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.







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.


[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.


…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.



(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!



Good Bye, Old Friend…

Yes, a new year is just around the corner and I greet it with open arms, eagerly willing to accept anything is has to throw at me. It will be an adventure, as always.

I will not miss the crazy hours I kept for most of 2013. I do know there will be more of that, but thankfully, less–at least, I’m hoping so. Protracted stretches of time into the wee hours of the morning, when my creativity decided to dance in my head, begging to be released will always be there, but the need to respond will not be as strong. That’s the plan, at least.

I look forward to more time behind the camera and in my studio, creating art. Though 2013 was a year of discovery for my artistic side, very little came of it. Mostly, old works, newly framed and hung, languished on the wall. I was delighted that a few pieces did sell. In 2014, I want to give wings to my Painterly side, allowing it to soar.

Hunkered in the confines of my house, writing and editing for most of 2013, left little room for travel. Oh, yes…I did manage to get away by train to Seattle for a few days to celebrate the retirement of a friend, then to Vegas to witness the union of my geeky (said lovingly) nephew to a lovely young lady. I sneaked off to take photos in the desert for short periods during my stay, which filled my heart with joy. Plus some local photo shoots resulted in some decent work. This new year will find my calendar filled with dates of travel–for the sheer joy of travel. And with photography. My heart will be bounding with joy.

Writing will always be important. I still have two books–my second and third in the series, to edit and publish, a fourth manuscript to finish so I can begin the first edit and there’s always this blog that will keep me busy.

I will be busy in 2014. I’ll be doing what I love–writing, traveling, photographing, creating art and keeping you apprised of the amazing, funny and surprising things that happen in my travels, and with my Writerly and Painterly sides.

I can hardly wait.

Until then, my faithful followers, I wish you a Happy New Year’s Eve and an amazing New Year.

May it unfold in surprising and wonderful ways. Have a joyful and blessed New Year!

I Have An ‘Itch’

I HAVE AN ‘ITCH’ THAT I CAN’T SCRATCH for another year.  So many opportunities have popped up since I self-imposed a moratorium on my international travels, it’s truly pathetic: a small-group trip to Scotland, Clan Gathering in Scotland, friends beckoning in England…the list goes on.  The Travel Siren has been blasting in my head since October and it is so hard to shut it out–and so tempting to break the moratorium.  So far, I’ve been successful!

I will have to be satisfied my travel-fix with in-state travel until sometime in 2014 (oh, it seem so far away!), and perhaps a trip to Oregon this summer to explore the Bend area (and a wonderful excuse to visit one of my brothers & family there).  There are plenty of opportunities to see things locally–and I do.   The area I live in is a hotbed for ‘tourist trappings’:  the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Steinbeck Center, Big Sur & coastline in general, redwoods, mountains, ocean, beaches (both sandy & rocky)…I love all of it and am a frequent visitor to them all.  The beauty, in my eye, will never diminish in the slightest and I will always be filled with awe at the diversity we have here, but that’s not the point.  I love to see and experience different things.  These are delightful, but I’ve seen them, over and over again.

I’ve decided to make a trip to Napa Valley sometime soon…a dual-purpose trip: see/photography the sights and visit a poultry breeder–going to add to my even-dozen, delightful egg-laying Girls (I’m excited at this prospect!), so I want to see her offerings.  Plus, a trip to visit my dear brother in Palm Desert.  Not only will I get to spend time with him & his family, but I will get to root around in the desert (while it’s still relatively cool), which I don’t do often.  The stark beauty is breathtaking.  Plus, a family wedding in Las Vegas in November.  Hopefully the heat will be tolerable by then.  I’ve only driven through Vegas, so this will definitely be a new experience.  Maybe I’ll even shell out the money to catch one of the Cirque du Soleil performances.  I love the artistry of their performances!   I’ll have all my camera gear with me so I can go out into the desert to shoot.  But, I can imagine that the blingy night-life of in-town will be interesting, too.  I’m excited for this adventure–both for the wedding and the photography.

So, now begins the job of scheduling the dates, finding sitters for my gaggle of critters and figuring out where I’ll stay while I’m gone.  It’s not like I can find a hostel, which I do for my travels in Europe or the UK & Ireland.  I may be able to do the Napa Valley trip in one day, but would like to extend it to at least two so I’m not rushing.  Staying with family is great (once I’m there, but I will need to find something for along the way) for two of the other three…but Vegas is going to be interesting.

