"" Writer's Wanderings: June 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Travel: Always An Adventure

When you travel you can't always be sure of what you are going to get, what's going to happen, who you will meet, how you will arrive, etc. As I have always said travel with an attitude, one that will roll with whatever the journey presents. I just hate having to follow my own advice.

We set off for our annual dive trip to Grand Cayman and woke early (5:45 AM) in order to arrive at the airport the suggested two hours early because of the TSA wait recently being so long. Our airline (American) had kindly granted all three of us a Pre-check status so we knew we weren't going to have to go through the procedure of removing shoes, computers, 3-1-1 bags and all. We approached the kiosk for check in with confidence and immediately we were in trouble.

All three reservations were made separately because we were traveling with a minor who was not our son but our grandson. I don't know why the reservations have to be made that way but when Bob calls them directly they do that. His came up first and he proceeded all the way to paying for his checked bag and had his credit card denied. No problem. We'll pay at the desk. My check in went just fine, credit card (same one) and all. Then our grandson's wouldn't even show up. Uh oh.

An attendant noticed we were at the kiosk a little too long and came over to gather us like a mother hen and take us to her station where she quickly put all the information into her computer, pulled up the extra boarding passes, used the credit card to pay for the other bags and send us off to give our bags to security for their x-ray. I was wondering why we even went to the kiosk to begin with but mine is not to question why. . .

Cleveland Hopkins was about to do the ribbon cutting for the new renovations that are pretty much finished except for a few touches here and there. News cameras were already setting up even though it wasn't to be until the afternoon. Perhaps for the morning news shows? It was after all early and my stomach was telling me it hadn't had breakfast. My nerves were screaming for coffee. We soldiered on to the new Pre-check designated area wondering how long it would take us. I blinked. Were there only a dozen people here? In six minutes and a few seconds (Bob timed it) we were through and out the other side and our grandson was looking for a Starbucks.

We wouldn't be so lucky at Starbucks. The line was winding down the concourse. It had to be at least twenty minutes before he finally got his iced caramel coffee. Then it was on to Dunkin' Donuts for our coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Same thing. Long line. Another fifteen minutes. At least we had come early enough that we didn't have to eat on the run.

At our gate, we boarded with the priority group--another gift from American and settled into our seats. It was a commuter plane with only two seats to a side so I sat a few rows behind the boys who were planning to watch a movie. Good thing because at least they were entertained for the time that was to come. As we were to begin our push back from the gate, we felt a big bump. I exchanged what-was-that-? glances with the girl sitting next to me. A few minutes later it was explained that the tow bar had buckled or something to that effect but to be sure there was no damage to landing gear it would have to be checked.

End of the day. Dinner and sunset.
We had to wait our turn for the mechanic. After an hour, the issue was resolved and we were on our way once again but now we were running dangerously close to making our connection in Charlotte. That wouldn't normally be a big deal--more an inconvenience, but there are only a couple of flights a day into Grand Cayman and we knew we wouldn't make another that day if we missed our ride. We touched down and made the mad dash to the other concourse and our Cayman flight. Last ones on the plane, we were greeted with looks of relief as others realized that's who they were waiting for. Now would the luggage (all our dive gear) make it?

Before long we were winging our way to Cayman. Now the worse case scenario would be having to rent dive gear and Bob and our grandson diving in their shorts. I had packed my suit in my carry on with a few other things to save space. Whew!

Touch down Cayman! And there on the carousel after we passed through immigration was our luggage. The only thing missing from our journey was lunch but we knew where to get that. But wait! We needed to get our rental car which, if you haven't guessed on a Murphey's Law day, wasn't ready. Another forty-five minutes and we finally had it all in hand on our way to Wendy's and lunch to be followed by grocery shopping and our arrival at the condo.

Thankfully Murphey left us and the condo was in great shape with all that we will need to rest comfortably after our diving each day. It did come with a maid--me, but that's okay. Bob will make up for it somewhere. I'll make sure of that.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Canadian Stratford On The Avon River

Many years ago on one of our first visits to England we made a journey from London up to Stratford on Avon to the Anne Hathaway house and the said traditional stomping grounds of Shakespeare. It was beautiful and memorable. We toured the house, looked at some arts and crafts, soaked in the legendary stories and did some rubbings from some raised bronze tablets. I still have them hanging in our family room.

