"" Writer's Wanderings: August 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Last Chance to Win A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts!

On Monday last week, I celebrated my 500th post for this blog. As part of the celebration, I am giving away a copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. Today's the last day to leave a comment either here or on the original post to be in the drawing for the book. I will draw a name out tomorrow and announce the winner. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 28, 2009

In My Backyard -- Put-in-Bay, Ohio

No summer is complete without a trip to the Lake Erie islands area and of course, Put-in-Bay. In keeping with my trip-down-memory-lane theme from yesterday, this is the place where Bob and I met. He was a cabby driving one of the antique cars the cab drivers used in those days and I was the pizza girl in the little take out place tucked into the corner of the Round House opposite the chicken pit. The chicken pit is still there. The pizza place and the old cabs are gone.

We met our kids and grandkids in Fremont the night before and got an early start to the island the next morning. There are two ferry lines that service South Bass Island, the Jet Express in Port Clinton and the Miller Ferry in Catawba. We chose the Miller. It's a little less expensive and we like renting the golf carts that are at the top of the hill there when you get off at the Lime Kiln dock. (And the ferry is part of "memory lane.")

Put-in-Bay (the name comes from Commordore Perry saying, "Put in the bay!" after his battle) is a great place to wander around either by golf cart or by bicycle. After stopping in to say hello to my brother and his family who live there year round, we visited Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial ( The Monument, to locals) and took a trip to the top. The weather was perfect for it. We could actually see the Canadian mainland--a rare occurence.

Be aware the monument is still experiencing repairs and will again be closed to visitors for a couple of years after this September. The mortar needs work. In the past, they have had a couple of pieces of the monument fall.

Outside on the lawn, we watched one of "Commodore Perry's men" load his single shot musket and fire it. Our grandson quipped, "That's better than a cap gun!" When the soldier got a bit graphic later in his talk of attaching the bayonet and how to use it, we moved on.

After our trip for a view from the top, we drove out to East Point, reminiscing along the way, and then over to Oak Point where the state fish hatchery is located. There are several displays set up inside about fish in Lake Erie and the way eggs were collected and hatched in the past. Outside, kids under 15 are allowed to borrow a pole and fish off the dock under the supervision of a ranger who helps out.

Many recreational and shopping areas have been added over the years we've spent going to the island. We took the grandkids to the electric go-karts and the arcade behind them. There is also an antique carousel on the main street.

Lots of boutiques allow for great shopping opportunities and plenty of places to grab something to eat. We opted for the Boardwalk where those who liked fish could get some perch and others could get hamburgers. Later, we stopped at what used to be Cooper's Restaurant but is now called The Goat Soup and Whiskey. Underneath the restaurant is a great place for candy and ice cream cones--really big ice cream cones.

A trip out to the state park, a walk along the beach, a few stones skipped in the water, and we returned our golf cart and boarded the ferry for home. The grands are getting older. We no longer have to carry them up to the car, sound asleep from their busy day. More fodder for memory lane.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In My Backyard -- Hocking Hills, Ohio

There is nothing like a trip down memory lane especially with grandkids tagging along. They were excited about seeing a cave and we were excited about revisiting the place where we spent our honeymoon--Lake Hope lodge. Bet you thought I was going to say the cave.

Hocking Hills is about an hour and a half drive south of Columbus. The huge state park has several cave areas to explore. Most of them are open-ceilinged caves or recesses in a rock wall so they are not dark and foreboding to youngsters or oldsters with claustrophobia.

Our first stop was Old Man's Cave. And yes, it derives its name from an old hermit who once lived there. The trails and bridges have been updated quite a bit in the forty-one years since we spent our three honeymoon days exploring the area.

Earth tones freckled by sunlight filtering through the trees above us painted a varied and colorful landscape. The kids were excited to find a frog who quickly plunged into the creek and escaped their eager hands.

