"" Writer's Wanderings: December 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Air Rage? Knee Defenders? What's Going On Up There?

When I'm researching things to write about here, I often get off on bunny trails. Curiosity just gets the better of me. I caught an article that mentioned something called a knee defender. What in the world?

Well, turns out it is a little gadget that you can attach to your tray table on the airplane (after takeoff since the tray has to be down) and it will keep the seat in front of you from reclining. It's helpful for those who are tall and don't have a lot of leg room to begin with or for those who need to work on their laptops during flight, something you can't do very well if a seat reclines.

Seems like a good idea but wait! Do you have the right to stop someone from reclining their seat? Off through the rabbit hole I go. The article led me to a couple of others that reported several incidents of air rage over that very thing--the right to recline. There were stories of a couple of flights being diverted because passengers got into a tussle when one wanted to recline and another, obviously in the seat behind objected, strongly.

One story was of a woman who tossed a drink in the face of the man behind her when he used his knee defender to ward off encroachment of her seat into his leg space. When she complained, an attendant asked him to remove it. He refused and ended up with her drink all over him. The crew determined the situation was not going to ease before they made it to their destination so for safety sake, the flight was diverted and the two
passengers put off. Everyone was delayed an hour and a half. Really?!

Is there anything wrong with just asking? Do you mind if I recline my seat? Or, Do you mind not reclining your seat, I need to use my laptop? Or, ask an attendant if there is someone you might switch seats with who is behind another not reclining. There has to be ways around that is not so confrontational.

By the way, there are many airlines that do not allow the use of the knee defender--just in case you were considering the investment.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Little Birdie Told Me

When we were kids it always seemed that Mom knew what was going on. After I became a mom myself I realized how transparent we were as children and how, with a little home-grown psychology, you could figure out what kids were up to.

Mom's favorite line when we questioned how we knew she knew was, "A little birdie told me."

For Christmas one year my brother got a BB gun. I don't know if it was a Red Rider. Probably was a Daisy. And yes, they told him to be careful he didn't shoot his eye out. He did some target practice but I think Mom wasn't expecting what came next.

When asked where he was going one morning with his BB gun he replied, "I'm gonna shoot that little birdie!"

Every so often I systematically read through my Bible from beginning to end and recently ended up in Ecclesiastes where I found a real surprise--the birdie!

In Ecclesiastes 10:20 it says: Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts. And don’t make fun of the powerful, even in your own bedroom. For a little bird might deliver your message and tell them what you said.

So, Mom, you were right. There is a little birdie out there!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Magic at Disney

The Magic Kingdom

Our day at the Magic Kingdom started a little before 9 AM when the gates opened and we joined the flood of bodies streaming through. Number one on the list was the Buzz Lightyear Ride that I love. From there we just followed our hearts and our memories. Several rides meant a long wait for a short ride but most of the time we managed to catch a short wait. Not bad for not having used the fast pass option.

The wristbands we had worked well to get us into the park but they still do a fingerprint to keep you from passing on the band to someone else to use. The difficulty with prearranging the fast passes though was that they were confusing. Instead of just getting a single FP to the ride you wanted, they offered three different rides. While we may have wanted the one, we didn't want the other two and three I believe was the limit for the fast passes. I'm sure if we had had our daughter-in-law there to take charge, we'd have done a better job but we weren't interested in riding all the rides. Less pressure made the day pleasurable.

Since the park closed early at 7, we opted to have a nice lunch at Tony's rather than a big dinner somewhere else. We had spaghetti ala the Lady and the Tramp style. Really good!

The early closing was because there was a special Christmas celebration that cost an extra $75/person. That meant that we missed out on the electrical parade but we did get to see the castle become a beautiful "ice sculpture" thanks to Elsa and Anna. And we enjoyed all the Christmas decorations and music throughout the day.

Epcot at Christmas

If we had only gone to Epcot, it would have been worth the trip. We quickly rode those rides we wanted to in Future World and of course talked with Crush (my favorite). The turtle appears to be in a tank or rather the viewers are in the tank and Crush is looking at the humans. He actually interacts with the audience. It is amazing.

