introductions…

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So, my daughter and I have been travelling since she was itty bitty, to use an expression that she thinks makes her feel too small for the grown-up 10 that she is now. But we have. I come from a long line of kin with what is commonly known amongst us as “wanderlust”. We get yearnings to be other than where we are – see the world. Enjoy another culture, explore another part of this amazing world.

I’ll start by back tracking and sharing thoughts from early adventures before posting about the tastes up-coming travel.

Hopefully this will be fun for all!

 

working backwards to go forwards

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I could start this all off with the first plane trip the girl ever took – heading off to the UK when she was no bigger than a minute. I could start somewhere in the middle and get completely muddled. So, to keep things straight in my head I’ll work backwards to go forwards.

Clear as mud?

Good!

Last summer found our wandering feet heading to London. 2015 was my 25th anniversary of studying abroad during my university days – ah, time, how you do torment one!

Five years before (that’s 2010 if you’re keeping track) the group of us that had studied together had an impromptu reunion in Alabama where our college is located. It was good to see most, great to see a few, and some were hard to ignore – though not for a lack of trying. We talked about how great it would be to have the 25th reunion in London – stay at the house where we had lived and studied and just enjoy going down amnesia lane. So I started planning, emailing the university to set a date, send in a deposit, etc. The years came and went and more people dropped out, which was disappointing, but the hearty few were determined to go and have a great time.

Memories from July 2015…

Currently, we’re back in one of my favourite cities, London. 25 years ago I was a student here enjoying studies, theatre – lots of theatre on the cheap, museums, and there day weekend outings. It was wonderful. Now I’m back with my daughter and we’re just taking things as they come. Oh, there will be things that I want to share and show her and there are things that she wants to see and do as well – she’s been reading up and she knows some of the sights from movies and telly. This trip is slow and easy because we know we’ll be back. But also because jet lag is tough and AEB takes change in a way I never did. She loves to explore and be new places, but she’s also a homebody. She likes her home and her routine there, so it’s important to try and help her balance the feelings of wanting to be home with the joy of exploring places away from that.

The day we arrived we checked in and took a short nap, (and a much needed shower!), and then “hit the ground running” because it helps with jet lag recovery time. We got out and walked, and walked, and walked. We explored Kensington Gardens to find the statue of Peter Pan and enjoy the Italian fountains. We walked up to Albert Hall oo-ing and awing over the gilded statue of Victoria’s beloved Albert. I told AEB that if she wanted to grieve for me upon my death with a gilded statue that would be fine, but I would much prefer something a little more understated. She agreed.

Day two she requested an outing to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, something I had never gone out to see before. As we walked up to the gates we burst out singing, “they’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace“. I suppose it was too touristy a thing for my all too grownup university self to do. But then, it’s also one of those things that, if you live in a place, you forget to do. Like if you grow up in NYC and you never go to the Statue of Liberty, you live there. You figure you’ll get there sometime, but then you never do until some out-of-town friend comes and wants to go, so you go. So, we watched the pomp and circumstance of it all. We weren’t on the roundabout/Victoria memorial in front of the palace, but at the side gating so we saw quite a bit, but missed the parade down the Mall to the palace. It didn’t really matter because we saw a lot with an unobstructed view so there’s nothing to complain about. Our girl kept asking if the band was playing “God Save the Queen”. “No dear, they’re playing ‘Let It Be Me’ (the Everly Bothers if you didn’t know)”.

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And we rounded off the day with a trip to Paddington Station to visit the bronze statue of Paddington. They’ve moved the statue from where it had been to under the large clock on platform 1 where the film of “Paddington” had the Browns seeing and meeting Paddington. It took a while to find it, but find it we did. The last time AEB was next to the statue she was about half the size she is now. But it’s always good to see an old friend once again, even if he is made of bronze.

…continued in the next post…

I have waited for the longest time…

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In my last post I mentioned the dream that waited and waited and waited. It feels as if I have wanted to do something with my enjoyment of Shakespeare for the longest time but I’ve been unsure of how that was going to unfold, when it was going to unfold. Often times life gets in the way as we defer things that would make us happy and feed the should because the right things has to happen for the betterment of the whole. In 2005 I became a mum, a single mum, and all of life stood still to care for and protect my girl. I’ve not stopped living, don’t get me wrong, but in many ways my desire to care for another put me on hold so that the future and care for another could be the focus.

