2018 UK and Ireland Adventure: Home At Last

Dublin's Ha'penny BridgeAS ONE OF MY READERS has remarked, “this has been quite the adventure”. Yes, it has been very different from my previous trips. Not what I had envisioned, but I can easily say it was fun, adventuresome, a learning experience, I saw things I’d not seen before and I was able to share my experiences with a friend—at least two voiced desires (from previous adventures) finally met!

I’m going to apologise now for this final, super-long blog (I could break it into two or three to make it more manageable, but nope—sorry). I’m trying to get all the left-out bits pulled together to create this one last travel-Image of cloudy, blustery skies on the way to Dublinblog entry. Also, you’ll see photos scattered throughout this blog. Make sure to click on them to see the full size—and more importantly—more information about the photo. They will not necessarily be in the order seen on the trip.

Being home. Aaah. What can I say? Standard response is “it feels so good to be in my own bed”—definitely. But almost I want to travel posterimmediately, I’m wishing that I could go back. Travel more. Wander and ponder more. See more things—crazy, I know, since I have been away for nearly three months. I am glad to be home; back to my sweet little kitteh, who did not shun me one bit this time—he was purring and rooting the moment I stepped foot in the house (and yowling loudly till I could get the door opened to step inside)! What a lovely greeting (he’s usually pouting and ignoring me for a good half-hour—I like this new response).

I’ve already had a few of the usual questions pop up: Sunrise from our hostel room in DublinWhat did you like most and least? Which was your favourite place? What would you Hanging Flower Potsdo differently? I’ll answer those and more, plus add a few observations since arriving stateside.

What I liked most has always been a hard one—there are always so many amazing things—so I choose to give four Image of River Liffey from a Bridgeanswers: one per “country” (yes, yes. I know—I only visited two countries, but since Wales and Scotland each have their own governmental structure and a distinct and very strong sense of ownership to go with it, I will break my answers down to the four regions we visited.)

Ireland: For this trip, I’m still National Leprechaun Museumenthralled with Dublin’s energy. I’m usually not a fan of the busyness of cities (and Dublin had its fair share of busy, noisy stuff. Though I was unable to keep my usual pace, there were Cannonball into harbourtimes, just walking through the the various areas of the city (especially Temple Bar and Trinity College areas) gave my spirits a lift. As a close second, I loved the Donegal area. We did not really get down into Donegal, but instead, were up in the countryside overlooking it. Secluded, tranquil, beautiful vistas everywhere. I was still seriously nursing my ankle injury (in addition to a wound acquired fighting with the step to the shower area <giggle> at the B&B we were at), so the tranquility was nice. Next time around, I do want to spend more time on the west coast—around Connemara and the wild countryside along the southwest coast.

Wales: ooh, what isn’t lovely image of tomatoes, cucumbersabout Wales?? Sandy would say, “getting stepped on by a horse …” Yes, that bit was far from lovely, and this created two gimpy gals trying to have fun. Sigh. Back Rooster Weather Vaneto the question at hand—Snowdonia National Park will always have a place in my heart, but it now must share space with Brecon Beacon National Park—both are shining gems in Wales. Definitely worth the Crystal Ball Shot of Garden and Treestime to explore the hills, mountains, lakes, rivers and valleys. I’ve only seen a wee bit of Shaggy Sheep Seeking Shadeboth Snowdonia and Brecon Beacon. One of these days I’d like to explore each more. As for towns … Llanberis and Betws Y Coed. Llanberis because … well, it’s just a cool little town and I love to say the name (it’s not Lan-beris, Beautiful Window at Tintern Abbeyit’s … um, Ll is a lispy L sound—tongue at the front, allowing air out the sides. Kinda—here’s a link for the pronunciation <grin>).

England and N. Ireland: I know I keep talking about the countryside in all of these Image of two shadowsareas, but well … yeah. Can’t be helped. For this trip, hands down the Yorkshire View of Tintern AbbeyDales—the amazing beauty and tranquility I find in this heartland of the Yorkshire countryside gives me such peace. If it’s a town you’re looking for me to recommend, the only one that comes to mind is Hay-on-Wye. It’s really the only one where we did much exploring. If you’re a bibliophile, I think there are more book stores per block in this town than any other I’ve seen … and there’s an annual book festival. Walkways alongside the river were quite amazing also!

Model of the TitanicScotland: as much as I’d like to say Edinburgh’s diverse character and all the amazing sights to be seen, I must say—this time—that Isle of Skye captured my heart and I yearn to return to take in its beauty. The towns are small and fun to roam around in—its easy to poke around each one in an hour or so … it’s the traveling from one to the next that takes the time (but, time well spent). We pretty much stuck to the coastal route—except for one time (when we finally saw some highland cows—squeeee!), but the single track roads are not everyone’s cup of tea. I have no problem with them (didn’t get to experience them Stage for Riverdance in Dublinon Skye, but did take lessons learned from Marc’s and our guide’s driving and put it to good use on the second half of our trip). The only down-side to Skye is that “the powers that be” cannot keep up with the needs of the huge influx of tourists—most of the Concessions the Old-Fashioned Way at the Gaiety Theatretourist sites (ie: Fairy Pool, Man of Storr, etc) do not have toilets or any kind of concessions, which leaves one to use the great outdoors if you “can’t hold it” … which is not the Riverdance dancers at the Gaiety Theatrebest for the environment (or privacy). Not a deal-breaker for me.

Having rented a car, we registered a “few” miles—not counting the Isle of Skye segment—as I was not the driver for that portion. Skye was a nice respite, but by the end of the week, I was eager to get back behind the wheel <grin> and continue exploring. Below, you’ll find the google maps of the highlights of our trip, including the mileage. Wow.

Map: Leg One Ireland May-July 2018
Map: Leg Two 2018 Trip Wales, Yorkshire, Scotland
Map: Leg Three-Inverness to Isle of Skye and Back June 2018
Leg Four-Inverness, UK to Holyhead, UK 2018
Leg Five-Holyhead to Dublin with day trips 2018

Embellished Cover, Dublin Ireland Earth-Rod Manhole Cover, Dublin IrelandNow for what I don’t really like to discuss because others may find they have had or will have a completely different experience. So, take this with a grain of salt (but be forewarned) if this is where you want to travel. The least favourite place we visited—hands-down—was Bath, England. I was disappointed in the hospitality industry, the hostel we were in (could not change our reservations—no cancellations allowed—otherwise we would have left after Fancy Wrought Iron Railingthe first night), and I was unimpressed with the sameness of the architecture. Admittedly, my ankle definitely held me back, so many of the things to see were out of my reach and the heat was stifling during our stay. Had we stayed in Bristol (now that is a town to put on your places-to-see itinerary—very cool place) and made a day trip to Bath, that might have been Trinity College Old Librarybetter. Mostly, it was the attitudes and trustworthiness of the hospitality industry that left a bad taste in my mouth (from the Bath Tourism office to the supposedly knowledgeable staff at points of interest—Jane Austen Tea House, Hop-on Hop-off bus’ recorded tour, and we even had issues at our hostel). I’ve never had such a bad experience on such a large scale before.

Jameson Whisky Barrel Table in Temple Bar, Dublin Brass Flower Sculpture in Temple Bar, DublinAfter returning home, I was reminded of how polite the drivers are in Ireland and the UK—compared to the egotistical, self-centered drivers (I know—they’re not all like that) I’ve encountered in my short time back home. It’s truly amazing how much faster one can get through a bottle neck (lose a lane and need to merge together) across the Pond as compared to the “you’re not getting in front of me” attitude of many California drivers when confronted with the same situation. One can only take a deep breath and shake the head … otherwise go bonkers.

I have learned quite a few things along the way.

Friends always ask me how much to plan on spending for a trip abroad. I can never give them a figure—not even a guesstimate—so, I need to keep better financial records. I mean, I have the receipts … but I never do anything with them—baaad me! Especially when sharing expenses with a friend <insert eyeroll>. Also, I need to keep record of the places I visit—my little booklets I created ended up not being used (by either of us) past the first week or so … I didn’t take the time to take notes, so places are (as usual) blurring together. I am surprised that I’m remembering things better, but there really was a lot to remember, so there are gaps—big gaps. Photos will help, but the photos need notes, too. “What’s this one from …?” is my most frequently asked question to myself. And usually, there’s no answer. Sigh.

Another lesson: As the “planner” and “guide” I felt like I was responsible for everything. Sandy and I had a talk about this and she tried to make it clear that I was not responsible … but I kept feeling that way—my issue, not hers. So, if and when I do have a friend with Sphere Within A Sphere, Trinity College Dublinme, I need to plan “me” time in the schedule … actually, for both of us, which would alleviate the pressure I was feeling. I did it a little, but not near enough. I also need to find out the expectations of my friend before traveling—I was not fully aware of the fact that Sandy liked to use a “base camp” and go out from there to see things for at least a week, whereas I like to “touch base” with an area and move on after a couple days … with an occasional “hunker-down and explore for a bit”—but definitely on a more organic/spontaneous level. Yup … I need to work on this. And I need to make sure my travel companions know I prefer spontaneity to planning things out in advance. In a way, I felt trapped having the trip so “well-planned” (sniggle—Sandy probably would not call it “well planned”, but that’s okay too).

Most importantly, I loved having a friend with me so I could share my experiences, but in future I will limit the time to one or two weeks (or some percentage of my trip)—not the whole The Quay's Bar, Dublin Irelandtrip. Not because we ended up hating each other. Nope—far from it. We learned a lot about each other. And that’s kinda cool. It’s just that ten weeks was way too much “together-time” <grin>. Sandy agrees. When (not if, but when) we travel again, it will be for a much shorter time. I will either go earlier to explore and meet her on a designated day or stay afterwards to travel on my own.

In closing, I can now say that, whilst abroad, I’ve traveled alone, with friends and with family; I’ve traveled by car, train, boat (well … kinda—I will do it for real next time!), bus and plane. I’ve done tours (very small and way too large), done day tours and planned things on my own. I’ve stayed in B&Bs hostels, hotels and friends’ homes. I’ve travel to various Aged Manhole Cover, Dublin Irelandcountries on the Continent and extensively (yet not) in Ireland and the UK. Each and every time, I find myself wanting to go back and see more. I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep this up, because there will always be so much more to see <insert grin>.

So finally, I say cheers, my friends. I bid you adieu for another week.  Have a blessed Friday, week-end and beyond. I will go back to my routine of keeping you updated about my goofy Painterly and Writerly sides—there are a few events coming up and much to do to get my books republished … toodles!

… And We’re Off and Running!

