Saturday, May 31, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would be the 94th birthday of my father, were he still alive. I miss him.

Being a pilot in World War II was a time that affected the rest of his life. It left him with painful memories and feelings of guilt that he never quite conquered.

But when I think about what I know about him, I know that he loved the circus, and the movies. Both of these affections started when he was young. He remembered the circus coming to town and going to the Saturday matinees of the latest western serial.

Although he continued to attend the circus all his life, we bonded more successfully over films. After my parents separated, we spent Sundays together and going to the movies was a frequent choice of activities. We would go to new releases, old films, and sometimes special showings.

I remember soaking the knees of my jeans with my tears at a showing of How Green Was My Valley, and being introduced to the films of Frank Capra, whom my father worked for. Occasionally, I even got the chance to go to work with him, and hang around the prop truck, wardrobe truck, and watch the filming happen. They were fun times.

Dad also loved rollercoasters and rode on them every chance he could. Looking at the smile on his face in that open cockpit makes me think it was a poor substitute for flying.

Our relationship had its ups and downs over the years, although for the last thirty years we were good. I know that all his experiences made him who he was, and I loved him. I wish he were still around so I could call and sing to him on his birthday.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Another successful trip

I've been traveling a lot this year, and I am refusing to feel guilty. Flexible and frequent travel times are one of the reasons I like to have a year off. And I'm proud of all we've seen and done in this short trip. Art exhibits, ancestral villages and lots and lots of walking.

My niece and I have been having a good, and sometimes frustrating time, practicing our German skills. We have gotten very experienced at navigating the transit systems of each new city. Churches, castles, and town halls have been visited and dogs and cats have been petted at every opportunity.

There's been good and not-so-good weather as we visited town, village, city and capital. Last night in a drizzle we managed to wander into two different fests in Frankfurt, one for apple wine and one for eating. It seemed to be our duty as tourists to sample the goods at both.

It was clearly our least healthy dinner yet, but very fun. We enjoyed large glasses of apple wine that was cheaper than wine or soda, fried potato pancakes, a waffle with bananas and Nutella, and freshly peeled and fried potato chips.

Success, indeed.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mannheim, Viernheim, Feudenheim, heim!

Yes, we went to many 'heims'.

After such a good day on Wednesday, yesterday was the physical equivalent of what a genealogist probably often encounters while researching. Lots of closed doors, but with open windows somewhere else. We heard "not here, but maybe if you go to x" many times.

Ancestral village number 3 seemed very nice, although someone from the nearby big city called it "horrible" and wondered why any tourists would want to go there. We did see one tremendously unique invention: a day-old bread automat next to the closed bakery. We got some fun breads at very cheap prices for today's meals. Ingenious!

But at the end of the day, mostly what we had was sore feet, and only a few email addresses that might bear fruit in the future.

A day in the life . . . 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


From small suggestions come big results. The genealogist is going to have a small calf, heck, maybe a big calf, because I have in my possession a special book.

But back to the beginning of the day, when we were quite downtrodden . . .

When we mentioned our dismay that the churches in town were locked, someone suggested trying the side door. Bless whoever that was! The side door was indeed open because there was a lady vaccuuming. She went for the pastor, and he came bearing a name and address of the man who knew everything about the the history of the town.

We went and knocked on the door, and his wife rode off on her bike to fetch him home. Thereafter followed more than four hours with Gerd conversing about a wide range of topics, including emigration, immigration, the changing channel of the Rhein, and the importance of the customs house (pictured below) in the development of Neuburg am Rhein.

We were also given lunch, a personal tour of the village museum, and finally a ride to the train station with a promise of doing it better the next visit.

Oh and that book, wherein there are over 4000 names from the village with their genealogy from 1900 to the beginning of the town's records. And a map that made my jaw drop! Gerd started working on the records in 1979. He was also instrumental in the creation of the museum.

What luck for us that he was home yesterday!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dashed Hopes

We arrived yesterday at the second ancestral village, although the woman who I spoke to at the hotel assured me it was almost impossible to get there without a car. Actually, trains and busses run there regularly, although a change or two is necessary.

