Autumn Walks


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Nan at the zoo.

I began the day today with a walk at Mesker Park Zoo with my friend/walking buddy, Nan.  I didn’t take my camera because our goal was walking and I knew it would slow us down since I’d have to photograph everything I saw.  However, I did have my iPhone, of course, so I took a few shots and processed them when I got home using some of the iPhonography apps and tools recommended by the fabulous Rad Drew when he addressed the Fine Art Camera Club recently.  I’ve been meaning to do that, anyway, and had planned to spend today studying various photography materials, so mission accomplished!

Below are a few of the exotic animals we saw.




The autumn colors have suddenly become much more pronounced this weekend, and I was really feeling the need to get out with my “grownup” camera and take some photos of the foliage.  I noticed in driving to and from the Zoo that the trees in and surrounding the cemetery across the road from the zoo were very striking.  And there’s something about the dying of autumn and the commemoration of the dead that seems so sadly beautiful.  So later in the afternoon, I returned to the cemetery and captured some images there.

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Stations of the Cross

Taking the Long Way on Route 66


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(Click on images to view full size.)

The drive on three Interstate highways from home to Albuquerque is fast and long.  Boom, boom – hundreds of miles of Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico roadway flying past.  However, if you’re willing to slow down, you can drive most of this on the old Route 66, the Mother Road. I’ve driven the 1208-mile Interstate route several times and viewed sections of Route 66 at 75 mph, thinking, I need to take this trip on the old road one day.  That day came this summer.

Planning a drive to Albuquerque to visit my daughter and her family,  I decided to to add an extra day to the trip and spend part of the drive there on Route 66.  I kept thinking about how much more fun it would be if someone went with me, but couldn’t really ask anyone since I planned to be in Albuquerque for two weeks.  I was bemoaning this fact over lunch with my friend Jane. When it dawned on us that it was possible to book a one-way fare with frequent flier miles, she was suddenly coming with me!  My best friend was sharing the adventure! Road trip! The planning continued in earnest as we both studied maps and books and online resources.

Day One: Saturday, July 25, 2015

Route66-07-2015-0001About two weeks later, we hit the road.  We joined Route 66 in St. Louis with, appropriately enough, ice cream!  Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is famous for both its location on the old Route 66 and for its “concrete” shakes.  We opted for the special of the day, a tricked-out butterscotch sundae, and acquired our first Route 66 souvenirs.  While we were thrilled to be at this famed iconic temple of frozen confection, our consensus was that the ice cream tasted a whole lot like, well, pretty good ice cream.

Route66-07-2015-0026On a sugar high, we proceeded, partly on the old Route 66, partly on Interstate 44 to our next stop, Meramec State Park, home of the famed and totally kitched-out Meramec Caverns.  Among the caverns’ claims to fame are their service as a hide-out for Jesse James and assorted outlaws and as a filming location for episodes of the Lassie TV series.  The caverns are truly magnificent and their discovery and history is a fascinating story. Hundreds of people are led through the caves daily on guided tours that highlight their natural wonders and their legendary past.  Cameras and iPhones snap away in the dark capturing dim memories of the natural wonders and the lit displays of scenes depicting early miners and outlaws.  It was a refreshingly cool break from a sweltering summer day, and we felt thrown-back to the heyday of Route 66 when families flocked to roadside wonders guided by beckoning signs all along the route.

Jane orders road food.

After a couple of hours of cave exploration, we were ready for an another authentic Route 66 eating experience, and we found it a few miles down the road at the Circle Inn Malt Shop in Bourbon, MO.  This diner was satisfyingly Route 66 in its black and white tiled decor and was peopled with locals most of whom sat at the counter in overalls and plaid shirts smoking and visiting.  In a nod to road-food tradition, we ordered hamburgers and fries, and Jenit (Dutch spelling), our waitress, provided background history while we waited.  The Circle Inn, she told us, has been family owned and operated for four generations.  Jenit and her husband owned the local drug store.  After her husband’s death, she ran the business until competition from the chains caused her to sell.  The Circle Inn owners are family friends and they lured her into helping at the restaurant for Fish Fridays, their busiest night.  This led to her eventual full-time work, which she loves.  While we were there, locals wandered in and out chatting, smoking, even occasionally eating.  It was a bit of culture shock to be in a restaurant that still allows smoking, but it added to the sense of throwback to the heyday of old Route 66! And I suspect that the local smokers appreciate a haven for their habit.

