"" Writer's Wanderings: January 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Discovering More of Australia

Australia is a big country and trying to see it all in one short visit is impossible. We've been there five or six times and have criss-crossed the country but continue to find more places to explore. While surfing the internet, I discovered a place called Exmouth on the west coast that I hadn't heard of before. Everyone knows of the Great Barrier Reef on the east coast but I didn't know there was a large marine park in the northwest.

Exmouth is a town near the Ningaloo Marine Park which means you are close to great diving and snorkeling. And what would you see? There are whale sharks and giant manta rays among many other smaller and interesting marine species.

Whale sharks are large creatures that feed off of plankton much the same as manta rays do. They are huge creatures but gentle and there are snorkeling adventures that encounter the sharks during the season they are in the local waters. 

What attracts the manta rays mostly though is that the area has lots of cleaner fish and other species that will help to keep the parasites off of the rays. The symbiotic relationship between the huge animals and the much smaller ones that clean the parasites is amazing. We were able to dive with manta rays in Papua New Guinea a few years ago. It was a memorable adventure and I would love to do it again.

The Cape Range National Park is also nearby featuring lots of walking trails and vistas that are said to be beautiful. Canyons, gorges and majestic ocean views all in the same area.

I'm thinking another visit to the land down under may be in order. There is certainly lots more to see and do.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Catching Zzzzs On The Road

One of the articles I saved to look at a while ago had to do with helping you sleep when you travel. Since I have an awful time trying to sleep on an airplane, I thought I would give it a look.

First up was the most common, the sleep mask. I can't stand anything attached to my head like that and I'd really like to be able to open my eyes without thinking I've gone blind which I might should I actually doze off.

Other gadgets you could wear included a headband with speakers in it, said to be flat enough to be more comfortable than headphones or earbuds. Again, it would require something wound around my head but did sound more plausible than headphones to keep out the noise of the plane.

There were all sorts of apps to monitor your sleep, wake you gently, create white noise but I have my own white noise since I have tinnitus.

Probably the most intriguing, besides the "human charger" that was said to shoot bursts of white light into your ears to lull you to sleep, was the app that could be applied to your electronic gadgets to cut down on the blue screen glare that is said to keep you awake long after you've shut the gadget off and tried to sleep. Hmmm, I said. Let's have a look.

I found a Harvard article that confirmed that blue light does indeed interfere with sleep. Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin which is what your body produces to make you sleepy. Blue light is dominant in computer and phone screens and the article suggests turning those screens off two to three hours before bedtime.

Apparently blue light is also more prevalent in those new energy saving LED bulbs as well and they were hoping that manufacturers would eventually start adding a coating to the bulbs to reduce the amount of blue light.

I'm guilty of working on the computer before bedtime or, yes, I'm confessing, playing games on my phone. Guess I need to rethink my evening routine especially when we're traveling and jet lagged.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounter

Storms had moved through the Key Largo area around 4 AM and left behind a gusty wind that was literally howling through the trees and our condo glass doors. It never ceases to amaze me how resilient the palm trees are. They bend and bow but except for losing some of the drier fronds they bounce right back up again.

Still the day did not promise to get any calmer and our fishing, kayaking and other water sports we had planned with our visiting grandson were out of the question. On the internet I found a spot I thought might be fun and we'd never seen before. It was about a 45 minute drive south from us but we didn't have anything else to do.

The Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters turned out to be much more than we ever expected. We arrived around 10:30 in the morning and paid our entry fee. Our grandson got a discount for being a Florida resident but even so, the $20/adult was not a bad price and as the day went on we felt it was a bargain.

We just missed the tortoise feeding but there were lots more opportunities on the list we were given at the entrance to watch other groups of animals receive their nourishment. We decided to just walk around first and scope things out. A guided tour of the park was also included in the admission ticket.

The huge tank of coral reef fish and its neighboring predator tank were beautiful and mesmerizing. You can view them online on their live webcam. A small tank of lion fish showed the predator that is infesting many of the Caribbean waters and scavaging a lot of the small tropical fish in the reefs.