Much to my amazement there is a second Stratford and it's not far away from us. You don't have to cross an ocean to get there. It's also on a river called Avon and it has a tradition of theater albeit not as historical as the town in England. The Canadian Stratford which is in Ontario began its foray into the Shakespearean theater in the mid 1950s.

A journalist, Tom Patterson, and a British director, Tyrone Guthrie, began organizing the Stratford Festival. Construction on a stage and theater was finished in 1953 and the first play opened with legendary actor Alec Guinness. Since then the festival has grown adding a fourth venue in 2002.

Their site lists all sorts of productions from Shakespeare to more modern drama and musicals. There's a $25 bus ride to get to Stratford from Toronto if you are interested in expanding your theatrical experience from the variety offered at the Toronto theaters. You may not find the same quaintness that the original Statford on Avon affords but certainly you won't lack for entertainment.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A City Celebrates!

It's been a little more that a week since the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA World Championship. It was an amazing comeback for an amazing city that has begun to make quite a turnaround from its old reputation of years past.

I don't really like to watch basketball but who could resist watching that last game on Sunday. When the Kyrie Irving shot came, hope began to blossom. Would we really do it this time? And then came the buzzer and the announcer shouting that the Cavs had won. I think people all over the city were pinching themselves and the pinching continued until Wednesday when the Cavs and the city put on the first celebration parade the city has ever had.

Here is where I began to really feel pride in the city, the area, we call home. Not only was there very little trouble in the all night celebrating (they say only five people were arrested and one police car damaged) but a million plus happy people showed up on Wednesday for an all day celebration. Again, except for one incident, there were no problems. Considering the horror stories of some places who have won championships, I was very encouraged to see a great celebration with everyone having a good time even in the summer heat and testing patience with transportation.

Stories of people helping people. Lifting children on their shoulders so they could see and even a picture circulated of a group lifting a man in a wheelchair so he could see his hero Kyrie pass by. Those we know who were there said that it was amazing how polite and kind people were to each other. Cleveland's not such a bad place after all.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thousand Islands and The Salad Dressing

Long before I knew thousand island was a type of salad dressing I knew it as a place, a destination, although I'd never been there. If you'd listened to my mother though, you'd have thought we came close--often.

My mother learned to drive late in life. I was probably about eight or nine which would have made by brother about three or four when she got her license. Riding along with Mom was always an adventure. Why? Because she got lost so often--or at least she would tell us we were lost. We always did manage to make it back home but not before we heard the familiar line, "If we go any farther we're going to hit Thousand Islands!"

Now it wasn't until much later in my life that I learned that Thousand Islands actually is a place and there are actually more than a thousand islands there. It is located on the St. Lawrence River along the New York and Canadian border. It sounds intriguing to the writer in me as it is said there's a story that goes along with every island.

One such story is of the wealthy owner of the Waldorf Astoria who began building a castle for his wife on Heart Island. Unfortunately she died or as some suspect, ran off with the chauffeur and he abandoned the project but it remains a popular tourist attraction.

In order to qualify as an island the piece of land in the river has to remain above water all year and have at least two trees. One such island called Just Room Enough, takes its name from the fact that there is just room enough for the little house that sits on it. According to what I read, the people who own it were looking for somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and wanted a place where there would be no traffic and they would be away from people. Unfortunately, it became a popular tourist attraction with lots of gawkers.

But what about the salad dressing, you ask? There are several stories but the one that makes most sense is that the wife of a local fishing guide would make the dressing for lunch for her husband's clients. A famous New York actress liked it and named it after the area. She shared the recipe with George Boldt (the castle building guy) and he served it in his hotel restaurant. The locals who make the dressing now say that the mass market production is nothing like the original. They bottle their own each summer season and when they sell out, it's gone until the next year.

