"" Writer's Wanderings

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Everglades In The Rain

In Florida, rain is usually sporadic. It rains for five minutes and then the sun comes out. So when our son who had never seen the Everglades came to visit, we decided to take him there. The forecast was for a chance of rain. Okay, we thought, probably a chance here and there, we can do that.

We set off and as we got closer to the park, dark clouds were visible. As we neared the information center, a heavy misty rain all but drenched us on our way in. We decided to explore the center and watch the introductory movie until the shower passed.

When it was obvious the shower had stopped, we hustled out and drove to the Royal Palms nature center where there is a neat boardwalk that has always provided lots of entertainment from the wildlife. Well, the sun was usually shining on the other visits.

We started down the walk and found very few birds where they usually abounded and put on quite a show as they fished in the water. At one end of the walkway where there's a little shelter and we always find at least a half dozen alligators, one lone alligator was in the tall grass not moving a muscle.

As we started around the loop of the boardwalk trail, the rain started again. There hadn't been quite as much of a dry stretch between rain clouds as we'd hoped. We saw a few birds but no more gators. The rain would ease up but only to a mist and then get heavier again. Not really a downpour but enough that we were pretty wet through and through. On the plus side, it was a warm rain as long as there was no breeze.

On a chance that we might have missed some and as the rain let up a bit, we retraced our steps to the little shelter area again. Nope. Still only one in the grass but as we walked back toward the car, A couple stopped us and pointed to the little channel of water that runs alongside the walkway.

An alligator was swimming slowly along and pushing the lily pads aside as he went. My son got his video of a gator in action and we hustled back to the car as the misty rain got heavier again. I guess the inhabitants of the glades hunker down when it rains.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Asleep In A Giant Guitar

Over the years as we migrate, we pass by the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on our way south to stay in Key Largo for our winter escape. We have stopped on occasion and enjoyed stretching our legs, catching some lunch and enjoying a small mall area that was there.

Just a couple of years ago we began to see places closing and were especially disappointed to find that Johnny Rockets was gone. Then we noticed that construction fences started going up and buildings started coming down. Somewhere along the line we discovered that there was major change coming--a new hotel and entertainment center.

We watched as a giant guitar began to take shape--a guitar that was to become another part of the Hard Rock complex. This year it opened and when we were given the opportunity to be in the area, we had to visit and take a look. It is outstanding.

The guitar hotel can be seen from quite a distance powerfully rising from the flat Florida landscape. It gleams in the sunlight.

Of course we could only get into the lobby and shopping concourse area but it is a beautiful indoor landscape of design. A theater looks to be quite spectacular as well ad the expanded casino area. A dozen or so upscale shops line the retail concourse.

While we still miss Johnny Rockets, the new place is fascinating and has several nice eating places of its own including a fancy food food court. It was fun to check out. Don't know if we'd ever stay but it might be fun to say we slept in a giant guitar.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Irish Scones

This is a recipe that I picked up from our stay in Galway, Ireland, from the Petra House's hostess, Joan. Every morning of the several days we spent there we woke to the smell of these baking. The recipe was easy to make once I converted her measurements to American. They are delicious. In England, you might eat them with clotted cream but in Ireland we were told, "a slab of Irish butter is best." Enjoy!

3 3/4 c. self-rising flour
2 sticks of butter (1/2 lb.)
4 Tbl. sugar
4 oz. golden raisins or other dried fruit (I found raisins that were coated with cinamon that were very good)
1 cup of milk
2 eggs

Cut in (rub in) butter until flour is mealy
Add eggs and milk to form a soft dough
Knead on a floured board. Be careful not to overknead
Roll out 3/4 " thick
Cut with biscuit cutter.
Put on baking tray (parchment paper works well with this) and brush tops with milk. Sprinkle with a little sugar.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Place on wire rack to cool a bit.

Many thanks to Joan for sharing. It's still better to wake up and smell her scones baking though. Fond memories.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Look Back--Failte Ireland!

