Thursday, July 19, 2018

Some Electrical Stimulation

Air travel is less complicated these days in that we can actually check in online before we leave the house, but packing seems to be more complicated. The photo below includes less than half of the electronics we took on this last trip.



Hubby has been aging like fine wine and has the back problems to prove it. We had to take an electrotherapy unit to ease his lower back pain as well as a heating pad. Then there are the phones that need to be charged using the charging units we take. This photo fails to include the two e-readers and their chargers that we own as well as my various battery chargers for at least two cameras that I took on the trip. I did not take a laptop but I thought about it.  I now leave the Fitbit and its charger at home because it is too hard to take care of near pools and in tropical rainstorms.  Hubby has a headlamp that he sometimes brings, but it requires regular batteries.

These intricate items all have to be carefully put into net bags or Ziplocks when packing so that we can keep them together and so that we don't mix them up with the grandkids and kids various electronic devices.

I was just wondering if we could take a trip to a place that had few electric outlets and would we survive?


Or do we just need a cold beer?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Always a Travel Post About the People


My trip to St. Kitts happened to fall on a three-day musical festival at the Arena in the capital. We did not get tickets as being in an arena with tons of people is not my idea of a vacation. Patti LaBelle was the only name I recognized and the majority of singers, band, etc. were Reggie, rap, etc. Yes, they were mostly black folk. What this meant is that for one of the few times in my life I was in a high-end hotel and I was in the minority regarding my ethnic background. This had happened in Egypt years ago, but the Saudi Arabian men were haughty and rude and one actually shoved me aside much like Trump had done with the Prime Minister from Montenegro last year while I was trying to check in! 


These black tourists from all across the globe were much nicer, and really much better dressed.  I wished I had upped my evening wear, and exercised more by the end of the week when waiting for our driver at the front of the hotel.  I saw tons of really interesting and exotic hairstyles, dresses clinging to barbie doll bodies but did not think it appropriate to snap away, so you will have to take my word for it.

There were many other people there as well and below is a brief montage of those whose path I crossed, or who crossed my path.  (The vibe was much nicer than when I went to Jamaica a few years ago.  The economy and the tourist trade seem to be responsible for that.)

Our driver, Nigel, who was absolutely the key to our having great food and a wonderful time.  Getting married this August for the first time!
A nice collection of young ladies on the beaches!
I think these folks said they were from Cleveland (?)...maybe here for the music festival.
They might have been here for an anniversary or some such.  Maybe they were famous musicians!
A young couple who took the boat to Nevis with us.  I think from New York.
A small example of the lovely hairstyles.
A local who works in the tourist trade.

We took the local train on St. Kitts and this was the tour guide.  She had an excellent background in the history of the area.  I think she said she had a graduate degree.
A trio that sang for us...wonderful harmonies, slave songs, spirituals and some oldies but goodies.
While eating lunch I was trying to catch hubby and this fellow apologized for photobombing the event.  He was from Chicago on vacation and fun to talk to. 
It is always all about the people, is it not?



Monday, July 09, 2018

That Lonely Walk on the Beach


The photos from that quiet morning walk are below. Vacations with families (at least mine) are usually filled with lots of activities, tours and restaurant stops. All pre-planned by the two executives (both in their jobs and their lives) and we grandparents make a good attempt to tag along  keep up.

Thus the morning walk by myself was just the tonic I needed. As I mentioned the beaches were not being used by the people staying at the resort. The resort did provide free shuttles to two other beaches on another side of the island that were not covered in sargassum grasses and while not having any lifeguards these beaches did have restaurants and restrooms.



Back at the resort, you can see from above, perhaps, how soft this sand is. The footsteps have been easily softened by the ocean breezes. It is like walking on pillows! Good workout for ankles and knees, but requires one to walk more slowly for careful balance. When I had gotten around the point of the beach and into the more remote areas, this was one of the first beach signs I encountered. Not exactly drawing me in as it reminded me of a death memorial!



