"" Writer's Wanderings: July 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Things Learned From a Four Year Old

Once in a while it is good to see the world from a different perspective. Here's what I learned this week from my four (almost five) year old grandson:
1. Always color dolphins blue.

2. Chocolate chip cookies will get stale if you only eat half of one and save the other half for after dinner.

3. Watching only 3 minutes of Home Alone will elicit 30 minutes or more of questions about strangers.

4. The countdown for a shuttle launching goes like this: 4. . .3. . .2. . .1. . .Admission!. . .Blastoff!

5. When a tropical storm gives you lots of puddles, make paper boats to float in them.
6. Wisdom: If you want to be smart, eat Smarties!
7. If you snap your fingers you can think faster.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cruising Miami

When a little boy loves boats, how can a grandparent refuse to take him for a ride? We drove up to Miami’s Bayside Marketplace and took a ride on the Island Queen. The tours run throughout the day and take you around the area by the cruise terminal and then around Star Island where all of the rich and famous and/or infamous have huge mansions. There have also been a few good movie scenes made there, notably the white mansion in Scarface.

The kids weren’t so interested in the mansions until the tour leader announced she lived in one. Our little guy wanted to know if he could go and play in her yard. It turned out the mansion she pointed out, largest on the island, belongs to some doctor who is CEO for a pharmaceutical company. I suggested to our grandson that he could live in a house like that, “Isn’t your daddy a doctor?”

He rolled his eyes and answered, “He’s an ocean doctor.” (PhD in Marine Science)

One of the other interesting sights was the American Airlines Arena. Don’t recognize the name? Home of Miami Heat. We tried to boo as we passed by but no one paid attention to us. Well, if Lebron’s new house is on Star Island or the other private island out there that has multi-million dollar condos, he won’t be far from the workplace.

We also passed by the cruise terminal of Miami. Luckily the only ship in was a Carnival, my least favorite line, so I didn’t have cruise envy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Books for the Road - Life In Defiance

Finally I found some time to read again and I just had to finish the Defiance Texas Trilogy by Mary DeMuth. The third and final in the series, Life In Defiance, reveals who killed Daisy in the first book. Each of the books is from a different character's perspective and this last one is done through the eyes of Ouisie Pepper, the preacher's wife and mother of Daisy's best friend, Jed.

DeMuth is an intense storyteller and this book is especially deep as she explores the character's personality and emotional makeup. What keeps a woman in the continuous cycle of spousal abuse?

I did chuckle some at DeMuth's introduction of another character who is the author of a Christian marriage book. This author, Shea, twists scripture to fit her philosophy of what she thinks the perfect marriage should be. And all of this expert advice comes from a woman whose husband has left her. It's a good lesson for us authors. Are we writing what we are qualified and led to write or are we just writing what we think we can publish--truth or not?

While you could read this as a stand-alone book, I would strongly suggest reading the other two first. It will enrich your experience with the story.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Flight Path of the Snobird--last day

On the last day of our trip south following the path of the Snobird, we neared Daytona Beach just before noon. We were going to have to stop for lunch and the beach was not far from the highway so I tugged on Bob’s sleeve and suggested we exit.

Just off the freeway was the Daytona Speedway. Quite an impressive structure and right next to it, The Daytona 500 Experience. It gives the history of the races, has simulators for you to experience racing, and lots of other NASCAR related activities. We aren’t racing fans or we might have stopped but for someone who is, it sounds like a little piece of race car heaven.

The Daytona area was much nicer than I imagined it would be. There are some areas of older homes and of course lots of areas catering to the tourists and the race fans when in town. But the beach was what I wanted to see. I loved all those old movies that showed them racing on the beach.

Sure enough we followed the road right down to the beach and the entrance gate where for $5 you could drive your car right onto the beach and park for the day. We weren’t too sure we wanted to drive our car out there but we found a spot nearby to park and we ventured out on foot.

The sand on the beach is extremely fine and very well packed. I’ve never been on a beach quite like it before. You can see the humidity in the air in my beach shots. It’s almost a mist. The humidity and heat in summer in Florida fogs your eyeballs when you walk out of the air conditioned buildings.