SO … THE JOURNEY HAS begun for Sandy and me. And did it ever start out with a bang—our plane had a tyre with low pressure and it needed to be attended to. They tried to get the pressure up to snuff, but that wasn’t working (that took us about 45 minutes beyond our departure time) … and when that didn’t work, they realised they’d need to replace the tyre. Things got a bit timey-wimey whilst they went off to find a tyre … then install and test it, plus (of course) paperwork to complete, but finally (after about 2.5 hours) we were back on “schedule”. Our 11:50am arrival time on the 17th was pushed to 1:30-ish. In the end, it was closer to 2pm, leaving quite a few passengers anxious about connecting flights. (Which, by the way, I feel Aer Lingus handled brilliantly.) All Sandy and I had to worry about was making sure we had wheels to get-about with whilst in Ireland. We let those connecting-flights get off before us, then started to get off the plane when three wheel chairs came down the ramp for those of us requiring them. My attendant went well beyond what others had done in the past. I usually get “dumped” at the baggage claim, then I’m on my own. This young lady took us all the way to the Car Rental lot and I didn’t get off the wheel chair till we were literally in front of the car. (Well done!!) I’m happy to use Hertz—it may not be the cheapest, but they’ve been very good to me in the past, and they didn’t fail us with this bit of a wrench in the plans.

Next bit to throw us off was my little GPS (Gabby—but she wasn’t …) decided she was not going to talk to us. Rather cheeky little thing. (I checked her out prior to departure and she was working just fine). She simply told us to get to M-1 so she could direct us. She never redirected us when I didn’t get into the desired road. Thankfully I was vaguely familiar with the area and, though we never got into what she felt was the right street, we apparently paralleled her route in the downtown area and made it safely—well … there was one block of driving the wrong way on a very quiet one-way street, but I got that sorted out right away and we made it in one piece. (Poor Sandy—she’s a very patient soul.)
I love Dublin—and the area we are in. Mountjoy St., where the hostel is located, has a lovely ancient church with a beautiful spired steeple just a block or two down from the hostel (photos will happen in the next blog, since we were exhausted from a very long flight and time change). The hostel itself has a small church attached, which has been turned into the dining all. We have a Spar (kind of like a 7-11 in the States, but no petrol station attached) just across a very quiet street—same street we drove down to get into the car park at the hostel.
We settled into our room then walked over to get dinner makings—almost bought stuff requiring cooking, but decided we were too tired for that. I was more tired than hungry, so we simply purchased a pre-made sandwich, some grapes and blueberries and shared all of it. We discovers like and dislikes in food—apparently we both love blueberries enough to challenge Violet (from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) at being the biggest and bluest berry that the Umpa Lumpa’s would be rolling off to their presses … <insert mischievous grin> and I love yogurt, but she does not—same with mushrooms.
With dishes cleaned up, we got the wifi code, grabbed some crafting tools and settled into the dining hall to get Sandy an e-membership at the HI hostels (didn’t work—for a number of reasons, including forgetting the credit card … we’ll try again later) and for a quick lesson in putting signatures together (blocks of pages that are sewn together to make the pages of a book) for our travel journals. That didn’t last long, as my mind was muddled (as was Sandy’s) from fatigue and I couldn’t answer or show her how to do it properly <insert eye roll—and serious amount of yawning> … so we packed up our supplies and went back to our room at 9pm to retire for the night.
Today is Friday—a new day and the real beginning of two and a half month journey. Today is a “chill day” so we can recover from our jet lag (I slept in to 9am!), we will do a walk-about around Dublin and use the Hop On-Hop Off Tour Bus to venture into areas we can’t get to by foot. We’ve three nights (one’s already under our belts) to explore before moving on to Galway and beyond. We are going to have a wonderful time—whether Gaby helps us or not! Have a blessed Friday and weekend and join us again next Friday for another chapter in our journey.
Cheers and Slainté!

Traveling with Friends

TRAVEL IS NIGH AND I am definitely filled with excitement! I’ve completely ignored my travel-blogging lately … well, there have been tiny bits peppering my blogs of late, but not much else. Oopsie!

Just so you are aware, I will be at the mercy of internet availability during my travels, so blogging posts may be sporadic—I’ll try my best to adhere to a schedule, but it will completely depend on availability. I do have hotspots for my computer whilst traveling in Ireland and the UK, but I’ll need to figure out how to use them again (it’s been waaaay too long—hope I can remember passwords …) and I’m sure I’ll have to “feed” them before they can be used.

In the past—beginning with our maiden voyage in 2007 (or was it 2008??), I’ve traveled with my daughter for two and a half months; I’ve traveled with her and friends for a week, then just with the friends (stationed over in Germany) for another week … then on my own; I’ve traveled alone for 3-6 weeks; taken trains and buses; rented a car. Each time has been fun; each time has been a learning experience.

This time around, I’ll be traveling with my daughter’s mother-in-law. Sandy and I have hit it off well since our childrens’ nuptial tying of the knot—but we have never spent more than a couple days together, so this will be a delightful experience in patience, understanding and sharing close quarters (the car, dorm-room style sleeping arrangements with 4-8 other roommates—complete strangers—that sometimes turn into lifelong friends, short and long tours cooped up in a van together …et cetera). It’s a matter of give and take for both of us. I think we are adult enough for this trip to be wonderful for both of us. Everyone has their own personal quirks that must be taken into consideration. If you are not able to be flexible, traveling with friends may not be for you.

We will be visiting my new (and old) internet friends that live in Wales, London (and surrounding areas), and Yorkshire area. I love being able to meet my internet connections—at least one face-to-face enriches the relationship. I will be showing Sandy around places I’ve seen (and have fallen in love with) and we’ll experience other places together for the first time. And we will do tons of walking. Literally tons … my habit of “park-it-and-walk” still applies for as long as I am able to walk. We’ll stay at hostels as often as we can—I’m sure there will be a few B&Bs and hotels when hostels are booked. We’ll do mini-tours around the “big cities” via the Hop-On/Hop-Off buses, more mini-tours with some of the tour companies that take jaunts out into the nearby country-side … and perhaps take the car out to look at the lovely countryside, ruins and other little towns. As I’ve just mentioned, I prefer the “drive to a location and park it till we move on” philosophy—walking is such a wonderful way to observe and soak in the beauty of the cities and towns. But sometimes, to see special spots and places far afield, cars are required. (Usually, I find cars are way too fast for sightseeing, but with a car, I can pull over or turn around if I see something that interests me—unlike various forms of public transport!) We will have our week-long tour (with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group, a annual tour organised  by Marc Gunn) up on Isle of Skye in Scotland about a month into our journey. Then we’re back to poking around and working our way back to Dublin for our journey home. There will be two ferry rides—I love these. Allows for a re-boot.

There will be at least one ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) for us to attend in Dublin at the Jameson Distillery (insert a very happy, smiley face). The date has yet to be set … I really need to get on that soon. Yes, there is more planning to do before we set sail. All in all, I’m looking forward to a laid-back, delightful tour of Ireland and the UK.

So, until next week (after my first book signing of the year—and just before the next one), I wish you all a beautiful, blessed Friday and weekend. Toodles!

 

Mother Nature and Creativity

Whilst the Midwest and East Coast have been dealing with an extremely fickle Mother Nature, our weather on the Central Coast of California has been spectacularly beautiful the last week or so. The on again-off again wind has been a nuisance, but compared to the weather elsewhere, we cannot (or should not) complain. Chilly to simply cool mornings melding into cool to “just right” temps as the day progresses has been Mother Nature’s offering. Spring is definitely in the air. And that makes me happy!
The clouds have been amazing. Billowing cumulus (decorator clouds), the dramatic stratocumulus and cumulonimbus have paraded across our skies, keeping my eyes looking upward in awe. Late evening to early mornings have been just as delightful—our fog that rolls in and out like tidal currents makes me smile. At times, it’s a heavy blanket darkening the sky and hiding the sunsets and sunrises. Other times, it’s a white veil that caresses the hills and trees, reluctant to yield to the sun. It’s the veil-like presence that I enjoy the most. That fog that, as it finally yields to the warms of the morning air, stratifies in the nooks and crannies of the hills, finally dissipating altogether. So pretty.  As I stand at my windows watching, it reminds me of Brigadoon—the magic that happens in the mist of the morning …
And, indeed the magic of the mornings (ever so early, I might add) brings creativity. I know that I’ve been very restless (and frustrated), trying to complete the next few books in the series. It has left you, my readers, wanting more and probably just as frustrated as I am. These last few months, with my renewed energy and my mind finally bursting with more and more ideas (of all sorts—not just storylines), I find myself excited—yet even more frustrated as I realise I’ll not be able to follow through with most of them due to my trip across the Pond. Excited—but frustrated—that ideas are flowing at a rate I cannot possibly keep up with … and they come at the oddest of times. It seems 2-3 am is the most prolific creative time (insert massive eye-roll here). Seventeen years ago—when this story in my head would not go away—I was oh-so-much-younger. I was able to handle late nights and early mornings … and middle of the night “eureka moments”. Now? Well, I can still manage a few days and nights like that, but … oye vey! Sigh. Is it possible to train creativity to happen at more convenient times?? This old doddering woman needs her sleep … teehee.
Apparently not. One of my recent middle-of-the-night eureka moments produced quite a few haikus. Really? I don’t do poetry. Yet, my mind kept spitting them out—I managed to get a few written down before I finally collapsed back into my sleepy coma for what remained of the night. They’re not great, but they do adhere to the 5-7-5 rule.
Creativity/Imagination
The mind like Spring blooms
Ideas flowing anew
A canvas of words
Paintbrush poised in hand
Colours explode on canvas
Rains down settles in
I guess that’s how the mind works—at least, my mind. At these “magical hour” moments, I work out ideas for gardening, for building projects, stories—and apparently poetry in the middle of the night. It’s been a very long time since my mind was this active (maybe a year before my spinal surgery—that’d be about 3-4 years ago!). It feels good—but I sure wish it would choose daylight hours for all of these revelations … honestly (eh-hem—as I write this at that “magic” hour in the morning … which has drawn out till 4:30—good grief!). Well, at least the blog has been written.
So, my wonderful readers, even though I’m nearing the time to head off across the Pond (only a couple more weeks—yikes!) and won’t be able to concentrate fully on my edits whilst abroad, you will be able to follow me during my adventure in Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland via my blog. Then, once home and recovered from my trip, I promise to dedicate time to complete book four in the series before I go back to preparing the first three books for re-publishing. I promise!
So, as the roosters begin to announce the new day, the plan is to back to sleep for a bit, before I edit and post this piece. May your Friday and weekend be blessed abundantly! Toodles till next week.

Book Arts: Medieval-Style Books

I SPENT THE WEEKEND in a workshop at Open Ground Studios, learning how to creating a limp vellum medieval book. It’s not the first time I’ve attended a workshop led by Nicky Yeager. And, it will not be the last. I like his laid-back teaching style. This particular workshop was a challenge, but I had fun … and was pleased with the final results. I was sleep deprived (only a bad night’s sleep) and my brain was a wee bit foggy—even after a few cups of coffee—all of which hindered my comprehension.

