"" Writer's Wanderings

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Books For The Road - Two by Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford has captured me. His first book, Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet was good and I wondered if another book would match the sensitivity and depth of that. Songs Of Willow Frost did just that.

Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet is a story that takes place in Seattle mostly during World War II. It is a glimpse into a bit of dark history for our country--the interment of Japanese Americans. Belongings found by the new owner of the Panama Hotel in Seattle's old Japantown send Henry Lee down a path of memories of his childhood and his first love. As the description on Amazon reads, "Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart."

Songs Of Willow Frost is the story of a young orphaned Chinese boy who discovers his mother has not died but left him with an orphanage where he is not apt to find an adoptive family because of his race. The two meet and we glimpse the life of his mother as well as she seeks love and forgiveness from her son. Told against the backdrop of the Great Depression and located in Seattle, Ford also captures the desperate times and the historical descriptions of the locale. Again, another touching story.

Now I am off to see what else he might have written or what may be coming that I can look forward to. There are more opportunities in my future for a good book for the road.

Monday, April 14, 2014

World Cruise - Watering My Plants for 108 Days?

My indoor plants have survived up to five weeks of our absence and a lot of abuse from neglect even when we're home but I'm not sure about three and a half months without a drink of water during a time when the house is even drier because of the furnace running. So I'm on a quest to find the best way to preserve them without having to ask someone in to water them.

I came across all sorts of suggestions online. Some of them quite pricey. The one that would probably work best for the time we're gone is an electronic watering system that waters up to 20 houseplants. Unfortunately it costs anywhere from $75-95 depending upon who you order from. For that amount of money I could replace all my plants.

There are fancy globes that you fill and invert but those only last 3-5 days. Homemade ones can last a little longer if you use a larger plastic bottle and invert it into wet soil but they're not guaranteed to work well either and certainly not for 108 days.

A makeshift greenhouse from a clear plastic bag sounds more reasonable as it would keep moisture in. That would work well for the smaller plants. My large ficus tree would need a plastic bag put around the container rather than the whole tree but still, it's a tough character and survives a lot of neglect although it complains by dropping leaves.

Another suggestion that might be workable is to fold a bath towel length-wise, lay it in the bathtub and place bricks along it. Plants would be set on the bricks and the tub filled with enough water to cover the bricks. Plants would absorb moisture through the holes in the bottom of the pots. For our lengthy absence, I would let the faucet drip to keep water in the tub. Trouble is, my pots don't have drain holes. So I may combine this idea with the next. A water wick.

I've tried this before and it worked but only for a short time since I did it with a bottle of water and a small wick. You place a saturated wick into moist soil at one end and stick the other into a container of water. The water wicks up and into the soil.

Here are two links to some of these suggestions for watering indoor plants while on vacation:

Methods for Watering Indoor Plants While on Vacation

The only thing I can say is, thank goodness I don't have to worry about the container plants outside. They'll probably be covered in snow most of the time. Do you have any other suggestions for watering indoor plants besides having someone stop in?

Friday, April 11, 2014

What Do You Miss Away From Home?

"Don't you miss your own bed?' is a question we often get when people realize how much we travel and for how long. I rarely miss my own bed but what I do miss is my home shower. Like Goldilocks, I stand under the warm steady stream and realize, it's just right.

Showers come in all sizes and methods of delivery. The condo we've rented in Florida several times has a rain shower head that streams water down on you. It's about 10 inched in diameter and while you get the gentle feeling of a rain shower, you don't get the massaging effect of streaming water.

We've had showers that have too little pressure and others that scare you when they start up. Water too hot. Water too cold. Water too soft. Water too hard. Faucets that take an engineer to figure out when it comes to turning them on. (Thankfully I travel with one.) And mechanical boxes that produce hot water as you shower.

There have been huge walk-in showers that could comfortably fit a half dozen people in them and showers so small you could just about turn around in them. Those smaller ones have sometimes had shower curtains that get very intimate with you, clinging to you as if they were a part of your skin.

And speaking of shower curtains. . .Do any of you old enough to have seen Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock still feel creepy in a motel that has a shower curtain? I was twelve when I saw the movie and all that chocolate syrup blood but the images stuck with me forever. Yes, definitely one of the most dramatic moments in movie-making.

So, what do you miss most away from home? What do you come back to that makes you say, "Ah, just right."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Where Will You Rest Your Head Tonight?

On one of our trips to Australia a few years ago we met up with some Brits who were touring on their own for a month as we were. We compared notes and places we'd been and in the process discovered that they were seat-of-the-pants type travelers. They told us that they had made reservations for a room on their first night and for their last night but had decided to chance it on all the other nights of their stay in Australia.