[A look back at our Ireland Trip]

There is not an Irish gene in my body but Ireland has always been part of me. You see, I’m a St. Patrick’s Day baby! Yes, every year growing up Mom and I would try to think of some treat to take to school that wasn’t so green the kids wouldn’t eat it. When my co-travel addict, my husband, decided Ireland was the next place on the bucket list to visit, there was no argument from me.

We started in Dublin and traveled clockwise around the whole island ending back in Dublin. Along the way we feasted on Irish delicacies, visited ancient sites, roamed quaint streets, watched the ocean crash into huge stone cliffs, heard tales of giants and leprechauns, drank in the purpled fields of heather, and marveled at the numbers of sheep we met in the middle of the road. A month on the road stopping for a night or two in places like Waterford, Cobh, Kinsale, Killarney, Galway, Dingle, Potrush, Londonderry, and Belfast passed by quickly as we sampled Irish hospitality all along the way. It all sounds so romantic. And looking back now, it was.

We came home with over 1500 digital pictures. But the things that I value most from the trip are the impressions of people and places that will enrich my characters and settings in novels yet to come. For example, we had heard that in order to preserve the original Gaelic language, there were pockets in some communities where only Gaelic was spoken.  In one little town where we stopped for tea and scones, an elderly gentleman started past our outdoor table on his way in to the bakery. The gentleman, weathered and bent from years of perhaps shepherding or farming, tipped his hat to us and rattled off a greeting in Gaelic, none of which we understood. We smiled and nodded and he continued to speak to us never halting to see if we would answer. I have no idea what he said but it appeared to be friendly from the expression on his face. With a wink, he disappeared through the door leaving us to wonder what we had missed with no translation. Somewhere he will fit into a story, I’m sure.

Towns and cities were representative of their struggles of the past. The playfulness in the colors of Kinsale’s homes and businesses reflected the release of restrictions from British laws that required more “proper” decoration and were a stark contrast to the intense murals of Belfast that mark the period called the Troubles. So much history shapes the country and the people of the Emerald Island as it does all countries and peoples. Whether as a writer, one gets to travel the world or only their own community, there is a wealth of material on which to build characters and settings. The key is to observe, tuck the images in your mind, and look for what makes them so unique.

I also learned that the Irish are great storytellers. There is a story behind most everything you see in Ireland. The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland is a prime example. The natural wonder was said to be made by two fighting giants, one from Scotland and one from Ireland. Through a very clever trick of the Irish giant’s wife, he won the battle without even fighting.

Thinking back to all those great Irish storytellers we heard along the way—well, maybe I do have a bit o’the Irish in me after all. 

For a look at our Ireland trip use the Ireland Posts Page

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Lessons From Glassblowing

On our way south, we like to stop in West Virginia at Tamarack. It's a wonderful collection of crafts and crafters from West Virginia. There's also some great foodstuffs as well as a nice little deli syle restaurant where we get a great lunch.

We always take time to walk around the place which is pretty good sized. After four and a half hours on the road at that point it feels good to get some circulation going again in the legs. It's also always an interesting place to watch crafters and artisans at work. We've seen potters and woodworkers, quilters and painters. This trip the glassblowers were at work.

I had to stop and watch. They reminded me of the glassblowers I'd seen on a visit to Bermuda a few years back. They heat up the glob of molten glass in the blazing oven and then roll it in shards of broken colored glass. It goes back in the heat and then into another pile of broken glass several times.

Then the master artist breathes into the pole the soft glass is attached to and begins to build its shape with breaths and a little masterful shaping with some tools. Once in a while it has to go back in the fire in order to shape it some more but in the end, the bubble of glass is opened up to reveal a colorful work of art.

When I originally saw this in Bermuda, it made me think of the way God, our Master Artist, breathes life into us. Sometimes we go through trials (the fire) and often life seems to be in shards, broken and chipped, but God takes all of that and if we allow him to do his work, he creates beauty out of all the brokenness.

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