Of course since it was my first attempt, it was far from perfect—but that’s okay. I’ve always considered the first one my prototype. I found myself alternately frustrated (till I figured out how to do a step) and content—I keep forgetting how much I love working with my hands. I’ve been spending so much time editing (head-work) lately that I’d forgotten the joy of real hands-on creating. Every time I finish up one of his workshops, I want to dive into creating more of what I’ve just learned.

This weekend’s event was no different. I’m glad my mind has been kick-started with creative ideas, but with my upcoming trip, I’m not sure I’ll be able to follow through. Last night my brain wouldn’t stop thinking about the different forms of medieval books. My absolute favourite is the wood-bound books. I spent a good portion of the wee hours of Monday thinking about how I could go about getting my hands on quarter-sawn oak … (insert very loud sigh and eye roll—teehee); about how I’ll keep track of the actual costs of materials so I could price them fairly (for the customer and still make a wee bit of a profit) … and how many I should make. Oh. And I wondered about how I could re-invigorate interest in my personalised storybooks. Maybe I’ve too many interests … just maybe.

Oh, yes. My creative mind has definitely re-engaged.

But all of that must go on hold—at least temporarily, until I’m able to get all my travel plans solidly arranged. Then I’ll start planning my next art project. Oh, wait … I have five books to publish (well, re-publish three and first-time publish two). Egads. I do love a challenge—and juggling projects—don’t I? I know a few of my friends will be doing eye rolls when they see what I’ve planned for myself upon returning from across The Pond.

Here are a few photos from the weekend—not all, as many of them are not cooperating—I’ve spent most of the week

DIY Signature "Punching" Craddle

A handy device to punch holes in the signatures. I’m green with envy.

Signatures Ready To Punch ... Almost

Since I don’t have the DIY craddle, gotta poke ’em all the old fashioned way, using a template (grey sheet).

Okay ... Now I'm Ready

Punched on left, ready to be punched on right. Template at center fold (visible so you can see one of the notches used to punch uniform holes for threading signatures together).

Yeah ... I’ve two that could be entered IF they were done. Maybe next year. Thanks for the heads up.

Twisted leather strips that anchor the signature to the cover.

trying to “right” those photos that loaded side-ways (ugh). I’m giving up on correcting things and posting—I’ll add to the images later when my computer/iPhone is less twitchy! Remember you can click on each image to enlarge them.

Have a great day, a blessed weekend and here’s to Spring making an appearance (well, mostly). Hope you’ll come back next week to see what mischief I’ll be up to—personally, I have no clue (insert huge grin and a wink!). Toodles.a

Books an’ Travel an’ Stuff …

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING ARRIVED with a bang … rain and wind that I’d prefer not driving in—but I did. The third Tuesday of each month is the Central Coast Writers meeting, on the Peninsula, tucked away in a corner of Pacific Grove. This meant I was driving in the wind on very wet roads … and the wind was ferocious enough that I felt like my car would hydroplane at any moment (if it wasn’t already …). Speed didn’t seem to be a factor at all. Let’s just say I was glad to get off of the highway and onto surface roads that were protected from the wind. The roads were dryer when I headed home (thank God!), so the winds (which were still pretty stiff) were no problem.

The meeting was wonderful—the guest speaker, C. S. Lakin, was quite engaging. She’s written quite a few books—the one she spoke about on Tuesday was Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Secrets to Supercharge Your Story. She shared visual storytelling techniques and I was surprised at how many techniques I was already utilise in my series. Perhaps not as well as the examples she used, so I listened carefully to what she had to say. It was well worth the trip in the horrific weather. Well worth it! (And … by the way, I bought the book.) The timing is very good, since I will be republishing each one of the books in the series. I am still (insert rolling eyes) working on getting book one’s first edit done for the editor—or, would it qualify as the second edit, since the book was already published (insert impish grin). I am a third of the way done transcribing all of my corrections into notes for him. In any case, I can take a good look at the whole thing once he sends it back to me with all of the changes. And I can start on book two—and three, looking at them in the same light … then move forward with a more critical eye in the edit of book four and five.

It’s times like these that I question my traveling abroad this year, but I am committed to the trip, and I know I’ll enjoy myself—once I get over there. I’ve been vacillating back and forth ever since I paid for the non-refundable airline tickets. I did this last time, too … but I ended up not being able to go last time due to my neck surgery. I truly love my time across the Pond. I’d live over there if I could figure out how to afford it (and keep my home here). Not in the cards unless I find myself a “deep-pockets” hubby. Sigh. Don’t think that’s in the cards either (insert major giggling here). I will be taking photos for book art and for my photopolymer etched printing … but I will not be taking any of my usual promotional materials—or even books. Well, maybe a few books, but my supply is limited and freebees are going to be few and far between. I say no promo material because the books are not really available for anyone to purchase over there—Amazon is not carrying any of them (or will not in the very near future) and I think overseas shipping for me to mail anything would be outrageous. Hmmm … mayhaps I should find out how much it would cost before I make too many assumptions.

Anyway, back to reality. I’m serious when I say (in one of my previous blog posts) that I may need to take a hiatus once I return from my trip. Distractions abound. It will be the only way to get editing, artwork (which I’m afraid I’m going to have to start from scratch …) and publishing done in a timely fashion. But when? Almost immediately after I get back, there’s a Scottish Games that our clan tent needs to be at—a friend and I host the tent every year—I cannot back out. Then the book signing season starts up with a bit of a sputter in early September and goes all the way through the first week of December. One of the November weekends, I’ve signed up to be in Columbia, South Carolina at a book fair. I know … I am plum loco. I committed (monetarily) to that before my publisher passed away. Before the headache of regaining rights to my books. And the artwork. Sigh.

So, the challenge will be finding time, saying no to friends and OGS (insert huge pout)—unless it gets me closer to my goal, cancelling commitments that can be cancelled … and focusing—not procrastinating—on the task at hand. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’ll keep you apprised of my progress. Blogging will stay—possibly much shorter posts than my usual blogs (and I do apologise for the length of this one!), but I won’t disappear.  I promise (I may link to my other blog account, since things look nearly full again—I do not want a repeat of what happened in January!) I promise to keep you up to date.

Please make sure you subscribe to both blogs so you don’t miss anything.  I’ll add links later—or in the next blog—it’s not like I’m leaving tomorrow. Not until May, so there’s time.

I leave you with wishes of a delightfully blessed Spring—even if you’re presently knee deep in snow. It will pass (I know—not soon enough, I’m sure). Have a delightful Friday and weekend … and I will be back next Friday! Toodles!

 

Happy Christmas To All


 

LAST WEEKEND I VENTURED UP into South San Francisco with my daughter and son-in-law, searching for a very specific building. I’d only been there once before—as a passenger in the very back of an SUV. ‘Twas a straight-forward drive with little traffic (I use that term loosely, for those that know SF and LA traffic) on a Saturday morning, but even if there’d been traffic, it was such an easy drive. Google Maps reinforced my vague recollection of where it might be.

Our destination? The famous Cow Palace. Looking back at the ease of the trip, I am definitely kicking myself for all of the missed concerts and events hosted at this venue. Too far … all that traffic … I’ll get lost! All of that and more, plus, my younger self wasn’t nearly as adventurous or as self-confident as I am now. It’s all in the attitude.

Our purpose? To have an adventure at the Great Dickens’ Christmas Faire. It’s an annual event held on a months worth of weekends, ending the Sunday before Christmas. It is fun to wander the streets of Dickens’ London. I will openly admit it’s one huge tourist trap, but there are so many delightful things to see and hear … and taste and smell. There are period actors wandering the streets, playing their parts wonderfully. Many of Dickens’ characters from his books join in on the fun—Marley in his nightgown and chains, Christmas Present … plus someone that looked suspiciously like Alice and another that appeared to be the White Rabbit (hmmm … so, characters from his contemporaries too) and oh, so many more! The pubs are great fun … not just for the food and drink (I enjoyed a hot buttered rum—oooh, yum!—and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding among other things), but for the sights of a period family dining quietly in the corner, for the militia dressed to the nines toasting with their chums and the barmaids doing their jobs cheerfully.

My little family and I tasted roasted chestnuts—my daughter and I had never had them before … we quite liked them. The taste of whisky and rum cakes were enough to entice me to buy two (and now I wish I’d purchased more). We even tasted the haggis at one of the shops. It was “okay” … had I not tasted the best-ever haggis whilst in Edinburgh long before this—had this been my first example of what haggis was all about—I’d never try it again. My Edinburgh haggis is the standard I set all haggis against. Now I understand why most people sport a sour look on their face when haggis is mentioned. Well, that … and if they know what the ingredients are (though, most haggis is not made that way anymore for health reasons …).

We had a delightful time and I spent way too much money on gifts (insert Cheshire grin). We were done before it became unbearably busy—gone by 2:30, I believe … the crush usually begins at 3-ish, when the entry fee is cut in half. Perhaps it wasn’t as busy because it was the second to last day … who knows. All that matters is that we had fun exploring and I had a wonderful time—and am thinking about going again next year. Yeah … I know–I’m crazy!

Until next week … Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and have a blessed weekend and week as we gear up for the finale …

 

Traveling Light-Part One

THE INFO IN THIS PARTICULAR series of blogs is probably more for the “infrequent flyer”, rather than for those that fly regularly. But there are some fun tongue-in-cheek comments and stories peppered throughout, so give it a read, no matter what your flying status/prowess may be.

It’s been so long (well over a year for this traveler) since I’ve flown. It’s not my favourite way to travel—give me a car … or a chance to ride a train and I’ll jump at the opportunity every single time. But when time and/or funds necessitate flying, it’s a good thing the flying-option is available. Personally, I hate all the queues (standing still is hard on me). And the impatient waiting and grumpiness (not me … I just chill and smile—sniggle … I’m probably one of the reasons people grumble—too much cheeriness). One can get so much further in life by smiling and complimenting—puts people you’re dealing with more at ease and for some reason, they are more helpful—go figure.

Flying comes with certain rules. For me, it’s trying to remember all the rules and etiquette … it’s so much fun with my lousy memory. And of course, there are changes happening all the time due to changing safety issues and such … and, each airline has their own set of rules that may be different from other airlines. That’s where checking into the airline website has its payoffs. Knowing the different

On Your Mark

Traveling light—not this time …

things like allowable bag size for carry-ons (it’s changed—or will be changing soon) or how many bags are allowed and what you can and cannot have in your carry-on are important. Some rules are TSA motivated, others are specific to the airline. Make sure to know the facts. I sniggled at the announcement made whilst waiting for one leg of my flight—”your Samsung 7 must remain in the off position while in-flight due to newly discovered hazards” (exploding cellphone batteries are not such a good thing) … you just never know what their new rules will be. Glad my cell phone is an older model iPhone …

The kiosks at individual airlines for pre-registeration are still something that confound me—at least for a wee bit, every single time. I always get there early so I’m not rushed through the process—or worried about making it through the queue in time. One must use them before turning in luggage—yes, there’s queues for everything. One to do the ticket, one to weigh and turn your luggage in … then you wander off to your gate—wherever that might be. Still haven’t figured out what the “main” counter is actually for these days … it’s manned, and there are people up there—what they are doing, I’m not sure.