The original plan was to go back to the room and rest a bit but since we hadn't waited in too many lines, we decided to walk completely around the World Showcase where all the countries are represented. I'm so glad we did. Each country had special presentations of what they did for the holidays including several different versions of Santa and even a gift giving witch (Italy).

Dinner reservations were at the Chefs de France, our favorite place to eat in the World Showcase. We remembered fondly introducing our kids to escargot there and the first time we ate there for an anniversary. As soon as we were done though we hustled to the area in front of the American Adventure where we needed to line up for the Candlelight Processional. We didn't know exactly what to expect but it appeared there would be lots of singing of Christmas carols and a reading done by Chandra Wilson.

Although we had to sit in the back row, we still had a great view of a spectacular show. Men and women in choir robes carrying candles marched to the large stage before us as they sang and formed a living Christmas tree in the center of two large stands of choir members. The Liberty Singers were featured and the reading was of the Christmas story from Luke. It was a perfect evening even with temperatures dropping and a little rain spotting us. There are no words to describe how beautiful it was and the couple of thousand gathered there singing Silent Night was enough to give you goose bumps.

While nothing could top the Candlelight Processional, the IllumiNations event that always closes out the day at Epcot came right behind it. We ended up buying two fleece blankets from the gift shop in the United Kingdom since there was no time to go back to the room to retrieve jackets. The usual fireworks show was lengthened with a special spectacular for the holiday season. Fireworks actually danced across the water of the lagoon.

It was a long day and we were ready to get warm. While the temperature was still around 60 F, there was a really cold wind blowing. I was wondering if the snow had followed us south. We snuggled under the covers with visions of fireworks and a cruise ship dancing in our heads.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Flight of the Snow Bird

We always try to do a little something different each time we drive south for the winter. This time we decided to include a stop at Disney World and a holiday cruise before our time spent in Key Largo, Florida. We still made our regular stops in Dobson, NC, for dinner at the Harvest Grill and then at Amelia Island's Fernandina Beach, FL, for shrimp and grits at Brett's Waterway Cafe.

Since our drive to Disney World was only about three hours away from Amelia Island, we decided to do something we've always wanted to try--driving south on A1A. The road goes all the way down the coast of Florida but we were only going to Daytona where we would cut over to get to Orlando. At one point, we had to ferry across the St. John River. We probably could have driven up and over a bridge farther away but A1A stops at the water's edge and then picks up again on the other side. The trip takes about 10 minutes or less and only costs $6.

When we stopped for lunch, Bob got a text message that told him our room was ready at Disney's All Star Sports Resort. We were still an hour away but it was nice to know that when we got there all was ready for us.

Disney World is such a large place that even when we entered the area we still had lots of driving before we found our hotel. There were nine buildings in our complex alone and the All Star Music and Movies complexes were just as large.

Now I love sports and football is a favorite but this place was a bit over the top with giant helmets framing a small football field that our "touchdown" buildings surrounded. The All Star Resorts are the least expensive of the places within the World to stay. This was our first time to try them out. They are okay but there are no frills and the only option for eating is a food court. We made do. We weren't going to be here that long.

As soon as we settled in, using our Disney wristbands to enter our room, we struck out for Disney Springs, the new name for what was called Downtown Disney. We had reservations for dinner at the Fulton Crab House, a huge restaurant that looks like a steamboat. Before dinner, we explored the new changes to the old Downtown Disney. No more Pleasure Island and lots more fine dining with more to come. The largest Disney store I've ever seen as well as lots of upscale shops. Our waiter told us that there were two parking garages being built and then the old parking lot would become a new lagoon with 200 more shops and restaurants.

After a great dinner of crab, clams, and Jambalaya, we wandered some more and stopped to listen to some of the entertainers. There was a great guitarist playing at one of the spots.

Seeing all the changes to Disney Springs, we decided to hop a Disney bus to the Polynesian and check out how much had changed there since we'd last stayed there
. The biggest thing we noticed was a small water park type area near the swimming pool. There was another similar one at the Floridian when we took the monorail there.

