"" Writer's Wanderings: 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Cruising

Christmas Eve, aboard the Eurodam, we sailed away from St. Maarten about 5 p.m. headed north for the Bahamas. We dressed for dinner at the specialty restaurant, the Tamarind. It is an Asian themed restaurant—very elegant looking and absolutely tasty food. Dinner was followed by a wonderful show in the Main Stage Theater featuring the singers and dancers of the Eurodam and all the exciting technological shenanigans of their new stage.

But the best part of the evening came when the three Christmas choirs of the Eurodam staff sang. The first was made up of 30 different nationalities and they sang in English. The next was Filipino and they sang in their native tongue as well as Spanish when they sang Feliz Navidad! The last choir was the Indonesian group who sang a few lively songs and the beautiful O Holy Night in both English and their language.

At the end, it was almost like being home as they all joined in Silent Night, lit candles and walked up the aisles to form a line out the door and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Christmas Day at sea began late with waffles in the Lido Deck buffet followed by caroling in the three story atrium mid-ship. People gathered on all three decks as the cruise director, Shane, along with the singers and dancers of the entertainment crew, led the singing and the string quartet played special Christmas songs. Interspersed throughout were announcements from the captain that a blip had been spotted on the radar. The blip grew to be a sleigh with animals pulling it—one with a red nose, that circled the ship and landed. Santa reportedly slid down the smoke stack and appeared at our gathering. He invited all the kids to follow him to the Main Stage where he handed out gifts.

It even snowed!! Only, aboard the ship, they clean it up with a vacuum.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Niagara On The Lake

On our way back from our trip to Burlington Ontario just before Christmas, we stopped off in Niagara On The Lake and Niagara Falls. Niagara On The Lake was quaint. Shops decorated for the season made it a Currier and Ives scene with a dusting of snow and folks in scarves and caps strolling arm in arm down the street. Occasionally a horse drawn carriage made its way along the main thoroughfare adding to feeling that we had just stepped into a watercolor painting.

We stopped for lunch at Shaw’s and had a wonderful bowl of potato soup and a sandwich. Afterwards, we joined the pedestrian traffic and window shopped, stopping only to buy a candied apple that was decorated like a snowman. Feeling the chill when the wind kicked up, we hustled back to our car before seeing all the shops. If there’s a next time, we’ll be more prepared with warmer clothing.

Down the road at Niagara Falls, we passed the floral clock now brown and still for the winter season. As we passed the Falls, we found the landscape shimmering with a thick coating of ice. The mist from the water pouring over the edge puts layer upon layer of freezing water on the surroundings and gives the trees and buildings a silvery sheen. We observed from the car not wanting to venture out in the cold again.

The rest of Niagara Falls, Canada, looks like a carnival—albeit a deserted carnival in the winter. The casinos and hotels seemed to be busy and were a “sedate” contrast to the garish colors and strange figures that advertise various odd museums, souvenir shops, and entertainment centers.

So, the answer to “Do they turn off the falls in winter?” is: NO.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

100 Huntley Street Full Circle

If you are looking for a program with the vibrant interaction of the popular program The View (ABC network) but are more interested in a Christian slant to the world's view, you should tune into the 100 Huntley Street's Full Circle program on Fridays. There are several ways to watch in Canada and the USA and you can find that information on their scheduled programming page at Crossroads.ca.

Last week I had the privilege of being a guest on the show to talk about A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. You can see my TV debut at the Crossroads archives page. The panel of ladies on the couch were wonderful as were the rest of the staff who work behind the cameras.

The Mainse family who began their ministry over 40 years ago has watched it grow to reach viewers across Canada and now into the US. Their state-of-the-art facility in Burlington, Ontario, is a beautiful complex that resembles an quaint English village inside and out. The atrium houses a cafe that offers lunch from 10 to 2 weekdays and a chapel that can be reserved for weddings.

The Crossroads ministry is extensive and includes many missions activities as well with projects in Cambodia, India, Africa, and the Ukraine among many others.

The most important thing I found in meeting the folks I did was that they had a heart for bringing the love of Christ into the lives of others. Check out the Full Circle program. You will find warmth, humor, and the comradery of good friends.