In any case, we arrived and we were happy to get there on a Monday night, because the Rathaus (town hall) is only open from 9-12 on Mondays and Tuesdays. Imagine our disappointment when we saw this notice on the board:

This tells everyone that due to vacation during the Kalendar Week 22 (this week), the office will only be open on Monday. (By the way, this notice was not posted on the website!)

So, we are now at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. We hope the museum will still be open as scheduled and we were informed by our waitress last night that there are still "lots" of people in town with our surname, but we know of only one. We have to muster our bravery and make a phone call.

Adventures, indeed.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Who knew?

A few nights ago, we ate this amazing skillet full of potatoes, onions and cheese. My companion had a local cheese, Ribeaupierre, with wild garlic (in French, one says garlic of the bears). I asked for a local cheese as well and the waitress recommended the Munster.

But in the back of my mind, I was thinking, Munster's not local...

The king of all knowledge, though, tells me that I am confused. Apparently, I am mixing up Munster, the cheese from Alsace, with Muenster, the American cheese. (It's also sometimes called Munster.)

And amazingly enough, neither of these two cheeses have anything to do with Muenster, the town in Germany!

Learning while eating, that's my kind of travel.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ancestral Village #1

 The maternal grandfather of my maternal grandmother, Hippolyte, came from a small village in the Alsace region called Saint Hippolyte. (It seems there were a lot of boys from the town with that name.)

Yesterday we arrived in the town of about 1000 inhabitants. It lies in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains and it primarily produces wine and supports tourists who come to drink wine. The country is France, but most of the names sound German, although I imagine the people would insist that they are from Alsace.

We hiked up a mountain to a restored medieval castle and had a lovely view of the countryside.

We wandered around the village in the evening, ate some very good Alsatian cheesy potatoes, and went to bed. On the schedule for today is a visit to the cemetery and to sneak inside the church during a baptism, the only time it is open this weekend!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Adventures with Language

Nobody dies, but sometimes you have to drink an extra soda . . .

. . . or at least that's what happened yesterday morning when I misunderstood the cafe owner. He told me the bottle was to takeaway and he would bring me a soda in a glass if I wanted. Since I wanted to take the bottle with me after our breakfast, I nodded and smiled. He brought me the soda, I drank it and then bought another.

And then there are the times your mouth works faster than your brain, like when I said please to a woman I bumped into instead of excuse me, because the first thing my mouth came up with was 's'il vous plait.'

But the best language so far was when I said I was pretty when I meant to say I was happy.  After thinking about it for a minute, I declared I was both pretty and happy! It got a laugh.

Mandatory photo of Notre Dame

Friday, May 23, 2014

Back in Europe

Ok, so I'm in Paris, hanging out with my niece and it's lovely. There was rain yesterday morning, but then it cleared up into a cool day with amazing cloud formations.

We went to the Musee d'Orsay, which I enjoyed very much when I wasn't falling asleep on my feet. Then we wandered the long way back to where I was staying and I rested while my niece went home to change out of her wet shoes.

On my way to meet her for dinner, my camera ran out of juice. So I'll have to paint you a word picture. It was early evening, so the light was soft. The half-clouded sky gave the air a pink glow, and rising next to the river Seine was the architectural masterpiece that is the cathedral of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has been photographed from every conceivable angle, so if you want to know what its structure is, you can search for it. But the two square towers seemed to touch the low clouds, while at the same time, being anchored to the ground by the flying buttresses.

How lucky I am to have such a view to have on my walk to eat crepes for dinner!

Thursday, May 22, 2014


The only dog I've ever owned wasn't really even mine. Snoopy belonged to my brother, although she was also a family dog. Snoopy was a bit of a mutt, with some Chihuahua, beagle and I think terrier in her background. I have no idea where we got her. She was a great dog.

As an adult, I love for my friends to have dogs. I get some intermittent loving, petting, ball chasing and walking and not so much of the poop, vomit, and other medical problems. I am partial to Corgis and mutts.

I have thought very little about poodles for much of my life. I suppose that if you had asked me what a poodle looked like, the picture in my head would have looked something like this:

Photo courtesy of Purple Cow Vineyards. I don't know why.
Poodles seemed to me to be dogs that needed a lot of grooming. I wasn't sure why parts of them needed to be fluffy and other parts needed to be shaved, it was just the way things were. And since I don't expend a ton of energy on my own grooming, poodles appeared to be a time-consuming nuisance of a breed.