What really awed us though was the beautiful tree in the middle of the huge atrium of the Floridian. Next to it was a gingerbread house that was larger than a child's playhouse. In fact it's large enough to house a small shop that sells all sorts of treats from the Floridian bakery including gingerbread shingles.

The magic had begun.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Dickens Christmas

Cambridge, Ohio, is a small town just off of I 77 and a little north of I 70. Their Christmas tradition includes decorations from the Victorian age, the time when Dickens was writing his famous A Christmas Carol.

Along their main street are mannequins dressed in the clothes of the period and each grouping depicts a particular position in the era's London population. There are lamplighters, beggars, church goers, apple sellers, carolers, etc. Each grouping has a little plaque explaining a bit about the display.

The whole project, began by local businessman and artist, Bob Ley, was started in 2006. Each mannequin was sculpted and painted by the members of the Eastern Ohio Art Guild. There are now over 92 scenes of 166 lifelike characters.

We didn't have the time to take in all of them as we were on our way south with several more hours of driving ahead of us. It would probably take at least a couple of hours to see them all.

There is a trolley tour available on some weekends but a good stroll down the main street and some stops along the way for a coffee and lunch would make a wonderful day trip for the Dickens' fan.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bring Me Some Figgy Pudding

Many of our Christmas traditions stem from early British customs. They have evolved and been Americanized through the mix of cultures we have in the United States. Looking back on some of those British customs, it seems a good thing. For instance in the Middle Ages, they often used swans and peacocks as their main entrée at their feasts.

Later, in Victorian times, the bird used was a goose or turkey. They even established “goose clubs” similar to our old Christmas clubs at banks where a little money was saved each week to be used to buy the goose for Christmas. The turkeys and geese were often imported but those raised in Norfolk were marched to London’s market. To protect their feet, the turkeys wore little boots made of sacking or leather and the geese had their feet tarred.

As we travel the world, we are fascinated with the foods of different nations. Christmas traditions at our home are a mix of our backgrounds. My dad's side was Bohemian thus our pork, sauerkraut and dumpling meal. My husband's side is rooted in England so there is always the alternative goose or turkey.

Dessert may be cookies or pie—pumpkin if we didn’t have enough for Thanksgiving. But this year as we started singing our Christmas carols, I became curious about figgy pudding. Why did the carol demand figgy pudding? And what is it? Here's what I found.

Figgy pudding is a pudding in the traditional British sense of the word. Most people know of figgy pudding from the Christmas carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. It dates back to medieval times and is a descendant of frumenty, a rather unappetizing dish from the looks of the ingredients. Another source has figgy pudding being related to plum puddings of old.

We know figgy pudding today from the popular song, We Wish You a Merry Christmas. So if your carolers begin to sing, "Bring us a figgy pudding!" here's a really easy recipe for it.

• 10-12 ounces of dried figs
• 2 cups water
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 box carrot cake mix
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• 3 large eggs
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
• ½ cup chopped walnuts
• ½ cup raisins
• grated zest of one orange
• 1 tablespoon orange marmalade

Place the figs and the water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit until soft, a few hours. Once soft, remove the figs from the water and place in a bowl. Save the water and add the sugar. Bring to a boil and let reduce slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Chop the figs finely, being careful not to pulverize them.

To the boxed cake mix, stir in 1 ¼ cup of the sugared fig water, the oil and eggs. Set aside the remainder of the fig water. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well using a mixer on high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the walnuts, chopped figs, raisins, orange zest and the marmalade.

Line a large (4 quart) metal bowl with foil. Use enough foil so that you have a big collar around the edge of the bowl. Spray the foil with nonstick spray. Pour the batter into the bowl and place in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes and then fold the foil collar over the top. Continue baking for about 1 ½ hours more, or until a wood skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool overnight.

To serve, take the reserved fig water and add ½ cup of brandy or rum. Heat, and if you wish, (carefully!) ignite the sauce and pour over the pudding. Serve in wedges with whipped cream.

