"" Writer's Wanderings: January 2020

Thursday, January 30, 2020

My Clever Grandfather

There is a commercial for a Lincoln SUV featuring Matthew McConaughey that starts with him setting the temperature in the SUV at 78 and then going out onto a frozen lake and cutting a hole in the ice to fish through. He sets up a gadget with a pole and then opens the back of the SUV to sit just inside on the tailgate. Quickly there is a flag on the pole on the ice that pops up indicating that there is a fish on the line. All of this happens while The Andy Griffith Show theme song whistles in the background.

Clever yes. But so was the system my grandfather used for fishing. Grandpa was no slouch. He worked in his garden and out in the yard at the house my parents had on Lake Erie where he stayed most of the year. He would take his fishing pole to the dock and cast the baited hook and line out into the water. He would then secure the handle of the fishing pole into a pipe he had affixed to the dock so that the pole would stand up. At the top of the pole, just where the line came through the last eye on the pole, he would tie a piece of ribbon to the line.

As Grandpa went about his work in the yard, he would keep an eye on that ribbon. If the ribbon was pulled down, he knew he had a bite and maybe even a fish hooked on his line. With a big grin on his face he would reel in either a nice perch or bass or he would mumble something about a fish who'd stole his bait--often in his native Bohemian.

Fond memories. Not only might we enjoy his catch which he often smoked in the little smokehouse he built but we'd have some nice veggies to go with it as well.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Dreaming Of A Cruise?

Most of the country right now is experiencing winter. Some are getting colder than others and some are dealing with more snow than others. This is the time of year many begin to dream about a warm get away like a nice Caribbean cruise. There are always some bargains to be had but be aware there are also many add-ons that could add on to your cost.

Some of the bargain basement cruises may almost double when the cruise taxes and fees are added on. A lot depends upon where your cruise is going and how many/which ports you visit. Each port tacks on its fees for the ship's use of the port. It's a per person charge that is paid for by you when you book the cruise. Leaving from the US will also tack on fees. So be aware that the sale price you see for your cruise will not be the bottom line when you book.

Gratuities are another automatic charge now with most lines. They add up to about $12-15 per person per day. It your sale price does not say that it includes gratuities, you will find them charged to you per day.

Most of the other extras for your cruise can be handled with a little self control. Most cruise lines charge for specialty coffee drinks, sodas, bottled water and alcoholic drinks (including wine if not mentioned in your contract as included). You can save some by buying a drink package but only if you are a big consumer of your drink package. We find it's better to buy as we go. We can't drink enough soda to cover the cost of a package.

Meals of course are included but remember that specialty dining is not. There will be a service charge and may even be an extra charge for some of the things on the specialty dining menu.

Spa packages and services are extra. A mani/pedi will cost you at least twice as much as on shore.

Some onboard activities will cost a little extra as well and of course onshore excursions are almost always an extra cost.

Bottom line is read your contract and/or question your TA so you understand what your cost will be initially so you aren't surprised when the bill comes due.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Sunset Community

Every night at sunset in our condominium people gather together at the shoreline to watch the sunset hoping that it will be as beautiful as the most spectacular one they've seen in the past. Everyone sips their drink of choice and sometimes enjoys a treat supplied by someone. The questions are debated. Will we see the green flash? Will the sun set behind the clouds? Will the sunset cruise sailboat pass in front of the setting sun just in time for the perfect picture? Will the afterglow be amazing?

The sunset questions are just openers. The conversation can take many turns often involving activities of the day or coming events,. New people arrive and get acquainted with those who have been there for some time. Where are you from? What's it like back home?

I love it when we meet people who love to travel as we do and we can share places we've been and be encouraged to see places yet to be visited.

There is a slight hush as the last few seconds of the sun's appearance for the day fades from view. Cameras and iPhones capture the event.

We linger. There's always a little more conversation to be had. It's a wonderful sense of coming together. A community. It's a beautiful thing--as beautiful as a spectacular sunset.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Magicians Of The Sea

Well, they may not be the magicians of the sea but they certainly are the magicians of the Florida Bay where the dock is that I fish from. I'm pretty sure it's the clever little grunt fish. If you do catch them, they make a funny grunting sound while you're taking the hook out. (I have a catch and release policy so hook out, fish back in the water.)

While fishing with my grandson this week, the little magicians performed their trick of stealing the bait from the hook before the bobber in the water ever indicated that they were even there. The ones that are well practiced get a good meal of shrimp from me. The other ones. . .

I did manage to catch a few who weren't as quick or hadn't practiced their tricks enough. As a matter of fact, I did pretty good for the morning.