Our goal was to reach Carthage, Missouri, by evening where we had a reservation at the Boots Court.  So we headed west on I44, planning to get off the Interstate onto the Old Road for Devils Elbow, a stretch much admired by the writers of our tour books.  We did drive through part of it, but missed quite a bit of it, as it was a struggle to find the route on our maps, a common situation we found throughout the journey.

Route66-07-2015-0035The Boots Court proved to be one of the highlights of our trip.  Lovingly restored by two history-loving sisters, it is managed by their childhood friend Debbie, who came out of retirement to live and manage on-site after they completed the first phase of the old motel’s restoration.  The sisters used grant funds from the National Parks Association along with their own resources to restore the property to its 1949 condition.  With an emphasis on authenticity there is “a radio in every room” tuned to the local station playing music from the era and providing local news.  So far, eight rooms have been restored, including the one that Clark Gable slept in with its adjoining private carport.  The restoration is both authentic and incredibly clean and fresh.  We felt transported to the fifties! Debbie is filled with pride for the project and generously shared information about the local history and Route 66 “must sees.”  After checking in, we took a walk to nearby downtown Carthage and viewed the beautifully ornate old courthouse on the square before purchasing snacks and retiring to our room for the night.

Gallery of Images from Day One.  (Click on image to view full size.)

Day Two: Sunday, July 26, 2015

Route66-07-2015-0143After breakfast at The Pancake House next door, we discussed nearby points of interest along the Route with Debbie.  She highly recommended Red Oak II, built outside of Carthage by local artist Lowell Davis.  She told us that if we were lucky, we might even get to chat with the artist, whose home is there.  Deb’s enthusiasm convinced us that we had to visit Red Oak II before we left the area.  We weren’t wrong and we were lucky, for shortly after we arrived and began wandering around this fascinating living work of art, we ran into Mr. Davis, and he became our tour guide. Here was a man who relishes the role of eccentric old artist – and does it very well indeed!  He beganRed Oak II some thirty years ago on his farm property there.  Primarily a sculptor and a painter, Davis had grown up in the original Red Oak, which by that time had become a virtual ghost town. He began buying up old buildings from there and other abandoned towns in the area and moving them to his farm property.  He restored the buildings and added his own sculptures to the site, creating a living whimsically historic work of art. As we wandered the property with him, he shared stories of his life, his artistic philosophy, and of his ongoing and constantly evolving project.  Red Oak II, he said, is created from materials other people have thrown away.  One of the buildings he purchased, moved and restored is the small country church that sits on the property. He felt that the hillside next to it would be perfect for a small cemetery.  In addition, he wants to be buried “where I lived my dream and made my art.” So he placed a stone there that will ultimately be his marker.  He surrounded it with grave stones he “recycled” from a local carver.  These markers had been rejected for one reason or another by the families who had commissioned them.  He had to agree that he would either obtain permission from the family of the deceased to use the stone, or he would obliterate the actual name on the stone.

Lowell Davis enjoys his pipe while we eat popsicles he provided.

The artist in his garden.

It was hot that morning as we wandered through the village, so Mr. Davis offered us popsicles and we ate them in the eccentric garden behind his house as the roosters wandered through and he told us how he met and married his third (present) wife. He met her on a trip to Korea with his artist friend, Samuel Butcher (the creator of the Precious Moments figurines and the nearby Precious Moments Chapel).  He and his wife live in the house once occupied by old west legend Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen.  His wife, he told us, was presently visiting in New York to “restore her sanity,” but he invited us into the house to view it and his art that decorated the walls.  There we met his daughter who lives nearby and was helping out in his wife’s absence. (For more information about Red Oak II, click here.)

More images from Red Oak II (Click to view full-sized images.)

