Hiking the Unitas

August 27, 2017

We have made the hike to upper Silver Lake above Tibble Fork Reservoir twice this summer. The first time, we had kids and grandkids with us, and concluded that it was too difficult for young children. Scott ended up carrying at least one and sometimes two of his kids much of the way up and down.

Jeff carried little Gracie most of the way up. She’s heavier than she looks! What’s more, it was too strenuous for our daughter, Tricia and she waited trailside for us to come back from the last half mile.

Yet, as you can see, it’s a spectacularly beautiful hike. I didn’t get any good pictures of the waterfall that comes out of the lake, but it makes the last steep, rocky climb a little easier.

These penstamon above are common in the Uintas as are the asters, (below).

I guess we’re slow learners. We thought that because we didn’t have kiddos with us, it would be an easy hike.

 

I was so eager to share the breathtaking scenery, I forgot to consider the breathtaking elevation.  The next set of guests we took had recently come from sea level and it turned into an ordeal rather than a pleasure for my sister in law Catherine.

So NEXT time we make this hike, we are going to carefully interview potential hikers for their fitness level and length of time at higher elevation.  But for Jeff and me, it was much easier without the kids. Add to that our increasingly strenuous exercise regimen, we were better prepared.

If you’re fairly fit and adjusted to altitude, (The lake is at about 10000 feet), the hike is beautiful and varied. It starts in aspen and conifer forest with wildflowers blooming profusely on every side. We heard a bull moose bellowing in this part, but never saw him. Next you cross a stream and begin to climb a little more steeply. Each switch back reveals a new mountain vista. The last third of the hike, wild blueberries, (huckleberry’s) hang in clusters along the trail. Several patches of raspberries stalls us a few minutes and another berry that is thornless but similar raspberries is also tasty.  A waterfall spills down the mountain and the wildflowers change from wild geraniums , yellow daisies, sunflowers and penstamon to Indian paintbrush and yarrow and a bright yellow cluster flower that I don’t know the name of.  The smells of fresh air, wild mint, willow and pines make your nostrils hula!

We drank the cold, cold (unfiltered) water out of the stream and the lake with no ill effects. My gauge is if I am certain there are no beavers or outhouses upstream, I will drink the water.

The fishing seemed to be pretty good on the edges of the day, but not great where/when the sun was on the water.

The hike to Upper Silver Lake is a little more than a five mile round trip. My step counter indicated just under six miles.

A New Book I joyfully recommend!

August 23, 2017

I would not risk my reputation as a writer or the good opinion of my readers on a book I didn’t think was important.

It’s not perfect. If I were the editor, I (might) take out some occasional wordiness. I even must admit that it has a little bit of a slow start.  Before I knew the main character, Jacob, I didn’t much care what or why he thought as he does.

But I started to love him. I started to love Prudence. I found myself not wanting to lay the book aside when I was too tired to read.

Part way through, I was somewhat rude to my mother-in-law, opting to stay in the car reading while Jeff walked her into her home. I usually am attentive and eager to participate in such formalities.

It’s been awhile since I had a book in which I was fully engaged. What’s more, I didn’t expect to like it. I felt brave by undertaking to read it, fully expecting to have to gently tell the author, (whom I know well) to keep trying and hoping and maybe take some writing classes.

I’m not even entirely sure that the author himself understands the magic he has wrought. I can’t even tell you what the genre is. Folktale? humor? family? religious? But it will get you to thinking and laughing, hating,  loving and repenting in turn.

I say in the title of this post that I can joyfully recommend The Backward Ride of Jacob Markoby: The Unexpected, by Mark E Mitchell because I finished the book with a satisfied sigh, not wanting to know in advance what stories the sequel has in store, but eager to read it when it is published. I believe myself to be a bit of a literary snob, but I can think of no audience, (other than young children) who would not only enjoy, but benefit from reading this tale. And that feeling brings me joy because I feel like I have discovered something important that almost nobody else knows about.  The fact that the author is my brother doubles my delight. This is far from his first book, but this is the first that has delighted me.

It’s $2.99 on Kindle and $9.99 in paperback.

Here’s a link to it on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Backward-Ride-Jacob-Markoby-Unexpected-ebook/dp/B073S15STP

 

Ah SUMMER/ Discount kindle notice for Americana

August 15, 2017

It’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic as the kids get ready to go back to school. There’s the excitement of new classes and new friends, but a bit of pain considering the freedom of the summer is ending once again.