By the way, here's the recipe for the Tangy Tea Mix I also brought to the show:

In a quart sized zip-lock bag, mix 1 cup instant Tang breakfast drink, 1 cup unflavored instant tea, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves, and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon. Close top and mix together. Pour into clean dry jars and close tightly. Add instructions to jar: Put two heaping tsps. of mix in a cup. Add hot water, mix and enjoy. Can be sweetened to taste with a little sugar.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Books for the Road

Bob and I exchanged Christmas gifts early so that we could enjoy them as we travel this season. He has an MP3 player to play with and I have a Sony 505 Reader. He started off by buying me the 700 model with all the touch screen bells and whistles but the screen was not as easy on the eyes as the older models. We exchanged it for the 505 which has the technology that makes the page look like actual printed paper.

Why not go with the Kindle? With all the hoopla about the Kindle, it was tempting. The biggest difference I could discern besides the price was the way the books were downloaded. Kindle relies on a service that does not work out of the country. The Sony requires the use of a computer to download and I almost always travel with my computer. You could argue that books could be downloaded before your trip but then the price, at least for the 505, wins out.

So, I have downloaded 3 of my free 100 classics and two books, Your Heart Belongs to Me by Koontz and Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon. That's five books that will take up very little space in my computer case as we travel and will take a little weight off my shoulders as well.

I'm a slow learner so I'm still finding my way around the little device. Have to figure out how to play music as I read. Stay tuned. We'll see how I like my virtual books.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Gifts that Travel

I am getting ready to go to Burlington, Ontario, Canada to appear on the 100 Huntley Street Full Circle show Friday, 12/5. They asked that I bring along some crafts from A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. One of my favorite things to do at Christmas is to put together mixes in a jar. You can find recipes all over the Internet for all sorts of muffins, cookies, beverages, and snacks.

The one we included in Scrapbook is a mix of green and red M&Ms, raisins, honey roasted peanuts, and cheerios. You layer them in a jar and then seal the top. I put Mason jar lids on--the kind that have a separate screw on rim. I cut a circle of Christmas material using pinking shears to make a nice edge. Then I set the lid on the jar, center the circle of material over the top and carefully screw on the rim.

These gifts travel well but to reduce the weight if you are taking them on a plane, look for plastic jars or some of the nice plastic containers that they sell in the plastic wrap aisle. You can still spruce them up with curling ribbon and a sprig of holiday decoration. Remember to include the instructions for the mix!

By the way, 100 Huntley Street Full Circle can be seen in the states on Direct TV on Channel 378 at 5 p.m.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

La Befana--Italian Christmas Figure

While searching for the different ways Santa Claus is represented around the world, I happened upon this story about a Christmas character in Italy, La Befana. She resembles a witch and is said to be able to do magical tricks but is not a witch. She leaves goodies for good little Italian boys and girls and coal for those who are bad.

As the story goes, she saw the Christmas star in the sky and when the magi passed through her town, she provided them with shelter. They asked if she knew about the Christ Child and where they might find him. She was invited to join them but she declined. Saddened by the loss of her own child, however, she suddenly had a change of heart and wished to see this baby the magi talked of. She filled a bag with bakery and gifts and left to follow after the magi.

Too late to catch up with them, she became lost. Legend says angels gave her a broom so she could fly around searching for the baby Christ Child. She searches to this day and on the eve of Epiphany, she drops in on the children she finds to see if it is the one she seeks. It never is but she still leaves a gift. It is said she realizes that her search is not in vain. That, in a way, the Christ Child can be found in all children.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Christmas in Duluth, MN

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with Ted Elm of the WWJC program Northland Notebook. It was a great time talking about Christmas, grandparenting, and even SCUBA diving. Here's a link if you'd like a listen:

Scroll down to the archives for my name. I found the MP3 download the easiest to use. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Books for the Road

As a regular post, I will be suggesting some books to take along on your travels. Here is a great choice for your next getaway or just for curling up under a blanket next to the fire on a cold winter day.

Linore Rose Burkard promises a Jane Austen-type read in her recent release of Before the Season Ends and certainly fulfills that promise. With her plucky character, Ariana Forsythe, she pulls you into the story that takes place in 1813 Regency England.

