"" Writer's Wanderings: July 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Flashback Friday - Reunion Island

Hearing about the wreckage of MH370, the Malaysian plane that went missing over a year ago made me think about our visit to the area on our World Cruise. As we left Albany, Australia and headed west it was difficult not to think about cruising over the area that was part of the large search. I thought I would re-post our visit to Reunion. It is a beautiful place. Now perhaps it will also play a part in solving some of the mystery of the missing plane.

An early call from the alarm clock. We had a tour scheduled for 8:15 AM. As we dressed, we watched the ship channel with the live camera shot at the bow of the ship. Land was getting closer. It looked good. Green. Very green.

A quick breakfast and then we met with our tour group in the lounge to await the call that the ship was cleared and we could head for the bus. Today’s excursion would only be a little over four hours and included a view of the caldera and a geranium distillery. Geranium distillery? Who drinks geranium juice? I couldn’t wait to find out.

Reunion is very French and in no way resembles a Caribbean island except for the weather perhaps. It is very warm but it is also very mountainous and as we climbed up the central mountain on twisty turning narrow roads, the temperature began to fall. By the time we had reached the top an hour later, the temperature was about 20 degrees cooler than below. It was almost chilly but very refreshing.
Reunion was not like a Caribbean island. There was a world of difference between it and Mauritius the day before. The island’s roads were well paved although sometimes very narrow through the mountains. It was neat and clean for the most part. The standard of living looked a lot better.

At Piton Maido, we exited the bus and walked a short way up to the observation area. The view was breathtaking. Before us instead of the brown rocky caldera I expected (like those on the island of Hawaii) there was lush garden foliage covering most of the jagged rock formations that made up the caldera. The whole center of the island is apparently made up of several calderas from extinct volcanoes. And there were villages perched on the hillsides and plateau within our view!

I looked at the map and realized that the brown area on the southwestern end of the island was where the active volcano was. Piton de la Fournaise (pardon my French but I think it means furnace) is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and in fact, according to our guide, had erupted just three weeks ago. With a shrug she added, “But it only last twenty-four hours.”

We trekked up some rocky stairs and along a path to get a better view of the shore line from where we were as well. Clouds were beginning to climb up the mountain side but we were well above them and still in the sunshine and enjoying a cool breeze.

On our way back to the viewing area and to our bus we paused in the hope that we could get someone to take our picture. We don’t get enough of the two of us together. A man near us with two boys offered to take it. He said he lived on Reunion and wondered how we were enjoying our visit. We remarked how beautiful the view, etc. and he replied that we were very fortunate because usually the clouds obscured much of it and today there were none—yet.

Not far from our observation point at Maido, was a little village called Petite France. Near there was the geranium distillery called Maison du Geranium. We were led through the gift shop and outside to the area where the still was. Yes, it was just like a moonshine still. The owner explained, in French (translated loosely by our guide and someone in the group who spoke French), that the geraniums all had different smells. She passed around some cuttings from a rose geranium and yes, it did smell like a rose. I was amazed.

The stems are what hold the oil and those are harvested before the plant blossoms. I didn’t get all of what was going on but the basic was that oil and water don’t mix and when the geranium oil that is expelled from the still floats to the top of the bottle, it is extracted. The oils are used in toiletries, perfumes, and some are for medicinal purposes—not much elaboration on that.

On a back patio we were invited to try some rums which I think had some geranium extract in them along with a cake and some jam, again having some geranium in it. The jelly was good, the cake dry, and I wasn’t about to try the rum again. I finally got the cake down without a wash and moved on to the gift shop for my “shopping experience.”

Our trip down the mountainside was as thrilling a ride as it had been coming up. I don’t think there was one person who didn’t get off the bus and compliment the driver on a job well done. At the bottom of the mountain we got on the freeway and a short time later were back at the ship.

Lunch was had at the specialty restaurant, Tastes, which is on Deck 12 and has a beautiful view. It was a nice morning followed by a quiet afternoon of reading—well, I read. Bob played paddle tennis again. At least he’s easy to keep track of.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Miniature Golf - A Sweet Deal!