Just ahead were the horses...not the donkeys, tied to the edge of the coast with small plastic tanks of water nearby.  The photo below gives a good example of how rural the area was.




I walked some more and came upon an abandoned sea moss research laboratory. Sad in so many ways.  I think it was initiated in 2015 to encourage cottage industry for the locals.  There is a sea moss cocktail/drink, which I did not try, which is supposed to help with male fertility.  There were some buoys still offshore, so maybe something is still happening.



I came across a very few sandpipers (I think) scurrying along the second point that I rounded in my walk.  Conch shells washed ashore are in abundance.



There was no noise on this side of the island.  Just the sound of the wind as it moved along the coastline even muffling the sound of waves.  It was extremely peaceful.  




I did not collect this beautiful conch shell as I did not know the rules for collecting shells, did not have room in my luggage and have passed that time in my life as I have an extensive shell collection already.  I did eat some fried conch that week.



As the island curved out again, the beach appeared to have come to an end.  I paused and explored some of the flora and fauna and then regretfully had to return to the resort as I was out of my water.  The horses were even less curious about me on my return.






Slowly I re-entered civilization.





Maybe ready for a nap before lunch?  Hoping you got a bit of the atmosphere and mood of this tiny island in the Caribbean.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

A Sargassum Sea




Above is what one expects at a resort on the beach. The only unusual part is that no one is there. Actually, very few people are there.  



This is the beach at the resort where we stayed.  Part of the reason no one was there was because it was the "off-season."  This place gets really busy in the winter.  But there was another reason...


The islands of the Caribbean are having a major problem with seaweed abundance.  Large blooms offshore entangle swimmers, turtles, etc. and then drift up upon the beach covering the sand.  It was at least a foot thick all along the shoreline.


Every single day a scoop was out removing the seaweed and working its way up and down the beach.  There was no off smell as the news reported...just a little pungent saltiness in the air.  Maybe that was because they worked each day to remove it.  As a gardener, I was hoping they were taking this truckload somewhere to enhance the island soil!  


This plant is called Sargassum, a brown seaweed, that grows in the open ocean. There does not seem to be a certain answer for why this north Atlantic plant now is in abundance down south, although one marine scientist thinks it is more closely related to another species of Sargassum off the coast of Brazil.

“Nobody has a definite answer.  Nutrient inputs from the Amazon River, which discharges into the ocean around where blooms were first spotted, may have stimulated Sargassum growth. But other factors, including changes in ocean currents and increased iron deposition from airborne dust, are equally plausible. It’s all “educated speculation,” Hu, an oceanographer from the University of Southern Florida states.


This was the second day of our vacation the family went out on a boat to snorkel.  Since they were going on the windy side of the island and I get seasick, I opted to stay at the resort.  My walk of a mile or so down the Sargassum beach was really good exercise.  There was no one else once I left the resort area and I was not fearful of crime as I only had my small point and shoot camera and the island is "relatively" crime free.  (More on that later.)  The sand was very soft and gave me one heck of a workout as well as the solitude I craved.  Come back again and I will take you on the walk.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Revisiting an Art Form


The above batik is hanging in the powder room off the stairway in my house. It is something I did over 35 years ago when I lived in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. The dyes we used were from Germany. The bamboo room where I worked at the foot of the Palace smelled like pine from the rosin that was melted into the beeswax and paraffin mixture. If you want to read about that time in my life, you can go here.


I wanted to see the batik culture in St. Kitts which was on a hill near an abandoned sugar plantation.  They drive on the "wrong" side of the road, so we got a driver at the hotel who ended up being our guide most of the other days. 

