Category Archives: Vacations

Hawaii!

We recently returned from a vacation that I call one of my top three best vacations. A year ago, we booked a fifteen day Hawaii cruise. Not fifteen  days in Hawaii. This one was round trip from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Five wonderful, relaxing days at sea getting over to the islands, four islands to visit, and five wonderful, relaxing days at sea coming home.

I found something out. I LOVE at sea days. I woke up and went walking on the Promenade deck each morning with beautiful ocean all around me.  (I may have mentioned once or twice that I LOVE the water.) I went to line dancing classes, walked again with my husband. I swam in the pool. I read FIVE books in two weeks. Five. Haven’t done that in quite a while.

My husband immersed himself in shipboard things, too. We watched fruit carving, ice carving, beer pong. We watched football. Got to watch  our Seattle Seahawks on the big screen by the pool. We proudly wore our “twelve” shirts and there were a lot of Hawk’s fans on board. In fact, that’s one of the things we love about cruising. Meeting and talking to so many people.

In the islands, we didn’t do much on Oahu. It’s a little too much like the big city and we get that at home. On Kauai, the Garden Island, we saw the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon. The pictures don’t do the rusts and verdant greens justice. It was beautiful!

On the Big Island, we went to the Kilauea caldera, the large crater and active steam vent that is huge and spectacular.

And look at the picture my husband got of the moon. Wow!

On Maui, I got to check off another bucket list item. We were in Hawaii once before, 27 years earlier, and I didn’t get out to Molokini to snorkel. We did this time. I was very worried about climbing up that swim ladder back into the boat, but I DID it! Twice! The water was warm, the fish and coral beautiful, and, just for a little while, I felt young again. It was awesome.

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Then came the homeward bound trip. I have to say that about two days from our return port, we both were feeling the tug to be back home. We’d left our Dude in good care, but knew he would miss us. Of course, the fact that, after an entire cruise of calm waters, we had two days of Gale Force winds and 10-15 foot seas might have helped us be ready to disembark.

All in all, it was amazing, restful, and beautiful. My husband and I danced, went to shows, held hands, and just enjoyed each other and the scenery. A perfect anniversary present to ourselves.

Now home, the weather’s changing. We even had a touch of snow yesterday. I’m okay with that. I like my seasons. It was nice to be tropical for a couple weeks, but even in 35 or 40 degree weather, I’m up, dressed and out the door for a walk around 8am. It feels good to be home.

Have a wonderful November, everyone! And Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it!

 

 

 

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Surprise!

I love surprises; giving them, that is. And in October we pulled off a cracking one. My brother Bob lives in Spain in the Costa del Sol, and with his 70th birthday rapidly approaching, my sisters and I decided to surprise him for his birthday, after checking with my-sister-law Lesley what their arrangements were for this day. After all, we didn’t want to arrive and find they had gone away on a trip themselves to celebrate.

As the three of us hadn’t had a holiday together for two years we agreed we would make this trip a week long, instead of just a couple of days. I’ve been to Spain on many occasions – staying with my brother, Lesley normally arranging flights and Bob meeting us at the airport; and the last time booking through a travel agent ­– but this was the first time we were “going it alone” which meant I had to find a suitable apartment for the three of us; not an easy task. Then there were flights to book, and arranging a taxi from the airport. I found the whole thing very nervy and stressful and couldn’t relax until we were finally in our apartment. The apartment was disappointing in that it was shabby, not at all looking as clean and fresh as the photos showed, but the linen was clean and the beds comfy and we did have a lovely view out over Benalmadena Marina in one direction, and mountains, town, and busy main road and 24 hour bars in the other – very noisy all night. Still, it was only for one week and we were close to the beach and promenade.

Room with a view of Benalmadena Marina.

Bob’s birthday being the next day, we spent a lazy morning, grabbed a bite of lunch then made our way up to the venue. We peeked around the wall to where we knew they would be, spied Lesley who pointed that Bob was inside the bar and in the three of us walked. “Surprise!”

“Surprise!”

“Happy Birthday To You…”

Oh and how it was. The look on Bob’s face, at first disbelief, then confusion, then utter joy at us being there for him was pure magic and a treasure to behold and remember. One of the bar staff, realising who we were, grabbed Bob’s camera and began taking photos; we were too engrossed in our hugs and kisses and tears (mostly Bob’s!) to notice or even think of taking a picture. Everyone (apart from Bob) at the party along with all the local bar owners knew we were coming and made us most welcome. A good time had by all.