The B.A. Sweetie candy warehouse has been around for a while but they are now in a new facility and have just recently opened Sweeties Golfland, a miniature golf course--actually two. One is easy and one is hard but the sweet deal is that the early bird special Monday through Friday from 10 AM - 3 PM is only $5/game (normally $7).

We chose the easy course for the grands and set off on the first of eighteen holes. The day was perfect and there was no one playing behind or in front of us for most of them so the kids got to practice the next hole while Grandma and Grandpa took their shots. There were lots of trees to shade us and benches to sit on while we watched the others take their shots. Beautifully landscaped and well-cared for, it was a wonderful morning outing.

On the last hole our grandson got a hole in one so he got a spin on the prize wheel and won a free ice cream cone. He cashed in on it after we had our lunch of hot dogs and nachos. Of course we had to buy the other two ice cream as well but the prices were reasonable.

The only mistake we made was taking them into the huge candy warehouse. There was no way to come out without some kind of sugar treat. Prices there kind of surprised me. They were more than I expected. Maybe the savings is in the quantity buying.

A soda shop is in the works and we will definitely be back to check it out and play more golf--with or without grandkids.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hale Farm And Village

Looking for some fun things to do near home with our grands and having a great couple of days of wonderful weather, we decided to spend a day at nearby Hale Farm and Village in Bath, Ohio.

We thought we might take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway there but in addition to not being able to make it to the train early enough, the grands ride trains in Japan all the time so they weren't enamored with the idea of a train ride.

I checked out the prices online ahead of time and found out that adults were $10 and kids were $5. We'd been to Hale a few years ago but it was for a lantern tour at night during the Christmas season. I wondered what would be offered for such a price. Was I ever pleasantly surprised!

While the historical buildings were not as interesting to the kids they did explore them with an eye to some of the unique period items, especially the toy replicas they were allowed to pick up and use. They were however fascinated with the pottery shed, blacksmith shop, spinning area, broom maker and the candle maker.

Each of the people involved with the crafts gave a great explanation of how things would have been done back in the early days of the 1800's. Our youngest, the five year old, was intrigued by the pottery wheel demonstration and the oldest, eleven, loved the candle making.

All of them were entranced by the blacksmith and left with a "pocketful" of jokes and funny sayings. The only thing that disappointed me was that we got to the glassblower too late to watch the demonstration and we needed to leave before she was back again from lunch.

There is lots of room to roam between a pioneer era section and the 1800s village across the road. We arrived at the village in time to sit in on the school master's talk. The kids enjoyed that more than I thought they would.

Then we were dismissed to make it over to the commons where a gentleman recruited the youngsters for training in marching Civil War style. Amazingly he got the kids to perform quite well even with a couple of fancy drills and a charge down the hill. I think he must have been a retired school teacher.

The general store offered all sorts of candies and some soft drinks and grandpa shelled out a few coins for some sweet treats. Of course that was all after a delicious lunch at the cafe in the Gatehouse Visitor Center.

We stopped a few minutes to look at the vegetable garden in the pioneer area and were surprised to get quite an explanation of how crops were grown back in the day from the gal who was weeding it out.

I am still amazed at how much we got for our admission fee. It was a Williamsburg-type experience and a price that was affordable. Great day!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Flashback Friday

When I was in the first grade, my dad took us all to visit friends in Michigan and we got to go to Greenfield Village. I don't remember a whole lot about the trip, but we have some pictures in our album to prove we were there.

Greenfield Village is in Dearborn, Michigan, and is part of the complex with the Henry Ford Museum. At the museum you can see of course the history of car making but also so many other elements of American history. Well worth the trip in itself.

The village takes you back through the years of Henry Ford's life and the development of his cars including the farmhouse where he was born. It also traces many other events in history and includes artisans and craftsmen demonstrating their talents.

Then top it all off with a tour of the Ford Rouge factory and see today's cars being made.

Okay, enough talk. I'm putting this on the to do list, again!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Through the Lens of an Eleven Year Old

You've seen my zoo pictures but I thought it might be fun to see what would happen if I handed (very carefully) my camera to my 11 year old granddaughter. She did very well.

