"" Writer's Wanderings: June 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In My Backyard--More on Duct Tape

This past weekend, we traveled south to see our grandkids and take in a T-ball game. I had a goodie-bag packed to take filled with books, beads, and pamphlets for duct tape crafts that I'd gathered at the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival. The grands, age 5 and 7, zeroed in on the free pamphlets for crafting duct tape projects.

Once they got home, they begged Mom and Dad (we're the grandparents; we got out of the way quickly) to go to the store for colored duct tape. They didn't want to use the gray stuff that was on hand. Once they had the colors they wanted, they went to work and made wallets, purses, and, with Dad's help, a rose.
It didn't stop there. The next day they wanted to make more and made another purse and a "briefcase." (Note the briefcase at left has an extra side pocket and a wallet inside.) I'm sure they'll get around to reading the books but I am happy their wonderfully creative minds were so stimulated with the duct tape. Who knew?

If you'd like directions for duct tape crafts go to the Duck Tape Club site.

Monday, June 29, 2009

In My Backyard--Fireflies

One night last week just as we were turning out lights to go to bed, Bob excitedly called me to the kitchen window. How romantic, I thought, he wants to hold hands and stare at the moon. But that was not the case. He was enamored by twinkling lights in all the trees in our backyard.

Fireflies are a unique phenomena in our area during warm humid nights in summer. As kids, we would grab a clean empty mayonnaise jar, poke holes in the top, and go out collecting them. Once we had a half-dozen or so, we'd take them into the house and put them on our nightstand and fall asleep watching their lights go on and off.

Last week though, there were more fireflies in our yard than I had ever seen before at one time. The trees looked as though we had strung twinkle lights in them. Arms around each other's waists, we stared out the window and watched in awe for a few minutes. Guess it was kinda romantic after all.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Writing a Bestseller After Age 50

The May issue of AARP Bulletin had a page listing authors who wrote bestsellers after the age of 50. The writer, Bill Hogan, lists James Michner, Leon Uris, Elia Kazan, Robert Ludlum, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye among a few others I didn't recognize. What a boost to an author's crusade to be published after age 50.

Actually, I wonder if there isn't a little extra value to the more mature author's book. Life's lessons learned, adventures had, wisdom gained.

I always love remembering my aunt's words, "Honey, I may be 80 on the outside but I'm 18 on the inside." Perhaps that's the best combination for an author--seasoned on the outside but full of life to be lived on the inside.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cruise Lines Lend Helping Hands

We have been on many ships on a variety of cruise lines and often found that the crew supports a favorite charity usually involving one or more of the ports that they visit. Sometimes they mention it to passengers in case they too, would like to give. It's never been pushed or overdone and often is something the passengers are not even aware of.

I ran across this post from a Holland America ship, Volendam. They were refurbishing and donated a roomful of furniture to a Boy Scout troop for a fundraiser. Boy Scouts are near and dear to my heart. One of my sons is an Eagle Scout.

On one cruise, the memory fades or I would tell you the line and ship, they collected monies to give to some school children for school supplies. I remember it being in a county where at the end of the cruise you have all this loose change in "funny money"--not enough to really justify exchanging for U.S. It was the perfect opportunity to get rid of it and give to a good cause.

Next time you are cruising ask someone if the crew has an ongoing charity they are giving to. It might be something you would want to help out with. Who needs a pocket full of "funny money?"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In My Backyard--Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival

Part II -- The Festival

The Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival on Father's Day weekend was like a mini-fair with amusement rides, games, community businesses and organizations participating with booths, and of course lots of things to do with duct tape. The rainy weather broke its hold just before the parade was to start and by the time it was done, the sun began to warm the air. It was a wonderful day for a festival.

Walking through the grounds, there were many displays of art work and sculpture all made of course with duct tape. Everyone who passed by one of the booths got a roll of duct tape and a small Duct Tape Book by the Duct Tape Guys, Jim and Tim.

Another duct tape booth sold T-shirts and hats and all sorts of kits to use with duct tape and rolls of colorful duct tape (I heard it comes in 20 colors). Next to the sales booth was a tent set up for kids to craft in--with duct tape naturally. Crafters could make wallets, purses, roses, bracelets, and a myriad of other things limited only by your creativity. There is a Duck Tape Club online where you can get the instructions for many of the crafts if you are so inclined.

