26 August 2016

Flashback Friday | National Parks

Today is the Flashback Friday blog hop over at A Life Examined. The idea is to republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc. We started this blog almost three years ago and have many more followers now then we did back then. I figure that there are probably a number of our earlier blog posts that some of you haven't seen before which might be of interest.

Our National Parks turned 100 years old yesterday, so it seemed fitting to share this post about our favorite National Park moments and celebrate this incredible national resource.

{This was originally posted in April 2015 as part of the A to Z Challenge. You can find the original post here.}


One of Scott's favorite words lately is outstanding, always said with a slightly sarcastic tone. Scott is from North Dakota. I don't know if you know anything about North Dakota, but the folks there aren't exactly known to be effusive with their praise about anything. Ask Scott what he thinks about something and he is likely to say something like, "Could be better, could be worse" or "It's fine" or "It's okay" etc. So when he says that something is outstanding, I get pretty confused. Does he really think it is outstanding or is he just being sarcastic?
While we were touring some of the National Parks in the western part of the States towards the end of last year, we did have some amazing experiences. Things that even Scott would say were outstanding. So here they are - just a few of our outstanding National Park moments. There were so many outstanding moments, that I'll probably have to do another installment at some point.
Death Valley | Golden Canyon & Gower Gulch

Many people who visit Death Valley do the Golden Canyon walk. Its two miles round trip and is classified as an "easy" hike with a gradual and steady uphill grade on a rocky trail. And if you're a Star Wars geek you can see where some of the scenes from the original movie were filmed (check out this amazing site for more details!) Even if you're not into Star Wars, the Golden Canyon walk is well worth doing as it gives you a great insight into the geology of Death Valley. Once you get to the end of the Golden Canyon trail, be sure to continue on for 1/4 of a mile to see the Red Cathedral.

After you're done seeing the Red Cathedral, rather than go back the way you came, you really should continue on to the Gower Gulch loop which turns the whole thing into a 4 mile round trip hike. We saw spectacular painted hills, hiked across a narrow divide which led to some amazing views of the badlands, walked through main drainage of the Gower Gulch and scrambled over rocks before making our way back to the Golden Canyon parking lot.

We weren't really prepared for the hike, only having the vaguest idea of the trail from a map at the Golden Canyon parking lot, and I think that's what made it so outstanding. We had absolutely no idea what to expect. Every turn brought something new and unexpected. And the trail was marked very poorly in parts, so we had to guess which way to go at some points, which made me feel so adventurous! Definitely worth going those couple of extra miles beyond the Golden Canyon and exploring Gower Gulch.

(You can find more details about the trail, including a very useful map, here. And you can read more about our adventures in Death Valley here.)

Yosemite National Park | All Of It!

Yosemite Valley

Jaw Dropping Wow. That pretty much sums up Yosemite National Park. The place is truly outstanding. I wasn't sure if it would live up to the hype and it did. Big Time. There is a reason Ansel Adams spent all that time in Yosemite taking photos. There is simply so much stunning beauty that it would take a lifetime and more to ever do it justice. I don't even have the words to describe it, so the best thing you can do is go there yourself and see what I'm talking about. I think you'll agree - it is outstanding.

(You can read more about our time in Yosemite National Park here.)

Petrified Forest National Park | Blue Mesa Trail

We weren't originally planning on going to the Petrified Forest National Park, but I'm sure glad we did. While the petrified wood is interesting, in our opinion, the real stars of the park are the brilliantly colored badlands on the Blue Mesa trail. The colors are really as amazing as those in the photo above. You can view the badlands from up top at a viewpoint, but they're even more stunning if you walk down the moderately steep path and do the 1 mile loop trail. Sure you might huff and puff a little bit as you walk back up the hill to your car, but totally worth it.

While the Petrified Forest National Park (and the adjacent Painted Desert National Monument) might not be on your bucket list, if you're in the area, its worth a visit. Not only can you see enough petrified wood to last you a lifetime, you can also take a step back in time and see where the historic Route 66 once cut through the park, as well as visit the historic Painted Desert Inn which has been lovingly restored. But, whatever you do, don't slip any of the petrified wood into your pocket. Just one little sliver and you're looking at hefty fines and possible jail time. I've never been able to figure out why people might think it is okay to steal stuff like that, but I guess it takes all kinds. 