Burkard's characters take you through an exciting, curious, and often smile inducing read as Ariana searches for the man God would have her marry. A little misguided at times, she finally finds the man of her dreams but must deal with the dilemma of loving a man who does not follow her Christian beliefs or choosing a 60 year old preacher who she knows holds to the same faith she does.

If you enjoy inspirational historical regency romance, this is a good read for you.

Monday, November 24, 2008


This is just too good not to share. A few days ago I got a phone call that started with someone giggling. I never hang up on those until I check the caller ID. Sure enough, it was from our seven year old grandson, Tyler.

"Tee-hee. Grandma? Can you come and give my Daddy a spanking? Tee-hee-hee."

"A spanking? Why? What's Daddy doing?"
"Well, he's your son and he keeps teasing me."

"Yes, he's my son, but what's he doing?"

"He flipped me with his sock. And it smelled, Grandma! Tee-hee-hee."

"Tyler, is this a 1-800-Grandma call?"

"A what?"

"Never mind. But if your Daddy needs a spanking, you better call 1-800-Grandpa."

Guess I still subscribe to the "Just wait until your father gets home" threat. Tee-hee-hee.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Go Bucks, Beat Michigan!!

It's that time of year again. And this promises to be a win for the Buckeyes. Of course, with Michigan, you can never be sure. But it is all fun and I'm looking forward to Beat Michigan Weekend!

As you can see below, we are always developing new Buckeye fans.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sinter Klaas

While on our cruise, we dined each night with the same four people, two ladies traveling together and another couple, Pieter and Pam. Pieter grew up in the Netherlands and Pam is from Great Britain. When they discovered I'd coauthored a Christmas book, and I was excited to have found a church in Croatia dedicated to St. Nicholas, Peter began to share about the Christmas celebration in the Netherlands.

December 6 is St. Nicholas Day. In Holland, he is called Sinter Klaas (Santa Claus). He arrives in a boat dressed in his red bishop's robes along with his servant called Black Peter. When they come ashore, all the church bells ring. He then, on a white horse, leads a procession to meet the Queen in the palace.

The night before, December 5, children leave clogs or shoes out to be filled with gifts. Like our children who leave treats for the reindeer, the Dutch children also leave carrots for the horse. Black Peter is the keeper of the naughty-nice list.

Rather than the North Pole, Dutch tradition says that Sinter Klaas lives in Spain. I guess he prefers a warmer climate than our Santa.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Last Port on the Cruise--Madiera

Well by now I was feeling really lousy with a cold and under the influence of decongestant, Nyquil, and Tylenol. I wasn't sleeping well and once we got on the bus for the tour, I just vegged out and dozed. These are the only pictures I got of Funchal, Madiera, which is an island off the west coast of Africa that belongs to Portugal. It is relatively near the Canary Islands.

They are famous for their Port wines but in my daze, I didn't quite understand all the intricacies they explained about how it is made.

From Madiera, the ship headed west to Fort Lauderdale. We spent seven days crossing the Atlantic (one more day than it takes the Cunard ships from NYC to Southampton). The cruise director's challenge in all this is to keep a little more than 1500 people happy and entertained. He did a great job. He's a PK (preacher's kid). I'm sure that had something to do with his knack of entertaining.

One of the activities was a contest to see who could guess our position each day at noon as we crossed the ocean. They held a class and instructed those interested in how to chart our course and calculate position based on speed, direction, etc. One of the things they didn't mention though was current and our tablemate, Pieter, who participated took that into consideration as well. He won! There was one day he was only off by a few kilometers. He also got up at 4 a.m. each morning to make his calculations so they would be more accurate. The map we're holding in the picture was signed by all the officers of the ship.

Finally, here is a shot of the two of us from one of the formal nights aboard ship. Our tablemate, Jean sent it to us. She's still taking pictures the old fashioned way but I love the picture. My husband of 40 years cleans up so nice!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Best Seller List

So, okay, it's not the NY Times list but it is exciting. Check it out. A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts made it to the top 100 list at Tower.com and this morning is #4 on the Holiday Bestseller list.

Whoohooo! Praise the Lord!