My grandson caught a snapper that swallowed the hook really well. He was having trouble getting it out and asked for help. The fish had its jaws clenched tightly. Now normally I would just pry open its mouth with my fingers and I tried that. A little too late my grandson warned me that there were a couple of teeth there. Two pointy "incisors". One of them pierced my thumb. It was like pricking yourself with a needle. We lost the hook when the line broke off but my grandson assured me the fish would eventually spit it out. Okay, if you say so. We tossed him back in.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

South Beach

South Beach, the southern tip of Miami Beach is an iconic place to visit. When one of our sons visited recently, he wanted to see SOBE, a nickname for the place. We decided we would stop on our way to take him to the airport in Fort Lauderdale.

Thankfully it was a cooler day and there was a beautiful breeze blowing off the ocean as he was dressed to return to Seattle. It was difficult to find a parking spot since there was some sort of sidewalk festival going on for the weekend but we eventually found a place that let us park for $10 for an hour. We left the car and headed for the sand.

There is a nice stone and cement boardwalk that runs a good length of the beach and we started out on that dodging bicycles and early morning runners until we found a spot where we could walk out onto the beach. Even though it was early morning, it was already filling up and the spot we chose to view the beach was in front of a hotel that had all its umbrellas set up and ready for beach goers.

Swimmers were already in the water bobbing up and down and the smell of sunblock permeated the air. The sun was already warming the sand and we started back for the shadier boardwalk.

We hadn't been able to drive down Ocean Drive, the street that borders the park along the oceanfront because that's where the street fair was set up. It would have been nice if we had because then he could have seen more of the iconic art deco buildings that South Beach is famous for.

The sun was heating up the pavement of Ocean Drive so we abandoned our walk along the street fair that had a variety of vendors and food booths. We headed closer to the beach where we still at least had a breeze as we found our way back to our car. 

It was a short visit but now our son can say he was there. I don't think it impressed him enough for a return visit to stay longer. He was really searching for a less densely populated beach. That will never be a way to describe South Beach.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Everglades In The Rain

In Florida, rain is usually sporadic. It rains for five minutes and then the sun comes out. So when our son who had never seen the Everglades came to visit, we decided to take him there. The forecast was for a chance of rain. Okay, we thought, probably a chance here and there, we can do that.

We set off and as we got closer to the park, dark clouds were visible. As we neared the information center, a heavy misty rain all but drenched us on our way in. We decided to explore the center and watch the introductory movie until the shower passed.

When it was obvious the shower had stopped, we hustled out and drove to the Royal Palms nature center where there is a neat boardwalk that has always provided lots of entertainment from the wildlife. Well, the sun was usually shining on the other visits.

We started down the walk and found very few birds where they usually abounded and put on quite a show as they fished in the water. At one end of the walkway where there's a little shelter and we always find at least a half dozen alligators, one lone alligator was in the tall grass not moving a muscle.

As we started around the loop of the boardwalk trail, the rain started again. There hadn't been quite as much of a dry stretch between rain clouds as we'd hoped. We saw a few birds but no more gators. The rain would ease up but only to a mist and then get heavier again. Not really a downpour but enough that we were pretty wet through and through. On the plus side, it was a warm rain as long as there was no breeze.

On a chance that we might have missed some and as the rain let up a bit, we retraced our steps to the little shelter area again. Nope. Still only one in the grass but as we walked back toward the car, A couple stopped us and pointed to the little channel of water that runs alongside the walkway.

An alligator was swimming slowly along and pushing the lily pads aside as he went. My son got his video of a gator in action and we hustled back to the car as the misty rain got heavier again. I guess the inhabitants of the glades hunker down when it rains.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Asleep In A Giant Guitar

Over the years as we migrate, we pass by the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on our way south to stay in Key Largo for our winter escape. We have stopped on occasion and enjoyed stretching our legs, catching some lunch and enjoying a small mall area that was there.

Just a couple of years ago we began to see places closing and were especially disappointed to find that Johnny Rockets was gone. Then we noticed that construction fences started going up and buildings started coming down. Somewhere along the line we discovered that there was major change coming--a new hotel and entertainment center.

We watched as a giant guitar began to take shape--a guitar that was to become another part of the Hard Rock complex. This year it opened and when we were given the opportunity to be in the area, we had to visit and take a look. It is outstanding.

The guitar hotel can be seen from quite a distance powerfully rising from the flat Florida landscape. It gleams in the sunlight.

Of course we could only get into the lobby and shopping concourse area but it is a beautiful indoor landscape of design. A theater looks to be quite spectacular as well ad the expanded casino area. A dozen or so upscale shops line the retail concourse.