Route66-07-2015-0156-EditAfter spending most of the morning at Red Oak II, we headed for the Kansas stretch of Route 66 around 11 AM.  The Old Road cuts through just a corner of Kansas and includes Galena, home of Cars on the Route (formerly 4 Women on the Route until only one of the original owner/operators remained).  The “Cars” of the name refers to assorted vintage vehicles parked in their lot, including the tow-truck which they claim inspired the character depicted in Disney’s Cars movie.  Disney, of course, with their usual copyright paranoia, will not allow them call him “Mater.”  Included in the vintage gas station building was the requisite gift shop featuring Route 66 memorabilia and a small diner with the classic Route 66 black, white, and red chrome and tile decor. Here the short-order cook served up our second hamburger lunch of the trip from the minimalist menu: hamburgers, hot dogs, fries. Later, while we were browsing the gift shop, the attendant was making a count of visitors who had signed the registration book since the beginning of the year.  On one side of her sheet were ticks for US visitors and the other side for folks from other countries.  Surprisingly, the ticks were about even, with hundreds of visitors counted on each side of her page.  Indeed, we had seen a number of foreign visitors at the various sites we visited along the way.  It seems that the Route 66 journey of nostalgia is very popular among visitors to our country.  It made me wonder if their vision of the US is of a rural landscape with small towns along two-lane highways dotted with dusty neon-lit motels and cafes filled with simple folk selling fried food and kitch.


Swimming is no longer allowed, but you can walk in the belly of the whale…and his mouth and tail.

Our intention was to visit Baxter Springs, Kansas, in a bow to Jane’s last name, but we realized that if we were to reach our motel in McLean, Texas, before nightfall, we need to boogie on down the Interstate.  So we hopped onto I44.  We did decide to get back on Route 66 to visit Catoosa, Oklahoma, home of Mother Road icon, the Blue Whale. With all the hype typical of tourist attractions along Route 66 we expected the the road to the Whale would be well marked.  However, we wandered through quite a few miles of countryside, then some of it again before finally asking a local for directions.  And there it was…a somewhat faded version of it’s blue glory.  It was formerly a delightful giant mammalian entry to a small lake, but no swimming is allowed any more.  But we could walk into its mouth and onto the diving platform of its tail.  And, of course, there was still a souvenir shop on the property.  Onward to Texas!

Route66-07-2015-0174As we approached the McLean, Texas, exit off of I44 a little after nine that evening, we saw an enormous column of smoke ahead.  Police were routing traffic through McLean at what was fortunately our exit for the motel we had booked for the night.  When we arrived at  the Cactus Inn, the receptionist was clearly shaken.  She told us that she had seen the huge explosion on the highway from where she was.  She saw a truck drive by, then it exploded.  We were sick, sure that there was no way anyone could have survived such a huge explosion and fire.  When we left our room to check out the next morning, however, the clerk pointed out a couple using their cell phone on the parking lot.  They were, she told us, the occupants of the truck. They had survived the explosion and had been brought to the motel the night before by the emergency responders.  I spoke with the couple to tell them how happy and relieved we were that they had survived such a horrible fire. They told me that they heard an explosion and suddenly the truck was on fire.  Both managed to flee the truck but her cell phone was all they had left. Even his shoes had been provided by a volunteer fireman.

Route66-07-2015-0178Route66-07-2015-0183A word about the Cactus Inn.  It, too, is an historic Route 66 hotel.  But unlike the Boots Court, which is old and restored, this one is just old.  However it was adequately clean, very inexpensive, and ultimately a significant addition to our Route 66 adventure. (Click on pictures to view full size.)

Day 3: Monday, July 27, 2015

Before leaving McLean, in the spirit of our Old Road experience, we had breakfast at the Wagon Wheel in downtown McClean.  The food was good (who can mess up bacon, eggs, toast, and orange juice),and the decor was, guess what, black and white tile with red checkered tablecloths!

Route66-07-2015-0202Our goal for this day was to visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Texas Panhandle several miles south of Amarillo.  The morning was very hot and dry, but fortunately, this site can be toured by car as you wind through the canyon to view its many layers of rock and stunning mesas.  Called The Grand Canyon of Texas, it is the second largest canyon in the U.S.  This landscape is such a departure from the flat stretches of the Panhandle along I40!

