Tag Archives: vacation

Are You Manly Enough to Wear Pom-Poms on Your Shoes?

By Deanne M. Schultz, @DMSwriter

*****

Now that Jess is gone for a couple weeks, it’s a good time to talk about pom-poms. Specifically the kind worn on the ends of shoes. If your grandma knitted her own slippers, she may have stuck pom-poms on the toes just for a sassy affectation, happy about the way they bobbled around as she did her housework.

For those of you who don’t know, Joe and Jess are on their honeymoon in Greece, and if they hit the right part of Athens, they’ll see men wearing pom-poms on their shoes. These guys goose-step around, too, which only adds to their allure. Thankfully there’s no ouzo involved.

When we were in Athens a few years ago, we spotted these guys at Syntagma Square. Our tour guide told us that they were Evzones, members of an elite force that guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And man, were they serious about their duty. They marched back and forth with such ramrod precision that I felt slouchy and undignified in their presence. When they met at the top of the stairs and executed an abrupt turn and marched down, a lady in our group grabbed her camera and started snapping away.

Greece 1Woe be unto her, because the Evzones kept goose-stepping rigidly forward, plowing right past Camera Lady, who almost bit the dust in her zeal to get a good shot. I imagined her, limp and bloodied on the sidewalk, a fuzzy pom-pom sticking out of her nose.

Really, what was the deal with those things? They seemed frivolous and unnecessary, almost humorous when compared with the semi-automatics the Evzones carried. Now those babies I took seriously. They elevated the goose-stepping to a don’t-mess-with-me meanness that made me gulp.

And when I found out that the Evzones’ shoes weigh seven pounds and have nails under their soles?

Boy, Camera Lady was just lucky to be alive, is what I thought.

Our tour guide told us that in the 1800s, when the Evzones prepared for combat, they would hide knives under the pom-poms. If they were captured in battle – fwip! – out came the knife, ready for action.

Greece 2Cool, I thought, mentally elevating the status of the lowly pom-pom to Fuzzy Defender of the Faith. Someone else in our group, a Mr. Historical Know-It-All, challenged our tour guide, saying he heard the pom-poms were used to keep water from leaking in the seams of the shoes. Sorry, buddy, I thought. Water leaking in?? What a yawner. Knives were much more interesting, and gave the soldiers a sinister presence. Water leaking in made them sound like practical gardeners.

So, Jess and Joe, if you’re reading this, head on over to Syntagma Square and check out the Evzones. Hoist an ouzo in their honor, and if you’re secure in your manhood, stick some pom-poms on your shoes when you get home.

Just don’t goose-step around the front yard.

*****

Deanne SchultzDeanne M. Schultz is currently working on The Green Hornet Suit and Other Musings, a book that takes a wry look at life as she sees it. Her hope is that her writing inspires and helps others, moving them to connect with those around them. She blogs at dmswriter – witty weekly writing to inform and entertain.

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51 Things to Do Before Summer’s Over

Are you like me and shocked that summer is halfway over? Where did all the sun go? One moment it was still long pants and sweatshirts, and then we were in insta-heatwave! I went from months of unemployment to jumping into a full time executive job! Since I’m back to my precious 2 days off a week, I’ve compiled a “To Do” list of fun summer activities!

Care to join me?

51 Things To Do Before Summer’s Over

1. Sleep In – Be a bum.

2. Find a new TV show.

There’s not a lot of worthwhile shows on TV now, but you can learn what is out there by reading Tiffany A. White’s blog. Use the downtime to check out a new TV series you’ve been meaning to watch and haven’t. I rent all mine from the Public Library, but their available to rent or stream for free on many online sites as well. Some of my favorite shows ever: Dexter, Six Feet Under, True Blood, Desperate Housewives, The Vampire Diaries, The United States of Tara, Ugly Betty, Big Love, The L Word, and Weeds. What am I watching this summer? Tiffany and Julie Glover just got this girl addicted to Pretty Little Liars.

3. Hit the beach. (Or river, lake, pond near you)

100_12644. Watch it rain, or better yet, thunderstorm.

5. Make a summer music playlist comprised of tunes that remind you of picnics, vacations, and driving with the windows down.

6. Get crafty.

Piper Bayard made her own Grumpy Cat for a blog giveaway. Read all about it here!

Photo by Piper Bayard

7. Write a letter to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile.

8. Drink ice tea.

9. Take a mini road trip. Try a restaurant out of town or go to one of those places you pass by on billboards all the time.