But at some point I became aware that not all poodles were equally groomed. Some of them just looked like regular dogs. They were all sorts of colors, different sizes and could be good working dogs as well as pets. And these regular looking poodles had a particularly cute shagginess about them.

Photo courtesy of a website about standard poodles
I'm sure there's a lot of information out there about the history of the poodle, how to show poodles, what to feed them and where to get them. I'm not so interested in all of that, especially since I'm not in the market for a dog. But if I were, I wouldn't mind a mutt with some poodle in it. They seem cool.

* This post topic brought to you courtesy of Caitlin. Don't forget, you too can request a topic. An operator is standing by. Well, I'm probably not standing by, but I do get all messages sent.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Spring Swim

The ice has been off the lakes for a number of weeks, and today was quite hot. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that the water is warm. But there's nothing quite like swimming in the open water, so . . .

Since there was a softball game last night, I knew that after the game I would be warm enough to swim. I wore my suit under my shorts and T-shirt, and I was warm after the game, but the water was cold!

According to the world wide interweb, the lake temperature was 54°. Now normally I swim at the beach, walking in a bit at a time. But when I asked my fellow softball players who else wanted to swim, someone said yes, which is quite unusual.

However, she wanted to jump off the nearby dock because she got challenged to jump in the water for some cancer charity. So we jumped off the dock together. And the water was COLD! I came up shouting and gasping for air and swearing. That was all somewhat involuntary.

It was clear to me that if I had gone in at the beach, I wouldn't have made it past my knees. I'm just not that much of a masochist. On the other hand, it was quite invigorating, so I'm glad I did it.

It's a reminder that we should jump in the deep water sometimes in life, no matter the water temperature.

PS I can't quite believe it after my last softball post, but we won last night, 6-4. We were all cheering until one team member said, "We should try and act like it's happened before."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Live Music

There's an incredible electricity that happens at live music events.

I've written quite a bit about music, as it is an important part of my life. Recently, my honey and I went to a David Lindley concert. Known by many as the polyester guitar god, he is an amazing stringed instrument player.

Not just guitar or banjo, he played the Hawaiian guitar, bouzuki, and the oud when we saw him. He's backed up Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon and told a story about playing with Dolly Parton. It was a great evening.

But more than just wonderful music, it got me thinking about the magic of live entertainment. First off, the musician gets to choose which songs they feel like singing for the night. It's a way to get some insight into the artist's mind, however small a glimpse.

Then there's the audience. Mostly the audience is great and at times their interaction with the musician can spark a good story or a song selection that was unplanned. Those are the great unexpected moments.

There can be some negatives to a live show, though. Some audience members can make you wince. These people seem to need to hear their voices at a loud volume, even if they have nothing to say. And live concerts often go late the night. As my honey said, "Going out to music was easier when we were younger."

Still, I'm planning on more evenings out. Carpe diem!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Blog Disappointment

The title of this post was going to be Blog Synergy. My honey and I were supposed to be featured in another blog which would mention this one. I might pick up three or four of their readers and some of you might start following that blog. But I've been waiting for over a week and it hasn't happened yet. I'm beginning to doubt that it will.

Let me back up to tell the whole story.  A couple of weeks ago, my honey and I were going to go out to lunch. Unfortunately, he forgot and made sandwiches for himself anyway. So we decided to have a picnic instead of eating at a restaurant. We rode our bikes from his work to a spot along the river that had a good view.

And along came a guy on his bike. He told us that he had a blog. It is basically photos of bicyclists that he takes while he's out riding around. We talked for a while and he asked if he could take our photo and post it on his blog. He did say that he had a backlog of a photo or two before he would put ours up.

We agreed and I admitted that I too had a blog. I gave him my card and he said that he would add a link under our photo. Then he rode off, we finished eating and then went and looked at the water flowing over the nearby dam.

It took me a little while to find his blog as there seem to be several blogs with similar names, all supporting bicycling in our area. But I did find his photos eventually and the waiting commenced. A photo of another bicyclist was posted, then another, then another. And none of them was us.