Grand Canyon | Bright Angel Lodge

Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon

When we were at the Grand Canyon, we splurged just a little and stayed at the Bright Angel Lodge. There is something to be said about staying right in the middle of the park in one of the historic lodges. Most of the lodges in the National Parks are actually pretty pricey and you have to book well in advance. Fortunately for us, we were able to do a last minute booking and it actually wasn't too much of a splurge, compared to the other lodges in the park and hotels outside of the park. Bright Angel Lodge is one of the more affordable lodges at Grand Canyon. If you're looking to do things on the cheap, you can share a room with three other people and use a communal bathroom. (We chose to just share a room with each other and opted for a private bathroom.) And if you want even less privacy, book a room next to ours with connecting doors. I saw a door in the little hallway in our room, assumed it was a closet and peeked in. Instead of finding a closet, I found some guy changing his pants. Oops.

Bright Angel Lodge was designed in the 1930s by Mary Jane Coulter, a famous Southwest architect. Today it is a registered National Historic Landmark which has preserved historic features, such as the Buckey O'Neill Cabin where one of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders stayed. It sits right in the middle of the park on the edge of the South Rim. During the day, it is popular stop for the folks on tour buses, but during the evening things quiet down nicely. And, if you like baked enchilada pie, head to the Bright Angel restaurant. Delicious!

(You can read more about our adventures at the Grand Canyon here, here & here.)

Joshua Tree National Park | Camping

We camped in a number of National Parks, but my favorite spot was at Joshua Tree National Park. We had a great campsite - pretty spacious with great views and surrounded by Joshua trees. I'm not sure why I liked it so much, but for some reason I just had a real sense of peace that night sitting around the fire and looking up at the stars. That is until some unidentified creature ran across our feet. A bit unnerving to say the least. We never did figure out what it was.

(You can read more about our adventures at Joshua Tree National Park, including an encounter with evil tribbles here.)

Have you ever visited any of the National Parks? Which one was your favorite and what was your most outstanding moment?

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24 August 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Birthday Cat

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - This is Georgie the Adventure Cat. She wanted to wish her human, Jessica from MJ Sailing, a happy birthday by wearing a festive hat since she can't be there in person to celebrate.

2 - That's a lie. Georgie doesn't know what day of the week it is, let alone the fact that it's Jessica's birthday. The only thing she keeps track of is when her next feeding is due. She also thought the hat was pretty lame and made a much better toy.

3 - Why yes, the festive birthday hat was made from one of the pages in the Mandalas for Masochists coloring book.

What words do these picture bring to your mind when you look at them?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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22 August 2016

Is It Better To Read Fast Or Slow? {Or, Procrastinate Your To Do List By Testing Your Reading Speed}

Image Source - The Graphics Fairy

Are you looking for a way to procrastinate those boring and unpleasant tasks on your to do list? Are you stuck in a cubicle and need a break from crunching numbers in an Excel spreadsheet or making PowerPoint presentations?

Not to fear, I'm here to help. After all, why wouldn't I? You all are nice folks. I'm always there for you when it comes to procrastination.

This morning, I'm supposed to try to find the lithium grease so that I can take apart our marine toilet and fix the annoying squeak in the pump handle. Sounds like a good plan, except I can't bear the thought of taking everything out of the v-berth (otherwise known as the scary room of chaos and disorder) to find the lithium grease. Which, of course, will be buried in a deep and dark recess somewhere under one of the berths hiding from me behind a family of spiders who have taken up residence there.

Instead of doing what I'm supposed to be doing, I tested how fast I read on this nifty site. Far more interesting than looking for lithium grease. Let's be honest - pretty much anything would be better than looking for lithium grease.

Turns out I'm a fast reader. Which explains how I can plow through so many books each month. Well, that and the fact that I read as a form of procrastination on a regular basis.

The good thing about avoiding work by taking this reading test is that if your boss catches you slacking off and asks you what you're doing, you can tell him or her that you're trying to improve your reading speed so that you can be more productive at work. That should factor favorably into your next performance review.

It got me thinking about whether it's better to read fast or slow. Yes, I know, thinking about this is another form of procrastination. But, hey, you're reading this blog post, which means you're probably procrastinating something too. So, here's my thoughts on the matter. I'd love to hear what you have to think in the comments.


Image Source - The Graphics Fairy

Reading For Speed


1 - You get through a lot of books, which means more wonderful stories and characters to feed your imagination and dream about at night.

2 - You have time to give books a chance, for example something in a genre you don't normally read. If you end up not liking it or if it bores you to tears, at least you haven't wasted too much time on it.

3 - Other patrons at your local library love you because you return books quickly and the next person on the hold list doesn't have to wait as long to get their hands on the latest bestseller.


1 - You might miss some of detail and nuances. As you skip through the pages quickly to find out what's going to happen next, sometimes you can gloss over things.

2 - Your comprehension might not be as deep if you skim and skip up and down over text looking for important words or phrases.