There are those that would say by putting me on hold I gave my daughter a bad example and that by not pursuing my dreams I taught there that self-care is not important. On that I disagree. What I told her was that there would come a time when she wouldn’t need me as much and then I could go back to my dreams and dust them off, but until such time SHE was the important focus of my life. I took an evening acting class once a week when she was around 6 years old. It was tough not to be around to tuck her in but I wanted to see if I could do it and what I could learn. It was a challenge and people told me I should be dragging her along for my scene partner rehearsals, but the scenes I worked on were definitely 6 year old material – Angelina Ballerina and Postman Pat they were not. I couldn’t see myself dragging her along to suffer through several hours of rehearsal time because I needed her to “suck it up and deal”. So, I learned that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my girl for my dream. I was, in the words of Aaron Burr in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”, I was willing to “wait for it”.

Time went on and life started to feel like I might be able to start looking for possibilities and then my Dad’s health took a turn and the dream went back up on the shelf. I won’t go into details, it’s not important in the narrative here. Last year he died and it was a blow but a mercy as well. I miss him somethin’ fierce sometimes. When he died I wasn’t expecting a legacy. We spent so much on getting him into a retirement facility that could take care of him so I knew better than to expect anything from him. But oddly enough something did come. When it did it was a complete and utter shock. When I told my mum about it she told me that I wasn’t to put it away into savings.

Seriously?!? I should put it away and let it grow.

No. You must use it on yourself. It’s what your dad wants. Use it.

For what?

You know what you need to use it for.

??? … blink, blink.

Use it for study.

Study? What should I go study? Study?

Yes, study. And you know what to study.

Shakespeare?

Shakespeare. Find a program and let’s make it happen.

So, I found a program. I knew exactly the program. I’ve been following the Shakespeare Institute for years. So I started there. Why? Well, besides the course of study they work extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). So, theatre and Shakespeare together developing into something I know not what but know I want to explore with guidance and support for those that can see where I might be headed before I even do and can help me focus my currently scattered thoughts and ideas. I took a deep breath and pulled out a couple of old essays on Shakespeare from university days and decided on a play, ordered a new version to read and annotate for myself, scoured JSTOR for articles on my thesis and characters, rolled up my preverbal sleeves and got to work. It felt wonderful to exercise the brain in this particular way once again. It felt so good to be thinking and writing, and exploring in a way I haven’t in too many years. In the meantime, I participated in online inquiry sessions about the program and figured out which program I wanted to apply for. The Institute has three different MA programs: Shakespeare and: Teaching, Creativity, or Theatre. As a teacher there was the thought to go in that direction. As someone interested in the theatre there was the thought of go in that direction. I chose creativity as I felt it would give me a broad brush to paint with and explore either of the other two within a space that might have me thinking in a different way than if I had been more specific.  Finally getting the essay into shape I sent in the application and then tried not to think on it too much. Waiting can be very nerve wracking.

And then COVID hit. A worldwide pandemic of proportions we haven’t seen since the Spanish Flu in 1918 to 1920 and effected 500 million people globally. And the world stood still – literally. The world went into lockdown. Well, not all of it but we watched as nations shutdown to keep their people alive, safe, and well. And we waited and watched and hoped.

Getting admitted was wonderful, a great feeling of achievement for me having been away from academia for mumble mumble years. But then the questions started….

Is this really going to happen? Will it be safe enough to go? Will this have to be online? Will I still have the chance to work with the RSC? How is this going to look? What about school for my girl? And on and on….

COVID is still very much a reality. Thinking otherwise is dangerous. Everything from now on has to be thought of with regard to this virus that has stolen so much from so many. Futures dreamed of are gone. Lives lived are gone. Jobs gone or taken online for the fortunate. Suddenly people were essential or not in ways they weren’t before. Privilege highlighted in new ways. Families separated by social distance or death. Weddings postponed. Funerals performed with no one there to mourn with the immediate family. It’s all still happening. And yet life goes one, but defined in new ways, sometimes unsatisfactory ways.

And then the RSC closed and cancelled the rest of the season to keep everyone safe. And the landscape of what I had thought would be happening changed. What it has changed into I do not know but we, my family and I, decided to do was go on. If the campus was going to open, then we’d go. If this, having to lockdown from time-to-time, wearing a face mask out, having limited access to people, is going to be the reality for who knows how long, then why not be part of the thinking? Why not go and be part of the creation of ideas on how to do whatever we can however we can until such time as we can gather as before and not as before. There will be so much to explore and work out — I want to be part of that. And so we go.