Lots of turtles and tortoises in various exhibits were still munching their early morning breakfast. Around the corner from the large tanks was a display of small alligators. It's Florida. Gotta have alligators.

Wandering over to the lagoon area, we saw large tarpons and bought some food to feed them. Between the two sections of lagoon is an area with lots of rays of all kinds. You can also feed them and touch them. They have a neat way of feeding them with wands that hold the food so you don't have to worry about your hand getting too near those grating plates in their mouth.

A shark tank offered the opportunity for you to feed the sharks if you desired. Again the food was on the end of a wand and the attendant even lifted a shark up a bit so one of the kids could touch it. By the way, you can train sharks. They responded to a paddle set in the water and each had their own pattern to recognize. So much for those dive operations who claim they are not changing the habits of sharks when they set a chumsicle in the water for divers to watch a shark feeding. Those guys are pretty smart and know when to show up for food.

While you could see some huge groupers in a couple of tanks, the lagoon also held one called a goliath grouper that was said to be over 200 pounds. Unfortunately he knew how to hide well and we never did catch a glimpse of him.

Of course in addition to touching the rays, our grandson loved the tidal pool where he could examine horseshoe crabs, urchin, starfish and mollusks including a conch.

One of the ray tanks had a nursery set up. The night before, we were told, one of the smaller ray varieties had given birth. I learned a new fact. Rays have live births. The attendant described it as looking like "little burritos" when they were born.

Another fellow had a pail full of fish and invited us onto a small floating dock set into the bay area where pelicans were fishing in the tide that was rushing out to sea. He was about to feed the nurse sharks that live under the mangrove trees on the shore. He wasn't sure they would show up because of the storm having stirred up the water so much but eventually they came. It would have been great to see them if the water had been clearer.

I have to say, every attendant in the park was extremely informative, patient and willing to answer any and all questions. A great learning environment!

The morning passed quickly and we decided to linger and have lunch. Prices at the cafe were not bad either and the panini Bob had was really great.

While it spritzed rain off and on, there was enough cover overhead that it didn't bother us at all. The same could be said if the sun was out and hot. There would be plenty of shade.

We let our grandson wander and revisit the exhibits he wanted to see again. There was always something new to discover in the tanks and we thoroughly fell in love with the spotted eagle rays in the large tanks.

All in all it was worth the drive and the price of admission. It certainly made what could have been a miserable day a memorable one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Florida Keys Screwworm

When we started into Key Largo on our way to our condo rental, we noticed a sign warning of the screwworm. What? Huh? I grabbed my phone and did what any curious mind does. I searched the internet.

The screwworm is a larva from a type of blow fly. The fly lays its eggs in the wounds of a warm blooded mammal and when they hatch into a maggot, they feed off the host, enlarging the wounds and ultimately causing death. The cycle repeats and repeats and can be a danger to livestock and other warm blooded animals.

The infestation was discovered in Big Pine Key as it began to devastate the endangered Key Deer herd. Over a hundred deer so far have died or been euthanized due to the infections they suffered.

Unfortunately pesticides are not effective on the fly or larva so they are importing sterile male flies from a research center in Panama to release and hopefully mate with the females that are present. Since the females only mate once, it is an effective way to eliminate the problem although obviously it will take some time. The problem was discovered last summer and has been monitored since then.

As you exit the keys in Key Largo, there is a mandatory inspection for all pets. So many people bring their dogs when they come that there is a danger of carrying the infestation farther. It is suggested if you have a pet that you inspect them twice a day to be sure there are no wounds that the maggots could infect. If some are found, it is further suggested that you take your pet to a veterinarian to be treated.

Oh, husbands do not qualify as pets. Just sayin'.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Look Back - Geauga Lake Park

The jacket hangs in our hall closet. The smell of funnel cakes has finally faded. The blue jacket was part of the uniform worn by my son on one of his first jobs--funnel cake maker at Geauga Lake Park. But it is also a reminder of good times once had at the amusement park not far from where we live.

Geauga Lake is all but gone now. I believe the Big Dipper roller coaster has been taken down. It was all that remained to remind those who had enjoyed warm summer days there of the enjoyment the park had brought.

The park, located in Aurora, Ohio, dated back to 1889 and went through several transitions as ownership changed. One of the favorites was when Sea World opened up across from the amusement rides on the other side of the lake. Shamu, the sea lions and of course the dolphins brought a day filled with wonder and education.

The amusement rides of Geauga Lake included not only roller coasters but more nostalgic rides like the old fashioned cars that ran on a rail. How many of us remember our first driving experience on that track when your parent had to push the gas pedal because you couldn't reach it?

But alas, Sea World is gone. Geauga Lake Park is gone and even the water park that ran a few more years is gone. What will replace it can only be imagined. Many though will pass by and say, "Remember when. . .?"

Friday, January 20, 2017

Books For The Road - The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

A while back I read a book called The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro and thoroughly enjoyed it. While searching for another book to read, I happened across another Shapiro novel, The Art Forger. Could the author capture my interest again? Absolutely.

Shapiro has a way of taking you into the mind of the artist and along the journey teaches you about facets of art that you probably never considered. In The Art Forger, you learn some surprising facts about some of the very first people to forge or copy the works of famous artists.

One of the things that intrigued me about this read was remembering back to my high school days when I, with a group of seniors in my German class, went to visit our teacher's apartment. She had a picture hanging over the mantel that was a copy of--if I recall correctly--a Rembrandt, perhaps a self portrait. It made an impression on me. I didn't know that people would paint a copy of someone else's work.

The story in The Art Forger takes you into the life of Claire Roth who in order to make money to survive and paint her own art makes reproductions of other famous works. She is made an offer to good to pass up to copy a Degas painting but there is a darker side to the whole proposition. There is a bit of a mystery to solve and of course the protagonist is into all sorts of trouble by the time the story unfolds but along the way, the reader not only gets a good storyline but also a little art history and a look into the forging  or copying of a painting.

It's a good read and one worth packing/downloading for your next trip.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Biscayne National Park - Family Fun Fest

The text message said "The kids would like to invite you to this event this afternoon." There was a link that took me to the BNP Family Fun Fest page. The event for the day was called In Cold Blood and featured lizards and turtles and snakes--oh my! I could just hear the grandkids giggling as they told their dad to invite us. They know my feelings about snakes.

Bravely I said we would meet them there. We had about a forty minute drive to get there and an errand to run along the way but we still got there first. It was good we did because I got to watch the program with the live critters first. I could stand in the back of the crowd and not be anywhere near the two snakes the herpetologist presented.

The show was very informative and when we saw it a second time with the kids we learned even more tidbits of information. The most interesting was telling the difference between an alligator and a crocodile. Both inhabit the Florida waters. Basically the crocodile has a pointier snout and when it closes its mouth you can still see its teeth. Of course that presupposes you stick around long enough to observe closely when the animal closes its mouth.

The turtle was cute actually and when the herpetologist talked about how this species' numbers had been reduced because people made turtle soup of it before it was protected, the kids all made sympathetic noises that expressed their disgust at the thought of hot turtle soup.

And then there were the snakes. In the first show the herpetologist lost a couple kids in the first row when he pulled out the first one, a blue indigo snake that was actually from Texas. The Florida population was decreasing. It was non poisonous and actually eats other snakes. The snake went up a notch in my admiration of him at that little fact.

The next snake was all but booed as he was pulled from his box. It was a Burmese python about 12 feet long. The pythons are a big problem in Florida. The herpetologist emphasized that if anyone was considering buying a small one as a pet they should understand that it will grow quite quickly and there is no where to take it when it outgrows the home. And therein lies the problem. Zoos have more than they can handle so many people have just taken their pets and let them go in the Everglades. The environment is such that they can actually thrive and therefore reproduce. Each year there are python hunts but it doesn't seem to be making a very big dent. What truly suffers is the natural small animals of the area, the rabbits, small birds and even some larger ones as well as small deer.

The park had several stations set up where the kids could learn more about the reptiles. We learned  about natural camouflage, made origami turtles, and learned several new facts about turtles. When the kids had been to each station they took their punched tickets to the gift shop and received a button pin they could wear.