Jeff and I are planning next year’s travel and solidifying plans for the Americana columns and attendant travel for this year. Both our mothers are settled and so are our kids. Our company has dwindled down to my brother and sister in law, Mark and Catherine.  Things are quieting down.

One wonderful thing we did this summer was buy a grandparents deluxe pass for Thanksgiving Point. It was pricey at $300 but it gives access to all the venues for us, two adults and any and all grandkids for a year. The gardens are knock-your-socks off beautiful and the museums are delightful. We visited the Museum of natural Curiosity last night with Rob’s family and we all had a blast. SO FUN!

One scene from the Light of the World garden at Thanksgiving Point

The Monet’ garden bridge at Thanksgiving Point

 

I am feeling so grateful for this beautiful earth and for this free nation!

If you’re interested in reading Beth Stephenson’s Americana volume 1, there’s a Kindle price promotion Aug 18-Aug 24. It’s $.99 for that week only. Please share with anyone you think might be interested. Here’s the link. The price will change on the appropriate dates!

https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Stephensons-Americana-Everything-America-ebook/dp/B06XH4RCSQ

 

Contacts!

August 3, 2017

No, not the kind that interface to help a career, but rather the ones for your face that improve vision. Or so they should.

I didn’t need reading glasses until I was in my forties. But eventually, I got to the point that I needed them for both reading and distance. I wear them all the time now. But when I’m outdoors and getting a little sweaty, my glasses slip down my nose. If I’m gardening and therefore looking down, they fall off.

Beside that, it’s hard to wear sunglasses over correction glasses and bifocal sunglasses are expensive.

Enough! I went to Costco and got a prescription for bifocal contact lenses.

I look spiffy. . .I think. I can’t see worth a darn.

The doctor explained that the better your distance vision, the worse your near vision with multifocal contacts. So I’m supposed to try to find a happy medium. Apparently my brain should be capable of finding the proper focus with the lenses that is good enough for both distance and reading.

But there’s more to it than that. The contact doesn’t want to stick to my left eyeball. . .and then it doesn’t want to stay put. I can feel it on my left eye all the time. Twice it’s actually fallen off and been lost and other times I find it up in the corner of my eye.

I’ve been through three brands so far and none are any better than the last. I can hardly wait to get them off and back to seeing normally in my old-lady bifocals.

Today I went back for the fourth time to Costco. The regular doctor is back from an injury and he agreed that I’ll never have vision as good as I can get through bifocal glasses.

But he gave me another brand of contacts to try. If these don’t work, I guess I have two options. Either I can give up and resign myself to regular glasses or I can try to find something that’s comfortable on my eye that only corrects for distance. I would use reading glasses for close.

At least glasses act as goggles when I’m doing something that creates sawdust or sparks. . .

I could get something a little more chic in the glasses department. . .

I’ll post a picture next week that explains how I solved the dilemma. I’ve never been a quitter before, but I’m certainly considering i!

On the homefront, our backyard garage is getting it’s stucco tomorrow! We bought a house that had a disproportionately small garage. Add to that the generously sized backyard has no shade. So we had a pad poured and our son Scott (with help from his brothers and our brother in law) built us a nice one car garage with a covered patio off one side.

Once the garage has been stuccoed, I’m going to wire it, hang a light in the patio area install the big rolling garage door, and then we’ll set the flagstone that will form the patio. By then, the summer will be over and we should be able to get a good deal on some patio furniture. I think that’s the LAST of our big house projects!

Life is good!

 

What a summer!

July 27, 2017

I dropped out of the blogosphere when I mashed my right index finger as I worked on a landscape project. 11 stitches and a few months later, it looks like it will be fine. I have feeling back in most of the tip. As bad as it was, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. It’s hardly even ugly! Uglier than before, that is.

This has been a whirlwind summer. During the month of May we had 62 individual overnight guests. The month of July will double that number! That doesn’t count about 60 individual dinner guests that didn’t stay over night.

I LOVE IT!  I admit than when we ended up “buying down” into the biggest house we’ve ever owned last year, I felt a little guilty. Was I over consuming? Was I needing to impress someone? But now that friends and family are  accepting our invitations to come and stay, I don’t regret our decision at all. I love to have company. It also justifies my mammoth towel collection.