“And all the fair effects of future hopes.” -Two Gentlemen of Verona (I,i,47)

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It’s been a minute since I posted last. We’ve stayed closer to home the last couple of summers and I have been dealing with health issues which make keeping up a blog less inviting as this hasn’t been a personal blog in the sense that I’m not interested in airing “dirty laundry” or “spilling the tea” on my personal story. But now seems like a good time to rethink what this blog is and will be as I move forward. I originally set up the blog to share travel adventures of myself, single mum, and my daughter. Usually this also includes my mum, Grammy. We all three live together and manage to co-habit without too much trauma, tears, or therapy bills. Yes, that’s right, we all live together, by choice. And no, I don’t use my mother as free childcare and we share the bills. We happen to enjoy each other and know how to live together as adults. I may seem strange to some that I didn’t somehow fail at life and went cowering to my mum to lick my wounds and live with her. We decided that we didn’t want to live alone and that sharing a house might be a good thing for all concerned. But that is really an aside to get to the fact that things are changing and we are about to embark on a new journey in life and no one wishes to be left behind.

So, with that said this year’s posts, or at least this academic year’s posts, or starting now and the posts following will take a turn in what they convey within the confines of this blog.

There may be a bit of travel, but mostly I’m going to be chronicling something a bit different. I’ll create a news category and figure out if there are features I can include to make it clear that this is not the normal travelog of the past. Things are happening, have been happening to make a big change for me and my family.

Okay, enough of the suspense. Here it is, with drumroll, please…

We’re heading to the UK for a year!

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I have been accepted for a course of study in Shakespeare for the 2020/21 academic year at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute. I will be participating in their MA course for Shakespeare and Creativity. Anyone that knows me even a little, knows I like ma bit of Shakespeare. Okay, it’s more than a little, but it doesn’t put me in the category of being like the neighborhood crazy cat lady, or the fella that collects Toby mugs, but Shakespeare stuff instead. I’ve enjoyed the works of Shakespeare since I was in grammar school and participated in an all school production of Twelfth Night. I was hooked. Mostly I worked on costumes as I played a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I and did a little dance during the interval so I had I lot of time on my hands. I was in 7th or 8th grade and  knew how to sew when the high school costume crew head did not. I spent my afternoons re-aligning eye hooks and reattaching zippers, and cinching in waistbands on Slops (Breeches). It was great fun and another point in Shakespeare’s favor as far as I was concerned. And so a love of words, poetry, and theatre was planted and nurtured along the way.

As a teacher I loved nothing more than to delve into the works of Shakespeare and help students navigate through the text and unpack the language and action of the work being studied. In grad school a took a Teaching Shakespeare course. It was a bit unsatisfying as there was so much reliance on the easy way through/around Shakespeare. Shakespeare has to be watched to be fully enjoyed of remotely understood. For awhile I bought into that. I passed out the Shakespearean Insults and had fun with those, I pulled out the VHS tapes of the play we were reading, and did all the “trick up your sleeve” things that I was taught, but…. But I also felt like they could handle the words, handle being meaning makers with the text.

My last year I taught full-time I had students choose one of four scenes from the play we had studied. They would take a scene and do all the things one would have to do if it were a full production. They would choose the director, choose someone to design costumes, someone for set, someone for stage manager, and so on and create a prompt book and film the scene. It was fantastic. Four groups, four totally different settings and approaches, and rationales that were thoughtful and well developed. I’ve worked with theatre groups with less of a rationale for their productions. Allowing creativity and allowing the words to become their own really helped them become meaning makers which gave them power – power from words of a writer in a different era and yet still speaks profoundly to a modern audience, a modern classroom of students. I love that.

So for years I’ve wanted to explore Shakespeare more deeply but haven’t been able to figure out how or when. It’s been a dream for so long it’s gathered so much dust its hardly felt like one that would ever come to be achieved. Sometimes in life a dream has to be put up high on a shelf out of reach. Okay, let’s face it, more likely than not dreams get lost on the shelf behind the demands of life and the need to pay bills. Sometimes the dream just sits there gathering dust until it disappears completely. Sometimes the dream sits back there looking for all the world as if it will never come to pass, but it still gets looked at from time-to-time and held dear in the secret heart. And then sometimes, for the dream set aside, the dream gets taken down off the shelf, dusted off, re-examined, and finally nurtured into reality. For me, that time is now for one particular dream.