After a fabulous day we fell into bed exhausted but woken up a few hours later by lightning. No thunder, just a marvellous nature light show out across the sea. The flashes continued until daybreak when torrential rain came down and thunder like I’ve never heard exploded all around. One clap was so loud, the building shook. We later found out it woke the whole town. Apparently some 1,200 lightning bolts were recorded in the Malaga region that morning. (News report detailing the storm)

The rain stopped but the morning overcast so we ventured by bus into Malaga to explore the city, hoping to take the open-topped bus tour. Bob joined us. When we reached Malaga the rains came again. A quick dash into a restaurant for a coffee whilst it eased. It didn’t, so we made for a shop selling pac-a-macs and thought to explore the magnificent cathedral close by. The queues were horrendous so we decided to take a bus up into Mijas, our favourite town, and have lunch there. There was an hour wait for a bus so instead we went back to Benalmadena to enjoy a meal there. We found out later that most of Malaga had been badly flooded due to the rain, and nearby Torremolinos and Mijas without electricity for most of the day. Good job we didn’t go.

The next day, and for the remainder of our visit, the temperature was back up to 28 degrees, the sun shining gloriously and we managed to spend three days relaxing on the beach ­­– bonus! ­­– as well as partaking in our favourite things when holidaying­­, such as food and Sangria – of which we’ve now become experts.

Enjoyable lunch at Marina on our 1st day.

It was a tearful and sad farewell when it was finally time to take the taxi back to the airport and home but a week I’m sure our brother will look back and remember with love and fondness. As will we. And I will certainly miss the sunrises over the Marina!

Not a bad view to wake up to each morning

The more things change…

When AJ and I travel, we almost always carve out time to visit the local art gallery and museum. During a few days in Derbyshire, we found a small art gallery in the city of Derby virtually dedicated to a famous local 18th Century artist, Joseph Wright. We didn’t know much about him or the art of the period, but we were lucky to visit at a quiet time which meant we had what amounted to a private tour of the room housing his paintings.

Our guide was incredibly knowledgable about Joseph Wright and pointed out many things in the paintings that I’m sure we would have missed if we hadn’t had the benefit of his expertise. Here’s a link to the gallery if you’d like to see some of the paintings.

Joseph Wright was considered the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution and was famous for his use of light and dark in his paintings, especially favoring subjects portrayed by candlelight. Some absolutely stunning work.

But what caught my attention was the artist himself. An amazing creative, with absolutely incredible talent, he was prone to fits of depression and doubts about that talent. During one period of his life, after he had produced paintings such as A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (see link above), and having received bad reviews for some of his work, he became really disillusioned with himself and his art and stopped working completely.  He wrote:

“I have heard nothing but humiliating observations on my paintings. which have tended much to the inactivity of my pencil for sometime past. What a mere machine I am become. Depressed and renedered useless by a little censure and put into motion again by a little flattery. I really believe my enemies might persuade me I have no pretentions to paint. What a thing have these weak nerves made of me.”

Food for thought for all the creatives out there, because I’m sure we can all understand these feelings. How many times has a bad review or negative response to our own work made us put down pen, pencil, brush, needle, etc? It’s comforting to know that we’re in good company, and that even the greats suffered through periods of procrastination when they felt their work just wasn’t good enough.

Some things, it seems, never change.

Tricia’s website

Mt. Rushmore – Bucket List Item – CHECK!

I had the awesome privilege of visiting Mt. Rushmore in May. I have wanted to take a road trip for the longest time, and this stop was top of my list.

Late last year, I started writing a young adult fantasy series and I set it around Mt. Rushmore. My husband swears I used that setting to get him to go there with me. Personally, I thought it was a great place to set a post-apocalyptic fantasy. It had nothing to do with how much I wanted to visit and now had a reason to. Really. Well, sort of.

Hubby, who doesn’t like road trips, gave me the greatest gift this year. Nine days on the road. Different sights every day. We combined a couple things. First, he spent 3 years in the Air Force stationed in Glasgow (Northwest Montana). So we went there first and I finally got to see all the things he’s been talking about for thirty years. Like Fort Peck dam, which is an almost 4 mile long earthen dam.

Then we headed south. To Sturgis (motorcycle museum)…

To Deadwood (Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane’s graves)…

Caving (where we got a flat tire driving out of the place)…

And finally, to the mountain that made it all possible. There isn’t a single picture that does this site justice. It’s larger than life and I loved it!