The iconic leaning water tower near Amarillo

Another Route 66 icon, the leaning water tower near Amarillo.

Palo Duro Canyon - Such a surprise in the flat dessert stretches of the Texas Panhandle!

Palo Duro Canyon – Such a surprise in the flat dessert stretches of the Texas Panhandle!

Heading west!

A few miles down I40, we pulled off onto Route 66 again, this time to visit Adrian, Texas, home of The Midpoint Cafe at the halfway point of old Route 66 between its endpoints in Chicago and L.A. We had hoped to eat lunch at the Cafe, but the kitchen was closed for the day.  However the souvenir shop was open, of course, and I purchased my requisite Midpoint Cafe coffee mug.  Obligingly, they had the perfect half-way photo op set up outside with old and new windmills and the gorgeous Texas planes in the background. We headed west toward our Albuquerque destination.

Our next pull-off was Tucumcari, New Mexico, because how could you not stop in a place named Tucumcari?  Once famous for its “thousands” of motel beds, it’s still filled with some of the best neon along the road including one of the most striking at the beautifully restored Blue Swallow Motel.  Sadly, it was still light out when we photographed it, but even at that, it was worth the detour.

Our final stop before arriving in Albuquerque was at Clines Corners – just because there were so many signs for it, we felt compelled. And we needed gas.  It is, as promised, a GIANT truck stop on I40 with every kind of, you guessed it, souvenir imaginable.  We managed to buy only gas and arrived at our destination in time for one of Bret’s wonderful dinners and began our visit with him, Rachel, and the world’s best grandchildren. And we still weren’t far from Route 66.  One of these days I’ll have to do a thorough pilgrimage to all the Mother Road icons in Albuquerque!

Albuquerque - flowers and Sandia Mountains

Albuquerque – flowers and Sandia Mountains

Living the Dream in Someone Else’s Dream Come True


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lakedistrictB&B001 copy-2We’re in a rental car driving the winding English roads. We’ve just left the Cotswolds and are heading up to the Lake District.  It’s a scene out of my dreams of pastoral England.  It’s early June, after all, and the countryside is lush and blooming.  As we near our destination, the scene to our left is a landscape painting of Northern England’s sheep farming country. The land rolls up and down as far as the distant rugged hills.  Fields are delineated in an irregular scrawl by ancient low stone fences and are dotted with sheep and cows grazing on the lush green grass.  To our right is a hillside painted with a lavish display of floral abundance only an English garden can create. And winding up the hill to a structure barely visible through the trees and flowers is the drive to our home for our sojourn here.  Moving through the floral paradise, we arrive in the clearing to see a sprawling single-story Victorian house.

Our hostess, the tall, perfectly weathered keeper of the floral paradise, greets us and shows us through the house with obvious pride in this lovingly created step back into the Victorian past.  The walls are bedecked with flocked wallpaper and hung with portraits and landscapes in gilt frames.  Flower bouquets are everywhere.  The furniture would be recognized and loved by your mother’s grandmother.  And our room is spacious and sunny and an old-fashioned haven for travelers who prefer to imagine rural England as it was a hundred years ago.

Over breakfasts in the next couple of days, we learn more about the home from the loquacious host, a former taxi-driver and present day tour guide for the area.  It seems that many years ago, when their now grown children were young, our host drove a taxi while his wife raised the children and ran a small hotel in the nearby village. In his comings and goings he had driven past this property many times.  It was deserted and overgrown for many years, and he was intrigued.  Then one day, he saw a for sale sign in front of it. He went home to his wife and insisted that she come with him to see the property. “Are you crazy?” she replied, “I’m way too busy taking care of the children and running this hotel to come with you to look at some abandoned overgrown property!” He persisted for many days, and eventually, probably to shut him up, she agreed to take a look.  They had to fight their way through overgrown weeds and underbrush to get up the hill to the house.  She walked in, wandered through the deserted, abandoned, and somewhat decrepit house and said, “This is my home.”  They bought the property and moved in with their four small children.  At first the water and lights were not working and she would take the children across the road to bathe in a stream on the hillside. Gradually, they lovingly turned it into the home and bed and breakfast it now is.