A quick rest stop and we were on the road again and headed for the Miami area. No more side trips. We were grandparents on a quest to see a new grand. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a 4 ½ year old and a 2 ½ year old. Our 2 ½ year old granddaughter immediately grabbed my hand and exclaimed as she led me across the room, “We hava new baby! Come see! Come see!” She didn’t have to tell me twice.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Flight Path of the Snobird

On our way to visit new grandbaby #8, we followed the path of the Snobird to Florida. The Snobird is a particular species of Northerner who migrates south when the weather turns at the beginning of winter or just after Christmas. The South welcomes their arrival for their economy.

We followed I-77 to I-26 to I-95 to get to the Miami area. We divided the almost 20 hour drive into three segments of 6-7 hours each. Along the way we stopped at several interesting places. Our first was Hillsville, VA, which is kind of in the middle of nowhere but was a very busy intersection of I-77.

With a burst of southern hospitality, the lady at the reception desk invited us to visit the BBQ festivities in her hometown just a few miles down the road at Galax. Unfortunately when we arrived, most of the BBQ stands were closing down and the awards for the best had already been handed out. The smell of BBQ hung in the air as we strolled through the small town so as soon as we were back at the car, we headed out for some dinner—no BBQ but some delicious southern fried chicken.

Our next day’s trip took us through the beautiful mountainy states of NC, SC, and into the flatter area of GA leading to the FL border. Just over the border and north of Jacksonville, we stopped at Yulee. It was not far from the beaches of Amelia Island so we checked in and then checked out the island.

We ended up in the historic district of Fernandina Beach and walked around reading some of the historical markers and ducking in and out of a few antique and gift shops to cool off a bit. Dinner was at a waterside restaurant overlooking the Amelia River and was BBQ shrimp over cheesy grits with onion straws on top—something I’d had a hankering for since watching the Travel Channel the week before. It was as good as it looked on TV.

After dinner, we stopped at the ocean side beach and sat on a bench enjoying the cooler breeze and watched families as they packed their day’s equipment for fun on the beach and left for home. In danger of falling asleep where we sat, we decided we’d better leave for our hotel and get another good night’s sleep for the day to follow. After all, we wanted to be in good shape to meet our newest granddaughter.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Williamsburg Christmas

Christmas? In July? Yup, we have started our Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts blog again and today's my posting day. Two funny stories about my old Christmas decorating habit. Check it out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Redbourn, England - A Real English Garden

The train ride from London to St. Alban was just under an hour. There was an express train that didn’t make as many stops but for some reason had been canceled the morning we headed for Redbourn to meet our friends. Still, it was nice to see some of the countryside along the way as we slowed to stop in several small towns.

David and Kathy met us at the station. It had been a long time since we’d seen them but a smile and sparkling eyes never change and we picked David out quickly from the others waiting at the curb. A short drive and we arrived in Redbourn. We had just expected to have lunch or dinner with them but they insisted on showing us around their lovely town and inviting us into their home. What a treat that was!

I had admired many private English gardens as we passed them on the train but now I was able to wander into one and Kathy’s was spectacular. Most of the homes in England are quite small and have little yard space but they make the most of what they have and add to it with potted plants. Kathy had all sorts of flowering perennials tucked into the space that she had cultivated in the backyard. Tomato plants were in pots on the back patio area. Little black birds were enjoying the garden as well. Plans are to make a vegetable garden in the fron yard. Space is valuable and well-used.

After a couple of coffees over which we caught up on much of the time that had passed since we’d been together, we struck out for a local pub for lunch. It sat out on a corner near a commons area of the town. Rather than sit inside, we chose to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine on at a picnic table. On our way through the pub though, I did get to drink in the beautiful d├ęcor—dark woods, quaint window areas.

There is a 900 year old church, St Mary’s, in Redbourn that sits serenely shaded by great trees and kissed by the sunlight overhead throughout the day. We did a bit of a tour through the sanctuary and found a small book that explained a lot about some of the “mysteries” of the church. It cataloged some of the changes made throughout the years and pointed to many of the original structural and design areas that date back to medieval times. If you ever get to Redbourn, buy the book (its only 20 pages for 2 pounds) and explore if you can. It’s quite interesting.

