"" Writer's Wanderings: August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ferry Cross the Mersey

Do you remember this song from Gerry and the Pacemakers? 

Life goes on day after day
Hearts torn in every way

So ferry 'cross the Mersey
'Cause this land's the place I love
And here I'll stay

While thumbing through one of the travel books our kids have given us over the years (do they know we're spending their inheritance?), I came across several water trips that were recommended. There is a Mersey River in Liverpool. Liverpool? Doesn't that mean the Beatles? 

Yes. And the famous black and red ferries still run with several itineraries including one that is Beatle-themed. Check out the Mersey Ferry site for the information.

While I was wrong in assuming the Beatles had recorded the song, there were still lots of connections to the Fab Four and the Mersey. The bands that came out of that area of Liverpool were called the Mersey sound in music and there was a newspaper created called the Mersey Beat which was used to promote the Beatles and I assume other groups from the area. 

I guess the next time we are in the area we are going to have to ferry 'cross the Mersey and check it out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Traveling Through the Blog World

As well as posting to Writer's Wanderings, my personal blog, I have recently become a member of several new co-authored blogs. if you haven't noticed them yet, let me introduce you.

The Barn DoorThe Barn Door is a blog that is authored by writers living in the Midwest. Some live out in the country and others, like me, live nearer to more urban areas. The posts provide quite a variety of views of the heartland of our country. The traveler in me loves seeing that part of the country through another's eyes and finding new places to put on the travel bucket list. I'll be posting there once a month.

The Barn Door Book Loft. Free Books! Book Giveaways.
Related to the the Barn Door but with a different twist is the Barn Door Book Loft. Here is a great place to find good books for the road. The Book Loft will be spotlighting a new author and book every couple of days. Leave a comment on each post for that book/author and you have a chance to win a copy of their book! FREE! That word just jumps out, doesn't it? I'll be posting a little more frequently there. The interviews are a lot of fun. Authors are interesting people.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Travel Tips for Nannies - Debbie Denard

Today I welcome Debbie Denard as a guest to Writer's Wanderings. Debbie Denard is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Debbie regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to nanny service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She has graciously allowed me to share these tips from her site: Nanny Net Debbie is also available at debbiedenard at gmail dot com. 

For many nannies, traveling internationally is a regular part of their job duties. Often times, due to scheduling conflicts or out of convenience, a nanny and her charge will travel separately from the child’s parents. While doing so can be an exciting adventure, it also requires careful planning and preparation. If you’ll be traveling internationally with your charge, here are 10 things to consider.

1. Passports. Be sure that both you and your charge’s passports are current. You’ll want to be sure that your return travel dates are well within your passports’ expiration dates. It’s also a good idea to make a photocopy of your passports and take them with you in your travel bag. Upon arrival to your destination, store them in a safe or secure area. If your passport was to get stolen, having a copy would make it easier to replace.

2. Visas. Before travelling internationally you’ll want to be sure that the necessary visas are secured for you and your charge. Even if you are told you don’t need a visa, you’ll want to confirm this information for yourself, as the rules are constantly changing.

3. Get a notarized consent form. When traveling internationally with your charge, you’ll want to have written consent to do so. Be sure your employers draft a letter giving you permission to travel abroad with their child and that the letter is notarized.

4. Get a notarized medical authorization form. It’s always a good idea for a nanny to have a notarized written medical authorization form so that her charge can receive medical treatment should the parents be unreachable.

5. Medical power of attorney. For families who want to be sure that their child will be able to receive any medical treatment necessary and know that they may be largely unreachable, giving their nanny a medical power of attorney may make sense.

6. Expenses. When travelling with your charge you want to be sure you have the financial resources available should there be a kink in your travel plans. A family credit card with your name on it, cash on hand, and cash in the currency used in your final destination can make covering unanticipated expenses easier.

7. Check connections. Entering customs and immigration can take a long time when you are traveling alone, never mind when traveling with a child. Make sure that you’ll have enough time to travel through customs and immigration between flights, if necessary.