I usually fly United (at least for my last couple of trips). This time around, I’m on American Airlines. I booked it through AAA because I didn’t want to take the time to figure out all the options by myself. This was the best rate with reasonable layover times. American has different rules … and they charge for each bag you check. I usually travel very light and would simply carry on my bag, so that would have been free—and means I don’t have to wait for my luggage at the other end (if it shows up—more on that later). In the past, United didn’t charge for their first bag—haven’t checked their rules, since I’m flying AA this time. But, this

Some layovers are great—look! Outlets at each seat!

Some layovers are great! Look! Outlets at each seat!

time around, I’m not so lightly packed. Purse, one carry-on (backpack with computer, camera and electronic charging paraphernalia) plus two checked bags … oooh, it adds up, but it’s still cheaper for me to check my rolly with sixty books and other promotional material than to ship them to the destination. Plus a bag for all my personal stuff. Worth it. Yup. And by doing two bags, I kept each well under the fifty pound limit, allowing for purchases in and around Memphis. I will be buying books—that is a given … after all, I’m going to be at a book festival all day … right?

Next week I’ll delve more into travel—we’ll get to the actual reason for my travel in the third installment … I hope (sniggle). For now … I’ll be spending the rest of this week and all of next week getting ready for the Harvest Jubilee, with my art and books on sale at the Main Street campus of Compass Church. Maybe I’ll see you there! Have a blessed Friday and weekend.

Authors’ Book Signing and Art
Compass Church’s Harvest Jubilee
Saturday October 8 • 9am-3pm
1044 S. Main St Salinas CA 93901

 

 

“Bucket List”—Part One

SURELY YOU’VE SEEN THESE on Facebook—or perhaps, you even saw the movie starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. “Bucket Lists” … a list of things you want to accomplish before you “kick the bucket” (die). On Facebook, they come and go. They’re posted in many forms—usually a preconceived list someone thinks is fun. Sometimes many people play, sometimes not. Some are thought provoking, some very tongue-in-cheek … I won’t play them if they reveal too much personal information (such as which states have I’ve lived in, kind of jobs I’ve had …). Though some things on the lists make me shake my head, this one in particular evoked so many memories—so many—I couldn’t resist. I hated to simply tick off the boxes that applied. They needed explanation. The story behind the ticked box.

So, this blog (well, actually series of blogs, as it has become an unwieldy 3000+ words as I “fill in the blanks”) is a mix of the most recent “Bucket List” floating around on Facebook … and some of the memories evoked (so … of course, you do not have to do what it says—just enjoy the ride). I apologise for the length, but I wanted to keep it to three parts … so read on and enjoy.

“Bucket List – please play along. You’ll be surprised at the responses. Put an “X” in the box if you have done it! Just copy and paste to your timeline.”
(X) Shot a gun…
As a girl in a family where boys vastly outnumbered girls I was taught how to fire a 22. And a bow and arrow. I think I even got to shoot a pistol once, but there was too much kick-back for my little body. (There was also fishing—I enjoyed that too.) I remember all our trips out to the country to practice our aim … shooting at bottles and rocks. My brothers had a blast (no pun intended) with all of these things … and eventually went on to hunting trips with dad, which was not something girls did then (insert pout … there was definitely a double standard in our house), so I was never invited to come along. I’m not sure I was that interested in the the killing aspect anyway. I loved the bow and was a pretty good shot, but never got the stance right—even in college. I always ended up with a very, very red, welted forearm (my “girls” kept getting in the way—I know … TMI. Sorry … sniggle).
(X) Gone on a blind date
Um … yeah. My best friend had her boyfriend from “the other side of the tracks” and his friend and I did a double date. One time only. She may have loved her boyfriend, but mine … well, let’s just say he was not my type.
( ) Skipped school
never! Even with my learning disabilities, I loved school.
( ) Watched someone die
I did not mark this one, as I read it as actually seeing them die at the end. But I have watched a number of my family in the process. My mom … my dad, then my husband … and with each, I wish with all my heart I’d been able to be with them at the very end. I was able to say good-bye to my mom, but not with my dad or husband … and not having been with them to say good-bye leaves a hole in my heart.
(X) Visited Canada
I’ve been up there several times, various areas. First time I recall was in high school (as a junior, I think) on a portage/camp trip with a group of teenage girls. Our guide was a good-looking, bearded, redhead guide. I think we all had a crush on him by the end of the trip. We even managed to endure a tornado shaking our tents to the ground and needed to rescue our canoe because the tornado had dropped it out in the lake—quite an experience.
(X) Visited Hawaii
With family, twice. Loved it and want to do it again as an adult … on my own. Hawaii is beautiful through the eyes of an tweener. My only bad memory was a badly stubbed toe (on lava rock buried in the sand) and a nasty sunburn on my ankles (that was the day of ankle socks … so the poor ankles seldom saw the sun). Sun poisoning … so my long trip home was not the best. I wonder what it will be like as … well, as a camera-toting adult-me?
(X) Visited Jamaica
My twenty-first birthday was spent with my roommate in Jamaica. My first memories of this little “paradise” was:  My mom had given me a sun block, so I felt confident that I could completely enjoy myself without burning to a crisp (which was the norm for me) … and it was great—saw some amazing waterfalls, checked out the historical bits on a tour and … well, it was great—up until I was so severely sunburned that I blistered. The pharmacist was using NY rules and would not give me neosporin (a non-prescription item in California—but required an Rx in NY) without a prescription, so my roomie swiped tea bags from the dining room and dragged the cooled tea bags across my sunburn. And I lived in a tent dress and coveted shady locations for the rest of the trip … in misery.
But then, other memories flowed in: After having been to Hawaii, I was in for a shock when we arrived on this little island. I had many preconceived ideas of what the place should be like. All shot down after the first day. Now, if you stay at the resort or only go on the structured tours, it’s insulated from reality, but Pam (my roomie) and I rented a car to drive around the island. Such poverty. My first thoughts were “dirty and dusty”. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but the people we met were amazing and genuine. Taking off the rose-coloured glasses allowed me to see another side of the beauty of the island. I am so glad I made the trip, despite all of the discomforts.

Okay … there’s more, but I’m going to save it for next week—when I’m not so capable of writing a blog … I’ll be going under the knife next Thursday and will, most likely, be out of my gourd on drugs on Friday. Sniggle.

If you believe in prayer, I’d be grateful for prayer: peace of mind and speedy and complete healing for me … and steady hands, wisdom and compassion for the neurosurgeon and all the medical staff overlooking my care during my stay.

May your Friday and weekend be blessed. Cheers!

Traveling—Again …

AAAH … TRAVEL. YES, once again I’m gearing up to travel. My new passport just arrived and it has my head buzzing with ideas. But first, I have some tedious taxes to tend to (lol—an unintended alliteration) … and book four to polish. In the meantime, “normal” life goes on …

I read an article in Monday about how we are so tearjerker (what??? I do have issues with autocorrect … can you tell?)—let’s try that again: about how we are so tethered to our smartphones … and, so says the “CNTraveler” writer, even in travel—that it is “dumbing us down”. It article was shared on Facebook by International Hostelling—an organisation I love, by the way … inexpensive rooms and so many diverse and interesting people under one roof, no matter where you stay. IH makes travel more fun because you are able to put your money into seeing the places you visit, rather than into the accommodations … yup. Hostels are awesome.

Well … anyway, this writer disagrees with the article. Perhaps I’m the oddity, but I’ll wear that title gladly. I find travel stimulating, whether within the confines of our political borders … or when breaking away and crossing those borders—or an ocean—to explore.  Yes, I do use my laptop, but the cost of using my smartphone abroad (all those gigabytes add up so quickly—yikes!) becomes prohibitive and besides … there’s way too much to see and do to be bothered with spending much time with my electronic devices. No texting, no phoning, no Googling. I’ll only go on it to work on my blog … or perhaps to write down some ideas for my ongoing storyline (but I also have a notebook—the paper kind), or check out and reserve a room at the next spot I’ll be visiting … and of course, to off-load all the photos I take whilst traveling. And there’s plenty of them!

This year will be no exception. As a matter of fact, I will be concentrating on my photography—especially whilst in Scotland, since that is going to figure into my story line. In some form … OOPS. Well, mo more spoilers. I’ll just leave you to ponder that one. Teehee.

So. I’ve been working on getting my itinerary in order. There are fixed events that I must plan my stay around. The Celtic Invasion Vacations tour in Cornwall is set in stone, so to speak. I know I want to make a trip to Cardiff to the Dr. Who Experience (foiled twice … definitely going to get it right the third time!) and have two friends in London and outlying areas that I want to visit … which will entail a visit to the Shakespeare Theatre to see “Midsummer Night’s Dream” … and maybe a visit to an elementary (primary) school to entertain the youngsters with spontaneous storytelling (working on that right now). But my primary destination will be Scotland. As far north as I can manage in the time I have. The furthest I’ve managed in the past is in and around Edinburgh—don’t get me wrong … I could spend my entire trip in Edinburgh and be completely happy. But I want to get up near Wick (south of the northeast tip of Scotland) if it’s at all possible, as our clan castle (Gunn) is somewhere near this area—I need to research this further. If not this trip, then on my next trip. Yup, there will be another trip, health permitting …

Trying to juggle all the places and things I want to do definitely requires planning, so even though I’m three-months out, I’m already behind. I do have my air fare to/from the states and the hotel rooms just before my tour and a couple nights before my departure for home. My first night’s stay is not settled, as I really don’t know which way I’ll be headed. Do I travel by trains? Rent a car? (Maybe a wee bit of both??) So many things to figure out … and so little time to do it.

Not much more to say at this point, but my next “trip” blog will be more informative. If you are interested in any of my previous travels, then look through and click on the Tags (on the right) for “Europe Travel” (and others) to keep you busy till my next blog.

Until then, hoping your St. Paddy’s Day was a memorable one and that you can see the proverbial light (Springtime) at the end of the long, dark (Winter) tunnel.

Slainté

 

 

 

 

 

Anticipation …

TODAY, I AM FEELING LIKE A CHILD, WAITING … that delightful feeling of anticipation whilst waiting for Christmas or Easter, birthdays … or even summer vacations of long ago. Counting the days down to The Day. Well, yes … I think I will always be childlike anytime anticipation is involved. I love the thrill, the excitement … the surprise—of what will happen. What will happen?

