a., the Vardaro Farm) around 8:30 a.m. Al kept me awake with stories, water, and jelly beans!

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I think Savy took this on Thursday? I can’t remember. Regardless, this is our favorite niece, Mia. She was gathering greenery for the centerpieces. She turned 12 on Monday! Photo Credit: Savy Beng Vardaro


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This was the choose-your-own-adventure sign at the welcome table!


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Hand-painted by Savy! Isn’t she talented?


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The full photo booth, with the pond in the background.


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The pole barn, where the reception took place. The bounce house was awesome!


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Savy painted these epic cornhole boards for Mom and Dad V. several Christmases ago!


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Setting up the ceremony space!


Saturday, October 14th

I was impressed that I got eight hours of sleep. The farm was buzzing very early on Saturday morning – Savy’s family got up early for coffee and breakfast! Al’s mom was the perfect hostess and had plenty of coffee, plus egg casserole, donuts, and cereal on hand.

Around 10:00 a.m., everything got started. I was lucky enough to get my makeup done by an amazing make-up artist (MUA).

We had spouts of busy and crazy, but it was fairly relaxed, since the festivities didn’t truly start until 4:30 p.m.

Al took this awesome photo of Mia!


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This was Savy’s GORGEOUS bouquet. She designed it! So unique, so Savy.

Nick and Savy did a “First Look,” and Amanda had a field day with the two of them. So many amazing shots.

Then, the Red Army started off the wedding with a bang! The color red symbolizes good luck, and everyone made a ton of noise to scare off the bad juju and usher in celebration for the bride and groom. We had drummers. We shouted. We hollered. Flags were waved. There were bubble guns. Al flew his quadcopter above us!

 

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The Red Army processional! Photo Credit: Dan Harris.

The ceremony was beautiful and touching. The officiant, Christina, quoted The Princess Bride. Nick and Savy never stopped smiling. Nick wrote a special set of vows to Mia, and he gave her a beautiful necklace. I loved how they included her in the ceremony!

After the kiss and final music, the party began! We took family photos, and then Amanda whisked Nick and Savy away for more photos. The farm was the perfect setting – I can’t wait to see the official photos!

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I don’t know who took this particular photo, but it was requested that Nick and Savy, Al and I, and Crystal and Steven got photos together. Amanda was the photographer at all three weddings!


The handsome groom, Nick, and the stunningly beautiful bride, Savy!

 

My dad took this awesome photo of Al and I. It’s my new favorite.


We ate off of cafeteria trays, and head lamps were our favors. “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”


The gorgeous centerpieces. Everything was either handmade or found.


My parents!


Mia is showing the beautiful sea turtle necklace that Nick gave to her during the ceremony. All of us ugly cried.


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Photo Credit: Dan Harris.


Cornhole!


The paper cranes were beautiful!


The bounce house, with slides!


The cake table.


The cards collection was an old guitar case!


The memory table.


Two of the amazing bellydancers, Ginger and Rachel!

There was SO MUCH FOOD. The estimate was roughly three pounds of meat per person – Basically 300 pounds in all!

During the reception, we had lively music, three incredible bellydancers, Paolo the juggler and fire performer, and more food! Nick and Savy danced to “Fools Rush In,” and Nick and his mom danced to “Simple Man.”

Uncle Dan captured this incredible shot of Paolo!! Photo Credit: Dan Harris.

And then, we danced!


Sunday, October 15th

After an amazing Saturday, we wound down the weekend on Sunday. Breakfast was simple, and Al and I hung around until 2:30 p.m. We took home tons of leftovers – Pot roast, pork butt, and BBQ chicken! I won’t have to cook at all this week – Thanks, Chuck and Angie!

Al and I got home safely around 6:00 p.m., and vegged out!

Everyone came together to make this weekend absolutely spectacular for Nick and Savy. For me, personally, I gained a sister and a niece, so I’m beside myself with happiness.

Al and I were thrilled to be a small part of it!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Roanoke, VA Edition (“Mimosas in the Mountains” – Savy’s Bachelorette Weekend!)

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This was one of our gifts! Savy got them on Etsy!

I was waiting for this past weekend for what felt like FOREVER!

This weekend was definitely full of many “firsts” for me:

  • First time visiting the Roanoke area in several years.
  • First time ever staying in an Airbnb.
  • First time going on a significant hike.
  • First time ever getting an Uber.
  • First time, since college, going out and dancing.

There were six of us sharing the Airbnb – Savy, Crystal, Vong, Anna, Brittany, and myself. We all got along great, and had a fabulous weekend!


Friday

Anna and I both were able to take the day off from work. Since I offered to make breakfast for everyone on Saturday morning, I went to Aldi and got all the fixings for French toast and bacon, plus OJ, milk, and coffee. I took my time, since I was picking up Anna at her house in Virginia Beach at 11:00 a.m. My parents offered to let me borrow one of their coolers, plus ice packs and frozen water bottles, so I stopped by their house for about 45 minutes and caught up with my mom.