Right in the midst of our company inundation, Jeff and I had a trip to Long Beach. We had committed ourselves to  a press trip long before we realized that we’d be in the thick of visitors. If we hadn’t already received our flights, I might have tried to change it. But we went and had a fantastic time.

It was super fun to see cousin Ray and Aunt Eleanor.

Aunt Eleanor, Cousin Ray, (Jeff is taking the picture) and me. We had breakfast together on Thursday at the Maya hotel near the Queen Mary.

Everette Hoard, Commodore of the Queen Mary, gave Jeff and me a private tour of the ship. (Gosh that dress is unbecoming!)

We got to stay on the Queen Mary. The old ocean liner has been turned into a hotel, event center, and museum, with a POSH restaurant called Sir Winstons on the top deck. I’d never had Beef Wellington before, but it was a Yorkshire pudding-like pastry around some of the most delicious (3″ thick!) filet mignon I’ve ever had.  Alas, I couldn’t finish, but it was so good. The salad that came first was so pretty, I am determined to duplicate it the next time I cook a fancy meal. The red and yellow beets were the stars.   It makes me happy just remembering!

We also loved Parker’s Lighthouse restaurant. It’s right on the water and cool ocean breezes made for a perfect setting. Jeff said his meal was one of the best hamburgers he’s ever had, (it was huge and so savory!) and my fish sandwich (salmon) was nicely done also. It’s less formal, but heavy on the seaside ambiance.

Two other restaurant stars were ‘can’t-miss delicious’ George’s Greek Cafe in the Belmont Shores area near Naples Island. It felt like a European cafe, very much like the one where we ate in Greece last year. But their food was better than we got in Greece. YUM.  Jeff had the gyro sandwich with spit roasted lamb and I had the falafal with a Greek salad. (Falafal is mashed chick peas seasoned with cumin and other herbs, breaded and fried. They look like meatballs, but they don’t taste like meat or have a meatball consistency.)

Last but not least, the Attic which is in a less touristy area of Long beach is in an old craftsman style house. I didn’t have enough imagination to marry  creme brulee with brioche french toast, but when I tasted it, I knew that garden variety french toast was ruined forever. They make the french toast, (light and eggy from the brioche bread) and then sprinkle it with turbanado sugar and then torch it into caramel. So there’s a sweet, caramel crust on the outside.  Jeff’s cheesy, meaty Monte Cristo sandwich was also delectable.

We enjoyed lots of other places on the trip, but these were tops.

Long Beach, CA is such a fun place these days. They’ve completely rebuilt and refurbished the downtown, so that where it was once dirty and dangerous, it’s now upscale, touristy, and clean with lots of water-related activities.

The Aquarium of the Pacific has petting tanks for sharks and rays, and is tons of fun. 

There’s a business called Gondola Getaways where you ride on a Venice-style gondola (boat) and are rowed around the canals that flank the homes of the uber-rich on Naples Island. Since my Uncle Bob and Aunt Eleanor lived on Naples for a lot of the years I was growing up, it was doubly fun to revisit that exotic place. Our gondolier sang Italian love songs to us under some of the bridges and we were supposed to kiss under the bridges, too. FUN! The sun was setting and there were few other boaters, so it was a big treat. 

The trip was a blast. Long Beach has 7 miles of clean empty beaches with biking and jogging paths and clean restrooms spaced at comfortable intervals.

We took a Whale watching cruise with Harbor Breeze Tours (right there in Rainbow Harbor near the aquarium). We saw tons of dolphins, (pods with over 100 members). We also saw sea lions leaping out of the water as they swam.

But BEST OF ALL, we got to see a blue whale! They’re the biggest mammal ever to live on earth. I’ve wanted to see one my whole life, so it was just amazing to see that creature. Unfortunately, we didn’t find him until the end of the tour, so once he dove the second time, we couldn’t hang around to watch him. The boat got its prow about 50 feet from his tale. We were in the front of the boat so could see him really well.   His blowhole was about 14 inches long.

We used Groupon tix for the whale watching excursions and got them for half price. The PR company gave us an extra day and a gift card to book any excursions we wanted, so it worked out well.