Oh, well. My day of fame will come someday. I can only hope it will be for my writing and not for riding a bike.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


And so the season turns back to spring. Yesterday was lovely, all sunny and even warm.

We had our second softball game of the season last week. It was an absolutely gorgeous night for it, although cold. As you can see from the photo, it was cloudy with a backdrop of blue, blue sky. The outfielders needed sunglasses to be able to see the balls hit by our opponents.

We lost the game, of course, as we usually do. But there were several bright spots in the game. We scored a run in the first inning, which meant that we were winning the game for a very short time. We also scored runs in two different innings, which is rather unusual for our team.

In spite of the loss, a good time was had by all, our team and theirs. I look forward to losing the rest of our games.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


There are times in my life when the last thing I want to do is write this blog. Evenings where I would rather just go to bed than work at crafting words for someone else's reading pleasure. Multiple occasions when I have cursed my initial decision to post a daily blog.

But just the other day I realized that writing this blog day in, day out for the last eleven months has given me something priceless. Confidence in my writing. Before I started this crazy adventure late last June, I liked writing. I thought I wasn't too bad at it, and that I might have some talent in that general direction.

Now I know I can write. At the drop of a hat, I can craft a 250-500 word essay on just about any subject.

In high school I had a speech teacher who would assign 500 word essays on random topics if you misbehaved in his class. As a "good girl" I never received one of these extra homework assignments, but after thirty years I still remember some of the topics.

Camaro. Meditation. India. Orange. (Color or fruit? Unspecified.) I have no idea how he came up with some of his ideas.

Mind you, this was in the pre-Google days, so you really had to do some quick research or some deep thinking to complete his chore. Anyone who got one of these assignments tended to not get in trouble again.

Nowadays, though, I'm thinking I could crush that. So, here's a challenge for my readers. What would you like to have me write about? Any topic, no subject too obscure or bizarre. Your new ideas would help me at those times when I'm struggling for something to write about. I make no promises about when I will write about your themes, but I will do it at some point.

So as a favor to me, what subject would you like to read about in this blog?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Online television

There are so many different ways to procrastinate. I've shared my addiction to solitaire, my habit of surfing the web and taking silly online quizzes. And I've also told you about my favorite movie theater, the reality show I'd like to appear on, and my honey's nightly news show.

However, I have yet to write about the immense amount of television shows that exist on the world wide interweb. There are cable shows available to watch the following day, like the Daily Show.

I first watched this show about six years ago when we had cable for a month. We were living in Iowa during the month of January, so we had nothing better to do than stay up late and watch television. It makes me laugh.

Then there are the old eighties shows that I used to watch when they were first broadcast. The A-Team, ALF, 21 Jump Street, Major Dad. Those and many more shows are all available on Hulu, not to mention the many other sites with shows both old and new.

Cult classics, favorite shows that were cancelled too soon, British sitcoms that have never been broadcast in the US, they are all available for your procrastinating pleasure.

Binge watching these shows is the popular way to watch nowadays. Right now I'm tempted to watch tv on my computer all night long.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


I felt extremely old last night. Old and cranky. Old and curmudgeonly. Why? I attempted to use some new-fangled technology to communicate with my niece in France. It didn't work out well. If I had a cane, I would have waved it around in frustration.

Someone (probably younger than me) had set up Skype on my computer sometime last year or maybe the year before. I had used it once soon after, but never since. So yesterday afternoon when I tried to sign on, I had no idea of my skype name or password.

I had the website send me a password reset to my email address. Unfortunately, there were three accounts attached to my email address. Only one of them was mine. I'm not sure how the others got there.

The problem was that the website wouldn't let me select my account to sign in. Any time I asked for more help, the site directed me to sign in for more help. It was a complete runaround. And the time to be logged in so that I could video chat with my niece had already passed.

Finally, after a few more tours around the circular track, I somehow managed to select my name and I thought that I logged in. Having no memory of my prior experience made it difficult to tell if I was really logged in. I wasn't.

So we missed our opportunity last night.  Right before I went to bed I tried one last time and it was magic. It was immediately clear that I was in, and that if only my niece were awake at four in the morning, we could have chatted.