Back at David and Kathy’s, we had afternoon tea with some delicious strawberries and cream and then headed back to the train station. It was a wonderful time with old friends and a perfect way to end this European adventure.

But wait! There was still daylight and Harrod’s, London’s large department store, didn’t close until 8 p.m. We hurried over and rode the Egyptian escalator to the top, explored the toy department and found a giant Buzz Lightyear made of legos, and then wonder of wonders in the electronics department an 85” hi-def plasma TV! Ah, that man can dream.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not Your Usual Circus

My husband, the clown, decided that if the Queen wouldn’t have us for dinner, we ought to go to the circus—Piccadilly Circus. We located the nearest tube station and hopped on a subway train to the Piccadilly Station. On arrival, we climbed the steps to the street level and found ourselves in the middle of a bustling intersection. Piccadilly Circus is a famous street junction where five or six streets merge into a. . .a. . .circle? Triangle? Square? It was hard to tell but right in the middle of everything was a tall monument with a guy on top equipped with a bow and arrow. Scores of people sat below the statue of Eros. It was either a “meet me here” spot or a resting place.

The area is full of theaters and I almost felt like we were on Broadway in NYC. I took a few pictures of the theater marquees and was especially careful to catch the huge Mama Mia sign. Our niece was in that production in Las Vegas a couple years back. She would have loved seeing this area.

Hunger pangs were setting in since the Queen hadn’t fed us. We stood on the corner of an intersection and tried to decide which restaurant appealed the most to us. This was our third day in England and we still hadn’t eaten in a pub so we chose St. James Tavern on Windmill St. It had the quaint look of a tavern but was really a happening place with the World Cup of Soccer being blasted from the large flat screen TV in the corner.

Some of the best food can be had in pubs in England. Bob ordered a traditional steak and kidney pie that came with potatoes and peas that weren’t mashed. For some reason, the Brits like to mash their peas. I had a broiled chicken dinner that was delicious. We were among a very few people who were eating. Most folks in Europe don’t eat dinner until 8 or 9 in the evening. It was only 6 when we ordered. Lots of “pints” of ale were everywhere as people stopped in for a drink before going on to the theater. It was a lot more civilized than a neighborhood bar in America.

Tired, fed, and excited for the next day’s adventure, we called it a night early and headed to the subway to return to our hotel. As we neared the subway entrance however, we caught one “circus” act. Several young people with brightly colored hair—purple, red, yellow, green, and orange. Soccer fans or fashion statement?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Eye, The Queen, and a Buckeye Tree!

Our very first trip to England so many years ago was to London on business where we met with the European sales rep for Bob’s company to attend a trade show there. We blame. . .er, credit him with whetting our appetite for travel. It was also our first trip to a foreign country (Canada doesn’t count, does it?) and he made it easy for us to learn our way around the tube (subway) and gave us a good lesson on the “funny money” they use. Add to that the fact that they almost speak the same language and our first foreign travel experience was delightful.

With all of that history and a second trip to England to meet up with the sales rep again, we added an extra day on to our trip to visit with him and his wife. They live near London and since our departure from home was booked from Heathrow, we traveled to the big city to spend our last two days. The trip from Dover was about three hours by bus but again we had pretty views of the countryside and parts of the city that we wouldn’t have seen from a train. Also, luggage is easily stored below the bus instead of having to lug it up and down stairs/escalators and find space for it in a train. (If you go first class, you may have more storage but we found that in Italy, the storage was above our heads.)

Arriving in London in mid-afternoon, we left the bus to find the subway station to get to our destination in Paddington. London reminds me of New York. Lots of people, traffic, and bustle. The Hotel Indigo was very close to the Paddington Station and we walked a short block and found ourselves in a beautiful venue. The hotel was quite modern but the best part was the room—large by European standards with a gorgeous bathroom and, get this, scented toilet paper!

Ah, but I digress. Having only a half day or less in London makes you put on your running shoes and take off. We decided on the “just gotta see again” spots and took off. First on the list was the London Eye. This was a new addition to the area along the Thames known as the Embankment and is opposite the House of Parliament. It’s a lovely tourist area with beautiful walks and buildings and of course great Kodak picture spots. The Eye is a huge ferris wheel with large bubbles that fit about 15 people inside comfortably. The ride is a half hour and you get spectacular views of the city. Unfortunately we rode at the time of day when the sun was parallel with us and it was hard to get good pictures through the glass.