I had never thought of Long Beach as a destination all in itself, but it really does have everything. The airport is nearby and easy to get to. It’s also easy to book cheap flights into there. Long Beach  I’d allow a week next time to really enjoy everything right there in Long Beach and longer if you want to hit other LA attractions.  It’s not far from Disneyland and other attractions. If you want more info go to VisitLongBeach.com and check it out. Stay on the Queen Mary. It’s mid-priced and comfortable with loads of history.

 

Cruising with kids. Ups and downs

April 30, 2017

We’re getting lots of travel in this spring. After our Thailand/China trip, we were home for almost 2 weeks and then took off for a family Caribbean Cruise. We chose Carnival, mostly because they’re the least expensive for the Caribbean. They also have very fun ships for kids with a fun water play area with slides, pools, splash parks etc. The movies on the Lido were generally family friendly, too.

We all met in Miami and sailed Saturday to Saturday. We wanted this particular itinerary because we wanted to be at sea on Sunday. We were able to reserve a room with doors that closed out the noise and music where we could gather for a testimony sort of meeting that included a bit of a Primary lesson and game for the kids. We sang “As a Child of God” thanks to Kimberly and took turns sharing our thoughts about being a disciple of Christ. It was a quieter day and though we couldn’t take the Sacrament, it felt good to be together and hear each person’s thoughts.

The first stop was the Cayman Islands. We went ashore and walked around St. George, some. Later we took a semi-submersible boat ride which the kids loved and the adults, not so much. The boat made us wait 45 minutes below decks where there wasn’t much to see after our appointed time so they could combine tours. Then the tour guide made a series of dirty jokes and knew very little about what we were seeing. Cap it off that there’s not too much to see if you’ve ever been snorkeling.  This is the wreck of the German made Cali in the harbor at Grand Caymen.

 

The jokes went over the kids’ heads so they thought it was amazing. Add to that they are insistent on your obligation to tip them. We gave a dollar. Cap it off that the delay in our tour made us return to the ship at the same time as 500 other people, all trying to tender to the ship at once. We had to wait in the HOT sun for over an hour to get on the tender boat.

Next stop was Roatan Honduras. Carnival owns the little island near the dock.

coral beach in HondurasThere are some interesting shipwrecks sticking out of the water in the bay. The island is a garden of beautiful flowers and palms and the beach is sugary white with aqua marine crystal clear water. We had watched videos of the snorkeling and concluded that it would be so-so. We were VERY pleasantly surprised. The grassy area near the beach sports rays and pretty fish and the reef is diverse and colorful with lots of interesting and beautiful species of fish. There’s a dramatic shelf that drops into the deep blue water where we couldn’t see the bottom, just like in ‘Finding Nemo’.

Carnival ship Glory in the harbor at Roatan, Honduras.

I had crushed my finger between two rocks about 9 days before we left for the cruise and got the 11 stitches out the day we left. It was very tender and only half healed, so I swam and snorkeled with my finger out of the water. (It’s still healing, and it’s going to be ugly. . .but at least I’ll be able to keep it. I hope to get feeling back on the side.) The weather was hot, the water was pleasantly cool. Fun day.

The next day, we were in Belize. I had been to Caye Caulker and Shark Ray Alley, so decided to help Tricia with the little children on Caye Caulker while the other adults went snorkling and swimming with the sharks and rays. They had a good time, although 7-year-old Nathan was too young to enjoy the snorkeling or to get his equipment properly adjusted.

Caye Caulker is one of my favorite places in the world.

Grandma with Baby Rachel on Caye Caulker

While we were on the island, the elder folks enjoyed swimming with sharks and rays. Chris dives down to the reef for a closer look.

 This little bakery is just as good as it was 8 years ago! I found it like a homing pigeon. Food is so good and so cheap on this little island Paradise!

. Grace finished off the fresh squeezed juice!

Sandy streets, cheap but delicious fry jacks and fresh squeezed OJ or watermelon juice: I just love the pace and the feel of the place. There again, it’s better with more time than we had, but if you need a week in heaven, check out that Caye and bring your own snorkel gear. There’s plenty to see the water is spectacular. Fresh caught fish in the restaurants is the norm. They don’t know the menu until the fishermen come back. Hope for some grouper!

Last was Mexico. The ship docks at Cozumel and Brian and Kelsi rented a motor scooter (or some vehicle) and went exploring. They found the little area where the artists were carving the wooden masks and bought an awesome one for a  mere $30. The rest of the family rode a ferry to the mainland and went to a natural waterpark called Xcaret. There is an underground river that you can swim through, beaches, dolphins, pools, all sizes ofl sea turtles and a spectacular aviary.