I’m excited and terrified start this part of my journey. I’m not just out of college and I’ve been out of academic circles for more years than I care to name. But it’s time. And my daughter reminds me that it’s my turn to care for me and let her do this for me so we can go do this as a family, as hard as it will be to leave out support systems behind. And so we go. I am so grateful that that my daughter’s father sees value in her coming along for this and is helping to make it happen. I know the sacrifice it will be to only see her a few times during the school year before summer holidays. I know that it won’t be easy missing out on her first year of high school. But I am thankful. And, of course, mum won’t be left at home! So we all go. There will be much to share over the coming weeks. But for now, I hope you can share in our delight as we plan for a year away from our normal routines and lives to step out into the unknown. I hope you will join us in this vicarious manner.

 

 

On the Rails towards the Land of Disney

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This is an old trip, two summers ago, but since I never stopped to tell about it I figured taking care of some backbloging might be in order since I seem to be on a bit of a roll with the writing thing.

We’ve been on the train before for long haul trips. We took our first train from Washington, DC towards Portland in the summer of 2012 on the Empire Builder. It was a wonderful trip, even with derailment delays and rerouting and not fully getting to see what we had planned on seeing. So we were looking forward to the new trip. This time we were to take the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles. We wanted this route as it would take us along the route that plays a prominent role in my mum’s Last Crystal trilogy. She wanted to make sure that what she remembered from her first trip was accurate so that the place setting would be true.  She was taking notes for the final book so we all went along on the train ride that took us to Los Angeles and then eventually to Anaheim and Disneyland! I won’t actually tell you about the traveling itself as some in our party did not pack things to keep “entertained” with so were rather grumpy along the 40+ hour journey. But there are interesting people to find a conversation with if you’re willing to start with a simple “hi” or “is this seat taken?” in the observation car.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Disney. I’ve gone through cycles of really loving the movies and the tv programs to really loathing them. I grew up with Sunday evenings being filled with supper in from the The Wonderful World of Disney and the movies/series they produced. And have hated some of the liberties taken with favorite fairy tales and legends. I never forced the movies onto my daughter, to some extent because they are rather terrifying and to another we don’t have cable so she wasn’t exposed to the channel of non-stop Disney stuff. I asked her once when she was in the second grade if she wanted to go to Disney World (lots of her friends were going with their families) and her response was, “Why would I want to do that?” So as we drew nearer to visiting Disneyland with my cousin and her husband who are true Disney fans she had one stipulation⎯KEEP ME AWAY FROM THE PRINCESSES. I did remind her that Disney was more than princesses, that they owned the Star Wars franchise so there would be plenty for her to enjoy other than running in the opposite direction should a Disney heroine other than Rey or Leia make eye contact.

I wasn’t expecting to fully enjoy Disneyland. I was expecting to enjoy the company of family, but not the park itself. However, being that my cousin and her husband and fans, go every opportunity that they can get away, are planning their retirement around joining the Disney family I had a blast!

We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa all the staff, or cast members, were lovely to interact with. Checking in was easy, getting to our rooms was simple, and the resort was well laid out. And best of all it had its own entrance to the park itself so no waiting in massive front gate lines, just the lines from one part of the park to the other but once the first rush got through there was really little waiting time and this was in July. AEB’s uncle (okay, so technically he’s a second cousin-in-law, but I decided a long time ago that children of my cousins’ should call me aunt as it was less confusing and didn’t leave me feeling like I needed to sit at the kids table because I was being called “cousin” by 3 year olds.) took us to the pool to relax and settle in before taking her to The VOID to immersed in Star Wars before hitting the actual parks the next day. AEB loved it! And begged to go back but uncle Richard only goes once because the story doesn’t change and he wants to keep it enjoyable. Bummer. But good on Richard for standing firm and not caving in to her puppy-so-sad eyes. He even bought the girl her first pair of mouse ears. They’re Star War themed and flash, very cool!

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poolside relaxation

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the VOID

 

One of the things that Disney does is try to help families by creating all inclusive packages. And I have to say that helps a lot. Many families have budgets that they absolutely can’t be flexible with and being able to plan a vacation that lets you know what you’re going to spend is so helpful. Of course, there are always the take homes that aren’t part of the package and you can get caught spending more on the credit card on a watch or the chance to have lunch at the Blue Bayou Restaurant with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride floating past you at regular intervals.

