"" Writer's Wanderings: 2021

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Legend of the Christmas Apple

 [This is the story I wrote to read at our Christmas Eve service. Some have asked for a copy of it.] 

Once upon a time there was a little boy who found a beautiful red apple in his Christmas stocking. This was not an unusual occurrence at Christmas. It seemed every year there was a bright red apple, sweet and delicious, in his stocking. But why, he wondered?

 The boy went to his grandfather who took him on his knee and explained that there was a legend about the Christmas apple. The story went something like this:

 Long ago there was a young boy who lived near Bethlehem and was very curious. He loved looking up in the night skies and seeing the stars. He found a nice tree he could climb and get closer to the stars but he could never reach out and touch them.

 One night the stars shone with unusual brilliance. As he leaned against the trunk of the tree, he reached out and grabbed a piece of fruit growing on the tree and took a bite. He immediately spit it out. It was sour. He threw it to the ground.

 Just then the sky above him seemed to grow brighter. A large star moved across the sky and seemed to stop overhead near him. He had heard the rumor. Could this be the star that was said to arrive when the Messiah was born?

 Suddenly the branch cracked and before he knew what happened, he was on the ground. He sat for a moment, stunned at the fall. A hand reached out to help him up. It was the hand of a man dressed all in white.

 “Yes, it is the star of the Messiah,” the man said. The boy wondered if he had spoken his question aloud.

 “This very night He is born. Go and worship Him,” the man said as he helped the boy to his feet.

 “But I have nothing to offer him,” the boy said.

 “Take this fruit,” said the man picking a piece from the tree. “It tells much of what the Messiah will mean to you.”

 The boy stared at the fruit in his hand. “But this fruit is bitter. It is not a fit gift for a king,” he said.

 “Just as the Christ Child will change lives, this gift too will be changed. Just as His red blood will drop from a tree for all mankind, this fruit will turn red and drop from this tree. But the red skin will make the flesh inside white and pure just as Christ’s blood will cleanse man’s sins. The taste of the fruit will become sweet. He who partakes of a new life in Christ will find a sweeter life too. The seed will be planted and multiply and produce more fruit just as God’s message of salvation will be planted and nourished through the birth of this Child tonight.”

 As the boy turned the fruit over in his hand and studied it he tried to understand what the man in white had said. He looked up again, another question on his lips, but the man had disappeared.

 The boy heard a group of shepherds passing by say they were on their way to worship the newborn King. He joined them.

 The stable they found was no place for a baby let alone a king but his mind was so filled with wonder and excitement that the boy failed to question the odd situation. He moved forward and knelt, carefully placing the fruit in the straw that cradled the Child. As he did, the baby looked at him and smiled.

 When the boy stepped back again, he glanced at his gift. Instead of the green fruit he had placed there, he saw a beautiful shining piece of red fruit. He remembered the words of the man in white. But how could a baby change men’s lives?

 As the boy grew and became a follower of Jesus, his life was filled with a joy and peace that made it sweet because of the sacrifice made for him and all men by Jesus. The boy took many children to the old fruit tree that now bore beautiful red fruit when it ripened.

 The grandfather looked at his grandson and took the apple to cut it in half as he said, “The boy explained to those children as they gathered around the tree, that the Christ child came into the world to save mankind from all the bad things they do.

 “You see,” said the grandfather, “The red color of the apple reminds us of His sacrifice and when you cut the apple open, you can see the sweet white flesh that reminds us of how Jesus changes our lives when we receive Him as Savior.”

 “But what about the seeds, Grandpa?” the grandson asked.

 “Ah, yes, the seeds.” The grandfather picked one seed from the apple. “The seed is a very important part of the apple. When planted and nourished it will produce more fruit just like the seeds of faith when planted and nourished can produce beautiful fruit in our lives and the lives of others.

 The Christmas apple, you see, reminds us of the wonderful gift God gave through Jesus, his Son.

 Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed. Robert H. Schuller

 This Christmas, I pray that we can each plant one seed of faith and that it might bear much fruit.

 Merry Christmas!  


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Cruising The Bahamas--Bimini

 Bimini is one place we have never been. Yes, there are places we haven't been. It's a big world out there. We arrived at the dock at eight in the morning and had a wonderful breakfast in the Waterside Restaurant and enjoyed the sunny views of Bimini as the ship was cleared for us to go ashore. The Bimini district is made up of several islands that stretch out along the west side of the bigger more familiar islands of the Bahamas. It is close to the Florida coast and is only about 51 miles from Fort Lauderdale, a two hour ferry ride.

Masks in place (required in the Bahamas) and our IDs, ship key cards and trackers with us, we set out. At the end of the dock was a tram service that took us to the Bimini Beach Club that is a part of Resorts World Hilton. The complex of Resorts World Hilton was very impressive as the tram made its way past what we guessed might be time share cottages. Everything was very trim and clean.