I have high hopes for another opportunity tonight and I think it will work. But I'll try and find a cane to accompany my rant, just in case it doesn't.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

First Tulip

Green things are breaking out all over, what with all the wet weather my region has been having. Yesterday morning, though, I noticed the first speck of color in our front yard.

Tulips make me happy. I'm very glad we planted lots of them a couple of years ago. Beautiful tulips are what convinces me that spring is truly on its way.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Airbnb asks people who use their service to write a review of where you stayed, in order to give feedback to your host and other prospective clients. The system gives you a month to post your review, which means I am running of time.  My writing needs to do double duty these days, so I thought I would post my reviews here for everyone to see.

View from our Venice window
Sabrina was a great host for us in Venice. She was very knowledgeable about the surrounding area and was happy to share what she knew with us. When my Mom's walker didn't make it to Venice with us on our plane, Sabrina helped get it delivered to us at the apartment. Even when we made a mistake on our last day, she and her husband were quite gracious with us.

The apartment was clean and neat. The main bedroom was quite roomy. There was some outside noise, as other people have noted, but it didn't bother my parents at all. The pull-out bed in the living room/kitchen area was quite comfortable. The neighborhood was lovely, with two close vaporetto stops, a grocery store, cafes, a church and a large plaza all nearby.

View from our window in Rome
Rose has a lovely, funky apartment. It was our favorite place to stay in Italy. We especially loved the little kitchen and the view out the window. We felt very Roman when we took our laundry to the roof to hang it up to dry.

The apartment is in a quiet building near the Vatican. The other residents of the building were always very friendly when we met on the stairs or at the elevator. The neighborhood is obviously a real one, where Romans live, rather than full of tourists. My only regret is that I didn't manage to go for a swim at the local pool only a block away!

Any questions or additions for the reviews?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Back in the Saddle

Reviewing my posts in anticipation of writing this one, I realized that returning, recovering and starting over are major themes in my life and therefore this blog.

I've begun training for that never-gonna-happen marathon at least three times. Having traveled so much this year, I often write about returning home. Since I'm a klutz, I have had to write about broken toes, falling on the stairs and the many recoveries from my many injuries.

But right now, what I am returning to is my novel. I haven't really worked on it since my last class finished, shortly before I left for Italy.

I have accepted the fact that I won't manage to have it ready to send out by the end of August. However, I need to keep my butt in the chair, and spend time writing. Due to the work I've done over the past months on my storyboard, the beginning of the novel needs to be reordered and several scenes need to be written.

One of my mentors, Mary Carroll Moore, whose blog I follow, wrote this past Friday about the problem of starting over. According to the experts, after three days of not writing, regaining your momentum becomes difficult. The answer, then, is to continue writing every day, if only for a little bit.

My new writing group is going to be the accountability that a procrastinator like me desperately needs. Today it's my turn to send an excerpt to the others. I've decided to work on that beginning. I'm not sure which passages I'll be able to organize into a whole, how many gaps I'll fill in, or what it will be like, but by tonight, I'll send out the beginning of my novel.

Artificial deadlines work for me.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hot Tubs

I have always loved water. Hot tubs are wonderful because they're full of hot, steamy water and they also have jets which are fun and therapeutic. When I was a young punk teenager, we would sneak into nearby apartment and condo complexes that had pools and hot tubs in order to use their facilities.

The closest set of apartments had no fence, but a lifeguard that took the guarding responsibilities seriously. A little further away at a bunch of condos, there was no guard, but there was quite a fence, so we had to go at night and be as quiet as possible so that security didn't get a call.

Not any of my hot tubs, just a random photo off the internet
Nowadays, I just go to my local YWCA, show my membership card and use their hot tub. It's not crowded normally and the jets always work. I went yesterday in the hopes it would help my back pain, which it seemed to do. I plan on going again later today to continue the process.

If it didn't feel so environmentally irresponsible, I would totally have one of my own. That would be cool!