100_224810. Grill out.

11. Have a water balloon fight.

12. Go hiking. Find a view.

Jess on Bluff13. Create your signature smoothie.

14. Go out for ice cream at a sweet shoppe.

15. Cut your hair short (or try a new ‘do).

16. Laze away in a hammock.

17. Take a class you’ve always wanted to. Yoga? Salsa dancing? Zumba?

18. Catch up on summer reading.

Writer/blogger Patricia Sands is partnering up with some amazing writers to offer their books for FREE now thru August 15th! Check out the available titles and stock up here!

Want to win a FREE paperback from my shelf to yours? Check out my book giveaway HERE!

19. Throw a theme party. See some of my faves below.

  • Make your own hat
  • The Beatles – Dress as a band member or song lyric
  • 80’s Night
  • Non-Traditional Student Prom

20. Go camping.

DSCF074221. Read a ghost story. At night. Outside.

22. Complain about the weather.

My comedian friend, Todd Youngman, shared this video with me and I’m still laughing! For more laughs, check out his facebook page! He’s really good at silly comments and photoshop. Once found a picture of him riding a unicorn! Are you jelly? (that’s slang for jealous)

23. Look at the stars.

24. Concerts in the park.

25. Celebrate the weird National Holidays.

  • August 1st: National Friendship Day & National Raspberry Cream Pie Day
  • August 6th: National Wiggle Your Toes Day
  • August 8th: National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Night
  • August 13th: National Blame Someone Else Day
  • August 17th: National Thrift Shop Day
  • August 19th: National Potato Day
  • August 25th: National Kiss and Make up Day
  • August 30th: National Toasted Marshmallow Day

26. Attend a baseball game.

27. Have a clothes swap. Or donate your clothes to charity.

28. Start a secret society. (The first rule about secret societies is you don’t talk about secret societies.)

29. Journal

skywriting

30. Go to the library.

31. Write a novel.  😉

32. Play a board game.

33. Wear sunscreen.

34. Sing a song. Or write one!

35. Do something with those photos stockpiled on your camera. Buy a collage frame or album and show them off!

36. Meet Peachez. She’s a celebrity! She has more followers than I do.

37. Give yourself a mantra. Tell yourself you’re beautiful at least once a day.

38. Showcase some zany lawn art.

100_213239. Learn a new language.

40. Have an adventure. Bring your camera.

41. Host a sleepover. Make pizza. Stay up late.

43. Stay cool indoors by watching YouTube videos that make you laugh.

44. Meditate.

45. Quote movie lines.

46. Take a bath or long shower.

47. Jump on a trampoline. Hoolahoop. Booga Booga.

48. Host your own American Gladiators Tournament.

49. Take a walking tour. Check your library or historical society for local tours.

50. Go bowling.

51. Go to a midnight movie premier.

What other fun ideas do you want to do this summer?

The Road Trip Chronicles: Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse

Hello Travelers!  Last week on The Road Trip Chronicles, I left you all in Wall, South Dakota.  I’m so sorry about that.  I’m here now to welcome you back in the car and take a trip to the Badlands with me!

Badlands National Park:

The Badlands lie between the White and Cheyenne Rivers in southwestern South Dakota.  Claimed to be one of the most breathtaking and architecturally surreal sites by geologists, and even Frank Lloyd Frank, the Badlands don’t disappoint.  The park consists of ravines, ridges, and cliffs in a variety of colors shown in the sedimentary stripes.

The Badlands are also home to a wide population of bison, coyotes, bighorn sheep, deer, fox, eagles, pronghorns, and prairie dogs.

To be honest, I’m not sure what this animal’s name is.  We found a herd of them trekking down the cliff.  It might be the bighorn sheep, more likely just a mountain goat.  Here’s one up close.

Here’s one I talked off the ledge…literally!

And yes, of course we have cows in Wisconsin, but this one just begged me to take his photo!

These critters were EVERYWHERE!

Our first bison sighting!!!

I promise we get a lot closer in Yellowstone, but this was a big deal at the time!

A Swift Fox – Isn’t he cute?

More shots of the beautiful Badlands!

Next stop:  Keystone, South Dakota – Mount Rushmore

Keystone was established as a mining town, known for the Holy Terror Gold Mine, discovered in 1894.  Lovely name don’t you think?  The discoverer/owner of the mine, William Franklin named it such for his wife.  I just love romance stories!  Still, the mine brought in $70,000 worth of gold per week, so not such a bad present after all!

