Summer sunflowers

in a field of sunflowers


Much as my mom and I make an annual pilgrimage to document the cherry blossoms in Washington each spring, finding a hidden field of these bright sunflowers has become a project in the summer. This was our second year driving up to McKee-Beshers and, I’m pleased to note, they were much easier to find than last year.

The heat and humidity were oppressive and, honestly, I’m not much fun to be around when hot and sticky. I whine — like, a lot. Thankfully only parents were around to hear my nonsense because, you know, they’re used to it. I don’t want to tip my annoying hand in front of Spencer mere months before the wedding.

(Kidding — he’s totally used to my crankiness! He gives me a Diet Coke and it goes away. Miraculous.)

So the sunflowers this year were definitely in full bloom, soaking in the sunshine and hosting a million bees. We snapped pictures for 45 minutes before the bug infestation was threatening to give me a conniption and, admitting defeat, we headed off to dinner. The storm clouds that had threatened all day finally rolled in on our drive home — but we made it!


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What’s the big deal about sunflowers? They’re cheery. Happy. Vibrant. Seeing such a cluster of them is enough to elicit gasps from the most stone-hearted in any group, and “cluster” is a bit of an understatement at McKee-Beshers. As we wandered around with our cameras, other families and photographers filtered into the open area.

I think it’s in our DNA to feel upbeat in a field of flowers.

Minus the bees.


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A day at the olde Renaissance faire


I was a Ren Fest hold-out.

I’m not quite sure where my beef with the annual Maryland Renaissance Festival stemmed from. I thought it was geeky? Or strange? Or like a grown-up version of trick-or-treating, wandering from booth to booth with cider and asking for treats?

I don’t know. I was misled. And I’ve since seen the error of my ways — and am officially converted.

This year marked my first trip to the yearly celebration of all things medieval. We’d talked about going last year, but it never worked out. My sister and her boyfriend are big fans and frequently discussed the awesomeness of Ren Fest’s good eats, and I’m nothing if not hungry. So with that in mind, we made plans to meet up with my cousin Karen and her husband, Ben, who showed us the ins and outs of such an experience. When our buddies Mike and Bethany got there, too, our crew of eight was ready to tackle anything.

Including archery. And rock climbing.

Well, they attempted rock climbing. I’m not that crazy.



Our day at Ren Fest was marked by lots of good eats, hard apple cider and lots — I mean lots — of people-watching. Many attendees come dressed in their finery: flowing gowns; kilts; suits of armor; fairy wings. It was like stepping into a magical land. Or a “Harry Potter”-esque village. Because the festival happens every year, the structures are permanent. Before we got there, I was picturing circus-like tents and the atmosphere of a county fair.

Not so much.

Ren Fest is no joke. Jousting, shops, dining, archery, a maze — there was more than enough to kill an afternoon. I really enjoyed the joust and my “fryed” ice cream (it’s old-timey, see), and it didn’t hurt that it was an absolutely gorgeous fall day spent with family and friends. It was huge, too, and easy to get turned around. Even with the maps and texting, it wasn’t hard to get separated. And wind up in the middle of a walking “show.”



Though I’m not sure I’m ready to dress up myself, I see the appeal of being someone else for a day — and walking around with others who totally appreciate the merits of chainmail. Going from 2012 to 1514 wasn’t as big a leap as I expected . . . especially after watching “The Tudors” religiously for years.

Man, I miss that show.



So after years of dodging the Ren Fest, I finally made it — and I’m not sure why I was such a fool. I mean, how can you be unhappy while eating a crab, cheese and Old Bay-covered pretzel? (This is Maryland, after all.) And with plenty of photo opportunities, I was a happy little Renaissance-era camper.

I’m not sure you’ll squeeze me into a Queen Guinevere gown anytime soon, but the good eats and fall leaves will keep me coming back for more.