Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Listening To: Hold On by Alabama Shakes. Obsessed with this band. If you haven't heard this song yet, download it and listen to it on a day when you can drive with the windows down. Make a memory of the first listen. 
Line Obsession: "He was just like summer and she loved summer. If she had any wish, it would be to live a lifetime of summers." - from Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Hey beauties and beastlies! I just got back from the ocean (pity me!), where I spring breaked till I was sprang buh-roke with my niece (Erin) and nephew (Andy).

It was mostly a party. I'm not gonna lie.

We flew kites by the ocean. 

We made sandcastles and sandforts. (Sandforts are so under-appreciated.)

We baked cookies and ate cherry ice cream and watched movies. I laughed harder during the new Muppet movie than anybody else in the room. And I am not ashamed.

We strolled down through the funky downtown and trolled shops for souvenirs. The guy selling the fake(?) crocodile skeleton wouldn't come down on the price (plus there was no guarantee I'd get the Santa hat the crocodile was wearing without paying extra), so I snatched up a journal instead. I love the quote so much:

I stalked dogs of various shapes and sizes because I wanted to snuggle them. Fernandina Beach is  big on dogs, but I didn't get to take my dog with me. My dad kept Biscuit, so she was well-loved and very, very well-fed (like, he probably gave her more treats in a day than I give her in a week). I'm positive Biscuit had more fun with Dad than she has with me. But I was missing her crazy-bad. So whenever we went downtown, I got this manic, sparkly-eyed look every time I saw a dog. Then I'd run after it with my arms outstretched squealing, "Please can I pet your puppy, pleeeeeease?!" (I'm exaggerating but just barely.)

This is how Biscuit watches me while I'm packing for trips, by the way:

Gah. THE GUILT. She has no issue with making me feel The Guilt. Within five minutes of me leaving, I'm sure she's back to this:

But she definitely heaps on the guilt while she can.

Most mornings, I plopped my camping chair down beside the ocean, slathered on SPF 5000, pushed my floppy straw hat down over my face and read. Glory.

I also survived a simultaneous attack from a shark and a pirate ship, as documented here:

Jack Sparrow would tip his hat to me, no doubt.

I drank copious amounts of coffee, which will come as no shock to you. My favorite coffee came from Fernandina's Fantastic Fudge. I got a white chocolate mocha that they made with their own blend of coffee AND - steady yourself for this - they gave me a white chocolate spoon to stir into the coffee until the chocolate melted. I could have drank, like, fifteen of them. My sister got some fudge and Andy and Erin got ice cream and I might have sampled every bit of it. I did it in the name of travel writing, of course, so I could tell you to be sure and go there if you're ever in the area. The whole shop smells like warm chocolate and vanilla and the girls who work there all wear funky aprons and feathers in their hair. It's like some hipster Roald Dahl candy store right beside the ocean. You'll love it. (Bring me back some fudge if you go?)

I got to hang out with the cutest guy on the beach: 

I volunteered to lick the spatula when Erin made pineapple cupcakes with coconut buttercream frosting

I'm very helpful that way. Erin is an exceptional baker and I'm an exceptional eater so this cupcakery undertaking was really a perfect example of teamwork.

At this point you're probably wondering if all I do on vacation is eat and read. The answer is mostly yes.

Erin, my aspiring Bakerella-to-be, is also an expert wave jumper: 

That's her in the far-off distance, stomping out into the ocean like she's the boss of it. Fearless. Sometimes she hurdled the waves when she got out far enough. Sometimes she'd just plant her feet, stand tall, and let a wave crash up against her.  That's so her personality and it's one of a billion reasons I love her like crazy. I want to be fearless like her.

Not about the ocean, necessarily. But about other things.

I've been back from the beach for a few days now, but I'm still thinking about the wind and the waves and what a fearless day can look like. I'd like to have more fearless days. I'd like to have a lifetime of them. 

Erin collects seashells. There are hundreds of shell pieces washed up on the shore today, jagged as broken glass. The sea has handed us a mighty ransom for our company. I tell her just to pick the special ones and then watch her scrutinize the pile. Her tiny fingers lift one shell from the mix. I think it will be a sand dollar or one of those conch shells full of ocean echoes - something beautiful and unique. Instead, she picks up broken pieces, tiny shell fragments with splashy colors and interrupted swirls. "Why these?" I ask when she puts them in my hand. "They're special," she replies. "They're broken," I say. It comes out more like a question than a statement. "What makes a seashell special then?" she asks me. And it makes me wonder. What does make a seashell special? Is it the size or shape or color? Or the part that's missing? Or is it something else all together? "You do," I finally decide. "When you love something, you make it special." "Cool," she says. "I like the broken ones." So we take the broken ones back inside. Erin cleans each piece, sets it in a perfect row with the rest, and then stands back to marvel at her handy work. And I marvel too, because suddenly a string of broken seashells looks more like a diamond necklace some mermaid flung toward us from the depths of the sea."
- from Paperdoll, p. 53*

Do you (or did you) have any fun plans for Spring Break? Do you like the ocean? Or are you more of a mountain girl? (Overall, I'm actually more of a mountain girl. But I crave beach getaways pretty much constantly. I'd love to live in a place that has both ... but then maybe neither wouldn't mean as much to me?)