These handsome birds fit right in.

There are droplets on the camera but what do you expect in a waterfall! Thomas and James helped each other along the 45 minute swim

Walt with Gracie, Chris with McCoey, I think the totem in the background looks a bit like Thomas

The water is surprisingly chilly in the underground river. It’s salt water, so it’s mixing with ocean water.

Scott and Lizzy pose with a couple of vultures in the aviary.

If I were staying in Cancun, I’d spend a whole day in Xcaret. We had only about 5 hours and it wasn’t long enough. Some of the kids enjoyed the swim in the underground river (it comes in and out. there are even bats in one part!) The babies liked it, but some of the older kids not so much. Ironically, we’d chosen that destination for the sake of the kids and they liked everything except the main attraction.

The boat itself had some excellent elements and some major fails. Bad stuff first, so that I leave you with an up note. The cruise director was obnoxious. He’d make loudspeaker announcements late and early when most kids and some adults were asleep. The “shows” that he participated in were not entertaining and just dumb. In fact there were some good musicians on the ship, but the entertainment was both sparse and mostly of low quality. Of the four cruises we’ve been on, (our second with Carnival), this one easily ranks fourth for the quality of the entertainment. The muster (safety) drill at the beginning of the cruise is tortuous and very poorly organized. Plus, they didn’t take roll, so they don’t know who skipped out. It was very hot and we had to stand crowded together on deck for over half an hour. One lady near us fainted.

I’ve never seen so many tatoo’s, shockingly immodest bathing suits or pregnant-looking men in my life. Here’s a funny thing I noticed. The white people were lying in the sun, baking their backsides to leather while the black people were sitting in the shade sipping cool drinks. There’s a reason black people don’t show their age!

We were up on the mini golf course at about 8:30 pm on Thursday night when the power went off. It was pitch black for a few minutes until the emergency lights came on. We skedaddled down to our rooms. Eric came on the loudspeaker saying that the extension cord from Miami got pulled out and that they sent divers to plug it back in, so don’t worry. Under the circumstances and with other ships having had issues that were serious, it was an idiotic thing to broadcast. If we wanted to know the truth, we could have gone to a meeting the next day. We didn’t go. The power was out for about an hour and it caused the cancellation of a stage show and the deck movie. We had intended to watch the deck movie.

The tendering arrangement on Grand Cayman was a nightmare. But the Belize tender went fine, with no waiting lines to get on or off the boat. I actually enjoyed both the tendering boat rides themselves.

The good stuff: The Carnival Glory is a fun boat for kids and adults alike. Carnival cruises are geared toward heavy drinkers, partiers, and generally a younger set, including little children. Even in the formal dining room, they bent over backward to make the children feel welcome. Even when the little ones got a bit out of hand, they were patient and kind and tried to help each child enjoy themselves, too. One waiter made the kids some origami jumpy frogs and an origami talking bird. Another overheard that McCoey wanted cherries for dessert, (his favorite part of the banana split from the night before) so they brought him a dish of cherries with ice cream on the side. Another time, I couldn’t decide between two chocolate desserts and I don’t think I even expressed it out loud. I decided on one and the waiter brought me both. I guess he’d seen my finger marking both alternately.

Tricia and Grace await their scrumptious meal of lobster and other yummies on formal night. Kimberly and Scott are at the table behind on her right and Chris and a bit of Kelsi on her left. Brian is behind Chris and Thomas has his back to the camera.

right to left Nathan, McCoey and Grace enjoying formal night in the main dining room on Carnival Glory

The chocolate extravaganza on the Lido deck on our last sea day was yummy!

Brian, Kelsi, Jeff and I are enjoying the Chocolate treats on the last sea day. Of course Jeff is taking the picture, but the evidence of his indulgence is obvious!

Add to that, the food on the ship is fantastic. I don’t notice much difference between the various cruise lines. It was fantastic on the Glory, too. I just can’t say enough good about the variety and quality of the food in the main dining room. The chocolate melting cake is a Carnival specialty and SO GOOD!  Add to that, you can get a variety of excellent sandwiches at the deli and to-die-for hamburgers on the Lido near the pool. The pizza place is good but thin crust, (I’m a thick crust girl). Top it off with the soft serve good quality ice cream available in a few places around the ship 24-7 and you get the idea.  When James beat me at Farkle, we snuck up after the family was getting in bed and had a winner cone on the deck and watched the ocean slide by for a little while.