I am gearing up for the annual (my second) Gallifrey One convention at the LA Airport Marriott. I have my con ribbons … and just submitted my pre-order for a photo-op with Colin Baker—the fourth Doctor in the series (… “my” introduction to the Doctor), a meet-and-greet of Classic Dr. Who people (including “my” Doctor) and a photo-op with Ingrid Oliver (she plays Osgood in the newer series). I’m organizing my attire—I’ll be making an attempt to cosplay Sarah Jane Smith (companion to Baker), who happened to be a reporter (so we have something … sort of … in common)—she was such a petite, young thing compared to this frumpy, “mature” author … but I will have my small remote controlled K-9 with me for good measure) and Osgood—this one should be fairly easy … hair pulled back into a ponytail, black glasses, red bow tie, 4th Doctor’s lovely scarf and perhaps a lab coat.

Last year, the whole experience was fun—newbie attendee with deer-in-headlights look all weekend, but this year … getting to meet with my favourite Doctor (possibly even Peter Davidson—5th Doctor) and Osgood, in addition to handing out my very own con ribbons—I’m expecting it to be absolutely outstanding. Last time I met any actors, I was a kid … a Nervous Nellie and certainly didn’t know what to say other than to shove a piece of paper in their faces for autographs, followed by a thank you. Here’s hoping I’m a wee bit more sophisticated and can carry on an intelligent conversation.

Even the trip south should be interesting … February. An enigma unto itself, really. No clue what kind of weather to expect—could be snowing on the way down when I get into the mountains around Lebec … or rain in Lebec and in LA with chances of land slides. Or, it could be drop-dead gorgeous … and hot in LA. One never knows—our weather has been so bizarre of late. So, yes. The El Niño has begun (in theory), but how long it will last is questionable. There’s no planning ahead. I’ll need to have multiple wardrobes at the ready to choose from for packing. Plus an umbrella. Very British, really. Teehee. Maybe next year (if I’m lucky enough to get my tickets—there’s a two minute window … honestly!) just maybe I’ll take the train into LA and hire a car for the trip to my hotel. We’ll see.

Friends are coming along, so that will make it even more fun. We will be sharing a room (or two—can’t remember) and everyone has their favourites activities and characters they want to have their photo-op with, plus there are panels to attend. Don’t know which panels I’ll sign up for because I enjoy keeping it a pretty flexible schedule. I’ll only have a couple specific times—most of the night on Friday to meet Colin Baker and the Classic crew, then the two photo-ops on Saturday and Sunday. That way I can meander through the lobby, the vendor rooms and … well, just general roaming around, passing out con ribbons and my wristbands (gotta sneak a little promotion in whilst there—teehee).

Our hotel room is about three (long) blocks away—15-20 minutes of walking several times a day … depending on where we go for meals—so we’ll get our exercise in at least twice daily, rain or shine. It’s too close to justify grabbing a taxi or hassling with finding parking for my own car (& paying for either) at the Marriott—and I have no problem with walking. Walking is fun—rain or shine. There’s lots to see when walking. And the nights … beautiful lighting. I’m not oblivious to the dangers of walking at night in the big city. I try to be smart: keep a watchful eye (very aware of my surroundings … listening and looking around as I walk—even when I’m focused on taking a photo), walk in groups whenever possible … and carry a heavy purse or umbrella.

I’m looking forward to this adventure and will keep you posted on how it turns out (with photos!) …

I’ve Been Pondering … Deeply | Part One

OH, YOU KNOW ME … WHEN I START TO THINK—well, that can be dangerous at times. Have you ever thought about something for a long time, but feared voicing the thoughts? I mean, saying them out loud? It’s different to keep the thoughts in your head … or even write them on “paper”. Well, at least for me … for some reason, something happens when I voice thoughts. It changes the purpose. The circumstances.

I put a voice behind a thought a short time ago … and now I cannot get it out of my head. I love to travel. You already know that. I write about it all the time. I love Europe, Ireland, Scotland and … well, simply the idea of being over there, planning for the next adventure … then experiencing it. I love it enough that I’ve seriously contemplated purchasing a someplace to lay my head when I am able to visit. I put a voice to that several years ago. I actually started looking … seriously looking. Every time I was over there, I looked with the intent of finding something. I’ve talked to realtors, looked at ads, thought about consolidating into two small abodes so I could bounce back and forth whenever I could make it happen. Over the last year, I realized there were a few huge obstacles: 1) the cost of purchasing something—even renting a flat … or a room—would be very steep. 2) as long as I had critters, it wasn’t going to happen. My forever critters. I cannot justify giving them up just so I can travel for extended periods—nor put them into quarantine (“jail”) for months on end just so I can take them with me. And there’s no way I’m going to leave them behind to live abroad. All of that would be too selfish. Lest I forget my loving pet sitters—I cannot impose on them for repeated long stretches of time … so I figured, I could wait till the pets passed over the Rainbow Bridge. 3) then another realization hit me … as I wait, my health seems to be deteriorating to the point that these transcontinental flights are taking a heavier toll on me with each trip … what shape will I be in once I am pet-free?

I’m already contemplating moving up to business class so I can more comfortably make this next trip. That’s a heap of money spent just to get across the Pond. That in itself is a huge negative for me. I like to make the air fare and room as inexpensively as possible so I can use my funds to explore. So, another thought started pinging around in my head—one I kept stuffing, because I didn’t want to consider it. Logic and common sense kept dredging it back up. The thought I recently voiced was to make this 2016 trip my last trip abroad. Once voiced, the idea grew. Stop flying across the pond and instead, put my time and effort into visiting places within the confines of this continent. I didn’t like the sound of that at all. “Confines…” was the key word. But I cannot make it go away.

I love traveling so much—and the draw of Ireland and Scotland is strong. I just don’t know. It’s hard to imagine not traveling. In a way, I’m in mourning … it saddens me thinking that 2016 will be my last foray traveling abroad—traipsing amongst the trees and trudging up hills with hidden secrets … and experiencing the ancient ruins of our past. The States—and that which lies north and south of me—may be old, but Europe and the British Isles are ancient. I have fallen in love with ancient. I adore ancient. It pulls my mind away from the present, planting me deep in to the past of oh, so long ago. My imagination seems more alive as I wander over there. To think that I won’t be visiting any of these lovely places anymore leaves a huge hole in my heart.

What am I to do with this quandary?? My heart is aching over it. I cannot see a resolution in the near future, yet … I really must decide.

More?

[This little gem was gleaned from a Note post I made on my personal Facebook page August, 2013. Because it’s still applicable, I’ve only made a few minor changes, then expounded upon it. Enjoy.]

SIGH. TODAY IS ONE OF THOSE ‘MORE‘ DAYS. You know the kind I mean.

When I woke up, I felt like I needed more sleep; after consuming a 6-cup pot of coffee, I felt like I still needed more coffee. My “energy” in a cup. After my shower (and nearly draining the hot water in the tank), I felt like I needed more time under the hot shower … and then a massage!

So, what do you do on those kinds of days? Many times, I’ll make another pot of coffee, or crawl back under the covers in an attempt to reclaim some lost sleep … but today, I think I’ll do something different.

Instead of more sleep, I’m going to exercise. Crazy, right? Reports say it gives you more energy. We’ll see …

More coffee? Nope, I’m going to stick with herbal tea and lots of water.

A hot tub would be nice, but aside from the obvious fact that it is prohibitively expensive, that would mean far more work than I’d like—just to maintain it. Instead, I opt for layers of nice snugly-warm ‘comfort’ clothes for both body & mind as I work on the last bit of my manuscript before submitting and preparing for the next phase.

Since I wrote this, back in August of 2013, a lot has happened. With these philosophical changes and new mind-sets, I managed to lost weight, became less dependent on coffee … or even tea (the herbal tea kick didn’t last long—nice black breakfast tea from Ireland for me, thank you very much) except on days where I still don’t get much sleep and need to get moving right away (then I need only one cups of tea—or coffee—to get my engine going). I fell in love with walking again—lots of walking—and finished my first … then my second book. And the third is nearly ready to publish plus now I’m working on the fourth in the series. Wheee!

In 2014, I managed a seriously walking-heavy trip (groan—but it was awesome!) in Wales, Ireland and the UK and am now planning for another trip to Scotland and England (to include a group trip to Cornwall, which will most likely be another walk-heavy adventure) and a maybe for including Ireland and N. Ireland) for 2016. I did gain a little bit of the weight back over the holidays—oh, bother—but I’m attacking it with proper diet and it’s on the downswing once again with walking. I got out of the habit over the holidays and it’s taken six months to get my act together. I’ll be rarin’ to go for next year’s trip—just you wait and see! I can hardly wait! Most of my trip is still in the planning stages, but I’m excited already.

I still think about the hot tub when my thyroid battles with my immune system (hmm … maybe that’s supposed to be the other way around) when I feel like I’m living at the arctic circle (when in fact, it’s reasonable weather). But for now, I’m enjoying the summer weather—next few days are supposed to be nice and warm. I didn’t used to like warm—or hot … but as I get even older, and with my wacked thyroid, I certainly do like the warmer climes.

Now, instead of overdoing, I’m learning to moderate. Well (as I think back on yesterday’s activities), most of the time at least. You’d think I’d have learned that lesson long ago. Ha! Moderating the food I consume (it allows me to have things that would be taboo if I Ate-The-Whole-Thing …), and after I did something to my ankle (insert very grumpy face), I’m reminded to not go the “all-or-nothing” route when I walk. Slowly build up my time and distance serves me much better. Now if I can only remember that one, I’d be good to go …

All of these things are so basic and easy, yet for some (me … raises hand energetically) it is so easy to forget. Plowing ahead without thinking. Enjoying life a wee bit too much … without thinking about the consequences. Sigh.

I do love my life with all of the complexities I’ve created within it. With all the complexities God has provided for me. With all of the beauty, great and small, natural and man-made that surrounds me. I cannot get enough of it. Despite my needing more of this and that now and then, really … what more could I ask for?

How about you?

 

On the Road Again …

SEEMS LIKE I’M DOING PLENTY OF TRAVELING this year. I didn’t plan it that way, it just happened. I love these kind of things (insert huge grin here) because I’m all for spontaneity. Makes life interesting, right? (R I G H T !)

This time around, I’m finding myself a wee bit less organized, but I’m not going to sweat it. I left behind quite a few food items for the trip (pout), so I have had to spend a little extra money, but it’s all good in the end. I am having to make do with some very interesting meals, using some interesting

Kale caught in container

Not sure I’ll be eating my kale anytime soon …

things … like the kale that didn’t want to be eaten (microwaved it a little too long and the two plastic items pressurized and I couldn’t get them apart … for quite awhile).

