Monthly Archives: June 2015

In Search of Dracula

The Joneses have been away on their travels again. In our quest to see as much of the UK as possible we booked a trip to Whitby, a seaside fishing town on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors.20150608_144051This is a very historical town, with the founding of its iconic Abbey dating back to 657AD. It was once one of the busiest ship building ports, and produced ships that sailed the high seas under the command of Captain James Cook. The harbour is now filled with privately owned craft, and a bell sounds on the half hour to signal the opening of the swing bridge to allow boats to pass through.

Whitby also has an association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Ever since as a teenager I snuck a copy of Dracula beneath the sheets and all but frightened myself silly reading it, I’ve been fascinated by the paranormal. So on hearing that Stoker spent several months in Whitby, where he got many of his ideas for the story, I have wanted to visit the town. It’s taken me…ahem, quite a few years to get up there, but this year I was determined to make it.

So, during one of the most glorious weeks of the year so far, we set off. After a night’s stay in Derbyshire, we travelled onward and eventually made it to the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. We took several stops along the way for coffee and cake, as you do, and eventually glimpsed Whitby. It’s hard to miss, with ruins of its Gothic Abbey sitting atop a cliff and beckoning the visitor ever closer to the quaint and picturesque town.20150610_124241

We stayed in a lovely guest house, and our hosts knew all the places to see both in Whitby and its surroundings, but there was only one thing I really wanted to do and that was go in search of Bram Stoker’s inspiration for his seminal work. Being a writer, I’m always fascinated by the way fellow writers are inspired to write plot, character and use setting. So, following the directions in the little pink book of the same name, we set off on The Dracula Trail.

20150610_110942We started at the memorial bench, then headed up the 199 steps to the Abbey, the steps that Stoker had the ill-fated heroine of his novel ascending in the dead of night beckoned by the dreaded Count. The Abbey ruins are stunning and very atmospheric. Once a Benedictine abbey, it fell into ruins after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry V111 in 1540. 20150610_111049

We also took a trip down to the old harbour which inspired Stoker to use the bones of a true story for the scene in his novel where the ship Dementer, carrying wooden boxes filled with earth from Dracula’s homeland in which he could rest, was shipwrecked. The old cobbled streets are still very similar to the way Stoker would have seen them and the whole area is incredibly atmospheric.

To end the trail we visited the Dracula Experience, which was a sort of wax museum which told the story from start to finish. No sooner had we entered the darkened building when I knew it wasn’t such a good idea. Now, I love to be scared but this took it to a whole new level. The wax models were far too realistic for my liking and at one stage, deep into the museum when all the lights went out, I actually screamed. Clinging to AJ for dear life, he told me not to look down. Of course I did, only to see hundreds of holographic spiders skittering across the floor. It was my worst nightmare come to life. So, with AJ pulled so tight to me that we could barely shuffle along (and not helped when he thought it would be fun to nibble at my neck) I hurried him through to the much-welcomed exit sign.

Our last day was spent in a more sedate manner and we took the old steam train onto the moor. Since we both love trains, we were in our element. The journey took about an hour and a bit, and we passed through Goathsmead station which became Hogsmead Station in the Harry Potter films. Great fun. Excuse the tilted photo, but I was hanging out the window at the time.20150611_105326

We had such a great time in Whitby, that we’ve put it on our places to revisit at some time in the future. So far the decision to explore the UK and see more of our own country has proved extremely fruitful, and as far as Whitby goes, I’m so glad I got to visit even if it took me more years that I care to admit to make it happen.

Shine on, Shine strong, Neil Diamond!

Time travel warning. I’m about to revert to a 17-year-old teenager again, but first, I need to give you a bit of background. 31 years ago, my mother and I took my then 8 year old daughter to her first ever concert. Neil Diamond. Even though she covered her ears at some of the noise, it was a night she’s always remembered. Me, too.

Flash forward to Mother’s Day when, as a combination Mom’s Day/birthday gift, my daughter repaid the favor and took me to see Neil Diamond. Here’s where I revert. 20150510_165029We were on the freeway, with me having no idea WHERE we were headed, when a Neil Diamond song pops up on her sound system. I’m like…”Neil!” and she’s like “Yessss!” Still took me a minute to clue in, but then it was one of those OMG, OMG, OMG moments, you know? I just couldn’t believe it. Then I erupted with sheer joy. We called my mom first, because she was with us so long ago. She laughed and definitely enjoyed our enthusiasm. Then we called my husband, who’d been keeping Christie’s secret for three months! We spent the rest of the drive up singing Neil Diamond songs and reveling in the memories and the anticipation.