It wasn’t until the early 1930’s that Gutzon Borglum started working on the models that would become the four presidential faces that now look down over the Black Hills.

Fun Fact:  Did you know that in the original sculpture model, Jefferson’s head was to the left of Washington’s?

True.  There are several theories about the change in arrangement of the presidential faces including that Hugo Villa, an assistant sculptor blew away too much rock around Jefferson, thereby requiring the men to start over – a setback that cost them roughly $10,000.  Or perhaps the granite they were working on had too many fissures in that section.  Some speculate Borglum overheard a woman complain that “Mr. Borglum would never carve two men snuggled up to each other like that,” causing him to blast the mountain out of political correctness.  But more likely, Borglum didn’t like the design and adapted his creation.  

-Trivia information from Mt. Rushmore and Keystone by Tom Domek and Robert E. Hayes

I wonder what it’d be like to have my face on a mountain…

If you check out Mount Rushmore on vacation, I highly recommend checking out the Visitor’s Center/Museum.  Great photograph collection and info on the construction of the monument and the crew that helped to build it.  It was both daring and dangerous for the miners that helped Borglum construct his vision.  One of my favorite sections of the museum included old interviews with some of the crew years after the opening of the monument.  One miner talked about climbing up the face, literally, of the mountain and having to lean back and straighten your legs to walk up while others at the top helped hoist you with a rope around the waist.  Instinct would have you lean forward, for fear of heights, that would cause you to slip.  He said many fellows were dragged by the rope, scraping their very noses against the mountain!

Crazy Horse Memorial:

The Crazy Horse Memorial was one of my favorite things this day.  The story behind its creation is a deeply moving one full of dedication and hard work.

It was a Polish immigrant raised by foster care named Korczak Ziolkowski who met with the Lakota Sioux Chief Standing Bear in 1948.  Korczak was a self taught sculptor, and after winning a contest at a fair, was contacted by Chief Standing Bear to construct the memorial that would tell everyone, “We have heroes too.”

Korczak was in his 30’s when he began the memorial, and he worked on it until his death.  His body is buried at the foot of the mountain, and it is his wife and children who continue to progress on the mountain’s transformation.

To give you an idea of its size, all four of the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore could fit within the head of Crazy Horse!  In the 40’s when Korczak started the blasting, there was a 90+ step staircase he would trek up and down each day.  Occasionally, the generator he used to power his tools would wind down as he climbed halfway up the steps with 50+ pounds of tools on his back and in his arms.  One day, Korczak recalls, he had to climb up and down those stairs nine times to continue his work!

This is what the memorial will look like when it’s finished.  You’ll have to forgive the awkward photo, normally this is pulled out on the deck of the museum and shops, but it had poured rain right before we got there and they had it covered under this awning.

You can see there is MUCH work left to do.  The foundation actually measures the work in decades and tons of rock removed.  The newest improvements included blasting out the hole beneath his arm and much of the rock in front where the horse’s head will be.

The project is a slow moving one requiring great skill, and safety, with the dynamite blasts.  And it will take longer still because Korczak, and now his family, refuse financial assistance from the government.  The memorial is entirely funded by public donations.  Korczak was a true believer in the American Dream, a place where anyone can start a project, work hard, and accomplish something truly great.  The family now abides by this dream.

I love the story behind this mountain.  A story of grandeur all around.  Crazy Horse was a nobel warrior who fought for his people during some of the most difficult times in American Indian history.  His memorial now points to the land “where his people lie.”  The Black Hills.  His likeness is not actually known, and Korczak created it with the help of Chief Standing Bear and other tribesmen who knew him.

Thanks for sharing in my travels and mini history lesson!  Have any of you visited these places?  What did you think?  What did you love about the stories behind their creation?  Or if you haven’t been to see them, which one do you want to see first?

Still more to come!  Stay tuned for tales from Deadwood, South Dakota, the old time – and possibly present day – haunts of Wild West characters like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane!

What Do You Buy When You’re On Vacation?

Shopping

When you’re on vacation, you’ve got to get souvenirs right?  It’s part of the fun of traveling, taking wacky photos of yourself “holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa” or sending a post card “Hello From Sunny…”  “Wish you were here!”

Over the last few years, I’ve developed some fun, and funny, travel collections.  These are the things I seek out when I’m away from home.  Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, and reason I started blogging, hence the name, has a chapter in her book where she discusses the importance of collections to happiness.  Rubin didn’t herself collect anything at the time, and during her happiness experiment began collecting bluebirds and placing them around her office.  A keen idea for her work.