8. Medication information. If your charge is prescribed prescription medication or formula you’ll want to travel with the medication or formula in the original containers. Having a doctor’s note outlining any health concerns or prescribed medications can also be helpful should you be questioned about the medications at your entry point or should your charge become ill while abroad.

9. Reserve seats. Sometimes it costs extra to reserve airlines seats, but if you’re traveling with a non-lap baby, doing so is essential so that you can ensure you are seated together. For extra room consider reserving bulkhead seats.

10. Use a neck pouch. Consider wearing a neck pouch that is concealed underneath your shirt. Putting your travel documents, money, and important documentation in this pouch can make accessing it and keeping track of it easier.

Traveling internationally can be a rewarding experience, but when traveling with children it’s vital to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Consider how you’ll handle delays, cancellations, and other bumps that may present themselves during your journey together.

Many thanks to Debbie for her helpful ideas for anyone who may travel with children!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Diving Papua New Guinea

[January, 2004]
At breakfast one morning during our ten day live-aboard dive trip, we learned the trap, lowered the night before and baited with chicken yielded a chambered nautilus. Cousin to the octopus, the nautilus lives at depths of 2000 feet but rises to about 500 feet at night to feed on crab and shrimp. No telling us twice to suit up. We descended to 60’ to photograph and examine the mysterious creature who occasionally peeked out of his creamy shell with tanned markings.

Although my husband and I were both nearing 100 dives when we arrived in PNG, we had never encountered a seahorse before. Knowing they were at Observation Point, we carefully combed the area. Just as we were ready to give up, I looked down to find a yellow seahorse clinging to a bit of reed in the sand near where my hand rested. We were as excited as the shark hunters who had spotted some hammerheads a few days earlier or the photographer who ended up in the middle of schooling barracudas.

No one missed the 5:30 a.m. call to rise before breakfast and go ashore to visit the Bunama hot springs before the heat of the day made it impossible. On shore, a mother and her children greeted us. “My children want to see the white people,” she said. They followed us through their village to the path leading to the hot springs about a half-mile into the jungle. The tall grasses and bushes gave way to a clearing steaming from the boiling springs of hot mud and water bubbling through the stone floor. We waited a few times for the geyser to perform, took the posed tourist shots and then left as the sun was beginning to heat the morning sky.

On the way back through the village, a friendly teenager, proud of his pet, allowed the braver souls to hold his five foot green tree snake. I marveled at the simplicity of their life as we passed by the huts on stilts, mostly open with cloth draped for some privacy, and the “kitchens” separate from the sleeping huts that were equipped with a fire pit and some pots and pans.

A manta ray cleaning station was scheduled for our last morning dive before returning to Alotau and the trip home. We dropped to 30’ and surrounded a small bommie that the mantas were known to frequent. All of us knelt in the sand, bowing to the slight current, watching the waters around us wondering if they would come. The sun shone down, it’s rays playing on the bommie. I suddenly realized it was Sunday. We looked as though we were worshipping at an altar. The mantas never appeared but there was ample opportunity to give thanks for the wonderful sights we had seen and the people we had experienced in the paradise called Papua New Guinea.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

From Mountains to Seas, Papua New Guinea

[January, 2004]
“Shout our name from the mountains to seas, Papua New Guinea.” The strains of their national anthem still play in my mind. I expected a great dive adventure. I didn't expect to fall in love.

Perhaps it was waking anchored in calm inlets to hazy purplish sunrises with the distant call of exotic birds, or looking out at the lush green islands of Milne Bay that contrasted sharply against the clear skies and deep blue waters that drew me in. Without a doubt it was meeting the wonderful people of the villages that dot the islands so far away from the usual conveniences we take for granted.

Silently the dugout canoes sliced through the water from each village as we neared. Men, women, and children in canoes congregated at the sides and back of the live-aboard with fresh fruits and vegetables to trade for staples like rice and sugar. Some displayed crafts of wood and shells to sell or trade for T-shirts. Some fished. But all watched as we came and went in our dive gear. We were the entertainment for the day.

The paradise above was magnified in the treasures below. Abundant colorful marine life in all shapes and sizes played over a patchwork quilt of brilliant corals. An abundance of lionfish, countless varieties of nudibranchs, endless fields of anemones with their guardian clownfish, and the unusual--the hairy ghost pipefish, kept us diving back in for more. On this 10 day trip, we were limited only by our ability, stamina, and common sense.