Bottom line, if we ever get lost driving through New York, I want to end up at Thousand Islands. It sounds like a great place for a travel adventure.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sleeping With The Fish

Around here we are big on fish. We love scuba diving. We love our saltwater aquarium. One of us loves to catch fish and we both love to eat them. Sleeping with them would be a whole different dynamic but not impossible--at least not in Dubai, the city where the biggest, the largest, the most unusual can be found. 

In addition to its indoor ski resort, huge aquarium in a mall and world's tallest building, you can now find a place to sleep in luxury surrounded by walls that look into a huge aquarium. The place is an Atlantis hotel built at the end of the Palm, a man made island that extends into the ocean and is in the shape of a palm tree. 

If you've ever been to Nassau in the Bahamas, you've seen the iconic Atlantis Hotel with the arch. The same design is used in Dubai. On a tour of Dubai we were driven out on to the island, went past the hotel but we couldn't get out and explore. I had no idea until I came across a story about it that the Atlantis had two suites, the Poseidon and the Neptune, that surround you with floor to ceiling walls that look into the Ambassador Lagoon that is filled with three million gallons of water containing more than 65,000 marine animals including sharks and sting rays. I'm guessing it would not be a good idea to tune into Shark Week on Discovery before you go.

The idea of an underwater suite really outdoes the infamous water bed in the James Bond movie that was filled with fish. Didn't someone die on that?

Well back to the luxury suite. As with many of the luxury hotel suites in Dubai the bathroom has 24k gold fixtures and comes with a butler. If you book a package deal you can swim with the sharks and stingrays. I've met up with sharks and stingrays diving but sleeping with them surrounding me. . .well, I don't know. I can think of lots of other places I'd rather spend $5,000 to $8,000 which is what the suite will cost you depending upon the season. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In A Word- Chocolate!

Several years ago on our river cruise through France, we stopped at Tain L'Hermitage. It is noted for its wine but perhaps even more so for the famous Valrhana chocolate produced there. We were amazed at the free samples given out in the gift shop and I have never tasted such pure hot chocolate. All you needed was a very, very small cup. It was rich and dark. I was surprised it was not mentioned in the Independent Traveler article I read about twelve chocolate spots to visit. We didn't have time for a tour of the place but tours are available.

Hershey, Pennsylvania, was mentioned but more so for its spa. I can't imagine being covered with chocolate for a massage or facial. That seems like a waste and if I had to smell the chocolate, I would just want to eat it.

There were two places mentioned near some of the areas we will be traveling to this year. Umbria, Italy, has a chocolate factory owned by Nestle called Perugina. They make Baci which is foiled wrapped nuggets with a hazelnut cream center and other confections. You can tour the factory and get a bird's eye view of the production from walkways above.

The other place that might be worth looking into is in Barcelona, Spain, where our fall cruise will stop. Cacao Sampaka is the name of the shop which replaced a famous restaurant called El Bulli. It sounds very boutiquish with bars that have ham or anchovies or hazelnut or Modena vinegar in them. What really caught my eye though was the offering of churros and hot chocolate. In a chocolate shop? It's got to be heavenly. Hope I get the chance to try it. If I do, you can be sure I'll share--the story. It's kind of hard to share the chocolate over the internet.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Travel Anxiety- Am I Ready For This Trip?

It has been ten weeks since we last were on the road. Wow. That may be a new stay-at-home record for us. There is an upcoming trip planned soon but after seeing an article, 10 Signs You're Not Prepared For Your Trip, I felt my heart race a bit. Are we ready?

This is a diving trip. The annual trip we take with our grandson so I'm fairly familiar with preparation and we usually don't pack until a day or two ahead but still, I went ahead and checked our readiness against the list.

Do we know the weather? Oh yes. It will be hot and humid. Very hot and very humid. Of course if it wasn't the water would be cold and we don't like diving in cold water. Shorts, light shirts, sandals, swimsuits and one nicer outfit for Sunday church and we're set.

Is our house in order? Hmmm. They didn't mean clean although we will leave it somewhat neat and orderly. The more important thing is to check that we have light timers working, the refrigerator will be clear of the perishables like milk and fruit and the mail and paper will be stopped.