Buying something for the sake of a collection in hopes it will make happier isn’t going to last, and I’m sure Rubin knows that.  It’s the meaning behind the item that makes it special, or makes you feel good.

The fabulous blogger August McLaughlin captures the sentimental of things with her charming story of friendship and Five Fab Uses of Object Affection.  Love this post!  Check it out, you probably have a similar story.

My guilty pleasure travel buys include things that make me remember where I was when I bought them and what I felt when I traveled there.

Slide Pens

Top to Bottom: Seattle Space Needle, Toronto CN Tower, Plymouth Mayflower, Keystone’s Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse

Weird, right?  I collect slide pens.  They’re getting harder and harder to find!  As a kid, I remember these pens and loved playing with them.  Now, I collect them from places I go and always reminisce when I write with one about the trip I took.  Since not every place I go has these, I’ve taken to buying any pen while traveling.  For example, my pen from South Korea has images of their currency on it.

Bracelets

L to R: Seattle, Boston, New Orleans, Niagara Falls, South Korea, Niagara Cave, and South Dakota

Another rarity for me, I collect bracelets from trips I take.  I don’t normally buy bracelets because my wrists, heck my arms, are sticks.  It’s hard to find ones that fit.  But for some reason, I always find a bracelet while I’m traveling.  What’s become a better tradition is that I buy 2 and give the other to my sister.  Sometimes hers is a different color, but each trip I take, she knows she’s getting a bracelet for her birthday.  Not only do I think of my trip, but I think of my sister too.

Mugs

New Orleans, Madeline Island, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone

Probably a more common collection, but I’ve just recently started.  It’s a lot easier to pack a bracelet or a pen in your suitcase and not worry about them breaking.  But I love drinking out of my vacation mugs while I’m working.  When I use the Cafe’ du Monde mug, I remember eating beignets and drinking cafe’ au lait while listening to a Jazz band in New Orleans.  My Madeline Island mug reminds me of my weekend getaway with my book club and skyping and interviewing author Jay Gilbertson.  Now, I’ve added two new mugs to my collection.

You know what my longest and biggest collection is?  POST CARDS

Granted I take a lot of photos on my journey, but I still buy, send and save a lot of post cards!  My mom got me started with it as a kid.  Post cards were still cool then.  We were notorious for not having a camera with us, or just using a really crappy one, so my mom would buy post cards to get a nice image of the places we were seeing.  The habit stuck.

I buy post cards of things I may have taken pictures of, but chances are, the post card is nicer.  It’s a keepsake shot.  I like filling my journal with them when I write about my trip.  I also save brochures, programs, and maps – in that sense, I’m a bit of a hoarder, but paper doesn’t take up a ton of room.

How ’bout you?  What do you collect when your traveling?  How did your collection start?  What’s your favorite piece in your collection?

The Road Trip Chronicles: Lessons in Music History and Yard Art

Is it possible to travel for a living?  How does one become Anthony Bourdain’s slightly quirky redheaded co-host?  I’d try just about any food if it meant I can go to Singapore with him.

Yep, I’ve got the travel bug.  Eleven days gone and I wasn’t ready to come back.  Surprisingly to all, Joe and I didn’t get into any fights (well, maybe one, but you’ll have to wait till the Yellowstone portion for that).  Being cooped up in the car for hours at a time until we reached the next destination was manageable.  We each had our selection of cds – Driver picks the music.  It was fun.  I had never been to any of the places we stopped at, so it was a wonderful adventure.

We hit the road at 2 am after I’d finished working inventory at the store.  Joe let me sleep in the car while he drove.  Our first stop was to Vermillion, South Dakota to the Music History Museum.

Scenes from Vermillion, SD:

Joe standing next to the very coveted/very expensive Stradivari-made guitar!

The audio tour of the Music History Museum is really cool.  At each listening station, you can hear clips of what the instrument sounds like as well as its history.  They have some rare instruments from all over the world.  Their prize is a guitar made by renowned violin maker Antonio Stradivari, think Stradivarius…you’ve heard of him, no?  There are only 3 guitars still remaining.  One is privately owned, one is on display in London, and the third is in the Music History Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota.  It’s valued at 3 million dollars!