Diving the wreck of the WWII bomber Blackjack was one that stretched our diving skills. Blackjack (made legendary under the command of Capt. Ken McCullar who died on takeoff in another aircraft) was commanded by Capt. Ralph Deloach when she ran out of fuel in a turbulent storm during a bombing run to Rabaul. The crew attempted to ditch on a shallow reef but missed ending up in deeper water and were rescued by the nearby villagers of Boga Boga. She now rests in 165 feet of water. Under the supervision of divemasters, the more experienced and adventuresome did a decompression dive to 160’ to photograph the props and the gun turret that still turns on the well-preserved body. The rest of us went to 130 feet. Swimming out over the wreck, we had an excellent view of the plane and the divers below.

A visit to Boga Boga village followed. School children sat on grass mats laid in rows on the dirt floor of their school and participated in a grammar lesson that resembled Wheel of Fortune. The pens I handed out went quickly—the children swarming around me as if it were candy. We shopped the craft market that was set up for our visit and talked with the villagers. Smiles abounded, some stained red with betel nut juice.

(More to come. . .)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Through My Lens - Akron Zoo Reef Exhibit

Our trip to the Akron Zoo was a disappointment for picture-taking. Most of the exhibits are behind glass (or plastic) that is slightly milky and/or offers such a glare that the subject is ruined in the photo. A great place for little kids though. There were lots of places to play. The Journey to the Reef was a little better and I got some spectacular pictures of jellyfish.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Books For The Road - The Third Gate

Here is another pick from the NY Times bestseller list, The Third Gate by Lincoln Child. The novel is an Indiana Jones meets the Mentalist type story. A little sci-fi, a little historical (maybe a stretch on the truth), and a whole lot of page turning as the story really gets rolling.

The synopsis blurb: 
Under the direction of famed explorer Porter Stone, an archaeological team is secretly attempting to locate the tomb of an ancient pharaoh who was unlike any other in history. Stone believes he has found the burial chamber of King Narmer, the near mythical god- king who united upper and lower Egypt in 3200 B.C., and the archaeologist has reason to believe that the greatest prize of all—Narmer’s crown—might be buried with him. No crown of an Egyptian king has ever been discovered, and Narmer’s is the elusive “double” crown of the two Egypts, supposedly pos­sessed of awesome powers. 
The dig itself is located in one of the most forbidding places on earth—the Sudd, a nearly  impassable swamp in north­ern Sudan. Amid the nightmarish, disorienting tangle of mud and dead vegetation, a series of harrowing and inexpli­cable occurrences are causing people on the expedition to fear a centuries- old curse. With a monumental discovery in reach, Professor Jeremy Logan is brought onto the project to investigate. What he finds will raise new questions . . . and alarm. 

Jeremy Logan is the character who deals in paranormal, curses, demon possession, or you-name-it he gets rid of it or exposes it for a fraud. In this story, it's not a fraud and one night I found myself putting the book down early--not because I was bored with it, oh no. I was anything but bored but I didn't want to go to bed with some of the unexplained still kicking around in my head to reveal itself in a nightmare.

Good read for the road. Just don't read it before turning out the light.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Journey of a Lifetime

There are travel adventures that could be classified as "the trip of a lifetime." That's the category our trip to China fell in and mainly because I said it would only happen once in my lifetime. Once was enough for me.

Then there are some adventures that you might say are the journey of a lifetime. We've been blessed with many of those and look forward to more.

But our real journey of a lifetime, our life together began for Bob and I on South Bass Island at Put-In-Bay, Ohio. We visited there this week again with one of our sons and our grands. Of course there were lots of giggles when we went to Perry's Victory Monument and Grandpa pointed out the tree where he and Grandma sat and kissed.

There was the spot where the old pizza stand used to be where we first met. It sat just to the left of the Round House. I made pizzas there and Bob's cab sat in the taxi stand just across the street. In those days the taxis were all historical models of convertibles. I think he was driving a red Chrysler mostly. I don't remember the model year. All of those have now been replaced by school buses and trams and regular vans.