Everything fell into place with this, from my daughter seeing the concert ad at just the right time, to us lucking into a parking spot one block from the venue that had an easy out. We had a great dinner at a trendy little restaurant. Then we settled in our seats…row frigging nine from the floor!!! We didn’t even have to look at the tv screens, we were that close! 20150510_193703

Neil Diamond sang without intermission for 2 hours and 10 minutes! And he’s doing concerts every other day…at the age of 74! I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

That man hasn’t lost his touch. He got me through some very rough teenage emotions and that emotional bond to his message was right back in place on this night. His voice is strong, his presence equally so. He had us all crying and swaying and clapping and singing and hugging. It was amazing.

It was a night of laughter and high emotion and I’m so grateful to have been there. And so grateful for my daughter’s HUGE gift to me. I turned 60 two days ago. And 60 is looking pretty darn awesome, thanks to all the wonderful people surrounding me. And to one amazing night that made me feel seventeen again, a youthfulness that has lingered in the days since the concert.

So many, many thanks to my daughter for a gift that I will remember FOREVER…in Blue Jeans!

The Diamond is shining strong! And I am, at the moment, feeling young again.

Hello Again by Valerie J. Patterson

Last week, my cousin Bill and his wife, Cindy came for a visit from Kansas.  They were taking a 2-week holiday to a couple of cities and to visit various family as well as some new sight-seeing excursions.  I was beyond delighted when they included my hometown and my home on their itinerary.

It’s been a few years since Steve and I have last seen them.  In fact, the last time it was one of those, “We only get together for funerals or weddings” type of visits.  Thankfully, that was a wedding–always a joyous occasion!  This trip, however, was neither a wedding nor a funeral–it was pure enjoyment, and it was long overdue!

I sat patiently–okay not so patiently–on the sofa and awaited their arrival all the while sitting with my nose practically stuck to the glass of our picture window!  Finally, I caught sight of their truck and–more importantly–their two familiar faces and I was off the sofa in a shot and out the front door.

“They’re here!” I yelled to Steve and he soon was behind me out the front door.  I barely allowed them to exit the vehicle before I was dishing out hugs with a massive smile on my face.

Once inside, I was offering food and beverages and seats.  We sat for hours and talked and laughed and even shed a few tears before the luggage was even out of the back of the truck!  Then we were off to dinner where more laughter and talking ensued.  Oh!  The time passed way too quickly!

After dinner, we went back to the house and out to the gazebo with a bottle of wine and stories from our childhood mixed with updates on their lives and their children.  We talked about all those loved ones who were now missing from our lives.  We shared funny episodes from family gatherings, we made several trips through the family tree, and our tongues never tired and the stories never ceased and none were repeated!

The following morning, Bill and I were the first to rise.  It was so good to sit in the living room with him and talk quietly.  It had been so long since that had last happened.  I savored the time that seemed but a moment to get personally reacquainted with my cousin.  I felt selfish wanting to keep him there as long as possible, all the while knowing he had other family to see in other cities, other states.  For that time, he was a willful captive and it is time I will cherish.

Over breakfast, more talking, more laughing, and a few more tears.  When the visit came to a close, and they packed up the back of the truck, hugs went around quite a few times.  It was hard to let them leave knowing it would be a while before hugs came around again, but it was a wonderful visit–one filled with love and sweet, sweet memories.  One that created new sweet memories!

Family is indeed a precious blessing from God.  Every visit should be such a joyous occasion whether the family lives around the corner or half a country away.  Time passes too quickly, and life is way too short not to make time to visit and reminisce, relive old memories, and create beautiful new ones.

Until next time, may there be warm hugs, boisterous laughter, and even a tear or two whenever your family gathers!

A Big Step For #1 Son and Wife: NO, Not That! No Babies Yet

Jillian here. My son and his wife have been married for a year and eight months. They live in Rhode Island now and about six months ago decided they would look for a home to buy. They had some ups and downs on the quest for the right place. There was one in particular they absolutely saw as a place they could call home but the sellers were unbelievable in their expectations and totally crazy. They jerked my son and daughter-in-law around for a while and finally, thankfully, son had enough and said, “No more. we’ll find another house. An even better one.”

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AND they did. I’m so proud of them for sticking to it and getting themselves a nice home that they can grow in and set down roots.  They closed on Friday, the 12th and spent this past weekend sanding the floors downstairs to refinish them before they move in.

The house was built in 1945 and has some nice features as well as the original backsplash in the kitchen. I think they did well.

They are super-excited to be homeowners. Check it out.