Note: This posting is in response to the Day Two assignment of Writing 101:
A Room with a View – If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

Writing 101 – Day One – Unexpurgated Free Writing


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Read at your own risk.  Know that it took all my courage to push the Publish button on this one!


Wow, free write for twenty minutes.  As a former English teacher/English major I know this is a great writing exercise, but I have to admit I’ve never tried it for myself.  My first thought when I read the assignment, since it’s late in the day, was to look at others’ posts to get an idea of how they approached it.  Then I thought, Nah, I need to just jump in and see what happens.  I’m a little unsettled about the task because when I write I want the results to be correct and polished (see English teacher/major).  And after all, free writing should be, well, free.  Ok, so I’ve covered the topic of the topic, so what do I write about?  My mind is usually full of so many different topics, but now they’ve all taken a brief (20 minute, I think) coffee break.

I’ve been thinking lately about my old boss whom I both admired and dreaded.  I worked for him for 25 years and at times he drove me nuts because the two of us were so different, but as time went by I mostly grew to admire him.  He taught me so much about striving for excellence in my work, about being organized and professional, and about his mantra, which was “incremental improvement”, or, as he dubbed it, incrementalism.  Because I’m a not-so-closet perfectionist about my work, whatever it happens to be, I remind myself about incremental improvement still – even in retirement.  Anyway, I just heard that my former boss will be undergoing heart surgery, and I hope with all my heart (excuse me) that it goes well so that he can continue his own retirement which began with a year or two in Hawaii because he always loved the beach and has since moved to the Northwest where his grown children live. Damnit!  Life begins again at retirement for those of us who welcome it, so I hope he lives long and incrementalizes.

So, my retirement.  I tell people that I was born to retire.  Not that I don’t want to work…I still work.  I just want to work at what I choose and devote my time and energy to what I want to do rather than what I must do.  The Wise Ones are always saying that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.  I think for the vast majority of people, this is just bull shit.  We work at what we have to in order to make a living.  If your work is what you choose, that’s great, but things rarely turn out to be the way you think they’ll be or you want them to be.  I mostly wanted to be a teacher, but teaching is very demanding work and requires most of your time and energy and very often seems to be for naught.  So spend 25 years doing it, and you’re ready for other choices.  Fortunately, I have many interests and am very rarely bored. I’m more likely to be frustrated because the time disappears before the projects are accomplished.

I feel so fortunate in my life.  Although I grew up very, very poor and with a lot of dysfunction in my family life, I was able to go to college and ultimately to build a good life for myself.  I made many, many mistakes and have many regrets, but mostly I’m happy.  I have enough money to get by and to do most of what I want to do, within reason.  I have may people to thank for this.  Timer’s up.  Wheewwwww……

Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy, Happy Everything


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jellybeansIt’s Easter Sunday today, and since my children are grown, my grandchildren are far away, and I am not religious, it’s just another Sunday for me. However, having been raised in the Christian tradition, or more specifically, the Catholic tradition, I can’t help but think about what I am not celebrating. I do not embrace Christianity or any other specific religion.  On the other hand, I don’t fully embrace atheism, either. While I do not believe in an omnipotent god who created, controls, or interacts in the affairs of the material world, I do believe in individual and collective spiritual reality. I also believe in good and evil and that both are present in the world and engaged in ongoing battles.  I hold many beliefs, yet do not have nor feel the need for a “belief system.”   I think that once you put a name to something, it is definable and limited.  My beliefs are constantly changing and growing as I live and learn.

So now that we’ve examined the tip of my personal philosophy iceberg, back to Easter!  In addition to its religious traditions, it also signifies spring!  A rebirth, growing, green, blooming!  And, unfettered sugar!  So, today I give myself permission to eat as many as I wish of the jelly beans given to me by my lovely sister who knows I love them and to anticipate the caramel dark chocolate bar given by my other loving sister.  Both of these people embrace all aspects of the holiday, and I thank them for sharing the sugar side with me.

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!



liebster awardLike most egomaniacs people engaged in social media, I like to be noticed and recognized, so when A Life in Libraries nominated me for the Leibster Award, I was flattered.  But fame has its price, as I soon discovered in reading her nomination post. You don’t get to just blather on about yourself.  You have to find ten other people to nominate, create questions for them, and then contact them.  Of course, I can’t refuse such a profound honor. But, let me start with the all about me part and save the work sharing for last.