We climbed back out of the cave area and headed the car for Lake Hope, about a fifteen minute ride up the road. The nature center there does a hand feeding of the hummingbirds during the summer in the early afternoon. Along the way we hoped to find a deli or some place to grab something to eat for lunch. Just as we were running out of hope we spotted Etta's.

Normally I would not take grandchildren into a place that looked like this but we were running out of options. To our surprise however, Etta's Lunchbox Cafe was very good. Oh, the inside didn't look much better than the outside but you had to realize that this was an eclectic mix of all sorts of antiques and furnishings from the 50s.

We placed our order for sandwiches to go and then stepped into the back room to peruse the collection of over 150 old lunchboxes on display. After a few more minutes enjoying the rocking chairs on the front porch, our orders were ready and waiting in lunch bags all marked with what was inside. For under $6 each we got a huge sandwich, a big dill pickle spear, and a bag of chips. The kids got grilled cheese (under $5) and all the fixings. Their sandwiches were still warm when we pulled into the nature center at the lake.

If I'd had any doubts about our choice for lunch, they were erased when the park ranger pointed out to the others sitting there that we had found the best place for lunch in the area. She was right.

After our lunch, we listened to the talk about hummingbirds and then sat for about a half an hour grasping a floral tube full of sugar water hoping for a hummingbird to alight. The ranger takes in all but one feeder for the two hours that people can hand feed. The hummingbirds then go to the patient waiters. One lady attracted a bird twice. The best time for doing the feeding we learned was earlier in the summer. There are more birds around then.

It was getting hot and sticky and we opted for a little drive in the A/C of the car. We found the place where the Lake Hope lodge used to be. It burned in 2005. It was more difficult to find which cabin might have been ours. Of course after 41 years, it could have been torn down and rebuilt. But I did take a picture of one for posterity's sake. The only souvenir I have of our honeymoon is an acorn that I encased in plastic--oh, and one really sweet guy that I'd like to keep around for 41 more years.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Books for the Road -- Secrets of Old Santa Fe

Elise Wells arrives in Santa Fe determined to get through her mother's funeral and learn the true cause of her mother's death. Fighting her guilt over her estranged relationship with her mother, she determines that she will not leave Santa Fe until she discovers the secrets everyone seems to be keeping from her. Most troubling is the man she meets, Ramon Castillo, who seems to harbor the deepest secrets yet is the one Elise wants to trust the most.

Secrets of Old Santa Fe is a great look at the countryside of New Mexico. Marion Kelley Bullock has done a fine job of setting the scenes. Her protagonist, Elise, is someone you want to take by the shoulders and shake, however. Why can't she see the secret that seems very obvious to the reader?

This is a quick, quaint, romantic read for the beach or a long airplane ride. You will need a Kindle or Sony E-book however. Available at Amazon or Desert Breeze Publishing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Celebrating 500 posts!!

Actually I've posted more than 500 but last year I went through and deleted a lot of things I found boring. In six years, this challenge laid down by my son, "Mom, you gotta do this!" has turned into quite a journey. Writer's Wanderings has evolved and continues to grow and shape itself as my life's journey unfolds. It has always been with the premise in mind that I am a writer who loves to wander, whether it be around the world or in my own backyard or through my experiences with those I meet.

It is my earnest wish that through my ramblings, others will come to love the journey God has set before them.

Celebrate with me. Leave a comment and next week this time, I will draw a name from the comments left here for a copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts

Today I'm posting at our Christmas blog. It's how to avoid the 911 with the 411 on the 311. A little tongue-in-cheek look at getting through airport security. Check it out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Books for the Road -- The Noticer by Andy Andrews

"I'm a noticer," he said. "It is my gift. While others may be able to sing well or run fast. I notice things that other people overlook. . . I notice things about situations and people that produce perspective. That's what most folks lack--perspective. . ."

These words are spoken early in the story of Jones, just Jones not Mister Jones, as the narrator, Andy, begins to unfold the tale of a rather unusual character who just suddenly shows up in his little town and begins to offer people perspective with a little advice to help them out of their troubles.