There were plenty of rides for those that aren’t into roller coasters or being turned upside down. So there really was something for everyone. Of course there were characters walking about the park and you could have dining with certain characters if you wanted, but we were there to enjoy and be led around by the professionals.

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nightly fireworks really does make for an incredible evening experience.

I’m sure I could say more, but since I was going with the flow and just enjoying myself and others did the planning. If I were to go again I’d probably do the same and find a time to join up with Shannon and Richard and just tag along for the ride. Being at Disneyland is a bit like being around bubbles. It’s hard to grumpy around bubbles, they just make people happy. And that, I suppose, is why they say it’s the happiest place on earth.

 

Taking a Moment for Ourselves

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So, this year has been bumpy. So bumpy that I’ve not stopped to work on updates here at all. But time moves on whether we are ready for it to or not and so I am now making time for some posts to catch up.

The year started out with my dad in and out of hospital. Eventually he died surrounded by friends and family. That blow, while not wholly unexpected, was a blow none-the-less. Then my health has been not that great over the last few years and finally came to a head at the end of June. I’m about to get a bit personal so if you’re at all “squeamish” Skip down to the next part. I’ll put ✤ at the start of the next bit so you know when you’re safe.

I have been deal with a rather large fibroid for some time which has made my menstruations something to fear. I had explored options other than a hysterectomy to deal with the issue and eventually had a fibroid embolization done to cut off the blood flow to the fibroid and get rid of it. Well, it worked so well I “gave birth” to the fibroid, but not all of it. I went in for surgery hoping that the rest of the fibroid could be removed, but knowing that it would not be so easy and I’d have to have the hysterectomy I’d been avoiding all along. I came out of surgery with one less organ than when I went it. Thus I spent most of my lovely summer on pain killers and just trying to recover from the surgery. Fortunately, it was done laparoscopically so it wasn’t the recovery of a full cutting, like for a caesarean birth.

✤ Okay, you’re safe now!

So, having had the surgery and recovering. It was time to give our family a little time away from it all and enjoy a bit of vacation time. AEB wanted to go to the beach, so I started hunting places to go. We’ve been to Delaware, Maryland, and North Carolina beaches so I thought I’d search for some new beach that sounded interesting. I settled on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I’d heard of Hilton Head before, but knew very little about the island. When I’m going into a new place and planning for the family I feel pressure to plan something where no-one is going to be disappointed. My greatest fear is that I will have planned something and it will all fall to pieces at my feet like a washed out sandcastle. So, with fear in my heart, I started to look for places to stay.

I settled on the Sonesta Resort at Hilton Head. It had good reviews, though sometimes you have to take these with a grain of salt. And it seemed to be a good location on the island. There were some complaints that things were expensive, but being a resort I figured things would be more expensive. But my bigger criteria were that the rooms looked nice and spacious and it had beach access which I thought would mean it wouldn’t be as crowded as other areas of the beach. And the overall look of the place seemed inviting. I found a lovely reduced rate on TripAdvisor (I did look at Expedia and Travelocity for comparison and they seemed about the same so there really is no rhyme or reason as to my going through one over the other. I am, admittedly, a bit of a price whore and will go where I can find the best deal possible.) and so I held my breath and made the reservation. We were going in August so school was getting started in the southland so the place wasn’t as heaving as it might have been had we chosen to go in June or July.

We went the “long way” as as we were wanting to see friends along the way and breakup the driving time. We ended up stopping in Greenville, SC to see an old friend. In my youth, when we moved to New York City so my father could take on a pastorate there was a man who became known as the “pumpkin man” as he always brought me a pumpkin come Halloween. Mr. K eventually moved to the city and worked with my dad, but upon retiring he and his wife moved south to be nearer their grandchildren. We did drive further out of our way, but sometimes you do the right thing for the right reason, not because it’s convenient.

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Mr K with mum and AEB

We then made it Hilton Head Island and got ourselves settled into our room. We were greeted by very personable valets/bellhops who helped us figure out where to park, took our bags up, and gave wonderful information about the island with recommendations for food and explorations. The room we had enjoyed a view over the front of the resort, but the palms and the Spanish moss made the parking lots more bearable. But truly, we weren’t there for the view but the beach and the island to explore. The room, I will say, was wonderful. There was no smell – no must, no mildew, no overt fragrance from the cleaning products or washing powder. Since Hilton Head can be very humid it was wonderful to be a room that fought the humidity. I am sensitive to fragrance and do have asthma so it’s important to me to be in an environment that is comfortable for me. The room ticked all the boxes for me.

