Serenity Sometimes

Embracing the chaos one day at a time. A blog about my adventures in food, photography, fitness and fun.


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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

Weekly Photo Challenge

Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

This airport is known for its notoriously short runway. The planes land and take off, separated from the ocean by just a narrow stretch of beach.

Plane landing at SWX

The big thrill comes when the jumbo jets take off and land. I captured a tiny plane above, but imagine an Airbus about 100 feet above your head and you start to get the idea. Crazy (I mean adventure seeking) tourists stand at the fence just before the massive planes take off. When their jet engines start up, the noise is unbelievable and the thrust they generate literally knocks people off their feet. People hang on to the fence and try not to get blown into the sea. Good times.

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The Open Road

Some Amish folks on their way home from church

One evening last year on a whim, in which there may or may not have been alcohol involved, my brother-in-law purchased a Groupon for his wife, my husband and myself to go on a scooter tour of Lancaster County covered bridges. We were originally scheduled to take the tour last fall, but it happened to be during hurricane Sandy. Needless to say it was cancelled, and this Sunday my husband, brother and sister-in-law and I finally cashed it in.

I seriously want a scooter now – How cute is this?

We had a surprisingly awesome time and the scooters were so much fun to drive. I totally want one now. I also had fun giving the signature “biker wave” to all the legit Harley people that passed us as we cruised the back country roads. I’m sure they were so jealous of how cool we looked.

Biker wave re-enactment

Biker wave re-enactment

The scenery was beautiful and it was a perfect, sunny day. We covered about 40 miles throughout the area and stopped at 3 of the only remaining covered bridges of Lancaster County.

Does this horse look pregnant or is it just me?

About half way through the tour, one of the guys in our group got a flat tire and I had to hop on the back of Brad’s scooter, since he had one of the only ones that rode two people. I was pretty bummed, but it ended up being hilarious. We had to go up this huge hill at literally 6 mph top speed. It was just like that scene from Dumb and Dumber. I think a horse and buggy passed us.

All in all it was a pretty great day. I will leave you with a few more pictures. Enjoy!


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Ridin’ Dirty

Nice view from one of the bike trails at Blue Marsh

Yesterday after work I came home with plans to go for a quick 45 minute run on my treadmill in the air conditioned comfort of my house. We are finally starting to get up in to what I consider to be summer temperatures – 90 degrees, humidity, etc. I am admittedly a total wuss when it comes to exercising in hot temperatures. I just hate it. I’m pretty sure my body doesn’t cool itself properly (i.e. sweat enough). Also, I should mention that nothing that my husband does is moderate. If we go for a run, he is running 2 miles ahead of me at 8 mph while I huff and puff trying and failing to keep up with him. Therefore, a bike ride is not just a lazy roll through the neighborhood, but a mountain trek through dense underbrush, over roots and rocks, up treacherous hills and down dangerously sloping trails. But, I’m always up for a challenge. And for the record, just because I’m up for it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to whine incessantly about it while it’s happening. So there.

Bike Ride

So off we went into the wilderness. It was a great workout and I do love the feeling of riding through the forest, underneath the tall trees. Even though I had to stop and walk my bike up at least a dozen hills, Brad still tells me I did a great job. I didn’t fall once, although I would probably ride off the edge of a cliff with a death grip on my bike rather than falling off it, I am that scared to fall. I have some bruises and scrapes on my legs and I found a tick on me after our ride (EEK!) but other than that I am still in one piece.

Note to self: next time bring bug spray and cover myself in bubble wrap.


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Testing My Limits

Photo courtesy of Tim Harrison, Simply Scuba

As dusk settles, we walk through the chilly air and ease ourselves down into the murky water. Our first mission is to descend down a line to a platform at 25 feet before moving on to our first stop, a school bus submerged at about 35 feet below the surface. As soon as I put my regulator in my mouth and my mask drops below the waterline, I know I am going to be in for a challenging dive. If I hold out my hand all the way in front of my face, I would be hard pressed to see it, that’s how bad the visibility is. As I grab hold of the line that would lead us down the gently sloping bottom of the lake to the platform, I fumble with my dive light and try to avoid banging into the bottom, kicking up even more silt, as if it were possible to make the visibility any worse than it already is. The whole time my eyes are glued to my dive instructor just a couple feet ahead of me, I know if I let him out of my sight I might not find him again. My husband brings up the rear.