Creativity abounded in the display booth for this year's contests in the Stuck At Prom Scholarship Contest. Prom goers create their very own fashions, both male and female, for the prom from duct tape. Duct tape aficionados (anyone) can go to the website and vote for their favorite designing couple. The winners each get a $3000 scholarship. The booth featured some fashions from the past. Incredible.

As we strolled the grounds, smells of popcorn, candy apples, grilled chicken and sausage, and donuts all combined to give that familiar fragrance of summer fairs (minus the animal smells). It was a great kick-off to summer!

Monday, June 22, 2009

In My Backyard--Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival

Part I -- The Parade

What could be more appropriate than a celebration of duct tape for Father's Day? This past weekend we enjoyed a parade and a wonderful festival in Avon, OH, home of Duck brand duct tape. The parade was scheduled on Saturday at 10 a.m. and made a mile journey from the high school to the Veteran's Memorial Park where the festival is held.

I lost count of how many floats went by but someone reported there were about 25 in all. The first one and largest was made by the employees of the company and their families. The theme was Mardi Gras and they featured a large jester's head that swiveled from side to side behind the mascot duck who was obviously grand marshal.

Other floats I found ingenious, amusing, or just plain amazing included a butterfly with a frog chasing it. Someone was inside the frog with a long handled "tongue" stretching out regularly to try to catch the butterfly.

The boy scouts built a nice looking float emphasizing their pine derby cars. Scouts followed the float on foot costumed in pine derby car creations--fashioned from duct tape of course.

The 2007 float winner was back. It was a Duraclean company van completely covered in duct tape. All of the white is white duct tape. The chrome was covered in gray and even the license plate was covered in clear tape. If you didn't get close to it, you wouldn't know it was all taped. I can't imagine being able to put that much tape on something and have it be so smooth.

Last but not least, my favorite, the World's 1st Duct Tape Parade Balloon. It was hard to tell if it was truly made to be inflated or if it was just a tongue-in-cheek rendition of a parade balloon. Several "handlers" held ropes that dragged the balloon along the parade route--proving that duct tape is indeed very durable even if it isn't inflatable.

(Tuesday: Part II - The Festival)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Receiving a Gift

My wonderful husband, who occassionally reads this blog, has a fun little ritual he does when one of the grandkids gives him a wrapped gift. He puts it to his forehead and tries to guess what's in it. It evokes giggles and sometimes frustration. "Open it, Grandpa!"

Often the gift is something homemade, precious and tucked away for remembering later. Or it could be another screwdriver, Bob's answer to the question, "What do you want for. . .?" He now has a collection of 50+.

Last Sunday our pastor painted a picture in our minds with his words. He asked us to imagine Jesus coming into the sanctuary, a beautiful gift box in his hands and looking around the room, searching for someone.

"Suddenly Jesus smiles as he looks directly at you," he said. He asked us to see Jesus walking toward us with the gift and extending the box to us. The question being of course, will you receive it?

The picture has stuck in my mind. On my bulletin, I wrote these questions: What is in the box? What if I don't know what to do with it? Will I use it? How?

I remember as a child asking for one gift but receiving something entirely different. Could this be something I didn't ask for? And if it is, will I be a gracious recipient?

If Jesus hands me the gift box, I hope that while I may hold it to my head for a time, I receive in my heart forever.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Niagara Falls -- Beck Generating Station

The Sir Adam Beck Generating Station is a huge power plant on the Canadian side of the Falls that has been around since the 1920s. It has grown from the original but was championed by Sir Adam Beck who felt that the Niagara should be harnessed to provide power for Ontario. It is open to the public and tours are offered every 1/2 hour in the summer beginning at 10 a.m.

This was obviously something Bob wanted to do more than I did but I was quite impressed with it even though I have no idea of the intricacies of generating electricity. It's kind of like a faith issue--don't know how it works sometimes but it's there. I do know that water has to flow down tubes and turn turbines that spin electromagnets. These are inside a coil of wire in a generator and the spinning electromagnets create a flow of electrons. (Okay so I cheated and looked it up.)