If I end up at a hotel/motel, I will probably stay at one of the chains — something like Best Western or Motel 6 (especially for Vegas) — I don’t need anything fancy.  But then again, I might also investigate the option of using my CouchSurfing.com membership (not for Vegas–no offense, Vegas readers–at least, not till I get to know & am comfortable with someone from there).  CouchSurfing is a wonderful way to see the country cheaply (free, short-term sleeping accommodations), as long as you follow the sites safety guidelines.  I have not used it in the states, but have hosted numerous CSers over the years from both ‘domestic’ and international locations and have gained some wonderful friends from it!  I have only used CouchSurfing internationally once — stayed overnight in Brugges, Belgium with a CSer and her son (I had hosted them in the past as they toured California).  In traveling during Europe’s football season, ‘couches’ were hard to come by, plus I was trying to schedule too far out from my arrival date–I’ve learned my lesson… I’ll have to see what is available in the areas I plan on visiting.  It’s nice that the option is there!

So, if you’ll excuse me now, I’m off to plan my travels.

May your travels be many, the roads be varied and may you discover new friends at every turn!


Home, recouperated and back to routine…after a few hiccups!

Since the 9th, much has happened, so let’s play catch-up, once again!


Everyone, including Anna and I, was deposited at the departure level of the Dublin Airport, where everyone said their quick goodbyes and Marc and Nancy off to return the two rentals.  Their flights were much later in the day.  I realized, in the rush of everyone to pile out, that I forgot my backpack, which was in the back seat, not the trunk…where my suitcase had been placed.

After a “regroup” to retrieve my backpack, saying good bye again and thank you to Marc, Anna and I went off to the pickup point for hotel shuttles, where we grabbed a ride to our hotel.  We were able to get our rooms early (after a short wait) and lugged our stuff up one final time.  The early rise had been hard on both of us, so after a respectably long nap we got together late morning to tromp around Dublin.  We shared the expense of a taxi and had him deposit us smack dab in the middle of O’Connell Street.   From there, with cameras at the ready, Anna and I wandered off on side streets to find things that were more “local” — where the locals would do their day-to-day business.

But first, we had to get away from the throngs of tourists.  That took a couple of blocks.  We then found a couple side streets that had mini-farmers markets, selling mostly flowers and a few vegetables.  Our goal was to find the Farmers Market.

Zigzagging through the streets, we came upon an area that was almost deserted.  Beautiful old buildings with a profusion of intricate detail fringed the intersection.  Across and kitty-corner from where we stood was a graffiti-tagged building with double-wide wooden doors and wrought-iron work.  Brick and marble wrapped around the entry beautifully.  The building almost took up an entire block.  Upon closer inspection, there were at least four of these entries — and sadly, this was the building for Dublin’s famous Farmers Market.  The open hours were long past done!  For Saturday, the hours

Dublin's Farmers Market

(I’ve been attempting to insert a photo…so far, unsuccessfully — if it does not work, I’m sorry…)

were 6am (same every day) till 11am today–about when we just thought of getting into Dublin. To see into the building was difficult, as the windows were set very high in the doors, leaving only the upper half and ceiling for us to see.  It was a huge space, filled to the rafters with interesting bits of this and that.  At that moment, I started a list of places to re-visit the next time I’m in this lovely city — the Dublin Farmer’s Market, in full swing, is at the top of the list!

From there, we weaved our way past a small park, apartments and businesses, back toward the Quay, crossing over one of many bridges.  This particular bridge brought us up the street to an ornately decorated church with an overpass to a portion of the church turned into Dublinia — a touristy spot celebrating the Viking presence in Dublin.

At some point (whether before or after Dublinia), I popped into one of many Tourist Information shops and grabbed a free map (very basic).  We were across the street from Trinity College, where the Book of Kells is on display.  Both of us decided this would be a good place to poke around.  There was a Shakespeare festival going on, but we had no time for that.  Show times were too late in the day for us. Onward through the beautiful college campus to the Library, which housed the Book of Kells — and was the location of one of the scenes for the Harry Potter movie.

After queuing up to get in, we discovered we only had a half hour before closing.  We chose to move forward with our plans.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed…not even without flash.  A very sad thing for me, indeed.  The history of the Book of Kells was fascinating, the book itself was beautiful.  But most striking was the Library.  Entering into the library was the most wonderful experience ever.  The aroma of old musty books (and I do mean old) was amazing.  I wish I could bottle the smell.  I think I could have spent the entire day just standing around taking in this magnificent scent and view of towering rows of books.  They used rolling ladders to get to the top shelves.  The bindings on the books were gorgeous.  The cordoned-off isles kept tourists far away, protecting the books from curious hands, unfortunately.  Titles were not visible, but one could imagine…all of the old masters, of all genres.  I would loved to have simply set down a bedroll and slept there, with visions of all the writers at work, penning their masterpieces.  It puts a smile on my face, even now.