The Noticer, by Andy Andrews, is a mix of fiction, allegory, and inspiration. It's a captivating story but one that I found to be a strange mix. Andrews brings in references to other self-help and ispirational books--The Five Love Languages, a touch of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, although he says do sweat.

The Jones character reminded me of some of the characters conjured up by Stephen King and Ted Dekker although Jones is symbolically good not evil. His mysterious appearing and disappearing add fantasy to the story.

As I read on, I kept wondering if I was to get the message that I should be a noticer of others or should examine my perspective on certain areas of my life. Either way you look at it, The Noticer is an interesting read--a new perspective, you might say, on delivering an inspirational message.

To find out more about The Noticer and get an excerpt go to the Thomas Nelson product page.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

World Rumors

Two of the countries we have visited in the last several years that are most fascinating to me are China and Russia. I'm sure it is because of the mystery surrounding their Communist history. China was a closed country for so long as was Russia while we were involved in the Cold War--a part of history that I grew up with.

As part of our preparation for our visit to China in 2007, I read The Wild Swans, by Jung Chang. It is the story of three generations of Chinese women beginning with Chang's grandmother who was a concubine for a general, continuing through her mother's generation with the take over by the Communist regime, and ending with her own story of growing up in China. It was an excellent portrayal of the struggles in China especially during the war.

One thing that stood out from the book was a comment she made that she was told, "Eat all of your dinner. The children in America are starving." Now this was exactly what I was told growing up--only it was the children in China who were starving.

On our recent visit to Russia, one of our fellow sojourners asked our guide what her perception of Americans had been growing up. She was a little younger than the rest of us so I was surprised with her reply. While in school, their day would be interrupted with air raid drills so that they would learn what to do should America drop the bomb.

It was no different when I grew up in school--only we were concerned with Russia dropping the bomb on us. Fear was taught on both sides of the Atlantic.

I wonder today what misconceptions are being taught here in America as well as in other countries about each other? Fear is taught. Hate is learned. And when power is desired. . .well, we've all seen the result.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Russia -- St. Isaac's, Peter and Paul Cathedral

Two more cathedrals rounded out our tour of St. Petersburg. St. Isaac's, which is a landmark structure of St. Petersburg, and Peter and Paul Cathedral within the Peter and Paul Fortress.

St. Isaac's Cathedral is an imposing building that sits on one end of the square named for the cathedral. In the middle of the square is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great, the city's namesake. The impressive dome is covered in gold and can be seen from quite a distance in the Gulf of Finland.

The cathedral was first built in 1707 during the reign of Peter the Great but was reconstructed four times. The last was built between 1818 and 1858. Restoration of the cathedral which suffered extensively from the Bolshevik regime and WWII and the elements, began in 1947. Today the cathedral is used as a museum and for religious services on significant holidays. Those who attend orthodox services stand for the whole hour. This cathedral can accommodate 14,000 standing worshipers.

After admiring the icons and the mosaics and the gilded altar and various precious stones and materials that went into the pillars and artwork, we found a brass plate in the middle of the floor which signified the center of the dome. Looking up from there, we could see the tribute to the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

As we crossed the bridge to the island where the Peter and Paul Fortress sits, it began raining a bit harder. Under the protection of our umbrella, we tramped through the fortress gate and into the inner courtyard where the cathedral sits. What could this cathedral hold that we hadn't already seen in other?

Upon entering, we discovered that this was the building that housed many of the tombs of past tsars and their families and of course the most recent and last of the ruling families, the Romanovs. A room is devoted to their remains as well as those of the faithful servants killed with them. There remains were discovered and moved to the cathedral in 1998.

One of the unique things we found here was in the columns of the cathedral. Materials must have been scarce or too expensive but for whatever reason, the columns inside the cathedral are faux marble. They are done so well that you don't even notice until you get close or someone points it out. See the columns in the left picture here just outside the Romanov room.