While we still miss Johnny Rockets, the new place is fascinating and has several nice eating places of its own including a fancy food food court. It was fun to check out. Don't know if we'd ever stay but it might be fun to say we slept in a giant guitar.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Irish Scones

This is a recipe that I picked up from our stay in Galway, Ireland, from the Petra House's hostess, Joan. Every morning of the several days we spent there we woke to the smell of these baking. The recipe was easy to make once I converted her measurements to American. They are delicious. In England, you might eat them with clotted cream but in Ireland we were told, "a slab of Irish butter is best." Enjoy!

3 3/4 c. self-rising flour
2 sticks of butter (1/2 lb.)
4 Tbl. sugar
4 oz. golden raisins or other dried fruit (I found raisins that were coated with cinamon that were very good)
1 cup of milk
2 eggs

Cut in (rub in) butter until flour is mealy
Add eggs and milk to form a soft dough
Knead on a floured board. Be careful not to overknead
Roll out 3/4 " thick
Cut with biscuit cutter.
Put on baking tray (parchment paper works well with this) and brush tops with milk. Sprinkle with a little sugar.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Place on wire rack to cool a bit.

Many thanks to Joan for sharing. It's still better to wake up and smell her scones baking though. Fond memories.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Look Back--Failte Ireland!

[A look back at our Ireland Trip]

There is not an Irish gene in my body but Ireland has always been part of me. You see, I’m a St. Patrick’s Day baby! Yes, every year growing up Mom and I would try to think of some treat to take to school that wasn’t so green the kids wouldn’t eat it. When my co-travel addict, my husband, decided Ireland was the next place on the bucket list to visit, there was no argument from me.

We started in Dublin and traveled clockwise around the whole island ending back in Dublin. Along the way we feasted on Irish delicacies, visited ancient sites, roamed quaint streets, watched the ocean crash into huge stone cliffs, heard tales of giants and leprechauns, drank in the purpled fields of heather, and marveled at the numbers of sheep we met in the middle of the road. A month on the road stopping for a night or two in places like Waterford, Cobh, Kinsale, Killarney, Galway, Dingle, Potrush, Londonderry, and Belfast passed by quickly as we sampled Irish hospitality all along the way. It all sounds so romantic. And looking back now, it was.

We came home with over 1500 digital pictures. But the things that I value most from the trip are the impressions of people and places that will enrich my characters and settings in novels yet to come. For example, we had heard that in order to preserve the original Gaelic language, there were pockets in some communities where only Gaelic was spoken.  In one little town where we stopped for tea and scones, an elderly gentleman started past our outdoor table on his way in to the bakery. The gentleman, weathered and bent from years of perhaps shepherding or farming, tipped his hat to us and rattled off a greeting in Gaelic, none of which we understood. We smiled and nodded and he continued to speak to us never halting to see if we would answer. I have no idea what he said but it appeared to be friendly from the expression on his face. With a wink, he disappeared through the door leaving us to wonder what we had missed with no translation. Somewhere he will fit into a story, I’m sure.

Towns and cities were representative of their struggles of the past. The playfulness in the colors of Kinsale’s homes and businesses reflected the release of restrictions from British laws that required more “proper” decoration and were a stark contrast to the intense murals of Belfast that mark the period called the Troubles. So much history shapes the country and the people of the Emerald Island as it does all countries and peoples. Whether as a writer, one gets to travel the world or only their own community, there is a wealth of material on which to build characters and settings. The key is to observe, tuck the images in your mind, and look for what makes them so unique.

I also learned that the Irish are great storytellers. There is a story behind most everything you see in Ireland. The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland is a prime example. The natural wonder was said to be made by two fighting giants, one from Scotland and one from Ireland. Through a very clever trick of the Irish giant’s wife, he won the battle without even fighting.

Thinking back to all those great Irish storytellers we heard along the way—well, maybe I do have a bit o’the Irish in me after all. 

For a look at our Ireland trip use the Ireland Posts Page

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Lessons From Glassblowing

On our way south, we like to stop in West Virginia at Tamarack. It's a wonderful collection of crafts and crafters from West Virginia. There's also some great foodstuffs as well as a nice little deli syle restaurant where we get a great lunch.

We always take time to walk around the place which is pretty good sized. After four and a half hours on the road at that point it feels good to get some circulation going again in the legs. It's also always an interesting place to watch crafters and artisans at work. We've seen potters and woodworkers, quilters and painters. This trip the glassblowers were at work.

I had to stop and watch. They reminded me of the glassblowers I'd seen on a visit to Bermuda a few years back. They heat up the glob of molten glass in the blazing oven and then roll it in shards of broken colored glass. It goes back in the heat and then into another pile of broken glass several times.