We saw whales and flying fish from the ship, too. Adults and kids alike enjoyed the water attractions on board. Chris checked out the music and liked what he heard too. We didn’t discover the kids camp until the last day, but the kids like the time they spent there, too.

We were glad that they sold Aloe with Lidocain in the infirmary. It wasn’t too expensive. Some of us forgot that sunscreen wears off super fast in salt water and needs to be super strength in the tropics.

We had fun playing Bananagrams and Farkle. Kelsi is the undisputed champion of Bananagrams but I came close once or twice. I think Kelsi and Chris tied for the Mini golf title.

One last weird thing was that as we waited in VERY long, slow moving lines to get off the ship in Miami, there was a glitch and the official told three of our kids, (each in separate staterooms) that they owed several hundred dollars (for gratuities). We had set it up that all gratuities would be charged to Jeff’s card, so we don’t know what was going on with it. Brian told them, “No, I don’t owe anything.” The official looked at his paper again and said, “Oh, you’re right. We owe you some money” They handed him $25.

Add to that, the port authorities from Miami were RUDE. One lady scolded Chris roundly for letting a child she assumed was his son (but was actually his nephew) cry as he came down the escalator. She made a big fuss and was actually yelling! It was the weirdest thing! Then the guy checking passports made a rude remark Scott’s family with four children, (“You guys need to get HBO or something.”) Anyway, those incidents left a sour taste in my mouth. Then our shuttle was 45 minutes late, which turned out not to matter because the flights stopping in Dallas had been cancelled due to bad weather.

Overall, it was fun fun fun! I loved spending time with some of the people that are dearest to me. We’ll definitely plan large family trips again, but I don’t think I’d do another cruise with such young kids. The kids love it, but the adults can’t take full advantage of the ports’ offerings or the evening fun (even gathering to play games or watching the on deck movies) because of the wee ones.

Travels and more travels

April 20, 2017

We couldn’t resist the $1250 per person groupon tour to Thailand and China when Jeff’s sister Lynda and her husband Barry said they’d go with us. It was a ton of fun and even more fun because of such good company. Here are a few favorites from Thailand.

The tour was through Affordable Asia. At the bargain price, we expected to be roughing it here and there. But it was nothing of the sort. Both in Thailand and China we stayed in 4-5 star hotels and resorts. Each facility had amazing “breakfast” buffets that had every kind of food you would expect on an Asian dinner buffet and more traditional American breakfast offerings too. Can you see the little octopuses? (octopye?)

 

After a week in Thailand, I am now an expert on Thai food.

I’m sure you’ve always wondered but I’m here to tell you that silkworms have the consistency of cheese puffs and when flavored with garlic salt, aren’t half bad. Pad Thai is served with lots of bean sprouts, a sprinkling of peanuts and a dose of sugar over that.

Apparently there are no electrical codes in Thailand. This nest is in the heart of Bangkok and wasn’t the worst we saw.

 Yup, they are praying to a 10 foot tall, 5 1/2 ton solid gold Buddha. The idols in front are offerings.

Squid on a stick from a night market.

Buddhist monks beg for their food. All young men are encouraged to spend at least a short time as a monk, begging for their food and abstaining from touching women. That’s a homeless fellow sleeping next to them.

 

Thai banana pancakes are a yeast dough stretched very thin and baked on a hot griddle. They slice a banana into an egg and beat them together for a minute before spreading on the cooking pancake. They drizzle it with sweetened condensed milk and when set, fold over into a pocket. The drizzle that again with more sweetened condensed milk and chocolate syrup. Simple and YUMMY.

 

 

I do not eat rats unless they are hot off the barby. Thank goodness we didn’t find any that qualified. Those are raw-looking quail in the foreground. It was a roadside stand.  Lots of pictures but nobody bought anything.

 

 OH RATS! roasted rats

 Jeff takes off his shoes before a swim in the WARM South China Sea.

grasshoppers, crickets and silk worms We only ate the silkworms. The other insects were too leggy. 

 

 Images of the king (late king in this case) are EVERYWHERE. It’s illegal to say anything negative about the king in Thailand.

