"" Writer's Wanderings: May 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ah Italia! - Ocean View

A delayed arrival in Milan due to a delay at JFK in New York started the Italian segment of our latest travel adventure. Thankfully a good tail wind helped make up a little time and no delays at immigration and customs (no custom forms!) got us out to our shuttle bus from Malpensa to Milan’s Central Station with plenty of time to catch the noon train to Lavanto, Italy near the Cinque Terre region along the coast.

We enjoyed sharing a first class compartment with a couple from Virginia and another from Switzerland. Three hours gave us plenty of time to share travel stories and plans, nap, and do some reading. We arrived right on time in Levanto and made our way to our hotel, the Hotel Garden, about a ten minute hike from the rail station trailing suitcases behind. Thank goodness for rollers.

The hotel is actually situated on the second (make that first in Italy) floor of an apartment building. The elevator is only for use by the residents of the apartment but when we rang to be let in, the fellow at the desk came down to help carry the suitcase upstairs for me. We were impressed with the cleanliness of the place but then as he lifted the sunshade that shielded our room from the afternoon rays, we discovered our ocean view left a bit to be desired (see the picture).

There was also a festival of sorts going on in the main piazza that was about 500 feet away from us and we enjoyed exploring the booths that were set up with various foods and crafts. But then about nine o’clock, a band set up almost under our balcony. We were so tired though we fell asleep despite the racket and slept pretty well through the partying that went on until the wee hours.

Things looked a bit better in the morning. We opened the door to the balcony and found that without anyone in the street below, we could hear the surf. And before the lady across the street got her first load of wash hung out, we could actually see ocean.

Ah, Italia!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Worship Thoughts - Weeds

These last couple of weeks, I have been trying to whip my yard into shape. Maybe a whip would be a good gardening tool? Our wonderful spring was also a great time for the weeds to get a good start. Tons of little seeds fell from some tree or bush and with all the sunshine and rain, they sprouted quickly before I was able to do a weed prevention application.

They pull out of the ground easily enough but when they sprout in between the ground cover and bushes, they are hard to see. I examine the area carefully to see if I've pulled them all but it never fails that a couple of them escape notice and then grow into mini-trees in the middle of an evergreen or azalea bush.

When we landscaped our yard about 9 years ago, I was ambitious and loving the fact that there would be lots of sunshiny areas to grow things. I didn't think ahead to getting older, slower, and less mobile not to mention life getting busier. Tired, hot, and weary, I looked at some areas of the yard and wondered if anyone would actually see the weeds if I just let them grow. It was tempting but I knew eventually, they would make themselves known, choking out the good things in the flowerbeds.

Okay, here is the spiritual application that came to mind: How careful are we to examine the areas of our life where weeds take root? Sure it is tedious to keep weeding but just as in my flowerbeds, if the weeding is not done, the good stuff gets choked out. And yes, most of the weeding (of both kinds) is done on my knees.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Backpacks - Not just for Backpackers

One of the handiest pieces of "luggage" to travel with is a small backpack. For years we saw lots of European travelers with them on their backs and just assumed they were "backpackers." Not so. True backpackers heft large backpacks that stretch from their heads to their knees and require a strong back to tote them all over the hiking trails and through the airports.

Our backpacks are more student-sized but they provide an easy access to those things we need to carry on board an airplane with us or just even to venture out on a day's touring. For example, on our plane trip, I put all of my meds in there (never be separated from your medications when you travel), sound-canceling headphones, my ebook, my small HP mini computer, camera, glasses/contact lenses, wallet, and 311 bag (the plastic bag of liquids and gels I want with me). There is also room on the outside in a little mesh pouch for a bottle of water--purchased of course after going through security. And the backpack is soft sided so it stows more easily than a carry-on suitcase.

When we are touring, it is a convenient carrier for an umbrella, a light jacket/sweater, camera, wallet, snacks, water, and a place to stash a few souvenirs instead of having to lug them in my hand. Just be aware to keep valuables down in the bottom of the main area and not in outside pouches where they can easily be lifted by a pickpocket. And trust me, they are quickly about their business before you ever notice them. I've seen some people wear their backpack in front of them in areas where there are more crowds.