To quote Tiny Tim, “God bless us every one!”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Markets Closer To Home

A few days ago I posted something about Europe's Christmas Markets. It seems that we really wouldn't have to travel far from home to find other Christmas Markets. An article, Magical Christmas Markets in North America, on the Smarter Travel site points out several places to visit where you can get your Christmas shopping done in a festive atmosphere.

There are several noted in Canada--Toronto, Quebec, Vancouver. In Quebec there is a German Village where wooden kiosks offer lots of goods. Lights and music add to the wonder of the holiday season. In Toronto, the market area is in the Distillery Historic District and in Vancouver the festivities take place in Queen Elizabeth Plaza.

It's almost a given that a place called Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) would go all out for the Christmas season. Thinking about the food offerings makes my mouth water as I'm sure the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage would feature all my favorites. Their market is called Christkindlmarkt.

And how did I miss this one when we visited New York City for the Christmas Tree Lighting? In Union Square you can find all sorts of shops set up for the Christmas season.

San Francisco's market gets a bit literary with a Dickens theme. We have a town in Ohio that goes all out for Dickens as well. In Cambridge from November to January the whole town is alive with Dickens characters (well, actually mannequins dressed as the characters). Check out the Dickens Victorian Village if you're in Ohio.

Washington, DC, Chicago, and Arlington, Texas also made the Smarter Travel list but the one that I'm really excited about is the Festival of the Seasons in Downtown Disney. Check back here in a few days and hopefully I'll be able to tell you about that one first hand!

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Storytelling Heritage

Discovery of the treasure of my mother’s stories came a little late to me. I remember as a child rolling my eyes as she would take off with another tale and let it unravel in twice the time it would take anyone else to tell it. You see, Mom was quite a storyteller. Her stories were always true—well, except for the one she told us about the stray dog. We had fallen in love with him but he wouldn’t let my dad in the house in the evenings. He had to go. To soften the blow, Mom told us about the disabled child who had lost his dog and needed him back. It soothed our feelings at the time and we bought it hook, line, and sinker.

Just because the stories were mostly true however didn’t mean they couldn’t be embellished. And embellishment was Mom’s forte. She included details, the kind of details a writer could hook up to and create the scene, the feelings, the expressions, etc. Perhaps she should have become the writer in the family. Instead, when I began to write, I suddenly realized what a treasure trove of storytelling I had growing up. Mom had set the example of telling a good story.

Mom did have a bit of trouble with words sometimes though. She could never pronounce municipal and maintenance correctly the first time. When she realized she had the accent on the wrong syllable, she would correct herself or at least try to. We would have to laugh when over and over again it would still come out wrong. After all, English was her first and only language.

The most endearing word mix up for my mother was between marjoram and marijuana. For some reason she would always ask for marijuana to season her roast instead of saying marjoram. The mix up was the catalyst for the story that formed in my head and eventually became In A Pickle. What if someone really did get mixed up between marjoram and marijuana and put it into a pickle recipe?

Of course, I had to include one of my mother’s famous stories as well. When you read In A Pickle, you will find that Annie Pickels’ has an intruder in her basement. It’s Mom’s classic tale that got longer and longer the more times she told it. Of course for my story I had to embellish it a bit too. I learned from the best. I don’t think she’d mind if she were here to read it. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Christmas Carol Connection

Two things I could not remember my dad ever doing when I was growing up: dancing or singing. At my wedding reception when the DJ said it was time for the father of the bride to dance with the bride he connected with me in the correct dance position and then said, "What do I do?"

"Just move your feet a little," I recall answering. The photographer got the picture and relieved, my dad gave up the pretense of dancing with me. I love the picture though. He looks so proud of himself actually "dancing."

Many years later, the first Christmas after my mother was gone, we planned our usual Christmas Eve get together at my brother's home. They were always patiently waiting on us each year because it was important to us that we go to the Christmas Eve service at our church. This year as always I extended the invitation to my family and surprisingly my father said he'd come.

I don't recall Dad ever going to a church service other than a funeral or a wedding. He grew up Catholic but had been disillusioned by the church years ago. He was always a very private man and except for only a small hint one time, he never expressed openly any kind of belief in God.