Out at the State Park, we watched our kids with their kids skip rocks from the place where we used to sit and watch the moon shimmer on the water.

And the thing my nature loving granddaughter who just turned nine thought was so neat was that our first date was to OSU's Stone Lab on Gibraltor where we wandered around and looked at all sorts of fishy things preserved in jars.

Thanks to my daughter-in-law, Lori, the photographer
 for this one.
Fond memories revisited. The journey of a lifetime began there and continues on now with a lifetime of journeys. Who knew?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Creative Travel Journaling - The Journal

We've been looking into travel journaling for a time now and hopefully you've done some homework and have tried some of the things I suggested. Once you have collected your notes, your pictures, all the things you want to keep as memories you need--the journal!

There are lots of ways to compile all these things. If you only want a written version of your travel adventure, you could buy a nice journal with blank pages, a good pen and perhaps a box to store it in. If you like using a computer like I do (my handwriting is atrocious) you could simply use your word processing program to create a file for your travel entries. There are some fancier online journals that allow you to create and write to an online site that can be public or private. Try searching for "online journals" and you should find a few sites. The ones I did find were free. There is also some journaling software available. Again search for "journaling software" and you'll find it.

Blogging is an easy way to journal as well. Blogger.com is free and easy to set up and use. It will not be private but you can use it as a way to invite friends to see what you saw and read about your adventure. You can easily upload photos to the site and embed videos from YouTube. That would require a YouTube account as well but that's not difficult either. My blog evolved into my travel journal. . . well, one of my travel journals.

I love to make books. Could you tell? I'm a writer but I'm also a dabbler in photography. My favorite way to document our trips is through making a photo book. There are lots of sites: Shutterfly, Lulu, Picaboo, Snapfish, etc. My favorite and the one that I have had the best results with for a reasonable price is Shutterfly. The photo books are fun to assemble and allow you to add text so it can become a written as well as a photo journal. Here's one of my photo books:

Start your own Shutterfly Photo Book today.

Now stay with me. I want to put one more option out there for you. If you start a blog, there is also a way to have a photo book as well without assembling it yourself. Blog 2 Print will take whatever pages of your blog you designate and turn it into a written photo journal. They do a great job as well for a reasonable price.

And of course if you are a lover of scrapbooking, there is always that option.

Have I given you enough ideas? Have I missed a few? If so, leave me a comment and tell me what you do to keep your travel memories a treasure to be enjoyed.

Related posts:
Creative Travel Journaling - The View
                                        - The Tools
                                        - The Five Senses
                                        - Descriptive Language

Monday, August 13, 2012

Creative Travel Journaling - The Descriptive Language

A picture is worth a thousand words but a few well chosen words can paint the best pictures. Here are some tips I've picked up along the way to season your journal entries.

Beautiful is an over used word but is usually the first thing out of the mouth. Sometimes I find it most difficult to describe what I see because of the colors. One way to enhance your description is to think of colors in terms of food. Yup. It's something we can all relate to. A cherry red door. Ice blue water. Pink cotton candy sunset. Whipped cream clouds. Burnt toast bark/wood.

Like and as are great ways to give a reference for better description. The thunder came and went like a noisy car playing the bass too loud on its radio. The catfish felt as slippery as a wet slicker coated in mud.

Whenever you can, use action verbs in your journaling. Was and is are not as descriptive. The wind howled is a much stronger description than there was a strong wind. Mosquitoes feasted on my arms paints a better picture than there were a lot of mosquitoes. Remember my french bread? How about describing the sensation of smelling it like this: The fresh bread aroma floated around me, engulfing me in its enticement. Okay maybe a little over the top but you get the idea--a lot better than there was a smell of bread.

Adjectives and adverbs are okay but we can get a little too carried away with them. Again try to insert a good action verb or comparative phrase.

If you find yourself relying on or inserting a certain word too much in your writing, go back and try other ways to say the same thing or say it better. I have a problem with just and really. I have to glean what I write for those words and take them out. They really--oops, they don't add anything and weaken a good sentence.

