Mother’s Day pre-game

Fresh flowers are a lovely gift any day, and Wegman’s keeps a gift-worthy inventory of plants and flower arrangements year round!

Bida Manda in Raleigh tops the list of “best restaurants” consistently for very good reasons!

Vegetable spring rolls, Bida Manda, Raleigh NC
Papaya salad and Pad Thai, Bida Manda, Raleigh NC

One of the best coffee shops in downtown Raleigh: 42 & Lawrence

Latte and hot chocolate from Raleigh’s 42 & Lawrence


Up close and personal at the NC Aquarium of Pine Knoll Shores

America alligator (photo by Sandy Stillman-Alvin)

Carolina gators welcome visitors to the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Spot-fin Porcupinefish: Jaden gets a great close-up! (Photo by Jaden Alvin)
Seahorses caught in the act! (Photo by Sandy Stillman-Alvin)
Corn snakes 😳 (Photo by Jaden Alvin)
Lionfish (Photo by Jaden Alvin)
Moon Jellyfish (Photo by Jaden Alvin)

Edges of Snow

Every few years in central NC, we get a decent snow. Ice is our nemesis, but snow … snow, we can handle. Lots of us celebrate it, making sure to gather snow to make snow cream, build a snow figure, or, for the more feral types, go sledding.

I didn’t budge from the house during peak hours this time. I only caught the beginning snowfall and after the first round of melting. The edges of our snow event:

The first hours
“Anything’s possible” pig enjoys its temporary snow blanket
Big limbs maintained a distinct white stripe after day 1 of the melting
Trees bear the weight at sunset, assuring us that snow will still color the neighborhood white in the morning

Dressing the Abbey: NC Museum of History exhibit ends January 17

Fans of fashion and British drama, Downton Abbey, fill the exhibit hall of the NC Museum of History to see costumes from the post-WW1 period. Make no mistake, the display is all about the clothing – not the characters.

Country house: bells and whistles
Lady Mary travels to Scotland
Impact of WW1
Dressing attire
Ladies dressing gown
Travel attire
Edith’s wedding party
Dowager’s special dress
Violet’s dress, worn to Edith’s wedding
Changes in Fashion (early 20th century)
Edith and the Blue Dragon
Beaded evening gowns
Violet’s crepe evening gown

If any of these styles appeal to you, check out the history museum gift shop where some of these designs and accessories can be yours! Remember the Raleigh exhibit ends January 17. Don’t dawdle! 😉

© Downton Abbey, cast promotional photo

Two years into COVID: not what we expected

The hope we embraced in early 2021 as we celebrated the availability of COVID vaccines, as we rolled up our sleeves for multiple doses, set us up for a disappointment. I think we assumed a level of immunity that we haven’t experienced with the latest variant – Omicron. It was an unrealistic expectation. Now we know.

For the sake of historical interest, I documented my experience with testing this week for signs of COVID infection. Having been exposed separately to friends or colleagues who tested positive, my son and I stayed at home until we could get tested to prove either our ability to rejoin the world or else our need to sleep in and stay at home this week.

Long lines at one of the busier testing sites in Wake County NC.
Appointments take around 2 days from time of request; rapid tests are nowhere to be found right now.
First day (my appointment), I had to show a QR code from my email confirmation of the appointment. Second day (Jaden’s appointment), no scans – just checked the email message to confirm day and time. (Scanners not working?)
It took just 30 minutes to navigate the line and check-in to receive a self-test kit.
Not a brain tickler … these are easy and painless. (I was tested in the hospital once during 2020 and that one WAS a brain tickler!)
Keepin’ it negative! (Hoping Jaden gets the same result!)

I am grateful for the ways being vaccinated worked in this case. The symptoms I experienced were probably related to the battle my body waged against the Omicron invader. Does the regular cold virus even exist any more? Nah, it’s all COVID. 😂

Van Gogh Reflections

The immersive Van Gogh experience is making its way around. Highly recommend… but try to choose a time that isn’t too crowded. You’ll want to choose a place in the exhibit room that allows you to read the narrative screens as you see the motion activated art screens. And spend time in the timeline room before entering the main exhibit room. You’re welcome.

Van Gogh self-portrait, 1889
Flower Beds in Holland, 1883
Peasant Woman, 1885
Daises and Poppies, 1890

Sunflowers, 1889
Starry Night Over the Rhône, 1888
Self-portrait, 1887

Biltmore Garden Views

Pictures taken December 30, 2021, Asheville, NC

Chenille Plant (Acalypha hispida)
Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedioideae)
Bird of Paradise (aka Crane Flower)
Pink Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephala)