"" Writer's Wanderings: April 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Countdown Deal Begins - In A Pickle @ 99 cents!

Looking for some smiles as we wait for spring to fully bloom? Want to start stocking up on summer reads? Check out the eBook deal at Amazon for In A Pickle. Today's price is 99 cents but each day this week the price goes up a bit until it gets back to the current price of $5.99. Don't miss out on this great opportunity.

Already read In A Pickle? Tell a friend and pass the word!

Here's the book blurb about In A Pickle:

Annie Pickels, a 65 year old widowed pickle entrepreneur is in real trouble. One of her city farmers is growing marijuana on his rented plot of land. Annie, thinking it is marjoram, uses it as a secret ingredient in her pickles.

Insisting Tommy is a nice young man, Annie discovers his beloved Mary Jane is not the name of his girlfriend when Annie is arrested for cultivation and sale of marijuana. But Annie knows God always takes care of her. On a cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2, Annie met Arnie, the man who may solve her impending legal dilemma.

Elma, Annie's best friend, knows that Arnie is just what Annie needs in her life. But is he? Annie's niece thinks Arnie is out to fleece her aunt. Is she right? Or is Arnie the one who can get Annie out of the pickle she's in?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

We are told over and over never to judge things by their outward appearance and especially when it comes to our evaluation of other people. The common phrase we use for that is don't judge a book by its cover. A good philosophy for life. There are so many things/people we are tempted to prejudge on outward appearances alone.

The origin of the idiom is traced back to a 1944 edition of the African Journal of American Speech according to several sources I found. But the original was "you can't judge a book by its binding."

It is found again later in the 1946 murder mystery, Murder in the Glass Room by Lester Fuller and Edwin Rolfe who penned, "you can never tell a book by its cover."

The phrase, or idiom, got me to thinking. Why do I spend so much time designing my book covers? The answer? While I hope no one would judge my books by their covers, I still want to make a good first impression. Or create curiosity that makes a reader want to delve into the pages between the binding and find the story.

Just a writer's wanderings in the English language.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Once In A Blue Moon

There's a harvest moon, a strawberry moon, a blood moon--and the list goes on. One of those on the list is a blue moon. To take that literally you might think that the moon would be blue then but that is not the case. It has to do with the number of full moons in a year or in some cases, a month.

There are actually two definitions for blue moon. One was created by an amateur astronomer named James Hugh Pruett who referred to the blue moon as the second full moon in a month. His article appeared in a magazine, Sky and Telescope, in 1946 and the definition stuck but it actually had nothing to do with the seasonal blue moon that was originally defined.

The name blue moon was given to the full moon that was actually not one of the original twelve named full moons in the year like the harvest moon, wolf moon, etc. This blue moon only occurs in the years when there are thirteen instead of twelve full moons. Apparently that only happens every two or three years.

This year, 2018, there were two blue moons (in January and in March) when we had two full moons in a month. On May 18, 2019, there will be a seasonal blue moon meaning it is the thirteenth moon of the year or a moon without a traditional name for its season.

So, after all that, you can see that once in a blue moon could mean a long wait for something to happen. Oh, and don't look to see if the moon is actually blue. That all depends on atmospheric conditions and happens even more rarely when a blue moon occurs.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mind Your Own Bee's Wax!

While off exploring the origins of idioms in our language, I came across one that not only was intriguing but in light of a Ladies' Picnic Luncheon we are planning at our church, it seemed to fit the theme of my week. "Mind your own bee's wax." Now I always thought that the bee's wax part of that idiom had to do with a funny way of saying business. Not so.

Back in the day. . .before all the breakthroughs in cosmetics and acne treatments, ladies would use a thin layer of bee's wax to cover over their skin problems. Of course once the bee's wax was applied and dried you had to be very careful that it didn't crack. If done right apparently, the wax was a great cover-up. Of course you always had those who would study another lady's face closely to see if she had used bee's wax to make her look so good. Being scrutinized so closely might elicit the phrase, "Mind your own bee's wax!"

The practice of using the bee's wax also led to some other phrases. You couldn't move your facial muscles too much or the bee's wax would crack. So, your expression would have to be very somber. Thus is could be said that she "didn't crack a smile."