For our tour, we were included in a group of middle school-aged kids which made it much more interesting. They ask questions adults only think about asking. The tour takes you through a room with story boards that explain the function of the plant and the history and then into an observation room where you can look down into the long building that houses the turbines. Directly below is a huge machine shop where they repair and rebuild the turbines.

What struck the kids' fancy most was that the workers rode tricycles from one end of the building to the other because it was so big. They (and me) were fascinated to hear that the Falls have been harnessed by an international dam that only allows about 50% of the actual volume of water to flow over the Falls and at night, it is reduced to 25% after the tourists are tucked into bed and the lights turned out.

Of course one youngster asked what happens when someone falls over the Falls. "Well," said our tour guide, "then they cut the water back even more. Of course that's only to hunt for the body. I wouldn't recommend going over the Falls."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Niagara Falls

On our mini-getaway to Niagara Falls last week, we stayed on the American side but went across for the day to the Canadian side. It really is the best side from which to view the Falls whether it be the American portion or the Canadian Horseshoe.

We had a few things on the list to see one of which was the Floral Clock. The last time we were there was the middle of December and of course there were no flowers. Unfortunately there were still no flowers on this visit. We were probably a day or two early. They were lining up the templates as a guide to where they would plant the flowers. We wanted to go back and check on their progress but we ran out of time.

On our way back to the Falls area, we stopped at the whirlpool. This is an almost 90 degree bend in the Niagara River that creates a huge whirlpool and several smaller eddies. Those with no fear of heights and falling, can ride the Aero Car across the whirlpool and back again. Added to the excitement is the fact that it's advertised as an antique.

When we got into the city, we found that parking was $18 (Canadian) down near the Falls but up by the Fallsview Casino Resort, it was only $5 (and free if you joined their players club). From there we could walk down to the falls and take the "train" up the hill for $2/each if we didn't think we could make the climb back.

We watched nostalgically as the Maid of the Mist lived up to her name and pulled into the misty area at the base of the Horseshoe Falls. Both of us have made the trip as children and again with our own children. We opted not to get wet this trip.

The Fallsview Casino Resort truly has a good view of the falls from their garden area in front of the hotel. There was also a number of restaurants in their mall area from which to choose your dining preference, anything from fast food to elegant dining. Once we decided we would stay to see the lights at night, we chose Canyon Creek Chophouse for dinner. They were featuring a three course meal for $30 (keep in mind that we were there in the middle of the week). If we would have had reservations, we probably could have sat next to a window with a better view, but we could see part of the falls and the garden area of the resort.

The Falls are lit at different times throughout the year but there are several signs posted that tell you the schedule. Hues of the rainbow are beamed across to light up both the American Falls and the Horseshoe.

Just remember if you go, you will need your passport or passport card to cross the border. There are no "free" passes anymore.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Best Job in the World--Starts July 1

Remember all the hoopla over the job offer from Queensland Tourism in Australia for a dream job of caretaker for a getaway on Hamilton Island? It paid $100,000 and included a house (the Blue Pearl) and the opportunity to enjoy all the amenities of the island including diving. The winner of the job was also required to keep a blog.

Well, the winner was announced in May. It is Ben Southall from the UK. He's a great blogger of his travel adventures: The Life and Times of Me. . .Ben Southall. Scroll down midway and his posts of the final competition are there.

I wish him all the best and envy all the great diving adventures ahead.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Niagara Falls--A place for all seasons

Last December, we stopped off in Niagara Falls on our return trip from my appearance on 100 Huntley Street Full Circle. It was cold and blustery but we enjoyed looking at the falls and the winter wonderland the blowing mist created. We crossed from the Canadian side to the American side to stay overnight. (Links to those posts are below.)

The trip left us wanting to return in nicer weather and this week we had the opportunity to do so. We stayed again on the American side but spent one whole day exploring the sights on the Canadian side including a tour of the huge hydro-electric plant there. I'll post more of our trip later but for now, I wanted to share the two contrasting pictures. I shot them from almost exactly the same spot.