It was a great afternoon and it was FREE! If you are near a National Park, check out their events. You might be missing some great opportunities.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

All The World's A Stage-Starting with my backyard

We have an eating area in our kitchen surrounded by windows looking out over our backyard. When the trees and brush were cut away, it gave us a beautiful view of a small lake and creek behind our house. It's a mecca for wildlife especially since I've planted so many "delictable tidbits" for the deer. They dine in the morning and evening eating plants and shrubs from the top down.

Then there's the rabbits. They take care of the plants from the bottom up and generally choose those the deer leave behind. Chipmunks feed on the bulbs in the ground, moles "aerate the soil" and the geese tear up the grass. A huge blue heron circles on occassion checking out the size and availablity of the goldfish in my pond. (I was smart enough to only buy the 59 cent variety.) Someday I fully expect to see elephants tromping through.

I keep the nurseries and hardware stores in business buying all the latest "off" sprays and "animal resistant" plants. We have motion detectors that chase the deer with a spray of water. Unfortunately, the detectors don't descriminate between deer and meter readers or friendly neighbors. All these things help to keep me slightly ahead of the wildlife...except for the squirrel.

This is no ordinary run-of-the-mill squirrel. He sneaks his way up two levels of decking to a bar stretched out from the railing to a spot right in front of the window where he hangs by his tail to grab the suet block and smear greasy lard all over his paws and face. Then he swings to the finch feeder and somehow manages with those greasy paws to wrest the top off the tube of thistle to grab what he can.

Quite the showman, he performs these feats in front of us as we sit at the table trying to eat our dinner. One evening I thought I might get his acrobatics captured on video for America's Funniest Video. At least then I would have some money to pay for the seed and suet he was consuming. He was so greasy from the suet that he slipped into the half empty tube head first and for a moment appeared to be stuck. Face pressed against the side of the tube, his tail flicked and twitched with his discomfort. Unfortunately for me, by the time the camera was on and running, he had managed enough leverage to pull himself out of the tube and he scampered away.

Having learned this new trick however only brought the furry critter back again and again. He became very adept at popping the cap off the feeder. That is until Bob drilled a hole through the cap and screwed it on. Now he sits there and contemplates the problem before him...the squirrel, not Bob. We fully expect one day to see him come, metric wrench in hand and dig into the feeding tube again. In the meantime, the finches enjoy the food when the "sentry" is not there and we continue to contemplate a way to keep him out of the suet.

Shakespeare said "all the world is a stage". He must have had a backyard like ours.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Writing for a Postmortem Audience?

[One more chuckle from an earlier post]

I've been at a writers conference for the past week. I was looking forward to sunny California but 4 out of 5 days it has rained. I think it affected my brain function. As I surveyed the list of workshops, my eyes caught one titled "Writing for the Postmortem Audience." I blinked twice and read it again but it stayed the same.

A postmortem audience? What is a postmortem audience? Is it one full of dead people? Is it an audience of coroners? Morticians? Forensic scientists? The questions bounced around in my head for the afternoon and the next day. Even though my mind was beginning to go into overload mode with all the information being crammed in, the question would still surface. What is a postmortem audience?

When the world of critiques, workshops, keynotes, and networking slowed a bit, I got out my notebook with the scheduled workshops list and looked again. Writing for the Postmortem Audience was right there. Or was it? The fog lifted a bit. I think the sun may have even peeked through for a moment. It wasn't "postmortem" it was "postmodern"!


What's a postmodern audience?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Laughter - The Best Medicine

[Another look back at a really early post]

Well, it is confirmed. Laughter truly is the best medicine. I knew that! Now we have real proof. According to the reports on the news, researchers have found that the arteries widen when we experience laughter thereby putting our blood supply to the heart and brain at a healthier level.

Now come the complications. Does this mean that the theater will charge more for a comedy than an action movie? Will comedians demand more money? Will they have to be licensed as health care givers? Will this open the doors to a private specialty practice? Will malpractice insurance be available should they fail to treat the patient with a sense of humor?

And, what does this do for all those tort lawyers? I can see the commercials now. "If you, or someone you love, saw Vin Diesel in The Pacifier, and it failed to make you laugh, your arteries could have been seriously damaged. Call us. We can help you recover financially."