Our guide and driver returned us to our ship with a little less than an hour before departure time. We were grateful for the closer glimpse we had of St. Petersburg this time but still resolved that there is much more to be seen and appreciated. Yes, we will be planning a return trip.

More on St. Petersburg:
St. Petersburg
Catherine's Palace
Church on the Spilled Blood
Peterhof and the Metro
Pies and another palace

Monday, August 17, 2009

Russia -- Pies and Another Palace

For lunch on our second day of touring St. Petersburg, our guide announced that we would have perogies for lunch. My mouth watered at the thought. I love the dumpling-like treats stuffed with mashed potatoes, cheese, and/or sauerkraut. We arrived at the restaurant, the Stolle, which was set into a basement area of a building. Wonderful smells aroused our tastebuds as we entered.

The menu was in Russian with English "subtitles." All sorts of fillings were available--salmon, fish, chicken, eggs, cheese. And then there was a list of sweet fillings--apple, cranberry, whortlberry, raspberry, apricot. . .the list went on. You could order a large portion or a small portion. We decided to order two large portions, one filled with chicken and one with apples and cinnamon and share.

When they arrived, it turned out they were nothing like the perogies I imagined. Actually, they were more like strudel or stollen. The menu at second glance translated to pies not perogies. Whatever they were called, they were absolutely delicious! We wished we could have gotten some to go.

One last palace was on our list for the day's adventure as well, the Yusupov Palace. I did not immediately catch the importance of this place. I'm afraid I was getting a little hazy from an overload of information from our intense two day tour. We entered what appeared from the outside to be a rather bland building for a palace. Just inside was a great staircase but still not as grand as others we had seen. Then we were led through a corridor on the side of the entrance and our guide began to explain the story of Rasputin's involvement with Nicholas II and the Royal Family in the early 20th century.

The story sounded a bit familiar but it still did not register with me until I saw the picture of Rasputin in one of the rooms. There was no denying that this was the "mad monk." Take a look at his picture here.

We walked through the rooms where the conspirators lured him and tried to poison him and then shot him. And then while he was still alive, they tossed his body into the Moika river. I think the official cause of death was drowning. Guess he was one tough cookie.

Our tour finished in the upstairs rooms that truly were palatial. One would have never guessed from the outside the beauty and elaborate furnishings on the inside. And the one feature of this palace that was truly special--the home theater.

The theater was truly that and is still used today for productions. It is quite popular and difficult to obtain tickets for performances. While it may not be the modern man's dream of a home theater, I'm sure it filled the dreams of the occupants of its day--the Yusopovs. They had quite a history and you can read more about them here.

Our day and our stay in St. Petersburg was rapidly drawing to an end but there were still two more stops to make--St. Peter and Paul Church and St. Isaac's.

More on St. Petersburg:
St. Petersburg
Catherine's Palace
Church on the Spilled Blood
Peterhof and the Metro
St. Isaac's and St. Peter and Paul

Friday, August 14, 2009

Russia -- Peterhof and the Metro

The second day of our tour of St. Petersburg began with a trip to the main Metro line. Entrance to the Metro was through a church that had been converted into a subway station. The city's subway is said to be the deepest in the world at an average 180 feet below the surface. The escalator seemed to go on forever as we descended. But when we reached the bottom, we were greeted by huge pillars that supported the ceiling above us. Not only were the pillars huge, but they were extremely decorative as were the lighting fixtures that were more like large chandeliers.

We rode the Metro through three stops. Each was different in design but each equally impressive. The station where we exited had half of its pillars decorated in ornamental glass. We were asked to leave our cameras on the minibus because no pictures were allowed in the subway but I did find some online if you are curious, click here.

After boarding our minibus again, we were off to Peterhof. Along the way, we passed several communities of homes that looked much like our own suburbs. We also passed a large estate that was the presidential home.