Niagara on the Lake

100 Huntley Street

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Earthquake at Sea

Holland America Cruise Lines has a blog that I follow and this morning one of the captains who post regularly reported an unusual occurrence. Apparently an earthquake occurred twenty miles from where they were cruising in Glacier Bay, Alaska. They felt the tremors on the ship. I had no idea you could feel that while on a ship in the water. For a more detailed account, check out his post.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Books for the Road--The Associate

Last week I drove fourteen hours round trip to Wheaton, IL, and took advantage of the time spent in the car to "read" The Associate by John Grisham. The audio book was nine discs--11 hours of listening to Erik Singer, the reader. He does a great job.

The story is about a new associate in a huge law firm, Kyle McAvoy, who follows a career course radically different from what he had planned when a video of a frat party with a rape scene in it surfaces and he is blackmailed into "legal" espionage involving a huge lawsuit between two companies vying for a government contract.

This is a return to the legal stories Grisham writes well but I don't know that I would call it a thriller. The story tends to bog down in the details and the plot develops very slowly. Still, I listened on. I am a Grisham fan. I thought perhaps it was because I was listening to the audio rather than reading it that made it less exciting but when I returned home and checked reviews, I found that many others felt it was not his best work as well.

So, if you like Grisham, you will like this just for his storytelling and delving into the world of the high end, large firm lawyer. If you're not a fan, pick up one of his other books, like The Firm, or King of Torts. They were much more exciting.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Billy Graham Center Museum--Wheaton, IL

The Billy Graham Center Museum is on the beautiful campus of Wheaton College and in all the years that I have attended the Write To Publish conference, I never stopped in. Today I made time to go through it. It is quite impressive.
In the outer area where you first enter, they have a temporary art exhibit that changes from time to time. Today it was full of vibrant paintings from a Chinese artist, He Qi. Each piece illustrated something or someone from scripture and was a Picasso-like rendering.

From the exhibit area, you enter the Rotunda of Witnesses. Tapestries grace the walls of this room depicting the Apostle Paul, Justin Martyr, Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, Pandita Ramabai, and Oswald Chambers.

Next is a small seating area where you can stop and watch a seven minute video of the history of evangelism in America which highlights the two great awakenings. From there, the visitor strolls through chronological displays and artifacts depicting evangelistic history in America.

A couple of interesting tidbits I noted: Camp meetings started in the 18 century as a result of people settling the American frontier. They didn't live close enough to justify church buildings so periodically they would travel to a central location, often days away, to camp out and worship together. And there was a former slave, a black woman named Sojourner Truth who became a well-known traveling preacher in 1843. In 1854, at the Ohio Woman's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, she gave her most famous speech -- with the legendary phrase, "Ain't I a Woman?"

Another rotunda is next called The Good News of the Gospel. In the center there is a large glass cross with the figure of Christ engraved inside the glass. Around it are scripture verses offering the plan of salvation. Once you have passed through this rotunda, you enter the Life and History of Billy Graham starting with his birth November 7, 1918. Several artifacts are displayed as well as gifts from famous people. His Wheaton connection is as a student of anthropology. In 1943, he pastored his first church for $45/week--a bargain according to his congregation.

There are several videos and interactive displays where you can learn more about evangelism and hear some of Graham's more famous crusades. Ever the recruiter, there is a section to make you consider your role in spreading the gospel.

The end of the tour (just before the Museum Shop) is a Walk Through the Gospel. It is as though you are walking through a life-sized diorama. The floor inclines as you walk a narrow passage with a wooden cross at the end of it. The walls become black as you walk through the tomb area then into a bright mirrored and muraled room that makes you feel as though you stepped up into the clouds. It's impressively done.

It is worth a stop if you have ever heard Billy Graham speak and/or are interested in the historical aspect of evangelism or just might be curious about the Gospel. There is no fee but there is a suggested donation of $4 for adults. As I reached into my purse, the attendant kept insisting I didn't need to pay. As I told her, I've paid a lot more in some places of the world to see a lot less.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Write to Publish Conference Day 2

It was a sunny day here in Wheaton, IL, albeit a bit chilly still when the wind blew. And unfortunately most of the day was spent indoors. But on those chances to wander outside, I took a few pictures of the Wheaton campus. Many of the buildings have the charm of early years. I think this first picture is Blanchard Hall. It sits across from the Billy Graham Center which is where our workshops and sessions take place.