I was somewhat disappointed, as I knew I would be because it was really very commercial with only a very simple view of what they did with an emphasis on selling stuff.  Their work is very bright, colorful, and simple in nature.  We got there in the offseason which was WONDERFUL as the store was pretty small with examples of the stages of batiking and photos of celebrity visits such as Prince Phillip.  Inside was close and stifling even with the various fans running.  There were no exotic odors...just bored salespeople.  I bought two small neck scarves as this style is not my style...

The area around the store has lovely gardens and a famous 400-year-old tree probably photographed millions of times!  It is a Saman tree which is in the pea family.  Sometimes it is called a monkeypod tree. The blooms are fuzzy balls (like something I have seen called a bottlebrush tree in the tropics) but it was not blooming when we visited.  Can you imagine what this giant has seen??  Yes, that is hubby in the blue shirt down below.  Try as I might I could not get the entire tree in the frame even with my wide-angle lens.


We walked around the gardens and even sat a bit since we were on our own this first day, without hungry and restless grandchildren and with rum drinks everywhere---virgin for hubby.





Temperatures were in the mid to high 80sF with the wonderful trade winds.  Much more comfortable than here at home in the mid-Atlantic.

Another labeled tree on the grounds was the calabash which is used for medicinal purposes with the outer shell dried and made into bowls.



All of this is situated on the Romney Manor, owned originally by Earl of Romney when colonial life was elegant and guilt free.  The manor and sugar plantation were later owned by Sam Jefferson the great, great, great, grandfather of the third President of the United States.  Family wealth built on the backs of slaves living and dying on a former sugar plantation.

Next post about the beach and climate change.

Monday, July 02, 2018

First Full Day at Home


Exhausted and going through all the details of re-entry. Laundry is halfway done.  Catching up on bills. I had a very nice time as I went on the trip with no expectations except visiting the batik factory as I used to do batik many years ago in Indonesia at the Palace in Jogjakarta taught by Balinese young men--yeah, that was cool.



Everything else on the trip I either joined in or opted out!!


I will sort photos and share a few in the coming week. Thanks for being interested, by the way!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Weeding and Reading



I am on the road once again or I guess I should say plane. The daughter was allowed to select the destination for a family vacation (her one side of the family) and she selected St. Kitts in the Caribbean for a week. 

I am finishing packing today and will be on the flight tomorrow. In a grass is always greener virus mode, I really want to stay home and weed and read. See, even those of us who can afford to travel are not always as happy and mellow as you would think!  Being a bit jaded on travel is someplace I never thought I would be.

At least I will get to spend some time with the grands who are now slowly moving away from me as they connect daily via phone with near and distant friends.  


Thursday, June 21, 2018

When the World Gives You Lemons


I am retreating into my world of photographic art. It can be very therapeutic, trust me!









Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tip of the Iceburg


This has been a more difficult year to maintain our yard. We "contracted" with employees from a small landscape firm in the area in the years past. The company used Mexicans, employed for around six months at 6 days a week and with "some" arrangements for health care. They arrived around May and returned in early November.  They were EXTREMELY talented in that they helped us fix our lawnmower, repaired the garden gate, identified a gas leak which we missed since we did not weedeat that corner of the house, etc.  They were ALWAYS prompt, polite and efficient.

Our "helpers"  were a "band of brothers."  The family had 8 brothers and each year they were able to send at least 4 of them north to the U.S. for employment.  The local U.S. landscape business could not find local folks to do these jobs, clearly.

For the last two years, their arrival became more difficult and they would come later.  This year they were not allowed into the U.S. at all.  My husband called one of the brothers since we have become friends as well because we have paid for their services for almost a decade.  They explained that they could not get work visas, they also tragically lost their older brother to murder from a gang over the winter months.  He was shot outside the front door of his home. They had related various tales of the increase in dangerous crime over the years.  (If you are a tourist in Mexico, the government may feel it is necessary in some areas to give you a police escort.)