Our service started that Christmas evening with a series of familiar Christmas hymns. I stood next to Dad hoping he would feel comfortable, hoping he would find some comfort in the Christmas service. Mom had been Mrs. Christmas all our lives, planning, cooking, shopping and making Christmas traditions that now seemed threatened by her absence.

Suddenly I realized that the voice I was hearing strong and clear was coming from my Dad! I looked at him. My face must have registered my surprise. He looked down at me and smiled. "What? I know these songs." I smiled back at him and turned away quickly lest he see the tears that formed. My dad knew the Christmas carols!

I had no idea where he would have learned them. But within those hymns, those traditional Christmas carols, I knew that there was the message of hope, of peace, of the precious gift of Jesus. Perhaps he had known the message. Perhaps he had connected with his Savior after all.

We don't hear those carols as often as I'd like any more but all those years I sang them, they have left that same message in my heart. A connection to the heart of the Christmas message.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Books For The Road - The Stranger by Harlan Coben

It's been a while since I've read a Harlan Coben and so I downloaded The Stranger and dug in. It turned out to be a good choice. A unique story line and of course Coben's gift of keeping you on the edge of your seat clicking through page after page (hard to call it a page turner on an e-reader).

Adam Price is approached by a stranger and told something about his wife that turns his world upside down. With a little research on the internet, Adam discovers the stranger's information is accurate. When he confronts his wife she disappears. It turns out that this stranger has approached several others, not always with the same information but from the same source, the internet. Secrets thought to be hidden there are being revealed. Of course it leads to murder and lives destroyed.

If you are ready for a good book to lose yourself in, this would be a great choice.

In the acknowledgements, Coben cites a dozen or so names used in the novel that are actually names of real people. He has a program set up where a person can contribute to a charity of his choosing in exchange for having his/her name used in one of his upcoming books. So if you would like to see your name in print, albeit fictitious, you might want to contact him for the information: charity@harlancoben.com

Meanwhile, grab a Coben story for your next book for the road. I doubt you will be disappointed.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Save Yourself The Security Hassle For The Hoidays

Traveling by air for the holidays? Bringing gifts along? Afraid to check them? Here are some ideas to help save you the hassle through security.

First off DO NOT buy anything that resembles a weapon for your grandchildren. We were taking home a Buzz Lightyear gun from Disney World once for our grandson. It was obviously a toy, bright yellow and lime green colors and plastic. It wasn't wrapped but it was in its box. When we checked in, the attendant told us we had better take it out of the box and put it into our checked luggage because she was sure it would not go through the security check.

No matter how gifty something may be, if it has liquid or gel in it and cannot fit in your 3-1-1 bag, it goes in checked luggage or if you're afraid of it breaking, send it home or on ahead of you. Case in point: my sister-in-law wasn't thinking about her small snow globe ornament she bought as a souvenir as a liquid. She was stopped at TSA check in and my brother-in-law had to scurry to a mail service in the airport to have it mailed home because our luggage was already checked.

Keep your gifts to a reasonable size if you intend to carry them on. Do not wrap them (even if you check them in your luggage). When we carried gifts to our grandkids one Christmas, we carried them all on along with a roll of wrapping paper and some scotch tape. I had a small little piece of plastic that I could use as a cutter (fold the paper and run the plastic along the fold) and we wrapped the gifts after we got through security. If your kids aren't meeting you at the airport, you can probably wait to wrap them. I was afraid they'd be into our bags before we could get their gifts wrapped.

And then the usual routines. Keep your pockets empty--completely empty. Even a tissue in your pocket (or a forgotten cruise card tucked in your back pocket) will get you wanded if you go through one of the imaging machines for screening.

Most of us all know the 3-1-1 rule but just to refresh: no more than 3 ounces of liquid/gel in 1 container and all containers must fit into a 1 quart see through (read self-seal plastic) bag.

Traveling with a laptop? It must come out of your bag and go into a tray by itself. Cell phones, e-readers, tablets can stay in your carry on but do put your cords in a plastic bag and do not leave them attached to your electronics inside your bag.