A girl wearing bee's wax would have to distance herself from the fire in the fireplace. Get too close and the wax would melt and she would be in danger of "losing face."

Now doesn't that make you more thankful for today's makeup?

Monday, April 23, 2018

This Isn't My First Rodeo

This weekend I went to get my nails done. Almost anywhere you get your nails done the staff is Vietnamese. The nail salon I frequent is not any different. The nail tech I had this time was chattier than most are and he struck up a conversation. When I went to put my hand in the light box that sets the gel polish I did it correctly to which he remarked, "This isn't your first rodeo."

I laughed. It sounded strange coming from someone whose first language isn't English. I answered, "No. And I hope I don't fall off the horse."

Then ensued a conversation about the origin of "This isn't my first rodeo." I had no idea but did offer that the "Goodnight, don't let the bed bugs bite," probably came from cowboys whose sleeping bags would get bugs in them when they slept out on the range. Maybe the rodeo phrase did too?

Well, inquiring mind that I am, I got home and started searching the phrase. It had nothing to do with cowboys directly. The best I could find was that it originated with a movie, Mommie Dearest, staring Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. The movie was based on a book written by her step-daughter that was a memoir and did not put Crawford in a good light. In the scene where Crawford is dismissed from the Pepsi board, Dunaway's line is "This ain't my first time at the rodeo." The remark is not in the book so really must be attributed to the writer or writers of the screenplay.

The movie was in 1981 but several years later, in 1990 a recording artist, Vern Gosdin wrote and recorded a song, This Ain't My First Rodeo. He claimed to have heard some construction workers say that and jotted the phrase down to make into a song.

Now the research got a little more interesting when I read that in some parts of the country instead of the rodeo reference, you might say, "I didn't just fall off the turnip truck." And if you were from the UK, you might say, "I didn't come down with the last shower" (or yesterday's shower).

Every language has its sayings and idioms. The idioms drove me crazy learning Spanish. Our Hispanic friends went into peals of laughter when I messed up the idiom for feeling chilly. I had literally said I was frozen solid or perhaps worse--they did laugh a long time.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Say Cheese!

[This was originally written in 2007. My how technology flies! Today my camera still fits in my pocket but it's because it's in my phone. A lot of the tips still apply though. So read--and smile at the memories of old technology.]

A few weeks ago we were with four of our grandkids to celebrate a birthday. For once I remembered my camera. It’s a little easier to do that now that my husband gave me one that is small enough to slip in my pocket. He tells everyone he bought a “camera that doesn’t make her look fat when she wears it.”

            I snapped away as usual and about a third of my pictures were keepers. It’s tough getting great shots with excited moving subjects. With Thanksgiving here and Christmas around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to look at a few photo tips.

·       Get down on their level. This is hard for some of us—especially the getting back up part, but faces look better than the tops of heads. What I love about a digital camera is that you can hold it away from you and still frame your picture on the display. That gives you a little more wiggle room for those shots closer to the ground.

·       Use a flash outside. It’s just a good practice. Last year as we were playing in the snow, the best shots of my grandkids were those that I took with the flash. The bright sun reflecting on the snow created shadows on their faces that the flash erased.

·       Get close at times. Fill the picture with your subject. One of the best shots I took at the birthday party was an accident. My granddaughter moved right up to the camera and her face filled the picture I took. But I have the greatest shot of beautiful brown eyes and a grin from one corner to the other.
·       Don’t always center everything. Just remember to lock focus first before you move the subject off center. It makes for a much more interesting shot provided they give you enough time to aim and click.

·       Kids love to pose. Let them come up with some ideas for organizing the picture. They’ll be more cooperative. When you are posing a group, don’t just line them up like a firing squad. Use different levels—steps, kneeling, some sitting.

·       Give them the camera for a few shots. If it’s digital, what’s the harm as long as they are respectful of holding it properly? Both of my four-year-old granddaughters got some unusual angles from their perspective as they snapped pictures of their parents.

·       Begin a photo tradition. Perhaps there is one place you can pose your grandchild each year that will show his growth. I have a precious picture of four of my grandkids (age 7 months to four years old) sitting together on a sofa all dressed in Ohio State Buckeye gear. This year we have a similar picture and they are a little bigger. Next year there will be more grandkids to add to the picture and eventually we will see those little feet touch the floor.