Our thoughts were rudely interrupted with the announcement that we had five minutes to clear out.  Hurrying down to the gift shop, I made a few quick purchases and met Anna outside.

Onward.  We continued to wander through the campus and found a metal spherical sculpture — I didn’t see anything describing it, but the polished surfaces of the deliberately fractured sphere reflected buildings, trees and sky beautifully.  A photo op if I ever saw one.  Both of us took numerous shots.

Then, we worked our way out of the college and down into the Temple Bar district.  Another sphere, filigreed, that I’d seen only from the Dublin Tour Bus on previous visits was finally seen up close and personal.  More photos.  I don’t know why I’ve always looked forward to seeing and been drawn to this sphere, but it is exquisitely done.  And up close, wonderful to shoot!

After that, more walking, until we came upon a great little pub.  The sign was inviting:  Lost? Need directions?  The meaning of life? Just want to chat? Come inside…Barman “knows everything!”  So, in we went, into The Vathouse Restaurant.  Cozy, but at the same time huge — a long, narrow establishment that seemed to go on and on.  Dark and worn, carved woodwork was everywhere — on the walls, bannisters, bar tops and several (I think I counted three) monitors were blaring the current football (soccer) game — Ireland vs some other country.  We worked our way up steps into the back area and settled into a two-seater table.  Our food was delicious, the surroundings easy on the eyes and we relaxed for awhile, chatting and eavesdropping on the boisterous football fans as they cheered and booed as the game progressed.  Ireland lost 3-0.

It was finally time to say pay up at the pub and head back to O’Connell Street.  Meandering down to the Quay, we found a bridge to cross, worked our way through the crush of tourists and up O’Connell Street, hailing a taxi near the Spire.  That was the end of our day.  I spent the rest of the day repacking, taking a shower and preparing for our 10am flight in the morning.

Oh!  The “hiccups”!  Well, what happened next is a story for another day.  I just hope this posts correctly — with the photo, I’ve been having my own “hiccups” getting this done!

Farewell to Friends

Well, it’s the incredibly early hour of 5:25am and we are preparing to leave our hotel, so I thought I’d send my last couple days of wandering thoughts…I am still so blurry eyed from the last two days, I apologized for any errors in spelling, etc.

Today, we will go to the airport and all but two of us (the California girls ^,^) will be departing on various planes. So sad to see everyone leave. The end in plainly in site. Sigh. But really, I am ready to go get on the plane, sleep and start getting back to a normal routine once again.


It’s just 7:15am and I have just started the coffee. I’d much rather be sleeping. These late ours are beginning to seriously effect me. That, and all the food I’ve been eating! Everything tastes so good! I’ve had Irish stew (lamb, of course) twice, salmon, high tea with scone, melt-in-the-mouth soda bread, Irish bacon (kinda like Canadian bacon but bigger, less uniform slices), black and white puddings …the list goes on! I think I’ll wait two full days before I step on the scales at home so I’m not blown over at how much weight I’ve gained!

And, as I lay here writing this, I’m thinking about the fact that I still feel full from last nights dinner (Irish stew). We will be leaving at 9am, after a continental breakfast. But first, dress and get me a cup of coffee! Arg. Maybe, only the coffee! We’ll be going to a Farmers Market this morning before heading off to catch a boat tour to see the Cliffs of Mohr — hmmm…it is raining…and windy. Is this what we really want to do today? Sigh.

Oh, my! As tired as I am, I decided I’d check my calendar for appointments I made for my first few days back — and had to chuckle. On Monday, I have an evening meeting, but is shows up as 2:30am, my Tuesday afternoon appointment is at 9pm! I didn’t realise my appointments would shift along with my clock when I arrived in Ireland! So funny!

Well, we’ve had a change of plans. Instead of a leisurely morning, we scurried to pack before our departure–decided to move to a hotel closer to Dublin (so now we’ll only have 1-1/2 hr drive–we can sleep in!!), so we are carrying our luggage with us all day.

We arrived around 11am in Kinvarra for the 10-2 Farmers Market, then off to the Cliffs of Mohr. Wind and rain kept it very quiet even on the middle of town, protected by surrounding buildings.