As our dive instructor (Brent) and I finally arrive to the platform, it already feels like the longest dive of my life and I’m only 2 minutes in. Just relax, I tell myself, as I kneel at the platform, check  my depth, and get my bearings. I give Brent the OK signal and turn around to my husband. Except one thing, he’s not there. He hasn’t come down the line. We both look up the line and shine our lights, but with practically no visibility the lights don’t do much good.  They reflect off the silt much like using your high beams in dense fog. I look for some movement in the line… nothing. Brent looks at me and motions to go back up the line to see if we can find him. So I let him take the lead as we work our way back up. We get back to the surface and no sign of him. We try to look for bubbles but it’s hard to see in the waning light of nightfall. Again, I breathe and tell myself to relax. My husband Brad knows what to do, he knows to come to the surface if we get separated. So we wait for what feels like an eternity. I’m just about to start freaking out when his head breaks the surface about 30 feet from us. What a way to start a dive.

After making some brief nervous jokes about finally being able to cash in on my husband’s life insurance policy, we make some quick changes in the dive plan, and descend one more time. This time we go down a vertical line directly to the bus, which ends up being much easier. Brent takes a wreck reel, which is basically a line on a spindle that gets attached to the wreck throughout various points. You follow this line to get through the wreck without getting lost. In most cases it’s just a formality to use this, since you can see the whole way through the wreck. In the case of this particular dive, it was literally a lifesaver. Brent takes off through the bus and we follow, not pleasant, but not terrible. The space is wide open enough inside the gutted out bus to allow for a little wiggle room and some visibility. And it’s pretty much a straight shot to get out through what used to be the emergency exit.

Visibility was even worse than this!

Visibility was even worse than this!

We follow a few more lines and check out one other little boat on our way to our main objective for the dive: A sunken 72 foot wooden sailboat named “The Quest”. I don’t even see the schooner  until she almost hits me in the face, but nonetheless, we are going to have to go through her. Brent motions for us to stay put while he runs the wreck reel through. He quickly disappears into a 4×4′ hole in the bow, and we wait for what seems like an eternity. The entire time I am just freaking myself out more and more and have pretty much decided there is no way on God’s green Earth that I am going down into that hole. I try to peer down in side and I can see nothing but cloudy blackness. I’m looking at my husband and shaking my head “no” but he’s ignoring me. Apparently he’s dealing with his own issues. My breathing is becoming heavier and I can feel a slight wave of panic starting to wash it’s way over me. But there is absolutely no way I can let that happen. I tell my brain to shut up. Brent comes back around and gives me the signal to go down into the wreck. Here goes nothing!

I grip the line of the wreck reel, position my fins over the hole, and slowly drop down into the abyss. I see literally nothing but a cloud of silt. I hold my light just inches from the line that runs along the ceiling, and I start swimming forward. Just follow the line. So I follow the line for what feels like an hour, just focusing on that little orange piece of string, holding on to it with my free hand, with a death grip on my light in the opposite hand. Finally I see a lighter area and know I am approaching the exit. I made it! I start to swim up and out. But as I do that I feel a tug on the back of my tank. I’m caught on something. Oh my God the wreck reel line is snagged on the valve of my tank! Are you freaking kidding me?! I think I had a moment there where I was sure this was it, the end – Sayonara. Then I gave myself another mental bitch slap and told myself to pull it together. I give another quick tug and realized that going up and out is not going to happen so I drop back down into the hole in the stern. I think “I’ll just wait here until my husband comes through and he will see that I am caught and help me.” But before that can happen, I see Brent coming to untangle me. I swear in that moment he looked like an angel descending from heaven.