All in all, backpacks aren't just for kids and backpackers. They are for the savy traveler as well and you can even get them in fancy leathers--although I would imagine those are heavier to carry. Happy trails!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Books For The Road - Life in Defiance, Mary DeMuth

Just recently, the third book in the Defiance Texas Trilogy, Life in Defiance, by Mary DeMuth arrived on my doorstep from Zondervan. Unfortunately it comes at a time when I have little extra reading time. I will have to shelve it for a few weeks but I did not want to pass up the opportunity to tell you that it is out. If you are like me and read the first two in the trilogy, Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn, you will want to finish off the story and discover the murderer.

Life in Defiance is written from the perspective of Ouisie Pepper, the pastor's wife in the story. She knows who killed little Daisy Chance. As the back cover reads, ". . .she refuses to tell. But as her children inch closer to uncovering the killer's identity, Ouisie has to make a decision. Will she protect her children by telling the truth? Or will the anger she fears silence them all?"

Knowing the depth Mary DeMuth goes to in order to tell a story, I imagine this one will not disappoint. Stay tuned for a review. As soon as I get it read, I'll post. Meanwhile, if you get to it first, drop me a comment and let me know how you enjoyed it. No spoilers PLEASE!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Melody of Language

Last night we listened to a local missionary whose native language is Russian. He spoke passionately about his ministry and at times was a little difficult to follow when his enthusiasm rushed into his speech and made his words a bit kinetic. He reminded me a lot of my grandfather though.

Grandpa came from Bohemia back in the late 1890s. While he lived in this country for over 50 years, he never lost the cadence of his native language. I loved him for it. It was always a delight to hear how he phrased the English words and sentences and to listen to what I call the melody of his language.

My daughter-in-law whose native language is Japanese is very much the same. She has a delightful way of phrasing her English speech that often makes things sound much more poetic than we who have English as a native tongue. It too has a melody to it. Different than Grandpa's Bohemian and the Russian we heard last night.

Our speaker apologized in the middle of his talk for his "broken English."

"Not broken," I told him later. "You just speak English with a beautiful Russian melody."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Grandma Got Run Over. . .?

Yesterday I spent the second of two days in a row working in the yard, pulling weeds, trimming bushes, edging beds--you get the picture. Add to that picture a small front loader, a big bulldozer and a huge backhoe. No, not my tools, rather the tools of the construction company building the house next door.

Our side flower beds are rather close to the lot where the house is being built and the huge pile of dirt they were leveling and using to back fill was very close. I'm no fool. I didn't work on that area of the yard. Besides, the closer I got to the property line the more I kept hearing that Christmas favorite, "Grandma got run over by a reindeer." Only in my head it was coming up John Deere. I didn't want any new songs composed in memory of my potential demise.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Travel Planning?

Each week, I receive reports from Sitemeter for my blog and my website. It is exciting to see who in the world is visiting and what they are interested in. Lately there have been a lot of visitors interested in our trip to Australia. Next in line would be those who are obviously planning a cruise. I hope that the information I've provided will whet appetites for travel, give a few valuable tips, maybe introduce would-be travelers to places they hadn't thought to visit, and/or cause the dreaming to go on. Use the links in the sidebar to check out your favorite travel spots.

Half of the fun of travel is the dreaming and planning. Be sure as you plan though, you leave time to do the old cliche: Stop and smell the roses. . .or the lilies, or the lilacs, or whatever else is in bloom where you are traveling. I am still amazed at the honey smell of the blooms from a eucalyptus tree on Kangaroo Island.

Meanwhile, if you are finding anything valuable here at my blog, please let me know. It encourages me to continue to post and will help me to know what is important to my readers and what they enjoy reading. But if you prefer to just "lurk," gather information, and go on, that's okay too. Enjoy! And explore your world!!

Cruising 1860's Style

I love making new discoveries. Recently I discovered that Mark Twain had written several travel books. I downloaded two of them from the E-book store at Sony and started reading reading Innocents Abroad, a collection of stories he wrote and sent to a newspaper back home as he traveled to the Holy Land aboard a recommissioned ship named the Quaker City.