*Paperdoll is about to have its third birthday (my book is a toddler!) and I'm brainstorming a fun way to celebrate. My first plan, which is figuring out a way to transmit cupcakes through the computer screen, is probably nto going to work like I envision. I may have to go with Plan B and do some giveaways. But I'm not giving up on virtual cupcakes. Goonies never say die. 


  1. Love the excerpt from your book. I AM going to read it one of these days! (It's working toward the top of my list!) :) Sounds like you had a blast... although this made me miss the ocean.

    1. I miss the ocean too, which is not really fair since I only left a few days ago. I sometimes think I could live there and be happy ... but I would definitely miss my mountains too much. I think. Ha :) Hope you enjoy Paperdoll!

  2. NPR is streaming Alabama Shakes' album on First Listen right now. I didn't realize I'd already heard and loved Hold On, until you mentioned it here.

    1. They're fabulous! Did you enjoy The Head and the Heart? I just realized the other day that my brother was at that show.

    2. They were fabulous! Such an amazing show. I definitely need to see them again. Now if your brother could go to the show, why didn't you? We could have enjoyed the awesomeness together!

  3. Natalie, Although your book was amazing EACH time I read it, I always love going back to the personal reflections and anecdotes (?) you have at the beginning of each chapter, like the one about your niece. I wish I had a small book of JUST those. You make me miss the sea, where I feel closest to our Maker. Thank you so much for sharing your pictures and words. Oh, especially Biscuit. What a face! Lol

    1. Thank you so much for this! I'm so happy you liked the book. I love those reflections too. I would love to write a book someday full of that - more essay-style. That kind of writing really is my favorite. I'm so with you on the ocean too - I feel very close to God when I'm there. I know He's close to me no matter where I am, but there's something about the sea that settles my heart.

  4. Your dog. Is. ADORABLE! My dogs do the same guilt trip every time I start getting ready to leave. :)

    Sara S.

    1. Thanks, Sara! Biscuit definitely leverages her adorableness to its full capacity. I love how expressive dogs can be! They make the sweetest and funniest faces ever.

  5. No big plans for spring break for me- I think I'll spend most of next week reading and sewing, because my cousin's two kids that I keep in the afternoons will be out of school (and that means I get the week off!).

    I really do love the ocean. I love the smell and the sounds and the hugeness of the sea. I used to associate it with my memories of the beach as a kid- burnt skin and hot sun and sticky sand everywhere. But now that I'm older, I enjoy it in a new way. :) Good books and shady umbrellas and walking at night with the moon reflecting on the water.

    But I think I'm more of a mountain girl (even though I don't exactly live in the mountains). I love the ocean while I'm there but I like to come home. I love green meadows and trees and animals and curvy back-roads. :)

    P.S. I want more fearless days, too.


  6. Looks like an amazing trip! Great photos! We're planning to camp in Colorado this summer. With a three-year-old, I'm not sure how that will go, but I can guarantee you that it won't be boring :)

  7. P.S. I just saw that "Hold On" is one of the free downloads on iTunes right now.

  8. I'm more of a mountain girl. Although I love love the waves and wind. They're my two favorites. But the creatures scare me. When I go to the beach I plant my chair at the tide just enough to wash my feet and I read and read and read. :)

    I seriously need to re-read Paperdoll. I know I just finished it last summer but it's one of those that I think will be a frequent book to jump off of my shelf and into my backpack/purse/etc.

    I love that quotation. So beautiful. Although I never had great respect for mermaids (mainly because I always found Ariel to be selfish, and the ones in Peter Pan weren't much better) but I think that might be changing. :)

    So glad you had a good time.

  9. I'd down with virtual cupcakes.
    I love it when you travel because these posts are always the best. push and pull is still probably my favorite blog post ever.

  10. Love traveling with you! I can almost hear, feel, taste, etc. everything with your descriptions. I also love the first of each chapter of paperdoll, although the rest of the book is great too. :) You are awesome, and I feel like we are friends, or bosom friends, like Anne and Diana? Yes? Have a wonderful summer Natalie!

  11. I always love your posts about the ocean and the beach. Makes me pine for summer. You always find the coolest eatery places too! :) My Spring Break consisted of watching 50 school age kids, taking them to movies, swimming, and making up lots of games. :) I run a before and after care program now, through the Y, so me and my staff had them all break. Our Spring Break was about two weeks ago. It was fun, tiring, and I have never slept so good every night as I did that week. ;)

  12. This evening a wrote a bit of a blog on Paperdoll, hope you don't mind. Have a blessed Easter, dear. :]