To Cruise or Not to Cruise

We got to take a cruise last month! When COVID hit, we cancelled four cruises we had scheduled. Last month, we finally got to take a replacement cruise. And you know what? It was awesome. We did Alaska, which we’ve done twice before. This time, instead of doing the inside passage, we did a round trip Seattle which took a route on the west side of Vancouver Island.

Embarkation, settling in, and our favorite foods.

And we caught COVID. As careful as we were, masking on board ship and ashore, washing out hands, we still caught COVID. Thankfully, we’re vaxed and boosted so didn’t have a bad case. Cold symptoms and I had a headache for a few days. The worst thing was the lack of energy. That took a while to return.

And now that we’re past that, I have to ask myself if it was worth it.

The answer is: Yes.

We’ve always enjoyed cruising. You unpack once and see so many places. Even having been to Alaska, it was great to go again. Like greeting old friends. And we made some new ones on the cruise, which I’m very grateful for.

And now, looking forward, we’ll take more cruises. Maybe not for a few months. I’d personally like to see what COVID does this winter. But we’ll embark again as it really is our favorite way to vacation.

I hope you’ve been able to find a way to get away and relax. Retired or working, we all need a change of scenery once in a while.

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Three Down and One to Go…

…quarters, that is. A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote about becoming a passionate planner. The system I use breaks the year down into four quarters, and it’s hard to believe we’re just about to move into the fourth and final quarter of the year. Where has the year gone?

Prior to discovering my inner planner, my writing schedule was a bit hit and miss. Basically it had become a ‘write when the spirit moves me‘ kind of deal, and to be brutally honest, the spirit didn’t move me that much at all!

Anyhoo, that’s all changed, and it’s time to start planning for quarter four. Moving into October means some of my quarter four planning will be geared up to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which takes place in November each year. NaNoWriMo challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel during the month. The aim is to let the words flow and get the bones of the story down so it can be edited and refined later.

To be clear for NaNo, I need to finish the first draft of book one of a new paranormal series by the end of September. Since book two is in first draft mode too, it means that October will largely be editing and revision, and hopefully even working on the third book of the series which is about thirty percent done. I also want to be planning my NaNo project ready to start on 1 November. Depending on how things go with the third book, I might even use the 50,000 NaNo words for this.

Before becoming a planner, I probably would have stressed out at the workload, but now I get to plan it all out using the system developed from working on the original course.

Easy, peasy (she says with her palms together, eyes up to heaven) or it should be if I stick to the plan, and manage to catch a following wind 🙂

Oh, and something else I’ve discovered while working this whole planning deal. Stickers! Oh, how I love them, especially ones with pretty colourful shapes and inspirational quotes. They make a great motivator to get the words done, or any other task you want to complete. Just award yourself a sticker when the task is complete and pop it in your planner/diary. It’s simple, but for me it’s working so I’ll take it.

So, here’s to Quarter 4… Bring it on!

Shepherds Pie

With fall looming I thought it was time for a recipe and this is now one of our favorites.

We bought Cosco’s Shepherds Pie and loved it. Their version is made with hamburger and Linda and I decided to try beef stew meat.  We didn’t look up a recipe and I realized as I did a little looking before writing this that there are a lot of recipes on the web. Just Google. 

Our version:  

Make any size you want. We made a 9×13 one. 

* Stew meat – we got stew meat that was cut in small pieces at Safeway. I’d never seen it like this but it cooked faster. 

* mashed potatoes – we used instant and they tasted great. We did mix grated cheese in them 

* can of beef broth

* can of mushroom soup

* pea’s & corn – we used frozen 

* carrots, we used baby carrots

* seasoning – Johnny’s Dock & garlic powder

Brown stew meat with flour (use enough flour so it will make a thick gravy). In a pan or bowl mix broth, soup, and vegetables. Stir in browned meat and season.  Put in a casserole dish (again we used the 9×13 size). Cook in 350° until meat is tender and the stew thick.  

Spread mashed potatoes over top as thick as you want and put back in oven until brown.  

In the Wee Hours

The mind and the brain can be a curious bedfellow at times, especially at night whether asleep and dreaming, or awake in the wee early hours trying your darnest to fall back to sleep. I’ve never been a great sleeper, the slightest unusual noise will wake me up, as will a sudden alteration in sound, which is why I dislike falling asleep listening to the radio or television or to audiobooks. As soon as a voice changes, the pitch or volume on music switches or the recording comes to an end, then bang – I’m wide awake. A solid 7-8 hour night’s sleep is a rarity; I get by on a broken 5 or six hours at most. I have no trouble going to sleep initially, it’s the staying there I struggle with. And if I do fall back into dreamland, I have the most peculiar dreams. I’ve always been like it.