Snoopy dance is in order!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cruising on to Spain

We made three stops in Spain on our Mediterranean cruise. The first was Barcelona where we took a walking tour. The start of the tour was pretty funny. They handed us all Ipods with the recorded tour on it. It was a rough start for most people on the bus whose closest contact with an Ipod has been to watch their teenaged grandchildren plug them in.

When everyone finally got on the right channel and learned how to stop and start and adjust the volume, we were let out of the bus at the circle that is on the harbor end of Barcelona's main street, La Rambla. We circled around the statue of Columbus pointing to the new world and began our walk down La Rambla listening to our Ipod tour guide and watching for the landmarks. The tour was relatively easy to follow and we only had to back up and retrace a couple of times.

Barcelona was a wonderful European city with quite a different feel than the cities in France, Germany and Austria that we've visited. The Cathedral was the most interesting building but unfortunately there was some sort of special event taking place (we could tell by the TV camera men present and the limos with men who looked like body guards) and we couldn't get to see all of it inside. Guess that means we will have to return.

On our way back down La Rambla, the main pedestrian area had come alive with vendors, sidewalk cafes offering tapas, and lots and lots of mimes who truly wanted you to take their picture--for a fee, of course. It was all very entertaining and truly invites a return visit to spend more time tasting and taking in the sights.

Our next stop was Cartagena, where we wandered around on our own--sans Ipods. The town square was amazing as was the restful park area on top of the fortification wall that extends across the harbor area. We walked up to a vatage point that had some nice views and peacocks. We could see down into the ruins of an old Roman theater. Along the way we also ran into a couple of sections of a Roman road.

Cadiz was our last stop in Spain. We took an excursion to get a panoramic view and then went on to a winery that specialized in sherries. The airport in Cadiz was amazing. It is quite an architectural feat. The runway extends out over the ocean and there is a roadway below. It is quite a source of pride for Cadiz.

I was beginning to come down with a cold and most of the Cadiz tour became a blur. Bob had some time on his own in the city after we returned to the ship. He came back to our stateroom with a small bouquet of flowers to cheer me up. Now you can see why we've made it through 40 years of marriage. Awwww.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monaco--Monte Carlo

One of our favorite ports on our Mediterranean cruise was Monte Carlo. Maybe because a girl can dream. The wealth kind of oozes here. It is seen in the cars, in the homes, in the buildings and gardens. And then of course there's the fairy tale story of Grace Kelly who came here to film a movie and ended up a real life princess.

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world--right behind the Vatican which is considered the smallest. It's coastline is 2.5 miles long and the country covers 485 acres (100 of which have been reclaimed from the sea). It borders France and the first part of our tour actually took us up to a vantage point in France that overlooks the city of Monte Carlo. The yachts looked big even from that view.

From there we went back to city and took a walk around passing the villas of Caroline and Stephanie and stopping at the palace to see the changing of the guard. We also entered the cathedral and passed by the graves of Prince Ranier and Princess Grace.

Attention single ladies: Prince Albert is still unmarried although we were told he does have a girlfriend. There is at present no male heir to the throne through him since his children have been born out of wedlock.

While we were waiting for the changing of the guard, we watched cars lining up for a sports car rally. I think Bob had his eye on one or two.

The Monte Carlo Casino of course is the major attraction because of all its colorful history and James Bond movies of course. We did not go in. There is a cover charge of $15 just to get in and a strict dress code. The doors were not open until it was almost time for our ship to sail anyway. We did take a look at the Cafe de Paris across from the Hotel de Paris on the same square as the casino. The Cafe was built years ago before women were allowed into the casino. They got to gamble there. Guess the casino saw that as profitable and eventually let women in as well.

The gardens were beautiful, the city lovely and clean, and we'd definitely put it on our revisit list--if we could afford it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Today I'm blogging at our Scrapbook blog. It's all about The Christmas Story and how it sparks childhood memories.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cavtat and Dubrovnik, Croatia

In Croatia, we visited a resort area near Dubrovnik called Cavtat. Since the season is over, the place was only crowded with cruisers from the ship. We enjoyed a nice stroll around and found the church of St. Nicholas. It was pointed out that he was the patron saint of Croatian sailors as well as being recognized as the patron saint of children.