I got to Virginia Beach early enough to figure out where Anna lived, then topped off my gas tank at BJ’s in Norfolk. I got back to Anna’s around 10:45. We got her stuff in the car, and then headed out!

Traffic was blissfully light – It was just a long-haul drive. We stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s just outside of Richmond. This restaurant had the traditional line, but also two new ordering kiosks. That was certainly interesting.

We got back on the road, and made it all the way to the Waynesboro area before I stopped at a Wendy’s for the bathroom, and the biggest root beer they offered. We still had about two hours left at that point!

All told, it took about five hours to reach the Airbnb in Roanoke, and we got there around 4:45 p.m. Anna and I explored the house, claimed our bedrooms, and then unloaded the car. We hung out for a while. Savy, Crystal, and Vong rode together, and arrived around 6:15 p.m.

I didn’t take a lot of photos of the Airbnb, but it was a really nice house. In addition to the six beds (Three on the second floor, and the other three in the finished basement), there was a spacious living room, sweet kitchen, and an awesome deck right off the first floor!

Once Savy, Crystal, and Vong arrived and got settled, we headed out to find dinner. The good news was we were just a few minutes from downtown Roanoke, and we had a TON of food options. Savy recommended eating as much starch and protein as we could, in preparation for the hike.

We ended up at a really cool place called Bushi. They offer sushi burritos and poke bowls. They’ve only been open for three months, but it was a nice set-up. The vegetables were incredibly fresh (The head chef / manager was slicing avocados while we were there), and the staff made everything in front of you, to your liking. I got the “Don’t Tuna Around” sushi burrito – I loved it! The only wrinkle was it fell apart really quickly, and it was pretty messy, but it didn’t matter. I ate every bite.

After dinner, we drove to the local Kroger. Vong got all the stuff for sandwiches for the hike, plus fresh apples, trail mix, a case of water, and a few other things. Savy wanted to pay for some of it, and we said absolutely not! Between Crystal, Vong, and I, we made it work.

For the rest of Friday night, we just enjoyed the amazing cool air on the deck with the patio furniture, sharing stories, popcorn, Cheez-Its, and iced animal crackers. I stayed up until 11:00 p.m. or so, but I knew I needed to get up around 5:30 a.m. to start breakfast!


Saturday

I’m glad I got up around 5:30 a.m., because I needed the prep time for breakfast! I made the French toast first, and then started on the bacon. I saved the scrambled eggs for last. I used 11 eggs total!

Vong was the first one up, and we waited for everyone else to get up to eat. It took some brain power to figure out the Ninja coffee maker, but it worked like a charm.

We ate together at the dining room table and drank mimosa with our mugs, along with coffee. After breakfast, everyone scattered to take showers and get dressed. We also slathered ourselves in sunscreen and heavy-duty bug spray.

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Scrambled eggs, bacon, and French toast with syrup.

I drove Vong and Brittany in my car, and then Savy took Crystal and Anna in hers. It was about a 20-minute drive to McAfee Knob. It’s part of the Appalachian Trail!

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The parking lot was already pretty full when we arrived, which was around 9:15 a.m. We set off to start at 9:20 a.m. There were several people coming DOWN the trail as we started!

This hike was HARD. I’m talking steep elevation, billions of rocks and boulders, thinning air, and navigating tree roots. But, it was completely worth it. I was definitely the slowest of the group, but we took several breaks for water and KIND bars to keep our energy up.

There were gigantic boulders throughout the hike!

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This was one of the places where we stopped for a break. The clearing was full of thousands of plants and wildflowers!

This was a series of photos from the top. It was absolutely breathtaking. I almost cried! It felt like a huge accomplishment. It took us 3 1/2 hours to get to the top, but it was absolutely worth it. We spent about 45 minutes at the top, where we ate lunch, people-watched, dog-watched (So many dogs!), and taking photos. According to my FitBit, it was 11,000 steps!!

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Obligatory group photo, or it didn’t happen! L to R: Brittany, Laura Beth, Savy, Anna, Vong, and Crystal.

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Most everyone had their photo taken like this. I was a little nervous, but it was awesome!

In total, it was basically a six-hour hike, round trip. I counted 22,000 steps total!

After the hike, we headed back to the Airbnb. I’m so glad Savy took me through a series of stretches, because otherwise, I definitely would not be walking so easily today! Everything from the waist down hurts, but it’s an awesome feeling.

We took showers and vegged out for several hours on Saturday. Savy and Vong made a freaking fantastic spaghetti dinner, with three pounds of meat in the sauce, plus garlic bread, and salad. I don’t know what Vong did, but she added orange juice to the leftover honey mustard for salad dressing, and it was amazing!!

After dinner, most of us took power naps, since we were going out dancing later. We had a blast!

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This was the selfie that I sent to Al before going out!


Sunday

We were able to extend the Airbnb check-out time to 12:00 p.m., which was great, since many slept in, Brittany made an amazing bread pudding for breakfast, and we had to clean up!

Brittany’s bread pudding consisted of day-old croissants, ham, cheese, eggs, green peppers, onions, and probably a few other ingredients. It was SO GOOD!