My husband was trying to manage the yard on his own through May and early June of this year until we found a young boy who was saving for college and could help.  (Hubby's back has a recent problem.)  Why don't we just hire from another landscaping firm you may ask?  We did that in years past.  The various small firms either quit on us saying the yard was too difficult, or they would not show up on time after rains and grass would get too high to mow before they could reschedule us, or they complained about everything else.  They were totally unreliable and perhaps just wanted enough money for drugs or until another job came their way.  Living in the countryside is not always easy for finding help.  Even after writing this we will research hiring another landscape company next year.

This event in our lives is related to the huge refugee iceberg that is forming across the globe.  Closing borders, wars, climate change resulting in famine, climate change increasing diseases, criminal gangs, and overpopulation are taking their toll forcing people to flee for their lives.  In 2017 68.5 million refugees were displaced from their homes, their cities, their countries.  One person becomes displaced every 2 seconds.  The Central African Republic, Central America, Europe, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Rohingya, Ukraine, and Yemen are all impacted by the ongoing refugee crisis.  

Now it is at our back door where we are housing refugee toddlers and teenagers without a budget, plan, or infrastructure.  MAGA

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Bit of Fun


Having fun with photographs:

These flowers last only a few days with the heavy rains and later increasing heat, but I have captured some beauty in my yard and then played with layers and filters.








Now back to house cleaning!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Grocery Event


I shop at the local big supermarket. Produce is less varied and must be selected more carefully than when I shop at the more expensive yuppie market across the bridge. While I am fortunate in that my grocery budget is ample for the two of us, I come from that old family farming culture which makes me shop most carefully and not buy so much that I have to throw out food at the end of the week. I do use mostly the outside aisles (bakery, produce, meat, and dairy) while avoiding the processed foods in the inner aisles. I get my cleaning stuff at the Big Box store, but in reality, if I paid attention to sales, I would not need to go there. This intro had nothing to do with my event yesterday, by the way.

I had four large bags of food and was loading them from the basket into the trunk. I heard someone shouting and looked up toward the door of the store. I was parked about eight cars away. Standing in front of the double doors and waving both arms was a black man in his 50s with salt and pepper closely cropped hair, tall and in reasonably good shape. He was all in black. There was a set of black earphones covering his ears, a black backpack and what appears to be a bit of paraphernalia tagged to his shirt pockets. He was also shaking his head from side to side. He was loud, but I could not figure out what he was saying as he was talking fast.  At first, I thought perhaps he was singing to some rap music that was coming from his earphones.  People entering the store pretended not to see him.

I finished loading the trunk and opened the driver's side door. The man started jogging in my direction. I then heard what he was shouting over and over again. "I can't take it anymore!..I can't take it anymore!..I can't take it anymore!"

I was not frightened as I got into my car and shut the door and he ran down the area in front of me between the parked cars. I was sad and curious instead. For just a second, I actually felt like re-opening the door and shouting after him..."ME TOO!"


Within a few seconds a man in a white shirt with a name tag and black dress pants and holding his phone appeared.  He was moving after the black man but did not seem to want to catch up with him as he typed something into his phone.  He stopped in front of my car and then another man in what appeared to be a supermarket shirt and cap (perhaps a deli-counter uniform?) showed up behind him.  The second man looked at me and then shook his head and chuckled.  I raised my shoulders and arms agreeing as if saying "WTF?"  But I do not swear, so I was more commiserating with the situation for all.

My take was that I wished I could have helped the man.  Had he shoplifted?  Had he threatened an employee?  Did he have a fight with another customer about who was next in line?  Did his mental illness manifest itself?  Was this a reaction to a drug (legal or illegal)?  I actually wish he has not been moving so fast and that I would have been brave enough to get out of the car and display some sympathetic body language if nothing else.

Clearly, this was not a major crime or even a novelty to the two employees who walked back into the store as I pulled out of my parking place.  The black man had totally disappeared as I found my way to the exit.  

Crime in our county has been climbing this last year.  Not sure why with all these great emplyment figures and growing economy (snark).