·       If it’s worth one shot it’s worth six. That’s a statement my photography professor made at the beginning of the course I took. And that was when we were still developing pictures the old fashioned way! Now with digital images, what doesn’t work can be erased in a moment. So snap away! You’ll have more shots to choose from.

Taking my own advice, at the birthday party I got carried away snapping and snapping picture after picture. Finally, my granddaughter stood up and put her hands on her hips looked me in the eye and said, “Grandma, you didn’t let me say ‘cheese’!”

Finally, find a great way to store and display your digital pictures. There are lots of online scrapbooks where you can store pictures for family and friends to see. Or put one of those digital picture frames on your Christmas wish list. We have one that allows our kids to send us pictures via e-mail to store. There’s always the old fashioned way: printing them out and putting them in a picture album. Whatever you choose, don’t just put them away. A picture is worth a thousand memories.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Read It Again Grandma!

[Since I wrote this article, the reading levels of my grandkids have risen. We've shared the Harry Potter series, Hunger Games, and a few other popular reads appropriate to their ages.]

“Then our mother came in
And she said to us two,
‘Did you have any fun?
Tell me. What did you do?’

“And Sally and I did not know
What to say.
Should we tell her
The things that went on there that day?

“Should we tell her about it?
Now, what SHOULD we do?
What would you do
If your mother asked you?”

                    (The Cat In The Hat, Dr. Seuss)

            I love Dr. Seuss books. I loved reading them to my children. I love reading them to my grandchildren. The Cat In The Hat is fun because it opens the door to the imagination. Just what would you tell your mother if you’d had a day like that? I’ve received all sorts of answers from a shrug of the shoulders and a giggle to “Oh, I would tell her everything.” I think the tell-all answer was so that the cat could get the blame for everything.

            Reading to grandchildren is a privilege to be treasured. First of all it is a great opportunity for bonding between child and grandparent. There is nothing more pleasing to both than to snuggle up together with a pile of books and explore the adventures of the characters as you turn each new page. Books are fun. Books take you to places you could only imagine. Books teach you about the things around you. Books connect you with the world of imagination. And you can experience it all together with your grandchild from the comfort of your easy chair.

            Early habits of reading to children from infancy on are helpful in language development. The extended vocabulary of my four year old grandson can be accredited to my daughter-in-law’s devotion to reading to her children. He continually amazes people with his use of language well beyond his years. All of that is reinforced when he visits Grandma’s book collection and we read the favorites his father read when he was little and delve into the new ones I add to stimulate his curiosity.

            According to the National Center for Family Literacy (www.famlit.org), reading is “brain food.” It develops listening skills when you ask questions about what you’ve read. What color was the apple? How did Peter find his way home? Running your finger over the words trains a child’s eye to travel left to right over a page (in Western cultures) and thereby prepares him to read on his own. When stories are repeated it helps children “predict outcomes, draw on prior knowledge, and recognize sequences” as well as build memory skills.  Reading can also encourage analytical thinking.

            Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that “daily reading routines are important for a child’s early literacy development.”

            But how do we keep that interest in books growing as our grandchildren get older? The answer is simple. Read with them.

            As children progress through the elementary grades and higher, they are required to expand their reading material. As grandparents, we can help by keeping in touch with what they are reading, reading it for ourselves, and then discussing it with our grandkids. If we’ve already established a relationship in the early years that lets the child know that we care about reading, we lend credibility to the importance of books and their influence on our lives. And, let’s face it, some books that are required reading in school are real “stinkers”—books that are difficult or just don’t hold interest for some who have to read them. What encouragement it could be for a child to know that a grandparent is reading the “stinker” too and will be talking about the book with them. It could be just what is needed to prompt him to finish a book he’s not thrilled about but is required to read for class.

            While I hear now, “Read it again, Grandma!” I also look forward to discussing more serious subjects than why Curious George always gets into trouble. Perhaps we’ll discuss the flamboyant lifestyle of the Great Gatsby or the incredible survival story of Ernest Shackleton as he explored the Antarctic. Or, perhaps my grandchildren will even introduce me to new reading adventures I have yet to discover. Whatever direction our reading takes it will make a grand book club.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Planting Miracles

[Oh how I wish this spring was as nice as the spring was when I wrote this. But it's still a good time to consider "planting miracles."]