Do we have backup ID? Last year's fiasco with a lost passport has taught us a lesson. We had photo copies of our passports but we had neglected to copy our grandson's. It might have saved us some moments of panic and shear fear that we were in real trouble. So, yes we will have that all done.

ATM? No we won't carry extra cash as the article says to do. We know, at least for this trip, that there will be ATMs available and it's always better to use them to get your money exchanged or use your credit card. I carry an extra card in case one is stolen or canceled. We've had one canceled when a card was compromised. Even if you fly into another country, you can always check the airport for an ATM and withdraw cash there for your necessities that won't take a credit card.

What is your flight status? Bob takes care of this. He has notifications come to his mailbox if anything changes. So far the weather is good. It is hurricane season but so far doesn't look like there is anything churning in the Atlantic. Our condo rental is confirmed and we have all the information for getting in. Rental car is reserved. I think we're a go here.

Have a plan for the little things that can go wrong? At least for this trip we are familiar enough with Grand Cayman that we can navigate any small problems that come up. But if we were going somewhere new, we'd have to consider alternatives if our travel plans were interrupted by something out of our control like a hotel room not being ready.

Is your passport ready to expire? Nope. We recently had them renewed and of course, our grandson had to get a new one. Thanks to his mom he's all set.

Have you thought about packing? Well, yes, thought about it. Won't do it until a few days before. Bob will check our gear out a week ahead to be sure batteries are in our dive computers and all the gear is in one place. I have a list for packing for a dive vacation or a cruise so I follow that and I don't have to fret over what to take. The more challenging trips I do have to plan a little farther in advance.

International phone plan? This is on Bob's list but normally we don't do that unless we will be gone for a long time and/or we are concerned about something at home where we will need to be reached. Email and messaging are a cheaper way to go usually.

No one knows you're leaving? Well, just like a pregnant lady in her eighth month we get the question, "Are you still here?" So for the most part, our friends know when we are leaving. Family too, except for those kids who don't pay attention and say, "You're back? Where were you?" We also put a call into our local police department and have a house watch. Our neighbors are sweet and keep an eye out as well. One even drives her car up our driveway when it snows to make it look as though our cars have been in and out. Longer trips have a friend stopping by to check on our fish tank.

Check, check, check and check. Guess we're as ready as we'll ever be. Let the travel begin!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Choosing Your Stateroom

 When people learn we've taken over fifty cruises the question always comes up as to which cruise line we like the best. Our answer is the one going where we want to go for the best price at the right time. We do have a few lines we don't travel but that has to do more with the type of services offered and the kind of shipboard activities and they are usually the ones that aren't going to the places we want to see.

The next question asked is which stateroom is best to book? Where should you be--inside or outside with a balcony? Should you be in the front or back of the ship? Top deck or bottom deck? This one is more a personal choice and some of it depends upon your sea worthiness.

The very front and the very back of the ship will often be the place where there is more up and down motion should the sea become a bit choppy. However there are often very nice larger staterooms at the back of the ship.

Next consideration is upper decks vs. lower deck. Take a pencil or pen and stand it upright on a table top between two fingers. Now move the upper end of that pen back and forth. That's the motion a ship would make. The bottom will stay about the same but the top moves much farther side to side. Now you might get some better views from an upper deck room but it will certainly cost you more. Most of the penthouse suites are on the upper decks. The choice is yours.

Inside or outside? We started cruising with inside rooms. They were much less expensive and fit our budget at the time. Then we spoiled it by getting a room with a balcony. It's tough to go back although our last short impromptu cruise we did. If you don't mind not having a window (the TV will have a live shot of the view from the front of the ship usually) and you expect to spend more time at the pool or with activities and going ashore, then inside will work for you. I need to have a place to retreat so I truly enjoy a balcony.

Some other important things to consider:

  • is the stateroom near the elevator? You might get some noisy late night guests.
  • what is the stateroom under? Try not to get under the dining rooms. You'll hear early morning preparation or late night clean up. Under the theater is not bad if you don't expect to call it an early evening. There was one cruise where our room was under the pool deck and we heard the clump, clump, and slide of the line dancing in the evenings.
  • want a valet or butler? You'll need to get a suite and it will cost you.
  • You can get really picky and decide if you want mostly sunrises or sunsets from your balcony depending upon which direction your ship is sailing. Pick port or starboard appropriately. Just remember when it turns around and heads home you'll have the opposite. (By the way port is the left side facing forward and left and port have four letters. Easy to remember.)