The beach was beautiful but the weather had cooled a bit so we hadn't worn our bathing suits. All we wanted to do was explore a bit. We walked past the beautiful pool and made our way to the shore line and found a couple of chairs to sit in and enjoy the fresh air and sea breeze.

The tram picked us up again at the beach (it ran continuously all day until departure time). This time we got off when it dropped a few people off where a group of guys were trying to get people to rent golf carts to tour the island. It was tempting and they were persistent but we wanted to see the hotel and the surrounding grounds.

The place was beautiful inside and out. Breakfast was being served in a large dining room ala buffet style but quite pricey we thought for the little we would eat if we were there. Perhaps it was because it was the weekend. A Starbucks bar was doing a good business in the middle of the lobby. 

Outside there was a pool that ran the whole length of the hotel on the water side. If you stayed in a first floor room you could just step outside your door and jump in. Hopefully they didn't book any sleepwalkers for those rooms. 

We sat outside for a little bit at a small table we found and just took in all the beautiful flora and one unusual fauna that I almost stepped on, some sort of spikey caterpillar.

It was almost time for lunch when we returned to the ship. Bob doesn't like to miss a ship meal. He always wonders whose eating the food he paid for. 

After lunch we went to the Hollywood Theater where the Browns/Patriots game was showing. We toughed it out through the first half and a little of the second and just gave up to find something else to do. We decided on a walk around the Promenade Deck. After all the next day we would be headed home and we knew the temperatures would not be as nice--far from it. 

Then there was the packing. It's actually easy to pack to go home. You just collect everything that doesn't belong to the stateroom and stuff it in the suitcases. It doesn't have to be folded and made neat. 

We were done packing in time to go up to the Palm Court which is on Deck 12 and in the front of the ship with windows all around. We were treated to a spectacular sunset.

Our last dinner was in the main restaurant, the Waterside. As soon as we were done, we went up to our room and changed into what we would be wearing off the ship in the morning. Suitcases set outside the door, we set off for the evening show. Comedian John Joseph kept us laughing.

Usually the last night of a cruise is a little melancholy but this cruise had an ulterior purpose other than relaxing and just cruising. We had experienced the COVID protocols and the new ways of doing things due to the pandemic and found it to be very comfortable and safe. Now we were eager to go home and prepare for our Grand Voyage of 128 days in a couple of months. And as Bob always says, you never get off a ship without another cruise booked.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Cruising The Bahamas--Nassau

 After a day at sea attending lectures, enjoying the sea air (when it wasn't raining), and of course enjoying good food and the exciting entertainment of the Crystal singers and dancers who went non-stop for an energetic forty-five minute show, we arrived early Saturday morning in Nassau. Now we've been to Nassau more times than we can count and originally planned to stay on the ship but we'd only had one chance to swim in those beautiful Caribbean waters so we found an excursion that sounded inviting and booked it.

While we were getting ready to go ashore we saw a familiar sight. Several of our trips to Nassau were aboard a Disney ship that our niece performed on. She was Belle and several other characters and we booked a couple of three day cruises to see her perform. I knew we would hear the ship's whistle play "When you wish upon a star" at least once during the day.

We waited in the Stardust Lounge for our excursion to be called to go ashore and when it was, we followed our escort to the dock and waited there while the Bahamian guides checked our tickets and had us sign waivers. When the tour boat arrived, we were off to Blue Lagoon Island. 

On our way we passed lots of interesting and very large homes. Later on the way back we would be told about some of the owners or previous owners. One was the Starbucks' founder and another Beyonce. It was a beautiful day. No strong winds. No rain. Temperature was perfect. The thirty minute ride was


The Blue Lagoon Island is separate from the larger Island, New Providence, and it appears to be developed only for tourists and local guests to enjoy. We pulled into a little harbor and were led to our section of a beach that stretched on for quite a ways. The beach was divided into sections so even though other cruise ships sent groups, each had a separate area and we were not crowded. 

The water was perfect but there could have been a little more of it. The sand bar that stretched out into the water went most of the way across the channel for swimming. The water was only mid-calf deep. There was a section that had inflated water slides in it set aside for the kids from the Disney ship. On the outside perimeter it was a bit deeper and you could actually swim without hitting your knees on the bottom. It got a bit crowded after a while with people who wanted to be at least waist deep in water.

The chairs we found were in the shade of some palms and sea grape trees and a gentle breeze made it quite pleasant. Just before lunch, we took a walk to the area that had dolphins, sea lions, rays and even a caged raccoon. There were optional excursions that featured encounters with the dolphins but I think you could have bought the experience there as well. There was also interaction with the rays and sea lions. 

We had brought our snorkel gear but one look at the waves where the snorkeling area was told us it wouldn't be worth the attempt. It was very shallow as well and rocky. Reports were not real good about the snorkel experience. It's tough for scuba divers to get excited over snorkeling anyway. 