Monday, June 11, 2018

What Color Are Your Thumbs?

A Man's Home is his Castle

We built our house over twelve years ago. Over the years I have had to have two casement windows repaired (one no longer can be opened); two ceiling areas re-taped, floated and painted; the stairs leading down from the back deck to the backyard re-leveled as one side sank; one toilet valve replaced twice; the wine cooler solenoid replaced; the gate motor replaced and the garage door opener fixed.  I have had one burst water pipe (my fault for not disconnecting the hose).  We also had the two chimney's recapped last year due to water leakage through the ceiling.  Next week someone is coming in to replace the cracked baffle and insulation in the wood fireplace.

Some of these events are normal wear and tear items and others the result of living in a humid area with dramatic temperature changes.  The windows are just bad product.

This year the starters on the gas range have been giving me fits and I have been told corrosion means they cannot be replaced. I will need a new range top which I keep putting off due to the complexities of measurement and my fear of getting it wrong. We have a dual AC system and one unit is now not working and waiting for a part ($400 not including labor) and I have been cautioned that this could be a temporary fix and I may need a new unit (thousands of dollars). The good part is while the air is so thick you can cut it with a knife, temps are below 80 F.


My refrigerator is making odd noises.  I am working hard to keep the coils clean while it runs in this warmer than normal house.  

I often wish I was more of a handy-man like my Dad who could fix anything.  Hubby is mostly thumbs even though they are green.

I have read that you do not own a house, it owns you.


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

I have Questions.


I have always been a curious person and have many questions this week (not necessarily in order of importance):

  1. Why did Pruitt try to buy a "used" Trump Tower mattress?
  2. Why did a Congressman get turned away from an abandoned Walmart building that is housing children separated from their parents who were crossing the border illegally?
  3. Why did Melania Trump have 700% longer time in a hospital for a procedure than normal and why have we only seen her many weeks later?
  4. Why were the Eagles uninvited to the White House to celebrate the Superbowl?
  5. Why is Medicare going to run out of money in 2026?
  6. Does Russia really have a smaller economic footprint than Italy?
  7. Do the bulletproof plates being given students actually stop bullets?  (not AR-15 bullets or assault rifles)
  8. Is Bill Clinton extremely naive (and out of touch) to be promoting a "fictional thriller" book he co-wrote with Patterson.
  9. As Facebook gives us more control over the ads we see, does this mean they are going to be losing money?
  10. Why don't Americans know the difference between a reporter and a contributor?
  11. Why do we not teach financial literacy courses in public school?
  12.  Do you ever forward your spam mail to abuse@name-of-company.com?
  13. Why war??






Monday, June 04, 2018

Milestones


This is close to La La Land.

Many years ago when my sister was in her early 40's, she contracted skin cancer and lost the battle against it after only a few months. She lived on the other side of the country and our correspondence was by sporadic phone calls and emails.   The expertise of the staff of a major Los Angeles hospital was not smart enough nor quick enough to save her life.  I flew out to be with her for a few days in the middle of her battle.  When she passed she left behind a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl soon to turn 13 and their Dad.  These two children grew up into beautiful, stable, and sweet adults through some miracle of good parenting and good genes and damn luck.

This weekend I flew out again to attend the wedding of the young man, my nephew.  We were there for only 2 and half days and it was very emotional...more so than weddings are normally emotional for me.  I left the rain-filled skies here in the Mid-Atlantic for the sun-filled skies of Southern California.  


Southern California where real estate prices START in the very high six figures and never seem to end.  This little gray house in the background was worth a couple of million!

This was a special trip for me since I had not had a chance to see my niece and nephew for many years as their careers took them away from the places where I visited their father.  

The wedding was small, semi-formal, and was a chance for me to see my other brother and sister briefly as well.




It was both a tough and terrific time for me and I am so glad I did not miss it.  

Now I am back home and returning to normal---my version of normal that is.