We decided to eat at one of the restaurants at the resort. It was pricey, but we were expecting it to be, but the food was very nicely done. Living in Maryland meant that we weren’t going to be doing crab, but trying any of the other seafood options. I had the shrimp and pasta and they did not skimp on the shrimp. I came to the end with shrimp for every bite. AEB had the salmon which is her go to choice and she complimented the chef. For dessert I was convinced to try the Key Lime Tart. I was disappointed. The crust was not very flavorful and the filling was rather grainy and not as lime-y as I felt like it ought to have been. It was beautifully presented, but ultimately dispiriting.

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points for presentation but negative points for flavor – disappointing

AEB wanted to swim before bed so we sat a let her enjoy the pool before heading down to the beach to see how close our room was to things. Our first night sunset was spectacular.

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I hardly read as I enjoyed napping and people watching far more than the book I brought.

We brought our own beach chairs and umbrella with us but the lifeguards will rent you chairs and an umbrella if you don’t have your own. We left our beach things in our car and then unloaded every morning. At the Sonesta they share the property with apartments and other living/rentals so the beach house for the community is open for folk to load and unload for easy beach accessibility. Most days we decided that we wanted to enjoy the beach in the morning, pack up in the afternoon, enjoy something on the island in the late afternoon and find some fun place to eat, come back to the room and then an evening stroll on the beach before just relaxing in our room with a movie or something else. We were there first and foremost to unwind, relax and enjoy the downtime at the beach and not really there to go to museums or other venues available for us to enjoy. Maybe next time.

Our first full day we enjoyed the beach and then went and had supper at Captain Woody’s which had been recommended by one of the helpers at the towel hut by the pool on our first evening. The food was fresh and really tasty. We had the place pretty much to ourselves as we were really eating a very late lunch and early supper. Then we just drove around to get a sense of the island’s size and finally a stop at the Piggly Wiggly to pickup some luck items so we could take a cooler down with us for the rest of the week. Though we didn’t have a kitchenette we did have a refrigerator in the room so we could prepare lunch to take with us.

Days 2 – 4 were filled with beach, more exploring, and good food. We enjoyed exploring the shops at The Sea Pines and specifically Harbor Town where the famous candy stripe lighthouse is located.

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Harbor Town Lighthouse 

 

The Sonesta has turtle feeding in the afternoons where guests can help feed the turtles in the large pond on the property. The turtles are so trained that even if you stand for some time at the edge they will all start making their way towards you in anticipation of a treat. One afternoon AEB and I were coming back to the beach and found a baby turtle trying to make its way across the path. I imagined it getting squashed by some unthinking child or adult and so I took my flipflop off and scooped it up and moved it across the way in hopes that it would find friends and not become a seagull or pelican’s next meal. I used my flipflop as I didn’t want to get my people smells on it in case that would mean its doom.

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We enjoyed ice cream at Hilton Head Ice Cream. They make their own and have interesting flavors like: Spumoni, Lemon Custard, and Kalua Chip. It was worth the stop after a day at the beach.

We also ate at the Quarterdeck Waterfront Dining one evening. We got in just before the rain of the evening arrived. The food was lovely and our view was made enjoyable as we watched boats coming and going and supper cruises getting ready to set out for the evening.

Our last evening we visited The Black Marlin for supper. So good! We ate outside and enjoyed the bayside view as well as the live music that started while we were there. It was a nice way to end our time at Hilton Head. We got back and decided to try a kite that we had brought. It was far too windy to get it airborne but it was fun trying.

Ultimately, we enjoyed just being together and having the downtime that we all felt that we needed more than anything. We all three highly recommend Hilton Head Island for the beach and the warm water. The rest of what the island has to offer: the shopping, the food, the museums, etc. we dipped our toes into but will have to wait for another visit another year. But don’t take our word for it ⎯go and find out for yourselves.

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The Journey Home

It’s been a long time since I wrote about our travels. We’ve been on a few more adventures since the road trip. But life has been happening around us and time to stop and reflect has been pushed aside for other things. I do stop now because the journey is changing and not everyone is coming along for the rest of the trip. I’m not ready to write about it, but I leave this here for those that know us and may not have heard the news.