Our lunch was in an are reserved for us by the beach resort. It featured hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, rice and beans, and my favorite, fried plantains. Going to the Caribbean and having fried plantains is like going south of the Mason-Dixon line and having grits. Those people know how to make them right.

The return trip to the ship was scheduled for 1:30 and we were ready to return by then. We would get back just in time to shower and change and curl up on the bed in front of the iPad to watch the Ohio State football game. The live stream froze a couple of times but it was better than nothing. And we won!

Our reservations for dinner were at the specialty restaurant called Umi Uma. If it sounds like yummy, it was. The restaurant features mostly Japanese dishes and sushi of course. We ordered warm Sake which we were introduced to when we went to Japan. It's been a long time since we had it and there wouldn't be any mischievous sons around to refill my cup when I wasn't looking. 

Dinner started with an assortment of sushi and sashimi. So good you wanted to close your eyes and moan. Anytime there is a mushroom dish, I'm there and the mushroom salad was amazing. More kinds of mushrooms than I could count. I was considering the lobster stir fry but the waiter described the specialty dish of Nobu Style Black Cod and I ordered that. Unbelievably delicious. Of course I followed it all with a wonderful dessert, chocolate soufflĂ© cake with sesame ice cream. Oh, Bob ate too but I didn't pay much attention to his entrĂ©e after the first bite of mine. 

The main entertainment for the evening was Bruce Hammond again but this time he presented a variety of songs from other artists like Bobby Darin and Neil Diamond. It was another great performance.

I went to bed wondering what our next port would be like. We'd never been to Bimini and I'd only heard stories about it from our marine science student of years ago when he went with his professor and a group of students to study sharks. Would I decide to get in the water or not?

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Cruising The Bahamas--Long Island

 No, we didn't make a wrong turn and end up in New York. There is a Long Island in the Bahamas. In doing my research before the cruise, I'd found a place that sounded interesting and an excursion, so to speak, that took us there. The excursion was actually a shuttle that you could take to the beach and be provided a chair and an umbrella.

There were actually two beach shuttles offered for the reasonable price of $25 including the chairs and umbrella rental. Gordon's Beach looked like a beautiful protected beach with the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. The other beach was known for a special water feature called Dean's Blue Hole. There are several blue holes scattered about the world. Blue holes are large marine caverns or sinkholes open to the surface of the water. They are called blue holes because the depth of the water in them creates a dark blue color on the surface. 

Serenity's Cove

We dove in the Great Blue Hole when we were in Belize. Dean's Blue Hole at 663 feet deep is said to be the second largest in the world next to one that is somewhere in China's waters. I wondered how far off shore it would be since the one in Belize was reached by boat. I didn't think it could be too far since it was said you could snorkel over the top of it. 

Promptly at seven in the morning, the ship anchored off the coast of Long Island and the captain happily announced that we would be able to tender a bit more comfortably this day. After breakfast we gathered our snorkel gear, changed into our suits and took a tender into the island. There was a small dock where the tenders unloaded. The ride in was a little choppy but halfway there, the water calmed a bit as we were on the lee side of the island and there was a finger of land that sort of protected the waters as we neared our destination. 

We walked to the end of the dock and there were shuttles waiting for an excursion that went to a cave as well as the blue hole and then a shuttle that just went to each beach. We boarded the one to Dean's. Our driver was quite cordial and informative pointing out the things he was most proud of on his island home. 

When we arrived at the beach, I was relieved to see that our snorkel over the blue hole would not be a long swim. It was actually nestled into a cove along the shore surrounded by small cliffs of rocks that the beach attendant said were great fun to jump off into the blue hole. We passed.

Once established with our chairs and umbrella we ventured into the water. There was quite a surf rolling in around the edge of the cove. We started toward the blue hole with our heads in the water looking at a few fish that skittered away as we swam. I found the surf a little tiring to swim in and once I was close to the blue hole it almost felt as if it was pulling me into the middle of it. I was afraid that once I got in the middle of it, I might not have the stamina to get out against the surf. We returned to the shore and admired it from there while we enjoyed the warm breeze and relaxing on our beach chairs.

We aren't really beach people, love the beach-hate the sand, so after a couple of hours, we were ready to go. I know. Crazy, right? On our way back to the tenders, our driver pointed out some really interesting church architecture but we didn't get a chance to take pictures.

Thankfully the crew that mans the landing area for the tenders at the ship are very practiced and they safely got us off. It's all in the timing when the tender is bouncing up and down. When the tender lifts up, it's alley-oop time and hands help you step onto the ship's landing. 

Silk Restaurant

Lunch, a walk around the Promenade Deck, and we were ready to enjoy tea and the beautiful violin music of Irina Guskova. 

Our dinner this evening was at the Silk specialty restaurant. It is mostly Chinese cuisine but oh so good. Not your Chinese food stuffed into a cardboard take out container. Bob had spring rolls, stir fried beef and brown rice. I had dim sum (the two filled with duck were dreamy good), Mongolian style lamb chops and white rice. The memory makes my mouth water.