If you've never booked your own room, you'll want to go through a travel agent who is familiar with cruise bookings. They will steer you in the right direction. And as my husband always says, it's tough to have a bad cruise no matter where your stateroom is.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

But They Taste So Good

My churros in Barcelona. Yum!
Please say it isn't so! One of my favorite treats when in Paris is a Nutella crepe. Delicious chocolate flavor rolled up in a sweet pastry, sprinkled with powdered sugar, hold the whip cream (I have to cut some corners) and plopped into a paper cone for you to eat as you stroll the lovely streets of the romantic City of Lights is among the top ten most fattening treats in the world. Lots of calories in the serving of Nutella added to the crepe that is cooked in butter and you end up with calories topping 1,000 and of course all that artery clogging fat.

So how about churros? Maybe on their own but who can resist the rich deep dark chocolate that accompanies them? The cinnamon sugary fried bread begs to be dipped in that cup of hot chocolate.

We all know that French fries are made in vats of hot cooking oils. In the states the oils are now supposed to be healthier for you which explains why they taste so much better in other countries that still use the tasty oils and fats. In Canada I was always intrigued with the white vinegar they use on their fries instead of ketchup. Now I hear that in some sections of Canada they serve them up with gravy. You can get them at Burger King there. 740 calories and 41 grams of fat.

When it comes to Japan, I always think that the foods are much healthier. And for the most part, they are. There are some things however that contain those hidden fats that can add up to extra pounds. Ramen is not the culprit but the broth that the ramen is in can be. Much of the time the broth is made from beef fat and oils. Oh, say it isn't so.

There are some other delicacies that are on the most fattening list. Check them out with this link and let me know if you have tried any. I'm not giving up my crepes, churros or ramen. I don't get them often enough to create a disaster of my diet and I do walk a lot more when we travel.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Would You Eat At A Cat Cafe?

"A what?" you ask. A Cat Cafe. It popped up in one of the travel newsletters I received. The article was written by an obvious cat lover and the cafe was in Montreal. That would make sense. It's not the US and it is French, I thought. Then I wondered if there was such a concept, an epicurean feline entrepreneur in the states. Lo and behold there are a few places!

First a little background. Cat cafes have been around for a while. They started in Asian countries where living quarters can be quite small an not conducive to having a pet. The cafes, where several cats are allowed to roam freely in the dining area, allowed the patrons to get their pet fix while not having to care for one in a tiny apartment. It caught on and began to spread.

Of course New York City would be one of the first to open a cat cafe. The Meow Parlour gets its cats from a rescue center and they are all up for adoption. A fee for time spent in the cafe allows you free wifi access. You can also order food and beverage. Someone on TripAdvisor mentioned filling out a waiver. I couldn't find information on what type of waiver but I'm guessing it's a disclaimer relieving the cafe of any responsibility in harm that might come to you. The reviews (mostly from cat lovers) were good and reservations are usually needed to get in.

There is a site that lists 24 cat cafes in the states that are open, in the process of opening, or just recently closed due to funding. It appears they all work with animal shelters and have a cover charge that goes to help fund the shelters. I kept wondering how they got around the health codes for restaurants. I still haven't figured that out but the one that tried to open in Cleveland didn't succeed--at least not yet. They were still trying to work things out with the health department.

Interesting concept but I'm more intrigued with a restaurant that has an aquarium--as long as it's kept clean.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Don't Feed The Pigeons In Venice

Venice is an amazing place. At least when it's not raining. I remember arriving in Venice when it was raining. The buildings were dull, drab, and dirty looking. I wondered what people thought was so beautiful. Then the sun came out. The wet dried up and the buildings took on a whole new look. New brighter colors. A cleaner look. And then the the golden accents in the roofs and turrets and the mosaics began to gleam. It truly was beautiful. But what was all that commotion in the square?