Now, that's funny.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Daddy Hair

[Perusing some old posts I came across one of my favorites. It bears repeating. By the way, Tyler is now a taller-than-me sixteen year old.]

"I'm gonna be a daddy," our three year old grandson, Tyler, announced as he strolled into the restaurant to meet us for lunch.

I immediately looked to my daughter-in-law. Was he making an announcement? Were we going to add to the growing list of grandchildren? A grandmother is always looking for another.

"You can thank your son for that idea," Lori said. "Ron told him that when he got hair on his chest he would be a daddy. The other day day he noticed he had hair on his legs and he figured that was good enough--he could be a daddy."

"Well if we shaved the hair on his legs, does that mean he could be a mommy?" I asked. To her credit, Lori politely asked me not to plant that idea in his head.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Carnival's New Medallion for Cruising

One of the things my husband looks forward to when we come to Florida is that he can get the Miami Herald delivered every day. A real printed newspaper! The delivery system is a little strange. The paper gets placed in a bag with the number of our condo on it and it rides up and down in the elevator until Bob goes out and retrieves it--unlike last year where it got tossed up on the walkway in front of our second story condo. At times there was a stone in the bag so it had enough weight for the toss.

All that detail aside, the Business Monday section this week contained an interesting report on a new innovation coming to the Carnival Corporation. Those of us familiar with cruising know the value of the sea pass that resembles a credit card or hotel key. You use it as your stateroom key and to charge onboard purchases to your account. It is also your pass on and off the ship where it is scanned and matched with your security picture. Get ready for a change to procedure.

Carnival who also owns such lines as Princess, Holland America, Seaborn and Cunard has hired the fellows that engineered the mousebands for Disney vacationers. While I like the idea of the mousebands that are used as room keys, charges to your account and link to an app that allows for making reservations, setting your schedule and several other planning options, this new innovation has me asking some hard questions.

According to the Herald article and several I found online, they have engineered what they call the Ocean Medallion about the size of a quarter that will work with a variety of devices connected to something called the Ocean Compass. Before you cruise the Ocean Compass will ask you to fill out all sorts of information beyond the usual precruise details like your credit card number, dinner reservations, excursions, etc. that are usually done. It will all be programmed into your Ocean Medallion along with suggestions for extras to add on to your cruise experience based on your answers to questions about what you expect from your cruise.

Unlike the mousebands, you will not have to hold your medallion to the door of your stateroom, only stand in front of it. When you pass a monitor on the ship, it will register with suggestions for what you might like to buy in the gift shop. (By the way, there are all sorts of items in the gift shop like a necklace or key chain to keep your medallion in.) Pass the display for photos and you will immediately be up on the electronic board. Want a drink by the pool? Order through your device that's connected to the medallion and you'll never have to leave your deck chair.

The medallion will allow ship personnel to immediately identify you as you pass their devices. Your picture will pop up on their display, your preferences noted and of course the idea being that your every desire will be met. No cherry in that pina colada without being asked. Supposedly you will be able to order your food and it will be ready by the time you get to the dining room.

All of this presupposes that you have noted all of your preferences, desires, and plans on the Ocean Compass. The question is, how much privacy are you giving up and how much information (read commercials) will you be bombarded with? If someone has your medallion can they open the open the door to your stateroom? I realize that we have already given up a lot of privacy with social media and other technologies but, really, a cruise vacation is a chance to get away from all that.

Wouldn't it be more unique to have a cruise where there were no devices allowed? Where people actually interacted face to face? Where crew members actually learned your name? What's next? Robots serving drinks at the pool? Microchipping passengers as they board?

Part of me wants to see this be successful--the part that owns stock in the company and realizes they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and initiate this. The other part of me says stop messing with my cruise experience.

Here's several links to articles I read:
NY Times
Crusie Critic 
Princess Cruises

Monday, January 09, 2017

Life on the Florida Bay - Pelicans

Key Largo has an Atlantic side and a Florida Bay side. While we are staying on the Bay side facing west, we could walk across Route 1 (which can be quite a challenge) if we want to watch a sunrise over the Atlantic. Since that would require getting up pretty early, we opt to enjoy the sunsets from our side of the Key. We also enjoy the wildlife although the most entertaining life is not really very wild.