Assignment: Take a walk through your neighborhood and practice describing things you see using action verbs and descriptive phrases for colors and textures, sounds, smells, etc. If you're lucky maybe a neighbor will invite you in for coffee and pie. Then you can practice describing tastes as well. Good luck!

Related posts:
Creative Travel Journaling - The View
                                        - The Tools
                                        - The Five Senses
                                        - The Journal

Friday, August 10, 2012

Creative Travel Journaling - The FIve Senses

Looking at that title may make you wonder about what the five senses have to do with journaling. Actually a whole lot! A picture may be worth a thousand words but it only goes so far in recording your travel experience. It may show what you see but it won't show what you smelled, tasted, felt, or heard (unless of course it's video in which case you may have some sound).

Too often we record only what we see and forget the other senses. I remember our river cruise through France. We awoke to find ourselves docked by the little town of Ville des Andelys. What I saw was something out of a Monet painting. Slightly foggy air muted the greens, reds, and blues around us like an Impressionist's painting. What I heard as we walked into the town was the quiet of the morning, a single bird calling, and the stirrings of a little town about to begin its day. What I felt was the fresh dew on my feet.

The memory that lingers strongest from that trip though was coming to a Y in the road and suddenly having the smell of fresh bread surround me. Across the street was the bakery. The baker was already at work making her baguettes for the morning business. You see in France most everyone buys a baguette and munches on it for breakfast. And what tastes better than fresh baked bread? Absolutely heavenly.

Use your senses, all of them, to explore and then record what you find. It will add depth to your journaling. Some smells (I'm thinking dirty barn) and tastes (mate-tea of Argentina) are pungent, revolting, or unappealing but they are still a part of your journey. Others like fresh bread, salty sea air, and the scent of pine (always reminds me of Canada) are important elements to include in your journal entries. There are pine trees in Australia that have the softest needles I have ever felt and the skin of a muddy catfish as it wiggles in your hand one of the more unpleasant sensations. The opera sampling we heard in China was enough to make you want to grind your teeth but it was a part of their culture. The cry of a howler monkey in the jungle of Belize sounded like an amplifier gone wild and for a moment that's what we thought it was, but what an awesome sound.

Assignment: Go to a fair, an amusement park, or zoo in your area and see how many ways you can describe your adventure other than just what you saw. Tune in with your other senses and see if you don't deepen your experience. Then try recording it in words as well as pictures.

Related posts:
Creative Travel Journaling - The View
                                        - The Tools
                                        - Descriptive Language
                                        - The Journal

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Creative Travel Journaling - The Tools

An artist needs good brushes. A journal writer needs. . .Well, just what would you use? Pen and paper? Camera? Smart phone? iPad? Whatever you do, don't choose to rely on your memory. Your brain will be working overtime to process all that you are seeing and experiencing. When a computer has a problem with memory, you can always install another chip. Unfortunately that's not the case with the human brain. Therefore do take some type of recording tool with you as you tour and explore.

For me, recording on the go requires two tools--pen and paper and camera. I get a small notebook in which to record interesting tidbits I hear along the way. Background stuff. Things to spark more thought for later. Whenever there are free leaflets or brochures I pick them up and jot notes on them as well. Least you become a pack rat, be sure to glean what you need from these and discard before your suitcase becomes overweight for the trip home.

I probably use my camera as much to record information as I do to just take pictures. Whenever there is a display that describes what I am seeing, I take a picture of it to look at later. I can enlarge it on with my pictorial software or even on my camera by pushing the zoom button when it's in view mode. (Please don't tell me you are still using a film camera). I can glean the information I want and either delete the picture or save it for later. The advantage: I don't have to read it all standing there instead of enjoying the views around me--especially if it is in the hot sun or, perish the thought, the rain.

Now if you use a video camera, you might want to record your voice over the top of what you are shooting. More than likely though, it will only irritate your fellow travelers. Especially if you are talking while a tour guide is as well. Better to take notes and when you make your travel films if you need to narrate, do it then. There will be less of a monotone and you can add a lot more interesting facts and details.