Next stop was the Cliffs. Even with the rain stopped and the sun out, the winds were so bad up at there that they cancelled the boat ride, so we drove to the Visitor Center and did it on foot. Well, everybody but me. I couldn’t handle fighting to stay upright (I would love to know how strong the wind was blowing), so I went directly into the Visitors Center and waited for everyone to come to me ^,~

At 4pm, we all struggled to get back to the cars without the wind knocking us off our feet and headed for Athlone, our destination for the night…about 2 hours from the Cliffs.

Dinner in a fine restaurant–this is Marc’s mantra: fine music, fine food & fine accommodations. We are eating at Olive Grove (in Westmeath). I’ve decided to try Irish beef — and parsnip (never had before)!

Now that it’s done, I must say, the beef & gravy was magnificent & the parsnip tasted a lot like mashed potatoes.

I am full. And I didn’t even finish my dinner–huge portions! Yet–I am having the chocolate souffle — never had one… ^,^ yumyumyum…


We are playing follow the leader in Spiddle (Spidéal in Irish)–does the leader know where we are going? After a few stops to let traffic pas and one turn around to get to our destination, we reached the desired craft shops ^,^ and had lunch in Spiddle.

From Spiddle, we drove leisurely towards Clifden, taking the road less traveled, into the “wilds” of southwest Ireland. Rugged (rocky, but not lacking in vegetation), windswept beauty abound as we traversed the narrow, hedge-rowed or rock-walled roads. It is easy to see how it would be hard to get much in the way of crops growing in so little soil and so many rocky obstacles. There were not many places to pull over, so when we found one that would accommodate our two vehicles, we took advantage…in the wet and windy weather.

Dinner was in Clifden, before we did more shopping in the local gift shops…then we were off again–almost 9pm to head for the Castle. An hour later, daylight making its last effort to illuminate the sky (it boggles my mind as to how long the sky stays light–4:30am-11pm-ish!!), we pull in–and I make a mad-dash for our room and relief!! (*way* too much water, hot chocolate and soup today–oye!).

After some lovely music, courtesy of our host & leader, I am so ready for bed, but needed to get this down on paper before I collapsed! Midnight. Sigh.

Good night, all. Tomorrow is a new day–and our last full one together as a group–before we head back to Dublin to go our separate ways. Seven will be heading out on planes, two of us to the hotel to cool our jets till Sunday flight–turns out we are on the same flight to Chicago! Anna lives in Southern California, I’ll head for San Francisco. It has been so much fun–wouldn’t change a thing…other than make it last longer!

Playing Catch-up

We are having troubles with internet connections, so multiple-day entries seem to be the norm…sorry…
3 June 2012

Well rested, coffee in hand, we had our fearless leader, Marc, wait upon us–he made us our first Irish breakfast! And, we talked about the plans for the next few days. Galway today, Aran Islands for tomorrow, Kylemore Abbey for the next day. LOL…we were going out at 10am today…it’s now 11:19 and we are nowhere near being ready, nor inclined to leave. This place is way too comfortable and inviting to leave…Marc just remarked we will be leaving in 45 minutes. There was a laugh…and a comment, “we’ll leave when we walk out the door?” He laughed. We’ll see what happens. Laid-back seems to be the order of the day and I, for one, am NOT complaining.
The internet connection seems to be very picky. I had a signal earlier this morning, but now, nothing (or if there’s a signal, it’s one bar). I am on one side of the dining table and have no connection, others on the side near the outer wall seem to have a perfectly good connection. So, this will be sent later.
We drove (about an hour?) into Galway and wandered on the river’s edge watching a kayak water polo, then up onto the historic K Street (to buy touristy stuff) and had lunch in a fish n’ chips place.  Yummy!
After visiting downtown, we came back and had a two-hour tea with the Lady & Lord of the manor (castle).  The rest of the day was “free” to kick back and overcome the jet lag (only three of us had been here long enough to have dealt with it already).  I went out and took photos on the property, in the drizzle.  This is an amazing  property!  I am in heaven.  A lake.  Beautiful gardens, stone walls…majestic trees.  I wish we could stay longer…or at least spend more down time.  We are off during the day touring around and by the end of the day, we crash, listen to Marc play his autograph, sipping on some free ‘left-over’ Bulmer’s (cider) and Beamish (dark stout) on tap — from a wedding that had happened the day before we arrived.  Nice little perk.
4 June
This was a very good thing, as we were going to be out in the weather ALL day.  We drove to the ferry about an hour west of Galway to spend the day on Aran Island.  The plan was to walk as far as we could.  Tour bus drivers kept hawking their services and we shrugged them off, confident we’d have no problem.  One stopped (as we were shy of a mile out of the village) and handed Marc his business card so we could call when we gave up — we still had the resolve to ‘do it ourselves’.  We went a bit further and my foot found a pothole…I twisted my ankle and fell down–but no worries…I was fine.  Pants were torn because of my metal brace (which thankfully protected my bad knee from anything worse than a bit of a scrape) and we continued on.  It was so beautiful–millions of photo ops–you will see the photos one of these days (but the internet connection is so poor I can’t get anything uploaded, so photos will have to wait till I get to a solid connection).  As we continued our walk, everyone realized our expectations were a bit too unrealistic so when the driver passed us once more, Marc waved him down and we all crawled onto the tour bus to complete our adventure.  He dropped us off at the foot of the Cliffs where we had our lunch and talked about walking up to the Cliffs.  I decided it would be suicide for me to make the attempt, so I stayed behind as they all headed up.  There were shops to browse in–I made a couple purchases and kicked back to elevate my legs.  Our driver told us, among other things, that the Aran Island shifted from the Cliffs of Mohr to it’s present location, which explains the similarities in the rocky terrain.  Later this week, we will be going to the Cliffs of Mohr — by boat.  At a designated time, the driver showed up once more and we dragged ourselves into the van and he finished the tour of the island and deposited us at the ferry for our return trip.