PS Happy Mother's Day, Mom! If anyone else is interested in how I feel about my mom, here's what I wrote about her on her birthday, a day she really celebrates.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Film Festivals

There are a lot of film festivals out there, and one of my original goals for this year off was to attend one of them. At one point, I thought about trying to volunteer at the Sundance film festival, but I forgot at a crucial time. Then when I checked the website again, the call for volunteers was closed.

I remembered this goal yesterday when I heard that the Cannes Film Festival was coming up soon. Not that there's any way I could manage an invite to Cannes. The San Sebastian Film Festival in the north of Spain was a possibility, but I've just learned that it takes place in September which is after school starts again, so that's out.

When you look up film festivals on the internet, it seems like every town has one, and the bigger towns have more than one. Atlanta, Miami, even Palm Springs has a film festival. I didn't manage to attend our local international film festival this year, although I have sometimes in the past.

One film festival that I have enjoyed in the past has been the Bicycle Film Festival. Memories include a Japanese film about keirin bike racing, as well as a goofy music video with furry animals riding bikes. That would be a festival I could easily attend. Unfortunately, my town is no longer on its schedule. Bummer!

But that goal obviously wasn't important enough to make the cut this year. I guess I'm just going to have to let it fly away with the wind, and put it on the list again for the next leave.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Weekday Warrior

There are two somewhat opposing definitions of the term weekend warrior. I thought it was someone who sat around at a sedentary job all week, and then went out and did athletic stuff on the weekend, usually getting injured. That definition, without the injury clause, is confirmed by Merriam-Webster.

However, according to the Urban Dictionary, I have been using the term weekend warrior all wrong. It defines the term as someone who parties on the weekend.

Whichever way it is defined, I have a slightly different problem. Riffing off the athletic definition, with injury, I am a weekday warrior.

On Tuesday, I pitched a softball game and then went to water polo practice. Wednesday found me losing three particularly intense ping pong matches and then later in the afternoon going for a jog/walk.

But yesterday my body rebelled. There was a soreness in my back that kept getting worse and worse. I tried to go to the last polo practice of the season, but couldn't bend down without pain to get my swimsuit on.

So I came home, and immediately started applying the Rest Ice parts of RICE. (I never have figured out how I could Compress or Elevate my lower back.)

And so the cycle goes on. I have postponed my next ping pong match, and I will continue to rest and apply ice. Maybe this time, I'll really work on my exercises, be careful about overdoing it and it will be years before another flare-up.

Yeah, right!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Last Glance at Italy

One of the struggles I had with this blog in Italy was that the blogger app on the iPad wouldn't load more than two photos. Since I had originally planned to just post the best pictures of the day once I ran out of pre-written posts, this was a problem.

It also meant that I couldn't share some of my favorite photos. So I thought I would post the ones I would have shared with you already if I could have. I've picked one from each of the cities.

Venice from the island of Giudecca
Of all the places we visited, I loved Venice the best. But I don't know what to do about that, because the fact that so many of us love Venice is what is ruining Venice. It's a conundrum!

The dome of Florence's Duomo from the Uffizi patio
Florence was the most compact and walkable city of the three. The Duomo is huge and a great landmark, as it's visible from almost everywhere. The Uffizi had so much amazing art, it was overwhelming. If I had it to do over again, I'd eat the overpriced food on the patio and once refreshed, dive back into the museum for a second go.

Hanging out the laundry in Rome
A city as big as Rome probably has a higher percentage of everyday residents than tourists. And what's more everyday than hanging your laundry out on the line to dry? This was taken in the inner courtyard of the apartment we rented through airbnb.

We did as the Romans did, although we hung our laundry on the roof, as we didn't have windows to the courtyard.

I'm thinking about printing these photos out and putting them on the wall in some artistic arrangement as a souvenir of our Italian adventure.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fun St. Peter's Fact

At some point during our visit to Saint Peter's Basilica I read that none of the paintings inside the church are actually paintings. They are in fact mosaics made up of extremely small tiles.

I'm sure it was Rick who said it, and he gave a reason that I can't remember. Unfortunately, the guidebooks have been returned to the library and my internet searches are not yielding the answer to the question why mosaics instead of paintings. Did it have something to do with damage? I'm sure it did.