Our evening was great entertainment by Bruce Hammond who dedicated the night to Frank Sinatra, "A Salute to Sinatra". He portrayed Frank Sinatra in "The Rat Pack Is Back" as it toured the country. He sang all the great oldies.

Faces a bit warmed from the time in the sun and sleepy from our adventurous day and late night entertainment (we're old) we called it a night and snuggled into our wonderful comfy bed for another good rest. Did I mention that we had a sweet cabin stewardess, Andreia, who kept our room ship shape and fluffed pillow as she remade the bed each day? So appreciated her efficiency and care for us.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Cruising the Bahamas--Great Exuma

 The Exumas, a district of the Bahamas consisting of 365 small cays and islands. The largest island is Great Exuma and is about 37 miles long. As we approach the island, we question whether we might hear another announcement that we won't be going ashore. The waves and wind seem to be just as bad as at San Salvador. This time we aren't concerned as we had not planned to go ashore other than to maybe walk around a bit rather than shuttle to the beach. The excursions offered, while tempting, were a bit pricey and we're trying to save our pennies for the Grand Voyage in January.

We hear the announcement as we're finishing our breakfast. It might be a rocky ride but the tenders will run today. Bob's brother and sister-n-law decide to chance it. They'd like to try to see the grotto where the Bond movies, "Thunderball" and "Never Say Never Again", were filmed. We will hear later that it was a really rough ride in to shore and back and unfortunately, they didn't get a chance to see the grotto.

The big draw for Great Exuma was the swimming pigs. I would have loved to see them--not swim with them as the excursion was planned--but we didn't want to spend the money just to go and look. I have heard lots of good feedback for the excursion from those who took a bathing suit and jumped in with the furry critters.

Instead of a shore visit, we went up to the paddle ball courts and started hitting balls back and forth again feeling a little more successful this time in hitting the balls over the net and in the court. Two ladies came to hit balls on the other court and eventually asked if we wanted to try to play a game. One of them had asked the fitness director to show her how the game was played and scored. The score is done like tennis and we improvised what we weren't sure of. The bottom line, we had a fun time and the one lady who is a tennis player was a whole lot better than we were. It was a lot of fun through.

On the Promenade Deck we did our 3.35 times around to get a mile of walking in. While we did, we could see the tenders bobbing in the water as they loaded and unloaded their passengers and made the trek back and forth in the choppy water. You have to really appreciate the crew that man those tenders. They bobbed all day long. 

Just a little before five, we dressed for dinner as we wanted to attend a talk by celebrity photographer, Marc Serota. He has photographed a lot of G.O.A.T.s and showed many of his pictures of Lebron James and other great athletes that he has featured in his new book, G.O.A.T.s, Greatest of All-Time. 

We hurried to the specialty restaurant, Prego, to meet our traveling companions. The restaurant features great Italian dishes but quite a variety of other entrees as well. I had veal al limone and Bob had veal parmigiana. I would love to show you pictures of dinner but we dove into our meals before I thought of it. 

The evening entertainment was Crystal On Broadway, The Show. It was music from three different Broadway shows from producer Kevin McCollum, Rent, Something Rotten! and the revival of West Side Story. It was excellent. 

On the way back to our stateroom, we poked our heads into a music venues for a few minutes that featured piano music and another, a guitar. We were very sleepy. I was relaxing more and more and sleeping solidly through the night in a comfy bed that rocked gently. So grateful to be on a ship again.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Cruising The Bahamas--San Salvador

 There are 700 islands in the Bahamas but only 30 are inhabited. One of the things we looked forward to on this cruise besides the food, the entertainment and the time to relax was stopping at places we had not been. San Salvador was one of them.

There are four different monuments scattered around the twelve by five mile island that commemorate Christopher Columbus' first step into the New World. While Columbus was able to stop here and go ashore, we were not. The place where the tenders from the ship would land, was not protected from the surf and there was a strong wind blowing in. It would not be safe. So with apologies, Captain Vorland announced at lunch time when we arrived at the island that we would be having a great day at sea.

I could imagine the Cruise Director, Rick Spath, scrambling to schedule more onboard activities but I think it was not much of a scramble. The Crystal Serenity had been making this cruise for a few months now and there were other times that the ship could not allow passengers to go ashore because of weather. He had alternative plans in his back pocket, I'm sure.

It was all okay by us. We wanted a day at sea to explore and reacquaint ourselves with the ship that we would be spending 128 days aboard come January. We had already attended a lecture by one of our favorite at sea lecturers, Bill Miller who is an authority on ocean liners and cruise ships. We have heard him several times on other cruises and he did not disappoint. The history and interesting facts of those who traveled on the early ships is fascinating. 

Our first stop after lunch was paddle ball on the sun deck. In the benches that hold the balls and paddles, there was also pickleball equipment but there were no lines on the paddle ball court for pickleball. 