 Most of our tour group. Part of the fun is the neat and interesting people we got to travel with.

 

 

 A small portion of one of the breakfast buffets. They don’t have specific food they associate with breakfast, so serve a generous array of meats, soups, stews, vegetables, fruits, breads and rice.

 This golden structure is in the Grand palace complex. The figures are monkeys and demons. The both keep out bad luck and evil spirits, but the monkeys change into demons when threatened. You can tell the difference by the fact that demons wear shoes.

 A gorgeous pool at the first hotel. It was the smallest of any we stayed at.

 

 A beautifully carved wooden cabinet for sale at the floating market. It’s made of Teak.

  The floating market. That’s where I bought my cute hat I’m wearing in the elephant pictures.

 coconut groves from the canal on the way to the floating market.

 These delectable sweet little coconut pancakes are served in a folded banana leaf. They’re about the size of a silver dollar. Scrumptious!

 On the way to the floating market. We saw plenty of shacks but beautiful flowers too.

 Part of the Emperor’s summer palace. Very hot day but it was cool in the tower.

 Every had a kiss from an elephant? It’s warm, rubbery and slightly moist. It pops!

 Lunch at the floating restaurant overlooking the bridge over the River Kwai built by WW2  prisoners of war.

 

riding an elephant is prickly business. 

We were still wearing our bathing suits after a swim and raft ride at the River Kwai. When the driver hopped off and motioned me into his place, I gleefully took his spot. The elephant’s hair is prickly like a hairbrush. His ears are warm and smooth as they flapped against my bare legs. (He probably thought that the human’s hair was prickly on my legs, too!)

 Barry and Lynda (Baxter)  This is on the boat ride to the floating market.

My two favorite parts of the trip to Thailand were riding elephants and the River Market. I enjoyed swimming/rafting on the River Kwai, but it wasn’t that different from any other cool, clean natural swimming on a very hot day.

 

 

A tidbit of parenting advice from an empty nester

March 16, 2017

First of all, a huge thank you to every single one of you that has bought my new book, Beth Stephenson’s Americana. It means so much to me personally. More important, it supports the Americana concept: that there are patriots all across this nation that enjoy focusing on all the great people, places, history, customs and cultures that make America what it is. As I track the sales on Amazon.com, it heartens and encourages me.

I’m babysitting a few of my grandkids for  a short stint of 2-3 days and have been musing on some parenting principles that I learned or wish I’d learned while I was raising my young family.

Every time you treat a child harshly, or deal with them without any regard to justice, or even to refuse to fulfill a harmless request without a good reason, you teach that child that they are not worthy of respect. When you fail to use self-control or a measured, thoughtful response to stress, you teach your children to behave the same way.

When you inconvenience yourself for their well-being, laugh at their jokes, prefer their company over people (other than or along with your spouse),  praise their kindness, intelligence, cleverness, humility, talents or obedience, you teach them that they have value, not only to you, but to the world at large.

When a mother signals to a child that her own pleasure, convenience, or comfort is more important than her child’s needs, she shapes the child’s perception of his/her value to the world generally.

You should notice that I don’t say that the child recognizes that the the mother’s comfort and convenience is more important TO HER than her child’s needs. The child feels that he or she is less important in the whole world than the mother and the priorities she puts first.

An example of this idea is the mother who chooses to work when it is not necessary to the family’s well-being. Children internalize the signal that having stuff, including trips or clothes or status or worldly acclaim is more important than they are. They believe that they come AFTER all of that in their mother’s priorities. So when she’s done at the gym and the office and the resort and the salon and the department store, she might have some interest left for them. I have never seen kids that believe that they benefit from a nicer car or a nicer house or more expensive clothes if their mother chooses to work when she could choose to be with them.

No wonder the blight on children these days is low self-esteem.

One of the most important successes my mom had was that even though she was well educated and even somewhat ambitious, she chose to stay home with us kids. I grew up knowing that my siblings and I were the most important thing in Mom’s world. That is a recipe for success. If your mother believes that you are worth sacrificing for, you believe that your own success and development and education is worth sacrificing for. And then you pass those priorities down to your children.