My husband does have an iPad but we rarely use it to take pictures or keep notes. It's a bit bulky to have to tote along on a tour but if you don't have a travel computer and want to use a computerized device to journal on, that could be the way to go. There are even keypads that you can attach now to the iPad if you can't type fast enough on the touch screen.

Our iPhones work well when we don't want to carry the big camera or we just happen to be out somewhere and want to document something. If you are adept at typing on the touch screen, it's also a good place to keep notes.

While on the go, you want to use tools that will help you later to sit down and more fully record your travel adventure. As my husband always says, a job well done requires the right tool. But then he's usually off to the hardware store.

Assignment: Visit a local mall or shopping center and take along the tools you've chosen to help you record your observations. Take in the view. Zero in on some details and use your tools to record what you see. Later, write a journal entry as if you'd visited some exotic place on earth. A mall? Exotic? Sure, it's all in the perception.

Related posts:
Creative Travel Journaling - The View
                                        - The Five Senses
                                        - Descriptive Language
                                        - The Journal

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Creative Travel Journaling - The View

 When anyone found out that I was an art teacher, I always got the response, "I can't draw a straight line." I always found it humorous since most art does not require straight lines. I am of the opinion however that everyone has some degree of creativity that can be nurtured and explored and used. If you love to journal about your travels and you feel that it needs a little spark, these next few posts might just be for you.

Whether it is in pictures or words, journaling expresses what we experience in the world around us. One of the first things I learned as an art student is that there is the big world and then there is the tiny world. By that I mean we look around us and see our collective surroundings, the big world. But if we zero in on details, we can find so much more, a slice of life, a new-to-me insect, plant, bird, etc., a glimpse into the past and so on.

Example: While on our visit to Leeds Castle in England.. The big picture was seeing the castle and going through the rooms. My travel journal for that day might read: Visited Leeds Castle. Lots of big rooms and history. Beautiful grounds and many waterfowl.

While that documents the visit, the smaller picture was in trying to get to the center of the maze and getting lost along the way time after time. The slice of life was seeing so many kids in the center getting there before us. Were they using GPS? Nope. Just arms and legs to climb over the hedges to get there faster. Kids are kids the world over.

Travel journaling does not involve just posing in front of Notre Dame and smiling for a picture, visiting the Great Wall to say you've been there, or even going to your local zoo to watch the animals. It involves making  contacts with people and places and yes, animals, that create wonder. Write down your impressions or even capture them on film: your new-found knowledge, what made you laugh, what made you cry, what made you want to linger or leave. Those are the memories you want to keep and even share.

Assingment: Sit or walk around your backyard and take in the big picture. Then narrow your observations down to one corner of the yard. Narrow it further to one small spot and examine it closely. See anything you didn't notice before? Now zoom in on a very small 6"X6" square of lawn or garden or bush or tree, etc. How would you describe what you see there? Have you made any new discoveries--right in your backyard?!

Related posts:
Creative Travel Journaling - The Tools
                                        - The Five Senses
                                        - Descriptive Language
                                        - The Journal

Monday, August 06, 2012

Travel Safety - Your Hotel Stay

The other day I came across an online article that was quite a treatise on hotel safety. If I had to remember all of what was suggested there for my check-in and stay, I would have to book an extra day to get it all taken care of. I am not a paranoid traveler but I do emphasis using common sense. Here are a few of my common sense suggestions for staying safe in your hotel.