We’re going to miss your presence, dad. 2 July 1940 – 7 February 2019

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Next train ride

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Now that mum’s first book is up and out in the world for others to enjoy it’s time to turn our attention to the next two books and summer travel plans.

Last summer we drove across the United States. It was awe inspiring and brutal. I only had two weeks vacation time and that’s what we did – across and back in two weeks and a couple days (we had couple of sick days on the road). As the girls said, “I want to do this again, but next time…NEXT time, we are renting a caravan and taking a month!” I agree. Whole heartedly I agree!

It was a a feast for the eyes. The United States just about has every sort of landscape you could want to explore, expect for rain forest or fire swamp with R.O.U.S.s. Our route started in Maryland and had us follow along I-70  mostly because of this sign:

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just an image I found on the internet. i don’t own the rights to it.

Which makes me want to just keep driving until the bitter end. We took I-70 into Colorado and then veered off. From Maryland I-70 takes you through a sliver of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and into Colorado. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but beautiful. Once in Colorado we started moving up and into Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and then into Washington. On the way back across the United States we followed the coastal route into Oregon and California before starting back across and going through Arizona, New Mexico, a bit of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas,  Tennessee, a corner of Kentucky, Virginia, and back into Maryland once again. Whew!

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both are from Rocky Mt. State Park near the continental divide

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Wyoming 

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how many of you know about the Stonehenge of North America? look it up! It was the first memorial built to commemorate WWI in the US

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Puget Sound, WA

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Oklahoma

This summer we decided to let someone else do the driving. We’re doing another train trip. This time we’re taking the Southwest Chief across. It’s something we’ve talked about doing after our first train adventure on the Empire Builder several years ago.  While the United States put their money into an interstate road system and not the rail system it’s still a great way to see the landscape. If you’ve travelled Europe it’s no Eurorail. It’s not always easy to get from a train station to a town you think might be worth exploring. I used to work at a Bed and Breakfast in an American Civil War town and I always felt bad for Europeans that were trying to backpack and rail their way across. It’s not like doing it throughout European countries and towns. But it is worth doing it you can deal with the quirks of the US rail system as it is.

We haven’t planned much further than getting things booked. And once in California there will be time to explore Disneyland, but the girl is more interested in the possibilities of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She’s never been overly enthusiastic about the Disney princesses, but I think there will be plenty of things she’ll like once we get to actually explore the Magic Kingdom of Disney.

 

let’s not make this a habit…

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what? two posts in a row? how’s this happening?

I suppose the shameless plugging of my mum’s new work of fiction has me figuring out every possible angle of getting the word out. Yes, she’s my mum, but it’s also a work that’s  a good read. She’s a story-teller by nature. I am not, so I know a good story when I hear it and I’ve been hearing them all my growing up and all of my own girl’s growing up.

This particular tale, this story started even before I was thought of as being in existence. The germ of a story, which is now the seed for the last book of the trilogy. The first two books came out of as my mum shared the story with her granddaughter who had questions, lots of questions and wanted to hear more and so the story grew, as good stories do. Think Tolkein, or C.S. Lewis. Stories that weren’t quite finished with one telling of a particular tale.

It’s been a fun process to watch and be part of as a bystander and somewhat reluctant participant. I got roped into taking the photo for the cover. Since the story takes place along the Santa Fe trail heading to California with a wagon train we wanted to get as near the landscape as possible. We have family in Kansas and Missouri so off we went for Thanksgiving to get our trail shots. We thought it would be a photograph with title, etc. on it, but it morphed into something quite wonderful instead – if I’m allowed to toot my own horn, which I will.

Here’s what happened…

 

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author staging the cover’s look

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trying to get an uncooperative dog to sit still. what’s the saying in show business,                    “never work with animals or children”?

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first photograph chosen for first cover ideas

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I used the Waterlogue App I had on my smartphone. It’s a pretty nifty app that allows you to do what the title says, turn a photo into a watercolor. Mum didn’t want the characters recognizable as actual people so that no one would have a specific idea of what the characters should look like. It’s important for each reader to picture the characters as their imaginations will. However, this ended up bleeding too much and didn’t feel like an image that would convince anyone to pick it up and read the contents.