But this has advantages, for it’s during this time I fix things. In my head. Like plot issues in my novel or have a marvellous idea for another book. Work out what my characters are going to do or say next. When I was doing the 9-5 life, I’d solve a dilemma or figure out a solution to problem in the office. In my head I’d rehearse what I need to say to someone. Finger out how to fix something broken. Decide on what we are going to eat for our Sunday lunch, even if it’s only Tuesday morning. I’m used to this and am sure I’m not the only one who experiences these things.

But lately, my mind has been working in an unexpected way. It seems for no reason I can fathom, I suddenly recall songs from my childhood, ones I’d forgotten about, surprising myself I can even remember the words. If it were pop songs of my teenage years, then I could perhaps understand it. I love music and that of the 60s and 70s especially, but these are songs often from further back.

Ones such as Cool Water “All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water. Cool water…” Old Shep “When I was a lad and Old Shep was a pup through the hilltops and meadows we’d stray…” “Carolina Moon …keep shining, shining on the one who waits for me…” Little Green Frog “There’s a little green frog, swimming in the water, a little green frog, doing what he oughta…” “Don’t You Worry …my little pet, don’t you worry now, don’t forget…” You get the jist. And I wonder how many of these you are singing right now. (Sorry)

These are just a few of them I hear, and many are the B side to records, ones rarely played, let alone remembered. Okay, so I know I grew up hearing these songs. With older siblings and parents who loved music, the radio or the gramophone playing, that is no small wonder. But why, I ask myself, should all these come flooding into my brain at 2 0’clock in the morning! Are they trying to tell me something?

I’ve tried thinking back to any incident or conversations recently that may have jogged open an old memory of them. Tried hard to recall hearing them on an advert on TV. Have I read any recent articles or books that might mention them or their singers? Nothing! So for the moment I have to content myself with “listening” to them, at least they are songs I like, and they in themselves are bringing back happy days memories of childhood and family. I just wonder what my brain will conjure up next to earworm me through the night.

Has anything like this happened to you?

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

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Is it fall yet?

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I write this as the Pacific Northwest survived another warm up. It wasn’t too bad, but it’s time for these 90 degree days to go away and we have smoke from fires in Eastern Washington and Northern Oregon that pushed … Continue reading

The End of an Era

Jillian here. This month, I’ll be truly sharing what many are discussing today over backyard fences all over the world. A true end of an era. 

For most of us, we have only been alive during the reign of one monarch in the United Kingdom. Some were alive before she took the throne, but would have been young people or children at the time she ascended. Yes, of course, I mean Queen Elizabeth II. 

Even though I’m an American through and through, I have a special love for our neighbors across the pond. My ancestry is both English and Scottish. My paternal grandfather’s side of the family comes from the clan MacDonald and my paternal grandmother’s side were Londoners from a very long time ago. Both sides came to the USA early on—late 1600s.  My fifth generation back great-grandfather enlisted in George Washington’s army when he was only 15 and almost froze to death at Valley Forge. My MacDonald relatives fled Scotland near the time of the Glencoe massacre so we’re definitely long term residents of the North American continent. 

That doesn’t take away from the fact that I love the United Kingdom. In fact, every time I visit, I feel like I’ve come home. It’s kind of weird how that feeling just comes over me from the minute I step off the plane. 

I don’t know that I’d call myself a monarchist, but I do enjoy reading about and studying the history of the various countries making up the UK. I have followed the lives of the current royal family since Lady Diana became engaged to Prince Charles. She and I were the same age and both had two sons so I felt an affinity for her. 

Queen Elizabeth was a woman to be looked up to. She worked hard in the time of WWII and made herself useful. From the time she took the throne—and even before that—she served her country tirelessly. Even up to the Tuesday before she passed away on Thursday. That’s admirable. Ninety-six years old and still working. Very impressive. 

I didn’t think she’d live long once she lost her husband. It’s a sad fact that many long term partners pass away in close proximity to each other. They become so dependent on each other, they seem to deteriorate faster once one is gone. She had been looking quite frail lately which was worrisome. 