  • Do not show your room number to a stranger. It is common practice for a hotel to write down your room number on your key folder rather than announce it at the desk. Be careful to hold it so the number doesn't show as you make your way to your room.
  • Check out your room immediately upon arrival to be sure the locks on ground floor windows work and there is a deadbolt and a safety bar or chain. (One suggestion I found was to twist a safety chain to make it a little shorter and safer. Don't know how that works.) Also check to be sure doors that connect rooms are locked. We once had someone try to open a connecting door. Luckily one of our kids was sleeping on a roll away across the door. Of course it startled our son and made us all uneasy for the night.
  • Never, never put the safety bar or the deadlock in the position that will hold the door open for you as you run down the hall for ice or across the hall to visit someone. You are inviting a quick thief into your room to grab and run or worse, enter and hide.
  • Sometime before retiring, be sure you know which direction to go for the nearest fire exit and how many doors between. Should there be a fire at night especially, the smoke and dark may be difficult to see through.
  • Use the room safe or take valuables to the desk to be put in their safe. If the cleaning staff should momentarily forget or not follow their safety rules, they could leave your door open while cleaning and step away for a moment. Also a good reason not to leave a laptop, e-book, etc. lying about.
  • In an elevator should you feel unsafe, stand near the control panel where you can hit as many buttons as necessary in an emergency and/or get off at the next floor and catch another ride.
  • Okay, now this might seem ridiculous but it saves me embarrassment. If I'm by myself going to the room and I feel someone behind me, I will stop short or walk past my room, snap my fingers as if I've forgotten something and turn back to head the other direction until I'm sure the person is not following me to my room. So. . .now you know how truly quirky I am. 

Friday, August 03, 2012

What's Lurking in Your Hotel Room?

My daughter-in-law shuddered as she recounted the news show she and my son had watched a while ago. It was one of those exposes that had hidden cameras, black lights, and swabbed cultures to detect the germs that might be lurking in your hotel room. Her worst fear was realized when the hidden camera showed viewers that a maid rather than replace and/or wash a glass in the bathroom instead just used the cleaning rag she was wiping the sink with to wipe out the glass. Eeewwww.

While I'm sure that is probably not the practice of most hotels, it does lead one to worry a bit. How germaphobic are you? I can usually tolerate most things. If the hotel is reputable and the room, especially the bathroom, looks well cleaned, I'm okay. I do carry a package of Clorox disinfectant wipes though just in case it may be questionable.

Here are a few things you may want to do and remember for a healthier you in a hotel:

1. If you have disinfectant wipes, use them to swipe the light switches, the phone, the door handles (of the bathroom especially) and absolutely the handle on the toilet to flush. And don't forget the remote control!

2. Use the plastic cups that most hotels provide that come wrapped in cellophane or plastic wrap.

3. Unless you are at one of the hotels that has the practice of giving clean bed clothes from the top down--meaning the bedspread, don't use the bedspread as a means of covering up at night. Too many possibilities of what might have been placed on top of that spread including dirty suitcases, shoes, and, well, who knows what.

4. If it appears the cleanliness of your room is not up to standards, don't hesitate to ask for another room or another cleaning. If they aren't willing to comply, start making phone calls to nearby hotels to see if there are vacancies. Do it right there at the front desk in front of the clerk.

I've mentioned before my favorite site for checking out hotels and other accommodations before booking. It's Tripadvisor.com, a great resource for all sorts of travel decisions. It could save you an Eeewww or an Eek! along the road.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Books for the Road - Calico Joe

Once in a while I go off on a reading tangent. The last one was to read as many of the Pulitzer Prize winning novels as I could. It didn't last too long. My latest tangent started with the list of the New York Times Bestsellers I found one week in the Sunday Plain Dealer. For some strange reason, it didn't include the Shades of Gray series--which was good; I don't intend to read those. Just as I was curious about what makes a Pulitzer, I began to wonder what makes a NYT bestseller? The answer probably has more to do with good marketing than anything but I started in reserving as many of them as I could from the library. (They were bestsellers so there was mostly a waiting list for each one.)

I ended up with Calico Joe as the first available read and thought it appropriate for the season, the baseball season. Calico Joe by John Grisham is another departure from his usual legal thrillers. I do like his style though and as in his book, Playing For Pizza, another book out of the usual genre, I found drawn into the story quickly.

If I had to pick a theme for the story though, I would say its forgiveness. The story is told from the point of view of a grown man who was, as a child, a fervid baseball fan whose father happened to be a pitcher for the New York Mets. Unfortunately his father ruined his love for the game by his abusive nature and one very bad decision to bean another player, Calico Joe. There are issues underlying the story line that Grisham reveals layer by layer taking the reader to the climactic meeting of the two baseball players, now nearing the end of their lives.

While it's not a hold-your-breath-page-turner, Calico Joe is a good read and would be a great book for the road.
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