Then the master artist breathes into the pole the soft glass is attached to and begins to build its shape with breaths and a little masterful shaping with some tools. Once in a while it has to go back in the fire in order to shape it some more but in the end, the bubble of glass is opened up to reveal a colorful work of art.

When I originally saw this in Bermuda, it made me think of the way God, our Master Artist, breathes life into us. Sometimes we go through trials (the fire) and often life seems to be in shards, broken and chipped, but God takes all of that and if we allow him to do his work, he creates beauty out of all the brokenness.

Monday, January 13, 2020

A New Adventure

So excited to begin a new adventure with one of my favorite characters, Casey Stengel. After being involved in solving two murders in her first two storied, this accidental sleuth is going to find herself in Ireland--among the Shamrocks.

I am just beginning to work out the story but it will definitely provide Casey another mystery to solve. In the meantime,

I'm researching some of the details. We visited Ireland in 2011 and did a 27 day tour driving all around the country so I have lots of ideas to draw from as far as location goes and then there's the colorful characters we met along the way.

Oh yes, and it will involve a castle with lots of secrets--Secrets Among The Shamrocks. Watch for it this fall.

Friday, January 10, 2020

My Child

I watched you, my child,
As you took that first big step to get on the school bus this morning.
You reached and stretched to get a hold and pull yourself up.
And as I watched,
I thought of how much easier that step will be each year as you grow.

I thought of all the other big steps you will take in your life.
Many of those you will reach and stretch for at first,
But as you grow and mature,
Each step will be a little easier to reach.

Then I thought of you
Standing and watching your children take their first big step.
I prayed that you would feel the same warmth,
And pride,
And love,
That I felt that moment your foot left the ground.
And I realized how God had truly blessed me.

Thursday, January 09, 2020


One foot found the bottom step,
              Hidden, just under the water.
                           He paused and looked back again.

Each step took him closer to the top.
              He looked down at the water and swallowed hard.
                           His heart beat faster.

It looked a lot higher from here.
              Carefully, he sat down.
                           One last thought about backing out.

No. They were all there. Waiting,
              Watching for him.
                           Daddy had his arms open wide.

He let go.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Great Price on Two Kindle Books!

This week there is special pricing for two of my favorite books for Kindle readers. If you got a new Kindle for Christmas, here's a great opportunity to add to your library.

Hurry though! Sale ends Thursday.

In A Pickle--99 cents

Pickle Dilly--99 cents

Friday, January 03, 2020

Who Do You Trust?

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of sharing the morning message with my church family. Of course with all our traveling, it took on a travel theme of sorts. I showed a few pictures of our trip to Bryce Canyon National Park where I was introduced to Hoodoos. Hoodoos are the stone structures in the canyon that stand stoically while God works his wonder of creation shaping and forming them into amazing structures through the medium of erosion.

Now Hoodoos don't commit consciously to trusting God to form them into new creatures but we do have that opportunity to commit to trusting God to create a new life in us. What keeps us from trusting Him is the question.

When we travel, we often take a plane. Do we know who is flying it? Not usually. Yet we trust that the person at the controls will get us safely to our destination.

Arriving at our destination, we usually need the services of a taxi. Do we know who is driving the taxi? We can see him/her but we really don't know much about that person and in some of the countries we have visited it has been difficult to even communicate with them. Yet again, we trust them to get us safely to our destination.

In both of those cases a lot of prayer often helps--at least to calm the fears we might have but there is one area of trust most people don't even give a second thought to unless of course you are driving on a different side of the road than you normally do. Every time you drive, you trust that the dividing line down the middle of the road will keep the oncoming traffic on the correct side of it. The line in most cases isn't much wider than 6-8 inches or up to 16" or so if there's a double line. Do you trust the double line more?

All of this is to say, we have little trouble trusting the pilot, the taxi driver, or the dividing line in the roadway but when it comes to trusting the living God who walks with us, who loves us, who wants to help us through life's challenges we. . .

What do we do?

Who do you trust?

Thursday, January 02, 2020

How Do You Promote Your Events?

Several years ago I had a speaking engagement out of town. It was a great a time of fellowship with some truly wonderful ladies and I learned a little something about advertising as well.

There were about 160 coming in the doors for a light supper followed by my talk (My Ship's Come In But It's An ARK!). Many came up to me to say hello and I thought it was because I stuck out in my bright peach suit. I chose it to wear so that I would look "springy" and fit in with their theme. But then one lady allowed for a much better explanation.

"Hi!" she said. "You must be our speaker. I recognize you from the ladies room."

"The ladies room?" I hadn't been there yet.

She nodded. "Yes. Your picture has been on the back of the stall doors for weeks."

How do you promote your events?

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