After checking out, we headed toward Charlottesville to visit the Michael Shaps Wineworks. It was on the way home, and highly recommended.

We visited the Tasting Room, and dined on amazing Brie cheese and toasted bread. Michael Shaps offers various French and Virginia wines, and it’s a family-owned business. It was really cool learning about the history of the winery, and how they grow their grapes in France, as well as Virginia. Anna got a bottle, and I bought Savy a bottle of her favorite red for the wedding!

After the tasting, we headed toward home. It was a long drive, but it was a great end to a fabulous weekend. Anna was so sweet and paid for my gas on the way home, and I dropped her off around 6:30 p.m. My car got basically 40 miles to the gallon between Friday and Sunday!!

I got home just after 7:00 p.m. Al helped me unload the car. We started a load of laundry, and then we compared notes about our weekends. Al celebrated Nick’s bachelor weekend in Virginia Beach and Richmond. Everyone was thoroughly entertained, to say the least. By 8:30 p.m., we headed to bed!


Savy – I had an AMAZING weekend. Thank you so much for including me in the festivities! I had so much fun.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Newport News, VA Edition (Virginia Living Museum & Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks)

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Image Credit: QuotesGram

With every “dating anniversary,” Al and I try to do something fun and different.

This year, since our anniversary fell on Labor Day, we decided to head up to Newport News!

For lunch, we ate at Harpoon Larry’s Fish House & Oyster Bar. I had eaten there a few times with my work department, but it was Al’s first time. I figured, since Al loves seafood, it would be a good place. It was delicious! I had their Mediterranean-style pasta with shrimp and scallops, and Al had their fried shrimp. We also split their crab dip. Yummy!!


After lunch, we headed to our destination: The Virginia Living Museum.

We were mainly going for their Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks exhibit, but neither of us had been to the museum since we were in elementary school. We had so much fun!

In addition to traveling exhibits and displays, the museum has permanent indoor galleries, the Boardwalk Trail, Dinosaur Discovery Trail, Living Green/Gardens, and more. They also have the Abbitt Observatory and Abbitt Planetarium. The museum’s main goal to educate visitors about Virginia life and conservation. It celebrated it’s 50th anniversary in 2015!


Can you tell that I really like turtles?

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The Aviary was so cool!

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I love all the animals!

The beautiful scenery makes me feel like I’m in the woods or at the lake, far away from sirens and cars!

The flowers are gorgeous!


Now, on to the LEGO sculptures!!

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This bonsai tree was the only indoor sculpture. What a great way to start!

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Beautiful deer family.

Amazing spider!

Grandfather and Grandchild working in the garden, with red wheelbarrow.

Better photo of the red wheelbarrow.

Cardinals and squirrel in birdbath.

Bumblebee visiting a pansy.

Galapagos tortoise!

I think this one was my favorite!

This is a depiction of a rare pink dragonfly.

Stunning peacock. Did you know – The male bird is called the peacock, but the female bird is called the peahen?

Which sculpture is your favorite?


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We loved visiting the museum! We can’t wait to come back when we have kids!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Outer Banks, NC Edition (First Wedding Anniversary Getaway!)

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Our original plan was getting away to the mountains of Virginia for our first wedding anniversary.

However, with a mid-November wedding, we didn’t realize how expensive the accommodations were at this time of year!

So, we switched to Plan B: The beach!


The Outer Banks of North Carolina are basically a 90-minute drive from our house. We’ve been through Corolla, Nags Head, and Bodie Island on previous trips.

Al hadn’t been farther south than that.

We decided on Hatteras.

It was a three-hour car ride, but it was well worth it.

We found a really nice place, the Cape Hatteras Motel, in Buxton. It’s right on the beach. It was literally half the cost of any place in the mountains, mainly because it was the off-season.


One of our first stops was the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse! It was just a few miles from the motel.

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The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. We couldn’t climb it – Their season runs through Columbus Day – but we could walk around and enjoy the park.

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I love these wooden signs.

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I love how it’s in the shape of an arrowhead.

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I think this was my favorite photo of the whole trip!


The next day, we drove down to Hatteras Island and explored the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. It explores the rich history of the area – Fishing, diving, shipwrecks, the USS Monitor, and its role in the Civil War and other events.

The museum is right next to the Hatteras ferry terminal, so we decided to take the ferry across the sound to Ocracoke Island on Sunday.

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We passed this ferry on the way to Ocracoke.

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I love how all the wooden signs are different.

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It’s one of the smaller lighthouses, and no one can climb it. But, it’s still a beautiful sight.

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Ocracoke is a charming island. We ate lunch at the Ocracoke Oyster Company, and had delicious seafood. The next time we travel down, we’d like to check out some more of the islands and lighthouses.

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The view from our hotel balcony during sunset and the full moon.

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This was taken the night of the supermoon. It was huge as it was rising, but this was the best I could do with my camera.

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This was such a relaxing vacation!


We tried several local restaurants during our trip, and everything was delicious!


Al is also creating a video about our trip! I’ll post it as soon as it’s finished.

We had a great time on our first vacation since our honeymoon.

Next year: We’re thinking about the Grand Canyon!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