Perhaps it is because of the unusual good spring weather we’ve had. Or maybe it is the anticipation of spreading a truckload of mulch in the yard and beginning the planting of annuals. Whatever the reason, I remembered a sweet little book I have that sits on my shelf of “keepers” upstairs. It’s called We Planted Miracles Today, Lord, A Mother’s Meditations and Prayers. It is a Hallmark gift book written by Barbara Burrow. Every time I think about planting marigolds, I think about the title poem:

We planted flowers today, Lord.
My youngest kept calling them “miracles”
instead of marigolds.
We laughed and had
a wonderful time together
planting your “miracles.”

The little book is copyrighted 1973 so it would have been given to me or I bought it (there’s no inscription) back when my children were babies or toddlers. Now my grandchildren are old enough to be planting “miracles.”

Marigolds are probably the easiest flower to grow from seed and offer an opportunity for us to teach so many lessons of God’s love and care to the youngest up to the oldest of our grandchildren. The next time you visit with your grandkids, have a pot or an old margarine container on hand, a little potting soil, and a package of marigolds. Spend some time with your grandchildren filling the container and planting the seeds. Add a little water and if the seeds need to travel, put the lid on with instructions to take it off so the sun can shine on the little plants when they sprout.

Lessons to be learned? The youngest can grasp the idea of God’s creative power, the miracle of a plant growing from seed. The oldest can learn that hardened hearts (seeds) can still produce fruit when watered with the word and allowed to bask in the Son’s light. There are plenty of scriptures and parables in the Old and New Testament that use gardening as a means of teaching life lessons. Use a concordance or go to Bible Gateway.com and do a keyword search for “seed.”

Why not try planting a few miracles in the hearts of your grandchildren this spring?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Being Pinkalicious

[This is a grandparenting article written back in 2010. Many of my grands are into or entering the teen years. The principle still applies. It just gets a little harder to keep up with all the technology. On the other hand, any time I have a tech problem there are plenty of "experts" to help Grandma out.]

Each week my daughter-in-law, Leah, sends us an email full of pictures from the kids’ adventures for the week. A couple weeks ago, there was a picture of three-year-old Annalise who had dressed herself in a pink shirt, pink pants, and pink socks and announced, “I’m pinkalicious!” I thought she was just being clever with a phrase until it was explained to me that Pinkalicious is a character in a book who ate pink cupcakes and turned pink. Of course. Should have known.

Then my other daughter-in-law, Lori, mentioned that there was also a Goldilicious (turns out to be a golden unicorn) and Purplicious (Pinkalicious gets a case of the blues). The list of books and stories goes on and now there is also a Pinkalicious musical written by the sister authors, Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. Oh yes, and did I mention the all the accessories you can purchase?

Just when I think I’ve been able to be smart and keep up with all the current kid stuff, I begin to realize how futile it is—especially when I also have to keep an eye on what happens with trends in Japan. My third daughter-in-law, Aya, has educated me a bit on Anpanman (a popular Japanese cartoon character) and of course, Hello Kitty which originated there. When it comes to popular trends, those three grands span a whole ocean.

How to keep up with it all? I wish I had an answer especially for those of you who might have grands with a wider range in age. Perhaps it all goes back to good communication. Sitting down with your grands and talking about what gets them excited, what they are reading, watching on TV or the movies, or what kind of pretend play they engage in. There is no greater entertainment than listening to a grandchild talk about their view of life.

Then be a good listener and when the time is right, you can also share a little about what you did as a child. Imagine how many children have no idea what a typewriter is or that milk used to come in a bottle and be delivered by a milkman (although I hear this is coming back)? Or that your parents walked five miles to school uphill both ways? Storytelling needs to be revived. It’s the best way to pass down the family history. Just don’t give them the whole story in one conversation.

What I’m saying is, take advantage of opportunities to learn about their world and then share some of yours. When we were growing up, we heard a lot of fuss about the generation gap. It was blamed for a lot of misunderstandings. We don’t hear as much about it today but is that because it’s narrowed or widened? I would guess it’s widened. Technology and life have just moved too fast. In my lifetime television has gone from black and white consoles to flat-screened high-definition color and now it’s moving on to 3D!