It seems it worked well for them most of the time but they did warn us off of one hotel in Alice Springs where they'd had a rough night. Thankfully we'd already booked somewhere else. As a matter of fact we'd booked all of our nights months before we arrived in Australia. Why? Well, there's a story that goes with that. . .

Years ago while we still had young children--at that point three boys, we set off for Niagara Falls, Canada for a summer holiday. It was a Friday night. We weren't supposed to leave until Saturday but we were feeling adventurous and decided to start driving and stop along the way for the night.

We stopped several places only to be turned away as everything seemed to be filled. There was some kind of big car show and several other activities that filled hotels and motels with people all along I-90 from Cleveland to Erie, PA. We raced a van to the last room left in Erie and lost. Rather than keep driving further, Bob decided to turn around and head back home--about a two drive.

We did find one motel that had a vacancy but it looked like it could have sported a Bates Motel sign. There was no way I was putting my children into something that dilapidated. We drove on.

At the Ohio/Pa border Bob decided it was crazy to drive all the way home so we stopped at a rest stop full of semi trucks. We folded down the back seat, grabbed beach towels to use as blankets and stretched out in the back of our station wagon for a restless night of sleep. The next morning we shared bathroom privileges with the truck drivers and drove bleary eyed the rest of the way to Niagara Falls.

Any time it has been suggested that we take our chances and not book ahead, I just say, "Niagara Falls" and Bob makes the reservations. We did decide we might get out of our comfort zone this last road trip home from Florida. We just made our first night reservation--only to get up the next morning and make reservations for the next place along the way. Our adventurous spirit gave way to our desire to be sure to have a place to rest our heads.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

World Cruise - Around the World in 108 Days

One of our goals in our travel adventure is to completely circumnavigate the globe. We have almost done it with the 53 cruises we've taken so far but there are gaps. That's what made the Crystal Cruises world cruise itinerary so attractive. It completely circumnavigates the globe and all in the southern hemisphere which means not having to pack too many seasonal clothes. Many so called world cruises just concentrate on a large area of the globe but not circumnavigation.

Other things that sold us on this particular cruise is that while we've set foot on the continent of Africa, it was just for a short visit to Tangiers in Morocco. The cruise itinerary has us stopping in several ports on the African coast including Cape Town South Africa. And who wouldn't want to stop at Madagascar and watch the lemurs sing "You got to move it, move it!" Just kidding!!! But we do stop there.

On the bucket list also was a cruise up the Amazon. This cruise will take care of that as well as Pitcairn (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame) and Easter Island.

There are many places we stop that we've visited before but it will give us opportunity to do some things we missed. These are the ports of call:
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Santa Marta, Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia
Panama Canal transit
Manta, Ecuador
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Salaverry, Peru
Lima/Callao, Peru
Easter Island, Chile
Pitcairn Island (cruise by)
Papeete, Tahiti
Bora Bora, Society Islands
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Auckland, New Zealand (2 nights)
Tauranga, New Zealand (overnight)
Napier, New Zealand
Wellington, New Zealand
Christchurch/Akaroa, New Zealand
Dunedin, New Zealand
Cruising the sounds of New Zealand
Sydney Australia
Melbourne, Australia (overnight)
Adelaide, Australia
Albany, Australia
Perth/Fremantle, Australia (overnight)
Mauritius/Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius
St-Denis, Reunion (actually a part of France)
Ambodifotatra, Madagascar
Taolanaro, Madagascar
Maputo, Mozambique
Richards Bay, South Africa
Durban, South Africa
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa (2 nights)
Montevideo, Uruguay
Buenos Aires, Argentina (overnight)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (overnight)
Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
Macapa, Brazil
Alter do Chao, Brazil
Santrem, Brazil (Amazon river)
Devil's Island, Iles du Salut, French Guiana
Barbados/Bridgetown, British West Indies
Turks & Caicos/Grand Turk
Miami and home. . .

Now between some of those ports are one to six days at sea--time enough to rest up for the next great port and get some laundry done, learn a new language, learn to play bridge or a keyboard, listen to great lecturers and take in some great entertainment.

And now that we have this itinerary and our payments complete, it's time to start booking excursions. To start, an African safari!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Books For The Road - Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

It started in the 1850s when thousands of orphaned and abandoned children roamed the streets of New York City as a means of offering them a better life. Trains full of children were sent by the newly founded Children's Aid Society to areas out in the country as far as Arkansas, Minnesota, and states west to find couples and families who would take them in and raise them as their own. Some children fared well. Others were chosen because they could work the farms much as an indentured servant might. Known as the Orphan Trains, it became quite controversial but still was a way to get the children, many who were very young, off the streets and into places where they would hopefully get a better start in life.

It is with this backdrop that Christina Baker Kline has written her novel, Orphan Train. Here's the back cover blurb:

Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse...

As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

It is a touching tale and fascinating look at this snippet of history. A great book for the road--or the train.
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