Arriving at Peterhof we hurried to the Grand Cascade see the celebration of the fountains. Each morning when they are turned on, the national anthem is played and the fountains begin to flow. All of the fountains are gravity fed and eventually, as you look around you realize you are surrounded by large and small water displays.

Bob and I were confused initially and thought that we had been to Peterhof on our first visit. But we discovered that it was actually Oranienbaum we had visited. We certainly didn't remember any lush gardens or the enormous amount of fountains at this palace nicknamed the Russian Versailles because it was from the French palace that Peter the Great got his inspiration for this home.

As with many palace projects, it was handed down to the successors who finished, changed and added on to the original. We did not get inside the palace due to time restraints but wandered about the gardens which are extensive covering many acres. Eventually we made our way to the shoreline and peered across at St. Petersburg where we could make out the dome of St. Isaac's. Our next adventure was to ride a hydrofoil back to the city.

As we waited our ticketed time, we watched a whole bridal party and guests arrive for a wedding in the gardens. The bride was beautiful and I'm sure her wedding was wonderfully done in the palacial gardens.

Our hydrofoil trip was surprising. Inside were luxurious accommodations--leatherlike upholstered seats almost like a recliner with an adjustable back. It didn't take long for Bob to get comfortable. I woke him as we entered the river area knowing he didn't want to miss the view of the riverfront.

By the time we reached our destination, we were wondering where our next meal would be. After all, we were on a cruise and used to eating more than just regularly. We were in for a real treat this day.

More on St. Petersburg:
St. Petersburg
Catherine's Palace
Church on the Spilled Blood
Pies and another palace

St. Isaac's and St. Peter and Paul

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Russia -- Church on the Spilled Blood

Before heading to the Church on the Spilled Blood, we stopped for a quick lunch at a little takeout cafe that sold what our guide called "blinies." I think it was another name for blintzes or it was the way she translated the Russian word to English. They were basically like a crepe only heavier and wrapped around whatever filling you wanted to choose from their list. Some fillings were sweet and others were like ham and cheese.

As soon as I finished my mashed potato/mushroom filled blini, I dashed across the alley to where there were a few vendors set up and took a quick look at their matryoshka (matrioshka)dolls. The prices were higher than I remembered. Inflation must be hitting Russia too. But there was still room to bargain and I managed to buy a couple for what I thought was a fair price. (If you are shopping for the stacking dolls, be aware that the price is adjusted according to the number of pieces and whether or not each doll is different inside. You can deal better with the cart vendors than in a souvenir shop where prices are even higher.)

The Church on the Spilled Blood was impressive from the outside the first time we saw it but this time we actually got to look inside and stand in absolute awe of the workmanship there as well. The church is built on the spot where Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. There is a section of actual cobblestones from where his blood was spilled from the assassin's bomb thrown at his carriage. The church was built between 1883 and 1907 but closed for services in 1930. Since then it has been scheduled many times for demolition but always managed to survive--as a morgue during the war, as an opera house later. Eventually it was declared to have historic value and slated to be restored as a museum. The first stage of restoration was completed in 1997 and it was opened to the public.

Mosaics adorn the outside and inside of the church building--astounding detailed mosaics. Inside there are religious scenes and depictions of Bible characters and saints. Some they found too heavy to mount on the walls and so replicas are painted high on the walls of the domes where they were to hang and the actual mosaics are displayed at ground level.

Take a look at the detail of one of the mosaics on the pillar and imagine the workmanship, the care and the patience to assemble this kind of artwork on such a huge scale. When I stepped back and thought of the enormity of the project I was in awe of the dedication of those involved in its original building and its restoration. Pardon my God Moment but as awesome as this was, I thought of how God takes even more care in putting together life's most intricate and delicate mosaic.

More on St. Petersburg:
St. Petersburg
Catherine's Palace
Peterhof and the Metro
Pies and another palace
St. Isaac's and St. Peter and Paul

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