Whether you need to be a little “pinkalicious” or watch TV with 3D glasses on, take time to explore your grand’s world but bring along a good dose of that wisdom, maturity, and patience that you’ve picked up along this life’s journey. Your grands will love you for it.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Would You Travel On Friday The 13th?

My aunt was superstitious. Don't point at a coming storm cloud, you'll make it worse. Don't walk under a ladder. That one seemed more common sense. Beware a black cat crossing your path. Of course breaking a mirror would bring seven years worth of bad luck. And putting your shoes on the table would evoke a horrible bad omen. I tend to think the last two were to keep my brother and I from misbehaving.

I don't remember her cautions about Friday the 13th although I'm sure there were some. People in the states (and probably a few other countries) tend to get nervous about the number thirteen. It is often skipped over when numbering floors of a building, or units of living space, or seats in an airplane. The fear of the number 13 is called Triskaidekaphobia. Try saying that three times in a row.

We actually had two presidents who avoided contact with the number 13 and especially traveling on the 13th. President Franklin Roosevelt would not travel on Friday the 13th and would not host a party with only 13 guests. President Hoover had similar anxiety.

Mark Twain once was invited to a party and was to be the thirteenth guest. A friend warned him not to go. He later said that he should have followed the friend's advice. There was only enough food for 12 people.

In Japan the unlucky numbers are quite different. Number 4 is sometimes pronounced shi which refers to death. And the number 9 has a similar forbidding. It is pronounced ku which is associated with agony or torture. Often you will not find a Japanese hospital room with the number four and in other areas of life four and nine are not combined with other numbers because of the interpretation that may be applied.

I would not plan my travel around the 13th whether it falls on a Friday or not. And 4 and 9 do not frighten me either. I do occasionally think about going around ladders and I pull my hand back quickly when I find myself pointing at a dark cloud. Some things you grow up with never leave you.

Thursday, April 12, 2018


One of the items still left on my bucket list is Quebec, Canada. I don't know if I want to do a cruise or a road trip. I guess when the time comes, we'll know. But exploring the options is half the fun and I've been surfing the web for some information. One of the sites said that a trip to Quebec isn't complete if you don't indulge in poutine. Poutine?

I looked it up. Poutine is a dish of fries, cheese curds and gravy. Um. Really? I once had a friend who loved white vinegar on her French fries. She claimed that was the way they ate fries in Canada. Maybe she hadn't been to Quebec. My grandson loves malt vinegar on fries--lots of malt vinegar. He never claimed to have originated that idea from Canada though.

Well, I don't mind trying things--once. I don't see myself eating them more than that but perhaps my mind and taste buds will be changed. Who knows? I found several recipes but haven't decided if I want to try making it yet. Apparently you need to buy cheese curds that squeak when you bite into them and your fries need to be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The gravy must be beefy but not overpowering.

On second thought, I'll just wait until we get to Quebec and try them from someone who knows what they're doing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Currency Exchange

There is a trip to Cuba in our future and we've been exploring (doing our homework) to make the most of our trip. On one of the cruise boards I saw a discussion of currency exchange. People were worried about how much it would cost to exchange US Dollars for Cuban currency. This is also complicated by the fact that there are two types of Cuban currency the Cuban Peso and the Cuban Convertible Peso. Different parts of the country accept one or the other. It costs more to exchange USD for the CUP or CUC than it does to exchange Euros. Some were considering getting Euros to exchange instead.

Since we are not really spending a lot of time on our own in Cuba I don't think we will worry too much about it. Ship's excursions will take care of a lot of the extra cost.

According to another article written in 2016, there are more ATMs being added in the tourist areas and more places are beginning to take credit cards. Of course all of this (trip included) could fall through if our US relationship with Cuba is somehow disrupted.

Usually when we travel we use our debit card and find ATMs for any cash that we need. Currency exchanges are much more expensive at the places in the airport that offer the service. And we use our credit card whenever we can for purchases. The bank rate for the currency exchange is much lower and is usually whatever the going rate was for the date of purchase or withdrawal. This trip may be a little different because of the lack of  convenient ATMs. I'm sure we'll survive however.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Surviving Travel With Kids

Yes, I can remember the days long, long ago when I could get my mother riled and my brother in trouble by pretending that he was pinching me. Not that he didn't do things to irritate me. I did dodge a few toy trucks thrown my way but it was so much fun to get him in trouble and what better place than in the car headed to the north woods of Canada. While I'm sure the long drive was difficult, the reward was great.