3 - People don't always believe that you finished a book in just one day and they quiz you on the plot to see if you're telling the truth.

Image Source - The Graphics Fairy

Reading Slowly And Steadily


1 - You know a book inside and out and savor every word and phrase.

2 - You don't waste your time reading books that bore you and instead carefully pick and choose what to put on your reading list.

3 - Reading can take on a meditative quality as you become deeply engrossed in a book, turning over each page slowly.


1 - Everyone else you know is on book #7 in that fabulous series about werewolves and vampires, while you're still plowing through book #2. You're constantly worried they're going to throw out spoilers when you get together for coffee.

2 - You don't have time to read all of the wonderful books that people recommend to you.

3 - You feel pressured to read faster, just because some annoying person wrote a blog post about it and bragged about their high score on a speed reading test.


Like most things in life, everything has its good and bad points. Slow reading isn't better than fast reading or vice versa. The important thing is reading, and enjoying reading, not how many books you read each month. At least that's what I think. Now, I'm off to find the lithium grease. Or, read a book instead.

Check out what other people have to say about fast and slow reading here, here, here, here and here.

Are you a fast or slow reader? What do you thinkthe advantages and disadvantages are? What are you  procrastinating today?

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19 August 2016

The Love Boat | Red Rose Hotel In Chiang Rai, Thailand

It's been ages since we've traveled anywhere and my nomadic spirit is getting a little restless. It wants to go someplace new and exciting. Apparently, driving to Home Depot doesn't count.

It's going to be a while before we set out on new adventures, so I did the next best thing - look back at pictures from old adventures and reminisce. Like the time we stayed at the Red Rose Hotel in Chiang Rai, Thailand. They bill it as an amusement hotel. I'd use the word quirky to describe it. It's a bit weird too, in the nicest possible way.

We had hired a motorcycle in Chiang Mai and were making our way up to the Golden Triangle and needed a place to stay. I was just hoping for a comfortable bed and clean sheets, but we got so much more.

By the way, if you run into my mom, don't tell her about the motorcycle. They kind of freak her out. Definitely don't show her this picture of the machine of death.

This is the office. Right away, you know you're in for something different.

There's all sorts of themed rooms to pick from - Star Wars, cartoon characters, race cars, jungle etc.

We went with one of the Love Boat rooms. A nautical theme and romance - you can't really go wrong.

After you pick and pay for your room, you drive into a covered parking lot and are greeted with all of this wonderful weirdness.

We parked our motorcycle, grabbed our stuff and unlocked the door. The moment of truth - would the room be as exciting as the picture promised? The answer is yes. It was even more bizarrely wonderful in person. Just look at those murals!

Alligators are everywhere. Even in quirky hotel rooms in Thailand. See the river that our boat is floating on? That's hot water and coffee supplies at the bow of our boat.

Yes, we slept in a boat - such fun!

And we had a monkey sitting on top of the toilet paper in the bathroom. I'm not sure why he's holding his nose.

Even the common areas are quirky.

What was just a stopover on the way up to the Golden Triangle, turned out to be so much more. If you ever happen to find yourself in Chiang Rai, the Red Rose Hotel is definitely worth checking out.

What's the best or worst hotel you've stayed in and why?

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17 August 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Corinth Canal In Greece

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 -  The Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea and cuts through the narrow isthmus that separates the Greek mainland from Peloponnese. It's four miles long and only 70 feet wide. 

2 - We traveled through the canal many years ago on a no frills budget cruise run by the folks at the European budget airline company, Easy Jet. It was a cheap and cheerful way to see the historical sights in Greece.

3 - I love Greek food, especially spanokopita and pretty much anything with lamb.

What words does this picture bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here.

15 August 2016

Scary Water, Annoying Inner Voices, Music & Friends

Do you remember this picture I posted of the gross, smelly algae surrounding my boat a couple of months ago? It’s a result of runoff from sugar cane farming and is all over the place in southern Florida. Ick.

While the algae hasn’t been quite as bad as it was back then, it's still alive and well at Indiantown Marina. Not only is it disgusting, it’s also scary. I dropped one of my flip-flops in the water the other day. For a few minutes, I considered just leaving it there while the voices inside my head had a heated debate.

“Grab it quick before it floats away! The last thing we need is more plastic polluting our waters. Don't you care about the environment?” 

That was the responsible voice. This is the same one that’s horrified by the lack of recycling at our marina and thinks I shouldn't spend so much time doing online crossword puzzles.

"What’s wrong with you? You just spent 99 cents on those flip-flops at Walmart. We don’t want to shell out for another pair already!” 