I was saddened by a lot of ugly comments online about the queen’s passing. I get that some people do not admire her nor the institution she represented, but at the end of the day, she was a woman. A human being. A mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, friend. Her family, no matter  rank or standing, has a huge loss to cope with just in their personal capacity, not even considering succession and all that entails. I wish the people making such unkind comments would take a moment and remember that.  Can you imagine having to grieve in such a public way? And subject to nasty comments? It would make it so much harder, I think. 

The end of the second Elizabethan era comes to an end and the beginning of the third Charles era begins. What do we call it? Charlesian? 

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes to change over all the currency, beefeater uniforms, post boxes, etc. Not many of us would have been witness to those kind of mundane changes when Queen Elizabeth took over from her father. History. We’re living history right now. A front row seat, so to speak. 

The Renovation is DONE!

In April, we started demolition on our old, paneled family room, intent on freshening it up with new carpeting and sheet-rock. But first, while we had a wall open, we had a chance to update the last of the old plumbing. Now, I know renovations don’t always go according to schedule. I get that. But complications with the plumbing delayed the family room we’d moved everything out of for over a month. Which meant our contractor went on to another job and had to squeeze us in a day here and a day there. Sigh.

So we didn’t move back into the family room until August. Four months later. And you know what?

WORTH IT! We are loving the “new” room and even managed to keep some of the clutter down when putting things back. A win-win.

Old:

New:

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New Home

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We closed on the house today (Friday the 19th). All done and it was really a great experience.  Rick (son) had it 99.99% done before he left on a trip.  He did more than I could imagine, even down to compiling a … Continue reading

August Musings

Here we are already in the middle of August. It seems unbelievable to think in a few weeks’ time we will be in the ’ember months of the year. Before you know it Christmas will be upon us again. It has already arrived in some of the stores here in the UK, and the children haven’t even returned to school yet from their summer break. But enough of that.

I missed posting last month; my apologies – major meltdown due to extreme heat! Heat that has only today started to climb back down the thermometer, and we have rain. Not a lot, admittedly. We do need plenty here as, like many countries, we are in a drought situation. Keeping the flowers and plants alive in the back garden has been hard work, but we’ve made the most of our grey water from the kitchen, about the only real exercise I’ve had, backwards and forwards several times a day. The vegetable garden and annual flowerbed at the front has, I’m sad to say, been a failure because of lack of rain; we have avoided using the hosepipe. As a consequence, we’ve written this year off on the gardening front and back, because the back garden will be given another make over.

The reason being, we have demolished our large koi pond and intend turning the area into another flowerbed. Whilst we both had a lot of pleasure from the fish, which had grown huge, it was becoming increasingly hard work for Dave to keep it going despite so-say modern filters and UV lamps and fitting a new pump each year – not cheap. We were plagued with pond weed, the water never clear. The fish loved it; we didn’t. We agreed back last October that we would run the pond down as each winter we invariably lost a fish or two. Needless to say, this past winter they all survived.

One of the koi (28lbs)

We gave the fish, some as long as 2-3 ft and weighing many lbs, to a local koi keeper so we know they would be going to a good home. Catching them was another matter. All three of us got soaked! Then
began the fun part, demolition of the pond walls. The pond was/is over 8ft deep, with half of it above ground, so we were hoping the bricks and blocks would fill that below ground level. Miscalculation. We now have to dispose of a lot of rubble. This Dave will do in the autumn when the weather is a lot cooler.

Before
After
Demolition begins

The extreme heat here has meant I have not done a lot of art. A special request for a contemporary flower painting was completed and I began working up one for my students to copy at my next workshop at the end of September. They had requested a waterfall, so waterfalls I did. Several of them. It became clear to me that each one was a little too adventurous for some of my group, but I finally came up with a much simpler version that hopefully will stretch them without any duress.

“Pastel Pastures”
“Autumn Waterfall”

Other than these efforts, I have to admit nothing has been done. Hardly any writing because my office was too hot even with a fan running. No housework other than the basics – no point with all the doors and windows open; little laundry to wash – thank goodness for kaftans to lounge about it in all day. On the plus side, we’ve spent most days and long into the evenings in the garden. Our patio is in shade from midday so it has been comfortable, and I have been able to enjoy uninterrupted reading, getting through 5 books, unusual for me in a short space of time.

We treated the month as a long holiday, being exceedingly lazy and relaxed. It was fun while it lasted; now it’s back to normality. I hope your month has been good too.

Kit Domino’s websites and blogs

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Summer is almost over

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The year seems to go faster and faster. I can’t believe we’re into August already. Here in the Pacific Northwest we’ve had some heat waves come though, one of which gave us 90 degrees or higher for a week. The … Continue reading