The Quaker City was a side-wheeler. My first thought was "this has got to be fiction." Who would take a side-wheeler transatlantic? But no, Twain really did make the trip aboard this ship as did a group of others who signed on for an adventure that was quite an ambitious travel plan. It was to leave from New York going transatlantic to the Azores (in 10 days) and then on to Gibraltor. From there they would explore the coasts of Spain and France with optional side trips to Paris and the Alps. The ship would continue on to Genoa again with side trips to points of interest in Italy. Continuing down the coast of Italy to Sicily and then on to Athens, the ship would eventually reach the Black Sea and then explore the countries of the Holy Land. On its return trip, the Quaker City was scheduled to make a stop in Bermuda. Quite an itinerary. I am looking forward to reading his impressions of it all.

Here's a little of his description of his stateroom which was shared with another passenger:

We selected a stateroom forward of the wheel, on the starboard side, 'below decks.' It had two berths in it, a dismal dead-light, a sink with a washbowl in it, and a long, sumptuously cushioned locker, which was to do service as a sofa--partly--and partly as a hiding place for our things. Notwithstanding all this furniture, there was still room to turn around in, but not to swing a cat in, at least with entire security to the cat. However, the room was large, for a ship's stateroom, and was in every way satisfactory.

Can you imagine what he would say about the staterooms of today's ships? Certainly there is a lot more room to "swing a cat in."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Seattle--Tugboat Races

When we were in college, it was always said that there were submarine races down on the Olentangy River at midnight. Of course that was always said by the guys to the girls. So when my son started talking about tugboat races in Seattle, I thought perhaps he was kidding. But no. Sure enough we got down to the waterfront and there were the tugs out along the shore steaming along in several scrimmages. And I might add that tugs are not the slow boats I imagined. They raced past at a good clip.

The Seattle Marina Festival had a great crowd and lots of entertainment. For a small donation, we were able to build small wooden sailboats with the grands and of course enjoy the best part, getting feet wet in the small fountain where the kids floated their boats.

Seattle gets a bad rap for weather but this past weekend could not have been any more perfect. Temps in the upper 60s, a cloudless sky, and a cool breeze. We even got some great glimpses of Mount Ranier, snowcapped and majestic in the distance.

The waterfront area is a joy to wander. Lots of shops and restaurants and those ever-necessary ice cream stops popular with our grandkids (and grandpa too).

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Scoop on Poop!

Years ago when we were walking with our son, Rob, along a trail in Australia, he stopped us and told us to look up. In the tree, just a few feet above our heads was a koala snoozing peacefully. Bob and I had walked right under it without seeing it and I wondered how Rob had thought to look up. I asked. He pointed. There just on the edge of the trail was a pile of droppings--poop by any other name. . .

We received our news magazine that comes with our subscription to zoo membership this week and there in big headlines was "The Scoop on Poop!" It's billed as a "one-of-a-kind exhibit." I'll bet it is. It supposedly takes a "tactful approach to the topic" using science as well as humor.

I couldn't help but imagine the faces of kids lighting up when they see the name of the exhibit. It's a traveling exhibit that will be at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo this summer. If you can't get to a zoo near you that has it, there is a book by the same name upon which the exhibit is based (authored by Dr. Wayne Lynch).

I, for one, can't wait to see it--especially with a grandchild.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Who is Karen Robbins?

I have a Google alert set up for Karen Robbins. It is after all, my name and if someone is writing about me, I'd like to know what they are saying--especially if it's something good. The responses I get to Google's searches are often quite interesting and certainly unnerving at times. Like the time I discovered a Karen Robbins was under investigation for abusing a student. But others who share the name are doctors, lawyers, athletes, and yesterday, I discovered an artist.

It was an interesting turn of events since I had just finished speaking at a Ladies Banquet on Saturday and used the illustration of a glassblower whose artistry created a beautiful design of color inside a dish by using pieces of broken glass in the hot molten glass they were working with. The idea was that God takes the broken pieces of our life and creates a work of joy within us if we choose by faith to follow Him.

Karen Robbins and her husband Dana have a studio in New Mexico and from the pictures on their website, their artwork appears every bit as beautiful as the glasswork I recalled in my illustration. She was also an art education major in college. It was fun to find we had that in common. If we ever make it out that direction in our travels, I'd love to stop in at their workshop.

Have you ever Googled your name? Did you find any surprises?
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