We chose a couple of paddles and grabbed some balls for the opportunity to practice a little and get used to the larger paddles and the tennis balls that have a hole poked in them to keep them from being too bouncy. We started hitting the balls back and forth and laughing as we had to get used to the way the ball bounced and the moving deck below our feet. When we took a water break, we watched the group of guys playing in the court next to us. They were obviously well practiced with the game and it was quite competitive. 

The rest of the day we spent getting a walk around the Promenade Deck and enjoying afternoon tea. The tea has changed procedure a bit. I suspect because of COVID protocol, instead of waiters coming around with trays for you to choose the scones, and little pastries and finger sandwiches from, a three tiered tray was set before us with more than we could ever finish off. We did our best though and learned later that we could just ask them to leave the tray with the scones on it and take back the rest. After all, we had to leave some room for dinner. The whole experience reminded us of the very expensive high tea we had at the Burj al Arab in Dubai.

Reading on the veranda followed by dinner in the evening was relaxing me more and more. Dinner was the excellent experience we expected from Crystal and our waiter, Kola from Albania, was fun. Entertainment in the Stardust Club was James Fox who presented a selection of songs from various artists including Billy Joel and Elton John. We had skipped the show the night before when he did only Billy Joel. We were so tired that first night that we were falling asleep before the show started. I was glad we got to hear him before his time aboard was over.

We sank into soft pillows and crisp linens and quickly went to sleep rocking gently our second night at sea.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Testing...Testing...Clear to Cruise!


Our flight to Fort Lauderdale landed a bit before noon and our special "Uber" driver picked us up. She was accompanied by four young back seat drivers. My daughter-in-law is a gem and in addition to getting a ride to our hotel for the night, we had the opportunity to visit with her and our Florida grands. 

By the time we got to Miami we were all hungry. We parked in the garage at the Bayside Marketplace which is a large area with all sorts of shops, restaurants and opportunities for boat rides around the Miami Harbor. We chose to have lunch at Bubba Gump's since they had never been there and we thought it would be a much quieter place where we could catch up on everyone's life. 

Following lunch, we got ice cream and sherbet and strolled around a bit checking out the various street food vendors. Lots of good looking ethnic foods. All too soon it was time to say goodbye and after a round of hugs, they left us at our Hampton Inn nearby.

We met Bob's brother and sister-in-law who had traveled from Ohio as well for the cruise and found a nice place for dinner that had outside dining. It was too cold for that back home. 

The next morning we killed some time walking down to the water and watching the boats and ships that we could see from our vantage point. Then, when it was near our boarding time, we used the hotel shuttle to get to the cruise terminal.

Masks on, we had to show our vaccination cards outside since all passengers and crew are required to have COVID vaccinations. The next step would be antigen testing. There was quite a crowd and we learned later that it was because a lot of people did not adhere to their assigned embarkation times. We sat and waited a bit while filling out a longer health form than the usual one we'd had in past cruises. Mostly COVID related symptomatic questions. 

When our numbers were called, we went forward to be registered on the computers and then directed behind a screen where the tests were given. We had taken antigen tests on our own at home just to see what was involved so that helped with the nervousness. One, we knew what to expect with the procedure and two, we had tested negative at home so we were relatively sure there would be another negative test.

The procedure was simple. A swab of each nostril (gently done and not deep) and it was put into the little cardboard test kit to be carried over to the section that took care of watching for results. We sat and waited in a different area for the results. The test is supposed to take fifteen minutes for the results to show. If you haven't had one, there's a little window in the cardboard that displays two lines. One needs to disappear. Sort of like a pregnancy test. 

It took a long time for our names to be called but even before they were, an email message showed in our inboxes that we were negative. The extra time came with those in charge having to hand out wrist bands to show we were good to board. From there we went to another table to turn in our health forms and they directed us to board the ship. 

We wound our way through the terminal past the photographer and to the gangplank. Procedure was becoming a little more familiar. At the entrance to the ship, our picture was taken for security and at the check in table we were issued a tracker band and told that they needed to be with us whenever we were not in our room.

The trackers flash a blue dot until you are next to someone else with a tracker for more than fifteen minutes. The dot then turns red. If anyone were to contract COVID aboard the ship, the QSR codes on the back of the watch would then allow the health providers to check who may have had contact with that person. No. It is not a way to track your every movement. It is just for your safety. I kept mine in my pocket or purse. It was a little bulky on my wrist.

Once on board, we were informed that masks were optional for guests except when going ashore. The Bahamas required masks be worn at all times unless eating or swimming. The staff is still required to wear them. Optional masks, I thought to myself, after all the time we spent looking for something comfortable because we thought we would have to wear them inside the ship. I wasn't complaining. I was relieved.