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It’s Hot Out There

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Well, summer has made an early appearance here in Western Washington.  I wouldn’t mind so much if I didn’t dislike anything over 75 degrees. I’ve had all the fans in the house on trying to keep it cool.  Of course, … Continue reading

Beaches, Omelets in a Bag, and the Spruce Goose

Hubby and I recently got the opportunity to spend a weekend on the Oregon coast with one of my daughters and her family. It was great, because enough distance separates us that we haven’t gotten much chance to get to know her fiance’s two children and haven’t gotten oodles of play time with our five-year-old granddaughter. We also got a rare chance to meet our daughter’s future in-laws and found them to be interesting, down-home folks (like us!). 🙂 It was a long drive for us, close to seven hours each way, which is tough on my husband’s bad back. Next year, we’ll have to try to find a place that’s less of a drive for us. But for this year, we made it work.

We had an awesome time. The beach was basically right outside the home’s back door, so lots of beach walking. Town had little shops to visit, and we played games, both card and board. And visited. And ate.20150516_160359

Since we’ve done cabin weekends before, we got to introduce the other set of grandparents to one of our favorite breakfasts…omelets in a bag. Have you ever done that? It’s great for feeding everyone omelets at the same time. Boil a big pan of water, then prep and set out all the ingredients you want for omelets. Eggs, mixed together. Then ham, onions, spinach, peppers, cheese, whatever else you might want.

Each person takes a quart-sized freezer bag and writes their name on it in permanent marker. Add ½ cup of egg to the bag, then whatever ingredients they want to the bag and de-air and tightly close the Ziploc. Two things to note here: First, only ½ cup of egg. More and it doesn’t work well. Second, if you add no ingredients, just the eggs, the eggs will turn green for some reason. I don’t know why. So we always make certain there’s something else in with the egg.

Anyhow, all the omelet bags get tossed into the boiling water for 20 minutes and voila! You’ve got individual omelets for a group. It’s that easy, and they taste great!

I learned something while on this trip. As much as I’m a water person, I wouldn’t want to own a place by the sea. Being right there on the sand dunes, the sand got EVERYWHERE. It was insane, and not something I’d want to deal with regularly.P1110145

En route home, we decided to break up the drive with a stop at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. Do you remember the Spruce Goose, the largest ever amphibious plane built by Howard Hughes? It is the main showpiece in this museum and we got to tour it and sit in the cockpit. That was a blast.DSC_0034A

But after a couple hours touring, it was time to get back on the road for the rest of the long haul home. We arrived to a cat who was so happy he wasn’t alone any longer, he wouldn’t leave us alone. Of course, that did eventually settle into a righteous indignation in Dude, since he tried to hide and stay outside all night.

He got over it. And we survived the long drive with a nice set of memories to tide us over until this bathroom remodel is done. By the way, it’s moving forward and getting closer. I’m guessing another 2-3 weeks and we’ll be pretty much done. Yay! Pictures will be forthcoming after that!

I hope you all get to have a wonderful, sunny week!
Laurie

Backyard – Spring 2015

image-7I am so happy I decided to move to Jubilee. For years we enjoyed the bigger place but Jack did most of the outside work and had it looking like a park. I knew I couldn’t keep it up. I remember working outside and after hours of work, instead of feeling an accomplisment I’d feel overwhelmed at all that still needed doing. I could see things coming up behind me faster than I was taking care of the things in front of me.

Here it’s even possible to hire some of the work done without breaking the bank.

Last year Barb helped me put up the fake window and planter on the little utility shed. The picture makes it sort of look bare around it but in reality it’s pretty busy. The window is an old window without glass that Linda gave me. We put a mirror behind it so that it looks like you’re seeing into the shed instead of the reflection from the yard.

The pictures are a photo tour of the yard. Like Barb says, it’s something that will continually be a work in progress but at least it’s a manageable job.
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Super Excited!!

I booked my plane tickets to head to the west coast to visit our very own Laurie and Lavada in September. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Laurie at RWA in NYC a few years ago and am looking forward to getting to meet Lavada in person. I just know I’m going to adore her as much as I do Laurie. It’s always cool to meet people in person that you know online. It’s even better when you find they are as real and personable in the flesh as they are online and that you “get” each other. Having romance writing, reading and love of family and friends in common is already a great way to start a relationship, right?

The only downside to the trip? The flight times were awful. I could either get up before dawn or fly all night. UGH.  I picked the up at dawn since I will have to travel for work on the Monday after I get back and knew I would need to sleep in a bed. Why, oh why, does the travel industry want to punish people?

Jillian and Laurie at RWA

Jillian and Laurie at RWA

I’m adding a link to a video to See You in September even though most of the lyrics don’t match since they are about lovers,  but I adore the lyrics about counting the hours and the minutes. 🙂

Have you ever met someone you’ve bonded with online? How did it go? Were they what you expected?

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George’s First Steps: Update

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It’s been well over 2 years since our little George had his SDR operation in America so I thought it about time I brought you an update on his progress. For those not aware of the history of this story, … Continue reading