We also found the picturesque little lake (Horse Thief Lake) near Mt. Rushmore that my fantasy village is set near. It was so cool to see it come to life. And as soon as I got home, I started updating descriptions in my story. I even changed my hero’s eye color to match the deep green of the lake.

After wonderful weather all along, a storm caught up with us as we drove west to come home. First, in the form of pounding hail, then in snow. It made for some crazy driving conditions and we got stopped for a couple hours in a pass due to jack-knifed semi-trucks.

Even that didn’t diminish the fun I had on this trip. Hubby’s back did okay (not great, but okay) and he’s really glad he went. The only regret I have is that I realized an author friend I admire, Allie K. Adams, lived near our route home, but the snow meant cancelling the hastily set up plans to visit.

We’ll just have to plan that visit for next year. After all, we did start talking about Yellowstone National Park on the way home. I wonder if I can tweak my series so it encompasses that area, also. Lol.

I ❤ road trips! I hope you get to do something you ❤ this spring or summer, too!

 

If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Which is precisely what I managed to do last month for a few days. With Dave on the mend following his op, my friend Avis and I slipped away by coach, visiting the beautiful county of Warwickshire, England for a “Bluebell Walk”. The bluebells were out early this year, and are stunning. Knowing this and when combined with a touch of literary culture, Avis and I we were in for a treat.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

First to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (William Shakespeare’s wife). I visited here back in the 60s, as an 11-year-old on a school trip, and well remembered the thatched building and gardens, although 50 years on one now enters through a different building to reach the cottage, and the gardens have expanded. Following a brief history of the house we were allowed to wander at leisure with staff on hand to explain and inform. I’m certainly glad I didn’t live there – no mains electricity, no water on tap and no central heating; one could well imagine how difficult life was back in the 1500s. Outside, I was disappointed to see that the bluebells amongst all the colourful tulips in the beautiful front garden were the Spanish non-native type. They certainly wouldn’t have been found here in Shakespeare’s time. I hope the gardeners dig them all out soon.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Then on  to Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, it’s some 50 years since  first exploring this town. The main street on which William Shakespeare’s house  is located is now pedestrianised, thankfully, but a large visitor centre now sits incongruously alongside it. We decided against doing the house tour; instead we took a pleasant walk through Stratford and enjoyed a spot of lunch.

Walton Hall Hotel

A few miles outside of Stratford we arrived at our hotel, set in 65 acres of park and farmland. What a fabulous place! Although the main part of the hotel is modern, it’s built in the grounds of a large 16th century mansion (history & info link) recently owned by the late Danny La Rue.  The rooms were lovely, the beds so enormous they could easily sleep 4 persons! And joy of joys, I had a balcony too so as the dawn chorus started, I opened the French doors and enjoyed my early morning coffee outside as I listened. Bliss! The food was excellent, the staff faultless. In fact, it’s one the few hotels I’ve stayed in where I wish I could have stopped for longer, only the bluebell woods called and thus, after a delicious breakfast we were on the road again, heading for Coughton Court (pronounced Coat-un). I’d never heard of this National Trust Tudor treasure until this trip. Can’t understand why.

Once there, we headed straight for the woods and the bluebells, after all this was the main reason for our trip. There were swathes of them. And the scent glorious. If you’ve never smelt an English bluebell wood you are missing a treat. However, there is only so much one can say about bluebells, but I did take lots of photos, mainly for painting reference.

Of course, Thugs Bunny and Mr Tumble had to get in on the act!

We spent several hours wandering around enjoying the spectacle before heading back to explore the house itself. Coughton Court is still occupied by the sixth generation of the Throckmorton family, infamously involved in the plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I in 1583 and put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Inside, we could wander freely, allowed to touch things, sit on the furniture, even try on some of the Tudor clothes on display. Helpful guides were on hand to explain items and various histories of the house and family. Coughton also boasts magnificent gardens, better than Hampton Court apparently, but I have to admit we were too exhausted to venture further so settled on coffee and cake instead. This is definitely a place to go back to. To read more about the house and the Throckmortons I’ve included this link .

Coughton Court

Time eventually caught up with us to make our way back to the coach and home. A lovely, relaxing two days and a much needed break. Now patiently waiting for the next one.

