S is for Shovel & Pail Set

What’s the one thing you have to take onto the beach with you? A shovel & pail set, of course.

Since early childhood, you learned you always need a shovel and pail to play in the sand. There have been some amazing sets available to children over the years from the metal set with cool art on the pail to designer plastic pails with decorative handled shovels.

Kids are fun to watch with their shovels and pails. They dig and dig and dig. They run to the water to fill the pail and then back to dump the water in the hole. Most of the time the water sinks into the sand but they keep running back for more water in  hopes to fill up the hole one day.


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My boys, growing up on the beach, had shovels of all sizes. There were some that broke easily, others that never broke but ended up at friends houses so we just bought more. Short handles, long handles and some with long wooden handles; we still have these.

With a long-handled shovel you can conquer the world or dig a hole for your brother to fall into head first:

Shovels and pails are necessary tools for sand castle building. There are fancy tools and molds you can buy but the classic sand castle is built using a shovel and pail.

So next time you go to the beach don’t forget your shovel and pail.

S is for shovel and pail set.


S is for Surf

Surf: n. a swell at sea that breaks on shore; v. to ride a wave toward the shore on a board.

You can also surf (search) the internet but that doesn’t apply to this post.

How many of you love to watch the waves at the beach or on a coastline? I do, it is pretty relaxing regardless of the size of the waves. A rough weather day can cause some great swells at the beach and for me it is just as fun to watch the angry waves crash as it is to engage my vie on the small cresting of a swell over sandbar.

I don’t surf. I think my dad did. And his brother, my late uncle, surfed. He’s in the Ocean City MD Surfing Hall of Fame. Yay, Uncle Chuck.  My husband has taken surfing instruction. He did really well and got to ride a super wave in Hawaii before diving off the board. It was so fun to watch him.hawaii-e-041

While in Hawaii, my husband and I had the great opportunity to watch a surfing competition. We just came upon it one day as we were just touring around Oahu. It was Van’s World Cup of Surfing November 2012. The perspective of being there to see it live is so different from watching it on TV or on a Facebook video post. The waves were so immense and my adrenaline was in a rush as I watched the surfers tackling their Goliath. It was just amazing and I’ll always remember the experience of viewing a surfing competition in Hawaii in person.

Back to the Lower 48, since I was a kid I’ve experienced watching surfers tackling waves, but much smaller ones. I marvel at the people that have the strength to battle rough swells to catch a wave before the beach is closed due to the storm.  Surfing requires a lot of muscle, balance and stamina.  It takes practice.

If you have a surfing story to share  please comment below.

S is for surf.

S is for Swimming

What a great way to exercise, especially in the summer when you can do it outside: Swimming.

Swimming is a low-impact cardio exercise. You can use all of your major muscles and not feel the strain the next day (although you can over do it).

With Labor Day weeks passed most outdoor pools are closed for the year. Some private condo or apartment pools may still be open and if you live in the deep South or Southwest you’ll be able to enjoy outdoor swimming all year. Otherwise, join a club with an indoor pool and get your hydro therapy.  It’s good for your soul to float around. Spend your floating time contemplating how you can take over the world, or at least conquer a personal issue.  Swimming with friends can be fun, too. There should be opportunities at the community pool for water aerobics and other fund aquatic classes.



This is a great time to get your little ones some swimming lessons. A whole school year worth of swim lessons could land your child on a swim team. If not, at least he or she will be ready for the following summer.

S is for swimming.

Mayflower Day, September 16

Today, September 16, is Mayflower Day. This is the day, in 1620, that the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England to the New World.

A few years ago my husband and I spent the July 4th weekend searching Ancestry.com for our family history.  His was decidedly more interesting than mine during that search. We found that he, through his mother, was a descendant of the Mayflower. That means our two boys are descendants of the Mayflower. Actually they are all descendants of the Hopkins family who set sail with the others to find a new life in a new world.

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Oh, what it was like I do not want to know first hand. But it is quite exciting from a family history point of view that my guys bloodline follows back to the first settlers.  The Hopkins family was the one to have a baby before arriving on land: Oceanus was his name.  He lived to be 6 years old.

So what would the voyagers on the Mayflower find in the new world? We know what we are taught in history classes about the wilderness and the native people the pilgrims encountered. We know that they foraged for clams and periwinkles. We know they fished and spent a whole lot more time outdoors than we do now.

But, what I really want to know was if these people enjoyed beach combing? Did they play in the sand and build castles? Did they sit on any beaches at any time and watch the waves, enjoy the shorebirds?  They they swim in the ocean? Did they get up early to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic? And before he died, did Oceanus play on any beaches or swim in the ocean? We may never know.

Happy Mayflower Day!


Sand Castle Friday #21: S is for Sand Castles

I used to live at the beach: Surfside Beach SC, Siesta Key FL, and close enough in both Houston TX and Fairhope AL. I always liked seeing the sand castles that visitors would make. It always seemed that the majority of sand castles appeared as day-old ruins on Saturday mornings. My hypothesis is that vacationers staying for the week have to check off “build a sand castle” on their list of things to do before they leave to go home.  Next time you are at the beach, check it out.