Knowing everyone was vaccinated and had a negative test made us all feel very comfortable. Add to that, the ship was only about two-thirds full. The biggest crowds we encountered were in the terminal and that would have been lessened if everyone had stuck to their boarding times. 

From start to finish it took about an hour and a half for our boarding procedure. I opened the door to the veranda of our stateroom and stepped out. I was ready to cruise!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Cruising Again!

 Outside the plane the baggage people were busily loading suitcases into the belly of the plane. I sat back and let out a deep breath. We would soon be on our way. The passage through checking our baggage and TSA precheck had gone smoothly. It was beginning to feel like old times. We hadn't traveled by air since way before the pandemic had started.

Bob had used our travel miles to book our flight and upgrade our first half of the flight to first class. That was where things began to be a little different. The seats were nice and comfy as usual but when it came time for meal service (breakfast) we realized first class wasn't what it used to be. There was no tray with silverware and napkins. Our choice was a breakfast sandwich on a croissant or an "everything" baguette with a veggie cream cheese filling. Since we were the last to be asked there were only one of each left. Bob got the croissant and I got the "everything." Our meals came on a little plastic dish and were wrapped in cellophane. Coffee was in Styrofoam cups. Except for the nice seats, we could have been in coach.

Undaunted, we happily took a selfie and announced to FaceBook world that we were on our way. 

As the plane climbed, I looked below at the beautiful fall colors. We were leaving behind what promised to be probably the last warm week of fall but we were on our way to the ship that would offer sunny days and warm breezes in the Bahamas. Tears moistened my eyes. We were traveling again and soon would be cruising. 

I settled in with my ebook but took a look outside every so often. The skies were unusually clear for a good part of our flight. Once when I looked down, I could see the Blue Mountains that we pass through each year on our way to Florida. 

Then as we neared Fort Lauderdale, I could see the coast line and the ocean dotted with white surf. Again my eyes filled. This was really happening. We were going to cruise.

 And just as exciting was the special "Uber" driver who would soon meet us upon landing.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

The Covered Bridge In Cuyahoga Valley National Park

During the visit with our Florida son and his family we spent a day visiting several places in the CVNP. We started at Szalay's Farm Market which is always a wonderful place to visit for the produce as well as the weekend food stands. Roasted corn and sausage sandwiches. Yum!

It was a bit of a trip down memory lane for our son. He pointed out to his wife and kids all the places he visited as he worked a couple of summers for the EPA testing the Cuyahoga River and some of its fish population. Much to our surprise, he wanted to visit the covered bridge.

"What covered bridge?": I asked.

"The one in this direction," he said as he turned down a road I was unfamiliar with. I thought we'd explored most of the park in that area but apparently we hadn't.

Sure enough there was a sign that said Everett Covered Bridge. We parked and walked down a short path that thankfully was shaded as it was another hot humid summer day. There it was. A beautiful covered bridge. It was originally built in the late 1800s. In 1975 the bridge was destroyed by a spring storm. With funds raised by the community, the bridge underwent historically accurate reconstruction and was finished in 1986. It's a beautiful look at another era in time.

Of course we had to stop at Peninsula where Grandma could tell them all about how this little stop on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway becomes the North Pole at holiday season. They were more impressed with the train that happened to pull into the station and stop. A friendly wave from the engineer made our youngest's day. 

Along the path to the parking lot, we stopped to look at one of the locks that are on the canal that runs through the park. There are many locks along the canal and one that used to be a working lock at the Visitor's Center at Hillside Rd. before COVID shut things down. Hopefully that reenactment will happen again when the world gets closer to normal. 

If you live anywhere near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and haven't explored, you are missing out. And it's all free to drive through! The visitor centers are free as well. This is one of the only, if not the only national park that is. 

We finished the day with a barbecue and s'mores just before a summer thunderstorm welcomed the cold front that promised a better weather day to come. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

In My Backyard--The Cleveland Indians

It's tough to keep a travel blog going when you aren't traveling. There are a few things we've tried to do this summer but we've stayed close to home. We have a granddaughter who plays a mean softball game. There have been a few day trips to see her play. We smile at her speed around the bases and her great fielding skills. It's paid off with scholarship money promised when she starts college next year.

Our Florida grandson who is about to be sixteen spent his COVID year learning to pitch. He watched YouTube videos of several Cy Young pitchers (Bieber being his favorite) and learned their workout routines, what they did to strengthen the pitching arm and stamina, etc. He studied the various pitches to see what worked for him. By the time he joined a team the coaches were pretty impressed. 

When the opportunity arose for the family to come for a visit, my son asked if we could get tickets for an Indians game. Our grandson has the MLB app so that he can watch the games in Florida and he was so excited about seeing a game at Progressive that I think he could have flown here without the plane. 

The week that they were here was expected to be really hot with the possibility of afternoon storms so we bought tickets up high enough that we could be under the overhang out of the sun or rain for the afternoon game and still be behind home plate for a good view.