This bear smiled for her.

Of course when I said, "No butt shots. . ."

As a former art teacher, I was impressed with some of her compositions.

This guy was enjoying the rare Cleveland sunshine.
Maybe the next time you take kids on a trip it might be fun to get some inexpensive digital cameras and see things through their eyes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Through My Lens - A Morning Walk In CVNP

A walk along the towpath with our grands gave us some great encounters with nature.

Our five year old couldn't push the shutter fast enough for moving subjects and chose a pretty flower.

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Release! Ruby, A Novel

Lots of activity around our house in the next few weeks as my newest novel, Ruby, is about to be released. It will be available for purchase August 12 but with all good things comes a great celebration. There will be a book launch party for those in my area of Ohio on August 29. Click on the Book Launch tab for more information. A book signing at my church in September and another in Hudson in October are all in the planning as well. Fun times.

Here's the back cover blurb for Ruby:

Secrets can be cruel especially when they span generations. What Hope Morgan learns from her mother’s love story turns her world inside out. How many secrets did Ruby keep from her daughter?

Hope Morgan has always had difficulty understanding her mother, Ruby. Now as illness threatens to take her mother’s life she discovers that her family history is not what she thought. Ruby begins to reveal secrets that have been kept for generations.

Who was Edward Fields in her mother’s life, Hope wonders, and why has she kept his letters for so many years? What was the butterfly love story they shared? And did Hope’s father, George know about it?

While Ruby weathered the Great Depression as a child and the sorrows of World War II as a young bride, her faith grew and the promises Edward shared with her gave her strength to see her through. Will she have the strength to finally reveal the last secret she holds?

The main story takes place in Cleveland in the 1930s and 40s. 

Stay tuned for more information later.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Flashback Friday - The Cleveland Zoo

If you have followed my blog for any length of time you know I love the zoo. While we've been to some really nice zoos--San Diego, Columbus, Sydney--I love our Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Maybe it's because I've been going there since I was very young.

The picture here is of me with a mounted Cleveland policeman and I was told it was taken at the zoo. Why Mom didn't take more pictures of me with animals, I don't know. But I do remember our visits to the zoo. At that time it was called the Brookside Park zoo. We would ride a bus and get off and walk down the long hill to the zoo entrance.

I also remember stopping at a hamburger place that was near the bus stop. The picture in my head is this building that is now a Western Union, I think and I believe it was a Royal Castle that was quite popular until the new kid on the block, McDonald's moved into the area.

My memories of the Brookside Park Zoo turn into memories of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo which took over in 1975. By then, I was bringing my children to the zoo. Lots of good times remembered with several other moms who would get together for a day at the zoo.

Now we have zoo memberships and often visit just to walk around and get some exercise on a nice day. There's always something interesting to watch and we visit our favorites, enjoy watching the new generations of zoo visitors
making memories, and seeing how the zoo is ever changing.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lost Passport - Welcome Home!

As our plane touched down  at Charlotte, NC, and taxied to the gate, our hearts were beginning to race again. How long would it take us to get through immigration and then what about TSA again without our grandson's lost passport? All our grandson had was a dive card with an old picture on it for identification. Amazing how much a boy can grow and change in three years.

We approached the immigration officer when it was our turn and thankfully he was one who wasn't gruff. He tried to look something up on his terminal when we explained our plight and then left to find another. He returned to tell us that he couldn't call up the information that Miami had from his terminal so we would have to go through a secondary check where they could. He marked our customs form with a big circle and X and sent us on our way.

After grabbing our luggage, we went through the customs line and the officer took us aside to the room where secondary checks are made for those with questionable customs forms and of course us, with a lost passport. It took just a few minutes and the officer had the information he needed to let us pass through. Only one more hurdle to go.

The luggage dropped off at the rechecking station, we made our way through to the TSA check. Bob explained again about the passport and we were passed through without a problem AND we were prechecked which meant we didn't have to empty backpacks and take off shoes. Quite a load was lifted as we grabbed our gear on the other side of the metal detector and headed for our departure gate.