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this photo was settled on next as the cover layout was continuing to take shape (the photo below)

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cover trial 1

I flipped the image from above for the first full version of the book cover with title, author’s name, and back information… still not quite right.

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the photo finally settled upon was the one used above, but the author didn’t want the characters to be clearly seen. She wanted them to be blurred enough so anyone reading the book could imagine them as he/she pleased rather than having a specific image in mind already. I used an App by Alien Skin called Snap Art and the Colorful Oil Paint preset was settled upon. 

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the painting setting for this one was Vignette Oil Paint by Alien Skin which we used for the back cover images as well. I used an App called Art Text to create the title image. The cover still wasn’t quite right but it was getting there!

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The copy editor sent his own idea which shifted our ideas about what the cover could look like. So, working with the author, aka Mum, we finally settled on what became the final cover. The font for the title is called Professor Minty which the publisher’s copy editor used in his creation. 

It was a journey to get it right, but I think it looks pretty good. Now we know what we’ll be aiming for when the second and third books of the trilogy come out. Mum’s working on editing the next book at the moment even as she plans her launch for later next month.

Mum’s own story of things can be found here

Long time no posts

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It seems like it’s been forever and a day since I did anything over here. Life has been moving – sometimes at a snail’s pace and sometimes going at warp speed through the galaxy.

But I wanted to share some news that’s pretty exciting for the bolin girls. The grammy that is often on our adventures with us, if not plotting and planning them for us, has been published! She’s been working a trilogy that is for middle grades, but it’s enjoyable for anyone.

We’re please to announce that it’s available in ebook format as well as paperback and hardback. She has a website where you can check out the first book in The Last Crystal trilogy, The Black Alabaster Box, book 1 and where you can find one to add to your bookshelf – actual or virtual.

Here’s the cover to get you even more interested and intrigued in the story…

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my trouble with blogging on the road

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So, I have found that on this particular trip it has been almost impossible to stop and write down the chronicles of this particular adventure. It has just been all get up, drive for 7 hours, stop to sleep, get up, drive for 7 hours, etc. with very few pauses to collect thoughts and put them down within the annals of this blog. I feel a bit like we’re running a race to see where we can get to fastest only to pause and start the race again. I know my daughter feels this way – “we’re not getting to SEE anything or DO anything interesting!” is the main complaint. And, quite frankly, I agree. We aren’t really stopping to enjoy any one place or another. But mostly that’s the time constraint of a two week vacation time frame for getting across and back so that I am back to my job in time. Having been a teacher for many years being in a job that has a two week vacation package is tough going. So this trip’s journal is mainly going to be a collection of pieces that recounts and reflects with other goodies thrown in for good measure.

Let’s see, we last left you as we were heading out of Indianapolis, Indiana having spent the night in the Pullman car and continuing our journey west…

We first met a relative for breakfast before continuing on I-70 to head towards St. Louis and the Gateway Arch. We ended up stumbling upon the home of the world’s largest Wind Chime, Golf Tee, Rocking Chair, Pencil, curbside Mailbox, and Pitchfork in the small town of Casey, Illinois.

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We spent the night catching up with friends and then it was on to St. Louis, Missouri – home of the Gateway Arch, which we could hardly miss going by. We didn’t consider going up in the arch since tickets during the height of the summer months are sold out pretty quickly and it’s hot up there! But we did go into the visitor’s center and we did wader around the base and then took a stroll down along the river, which cut the heat of the day.

 

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After exploring the arch and the water we met up with a former student of mine who lives in St. Louis. She gave us a driving tour of Forest Hill Park which was expansive and has an amazing history as well as present. We then decided on lunch and enjoyed conversation and great food at The Fountain on Locust. They make most everything they serve, are vegetarian friendly, and have the smallest ice-cream cone in the world as well as sundae. We celebrated mum’s birthday and then moved on to visit the Louis and Clark Boathouse and Museum.

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The Louis and Clark Boathouse and Museum is a bit further down the road from St. Louis, but worth the time and effort to get out there. It’s traditionally where the pair took off on their journey to map out a route west, much unlike our own trek out west! We go there with less than an hour before closing time, but made the most of the museum before getting shooed out by staff – not really. In the boathouse is a replica of the boat Lewis and Clark set off in. You can read more about it, but it was built for the bicentennial four year expedition that recreated the historic journey. They were lovely about letting us wander around and made sure we got the most out of our time before heading out for Kansas City, MO for the night.

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