Today I think of my son and his wife who pack four kids into a van and travel over a thousand miles in one direction or the other to visit grandparents. My daughter in law is very creative in providing lots of activities and usually they rent a van that has video capability (something we never had when we were growing up or when we had kids). The kids often arrive with all sorts of drawings and craft projects for Grandma and Grandpa and of course movie reviews.

My husband and his brother always used to joke about renting a camper for the kids and towing it behind the car while we adults sat in the car and enjoyed the scenery on a trip out west. It never happened thank goodness.

I ran across a cute article that actually has some good points about traveling with kids and may give you some ideas of what do do with the kids the next time you all travel together. It's titled Fighting Siblings: 5 Ways To Make Your Kids Get Along On Vacation. Check it out. It may just help keep your sanity.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Vacation Home Rentals - Be A Good Guest

There have been several different types of vacation home rentals that we have enjoyed. Some of them we have rented in Orlando seem to be homes that have been purchased strictly for renting out to visitors to the area. As a matter of fact, there are whole neighborhoods where the houses are mainly rentals. They are filled with the bare necessities and don't feel like they are homes that are used by the owners.

Other rentals have been places where it is obvious that the owners also use the homes or condos for their own pleasure as well. Usually the key clue is that there is a locked closet with the owner's possessions in it. Or in the case of some of the Florida condos we have rented, there are actually still personal items left in some of the closets and drawers.

In either case, one of the first things I do upon arrival is to take pictures of the rental. There are several reasons for doing this. First, if you have pictures of what it looked like when you arrived, you can put things back in place that you may move during your stay. In one instance, Bob took a picture of a medicine cabinet before moving the things in it to store his own things. When we were ready to leave, he was able to put everything back in order according to the picture.

Upon leaving, I also take pictures. That way if there is any dispute over something that doesn't seem right to the owner or perhaps broken by the cleaning staff, I have a picture to show what it looked like when we left it.

Be a good guest and treat the home as good or better than your own. It's always nice to be invited back.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Tourist Scams Are Alive And Well

While looking for ideas to post here I happened upon several sites that were devoted to warning the traveler about tourist scams. As my bunny trail started out with a search for more information on a scam that purported to involve the selling of those watercolor pieces of artwork sold by street vendors and feature the tourist attractions you are visiting. I have a few of those and was surprised to hear that some of them could be just preprinted sketches that have been colored in. I will be checking mine out for that possibility.

As bunny trails go, I ended up on a couple of sites where there were comments from travelers who had recently been in some of the popular European cities for tourism. Lo and behold there were some age old scams still going on like the gold ring scam. We were prepared for this one years ago when we went to Paris. A warning in one of our Rick Steves' books told us about the scam. We figured it would never happen to us. After all, if everyone knew about it why would it still be going on? Well, apparently it still is!

It happened to us not just once but twice as we were walking around some of the museum areas and parks in Paris. The first was a fellow who stopped us and pointed to the ground as he asked if we had dropped the gold ring that lay on the path there. Bob and I looked at each other and smiled. No, we told him. Well, would we like to split the value of the ring with him? (The value would be much more than the fake gold ring.) We could pay him half and have the ring to sell to a jeweler. Again we smiled (we may have been holding back a chuckle or two) and said no thank you. He finally gave up.

Not twenty minutes later the same scenario played out only this time with a woman who stopped us. And it's my understanding the scam is still going on. The scary part is that it must be working for them or they would have quit long ago. Tourists are still reporting the same scam being played out again and again.

But it doesn't stop there. Lots of creative ways are used to distract you or confuse you so that either your wallet or valuables can be stolen. Just a quick list: fake cops looking for counterfeit money in your wallet (don't give up your wallet), fake taxi drivers who quickly lock your luggage in the trunk and then charge outrageous fares, "room inspectors" who then take your valuables when you let them in (always check with the desk before letting anyone into your room), clerks who appear to be on their cell phone when you hand them your credit card but actually take a picture of your card.