In any case, it was hard to believe from a distance. All of the artwork appeared to be oil paintings to me. However, if you got really close, you could see the tiny mosaic tiles. Here is a close-up of the above mosaic.

I wish I could recall which particular martyr or Bible story this mosaic illustrated. Whatever the story, it's an amazing work of art.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Writing Group

In the last writing class I took, all the participants were assigned to a small group. The groups were chosen both for genre as well as how close we said we were to finishing our novels. I'm sure the process wasn't scientific, but my small group of four women writers turned out to be a good fit.

We were all dedicated writers, as well as supportive and friendly, and we all managed to respond positively throughout the class. We built a bond and although the class was finishing, we weren't yet ready for our journey to end. (Well, one fantastic writer seemed completely overwhelmed.)

But the rest of us, three in total, are trying to create an online writer's group. One of us will post some writing each week. The others have the rest of the week to read and respond. The initial writer can ask specific questions, or just let everyone comment as they want to.

We gave ourselves some time off before starting, but a schedule was created and yesterday was the big first day. I was glad that I was not the one that had to post first. However, it also felt good to return to some accountability to my writing.

My only worry is that a group of three is a little small and if one of us drops out, a group of two is really too small. Still, that worry has yet to materialize, and I can only control my own actions. I do pledge that I won't be the first to fail our group.

And wonderfully, last night an email arrived with a chunk of over 4000 words to read. My tasks this week are to read and respond to that email, and work on my own chunk of words to submit for next week.

Looks like it's back to the grindstone.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Looking Up

Vatican ceiling
You're not allowed to take any photographs of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, the masterpiece painted by Michelangelo. That's a shame, as it is an amazing sight. However, any tourist in Italy should continually look up.

Many interiors and ceilings of churches and museums have been decorated by many artists, some of them known, some of them nameless. I took more than twenty shots looking upward, and I usually didn't know whose work I was viewing.

The paintings are both religious and mythological. There are also tile mosaics, geometric patterns, gold leaf, even sculpture jumping out at the onlooker.

Interior of the Duomo dome in Florence
Even old buildings, and I mean old, have interesting ceilings. The Pantheon was built almost 2000 years ago. It's in great shape because after its use by the ancient Romans, it was used by Christians as a church.

Pantheon dome interior
The top of the Pantheon dome is open to the sky, letting in the sun and quite possibly the rain on top of the tourists. It was gorgeous.

Italy never disappointed me when I looked up.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Starting the Search

Yesterday morning I logged onto my district's website to look at the job openings. It was not an easy process. There was once again a problem with my password, which took time to straighten out. (My password is always some variation of swearing at the website, as it is not very user-friendly.)

Starting to look at job openings was overdue. This is the time of year that school budgets are beginning to be finalized, people are deciding whether to quit, retire or move schools, and principals are visualizing what next year might look like.

The jobs stay posted for a week, so I don't have to check daily, but I need to be logging on every couple of days. And then I need to apply to jobs I am interested in. The only problem is that I still don't know exactly which schools meet my qualifications. Mostly because I don't know what my qualifications are.

I made a list of all the schools in the district so I could rank them. Then when there is an opening, I would know immediately whether I wanted to apply or not. The principal, size of the ELL population, colleagues, and even location can play a role in ranking schools.

I better get started.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

iPad Review

An iPad does not work the same way that my laptop works. Web pages have different choices, programs do different things, and I interact differently. These differences were often the source of frustration during our trip.

Just to remind my readers, a good friend let me borrow her family's iPad for my Italian vacation. That meant that I didn't have to carry my heavy laptop. Honestly, if I hadn't made a commitment to write a daily blog, I might not have taken any electronics at all.

To prepare, I went to the Apple store and took a few classes to help me figure out how to use it. The genius showed me how to download some apps and documents. Also, she sold me a gadget that would enable me to upload my photos.

The apps were to make my blogging and traveling life easier and the documents were to provide me with reading material if I read the book and magazines that I was taking along. Actually, my favorite app is the ebook app of my local library.

So, the question is, after having used the iPad for almost two weeks, what did I think of it? Would I buy one for myself?