You may not have guessed it, but I love blues music.  Ever since my brother and sister-in-law took me to a Blues Festival, I’ve loved the sound of a steel guitar.  In fact some of my driving music included tunes by Muddy Waters, Son House, Bessie Smith, and Robert Johnson.  I left my Blind Willie Johnson at home; he’s a bit much sometimes.

Did you know we have Slovakia to thank for that tinny, slide sound of the Dobro?  Jan, Rudi, and Emil Dopyera, from Straze, Slovakia, moved to Los Angeles as children in 1908.  In 1926, Jan patented a resophonic, steel guitar.  He and his brothers would go on to found the Dopyera Brothers, a music company making string instruments.  The term “Dobro”  comes from their name, DOpyera BROthers.  The steel guitar was the early catalyst for electric versions, but blues music hung on the sound the steel made.  It’s wooden brother was known more widely amongst country music players.  Have a listen!

Kraig Kenning is the artist I heard at the Blues Festival and loved the sound of the dobro ever since!  He’s a Slide Guitar Champion.

1978 Resonator Guitar by the Dopyera Brothers, one of the last they made.

The craftsmanship of so many of the instruments was breathtaking.  Look at these Norwegian violins!

Ok, this guy was created by Benjamin Franklin (I don’t recall if he made this exact one, but he invented the design).  After listening to the water glasses of all things, he wanted to recreate the sound without fussing with water levels in the glasses.  Behold his invention!  This instrument is an early form of piano and high society like Marie Antoinette played this in her parlor.

This elaborate instrument was worn as a headdress in the South Pacific region, and acted as a ceremonial horn.  I think it’s watching you…

My favorite instrument of the day was found in this mayuri (peacock) lute from India!  It’s awesome!  I sent a postcard of it to my sister and she told me it was the ugliest post card she’d ever received.  Well, guess what you’re getting for Christmas…

The celebrity section of the museum contained some big names indeed!  Inside this case, the center guitar was played by Johnny Cash!  To the right is his wife, June Carter’s guitar.

Ok, I had more than one favorite instrument.  I was also a big fan of this!  Stan Fritts and the Korn Kobblers used washboards with spittoons and horns attached.  For entertainment, it had all the bells and whistles, literally, for a hootenanny of the time!

What collection is complete without some Beatles paraphernalia?  This Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band trumpet was used as a prop in their film by the same title.

Scenes from Sioux Falls, SD:

Another quick stop along the way was Sioux Falls, SD to the Observatory overlooking the falls.

Our first “bison sighting”!!!

Scenes from Wall, SD:

We made it as far as Wall the first day.  You may have heard of Wall for its umpteen-million billboards for Wall Drug, a run of old west looking stores that pretty much all sell the same stuff.  If you’re still curious, this is what it looks like.

Other scenes of exotic Wall, SD include this random, giant dinosaur.

And my particular favorite, this person’s yard!

I don’t have a clue what’s happening there, but I really like it!

More travel stories yet to come!  Tune in to hear about historic Keystone, SD, home of Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial!  Until then, if you didn’t yet vote in the “What Should Jess Blog About In the Future” Poll, please do so here!  

Travel Necessities: What Do You HAVE to Pack?

Joe and I have been together for almost 6 years now.  That’s a lot of time to bum around new places with someone!  In just 3 days, we’ll be hitting the road and making our way west toward Yellowstone National Park!  While I’m gone, expect some guest posts and photo check-ins, and I’ll be back along the way to chat with you all in the comments section.

For this round of Guilty Pleasures Friday, I started thinking about the things that become travel companions.  We’ve all got some, right?  That pair of worn in shoes you wore backpacking, that old college alumni sweatshirt that’s got holes in it, a favorite fragrance that makes you feel confident?  We may not realize or admit it, but our clothes make us comfortable.  And sometimes, there’s a story behind them.

Take Joe’s UW-La Crosse T-Shirt:

Joe and I in Seattle, WA 2009

Joe and I in Boston, MA 2010

And you know there’d be a 2011 photo, except I’m vain I’m detailed and said he couldn’t keep wearing the same shirt on every vacation we had!

But then, I’m guilty of it too…

Jess’ Adidas Jacket:

South Korea, April 2012

Me with my Book Club, June 2012

And you can be sure there’d be more snaps of this coat too, except I wore it back in 2003 on my trip to Ireland!  Those photos were still developed on film!

I had to laugh when we were both packing for our road trip this week because I didn’t want him to bring the t-shirt, and he doesn’t want me to bring the jacket!  (Shh – It might be going along anyway!)  