I had an opportunity to spend some quality time (yet, I still have many things to see—another time …definitely) in Lebec. The Los Padres National Forest—and specifically Mt. Pinos—was delightful. The day could not have been better suited with a chilly morning start (maybe around 54 degrees Fahrenheit) and blossomed into a mild day (low to mid 70s, maybe), with an abundance of billowy clouds to delight me at

Mt. Pinos and Clouds

The mood was wonderful up near the 8000 ft level.

Clouds Playing Peekaboo

Clouds prominently peaked through the tree cover.

Poppies South of Gorman

These hills are usually peppered with poppies, lupine by now.

Sage, Pines and Clouds

Everywhere I turned, I was dazzled by the beauty and how well they played off each other.

Rock Critters

Who else sees creatures in those rocks. I laughed out loud at what I saw.

every corner. I just kept driving till I ran out of road—at around 8,300 feet. Breathtaking views. Trees, the delightfully scented sage … and of course those clouds. Oh, yes!

Have you ever laid back and tried to identify things in those clouds? I did as a child—and still do as an adult. Fanciful, perhaps, but I prefer to think that it may be one of the things that keeps me young at heart. Well, how about seeing things in rocks? They caught my eye as I drove up the mountain—with no place to pull over—so I found a spot on my way down to park so I could capture these creatures before they got away.

I also poked around on back roads that turned out to be frontage roads, paralleling the freeway between Lebec and Gorman that takes locals from one town to another. Part of it was “not maintained by county”—which means: dirt road.

Windy Dirt Road

Part of a frontage road between Lebec and Gorman. Fun. Really.

I love an adventure. The road was actually very nicely groomed, albeit gravel. And it was only a small section of road … maybe a half mile or so. The rest was paved and well maintained. I stayed (mostly) on the west side of the freeway. Next time, my adventures will take me around the back roads on the east side—now that I know how to get there.

My primary purpose for this trip was to be two-fold: the Jameson Family Reunion and (I was hoping) a book signing/meet-n-greet. Our clan hasn’t had a big get-together in at least 20 years. It was about time! Unfortunately, the book signing fell through (I even gave the local Barnes and Nobles copies of my books as an incentive to block a date). So, instead, I chose to concentrate on photography for blogging and potentially my art. I think I’ve found a few that may be print-worthy … plenty for the blogosphere. And, I managed to sneak in an appointment with my “money guy”.

I spent my first night at one of my cousin’s and yesterday their daughter and I went for a photo walk. (She is a delightful special-needs adult and we have had so much fun getting to know each other.) So much fun!

Michelle's View: Photographer Photographing Photographer

I had no clue she took this one. We were looking at the Elephant Ear plant (it’s only a baby) when she snapped this.

Michelle's View: Driveway

I love the contrast of grass, cement/design and plants in foreground. 

Michelle's View: Lawn "Ornaments"

Michelle saw me taking photos of the man made objects, and she captured them nicely.

Michelle's View: Sky & Palms

The contrasts are sweet, simply showing silhouettes against the sky.

I downloaded all of the photos she took onto a thumb drive for her parents, but I kept the originals. Here are a few I think are well composed. I’ll never really know what she was trying to capture—or the reason behind each shot … but I like each one—especially once she got a hang of my little point and shoot! She allowed one photo to be put in the trash, otherwise, she’s kept the whole lot she shot.

After my appointment (today), I managed to slip over to Newport Beach to take some pictures at the harbor. I haven’t been there since I was a tweener or teenager at a family gathering. I did find a cute little book store (insert grin) in the harbor district and had fun in there … and chatted with staff about my book.

Reflections and Quirky Boat

The little round boat had me fascinated. Wish I could have found out more about it!

Vast Masts ...

I have a fondness for masts. They fascinate me.

Hrbor Reflections

I’m captivated by reflections (I’ve got another I’m saving for another time)

I think a few of the photos—mostly about reflective qualities I found–are nice enough to show in this blog. One I especially like (completely reflective in nature) I’m holding back for something else.

Right now, I’m chilling at my hotel room, sipping on tea whilst I decompress today’s freeway driving—and trying to get this blog done before the midnight bells toll … a promise is a promise! Me thinks I’ll make it! Yay!

Living in the country can make all the freeway driving in the “Big City” a bit overwhelming, but I’ve learned that you can do one of three things: freak out at the craziness all around you (I must admit … having my talking-GPS allows me to concentrate on the crazy drivers and not miss my turns—and knowing basically which roads I want helps too); or stress over every little inch you gain or lose in your attempts to move forward watching the clock the entire way (I used to do that … shakes head …), or simply chill and realize you’ll get there—eventually. I choose the last one. It allows me to laugh at the other two types of drivers as they pass me, then end up behind me, then pass me again. I just sit back, drive and grin as I listen to some awesome music.

I’m closing now so that I can get a good night’s sleep, for tomorrow begins the Jameson festivities … a little too early (wink, wink), me thinks. But I know it will be fun to get reacquainted with all of my cousins that I haven’t seen in years … and meet all the new family members that have since joined the clan via marriages or births.

Hope there’s no quiz at the end to test our memories for everyone’s names—way too big a family for that!

Hope everyone has a blessed weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

Looks Like Rain…

I’M ENJOYING THIS WEIRDLY WARM weather here on the Central Coast of California. Thursday’s high was 89.1, down about 74.5 (78 inside still, but coming down slowly) as I wrote this. Tomorrow (Friday) will cool a little more (80-ish), and even more over the weekend–almost back to the “normal”, but not quite…then it goes back up again. But, this doesn’t mean I’ll not be happy when cooler weather (aka: our ‘normal’ summer) comes, though…with this drought, I’m not really sure if it will arrive..

Though it’s too far out to see what weather I will have in store in Ireland, it’s 51-58 (F) and rain most days through the 11th (last day it shows). That will be a nice change after a week of off-and-on very hot weather. Unless there’s a drastic change in weather, I’m sure I’ve gotta make sure I pack a few long sleeve shirts and a sweater 😉 plus my umbrella and maybe my rain slicker. (Probably won’t get much use out of the capris I just purchased, but I’ll take them, just in case.) The coolness and wetness will not hamper my travels at all. I’ll revel in it. The only thing it might effect is the amount of photographs I can get without damaging my camera. I may resort to iPhone or point ‘n shoot to protect my good camera, but I *will* get my shots in.

I’ve got my route roughly figured out: Dublin to Galway, then follow the coast to Sligo (I will be visiting a Facebook friend–John is growing a labrynth and I’m anxious to see how it’s progressing) to somewhere along the north coast of Ireland or N Ireland to Dublin–haven’t decided exactly where yet (I’ll stick with the coast route all the way back to Dublin). Dublin to Holyhead, Wales (via ferry, as foot passenger) to Manchester, England–meet up with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group (headed by a capable Marc Gunn, Celtic Musician-tour organizer and guide Extraordinaire) to visit many points in Wales, then back to Manchester (say farewell to the group and hire another car to travel to Edinburgh (a favorite), Scotland and the northern coast (want to check out the Gunn Clan’s castle and history center), then to the outskirts of London to visit a friend, Natalie and her family (I’ve been invited to stay in their guest room). They will give me the ‘grand tour’ of London and surrounding areas, I believe. I may spend another day in a hostel in downtown London to hopefully meet up with a writer friend, Vickie Johnstone (she writes in several genre–childrens and thriller). Then it’s back to Holyhead. Holyhead to Dublin (foot passenger again on the ferry) with day trips to Cork and other areas in the southern portion–and of course lots of travel around one of my favorite cities, Dublin before I am forced to catch my return flight home.

Whew! And yet, six weeks is not enough time to thoroughly enjoy myself. Next time, I may look into sticking to one place for six weeks (or more) and use the time as a writing retreat–but I’ll still make sure I get some tromping around in the countryside to take photographs. A must. I just love the ruins, the history of the country.

And I cannot forget the people. All along the way, I plan on cultivating friendships wherever possible. These (Ireland and Scotland specifically) are countries I have fallen in love with and wish to connect on a more personal level.

Right now, I’m working on hostel room (or couchsurfing–I’m fine with this too and it keeps the cost down) reservations, but not concerned (I’ve got the important ones–first, last and a few nights in between–all taken care of). There shouldn’t be too much problem booking. Most of the time, all I have to do is book the next hostel when I check in at the current one.

I can *almost* count on my fingers how many days before my travels begin. I’ll be doing a little bit of fine tuning in these last few weeks–making sure I have all the electronic accessories I need (oh, my–it gets worse every time I travel!)–I’m taking my GPS this time since I won’t have a ‘nagivator’ to assist me. I love my GPS. I just purchased a new suitcase (the old one had a wonky wheel that made a horrendous noise) but plan only to fill my smaller suitcase and stuff it inside for the trip over (hope it fits in my cars). The larger one will be for “overflow” of gifts and purchases for myself. I’m not going to get caught trying to cram all my goodies into the small suit case like I’ve done before. The smaller one is small enough to use as a carry on, so if I am limited to one suitcase as checked baggage, I’m set. My backpack then becomes my ‘personal’ item, which will include my purse and camera equipment and GPS.

I’m nearly set. Wheeee.

Do I Or Don’t I? Sigh…

I’M TRYING TO MAKE A DECISION. I’ve been contemplating this for quite some time, too.
To go, or not to go…that is the question.

I’ve been reading blogs about the benefits of attending writers conferences. Kristen Lamb recently wrote about the pros of attending conferences in her blog. She’s good. Great at selling ideas. http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/why-all-writers-should-attend-a-writing-conference/

But I haven’t been able to figure out how to manage everything I’m already doing now and squeeze a conference in too…plus, there’s the impact on the pocket book. My trip to Europe will pummel my account for quite some time…

My trip has been in the planning stages almost as long as my pondering of the conferences. I’m not sure if I should be kicking myself in the behind or just chuckle at where I place my priorities. Some may feel the trip is a luxury. A non-necessity. Perhaps, at least the distances I am going to find relaxation. The trip will be my break from the frantic work I’ve done on two books–though, I know I will make it a working holiday and I’ll begin working on book three–and it will refresh my creativity. Yes, I could go somewhere closer…and it would be a lot less expensive, but I want to do my travels abroad while I’m still able.  I’ll be taking a ton of pictures so I’ll have a plethora of choices for my Painterly side to play with and my travels will give me plenty to write about on my blog when I return. The conference, on the other hand, will be work. Networking, learning, and sharing ideas (in a ‘work’ sort of way). Don’t think I’m ready for more work. Not yet, at least.

I need some serious ‘playtime’.

Well, I think I’ve answered my question about the writers conference–at least for now. Once I have three books under my belt–or book four, maybe I’ll be able to connect better then–early next year…I’ll just have to see how things go and play it by ear. Until then, I guess I should get back to my travel plans.

Cheers!

…And The Planning Begins.