There is a dock that is part of the condo complex where we are seasonal renters (another term for snowbirds) and we have four or five pelicans who are always in the area. Around the outer part of the dock are some large rocks that help to protect the dock and the boats inside the little harbor area created by the dock. The pelicans perch on the rocks and keep a watchful eye for any fishermen who may be cleaning fish or even for that matter catching fish from the dock.

We will walk on the dock past a pelican perched there and he will watch us with one eye. As we pass, he'll turn his head and watch with the other eye. I'm not sure he can actually see by looking straight ahead. If we happen to stop at the table set up where you can clean your fish you can be sure that the other pelican cohorts will zero in and immediately land or swim up to the table and watch for any fish tidbit you might throw into the water.

Fishing on the dock can be quite a challenge if you want to keep your catch. As you finish reeling in and turn to take your fish off the hook, you'll find yourself surrounded by the grey feathered long beaked web-footed beggars. If you want to catch and release, you have to be quick about it or it the fish will be pelican food before it hits the water.

Watching the landing and take off of a pelican brings a smile every time. They sort of scoot as they land, surfing along the surface of the water until their momentum stops. They are heavy and hardly look like they can actually fly. Their take off is a lot of flapping of wings and I keep watching to see if their feet are actually running along the surface of the water until they take flight. They are pretty expert at zeroing in on a food source though (other than the freebies a fisherman may offer) and they dive down out of the air making quite a splash when they are on the hunt.

I hate to call them clowns but they do bring a smile and a chuckle every time I watch them.

Friday, January 06, 2017

So What's New in Key Largo?

Not a whole lot was obvious to us as we drove into Key Largo on our way to the Rock Harbor Club where we rent a condo for the season. As we passed the place where our favorite BBQ stand was set up the year before our hearts fell. There was only an empty space where we had purchased some of the best brisket we have had anywhere. Disheartened, we began making other plans for future dinners.

As we spent the first couple of days getting settled in and buying groceries and a few other items we hadn't brought or couldn't fit into the car that was stuffed to the gills (thank goodness we didn't have a flat tire) we really didn't notice much else that was different. But suddenly as we were driving down Rte 1 from the Publix to our condo, Bob slowed a bit and pointed with a "Yahoo!" There in a different spot, and even closer to us, was the We Be Smokin' trailer. We'd be enjoying brisket by the weekend.

The most obvious change from the past year was the new resort next to the Rock Harbor Club. Last year we had lived through all the truck and construction noise. This year there was only the noise of excited guests as they stood on the newly renovated dock in front of the new Playa Largo and cheered the sunset.

We couldn't resist taking a look at the finished product since we had watched it take shape for a couple of years. It was impressive. Beautiful grounds and a couple of promising places to go for a dinner out.

I'm sure there will be a few new friends to meet but it was nice to see the familiar faces of the other snowbirds we share the complex with. We even managed to find a place for our beloved pickleball. It's down the road a bit but that's okay. We're retired, as Bob says. We have all the time in the world.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Snowbird Migration

No procrastination on taking down Christmas decorations this year. Like yanking a bandaid off, we took down and stored all the outside and inside holiday decor. Thankfully the weather was good for the outdoor lights and one more day of Christmas shopping although I hated the crowded mall.

After an overnight stay in Columbus to visit family, we began our flight south. The weather was overcast but clear and we could only hope that it would hold as we passed through the West Virginia and Virginia mountains.

A little snow began falling the higher we climbed and instead of the temperature rising as we headed south, it fell as we gained altitude. The snow got a bit thicker and whiter and deeper before we crested and began our descent into North Carolina. To our delight the temperature rose from a cold 25 in the mountains to a warmer 40 degrees by the time we stopped in Dobson, our regular stay along the way.

Bob had already made reservations at the Harvest Grill that sits in the middle of a grape vineyard at the Shelton Estate Winery and Vineyards. A roaring fire in the fireplace greeted us and we were seated just close enough to be toasty and comfortable for our dinner.