I’m also partial to a particular Fossil bag:

New Orleans, LA 2011

Toronto, Canada 2011

N Seoul Tower, South Korea 2012

See, my handbag and spring jacket have been international passengers with me!  They hold a dear place in my heart because maybe sand from the Sokcho, Korea beach is still in my pockets.  Or perhaps that warped leather was from the hail storm I got caught in while in New Orleans.

I never would’ve said I was sentimental about my clothes, but I guess I am.  Maybe when I get back and post pictures from Yellowstone, we can all play a cyber game of Where’s Waldo – only it’ll be where’s Jess’ Adidas jacket cameo?

What travel items do you have to take with you?  Does your partner have one?  Do you love it or hate it?  What makes it sentimental?

A ROW Review

How can another week have possibly flown by again?!  I’m losing my summer days much too quickly!  This past week and the remainder of it has been CRAZY!

The Goals: 

  • Finish First Draft of Women’s Fiction Piece – Write at least 4x week and complete 4-10 pages at least each day.
  • Read On Writing by Stephen King– First book of my Catch up on Craft Initiative
  • Read 2 Fiction Books a Month
  • Prepare for Summer Vacation – Joe and I are planning a road trip out west in 5 days, so I will need to get blog posts prepped ahead, stock up on sunscreen, do the laundry that is mounding in my closet, and corral all the camping gear up in the next weeks.
  • Read Suze Orman’s Women and Money– I’s working on my savings!!!  *jingles piggy bank*
  • Be a Role Model and Cheerleader in my ROW80 Sponsor Role

The Progress (or Lack Thereof…)

  • No writing on the WIP.  I did however do SOME writing in my limited free hours to get blog posts prepped ahead AND exciting news:  prepare the ceremony for my best friend’s wedding!  Yep, you heard me right!  Yours truly, is an ordained minister!  I’ll be performing their wedding 5 days after I get back from vacation!

(Considering I made her cry when I read her what I’d written, I’d say I’m on the right track!  Let’s just hope I don’t cry, or I’ll be dubbed the Blubbering Vicar of Wisconsin!)

Me and my bestie, Cat, at our co-hosted Oscar Party last February! She’ll be the one in white at the wedding. 😉

  • I started On Writing by Stephen King, but then it was due back at the library and I couldn’t renew it.  So, I’ve decided to just go buy that one sometime this week!
  • I did finish reading These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf and I loved it!  So I definitely finished 3 books this month.  I’m now starting American Rose and Girls in White Dresses, which you can see on Goodreads by clicking their images in the sidebar.
  • In regards to preparing for summer vacation, that’s what I’ve been doing in most of my free time this week.  I did laundry, am 85% packed, practiced setting up the tent with Joe, went grocery shopping, and made a trip to Madison, WI where I picked up a really nice camera from my brother so I can bring you all back some sweet photos from Yellowstone!  (And oh yah, for those of you who think I’m accident prone, I made my own First Aid Kit!)  
  • No progress on the Suze Orman book.  HOWEVER…This must go announced:  I am officially DONE paying my student loans!!!  I got my confirmation e-mail yesterday!  Thanks to all of you who sent me congratulatory tweets!!!
  •   I’m of the opinion that one can always do more, so I will keep trying to get to more than just my assigned ROW blogs.  I’m loving meeting all of you and am SO IMPRESSED with your tenacity and unyielding determination towards your goals.  Keep it up, peeps!

 

How is your ROW week going?

Survives Vacation, No Scars

Hello Friends!  It’s great to be back in paranormal Wisconsin!  My week of vacation was full of good weather, helpful maps, easy to ride transit systems, excellent meals, and minimal arguments, which is all rather unusual when you’re traveling with me.  No scars.  😀  I did however keep tradition with the hidden wine portion of the trip.  Shhh, it’s in the coffee cup.  He he he.

My honey and I spent a wonderful eight days in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Things were looking bleak when there were three days to go and I still hadn’t received my passport.  I was planning an elaborate theatrical performance of tears and whimsy whereby I convince Delta Airlines to PLEASE fly me and my boyfriend anywhere in the U.S. for eight days had that passport not come through.  But thankfully (for everyone), it arrived Friday and we left on Sunday.  Toronto is an amazing megacity, made of four or five smaller cities originally.  It now holds 2.6 million people in the Greater Toronto Area from 96 countries and speaks over 140 languages and dialects.  I loved this!  I never saw the same kind of people, it was so different and exciting, this big mix of everyone.  We were sure to take advantage of the FOODS available.  We ate curry, italian, asian dumplings, and drank lots of Canadian beer.  Hey, we’re from one of the drinking capitals of the world!