We did without fancy vacations. We did without lots of clothes.  We rarely (less than once a year) visited restaurants. We learned to do for ourselves in every reasonable circumstance. We learned to have fun without expensive toys.(There’s nothing more thrilling than riding your brother’s homemade go-cart at breakneck speed down an old gravel road when they have forbidden you to touch it!) (Unless maybe it’s climbing into your brother’s no-girls-allowed tree house. I could have built my own go cart and tree house, but what would be the point?)

My mother tried different methods with us kids. She tried to solve the issues that develop in families.

She read to us. She watched our impromptu plays. She taught us to work in the house and yard. She took us to the beach when the Saturday chores were done. She cooked for us and established family traditions.

She wasn’t always successful in her attempts to provide a happy home and it’s no wonder. She was raised almost as an only child, and had little sibling experience. I believe that the fact that she tried her best, whether she succeeded or not, is far far better in its effect on the child than a mother who doesn’t even try.

We learned that clothes are not important. Impressive cars are not as important as reliable cars. So we not only learned that we were vitally important to our mom, (the most important influence in a child’s life,) we gained the skill set and value system  inherent in her decision. People were more important than the income she could provide or the status and acclaim her own achievements might have provided her.

My mom made lots of mistakes. Big ones and little ones. But this one huge success has reverberated through the generations.

As Gordon B. Hinkley, late president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urged. “Try a little harder to be a little better.” Mothers if you try a little harder to be kind and wise and patient with your kids, putting your family first in your world, not only will they someday call you “blessed,” but when you meet the Lord, He also will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

March 10, 2017

This is for my friends and family who don’t mind a bit of religious reflection.

The other night, I was feeling a bit discouraged. I was so happy to receive the first copies of my new book, “Beth Stephenson’s Americana” in the mail, (the first non-fiction I’ve ever published in book form), but before long a sense of discouragement began to set in. I started thinking about how hard it is to get people to know about a new release without spending lots of money and how much I DON’T enjoy selling anything.

Then I started ruminating on the fact that I’ve been contacting a dozen newspaper editors and spoken to switchboard operators and answering machines, but rarely a live person. Just as my pity party was really getting underway, I felt corrected by the Spirit. I was reminded that there have been multiple miracles that have occurred in my writing career, and many times that I have felt guided. When I act on that guidance, more miracles have happened.

I believe that Americana fills an important purpose, promoting the good and encouraging kindness and good citizenship in our nation. I feel confident that the Lord inspired the concept of the column in the first place and now sustains me with ideas and the ability to write well. Because I know my purpose is to do good, I am not ashamed to ask for help.

So prayed to have faith and to move forward and to recognize and respond to the Holy Ghost. I felt comforted and restored.

The next day, I contacted several of the editors again that I’ve been pestering about Americana.

I was stunned when the first editor I called answered and was interested! While I was sending him the samples he requested, I got a call from an editor from a very big paper saying that she loved it and was going to bat with the managing editors in the hope of getting them to change their mind about “no more columns.”

I was flying high by then. While I was sending her the samples, another editor sent an email asking for samples.

Today, I got a nice long email from an editor at a middle-sized paper saying that one way or another, they will use it!

Just to top it off, the coordinator for an upcoming press trip to Long Beach CA, asked me if I wanted to stay on the Queen Mary while in Long Beach. I had told her that I wanted to write stories about Whale watching,  Catalina Island and the Queen Mary for Americana, but I didn’t expect that!

If I hadn’t made any attempt to contact editors because I was too discouraged, I would have given up just on the brink of success. Satan doesn’t want us to succeed in the good things we’re doing and discouragement is his most powerful tool.

I’ll keep ya’ll posted as to what happens with the self-syndicating. Even the positive feedback from editors that have seen Americana bolsters my confidence and gives me encouragement to keep going and growing the audience.

YIPPEE!!! My BOOK IS HERE!!!

March 9, 2017

MY BOOK CAME!

For the last 6 weeks, Jeff and I have been collecting my Americana columns from last year. We knew we needed to use an Indie publishing alternative because it needed to be out quickly. We both enjoyed reading all the columns and adding pictures sent to me by readers after they read the columns.

The hard part was the formatting. We used a template, but it had it’s own ideas about spacing and even fonts, that we battled constantly.

But other than a few small errors, we’re tickled by the way it turned out.

The Kindle version’s pictures are in color, which we hadn’t anticipated. I was also delighted by the quality of the printed cover.

Check it out!

Here’s the link for both the paperback and the electronic version.

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=beth+Stephenson%27s+Americana