If you've been hoping for that white Christmas and it looks to be cold enough to accommodate you, keep in mind that you will have to shed coats and cardigans before going through security. And those boots will have to come off. It might be better to shed the boots before security and pop on some slip-on shoes to get you through a little faster.

Remove a belt with a buckle or wear something that doesn't require it.

The more you can do ahead of time to make the transition through security easier, the faster it will go for you and everyone will be jollier in the holiday crunch.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

How Much Luggage Do You Lug?

We have a friend who thinks it's a real hoot that we set out everything we're going to pack for a trip on our dining room table before we put it in a suitcase. Well, we don't use our table that often for dinner so why not?

Setting out the clothes and other necessities on the table for a trip allows us to see if we're over packing. Rarely does anyone under pack. We can assess the piles of clothes and gear and then reevaluate the necessity of all of them. Do I really need ten shirts for five days of travel? And what about all those shoes?

It is a much better idea we've found to work this way rather than to just fill a suitcase as we gather things for our trip. If you start out with one of the larger suitcases, you are bound to fill it up and bring more than you need. We aim to fill the smallest that will accommodate the absolute necessities. We've often had stateroom stewards do a double take when they deliver just two suitcases for a cruise and we say that's all we have.

While we haven't tried it, we met a couple once who were down to one suitcase each for a cruise. When we asked how they did it, they replied that there was a safety pin on each item that they packed. If they returned home with something that still had a safety pin on it, they would leave it home the next trip.

Packing for several different climates? Layers is the word to keep in mind. Light weight clothes that are layered can offer a lot of protection. Add gloves, a hat, and a scarf and you can survive most colder areas. Afraid of a rainy day? A small travel umbrella and a rain poncho from a dollar store will help you through it.

The laundry is the traveler's friend. I know you're on vacation but part of the travel experience can be enriched by the people you meet in the local laundry. Many ships have self-serve laundries. It doesn't take long to get a load of laundry done and certainly cuts down on how much packing you do if you plan to use it.

Neighborhood laundries in other cities and countries can be quite interesting as well. We got to chat with a friendly Parisian one day as she showed us how to operate the machines. Another time we had a friendly exchange with a student in Heidelberg and I got to practice some of my high school German. As my grandson would say, it's all part of the experience. And when you are traveling through Europe and using the trains, it helps to have a smaller suitcase and less to lug.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Do You Sleep On A Plane?

I don't usually sleep much on a plane. If I am extremely tired, I might doze but I'm not much of a sleeper on a plane no matter how long the flight or the time of day. Bob on the other hand can sleep most anywhere. He usually takes a Tylenol PM or two and he's out by the time the landing gear is up. I envy that especially when it's a long flight and I'd really like to be awake for the adventure ahead.

Taking a book along to read helps sometimes but I usually find myself so intrigued by the story that I stay awake to see how it ends. Maybe I need to read some duller books like the ones I had to read in college that always managed to put me to sleep before I could finish them.

Bob usually books me a window seat which is nice. If I'm next to a window I can lean in that direction which is more comfortable sometimes than trying to recline a seat. Ever notice that an airplane seat has no support for your back no matter what angle you recline to?

I have a pair of noise canceling headphones and enjoy listening to soothing music while I read but if I do start to nod off, I find them cumbersome. Guess I need the more expensive pair that work like earbuds.

And of course on those long flights where they actually feed you who wants to fall asleep and miss all that airplane food?

I've tried it all--meds, shoes on/shoes off, sleep masks, blanket/no blanket, travel pillow/airplane pillow/no pillow, reading/not reading, counting sheep (although what they were doing 30,000 feet in the air is beyond me). Still most of the time sleep eludes me on a plane when we're flying coach. Now first class or business class? That hardly ever happens. At least the upgrades rarely come on a flight longer than a couple of hours.

When all is said and done though, I figure a little lost sleep is a small fee to pay for an exciting new travel adventure.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Flashback Friday - Pittsburgh 1986

Call it a return to youth. Call it a resurrected hobby. Call it coping with retirement. Bob has started back into ham radio. He's been buying old sets and restoring them hopefully to resell and got his license back to go on air and is working toward getting his old call letters again.