We felt so good we even grabbed a couple of quick Quizno subs to eat on our short flight home.

"Can I text my mom?"
"No, we'll tell her when we see her tomorrow."

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind with your passport.

  • Keep a photocopy of your passport separate from where you keep your passport. A good place might be to email it to yourself. You can always get on a computer somewhere and download your email. We had photocopies of ours but neglected to get one of our grandson's.
  • Always keep your passport in a locked safe or with you. Never leave it out in a hotel room. Ours were always in the safe but there were times when we were in the unit but someone was in the bedroom making up the bed and the safe was unlocked. We do not know if it was stolen but if it was, that would have been the ideal time.
  • If you do find you've lost your passport or it was stolen, get a police report. It was the only thing that got us through it.
  • Keep your passport number on your phone. At least that is a place to start.
  • Carry a second form of photo ID like a driver's license or state ID card. If traveling with a minor check with your state to see if you can get a photo ID card through the DMV. 
  • Information about the steps to getting a replacement passport when you are out of the country can be obtained at this US Department of State s
    It will list the nearest embassy/consulate and tell you what you need.

Hopefully next time, we will be more wary of where are passports are at all times. While it went relatively smoothly, we are convinced that it would not have been quite to easy had it been the adult passport that was lost/stolen. Lesson learned.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lost Passport - More of the Story

Originally I was a little disappointed that our flight to Charlotte that used to leave Grand Cayman at 1:30 was moved to 3:00 but when we discovered that our grandson's passport was missing that morning, I said a little prayer of thanks just before starting in on some serious prayer for what we were going to do to get home.

The lady at US Airways (American Airlines now) told Bob we needed to get a police report and bring it to the airport and meet with the supervisor at the ticket counter to check in. We did as she said and when the concierge called the authorities for us, they said that we could get it from the Boddentown Police Department since going all the way into Georgetown from the East End would not only be quite a trek, there were several large cruise ships in for the day and it would be extremely busy. Boddentown was on the way so we packed up the car, checked out of the hotel, settled our diving bill with Ocean Frontiers and started down the road to Boddentown.

When we arrived at the station, a lady met us with the papers we needed. Thankfully we looked them over because there were two minor mistakes but we surely didn't want anything else to hold us up. They quickly made the changes while the Chief Inspector questioned us a bit about where we thought we might have lost it or possibly had it stolen. Then we were off to the airport several hours early but anxious about getting everything worked out before our flight.

There was a little confusion at the ticket desk but finally the supervisor came and made a call to the Miami immigration office and explained our situation and gave them the passport number that Bob had stored in his phone. While he was on hold he said that if they insisted we get a passport we would have to go to Jamaica as that was the nearest consulate. Miami talked with our grandson a couple of minutes and asked him a few questions and then cleared him to board the plane for the US. I think his being only thirteen helped. If it had been one of our passports, I'm sure there would have been a trip to Jamaica in the offering.

We got lunch and then returned our rental car and went back to the airport. The supervisor walked us through TSA and for some reason there was no immigration check to exit Cayman. We relaxed a bit and then boarded our plane. At least we would be on US soil.

"Should I text my mom now?" our grandson asked with a smile. He was eager to tell the story.

"No," we both answered. There was no reason to have our kids worried when there was nothing for the moment that they could do. We were worrying enough for all of the adults.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Lost Passport!!

Our ten day dive trip in Grand Cayman passed quickly and the morning of our departure arrived. I went to the safe in our bedroom where we had kept our passports and electronics when we weren't using them and pulled out two passports. There should have been three. My heart skipped a beat. I bent down and looked more closely, lifted the bottom lining of the safe, ran my hand all around the inside and tried not to panic.

When I looked at the two in my hand I realized the missing one was our thirteen year old grandson's. Now my heart started pounding. I took a deep breath and walked into the front area of our one bedroom condo where Bob sat with our grandson.

"Bob, there's only two passports in the safe."

"I put three in there," he insisted.

I held up the two and told him which was missing and he was immediately on his feet and heading for the safe. He did the same thing I did with the same results. For an hour, we systematically tore the condo apart looking for the third passport. Bob even looked the rental car over on the outside chance that it would show up there even though he was sure that he had put them all in the safe.