This was the frugal voice that thinks we should save all of our nickels and dimes for more important things, like a water maker and many boxes of brownie mix.

“Stay away from the water! Don’t even think of putting your hand in the water! Your hand will develop green scales on it, shrivel up and then fall off!” 

While the scaredy-cat has a kind of an annoying, shrill voice, it actually makes a lot of sense at times. The algae is toxic and scares the crap out of me.

When you have so many voices living in your head, the key is compromise. Otherwise, they start to argue, shove and pinch each other. Did you know that’s what causes headaches? It's the voices in your head acting like kids in the backseat of the car fighting over a toy.

So, I compromised. I found a hangar and scooped the flip-flop out of the water with it, avoiding putting my hand directly in the water. I then washed it off for ages to get all of the gross, scary algae off of it.

Everyone was happy. I avoided polluting the water with plastic, kept us from having to shell out another 99 cents for a new pair of flip-flops and avoided the soylent green algae water as best I could.

This stuff is everywhere in southern Florida. I was out in Stuart yesterday hanging out with my friends from Sailing Wind Spirit and MJ Sailing. We walked over from Sunset Bay Marina to hear a concert and along the way I saw this sign, which goes to show you how downright horrifying this algae is. The fact that it says "Declaration of Emergency" kind of clues you into that.

Fortunately, the music, conversation, drinks, food, a nautical trivia game and pretty views from the marina managed to take my mind off of the dangers lurking in the water. It even managed to keep the little voices inside my head quiet for a few hours too. 

What's the grossest thing you've ever touched? Would you be scared of the water out here?

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12 August 2016

Around The World In 80 Books | Update #9

I've just finished up another month of the Around the World in 80 Books challenge. The idea of the challenge is to read books set in 80 different countries, effectively exploring the world from the comfort of your armchair. Since my last update, I've read books set in five more countries – Finland, the Republic of Kiribati, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vanuatu.

That makes a total of 45 books since I started the challenge - only 35 more to go!

You can read more about the challenge here, as well as check out Update #1, Update #2, Update #3, Update #4, Update #5, Update #6, Update #7 and Update #8.



Scott is Norwegian-American from North Dakota, so I have an interest in understanding the Nordic psyche. To date, pretty much all I knew about Norwegians came from the movie Fargo and time spent with Scott's family. So, I decided to read up and find out more about these "nearly perfect people."

Booth focuses on the five Nordic counties in his book - Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland - which are often depicted quite positively as European success stories, and presents his views on their imperfections, such as the Icelandic financial crisis, the rise of neo-Nazis in Norway and Swedish conformity. I'm not usually a big reader of non-fiction, but I liked the way Booth interspersed humorous anecdotes in the midst of all of the facts and figures.

Since I had already crossed Noway, Sweden and Iceland off of the "Around the World in 80 Books" list, I decided to use Booth's book to tick off Finland. My sister spent a year living in Finland, so I was curious to see how Booth presented this country which lies between Russia and the rest of Scandinavia. One of the things I found fascinating was his description of the Finnish language, particularly all of the cases, which I remember my sister telling me about.
Finnish nouns have no gender, and, in fact, people have no gender – the word for “he” and “she” is the same, the masculine hän. A Finnish friend tells me that, increasingly, the Finns are just using “it” to refer to everything: “It is getting married in the morning,” “It has been drinking since breakfast,” and so on. There are no prepositions in Finnish and neither are their definite or indefinite articles, “a book,” “the book,” and “book” are all just “book” or kirja. (That said, Finnish does apparently have fourteen case-endings, so perhaps it is not all that straightforward.)

You can find out more about Almost Nearly Perfect People on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS: ADRIFT IN THE EQUATORIAL PACIFIC by J. Maarten Troost | Republic of Kiribati (2004)

This book was a perfect choice for this challenge - not only did it have me laughing out loud, but I also learned a thing or two about the Republic of Kiribati, an equatorial Pacific island nation, a place I knew nothing about before this challenge. Troost lived on the island of Tarawa in Kiribati for two years with his partner who was working for an aid organization. He's written a hysterical travel memoir about what it's like to live on an island in the middle of nowhere which is as far from a tropical paradise as you can get. Between dealing with toxic fish, stifling heat, beer shortages and the relentless playing of the song La Macarena by his neighbors, Troost keeps his sense of humor and almost makes you want to visit Tarawa for yourself to see if it could all possibly be true.