The last purchase he made found him driving to Pittsburgh to save shipping charges. (When you're retired you do things like that.) When he returned home, he unpacked all the equipment and found in the bottom of one of the boxes an old newspaper from October of 1986. It's always fun to look back.

Amazingly just as all the news coverage lately has been centered around the Middle East and Syria, so were the headlines back then twenty-nine years ago. And it was over a suspected act of terrorism.

On the lighter side, one of my favorite movies was playing in the theaters--Crocodile Dundee. Paul Hogan is right up there just below Sean Connery as one of my all time favorites. Of course now they're a lot older but then so am I.

The Red Sox were playing the Mets in the World Series. The article says the Mets needed two wins to stay alive. Spoiler alert: the Mets won!

A Sony auto-reverse AM/FM stereo cassette recorder/player was selling for $77. A Sharp VHS video cassette recorder for $239. And record firms were fighting the digital world as the digital audio tape looked to be the new approach to recording and playback.

Always fun to look back.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Fairy Tale Places

In a few weeks we will be traveling to a place where a lot of fairy tales come to life--Disney World. Of course the iconic Cinderella Castle sits in the middle of the Magic Kingdom and causes every little girl to dream of her prince and her own castle.

There are lots of places to visit in the world that are fairy-tale like. Castle Neuschwanstein in the Bavaraian hills of Germany was one of the inspirations for the Cinderella Castle. We visited there about ten years ago as part of a precruise tour.

The moss covered trees and rocks in much of New Zealand create a fairy-tale-like atmosphere. Is it any wonder that the Hobbit movies were made there? In looking over an article from TripAdvisor (12 Fairy Tale Places That Are Actually Real) I found that there is a place in Washington, Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, that looks similar to the New Zealand forest.

The picture that caught my attention though was the one they have of a huge vine or tree trunk that resembles a vine that one might label Jack's Beanstalk. It's in Cambodia.

Another place on the list is the Waitomo Caverns in New Zealand where the glow worms create a magical fairy tale canopy overhead. While we didn't go through the caverns, we did find other places where there were glow worms and explored there.

So if a dream is a wish your heart makes and your travel dreams and wishes include a little whimsy, check out the article on TripAdvisor and pack a bag, grab a magic carpet or wave your wand and turn that pumpkin into a coach and go for it!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

I Can Picture It In My Mind, Clark

Photographs are a natural part of travel. Or are they?

We love to take photos so that we have a record of where we've been and what we've done. It helps to settle arguments sometimes when one or the other of us can't remember something or some place. While I enjoy composing pictures and trying to capture moments, I'm not so much a fan of aperture settings, f-stops, and ISO. My crutch is the auto feature on my camera but it doesn't always work the way I want it to. Case in point: waterfalls.

The last trip we took out west had us visiting lots of waterfalls but it seemed that every picture I took had a sheet of white water, not the textured look of water falling over rocks. I tried using the sport setting on my camera thinking that perhaps since water falling was action the camera would adjust better. In some cases it seemed to work but I still wasn't satisfied.

Of course I turned to the internet. After all, I'm hoping for lots more waterfalls in my future. I found several sites that told me all about ISO, aperture, and f-stop when taking waterfall pictures but nothing that was definitive. There is no one-size-fits-all. The bottom line was to experiment because all situations are not created equal. What do I mean?

Light changes throughout the day and is affected by weather and location. The best advice I got here was to take your shots early in the morning or later in the afternoon/evening. That's great advice if you are a professional and are ready to fix your schedule around your shooting. A traveler aims, shoots and moves on. There's lots more to see.

I'm whining, I know. But I wanted an easy fix. So here's my conclusion. I'll carry the recommended tripod only when I'm not hiking more than a few feet to view the waterfall. The jury is still out on the filters that were suggested. Some recommended them. Some didn't. What I can take from all of the searching is that I need to put the camera in a manual mode and shoot a couple dozen pictures with different settings. That's how I've gotten some good night shots so I will apply it to waterfalls as well.

I want to enjoy our travel and not be tied to the camera all the time. After all, some of those memories ought to just be pictured in my mind.
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