Currently the answer to the second question is no. I do not plan on buying an iPad of my own. As far as the answer to the first question, sometimes I liked it and sometimes I didn't.

iPads are obviously lighter than my laptop, and I appreciated that as I was often responsible for a walker, 2-3 roller bags and one or two backpacks. However, as my niece pointed out, you give up some functionality when you get rid of the weight.

I seemed to give up the most functionality when it came to trying to write this blog. The blogger app was quite different. It allowed me to upload photos, but it really didn't like dealing with more than two photos on any given post. And there was no way to size or manipulate the photos in any way. Also, the app had no way for me to schedule the posts at a certain time.

Actually, it was almost impossible to schedule the posts on the regular website on the iPad as well, I don't know why. Sometimes it worked, but more often it didn't. Finally in Rome, I wrote, uploaded and formatted at least two posts, then went to an internet point to schedule them.

Still, the iPad had its uses. Maps, screenshots of hotel and airbnb reservations, and a silly game my friend's kids played all saw lots of action. I also uploaded all my photos, so that I would still have them if my camera got stolen. Plus, the ebook library app did come in handy, especially after I figured out how to use it with no wifi, which we didn't have in our Roman apartment.

All good things come to an end, though, so I do need to return the iPad to my friend and her family. I just have to figure out how to remove all the apps, documents and photos I put on it. And I need to thank her for letting me pretend that I was up-to-date technology-wise. I can't imagine it will happen any other way.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Intelligent Technology

Saint Mark's square in Venice
At some point during my Italian holiday, my new camera started taking photos on its own.

Under an ancient city wall in Pisa

All right, maybe that isn't the exact truth, but that's what it felt like. I would hear the camera click, usually as I was putting it away, turning it off, lowering it to neutral.

The angles are always quite interesting, although there is often something obstructing the lens. (As in the top photo, it's frequently my finger.)

The River Arno in Florence at night
I took over 500 photos during our twelve days in Italy and at least 38 of them were magically taken by the camera.

I've selected five photos that are somewhat representative of the whole.

Although many of the photos were blurry, I choose not to share those, just as I choose not to share my own less-than-spectacular efforts.

The ancient Forum in Rome
Maybe my camera could go to a class, to get better at framing, focussing, and choosing which photos to take.

Modern cellphones at the ancient Colosseum
I suppose there's some explanation for my experience, probably somewhere in the manual I downloaded and took with me to Italy to read in my spare time. Since I never had any spare time, I have no idea what's in the manual. I look forward to having some spare time at some point in the future to figure out the mystery.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

April Rehash on May Day

Mmm, I love hash, especially of the red flannel variety. . .

My post on the first of April about winning the lottery fooled a number of you. Some even said that at the end, when I thought I was clueing you in, you thought I was merely wishing you a Happy April Fool's Day! I have to admit to being proud, as I worked particularly hard to make that post believable.

When I was in the middle of writing about how airbnb rescued me, I was exhausted. I mentioned to my honey that I was very tired, but I couldn't seem to stop writing and it was turning into what seemed like my longest post ever.  He replied, "Oh, are you like Pascal?

Apparently at the end of a long letter, Pascal wrote, "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." For me, it was more like, I would have written a shorter post, but I did not have the brain cells.

I have a lot of gratitude to express to my friends and readers this month. First off, thanks to everyone who responded to the two possible openings of my novel, especially Zoot, who was incredibly insightful and expressive. I continue to consider the possibilities, but your responses have shaped my thoughts.

Next, thank you to those who wished "Happy Anniversary" to my honey and me. I'm glad that others see that we fit together as well.

As far as the girl in the prom dress waiting for the gondola in Venice, we don't really know what was going on. We thought she could be a bride, as she was joined by a young man in a tux, or maybe a model. It seemed that they were being photographed by someone on the other side of the canal, whom we couldn't see.

Final thanks to all who wished me a happy birthday. It was a good day spent at the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and acquiring a rental wheelchair for the rest of the weekend. It turned out that the man who hadn't waited had told our first friend that he wanted to close soon, as his 92 year old mother was in a coma and was not expected to live long, and he was going to visit her in the hospital. He did come back on Saturday to help us. Thank you Nicola, and your mother is in my thoughts.

April was a good month. Here's hoping May brings as much happiness!