Inside the Billy Graham Center is a museum which unfortunately in all the years I have been coming here, I have never had the opportunity to explore. Hopefully, I will get a little break tomorrow and find time to wander through it.

My "pitch" went well today and I was asked to send in two of my book proposals so it was a very good day for me. But it was also a very long day since I awoke at 4 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. It will be an early night tonight--right after I hit the "publish" key for this post.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Write to Publish Conference

This week I am at the Write To Publish conference in Wheaton, IL, on the beautiful campus of Wheaton College. It is one of my favorite conferences and the one I have attended most often. The long drive (7 hours) from home is a trek but I get to "read" as I plug in an audio book. This trip I'm listening to John Grisham's The Associate.

Getting together with other writers is so very comforting. They are the people who know what it feels like to struggle in this chosen path and understand the roller coaster ride that it can be. When they say, "I know what you mean," they really do know.

This morning began with Jane Rubietta reminding us that we are "word carriers." I loved the way she compared it to the ark of the covenant that carried the words of God. Then I joined the Non-fiction track with Doc (Dennis) Hensley. I've been in other workshops of his and they are always enlightening and beneficial. In the afternoon, I sat in on Diana Flegal's workshop about agents.

We finished the day with evening worship time led by Marty Nystrom a songwriter whose written some very popular choruses many of us have sung in our own churches. Then Mary DeMuth gave an inspiring talk about her struggle to become a writer and how we need to partner with our Lord in our writing.

Tomorrow I give my first "elevator pitch" of the conference for the book I've been working on. Wish me luck--make that say a prayer. It's all in His hands.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Books for the Road--Life Expectancy

Every so often you need a Dean Koontz story to make you realize life isn't as crazy as it may seem. How would you like to live with a "birthmark" that prophesizes five terrible, awful, catastophic days in your life and gives you the dates so you can anticipate them? In Life Expectancy, that's exactly what happens to Jimmy Tock. His grandfather dies the same day he is born but not before giving out five dates that will shroud Jimmy's life.

I have to believe that Koontz wrote this tongue-in-cheek because the chief protagonist is a baker and the chief antagonist in the story is a clown and much of the humor, mostly puns, centers around baking and clowns. Humor? In a Koontz novel? Oh yes. Example: "Alone and imperiled, Lorrie needed Davy Crockett. Instead, all she had was me--a hairy-chested Julia Child." He gets a little carried away sometimes and there are some groaners but he tells a suspenseful tale with characters that use humor for their own survival. As each dreadful date approaches, you'll wonder what could possibly go wrong next. It's exciting and a page-turning read.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Grand Cayman--Postscript

Dive skins are in the wash. Scuba vests, boots, regulators are cleaned and airing out. Memories are still fresh. I thought I would finish up this series of posts on Grand Cayman with a few notes about some of the places we visited.

First of all, Ocean Frontiers has been our dive operation of choice since the East End Dive Lodge was wiped out by Ivan. They are well organized, safety conscious, and are a great help in taking care of our gear both onboard and onshore. It's a lot less tiring to dive when you have extra hands helping you tote and change out tanks. At our age, it's greatly appreciated.

A side note: When we were checking out at Ocean Frontiers, I found a book titled, Paradise Interrupted. It's a photojournal of the aftermath of Ivan in 2004. I was pleasantly surprised to find the photographer was the very same Courtney Platt who photographed the wedding I blogged about and was kind enough to leave a comment.

While Ocean Frontiers has nice condo accommodations, we have fallen in love with The Reef Resort. The beach is beautiful. The pools are wonderful and the landscaping provides a little shade for respite from the sun. There is also a bar/grill patio and a restaurant although we generally eat in our condo for breakfast and lunch and a few dinners. There is a Foster's Express IGA across the street for resupplying essesntials like bread, eggs, water, soda, some fresh fruits and veggies and a small meat selection. The Reef also has outdoor grills for guest use.

Our favorite eating spots are Over the Edge (great meals at a reasonable price), Portofino's (can't miss their Sunday buffet), The Lighthouse (expensive but worth a trip) and The Lobster Pot (this one is in Georgetown--my favorite: lobster linguine).

Can't leave Grand Cayman without a few pictures of some Caribbean sunsets. And a video of a beautiful evening at Rum Point.

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