The rest of the dive was pretty much uneventful, my husband made it through unscathed, and we slowly made our way back to the surface and to dry land. I can’t say it was an enjoyable experience, but it was a huge challenge and to be honest, I’m pretty impressed with myself that I maintained the composure to complete it. I wasn’t sure that I had it in me, but now I know that I do. Brent said that if we can dive in those conditions, we can dive anything, and I agree that it has definitely made me a better, more confident diver. What’s more – I think I am even a braver and stronger person than I ever thought I was. I really surprised myself.

So that’s how my husband and I got our Night and Limited Visibility Diving certification on Friday night.

Dive Site: Willow Springs Park

Visibility: 2 feet

Water Temp: 55ºF

Time: 7:30 PM EST

This is Brad and me diving in Turks & Caicos. Visibility is about a million times better than Willow.

When is the last time you pushed your own limits? Have you ever surprised yourself by exceeding the limits of what you thought you were capable of?

I Heart Faces: In the Distance

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I took this photo on Pinel Island, a tiny island located just off the coast of St. Martin. The beautiful background and the setting sun capture the silhouette of of an unidentified person in the distance that could be any one of us. Running into the sea to escape the heat of the day, I can plunge into the cool, dark water, creating a reprieve from the noise of the surroundings, and finding blissful silence. I like to swim submerged for as long as I can, and then come up to take a deep, cleansing breath.

Photo Challenge Submission


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Camera Candy

As a novice photographer, I am always looking for beautiful things to photograph that stay still long enough for me to figure out how to capture that beauty. Often times, flowers are my go to subjects.

They are colorful.

They live outside (hello, natural light).

They don’t move, save the occasional breeze or gust of wind.

And sometimes we even have surprise guest appearances!

Practicing with flowers is a great way to experiment with the settings on your camera. I find it to be a low stress way of shooting in Manual Mode.

Stress, you ask? Yeah that’s right – I can totally stress myself out trying to capture an action shot or a fleeting moment if I have to think what shutter speed will best capture a particular motion in a particular light, and oh my god what about ISO, and shit I forgot to change my white balance to cloudy, and before long I’m curled up in fetal position rocking back and forth and drooling.

So yeah, flowers relax me.


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Taco Tailgate

Less than stellar weather did not deter us from rockin’ out with our tacos out

When our friend Brian called and shared with us his vision of a taco tailgate with friends, I was immediately swept up in the excitement. Me being the dreamer and my husband being the planner, we sprung into action with our contribution to the tailgate. Having just come down off a super successful batch of pork carnitas I made on Cinco de Mayo, we knew that we had a winner for the taco filling.

What could be more All-American than baseball and carnitas tacos?

And I don’t mean to brag, but we always have requests for my pretty much famous guacamole, so that was a no brainer.

Demonstrating the always popular “Taco within a Taco” technique

Note to self: Don’t let the bachelor determine on his own the amount of taco fixings to buy. We ended up with 3 entire bags of shredded lettuce, 7 pounds of shredded cheese (that isn’t an exaggeration), 5 containers of fresh salsa, 4 huge bags of tostitos and 2 quarts of sour cream. There were 9 of us. 

Breathtaking action shot of beer pong

I should mention that the only thing we ran out of was beer. Go figure. And I didn’t even drink any, if that’s what you’re thinking.

Random shenanigans

Random shenanigans

I am not a huge sports enthusiast, but I like to cheer for the home team and I remember going to Phillies games as a little girl, so they always hold a special place in my heart. I have a tendency to get really devastated if I invest a whole season following a team only for them to lose everything in some final playoff/series/bowl game. So I keep a guarded heart when it comes to getting super “into it” like some people do. Being a Philadelphia fan seems to bring along with it many opportunities for broken hearts. Plus, I’m just super fucking sensitive.

I would definitely say that the highlight of the day was spending time with friends and getting to eat all the delicious food. The weather generally blew (chilly, damp and scattered showers) and the Phillies lost. Oh well…We’ll always have tacos.

Taco Tailgate – A culinary home run!