The next day our goal was to see the temperature rise at least another 20 degrees. It did. By the time  we reached our next stop in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island it was in the lower 60s. We still needed a jacket but certainly not a winter coat although there were some Floridians bundled up in boots and coats in the evening as we went to dinner.

Two things were happening that night. First there was a NCAA playoff game, OSU v. Clemson--but we won't elaborate on that. Let's just say that we didn't watch it all the way through. The other event was the local shrimp drop that was to happen at midnight to welcome in the new year. Since we needed to get up early for our last leg of the journey we didn't stick around for the drop but did catch a glimpse of the preparation and watched a bit as many families began to arrive for the festivities. It looked like there would be a lot of fun for all ages.

Sure enough our last leg of the journey had the temperatures rising more than 20 degrees. By the time we landed in Key Largo, the temps were in the lower 80s. They were in a stretch of unseasonably warm weather unlike the previous year where we arrived to unseasonably cold weather.  Warm or cold, it was still better that back home where our camera showed at least four inches of snow on the deck.

Unlike last year too, we arrived to find a beautiful condo awaiting us with a warm welcome note and a bed ready for road weary travelers. Let the Florida fun begin.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Do You Buffet?

Years ago a buffet was a real treat. All you could eat for one price. My metabolism was a lot better back then and chasing five kids kept the pounds off. Somewhere along the line however the appeal faded. Maybe the buffets became too much the same and poorly kept for freshness.

Then along came our venture into cruising and the buffet was rediscovered. The cruise ship buffets were much better and we indulged for a while--mostly for breakfast and lunch. The appeal wore off there as well. Perhaps it was the crowd and the lines and the trying to find a seat at peak dining times. Buffets have evolved from the take a tray and put your plates full of food on it to only carrying your plates without the tray and making several trips to manage it all.

The single line of food choices has evolved into stations of food often following themes like Asian, Carvery, Salad Bar, Italian, etc. To decide what you want, you move from station to station and see what the offerings are dodging of course all those others who have already plates full of choices. I dubbed it dodge 'em dining.

We have found that dining in the smaller venues or in the main dining room suits us much better for now. The only time we use the buffet is when we've returned to the ship too late for the dining room or first thing in the morning if we are in a hurry for breakfast.

There was one exception on our last cruise. One day we happened to see roast duck on the menu for the dinner buffet. We checked the main dining menu and found it wasn't available. That night we enjoyed our roast duck in a casual setting that wasn't nearly as crowded as the breakfast and lunch times. It was delicious and we managed a window seat with a view of a beautiful ocean.

Cruising, like all travel, is a matter of choices you make along the way. Don't want to dress for dinner? Try the buffet. In a hurry in the morning? Visit the buffet? But if you want to sit and enjoy the wait service and not have to dodge crowds, you might enjoy the dining room instead. Not as many choices perhaps but to my mind a much less hectic experience.

So the choice is yours. Do you buffet?

[Check out the Cruise Critics' choice of top buffets.]

Monday, January 02, 2017

It's January 2! What Are You Doing With The Rest Of The Year?

No, I have not made any resolutions. Why do so when I know I won't follow through? Try to lose weight? That's always a given. Exercise more? I'm happy with my routine. I don't smoke so I can't give up smoking and I reuse to give up chocolate. No, resolutions aren't for me but goal setting is. So I'm sharing and hoping you, my readers, will hold me accountable.

First off, I'm going to finish writing Pickle Dilly, the second book in the pickle lady series. If you haven't read the first one, In A Pickle, now is your chance to grab a copy and then the second one will be right behind it for you. To those who have read it, maybe a rereading is in order. I have to do that to remember what and where my characters are coming from and going to.

Next up is revising and revamping a Christmas novel I started years ago and would like to have published by the end of this year--in time for Christmas of course. It's a heartfelt story, some tissues will be needed, but also an uplifting one.

If I get those two items finished this year in the midst of more travel, time with family and friends, and of course time with that man of mine, well, that will be accomplishment enough. Anything extra will be "icing" as they say.

How about you? Any goals for the year?

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