Outside the Toronto Civic Center, first night in town.

Our first day we became familiar with the city.  We walked around the harbourfront, through Eaton Centre-one of the largest shopping areas in the world, and would continue on to visit the ritzy Bloor-Yorkville District of high end shops and the Royal Ontario Museum, the Entertainment District, and of course the historical Distillery District.

Toronto is actually a major film site and home to many in the film industry.  While we were there, we passed crews several times filming the remake of Total Recall.  Believe me, ladies, I kept my eyes peeled for Colin Farrell, but I didn’t see him.  The film crew did get us pretty good one day.  We were walking up the steps from the subway and looked out the doors to see it raining.  We were groaning and whining because when we stepped on the subway it was just fine.  A guy standing in the doorway started laughing and waving us on, it was the film crew using FAKE RAIN outside, and we had to walk around.  Those silly special effects guys!

The CN Tower

Another must-see stop was the CN (Canada’s National) Tower.  One of the seven wonders of the modern world, the CN Tower is the third tallest building in the world at 1,815 feet.  The elevator you ride up has glass doors so you can see the city as you go up.

Sunset around the CN Tower's Skyline

We decided to go up to the tower at night and view the city lights from the observation deck.  The tower also has a glass floor in one area.  I did not want to stand on the glass floor!  It took several embarrassing moments of coaching with Joe going “Look at me!  Look at me!  Don’t look down, look at me!” before I edged onto the floor and quickly ran off again.  I was not about to pose for a picture!

Joe rubbing it in that he's brave enough to hang out on the glass floor. Big deal!

I was fine on the deck, checking out the city lights, finding the buildings I knew below me.  I just didn’t need a visualization of me falling to my death by splatting across them, cause you know, my track record’s not so good.  *rubs the scar on my nose*

Overall, I loved Toronto!  Truth be told, I love every city I travel to, I love to travel.  It’s a chance to see and taste new things!  Speaking of tastes, have any of you heard of ice wine?  Ice wine originated in Germany, but is mass produced in Canada because the climate is better suited for it.  It comes from grapes that been frozen at about 14° F for three consecutive nights.  Those grapes are harvested late in the night and immediately pressed.  The water inside the grapes has frozen, so you only get about 1/10th of the juice you would normally get from a grape bunch, but what makes it special and worth all the hard work is that the sugars inside the grape have reacted to the cold in a way that makes these juices sweeter.  So, ice wine is dessert wine, more common with whites, but also done with reds.  Joe and I did a tasting at the Niagara College Winery, a new school where students learn to be brew masters.  Impressive, huh?  We did end up purchasing one bottle, it’s a bit on the pricier side because it’s more difficult to come by, but it was an after dinner treat for us one night back at our hotel.

Hanging onto the railing outside on the observation deck of the CN Tower. It was windy!

That’s some of the highlights.  It was good to have a vacation and spend time with my guy, if you knew how difficult it is to get him to take time off, you’d know how much our vacation week means to me!

What were you up to while I was away?  Tell me what I missed!  And please post your favorite blog posts written in the comments section.  I promise to visit all links and comment back for you. 

See you Friday for another fascinating and friendly edition of the #LifeListClub.  Diana Ligaya will be guest posting at my place, and I’ll be over at Violeta Nedkova’s.  Check out their blogs and the other Life Listers by clicking their names in the Life List Club sidebar.  See you then!

Bon Voyage Blog Mash-Up

Hey Writers and Readers,

Yours truly is taking a blogging week hiatus to go on vacation!  It’s a much needed break from work, and yes, even writing, to spend a week with my honey.  We need to put in the quality time with each other, and finally, our schedules have matched up enough to take a trip.  I’ll be back in two week’s time to tell you all about sunny Toronto.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll post in the comments any links from blogs you’ve read or written and want to share with me.  I promise to read them all and leave a comment.  Plus, you’ll make sure I don’t miss anything fabulous while I’m away.

I’m sharing with you a quick mash-up of awesomeness to peruse through while I’m off.

You can read about my meltdown and why this vacation is perfect timing in Writer Meltdowns: A Case of the Mean Reds, my Life List Club guest post over at the amazing Gene Lempp’s Blog.