When our car finally made it back home, exhausted, our guest musicians, Tania Opland & Mike Freeman, had just arrived.  Marc’s car load showed up about a half-hour later with a restock of groceries and pizza for our dinner.  Tania & Mike joined in with Marc, playing and singing to entertain us.  It was a wonderful evening, but since we were all so tired, lights were out about 11pm!

5 June 2012

No internet once again.  

EXHAUSTION…all slept in after our very strenuous day and late night.  We had a late start today…recovering from yesterdays travels.  Drove via N59 to Kylemore Abbey.  Rain, drizzle, mist throughout the day.  ‘Attack of the Midges’ kept us from fully enjoying the Gardens.  We should have been clued in (well, we were, but didn’t realize they’d be that bad!) by people using their programs to wave off the no-see-’ems…We did a very quick tour of the grounds and made a run for the Abbey to escape the midges.  Nice tour describing the history of the beautiful building & it’s various occupants, then we came back to the gift shop & left behind a fair amount of euros.

Then, after some non-discussion (don’t ask), we were on the road, heading toward Clifden to look for electronics … our car stopped in the tiny town of Moyard, to visit Nancy’s airplane seat-mate.  She had been invited for tea if we were in the area, so she gave her a call when we literally drove passed her front door (while driving on N59) and our car-full of four enjoyed a 20+ minute stay with a local.  Her hospitality was delightful and her home was simply furnished and right on the coast.  Her garden led down to the water–because of the midges, we were disinclined to explore the garden for long.  It was neat to see the inside of an Irish home and chat with a local.  She uses peat as fuel for her fireplace (heat for the house)–if any of you are familiar with the taste/smell of whiskey from the Island regions of Scotland, the smell of the smoke is quite reminiscent of that.  Just a wee bit stronger…not unpleasant alt all.

After gracefully excusing ourselves, we had to be back at the Castle by 8pm, we piled back into the car, reset our demon-possessed GPS and headed back to Ross Castle…about an hours drive from where we were.

Almost as soon as we got on the road, we got a call from Marc (they’d split from us after Kylemore Abbey & went ahead to Clifden for the electronics).  Our connection was spotty (dropped call, then breaking up–so, hard to understand what they were trying to say).  They’d apparently just left Clifden & told us they’d not make it back by the 8pm time–so said their GPS (apparently another demon-possessed machine!)  But I wasn’t really understanding their reason for not making it back.  Finally, he just told us to stop in Clifden & wait for them.  Which we did…not really understanding why.  Once they showed up, they explained it’d be 3-hours before we could get back to the Castle…when questioned, they recalculated & realized it would only take an hour (our GPS was actually accurate for once!), so instead of having dinner in Clifden, we headed back to the Castle, having a good laugh on the way.  There were many photo ops we passed up out of fatigue and a driving desire to be back at the Castle…where we had a delightful dinner of spaghetti made by Marc.  Yum!  And then, we had an even more delightful evening of music by Tania and Mike.  We were up listening to them until well after midnight.  I think Marc finally went down to his room close to 1am, and people slowly trickled back to their rooms up until around 2:30-3…I for one, melted into bed around 2:15…