After the morning cappucino at a little sidewalk cafe, we boarded the bus again and went back to Dubrovnik for a taste of pastry and a small cup of orange juice accompanied by a culturat program of dancing. The dancers were a volunteer group that is quite famous apparently. They have been invited to go on tour in the States. The costumes were beautiful. Some of the skirts were heavily embroidered in gold thread and it was said that their clothing was authentic from the skin out.

Afterwards we walked down the main street of the walled old city we had seen from our drive to Cavtat. Take a look at our guide holding #21. Doesn't she look like a character from a James Bond movie?

And how about this couple? We're still smiling after 40 years of marriage and two weeks together on a cruise ship. Will it last?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Olympia, Greece

While at the port of Katakolon, Greece, we took an excursion to Olympia, site of the first Olympics that took place sometime around 600-700 B.C. An earthquake tumbled quite a bit of the columns in the temples. It must have been a big one since the sections of the columns indicate they were very large and heavy.

The stadium was like a shallow bowl with grassy sides. The area where the judges sat is still there and a "tunnel" much like the entryway of football stadiums is still there.

At the temple of Hera, the Olympic torch is lit for our modern day Olympics and begins its journey from here. The fire is started with rays of the sun on a mirrored bowl. Or at least it appears that way. If you watch this video, the fire starts awfully quickly.

As I walked among the old temples, I was reminded of the scripture verses that talk of the temple of the unknown god in Athens--the one I think Paul refered to in Acts 17:22-31. Paul said God, the creator of heaven and earth, did not need a temple in which to live. Again, as in Rome, the thought played in my head, "My God is bigger than all of this."

Once we were done touring Olympia, our final stop was at the Europa Hotel's banquet room where we sampled Greek food and were entertained with lively Greek dancers. These people know how to party!

Monday, October 20, 2008

On to Santorini, Greece

Probably the most beautiful port we stopped in out of the three we visited in Greece was Santorini. Here the tenders deposited us on at the base of a steep hill with three options for getting to the little town at the top. First was the option of walking. The trek may not have been impossible but it certainly was made less desirable by the second option--donkeys.

For a few Euros you could ride a donkey up the winding steep slope. Surprisingly this was a popular mode of transportation for many. I imagine the going up wasn't nearly as scary as the coming down however as we saw donkeys slide a bit every so often. There was no one following behind with a pooper-scooper so you can imagine the path. . .
The last option seemed best to us. The funicular. We took that to the top and were one of the first to explore the little town as the shops began to open. A large part of Santorinin is just little alleyways with beautiful white washed buildings with colorful bougenvilla draping the walls.

This was a port for a relaxing (but strenuous at times) walk. After exploring, we stopped for a cappucino at a restaurant overlooking the water. A beautiful picturesque place right out of the pages of any travel brochure. The pictures could never do it justice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Truth in Advertising

This sign was posted in a market area near Ephesus.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kusadasi, Turkey

Kusadasi was a wonderful and pleasant surprise. It is set in beautiful countryside and appeared very clean and much less frenetic than Italian cities. Just outside Kusadasi is the ancient city of Ephesus. Our day long excursion was a wonderful inspiring and educational experience. I will have a page on my website dedicated to it when I am able to get it published. I am able to connect and post at Blogspot but for some reason cannot get my website to publish. Ah, the perils of internet technology at sea.

After our morning exploring Ephesus, we were treated to a wonderful meal at a hotel in Kusadasi. The first course was a sampling of several different vegetable salads mostly with beans and tomatoes. Then there was a small cheese filled crepe, followed by an entrĂ©e of grilled meats—chicken, beef and a meatball of sorts, and more veggies. It was all topped off with fresh fruit and baklava. I enjoyed the baklava that was not as heavy as the Greek baklava I’ve tasted. The Turks make theirs with light sweet syrup rather than a heavy honey.

After our meal, we were entertained by a troupe of dancers in native costume. The men were quite energetic and athletic doing leaps and landing on their knees then turning circles on their knees. The ladies were elegant and graceful and of course, beautifully dressed in their gold and red trimmed white gowns.

This is a Muslim nation but they do not wear the veils and follow many of the fundamentalist regulations of the religion of Islam. There were many minarets around the city and while we did not hear it, others on the ship did hear the call to worship that came over the loud speakers at the top of the minaret.

Turkey will be on our list of return trips.
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