It was a special handout day and as we entered the ballpark, we all received a very nice ball cap and a bonus--a great pair of sunglasses. Did I mention this kid has three sisters that put up with his claiming the TV at game time so he can cast the game to the television? Not sure they were impressed with the freebies but they donned their caps. We perused the many food venues and all came back to our seats with something for lunch. I opted for the classic ballpark  hot dog with mustard.

My son and my grandson walked around the ballpark to take it all in. It was fun for him to get the real perspective of what he watched on television. They talked a few minutes with an usher and told him that they'd come all the way from Florida to see the game. The usher told them to see another usher and get a pass to stand in the bullpen loge for an inning. Nothing like ratcheting up the excitement. They spent the first inning there.

I was surprised when the girls got excited to see Andre Knott on the sideline as the game started, I guess they did watch the games a bit with their brother. 

When his youngest sister who is seven looked a little bored, her grandfather took her to the Kids Clubhouse where she got to play a few games and pose for some goofy pictures and pick up a couple more souvenirs.

It was an historic game. Not because we won. We lost 17-0. Disappointing in the score but when there were so many empty seats, the three guys in our group spent a half inning sitting front row behind home plate and close up to the batters. Thrilling for our grandson.

We didn't get down to Heritage Park which is out just left of center field. It was so hot that it would have been a short visit since it sits down out of any chance of a breeze and gets a lot of sun,. We'll save that section for another game when hopefully, it will be a cooler day. You see, the only thing he wants for his birthday is a return trip and a chance to see a winning game. Can't promise the winning game but with the good prices on air fare, his parents have bought him a ticket and we get to enjoy another game or two with him before the Indians become the Guardians. Go Tribe!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

A Stop At Mentor Headlands

Our outing to the James A Garfield home in Mentor was followed by a stop at the Mentor Headlands. We had never been there and found it very interesting. It was a hot day and there were plenty of people on the beach. The lake looked beautiful and I'm sure many enjoying the cool water. 

The Headlands is actually a state park and under the care of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It is a 35 acre beach on Lake Erie. The combination of lake, wind, and sand has created a rare lakeshore sand dune habitat for an interesting variety of flora and fauna.

It is a premier birding location and apparently there is a nesting bald eagle near there although we didn't look for it. There is also a resident red fox and in the fall, the Headlands is said to be a great place to see migrating monarch butterflies. 

There is a Nature Preserve next to the State Park. The sand dunes provide the perfect environment for switchgrass and beachgrass. There are marked trails through it.

Off in the distance is a scenic Fairport Harbor Lighthouse. There is a museum there as well and another place to add to our local places to visit. 

We needed to make our visit short to the headlands since we wanted to try out a recommended restaurant, Brennan's Fish House. When we got there we were disappointed to realize that it didn't sit at the edge of the Grand River with a view but since it was highly recommended, we still chose that over the restaurant across the street that sat on the water's edge. 

Inside was very nautical and very busy with customers confirming the recommendation that the food was good. Lightly breaded perch was our choice and we enjoyed every bite, 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Lawnfield, the James A Garfield House

 Those of you who like to travel can understand what a difficult time this has been with the world shut down. We have tried to do a few things that are nearby and did manage a trip to Mackinac Island in

Michigan last year. And of course, we spent the winter in Key Largo although we didn't do a whole lot with our grandkids down there like usual. There wasn't a lot open to us and we wouldn't risk their health either. We still enjoyed our visit with them.

So when the travel bug bit Bob back home, we looked for some place close by to venture out for a day. One of the groups I belong to on FaceBook suggested a day trip to visit the James A. Garfield home in Mentor, Ohio.

It was a beautiful Northeast Ohio day with sunshine, warm temps and low humidity. Instead of taking the freeway, we did what we call the Rob Way. Our son likes to take the back roads when he has the time and we had all day. Our mini-roadtrip wound through several lovely communities before we arrived at the home of the 20th president of the United States.

The home is called Lawnfield, named by the reporters who camped out on the lawn during his 1880 campaign but I'm getting ahead of myself. Garfield bought the home and the farm in 1876 to put his boys to work and teach them farming. The property was in bad shape but by 1880, Garfield had cleaned it up and expanded the farmhouse into a 20 room, two and a half story house. 

Garfield ran what was called a "front porch campaign." People literally camped out on the lawn and listened to his campaign speeches delivered from the front porch. He did not serve long as president. He was assassinated in 1881.

Lucretia Garfield, his wife, stayed on at Lawnfield and expanded it yet again to include her husband's books and papers thus making it the first presidential library. Her decorating talents are displayed throughout the house. Because of the house passing on to the descendants, the furnishings have been well preserved and original.

Wall coverings have been recreated and look like the original. 

Our tour guide was a volunteer who really knew her stuff. Not only did she give us a history lesson, she did it with colorful stories and background and humor. I, for one, do not get terribly excited about listening to dry historical facts. She made the Garfield story interesting. Oh, and I found out something along the way I never knew. In the past when the deceased were viewed in their own home, the room was called a parlor but when funeral homes became more prevalent, the parlor became known as the living room.

