"" Writer's Wanderings

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Books For The Road - Peony by Pearl S. Buck

Once in a while I get out of my mystery-suspense-detective mode and switch to something a little more literary. Peony by Pearl S. Buck popped up in recommended reading on my library page and I decided to give it a go. So glad I did.

Peony is set in Kaifeng, China, in the 1850s. My first surprise was that the prologue pointed out that while the story was fiction, there actually were colonies of Jews that had settled in China after fleeing persecution in their own land. Peony is actually a bond servant (read slave) in the household of some very wealthy Jews who make their living by bringing foreign goods into China for sale and trade. As the story progresses you are introduced the the conflict of trying to keep true to their religion and yet blend with the Chinese culture.

Peony is sort of caught in the middle and we see the conflicts of culture and religion through her eyes. She is attracted to the son in the home with whom she has known since they were both children growing up together. Her love for him is as pure as it can be despite her deep desire to be his wife or concubine. And when David discovers his feelings for her the love conflict deepens.

It is an amazing story told by an author who has a sensitivity for the culture of China since she spent so many years there. It's a great book for the road and a lot of food for thought.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Those Hotel Booking Challenges

When our son is on the road heading to our house or his in-laws, he loves the challenge of using Priceline for booking his night's stay. Thank goodness his family is adventuresome because they pull into the parking lot and go online on his smartphone to book. They have gotten some great deals and some not so great. Bob and I, on the other hand, are not quite so adventurous when it comes time to where we are going to put our heads to rest for the night.

If you are a plan-ahead type one of the best ways to assure a good room is to join the chain's loyalty program. When you book on their website and use your loyalty card you usually get a better choice of rooms. One article I read said that the Priceline and other low price sites to book through get the "ice machine" rooms or basically whatever is left. With our booking we have even been able a couple of times to choose our own room. Of course that's not always best if you don't know what side the freeway is on. Just sayin'.

If you have any special requests or concerns, you can always call before arriving to be sure your room is what you expect. For example the king size bed rather than two doubles and certainly a smoking/non-smoking preference.

Use a credit card rather than debit or cash. You have a lot more recourse if you are wrongly charged for something. Besides, the right credit card can earn you points toward more travel.

Double, make that triple check that you have the right hotel in the right place when you are booking online. For that matter make sure you have the correct date as well. We booked the wrong night once and arrived to find we did not have a room reserved until the next night. Luckily there was a room available but it had us scurrying to check the rest of our reservations for that trip.

And probably something I should have started with is to check reviews and compare prices of different hotels in the same area. Reviews are especially important. Those online pictures may show some wonderful amenities and property views but the tale is told best in the reviews you can find online at places like TripAdvisor.

While booking on the fly night by night might be a great adventure, I prefer to know where I'm getting my Zzzzzs ahead of time.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Staying Healthy And Active While Traveling

We joke about the freshman ten pounds when our kids go off to college but what about the vacation ten pounds that looms up as we kick back to enjoy some time exploring this great world of ours? Here are some tips for getting around that and maybe staying a little healthier while we're at it.

Road trip? Either pack a cooler or  buy a soft sided cooler bag at the local grocery when you arrive at your starting point. A few zip lock plastic bags for ice which can be had at hotel ice machines will keep items fresh for you during the day's journey. Stop at a local grocery for finger food like carrots, celery sticks, cheese bits, fruit and nuts. Eating light by snacking on these will keep you more comfortable on the road. Often times there are healthy choice sandwiches you can pack along as well for lunch and avoid the burgers and fries with all the salt and grease.

Be sure to make a stop midday that allows some time to get out and walk for twenty to thirty minutes even if it's just around a parking lot. A little research ahead of time usually yields some good spots to stop along the way.

Plane ride? A short plane ride as well as a long one can be even more uncomfortable if you grab greasy fast food to eat on the way or before you board. Avoid carbonated beverages as well unless you enjoy feeling like a giant balloon. Water is preferred over alcoholic drinks but I know some people feel they need a drink to get through their flight. I've read that fasting 16 hours before a flight helps with jet lag but I'm not a "faster" so I'll leave you to decide that.

If you can't get out of your seat to walk a bit, be sure to do a little exercise by flexing your feet at the ankles. Try to flex the calf muscles several times and if you are able maybe even draw your knee up a few times just to keep blood circulating. The plane's magazine usually has some exercises outlined in it.

Cruising? Ah, now here's where the rubber meets the road. Not a good metaphor but you get my meaning. Oh, those food opportunities. The key here is to plan ahead. Love those dinner choices? Eat light for lunch. Stick to the fruit or salad choices at the buffet or eat in the main dining room and only order a light meal. No matter how much that waiter pouts, if you've had enough and are trying to save calories, do..not..order..dessert. If you must, stick to a fruit plate. Or if you want dessert, plan ahead and don't have an appetizer. Make good choices.

All ships have some kind of gym but one of the best exercises is to skip the elevators when you are moving about the ship and use the steps. Can't do steps? Find that promenade deck and circle it a few times. There's always a sign somewhere that tells you how many times around are a mile. Go for it! Every day!

No matter where you are traveling, it's all about good food choices and finding a way to get a little exercise. Walking is almost always an option. As one of the local Florida Keys restaurants says, "Eat well, Laugh Often, Live Long!"

Friday, January 29, 2016

Flashback Friday - Where Was I A Year Ago?

Facebook always reminds you of things from the past and I thought it would be fun to look at where we were last year on this day. The World Cruise had us in Columbia and here are some of the pictures I posted from then. Sigh, nice time.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Vacation Mail Woes

Last year when we did our 108 day World Cruise, we had our mail forwarded to a post office box at home and had a friend pick it up once in a while, check it for anything that looked really important, and save it. That went pretty smoothly and didn't cost an enormous amount of money.

This year we thought we had it all set in place but the glitches began with our arrival in Key Largo. Bob had arranged for our mail to be forwarded to the Key Largo Post Office and then sent a hold mail card so that they would keep our mail until we arrived after our two week cruise.

Upon arrival, we asked for a key to the mailbox for the condo. Added to all the other "surprises" we found at the condo (see my post) the owner said that it was somewhere around the condo but he couldn't remember where he'd stuck it. When we couldn't find it, he suggested we have the complex manager change the lock on the mailbox and we were to tell him that he'd pay for it.

After the manager arrived back from a short time off, he refused to change locks because the last time he did it for this owner, he didn't pay for it. We were back to square one with our mail on hold at the local PO.

Meanwhile there was no mail showing up for them to hold. Phone calls to our home PO revealed that they'd never got the information from the online request Bob had made. Luckily he'd kept all the reference numbers and they finally found it and released the mail they were holding to forward. They thought it was strange because our carrier had brought the mail into the office and said there was something wrong. We have a great mail carrier and he knows we travel a lot so at least he didn't call the police to break in and see if we were dead.

Well, the mail got forwarded but now Bob had to change the forwarding address to the PO box. He did it online again. As weeks went by and there was nothing showing up in the mailbox and the hold on our mail at the Key Largo PO was about to run out, he called home again. Now here it got even more confusing. The mail gets sent to someplace, I think Bob said Michigan, and then it gets the forwarding sticker put on and gets sent on its way.

Bottom line: By the time this all gets straightened out it'll be time to come home. Yikes! Next year we need to work on lining this up a little more efficiently. Like just getting a PO box right away which can be reserved online and having the mail forwarded there. No holds barred.
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