SIX WEEKS IS A LONG TIME for traveling, but usually not enough time to do what I want to do…and the two months till flight time seems so far away, yet, it’s practically just around the corner. So many things to do (I hope I remember them all) and so little time. It will all come together and I’ll keep you up to date on my rush to get ready.

I will say, I splurged on my air fare. I am not going for the cheapest flight. I almost chose the non-stop flight both to and from Dublin to cut down on air time and chances of losing luggage or missed connections. Instead, I chose the middle road, with one stop in London. If I lose my luggage, no biggie. I always carry the essentials with me in a back pack. At least it’s “nearby”, rather than “across the pond” trying to find it’s way…and the time on the plane isn’t much more. I’m a wee bit anxious about the timing (less than two hours) for the layover for the return flight, but if there are delays and I miss my connection…well, that just means another day in paradise. I can deal with that. Ha–I actually did that last time (delay caused by security needing to search my bags (I unbeknownst to me had contraband–peat), which were already on the plane…had to be pulled off & no way they could get them back on in time for the flight) and didn’t bother me one bit.

I always give myself one day of chill time to acclimate to the time zone jumping. This is a very good plan…even if you are crunched for time. Better to sit back and adjust, enjoying the cuisine or stuff in the immediate vicinity rather than drag yourself through a couple of days trying to play catch-up and finding yourself dragging days beyond that.

I’ll be away from regular computer time for six weeks, so entries may be spotty during my travels. That cannot be helped (well, I could work around it, but the thrifty Scott in me always protests). I can usually get free wifi at the hotels upon arrival and prior to departure, but a ‘free’, locked, secure connection is hard to find. One time I went onto an unlocked connection (in Prague) and ended up having addresses harvested. I won’t let that happen again. I found making entries on the computer useful–just keep logging the entries till I have stable and safe internet access, then copy, paste and press send. That keeps the time on the internet to a minimum, too (access can be pricey in most places).

But, for now, I’m concentrating on my To Do list for departure, which I may need to expand, as I will (hopefully) have a non-family member traveling companion for the entire trip–need to add things she needs to know, too. I’ll find out at the end of the month whether or not she will be coming with me. This is only a part of the actual list. Just thought I’d share a few:

  • I’ll be renting a car, so I must have an international license. AAA is great for that! I carry it around with my valid drivers license. It has all the information needed in various languages for the officials looking it over. In a way, I wish we had a national drivers license that would be easy to read. When I visit other states, I have to help people to find the info on the card–it’s located in a different spot in almost every state!
  • Then there’s the car rental itself. I’ve already started to look at the different options. So far, I’ve not been able to get a quote since it’s (date-wise) too far out. Grrr. If I speak to a human, I could probably get a quote, but I’m not ready for that.  AAA membership affords a discount if I use Hertz, but when I was over there the last time I used a European firm with headquarters abroad and in NY for both a lease and car rentals. It worked out well. So, I need to decide soon on that because if I choose the European firm, I’ll need to shuffle paperwork by mail, getting it signed and returned before my departure.
  • Ordering euros and pounds to have on hand till I can access an ATM. Even then, I want to keep my withdrawals to a minimum–there are foreign transaction fees every time I use the ATM or credit card. There’s even charges to have funds exchanged between euros and pounds. So, I mentally decide now how much I’m going to budget myself on spending in each financial region. I’ll probably only put very large purchase or additional travel items, like the ferry or train on the credit card.
  • Finding my passport and making sure it’s up to date (so far, the only thing I have successfully done)
  • Making sure my Hostel Int’l membership is up to date (must do–it expire tin February, I think) It costs a ‘grand’ $25/year for the membership and allows for discounts at a multitude of hostels throughout Europe. Well worth the expense and effort to renew.
  • I do have my iPhone (through ATT), so I can initiate the International Plan to keep costs down for texting and phoning home, but I also have a little int’l phone (global phone) I keep ‘alive’ for when I’m abroad (doesn’t work while I’m in the US). I think it cost about $50 to purchase. I can purchase sim cards for whatever country or region I’m in and helps to keep costs down for phoning ‘local’ while abroad. So, need to get it charged up (hmmm…need to find the charger) and ready to go.
  • Of course, I must get all of my financial ‘ducks in a row’ before I leave. That’s a biggie. Making sure all bills are paid up (and perhaps, if possible, paid ahead for the next month–I know that would be hard for most people, I’m sure. I have a little cushion stashed just for this purpose–takes a whole year to rebuild it once travel is done!) The only one I can’t do that for is my credit card. Sigh. So, my back up is my wonderful daughter–bless her! In my absence, she checks on the mail and pays the ones that need to be paid as funds become available. What would I do without her?! Well, I could pay online from abroad, but I’m paranoid about someone getting my info while I’m on the internet, so I’d rather not test fate.
  • Oh, yes. Speaking of credit cards…I need to notify my bank and credit card company so they know I’ll be traveling (and where–they do ask) so when charges come in, I don’t end up with transaction denials (happened before on my first trip and had no clue why). It’s even happened on trips out of state (didn’t think I had to notify of interstate travel)–now I notify them whenever I’m out of town. I know it’s a nuisance, but I’d rather they be vigilant and deny payment (and then have to call the fraud line to verify it was actually me making the charge) than have someone wracking up charging on my credit card without my knowledge. Definitely worth the hassle.

Okay, this has run a wee bit longer than I planned. Sorry. But it’s all good information. Please, folks. I depend on your feedback. Am I boring you with all this information? Please feel free to comment–good or bad (but be nice about it…)

That’s all for now. Off to work on the above mentioned list, with a giant grin plastered across my face…counting the days.

A Conundrum

BEFORE I BEGIN THIS POST, I MUST announce: this is post #100 (doing a dance)! I began this whole endeavor in 2010 as an experiment, not really knowing what I was going to write about. It quickly (well, it took a year) turned into a tongue-in-cheek, informative travel blog, then I expanded from there. It’s been many things, chronically my thoughts and activities for the past three and a half years. It seems so long ago! To refresh my memory, I’ve been reading through a few of them and it has been entertaining to see where I was and how far I’ve come. Though I’ve not been consistent (my apologies), my posts have improved. So will my consistency–I hope!

I thank you, my readers–whoever and wherever you are, for bothering to take the time to read my entries. I hope you’ve found them entertaining and/or informative. Now, on with post number one hundred:

PASSIONS ARE WONDERFUL THINGS really. They keep you driven, moving forward. Challenged. I like that. But, when you acquire too many passions, well…problems arise.

They begin butting heads with each other, competing for my valuable time. Well, maybe not valuable, but precious–yes, since there are only so many usable hours in a day. And I find myself, with all this bouncing between passions, starting to lose momentum. Becoming disengaged from each.

This, I do not like.

Trying to find a balance between all of the loves in my life seems to be getting more difficult. My garden is in shambles. My photography is a mere shadow of itself, my art beckons and my writing, well…it’s demanding. And I did very little travel–none abroad–last year. That is added to the mix this year.

I’m excited, yet terrified.

How does one successfully juggle all of this without everything coming crashing down on one’s proverbial head? The conundrum: my travels will involve three loves: travel, photography and blogging (it’s been awhile since I’ve done a fun blog about travel). I will try to sneak in some promotional stuff too, visiting schools and libraries to make people aware of my book–both the one presently in print and the one that will (hopefully) be published this spring, before I head off on my sojourn.

Finding time to write (other than the blog) will get interesting. By the time I begin my travels, I will be eyebrow deep in editing my third book (if all goes well, it will come out in the fall) and still needing to finish my fourth. Oh, my! Will there be time (and enough focus) at the end of each day to work on the backstory and editing for book three? My editor will be waiting for it…patiently, I hope.

And my heart aches when I think about leaving my fur-babies alone for so long. No snuggling up with them, being purred to sleep, no amusing times watching the antics of my bunny, no wagging tail to greet me when I come back to rest my head for the night after a hard day of walking.

Yes, there will be plenty of that. Walking–that’s a good thing…and bad. When I’m on my own, I’ll be able to alter my schedule to accommodate my feeble knee…when I’m on the tour tromping around upper Wales, well, not so much. I’ll either have to opt out of the days activities or simply press on and make sure I have my Aleve, my clunky brace and some ice for the end of the day.

And thinking about my art…and my garden. Hopefully neither will languish too much in my absence. Art? Well, I can doodle on the road now and then, but my garden…that will be left in the hands of my neighbors and to the whims of Mother Nature. She may be very cruel this season (they’ve officially proclaimed that we are in a drought). I can tidy the garden up (it is a complete disaster right now from my neglect whilst editing all last summer and fall) in preparation for my departure, get the irrigation system in top condition and protecting the plants as best as possible. But, ultimately…I know I will have work to do when I get back–I cannot expect neighbors to put the TLC into it that I would. Hmm…perhaps I should leave it as is (groan–that hurts to contemplate!). No, I must tidy it up.

I do have faith that if it is to be, it will happen. Everything will fall into place. I know that I can’t just sit back, expecting it all to ‘just happen’–to go smoothly without some planning and work on my part…which adds to my juggling act.

Quite a conundrum, don’t you think? It’s never-ending.

Just like my books.

May your days be blessed. May they be problem free–or at least free of problems without solutions visible at the end of the tunnel…

 

Nevada…Las Vegas, Baby!

WELL, I’VE ONLY BEEN TO VEGAS ONCE prior to this trip, with my husband and daughter (only about a year old at the time) — um, that’s a quarter of a century ago, by the way! We stayed at a Thousand Trails campground (kinda like a camping pyramid scheme…pretty much expensive–but legit & it served it’s purpose for us with a preschool-age child) and we happened to be there when the area was invaded by locust (katydids?). Pretty much, all I remember is a lot of crunching when I walked anywhere–that, and the deafening noise they made, day and night. We didn’t gamble, didn’t go to any of the shows…it was merely a layover on a much, much longer trip.

So, I was really looking forward to this trip to Vegas last November. Not only was I going to get to see relatives that I only seem to see at weddings and funerals (…why is that, anyway? I won’t go into that. Nope.), but also, I would have the freedom to do exactly what I wanted. As long as it fit into the newlywed’s plans. That was okay by me.

As I was saying, I was looking forward to this trip. The beauty around the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas Valley is fabulous. Within an hour of my home, I have ocean, lakes, streams and creeks, redwoods, groves of pine, oaks, stretches of grasslands, spectacular mountains (certainly not by continental divide standards, by mountains, nonetheless) with expansive vistas of multiple counties, even a little high desert terrain.

But, Nevada is desert. Dry, stark beauty. Mountains sharply silhouetted against clear skies. Vast sparkling lakes, deep and dark. So different from my home turf.

Please remember that each picture is my property and require permission from me before you may reproduce in any fashion. Please play nice.