Anyway, I have been doing a Sand Castle Friday post for the past 20 weeks in honor of these to-do-list vacationers.

Sand sculpture competitions are all year round. You can find one near you at SandSculptingEvents.com. The International Sandsculpting Championship event is in September in Virginia Beach. You’ll see all kinds of sculptures made of sand. Of course if it was a sand castle contest, entrants could only build sand castles. All others would be disqualified.

Do you remember the Nickelodeon “Rocket Power” cartoon? There was an episode where all of the kids entered the sand castle building contest. Wow… were they all competitive and creative?! In the end, though, the winner was the littlest member of the crowd because she was the only one to build a sand castle; a simple castle.  Moral of the story: read the fine print when you enter a contest.

Sand castles are awesome and fun to build. I think just playing with the sand, the tactile experience is relaxing.  And, if your mind wanders and you end up building something fantastic, it’s a great day!

Don’t know how to make one? Want lessons? Or, do you want a sand castle for your beach-front wedding ceremony? There are professionals in many beach towns that can help you. Just internet search “sand castle lessons”. I’ve found several in Florida.

IMG_2069 (1)When was the last time you made a sand castle? I built one this summer; little but fun and made with my empty coffee cup.

S is for Sand Castle.

S is for Storms at Sea

September is the high month for hurricane season. The mid-way point is generally the first week of the month; usually around my birthday.

Hurricanes come in all sizes and though many people think a tropical storm or category 1 hurricane is not a big deal, these storms can wreak as much havoc as a category 5. Katrina blew away the coast of Mississippi and residents had to rebuild. This year we saw a category 1 storm cause extensive and epic flooding in Louisiana leaving those residents to rebuild.  If you live by the sea it is always a good idea to have an escape plan, keep a separate account or stash of money to pay for an unexpected trip to a hotel out of the storm’s way.

My family has had to evacuate many times for a variety of hurricanes and tropical storms. We always felt we would stay for a category 1 but leave for the others. For one storm we did stay after boarding up the house except for the small windows by the front door. We lived in Surfside Beach SC, just 1 mile from the shoreline. Our elevation was “safe” we were told, so we stayed. The wind whipped ferociously. The power went out. The kids were both excited and scared. Our calm dog had had enough. When it was over we walked outside the next day to see that a large portion of a tree had just missed our house. We heard of a tornado that hit a neighboring subdivision. We decided then and there that we would evacuate for any other storms; and we did.

We devised a plan, stashed cash for hotel and restaurant meals and anything else we’d need. We had inland friends that we could count on for a safe place to stay.

But not all storms at sea are wicked. Not all come on shore.

A storm at sea, a front passing through, a pop-up storm can be beautiful and exciting to watch. Of course it is wise to stay out of the water, away from tall trees and metal objects. If you can watch from your vacation condo balcony you’ll be treated to a wonderful scene. But be safe; a water spout can come on shore and head toward your building.

S is for storms at sea.



S is for Shorebirds

Shorebirds are celebrated all over the world each year in September. World Shorebird Day was actually September 6th this year (2016) but we will celebrate today, too.

Have you ever taken the time to just sit on the shore and watch the birds?  Put the phone away, stop talking to the person you’re with, put down that book…just watch the birds.  They are amazing. The run so fast, they peck at the micro organisms on the sand that they eat, they fly and dive after fish. And the gulls…they’ll pester you to death, nagging you for a piece of your popcorn, chips, sandwich, candy, anything… I once pretended to eat something. I held out my left hand and used my right to pretend to take something and put it to my mouth. I did this a few times and had a flock of seagulls suddenly standing at my feet.

Shorebirds are really essential to our ecosystem. When birds start falling from the sky, something is wrong for all of us. When shorebirds die from something in the water, we need to be attentive.  If these birds cannot nest and bring forth young ones to carry on, our ecosystem can get out of balance.  What shorebirds eat keeps the balance of organisms in the water and in the sand.  For example, if there are no Red knots to feed on horseshoe crab eggs, there will be too many horseshoe crabs. Shorebirds dine on fish, crabs, sea worms, plankton, shell fish and more. This food chain keeps the balance.

Check out a map of the migratory flyways and pay attention to the months the birds are migrating. The Gulf Coast gets a great variety of birds coming and going. For some shorebirds the Gulf Coast is the southern end of their migration; for others it’s the northern end.  Try to get involved in a local volunteer activity relating to shorebirds when  you visit the beaches or if you live there year-round. Audubon has a presence in most coastal areas or contact the local Extension office.101_1414_00

Visit my webpage, Save-the-Chicks.com, for information about shorebird nesting and make a pledge to Save the Chicks.

Another great site: Migratory Shorebird Project

S is for Shorebird.