6 June 2012

We woke to cloudy skies, soon followed by rain — once again…the norm.  No complaints — that’s why it is soooo very beautifully green here.  It is now noon and the sun has been playing tag with the clouds.  I think the rain is done for now — but I’m certainly not guaranteeing it!  The plan for today was to head out around 11 am — but I really don’t think anyone is pushing to get moving.  Not even Marc.  Everyone is playing catch up from our last two busy days — and LATE evenings.  My internal alarm clock has me waking with the sun at 5am, rolling over till 7 and pulling myself out of bed to make–and consume–coffee by 7:30…

We have had breakfast, Marc was sprawled out on the couch for a bit and has now disappeared downstairs and everyone else is either writing or working (in one form or another) with their computers — for some reason, some of us are able to access the internet, while others (me) cannot.  I am resigned to the fact that I can’t get much done on line…it’s as quiet as a library in here…an occasional bit of conversation, then quiet again.  I don’t think we’re getting enough coffee…lol.  Everyone is wandering off in various directions (some out to take photos of the grounds), while others remain tethered to their computers.


Oh, got busy yesterday and forgot to post my musings, so here are two days (an early bit from the crack of dawn this morning & yesterday’s) — you may want to read from bottom up to say with the timeline, but it is your choice:

Alright. That fine. I’ll just have to put the blame directly where it belongs!  It’s now 3am and I’m completely awake.  Dublin, it’s all your fault.

Hmmm.  Not unlike a tiny crack in a dam wall,  it started out with a wee little thought–I was half asleep then, not even aware that it had crept into the room. But as my mind started to nurse that little thing, weaving it, pulling it back and beginning again…never fully advancing beyond its beginnings — that’s when my mind began to fully engage, trying to direct it here and there so that it might make sense. I could hear a lilt in the voice that didn’t sound true, so my mind sat up and looked around to see who it might be.

I’m thinking it’s the Writers of Dublin, all having a nice little chat in my head, trying to tell me to get off my keester and get this story of mine done–and to fully engage in my writer/storyteller side.

Now, I know what I just wrote probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but I’ll post it anyway, since it rings true — in my mind, at least (now you’re sure this one’s gone a wee bit off–LOL!)

In about seven hours, we will off, in our adventure into and beyond Galway. I’m looking forward too it, but a few more hours if sleep would be very nice, thank you!  So I’m off to make an attempt. Night–or should I say, ‘mornin’ to ya.  ^o~

It’s just 9am. I’ve checked out of the hostel (they will hold my luggage for €1,25 so I don’t have to lug it around with me–yay).   The weather is a lot like at home: cool and overcast, with the feel of rain hanging in the air.  Indoors is too warm for me. I am thoroughly enjoying the chilly fresh air. I do have my sweater with me, but doubt I’ll use it. The long sleeved shirt that I use as a “jacket” is more than enough…and when inside, that comes off.

Today is my last “free” day before my tour begins.  I will be making full use of my hop on-hop off privileges today, as I need to be nice to my knee–the walk into the City Center area was not fun.   Yesterday’s tour “guide was Damien–there are apparently thee of them!!  I don’t remember which one, though,

Breakfast at LaPizza was good: scrambled eggs, tomato & cucumber, toast, coffee and OJ. Perfect way to start the day.

It is also the beginning of a challenging new project — 365: A Photo Journal. I will endeavor to take one photo a day, for the next year, to document a “day in the life” of your truly.  This is a project being done worldwide. Some will post on a dedicated site.  Others, like me, will keep it more local. I have established a login for the site, but just not sure I want to go global.

As I’ve mentioned before, taking a photo should not be an issue–choosing which one and finding the right title–and remembering to post, will be the challenge.

Well, polishing off the last bit of coffee, then off to begin my adventure today.

Things I’m missing because I am tied to a tour:  Dublin Grand Prix, Dublin Writers Festival…There can be a lot said for spontaneity. all of my previous trips have been “unscheduled”, allowing for whatever comes up. So it is with a sad heart that I found out about these two events!  But after a brief “mourning”, I am over it!

Political signage is something new for me this time around.  A very important referendum was scheduled for 31May, regarding the issue of the EU’s euro.  And the billboards and posters are everywhere, urging voters one way or the other.  I haven’t listened to the news to find out how it turned out, but I’m sure the decision was historic.  Must find a newspaper!