The list goes on. Check out the Rick Steves site and search the net for others if you want to be more prepared before your trip. Or just resolve to be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind that distractions, especially entertaining ones, or strangers approaching you on the street can be after more than just a friendly hello. And keep that wallet hidden in a money belt.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Books For The Road - In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett

The subtitle of In Such Good Company is Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, And Fun In The Sandbox. Reading Carol Burnett's account of those eleven years was a wonderful journey back in time with pauses along the way to remember and laugh again at the wonderful antics of the Carol Burnett Show.

The book is sort of a collection of vignettes and stories of the main stars as well as the guest stars of the show. Who could forget the hilarious situations Tim Conway or Harvey Korman created? Case in point: the elephant story. It's on YouTube if you have forgotten or just want to get a good laugh again.

Burnett tells how she came to meet and eventually hire Vicky Lawrence for the show. Did you know Lawrence was only seventeen when she came on board? She goes on to tell how the character, Mama, evolved.

She speaks well of all but one of her guests but it's easy to tell which ones she enjoyed the most. The only guest she had a really difficult time with she leaves unnamed. Good for her. In a time when people love taking pot shots at others, she took the higher road.

The book is slightly disjointed but the memories are golden. If you were a fan of the show, you will enjoy reading the behind-the-scenes and reliving the skits. It has me wanting to go to YouTube and search for more to watch again.

Good book for the road especially if you are only going to have snatches of time to read.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Travel Agent or DIY?

Our first big trip out of the country for leisure travel was to Australia. Our son was an exchange student there and of course our excuse was that we wanted to check up on him. He had a ten day holiday break in his time there and it was a perfect opportunity to see where he was going to school and to give him the chance to see a little more of the country while he was there.

My husband found a travel agent in California who specialized in trips to Australia and we began to lay out a plan for our time there. It worked out wonderfully for us since we had no idea of what to see and how much we could see in the short time we would have there. The agent made suggestions and gave us a list of things to chose from. We did our homework and got back to him listing the things that we were most interested in.

Within a few days, the itinerary was prepared and we made a down payment. The agent went about making all the travel arrangements including airfare, hotels and rental cars. We eventually added on a three day stay in Hawaii to lessen the effects of jet lag which we may have arranged ourselves.

Final payment made, bags packed and after our three day stay in Hawaii, we met our son at the Cairns airport and began our adventure. It went very smoothly until we had one of the proprietors of a place where we stayed suggest that we make sure our reservations for a stay on one of the outer islands off the east coast was solid. Because it was a school holiday for everyone not just college kids, there might be a problem.

Bob called ahead and found out that the reservation had indeed been messed up. We had no place to stay. With the difference in time zones, we had to wait a bit before we could contact the travel agency (okay, this was before the days of texting and smartphones). When we explained the problem, the agent said he would take care of it. We ended up with a change in itinerary that got us an upgrade to a more expensive resort at no extra charge. I don't know who ate the extra charges but we had a wonderful time and there was only a small hiccup in our travel. We had to take a "ferry" that was really just a power boat that we boarded by putting suitcases on our heads and wading out to it. Great memory!

So, my advice is if you are not used to making all your own travel arrangements you might want to consider a travel agent. They used to make all their money from commissions but now may charge you a fee for planning an itinerary. If you book your trip through them, often the planning fee is refunded. Do you homework though.

  • Check to see if they are listed with the American Society of Travel Agents. To be a member the agent must meet certain ethical standards. 
  • Meet them and/or speak with them to see if they seem to understand you and your interests in your travel destination.
  • Ask for references if you are planning to use them for all the planning and the reservations.
  • Be sure you know what you want the agent to handle and what you will do on your own.
  • Research the destination so you have some idea of what you are interested in before you make plans with an agent. Be open to suggestions. An agent may have some suggestions of things to do and see that you didn't find. 
If you would like to DIY it, you might want to ask an agent to make an itinerary for you to follow. There will probably be a charge for that as it would entail some planning time for the agent but you might find a more efficient outline of travel time by doing so.

Or, you could just DIY it all the way which requires a lot of time and planning on your part which is okay if you happen to be retired and have the time. Also, keep in mind that if something goes wrong, you are the only one responsible to fix it.

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