Last rest stop in California before heading into Nevada

Last rest stop in California before heading into Nevada

Last Rest Stop in Calif, another view

Last Rest Stop in Calif, another view

Miles and miles of nothing but dirt, scrub brush and mountains ringing the long strip of valley I was driving through as I headed to Vegas.  Then I saw a group of strange towers–I cannot remember what they are–someone did tell me afterward, and if I recall correctly, they are some sort of solar tower arrays.

Strange Structures, in the middle of nowhere...I believe they are solar towers of some sort.

A series of strange structures (3-4), in the middle of nowhere…I believe they are solar towers of some sort.

Close up of strange tower--I believe it is a solar tower.

Close up of strange tower–I believe it is a solar tower. (I took this one on the way back home, near dusk)

Then, bang! Civilization…without even seeing the sign, I knew I was in Nevada–that entire ‘town’ consisted of casinos and hotels.

Miles and miles of miles and miles of desert, then, suddenly--civilization!

Miles and miles of miles and miles of desert, then, suddenly–civilization!

Yes, I was there for my nephew’s wedding to a lovely young lady, and yes, it was a wonderful service. The time we spent together was memorable–even thought my point n’shoot (pns) camera was being a royal pain (didn’t want to lug the good one around inside the casino), so my photos didn’t turn out the way I wanted–my bad. I think my iPhoto shots are better than the pns–lol. At least they present me ‘triggers’ for great memories. That’s fine. We saw magnificent meals…I wasn’t bored, but occasionally, I found the Painterly side pop out & grabbed my camera.

Painterly Side Showing in Vegas

Painterly Side Showing in Vegas: reflection of my glass of wine on table cloth

Some amazing shows–I missed the Friday night performance, but did not miss Saturday’s “O”…and I do need to go back for other Cirque du Soleil performances (they are truly amazing!!!)–but the craziness that makes Vegas Vegas had me trying to stuff the impulse to flee the town every couple of hours…and that is putting it mildly.

View of Vegas from my 6th floor window

View of Vegas from my 6th floor window

Above and below, views out my window. I was on the sixth floor. I could hear the roller coaster going at all hours, with the occupants screaming and yelling. Sigh.

Vegas hotels across the street, including a roller coaster, looking out my dirty 6th story room window. I could hear the screaming and yelling from the ride's occupants at ALL hours...sigh

Vegas hotels across the street, including a roller coaster, looking out my dirty 6th story room window.

I deliberately made the drive from home to Vegas in two days and kept making mental notes of places I wanted to see on the way back…mistake. Mental notes have a tendency of getting lost, just like notes scribbled on scraps of paper. Sadly, I could not remember the places I wanted to go…and ended up taking a different route home. Sigh. (Note to self: write these ideas down in your iPhone ASAP so you don’t forget next time!)

While I was in Vegas, I made plans to escape into the outlying areas (several times, to keep my sanity). Their version of the suburbs. Clusters of homes with sprawling red-rock mountains and various forms of cacti as their landscape and backdrop. It was like a magnet. I’d seen the red-rock mountains when I was coming into Vegas and knew I wanted to investigate. Delicious fresh air, reasonable temperatures (November, remember) and beautiful scenery. I found myself at the gates to Red Rock Canyon National Monument.

Red Rock Canyon National Monument

Red Rock Canyon National Monument

I was so excited that I forgot to clean the lens (that made me very sad, indeed!)

Red rock formations proliferate the Red Rock Canyon National Monument

Red rock formations proliferate the Red Rock Canyon National Monument

 

I took advantage of my ‘senior’ age (all of 62 years young) and purchased a lifetime pass to all National Parks in the US for a mere $10. I then found myself in the midst of the breathtaking beauty that makes up the desert. I didn’t want to leave. Nope. But the newlywed schedule required I return way too soon.

Cactus and Yucca in the desert

Cactus and Yucca in the desert

So, I had to say adieu for the time being. Back to Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon Nat'l Monument from afar

Red Rock Canyon Nat’l Monument from afar

On my next (and unfortunately the last photo op) outing, and though the Red Rocks beckoned…pulling ferociously at my heartstrings, I chose to go to Nevada’s portion of Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam at the Arizona/Nevada border. From the stark, dry landscape of Vegas’ outlying areas…to more stark, dry landscape, with an illusion of an oasis. The lake, at the water’s edge, was the only area where plants actually flourished. A stones throw away, the desert. It was very interesting.

Lake Mead from the Vistor Center

Lake Mead from the Vistor Center

Cactus at the Lake Mead Visitors Center

Cactus at the Lake Mead Visitors Center

Views above is from the visitors center at Lake Mead. Views below of the Hoover Dam.

View of Hoover Dam exhibit area from the pedestrian bridge overpass

View of Hoover Dam exhibit area from the pedestrian bridge overpass

Hoover Dam, looking down into Lake Mead

Hoover Dam, looking down into Lake Mead

Lake Mead boat launch & marina

Lake Mead boat launch & marina with stark mountains as a backdrop.

Even thought history is not ‘my thing’, I enjoyed perusing the exhibits at the visitor center and at the dam itself. Unfortunately, by the time I’d trudged up the stairs (oh, mistake!) to the dam overpass viewpoint, I was lagging in energy, so I didn’t put much effort in taking many photos. I only made it 1/4 of the way across the dam on foot then, turned tail, retreating to my car in exhaustion. What you see here are the photos I did manage to take.

I will be back to Red Rocks. The pull is still strong, but timing (weather wise) will need to be managed carefully. I will not be staying in Vegas, even though I plan on attending another Cirque du Soleil performance–there are at least seven of them…three of which I would love to see…I will stay in one of the smaller outlying towns. I don’t need the glitz that Vegas lavishes (at a cost) on it’s visitors. I’ll stay with the simple folk.

This turned out to be a long post–my apologies, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the photography and my musings.

Note: as I am posting these photos, they are looking blurry–they are crisp shots, so I don’t know if it’s my eyes or WordPress that has distorting them 🙁

Until next time, have a blessed week.

 

Wanderings…

(I ‘found’ this draft recently, when I was finally able to get into my blog. I am working on another entry right now, but thought this would be fun to post before you see the next one.)

WHETHER IT IS MY MIND OR MY WHOLE being that is doing the wandering, I find it fun to explore.

I’ve done a lot of travel recently, and will be doing even more in the near future. Sometimes it all gets jumbled in my mind…where I’ve been when…and for how long. Little trips close together are the worst. If I have to consult the calendar, does that mean the trip was not a memorable one? Of course not! It just means this poor brain has become very dependent on the “portable brain” (aka iPhone calendar) for much of the “trivial” things like dates and places to jog the great memories to the forefront.

When I do physical traveling, there are always sights to be seen, new things to experience–even if I’ve been there before, I am always able to find something new. Always. And within the physical travel, well, there will always be mental wanderings…it just cannot be helped. My mindful meanderings can take me anywhere, which is a delight in itself. I may meander into the minefield of my writings, fraught with anxieties of how to proceed. Or perhaps I might find myself dodging through the lists of things that need doing.

…wait.  I did say my wanderings were a delight, right?  Well, even with the anxieties and lists, I find comfort in knowing things will get done, perhaps not right away, but they will get done. And, usually, within this state of mind, I am able to iron out some of the kinks and hiccups in my storyline or lists, knowing how and where to proceed.  Once those anxieties and lists are confronted, my mind can meander into memories of books recently read–reliving the adventure, or even just let my mind float around in dreams. And there’s always trips to be brainstormed or memories of past travels to explore in my mind.

My recent travels began with Pleasanton: two days of heat (oh, my…lots of heat!), Celtic food, Games, and music with friends…and more food.  Aaah…the music. Celtic music

Celtic Drummer

Celtic Drummer getting into the beat (for some reason, the drum was cut out of the photo–sorry!)

goes to the soul.  The drums.  Oh, yes!  My friend introduced me to a new band that was playing–I love Taiko (Japanese) drumming, but this drumming (amplified and accompanied by other instruments) was truly amazing! Here’s where the mind comes into play. The drums, for me at least, allow my mind to dance…wander freely. Like a release from the constraints of daily life. I always feel lighter after listening to this type of music. More alive, revved up.

The lines to buy their music (my heart sunk when I was told ‘cash only’ once I got to the front) were long, long, long…I was saddened that I didn’t have enough cash since I always refuse to use ATMs that pepper large events like this. So, I do plan on getting the music online…one of these days. It won’t be the same, playing the CD on my player…just won’t be the same. Sigh. But, it will allow my mind to free up all the clutter, become refreshed so I can dig back into my writing, or my art with new eyes.

The Seattle trip was mostly to see two very special friends that I met in Monterey when Lynne and I were learning German at Monterey Peninsula College. We became fast friends and even when (soon after class was over) she and Dan were shipped overseas, I managed to make a visit to see them in Europe. We had great fun, leaving me with lasting memories that continue to make me smile. Now, Dan was retiring and throwing a retirement party. I didn’t want to miss this, so I hopped on a train (without a sleeper berth) to Seattle. Again. Plenty of memories. Plenty of experiences. Some I do not wish to repeat, such as acquiring a sinus infection from the long train ride (aggravated by my stupidity, as I kept my face in the smoky presence of a fire I was trying to rekindle in a fire pit–just a day before the long journey home). It still lingers, but I am feeling much better…most of the time. It will eventually subside completely and I’ll be back to my busy self once again…but until then, I curse my stupidity. But, aside from that, it was an exceptionally wonderful time, meeting new friends (some that live “right next door” in Monterey!), touring the Seattle area in the style only known to these two precious people and their friends…their rental van was lovingly dubbed “the prison van” after the first ‘tour’ which I missed…but, no worries–I soon found out how it got it’s name. Great food, friendly conversations, incredible sights–and I even took some photos as we made a dash for the Wharf area and Seattle’s Farmers Market–walking all over creation one day (we even managed to sneak in

Fisherman's Wharf, Seattle WA

Fisherman’s Wharf in Seattle, viewing the ferries, carrying passengers to the Olympia Peninsula

a glimpse of the Space Needle before heading home); then the Olympia Peninsula, driving up the coast, then back to downtown Seattle the next day. Sadly, they dropped me at the

Space Needle behind a ginormous Music Museum in Downtown Seattle

Space Needle behind a ginormous Music Museum in Downtown Seattle

Music Museum...with refelction of Seattle Space Needle

Music Museum…with refelction of Seattle Space Needle

Hostel I was staying at that night so I could easily make it to the train station the next day. I didn’t want it to end so soon. We bid our fond farewells and I took with me wonder memories and visions firmly planted in my mind.

Shortly, I will be taking a PhotoTrip (as I like to call it) to Vegas. The destination is for a wedding, but I seldom find the opportunity to capture the stark beauty of the desert, so I decided I will drive. I am looking forward to this, both photographically and for the chance to spend time with relatives that I see far to infrequently. There will be a separate blog for that trip (probably in the form of a photo blog–flora and fauna only…)–I am planning on many wonderful memories to come from this trip.

Until then…have a blessed day!