Our next thought was to go to the concierge at the resort. We figured we couldn't possibly be the only ones to lose a passport. Surely they would know what to do. The man sat there and punched telephone number after number trying to find a lost and found at the airport--just in case. When it began to take too long and my nerves were ready to explode, I decided to go back to the condo and do one more search.

I pulled seat cushions off the couch and chairs and dug down. I looked under the area rug. I even peeked under the locked closet door thinking maybe when we took the electronics out of the safe we had drop-kicked the passport there.

As I was getting up off the floor, Bob and our grandson returned and filled me in on what we were going to have to do. While the concierge spun his wheels, Bob used his cell phone to call the airline and they knew exactly what we needed to do. But would it be enough?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Flashback Friday - Canadian Tales

[This is a post from a few years ago about our vacations in Northern Canada. I came across a picture of my mother and me sitting on the steps to our cabin in the woods. Scary hairdos. For more about these vacations use the search box at the right and plug in Canada or French River.]

Do you have a favorite childhood vacation memory? I do--many, as a matter of fact. But the memories surround the place that we always spent our two week vacation before my father built a vacation home at Put In Bay. We went to Canada.

My father and grandfather were avid fishermen. So was my mother but since my brother and I were too young to be left on our own she didn't get to fish as often as she wanted. The place we went to was on the French River near Noelville, Ontario. I always thought it was somewhere near the northern Canadian border but it is actually situated east of Lake Huron about even with the top of the "mitten" of Michigan. To my child's mind, 12-14 hours of driving seemed enough to get me to the North Pole at least!

The cabins we stayed in were rustic to say the least. Fifty-five to sixty years ago, they had no electricity there yet since it was not a populated area. Our refrigerator was an icebox--literally. Every couple of days, the iceman would come and check to see if we needed a new block of ice. He would set about a foot square block into the metal compartment of the insulated cabinet that served as our "refrigerator."

Our lights at night were oil lamps that lent a warm glow and made everything cozy and at times mysterious.

The stove was wood-burning and I have fond memories of my grandfather getting up before dawn and banging around as he got a fire going in it to cook his famous pancakes. He would also make a morning trip to the community well and pump full a pail of water for us. In those days, that kind of well water was considered premium. I wouldn't be surprised if it was showing up in plastic bottles today.

Of course with all this rugged outdoor living, came the not-so-pleasant outhouse. During the day it was not so bad as we could see to get there and there were no critters of the night to be wary of. At night however, the outhouse was off limits to my younger brother and me. Mom preferred our safety and always came prepared with a bucket for our emergency needs. She would have loved our modern day portable chemical toilets.

My brother and I were always asleep early and missed out on some of the creepy adventures that took place after dark. Mom loved to tell stories and her favorite was one that made the cabin shake. . .

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Books For The Road - Wish You Well by David Baldacci

While on our dive trip to Grand Cayman I managed to read two books and start a third. The one I'd like to share with you today is Wish You Well by David Baldacci. I'm not exactly sure where it falls in his career of action suspense novels with characters like Will Robie and John Puller. It was published in 2007 and is totally different than anything else of his I've read.

Here's the just of the story:
Precocious 12-year-old Louisa Mae Cardinal lives in the hectic New York City of 1940 with her family. Then tragedy strikes--and Lou and her younger brother, Oz, must go with their invalid mother to live on their great-grandmother's farm in the Virginia mountains. Suddenly Lou finds herself coming of age in a new landscape, making her first true friend, and experiencing adventures tragic, comic, and audacious. But the forces of greed and justice are about to clash over her new home...and as their struggle is played out in a crowded Virginia courtroom, it will determine the future of two children, an entire town, and the mountains they love.

Baldacci did a wonderful job bringing the Virginia mountains into focus and exploring life there in the 1940s. It is a heartbreaking but also heartwarming story. One of those books that you don't want to end because you don't want to give up the characters. Not all authors who move out of their genre can pull off such a good story that is out of their realm of storytelling. I hope he has another one of these I can discover or at least that he might write in the future.