From the Eye, we decided to walk to Buckingham Palace. We were sure the Queen would invite us in for late tea or dinner. On our way, we passed by Downing Street that used to be accessible so that you could actually get close enough to take a picture of #10 but now it is heavily guarded and barricaded.
We moved on and strolled through St. James Park, the garden area in front of the palace. It’s filled with pathways through shade trees and along a water area that is home to all sorts of water birds.

Along the way there were several little flower gardens but what stopped us in our tracks was a tree that looked so very familiar. It was a buckeye tree! The discovery made our little Buckeye hearts beat faster. Surely if the Queen has a buckeye tree in her park, she would certainly extend hospitality to a couple of Buckeyes!

We hastened on and arrived at the circular plaza in front of the palace where the pomp and circumstance take place when the changing of the guard occurs. We approached the huge golden trimmed gate and peered in. The brilliant red coat of the guard stood out sharply against the gray stone of the building. Ah, yes! Red and gray. Buckeye colors!

Try as we did however, we could not get the guard’s attention. Surely if we had, he would have opened the gates and announced us to the Queen. But alas, we gave up and wandered off to find dinner on our own. Next time we’ll have to let her know when we expect to be in town.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Christmas Blog is up again!

Our A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts blog is up and running again. Can you believe it's July already? I'll be posting every Saturday with a crafty idea for the coming season. Check it out.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sandwich, England

Spending the afternoon in Sandwich sounds almost like an overindulgent lunch but Sandwich, England, was quite a unique and interesting town. Of course who can mention Sandwich without thinking of the Earl, John Montagu, who claimed to be the originator of the modern day lunchtime staple? He was something of a rascal and it is said that the reason the sandwich came to be was that he didn’t want to leave the gaming table and so took his sustenance by putting a piece of meat between two slices of bread and eating with one hand while playing with the other.

Our trip to Sandwich on the bus was made even more pleasant by a lovely English lady who sat behind us and introduced herself when she figured out we were from the States. What gave us away? The map? An accent? Did we look like colonists? She said she had lived in the States as a girl and then came back to England. When Bob asked how long she’d been living in England she replied, “Too d**n long!” Ah, a proper English lady—one with a sense of humor.

Our proper English lady suggested we not take the train back to Dover but rather take another bus route that went through beautiful countryside—a bit long but we would see wonderful wild flowers and quaint villages. She was right.

But back to Sandwich. It is a town that was once the major port of England but now sits two miles inland. Blame those refugees from the Netherlands that settled the area in the late 16th century. They introduced dykes and drainage and made an area to farm. The town has narrow streets and some very old structures that give you a real sense of the medieval era when it was flourishing.

We stopped at the visitor center which is right next to the little bus stop in the middle of town. (Be aware that the bus driver may not announce this stop. Ask to be informed.) A pamphlet was available with a walking tour and with that in hand, we set out.

Part of the walk was along a beautiful riverbank with lots of ducks and swans. It was called the Ropewalk and was where they once made rope for the ships. They needed a long stretch of area for “walking out” the rope.

One of the more picturesque buildings we passed was an old hospital, St. Thomas, named for St Thomas Becket. In 1392, it accommodated 12 poor persons.

St. Peter’s church still rings a curfew bell at 8 p.m., an old medieval practice. Another church, St. Clement’s was the site for the election or rather appointment of a mayor by Common Consent. Any mayor refusing the appointment had his house demolished. The practice was ended in 1683.

While walking through the cemetary of one church, we fell in behind some lads on their way home from school. One of the great things I have discovered as we travel is that kids are kids no matter where in the world you are. These fellows had fun hiding behind grave markers and jumping out at each other.

It was a nice afternoon of strolling through history with a break for cream tea at a little tea house in a garden area. While the place was very nice, the cream tea was disappointing. The scones were a bit old and the clotted cream didn’t have the sweet taste I remembered from our last trip. Still, it was fun to sit and sip and watch the folks stream in for their afternoon tea. Sometimes I wish we’d thrown something else into the Boston Harbor and kept the tradition.
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