Lucretia Garfield became quite a fascinating character as our tour of the home went from room to room.

I promised myself to find a biography to read about her. 

Another interesting fact about the home is that it sat near a railway. It was a day's (or night's) train ride between the home and DC. Very convenient. They had to establish another stop near his house because too many people would jump off the train there to get to his front porch. 

If you are ever in the area, stop in and see the house. The acreage is reduced but many of the outbuildings are still there including a windmill that pumped water into the house. If you have a NP pass, the tour of the house is free. Otherwise it is $10 and well worth it. The grounds can be toured for free and you can scan the QR code on the signs to get a narration on your phone. 

We finished our adventure with dinner at the Brennan Fishhouse on the Grand River about fifteen minutes away and stopped for a look at the Mentor Headlands. A great day trip. Looking forward to another.

By the way, the picture on the left is of Garfield's mother. Lovely lady, right? She mourned her son until the day she died. Her room was covered in pictures of him so that any way she turned, he was always in her sight. What a mother. What a  mother-in-law.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Secrets Amid an Irish Castle

 Here's a reading from my newest book, Secrets Among The Shamrocks. It's available at Amazon.com along with the first two books in the Casey Stengel Mystery Series: Murder Among The Orchids and Death Among The Deckchairs. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

It Pays To Have Friends With Connections

 Anyone who knows us knows we are addicted not only to travel but to Pickleball as well. We meet the nicest people playing at home and in Florida during the winter months. One of our fellow Florida players is married to a boat captain who does tours with his six passenger pontoon boat. We followed our Until-Next-Year lunch with a cruise on his boat. It was so much fun as well as informative. A whole new perspective on Key Largo from the water. 

Captain Larry picked us up from Senor Frijoles after lunch and took us out and across Blackwater Sound to a protected area of mangroves. We went through a channel that is part of the Intercoastal Waterway and then into a smaller channel that led to a small lake in the middle of the mangroves that are actually a part of the Everglades. Captain Larry has a special permit to go into the area with his charters. 

Mangroves are an important part of the eco-system. They reduce erosion, protect water quality, provide a nursery habitat for marine life and provide shelter and nesting areas for a variety of other birds and animals. Their roots that go down into the water make them look like they are standing on stilts. 

Along the way we saw a variety of birds including some really pretty herons and an iguana out for a swim. It was interesting to learn that the channel is where they anchor boats when a hurricane approaches. When Irma came through, the water was blown out of the Bay and the boats rested on the bottom but the mangroves protected them from damage. 

Since all of us onboard new what a manatee looked like, he didn't spend time trying to track one down. We did take a peek at the dolphin pens by the Dolphins Plus at MM102. 

Captain Larry was informative and kept us all chuckling with his humor as well. It was a relaxing and enjoyable time with wonderful friends from our Pickleball group. If you happen to be in Key Largo and are looking for a little relaxing and enjoyable time on the water, you might want to look him up. He does morning tours and some sunset cruises as well. 

Monday, March 01, 2021

So What Is A Leprechaun?

 St. Patrick's Day is approaching. And while I don't resemble a leprechaun in any way, I feel like there must be some kinship since I was born on March 17. It has led to my dislike of the color green however since everyone naturally assumes that the best way to celebrate is to give me something green--green cupcakes, green mints, green cookies, green carnations (the worst!). 

The color green has long been associated with leprechauns although in my research, there are said to be leprechauns that do wear red. Apparently leprechauns belong to the fairy family. Small in size and prone to mischief, They are said to be descendants of Tuatha De Danaan, a group of magical beings that served under the Gaelic goddess Danu. According to legend they lived in Ireland long before humans.

There are no female leprechauns. It is said they are they unwanted fairies, tossed aside by the community. They are described as grouchy, untrusting, solitary creatures. Doesn't sound anything like the guy on the cereal box. 

Pot of gold? Leprechauns are cobblers and I guess there's a lot of money in making shoes. They are also the bankers of the fairy world. who take care of the money supposedly for the other fairies who would just spend it frivolously. And of course there are always stories of people trying to steal a leprechaun's gold. (No wonder they're grouchy.)

They are sneaky little creatures though. One story tells of a man who forced a leprechaun to show him where his gold was buried. The man tied a red scarf around the tree trunk the leprechaun showed him and ran off to get a shovel to dig it up. When he returned to the forest, he found that every tree had a red scarf tied around it.

Ah, the stories abound. But wait! There's a whole other story about where they came from and who they are. Looks like my work here is not done. There's still time to explore before St. Paddy's Day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Have You Ever Traveled With A Mopsie?

 This is a video of a reading I did from In A Pickle. While it is fiction and carried a bit further than my own experience with a lady and her dog on a plane it is a fun little scene from the book. 

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