Truly a good book for the road.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Reef Restoration - Grand Cayman

Soft corals sway in the ocean current.
One night of our dive trip to Grand Cayman we enjoyed Divers Night at the Eagle Ray Bar and Grill at Ocean Frontiers. The restaurant fixes a buffet of local dishes for a special price and Lois Hatcher from OF brings video from the week of divers and marine life. We had been to Stingray City with Lois and enjoyed our time there. She struck up a conversation with us as we were viewing the video and told us of the work she'd been doing with the Cayman Magic Reef Restoration.

We hadn't heard about the Carnival Magic cruise ship that in August of 2014 had mistakenly dropped anchor in an unauthorized area near Georgetown. According to the reports, there is some dispute over whether the pilot for the port, the captain, or the weather was to blame. I'm guessing there's enough blame to spread around. The ship was anchored in front of Bob Foster's Dive operation and  when the staff noticed that it was in the wrong spot, they notified authorities. By that time, the huge anchor and it's thick chain had damaged an estimated 1200 square foot area of pristine reef.

Delicate lacy and colorful sea fans.
Lois explained to us that the restoration had been going on since then with volunteers and donations of supplies and money to fund the recovery effort. The rubble needed to be removed as quickly as possible to keep it from rolling back and forth over the live corals that were still there. And the corals that were damaged needed to be assessed and those that were recoverable needed to be removed from the silt set aside and reattached with epoxy to encourage their continued growth. Unlike a vegetable garden that grows up quickly, corals take years to develop and grow. Growth in a year is measured in fractions of inches.

It is quite an effort as large pieces of rubble needed to be lifted with airbags and moved to a safe place in a sandy area and then of course cleaning off the corals and reattaching. It is a slow process. Lois has had some experience as she worked with a recovery project in 1996 from another cruise ship mishap with an anchor.

If you'd like to see some video from the project, go to the interview Lois and Joe Avary did on the Daybreak program on Cayman 27. And if you'd like to know more about the ongoing project, check out the Facebook page: Cayman Magic Reef Recovery. I'm so thankful for people like the volunteers working this project who are concerned with protecting and preserving the beauty of our oceans and reefs.

Picture taken by Bob Foster's divers of Carnival Magic anchor.

Monday, July 06, 2015

From Lettuce Leafs to Sharks - Diving Grand Cayman

Puffer fish. Cute until he's angry.
Here are a few more pictures from our annual dive trip to Grand Cayman's East End. We always dive with Ocean Frontiers and usually stay at the Reef Resort which has now become a Wyndam Resort. We actually listened to two time share pitches this year. The Wyndam earned us $100 which was to go for a Water Jet ride for our grandson but then we discovered he had to be 16 so it was exchanged for food certificates which got us a really nice dinner one night at the restaurant.

The other time share pitch we heard was over at the Morritt's Resort right next to the Reef Resort. We'd never been over there to check it out so it was a good chance to see what the rooms were like. Of course we were shown model rooms but were impressed with the layout of the one and two bedroom condos. That earned us $100 off of our car rental.
Peterman shrimp. Tiny things.

While we did seriously consider the time share, we finally came to the conclusion that at this stage of life, it wouldn't be a sound investment and we didn't want to saddle our kids with an obligation as we discovered they would need to pay on it after inheriting it and it isn't all that easy to get ride of a time share. I know there are people who work with them quite well but the key word is "work." It takes a lot of work to do your exchanging and scheduling and we like the freedom to pick and choose as the wanderlust leads us.

We did discover though that there are a lot of places advertised through Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO.com) that are actually time shares that owners aren't using and for less than we paid through the resort. Will be looking into that for next year.

Nurse shark.
Meanwhile enjoy the pictures. We did see a couple of sharks including this huge nurse shark that was about 10-15 feet below us. We were already at 80 feet and couldn't get too much closer. He was probably about 7 or 8 feet long. Biggest nurse shark we've ever seen.

Arrow crab about the size of my palm.

Lettuce leaf slug.

This guy reminded me of Nemo's friend, Crush.

Stingray. We fed them on a visit to Stingray City.

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