PS: Meanwhile, I feel a painting coming on…

 

Of Writers’ Retreats and Friendship

I have a very dear friend who has an uncle with a house on a small lake a couple hours drive from me and twice a year, he allows her to use it and invite her writer buds over. These retreats are in March and October. I have been blessed to be invited by her to the last three. The ladies there, for the most part are nice and we get a lot done even amongst the laughter and eating. I’ve made what I feel are some lasting friendships with several of them.

Sadly, there is one who seems to be either harder to get to know or just doesn’t care for me. I fully own that I can be overly sensitive but I have a strong sense about people and what they are feeling as well. I have highly tuned empathic skills which means I can tell a lot about how someone is feeling and sometimes take on those feelings myself.

We arrived at the retreat on Thursday and from almost from the time this one woman arrived, she was all about being gruff and unkind to me. I tried to ignore her and put it on the fact that these ladies have been friends for a while and I am the new girl. On Saturday night when she came over and joined in a conversation that she was not part of, I was okay with it. But when I said something in that conversation and she told me to stop talking, I was pretty sure about her feelings for me. Then when she added, and I quote, “In fact, you can just leave.” I knew! You don’t have to hit me over the head, lady. WOW! I was flabbergasted to say the least.

I left the room and went on the porch in tears. Then I came back in and went to get my suitcase as I was heading home right then- never mind it was 9:30 pm and I had a two hour drive.

BUT the women in the group who love me gathered round and said they wouldn’t let me go. They led me out to the porch and talked for a long time until I agreed to stay until morning. I was so glad for their friendship and that they agreed she’d been incredibly rude.

When I came back inside, the woman (and I give her partial credit for this) came over and apologized. What I don’t give her credit for was saying she’d been teasing me with all the things she’d said over the prior three days. It was most assuredly not teasing and I think she knew I knew it- it was almost as if she was seeing how far she could push me and I did take it from Thursday afternoon until Saturday night. It was not the way I envisioned the weekend going.

Not too sure I’ll be going back but I am so torn as I love, love the other people. It would be like punishing myself if I don’t go. But I also don’t want to set myself up for that kind of misery again. It’s a conundrum that I have until October to figure out. What do you think? Am I being too sensitive?

The good news is that I got 8,000 words done in a new story. This one has pirates!!!

Happy March! Jillian

Fifteenth Annual Cabin Weekend

It’s time for my annual family cabin blog. Since we started renting a cabin each winter back in 2002, this was our fifteenth annual weekend! This year was also extra special because we needed to heal as a family. After losing my mother last August, my Dad passed away in early January. He was 89 going on 16, and we called him the Energizer bunny because he had so many medical problems, but just kept going, and going, and going. 🙂 I will miss my pinochle partner, but I am so happy for the life he had that I got to be part of.

Anyhow, all the sadness in our lives made our time together at the cabin even more special. All five of our kids made it this year, as well as 3/4ths of our grandchildren. So we were eighteen strong. This particular cabin has a bunk house with a gym, which was kind of a life-saver this year as it was bone-chillingly cold. Our first night there, it got down to one degree Fahrenheit (minus 17 Celsius). And that was without the chill factor. Brrrr.

16105900_10210773601169826_5231261545443343314_nSo there was a lot of badminton, basketball, and volleyball playing. As well as dragging the youngest around the court on exercise mats.

p1120231Their laughter echoed through the gym and brought smiles to all.

We played games. Sorry, Farkle (aka Zilch or Ten Thousand), Hearts. Worked puzzles. Ate, ate, and ate some more.

16114462_10210773600489809_1145155353810621285_nSome even braved the cold to snowshoe and sled.

16114821_10210773599569786_8880893452343587441_n

I took this picture. That was about as much time as I wanted to spend outside this year. I love the snow, but picked up a bad cough right after Dad passed away, so needed to stay inside.

And we watched the deer and wild turkeys from our deck:

16114740_10210773600689814_7105877576380439183_n

Remember that crocheting project I was talking about? Here’s my granddaughter and I as I’m teaching her to crochet a headband in the colors of her favorite football team. Success!

16105515_10210773602849868_8282826178375859684_nWe didn’t take a group picture this year. We just relaxed and enjoyed each other. I did manage to corral the grandkids for a pic.

p1120244So another successful cabin adventure. I am more than grateful that we all still try to do this every year, and I hope we get at least fifteen more under our belts. 🙂 2017, for me personally, started getting better with that weekend.  I’m slowly moving my gaze forward and upward and am looking forward to many good things for the rest of this year. I hope you all are able to do that, also.