  1. Why did you start blogging?
    Hmmmm.  I want to have a record of important happenings in my life.  I also find that when I write I uncover thoughts that I didn’t realize I had. I like the creative outlet for my words and my photos.
  2. What time of day do you blog?
    In the morning is best, but sometimes I start in early evening and forget to stop.
  3. How old are you?
    On April 22, 2015 I’ll be 67.  Send cake.
  4. What are you wearing?
    My PJs (Thank goodness I already answered question 2!)
  5. What’s your favorite color? Why?
    Golden yellow.  It’s the color of sunshine.
  6. Do you have pets? How many, what kind, and their names?
    My cat is named JJ.  He has incredible green eyes and thinks he’s a dog.  We call him a cog.
  7. Who is your role model/hero(ine), and why?
    Tough one.  Depends on “what for?”  But the answer that immediately sprang to my mind was: my Mother – she was the strongest, kindest woman I’ve ever known.
  8. What’s your favorite movie?
    Impossible to answer.  I love movies and go to them all the time.  This would be an essay answer for sure!  Maybe a blog post in the future.
  9. What’s your favorite song?
    Amazing Grace, but not for religious reasons.  The music is beautiful, and I’ve always identified with “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”
  10. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
    Paris. (But there are people I’d have to take with me.)

OK, for you lucky folks I’m nominating here are the rules of the game:


  • Each nominee must have under 200 followers
  • Thank and link to the nominating blog
  • Answer their 10 questions and propose 10 new ones for your nominees
  • Nominate 10 blogs and tell them that they’ve been nominated
  • Write a post containing the questions
  • Include these rules in the post

(Isn’t this how epidemics start?  Really, though, the idea is to draw attention and followers to relatively new blogs.  I promise to nominate good ones for you!)

And here are the questions you must answer:

  1. If you could have dinner with a famous person, living or dead, who would it be? What would you ask her or him?
  2. Do you cook?  Why or why not?
  3. What’s your favorite hobby?
  4. What are you learning about now?
  5. What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever visited?
  6. If you could have a talent you don’t currently possess what would it be?
  7. Dance or sit it out?
  8. What have you read lately?  Was it good?
  9. Tell me about a really good book you’ve read.
  10. Post a picture of someone or something you really like.

And now the big ta-da!  Here are the lucky nominees:

Rendezvous en New York
Womanseyeview’s Blog
Galaxy Jane Cruises the Universe
Be Kitschig

I can count.  I know that’s only five nominees, but I’ve already devoted far too much of my day to this and other blogging activities.  So would each of you answer twice, please? Thanks.

Nothing Is Fresher Than Spring…


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…and nothing says Spring like the first crocus.

flowers-2-101In my part of the country, Southwest Indiana, spring can drag its feet, but it usually arrives some time in March.  March can also be dreary, rainy, cold and stubborn.  But as soon as the sun peeks out and temperatures rise a little, up pop the crocuses.  Mine are almost buried under the encroaching underbrush of the woods behind my house.  But sure enough, they poked their little heads through the dead leaves today just in time for the official first day of spring.  Green is coming!

flowers-2-100Funny, Day 11 of Blogging 101, which BTW I’m doing a few days late, instructed us to reply to a prompt in the Daily Post.  I went there looking for the writing prompt and saw the daily photography prompt, which was Fresh.  Immediately the photos I had taken this morning of my crocuses popped into my head.  So here they are.  I’m doing a happy dance. (No picture of that available.)

Quote of the Day


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“People who love to eat are always the best people.”