Pigeons. Lots and lots of pigeons.

Vendors were out and about selling bags of corn to feed them. It was a tourist tradition. Feed the pigeons. See how many you can get to land on you. Some people were seen lying on the cobblestones, covering themselves with bits of corn only to be covered head to toe with pigeons.

Alas, that tradition is no more. I discovered that the vendors were banned from selling corn back in 2008 and it is now forbidden to feed the pigeons in St. Mark's Square. It is for the best I think. The pigeons weren't doing the facades of the ancient buildings any favors.

I'll bet they still have $15/cup cappuccino though.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Deadly Delicacies

In light of a severe stomach ache that sent our son to the ER in Tokyo, I thought it might be good to share some cautionary comments on the local delicacies that you might be tempted to try while traveling. Our son is pretty careful about what he eats but since living in Japan for several years his palette has expanded to include things his boyhood self would have retched at the sight of. Thankfully his malaise didn't seem to be a major problem and in a couple of days he was much better. Was it something he ate?

While visiting Japan we noticed a restaurant that had a tank of live puffer fish and asked our Japanese daughter-in-law if they were on the menu. Yes, she answered, but you had to be very careful where you ate them. The chef has to be licensed to prepare them for consumption. I passed. For the record, they are called fugu fish and can be quite deadly if not prepared properly. If you are eating sushi be sure to ask what you are being served.

Another Asian delicacy, this one from South Korea, is called Sannakji. Basically it is the tentacles cut from small live octopus. You eat them while they are still wiggling. I seem to remember one of those traveling epicureans eating some on the Travel Channel once. Yes, they can be deadly if not prepared properly although if they are live and eaten fresh I'm not sure what the preparation would be. I'll pass.

While in South America, I remember seeing cassava root for sale in the open air marketplace. I did not realize that it can also be deadly if not properly soaked and dried. The cyanide in it can kill you. Hmmm. Sounds like something I could use in another mystery novel.

In Jamaica there is a fruit called Ackee. You must truly trust the person serving it to you to know if it is fully ripe. If not it too can be deadly if you become stricken with the Jamaican vomiting sickness. If you must eat it and it is ripe, be sure to eat only the yellow flesh. The black seeds are deadly as well.

Also on the list is the Namibian giant bull frog. Other lists include the hot dog (choking hazard), rhubarb leaves, monkey brains and a cheese from Sardinia that needs maggots to speed the processing. It's now illegal to make but people in Sardinia eat it anyway.

When it comes to foods be adventurous but be careful.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Hoping To Avoid The Lines In Immigration and TSA

With all the problems that have been reported lately in the TSA delays at airports and having encountered so many long immigration lines arriving back in the USA, we decided to take the plunge and enter into the Global Entry program with Customs and Immigration. At times we have been able to enjoy the TSA Pre-Check program with several airlines but that is arbitrary and several times one of us has been pre-checked and the other has had to go through the security line.

What does it mean to be pre-checked? Well, it certainly saves time. You do not have to get out your computer or your 3-1-1 bag. You can keep a light jacket or sweater on as well as your bet. And the biggie, you don't have to take your shoes off! That makes it nice especially if you wear shoes that tie. They send you through a metal detector rather than the millimeter wave unit.

The TSA Pre-check costs around $85 but for a little more ($100) you can get Global Entry which not only includes the pre-check advantage but also is supposed to get you through immigration and customs sooner. Many airports that have heavier international traffic have kiosks set up where you can slide your passport through a reader and place your fingers on a print reader and get through immigration much sooner.

If you travel a lot and especially out of the country, the cost of the five year GOES program could save you money in time saved as well as the anxiety over missed flights that could have a domino effect on your other reservations.

To qualify you must go to the Customs and Immigration website and set up an account and then fill out an application along with payment. There will be a background check done on you and then you will meet with an interviewer who will confirm your residency and have your fingerprints printed. We are between the online approval and meeting for our interview. The online part took about two weeks but finding an appointment time in our area put us into August.