Pam Hawley, my secret east coast twin, shares her writing tips in a fun-flippered way in her guest post at my place Sit, Waddle, Scoot and Swim.

Kristen Lamb served up a slice of self-discipline that was just my size in Self-Discipline-The Key to Success.

Amanda Rudd discovered one of her favorite science fiction writers was actually a woman!  She sleuths out the truth in Is He a She? Using Pseudonyms to Hide Gender.

Tiffany A. White’s got the Ooo Factor on Long Lost Childhood Reads.  Share your favorites too.

Selena Wolff shares with us her tarot spread and the karmic balance of relationships in Tarot Tuesday-Love and Relationships.  Very interesting read for writers and readers alike.

Sonia Medeiros is hosting a blog prize giveaway in her post 100 Posts…What? Already!  Go stroll down memory lane with her and maybe you’ll win a prize too!

And announcing the publication of my awesome friend, Mark Petruska’s book, No Time for Kings, here him discuss the self-publishing route and what it feels like to see his name on the book spine, and he also complains about the price of eggs! Congrats Mark!

Lafayette Cemetery

     I have an obsession with graveyards.  I must have been a groundskeeper in a past life, although my paralyzing fear of insects contradicts that possibility.  Maybe I was an archaeologist?  I also like to look at bones.  In fact I have an uncanny ability to find bones in cemeteries.  And NO, I’m not digging them up!  I just wander where others don’t I guess and maybe move a rock here or there, but that’s a blog for another day…

The photos in this blog were all taken inside Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans, LA.  The Lafayette Cemetery is located in the Garden District of NOLA, which took me a half hour bike ride, a 10 minute walk through the French Quarter, across Canal Street, one streetcar (the green line), plus walking 15 more blocks to get to.  Might I suggest a driver?  Or at least a bigger map?

In my previous post about the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, I explained about the four kinds of tombs located in the graveyards and showed photos.  You can check out the history about that graveyard here.

Most of the tombs in Lafayette are family and society tombs.  I think the wall tombs here are some of the longest as well.  The markers for the tombs can be really interesting to read.  Some are sad, you’ll see tombs where a family’s children have all passed at young ages.  However there’s also a tomb in the corner where one man’s first and second wife are buried with him!  Crowded much?

In the St. Louis Cemetery post I also talked about the difference between restoration and renovation when it comes to preserving these crypts.  Just like the Save Our Cemeteries organization, Lafayette is part of a research project that involves mapping, tomb and name listings, and historical exploration.  For more information about the Lafayette Cemetery Research Project, check out their site!

I think one of the most fascinating things about this cemetery is the diversity within its walls.  It was built on property owned by a French plantation woman in the 1800’s, Madame Livaudais.  Since its French beginnings, it has come to be the final resting place for Civil War soldiers, Creole Americans, German immigrants who became merchants and entrepreneurs in the New World, and the Irish immigrants who did all the dangerous labor of the day.  It even houses a few families of African descent.  Because of this, the cemetery remains non-denominational.  A side note of which allows Lafayette to be filmed for movies, television, and documentaries.  The Catholic Church has forbidden further filming in the St. Louis Cemetery after Peter Fonda’s LSD trip in the film, Easy Rider took place on one of its society tombs.

Looks cozy, no?  If you’ve ever heard that New Orleans crypts are “Nature’s Crematorium,” that’s not exactly how it works.  I did learn that New Orleans uses wooden coffins to this day to place the bodies in the crypts, but they don’t really cremate inside them.  It would have to get MUCH more hot inside them.  These tombs are more like a crockpot, hot enough to decompose over time, but if you only want your ashes left around, you really ought to opt for the fire.  Tombs still in use remove the markers, break the plaster wall, and bag any remaining bones for DNA purposes, and then sweep the bag into the back of the tomb where it drops into the pit.  This practice allows generations of families to be buried together.  It’s not uncommon for some of these tombs to hold more than 40 people.  Imagine the family feuds possible over that timeline!

There’s something beautiful about the variety of graveyards we have.  The architecture, the historical significance, the climates and locations they’re built upon, the people inside all hold such interest.  I haven’t met too many people that aren’t interested in cemeteries; it’s anthropology when you think about it.  To think the crypts of New Orleans began as a solution to burial problems of the sandy, swampy, below sea level city have now become a major tourist attraction and warranted preservation societies like the Lafayette Research Project and Save Our Cemeteries.

What do you think?  Do the variety of burials in our country interest you?  What about them? 

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