I'm a bit of a Crazy Cat Lady, so here's a quote about a Kiribatian cat. Cats are all the same, no matter where you go.
Sam the cat also wandered out to the reef at low tide. He liked to go fishing. Hovering over a tidal pool, he deftly scooped out a fish, which he could bring back to the house and play with until it died, and then he would find an ingenious hiding place for it. It was the same with geckos. Whenever he heard the soft plop of a gecko losing its grip, Sam darted with astonishing speed, clasped the gecko firmly in its mouth, no longer fooled by that devious lose-the-tail trick, and brought it back inside the house, where he mercilessly taunted it until it also died. Then he would find an obscure nook somewhere and hide the gecko. Decomposition occurs swiftly on the equator. Hours later, we would follow our noses in an exciting game of Where's the Dead Animal? Sam enjoyed this immensely.

 You can find out more about The Sex Lives of Cannibals on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

THE CITY OF VEILS by Zoe Ferraris | Saudi Arabia (2010) 

I do like my murder mysteries and I thoroughly enjoyed The City of Veils, not only because it was well written, but also because it was set in Saudi Arabia, a country I don't really know much about. The author is married to a Saudi and spent time living there, so she has an interesting perspective on the country. One of the characters is an American ex-pat, whose husband is working in Saudi in a security job. It was fascinating to get a feel for what life in Saudi is like from the eyes of an ex-pat:
On the street, she felt safe and terrified by turns. Some days she could wander freely, going where she liked as long as she wore her cloak and headscarf, and kept her burqa at the ready in case she started to feel too exposed. Sometimes people stared blatantly, even occasionally stopping to gawk at her. Sometimes women would greet her politely. But on other days she would encounter resistance. Men would notice that she was out alone, and they would stop her by whistling and even standing in front of her, blocking her passage. They would tell her to go home. They warned her that it wasn't safe to be out. She believed them. Even though she was never arrested as her neighbors had promised, she felt more and more unsafe as the weeks went by. She began to think it was only a matter of time before something horrible happened.

You can find out more about The City of Veils on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

GRANDAD, THERE'S A HEAD ON THE BEACH by Colin Cotterill | Thailand

I was really into reading murder mysteries last month, including Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach, which is set in Thailand. And, yes, there was a head on the beach. Every good murder mystery needs a body, or, in this case, a head, to set the stage. This was a fun and easy read, which I probably found more interesting as Scott and I have traveled in Thailand. It's full of some very quirky characters and funny scenarios, but it also provides some insights into real issues the country faces, like the status of illegal immigrants from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). I could see some parallels with the issue of illegal immigration in the States. 

One of the things I found interesting was the description of the Thai language. It's tonal, which means that the same word (to us at least) has different meanings depending upon whether you use a high or low pitch. Say something in the wrong pitch and you could have a very embarrassing situation on your hands.
We doubted their names were real. They certainly lacked imagination. They insisted that we call them Noy, the mother, high-tone, and Noy, the daughter, low tone. Thai is a wonderful language that leaves many a foreigner ripping out chunks of hair. It has the ability to change a dog into a horse, a skein of silk into a bush fire, an entire town into an irrigation ditch. And all at the mere drop of a tone. For a Thai, when speaking, Noy and Noy were two completely different words.

You can find out more about Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

I enjoyed The Sex Lives of Cannibals so much that I read another one of Troost's memoirs. Getting Stoned with the Savages picks up where the last book left off. After living and working in Washington DC for a while, Troost and his now wife decided to escape city living and return to the islands. They first found themselves in Vanuatu (which is what country I'm using this book to tick off), before ending up in Fiji. "Getting stoned" refers to Troost's fondness for drinking kava, which makes one very relaxed, and he relates several hysterical stories about his kava fueled episodes in his memoir. I also enjoyed his descriptions of the challenges around daily life in Vanuatau, such as dealing with the heat. I can relate to the following quote as we've also had small creatures find their way into our air conditioner, die and create a horrible stench.

Over the next few days, the weather had become unbearably sticky and humid, a sure precursor to a storm. There wasn't a cloud anywhere, and yet everything was damp and soppy. The heat and humidity were such that we even considered turning on the window unit air conditioner in our bedroom. This required considerable fortitude on our part. Since our arrival, three geckoes had somehow managed to dive deep within its bowels. I had disassembled as much of the unit as I dared and scraped out what I could of the lizards' carcasses. But much remained, slowly, ever so slowly, decomposing beside our bed.

You can find out more about Getting Stoned with the Savages on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

If you're participating in the challenge too, I'd love to hear what you've been reading. Even if you're not doing the challenge, let us know what books you've been enjoying lately.

COUNTRIES READ TO DATE: Algeria, Australia, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Djibouti, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Haiti, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Republic of Kiribati, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia,  Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, Thailand, United States, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

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