So, will this be a good easy way to avoid the lines? I sure hope so. Otherwise I'm gonna have to bring a folding chair for those long waits.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Books For The Road - Every Bride Has Her Day by Janice Thompson

Once in a while it feels good to just giggle. That's exactly what Janice Thompson makes you do as you read through Every Bride Has Her Day, the last book in her Brides With Style series. Any woman who has been through the wedding planning stages can relate to Katie Fisher's dilemma as everyone around her wants to plan her wedding for her.

Katie has won her bridal gown and won the heart of the man she's going to marry but as they plan for their special day, one dilemma after another seems to loom up and create a challenge for them. It doesn't help that she works in a bridal/wedding store. That just makes more "cooks in the kitchen" so to speak.

The chosen place for their wedding, Katie's hometown of Fairfield, Texas, erupts in an all out feud just before their planned day. Here again sadly but with a good dose of humor the reader just might recognize and groan at the kinds of things that split a church and/or a town.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Every Bride Has Her Day were the quotes that Thompson starts each chapter off with. They are all from Audrey Hepburn and most were quite poignant.

And you will definitely fall in love with Aunt Alva.

Looking for a nice read to while away some time on the beach or in a plane on your way to some exotic place? Try this one out. It's a good Book For The Road. Light. Fun. Easy reading.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Hanging Liters

On our World Cruise 2015 we saw lots of unusual things in many different parts of the world. The picture here I believe I took in Guayaquil, Ecuador on one of our excursions. I had tucked it away for a possible post here and almost forgot about it. It's a unique idea for recycling those 2 liter drink bottles.

String plastic cording through the the bottles at each end until you have as many as you want to hang in a row. As each is added, anchor the bottles with a know below each one at the ends. Be sure to keep them even to make your bottles level.

Cut away a section horizontally at the top of each bottle between the cording. Fill each with soil and plants and a little time released fertilizer and you have a hanging garden. The holes in the bottom of each where the roping runs through should allow some drainage but if not a couple of holes poked in the bottom of each bottle will work too.

What a great idea for a kids' project for the summer!

Friday, June 03, 2016

Germaphobes Beware the Beach Sand!

Living near Lake Erie means that our local news stations often give the warnings for unsafe water conditions for beach goers. It usually happens after a good rain when the water hasn't had time to absorb and dissipate the contaminants like fertilizers that are run off from the land area. So when the bacteria count rises most careful beach goers stay out of the water and take to the sandy shores.

Now however, a study has been made of those warm sandy beaches. Tao Yung of the University of Hawaii who led the study of Hawaiin beaches
concluded that the sandy beach needs to be considered as well in monitoring conditions for public health. It seems the sun that would help to kill off the bacteria doesn't penetrate as well through the sand as it does the water. Therefore the sand may be holding on to its bacteria longer than the water does.

I'm not a germaphobe. I'm a believer in some exposure to build up immunity to some of the stuff lurking in our world that would harm us. I think there was less of a problem with a child's health when we didn't try to shield the child from every potential contact with a germ. So unless there was a sewage runoff at the beach I'd go ahead and dig my feet in the sand. I'd be more afraid of a sand crab than a germ.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

How About A Sandwich With That Complaint?

Most people don't like to complain and most people don't like complainers but there are times when something goes wrong with you travel plans that necessitate an adjustment. Customer service is a tough job especially if it is your only job. So put yourself in their shoes for a moment when you need to complain about something and serve your complaint as a sandwich. Yes, a sandwich.

Start off with a compliment (the bottom layer or piece of bread). Think of something the travel agent, cruise company, airline, etc. has done well in the past or of someone who has done a nice job there and tell them about it. Or at the very least start off with "Hello, how are you today?"

Ease into your complaint. Make sure you have all your facts straight and documentation in order (that's the meat of your sandwich) so that you can check it against the response from customer service. Explain as simply and unemotionally (meaning no yelling and screaming) as you can but be firm in expressing what your expectation was of the original booking.

Add some condiments in the form of your confidence that the situation can be worked out since you are sure the company wants you to be happy with your choice of them.

Then top off the conversation (top layer of bread) whether the matter has been solved immediately or not
with a thank you and another compliment. If they need to respond further they will be much happier if you leave them with a nice "sandwich" to chew on.
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