                                                                                 – Julia Child

Ironically, this quote comes directly from a dish towel.  I don’t know if Julia actually said it, and I suppose I could look it up on the Encyclopedia of the Internet for veracity’s sake.  But I want to believe she said it, so I’m taking the word of my dish towel.  I also want to believe that it’s true because I love to eat, I love to prepare food, and I love to hang out with other food lovers.  My family is very good in this regard.  In fact my niece is responsible for the towel – it was her contribution to our family’s Christmas gift grab, and I grabbed it.

pie -2My family and many of my friends and I love to prepare food and then talk about food while eating.  In fact, in an act of extreme self-sacrifice and good food sportsmanship several of said friends and family members showed up to eat pi-e when I planned a last minute celebration on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53.  It was a monument to our desire to commemorate a once in a lifetime mathematical event.  Plus, I make damn good pies.  They were the talk of the evening.

Blogging 101 Days 8 and 9 – Get Lost in Venice


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I Wonder as I Wander

Venice1 copyA number of years ago a friend and I took a trip to Italy.  We were on a guided bus trip, but for us that just meant transportation and sleeping accommodations.  Our real guide was Rick Steves.  We had his Italy book, and he was our guru.  When we arrived in Venice, Rick said, “Get lost in Venice.”  His point was that the best way to experience that place was just to wander.  It’s an island, for heaven’s sake, you can’t really get lost! He was completely right, of course, and wandering the streets and backways of Venice was the most charming and memorable part of our whole trip.  All these years later, I can still picture the quiet little squares lined with ancient houses and enticing shops and cafes and bordered by canals with boats out of your dream of Italy. And guess what? We made it back!

That experience popped into my head more than once while navigating the assignments for these two days, which were to visit new blogs, browse, view, read, and possibly leave meaningful comments.  Heading into the complicated web of streets that is the blogosphere (and not even the entire blogosphere, just the WordPress portion of it) felt like getting lost.  One blog or link led to another where you might pause to visit and admire or have a chat, then to another where you might look in briefly then pass on by. In many instances, I couldn’t tell you why I arrived at a particular location or how to get back to it. Finally, since we were asked to link to some of our favorites, I began making notes about some blogs that I loved so that I and others could find our way back to them.

As with any good travel experience, I learned a lot. I learned about some of the people who blog.  I learned about what appeals to me when I’m spending my time in the blogosphere. I saw a variety of formats and styles in both the way people express themselves and the way they present their material.  Some of what I saw and read inspired me to examine and improve my own blog.

Great Destinations: Blogs I Loved

I like to read blogs that are well written and articulate.  I love visual interest – photos, drawings or other art work, interesting typography and formatting.  And, of course, topics that appeal to my interests – travel, art, photography, reading.  Here are a few that I found and plan to follow:

Deformedly Gracious

  • Stories both fictional and nonfictional accompanied by delightfully whimsical drawings
  • A favorite post: Moscow Metpo

My Truant Pen

  • Writes about everyday life, weather (she lives in New England-snow central), and my favorites – books and writing
  • Well written, nice photos

And, importantly, the blog listed and linked in the comment below

All of this brings me to part III of today’s post:

An Open Letter to Michelle and Blogging 101

[The format of the below is inspired by and with great respect for one of my new favorite blogs, Sincerely, Becca.  This blog is beautifully written and illustrated and alternates between completely moving and hilariously funny.  One of the writing formats she uses is the letter written to individuals or organizations.  Here’s one I particularly loved: “Dear eHarmony, Should I Talk about Back Fat in My Profile?”]

Dear Michelle W. and Blogging 101,

I can’t decide whether to hate you or thank you!  On the one hand, you have given me the tools and motivation to reactivate my blog and experience other people and even other places.  You’ve encouraged me to think and write more creatively and to communicate with other bloggers.  I feel more mentally stimulated than I have in a long time.  My blog is looking better and better. And I’m super excited about all that I’m learning.

On the other hand, I’m spending hours thinking about what to write, writing, grooming my blog, and strolling through the labyrinth of other blogs. And you’re feeding my technology addiction.  Now, in addition to checking Facebook and email on a regular basis and getting lost in all that information, I have blog checking to add to the distraction. Furthermore there’s the increased vanity, not to say self-worship, of checking all these locations to see if anybody’s talking to me or admiring my clever comments and creative genius.  In the meantime, my house is beginning to look like someone broke in and ransacked it.

OK, so let’s see: learning, new writing and creativity, mental stimulation, and communication with others vs. a clean house and a less inflated ego.  Hmmmm…. THANK YOU it is!!!