Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Travel

December Travels

The Spousal Unit and I celebrated a Significant Anniversary this year, so we celebrated by taking a Significant Trip. We chose to return to Nürnberg, Germany (where we lived for a couple years) to visit the annual Christmas Market, or Christkindlesmarkt (which we haven’t seen for nearly 20 years!!!!!!).

The view from our window on a rare, blue-skied moment.

It was a magnificent trip! We stayed at a VRBO just inside the Altstadt walls, close to the tower gate that we entered when we lived there. It was quiet and peaceful, and close to everything, including mass transit. Perfect! Here’s a view from our window.

The market was everything we recalled: nice and fun and filled with delights during the week, and a crazed mass of wall-to-wall people on Saturday night. Honestly, even wearing a winter coat, some of those folks I skooched by now know me really well. But the food was good, the glühwein warming and yummy, and the sound of the bells ringing out from each church a sheer delight. We brought home gifts both for ourselves and our friends, but the best thing we brought home was memories–both reawakened old ones, and new ones from this trip.

Here are a few pics from our adventures.  

 

 

 

It was amazing how many things had changed. But it was also reassuring how much had remained the same. And as with every good trip, I’m glad we went, I’m gladder to be home again, and yet I can’t wait to return.

Nürnberg holds a tiny piece of my heart, forever.

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Travel

Home Again, Home Again

I’m back from my trip to London, where I stayed with friend and Taos Toolbox roommate, Mel Melcer. We had a great time, and ended up nearly walking our feet off. And hey, I discovered some things about the UK.

For starters, all that “rain and dreary gray” nonsense was just that–nonsense–during my trip. It was hot. I mean, I packed the wrong clothes! I ended up buying a sleeveless top, and wished I’d brought a pair of shorts, or a skirt. Whew! We sought out the shade, and changed plans one day to avoid London due to the heat (well, that and our tired feet…).

Also, Big Ben isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Photo proof here:

Big Ben covered in scaffolding.

OK, in reality, the trip was awesome. I saw so many amazing things, ate and drank great things, and on top of all that, 3 of my Taos Toolbox classmates and I got together one evening, and had a great time.

Instead of blathering on, let me share a few photos with you. But first, other amazing things not pictured: visiting Forbidden Planet; attending a reading/meeting of the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club; touring Westminster Abbey, walking St. James Park; my first British tea house tea, including my choice of really superb gluten-free cakes; riding the Tube; meeting Mel’s cats, and tonnes more!

Tower Bridge. Got to see the drawbridge raise to let a paddlewheel river boat through. Riverboat’s name? Considering where I’d come from it was, ironically enough, the Dixie Queen.
Panoramic view of the Thames riverside walkway, with a strange aberration from the “pano” process that tickles my fantasy-laden fancy!
Beefeater Tour Guide at the London Tower. He’s also the Raven Master!
One of the seven ravens held at the Tower. Meet Merlin.
Shakespeare statue in the park where the Taos group met; I particularly like the quote on the scroll old Will is holding.
“Alien life forms” in a greenhouse at RHS Wisley Gardens. (These gardens were a-mazing!)
Sparkling wine with Mel (left) and me (right) in her garden.
Feeding the swan and cygnets at Hever Castle and Gardens–another great place to explore!
Inside Hever Castle, looking out into the central courtyard.
Mel and I ride the London Eye, getting a great view of practically everything!
Husband loves scotch. But he did NOT get this one, which I saw at the World of Whiskey, inside Gatwick Airport. (click to embiggen, and check out that Duty Free price! Yikes.)

 

food, Personal Life, Travel

Traveling, and the End of the Plums.

Let’s start with that second item first. The plums. They are finished. The tree is bare of fruit, and even the counter holds only what we’ll eat today on its surface. The rest has been frozen, eaten, given away, or otherwise preserved. We are well-set with plums for the year!

The reason spousal unit and I wanted the tree’s “Closed for the Season” sign raised is that later today I’ll be leaving on a week-long trip. I’ll stay with a writing friend and visiting two others. (Sorry, Adam, I can’t find you online!) We all met at Taos Toolbox, so that just shows that lasting friendships can be made at workshops, even for introverts like me.

My bag is packed, and right now the dog is asleep on my lap, blissfully unaware (well, mostly; he did see the suitcase and had a bit of a freak, which is why he’s on my lap even though he’s nearly 30 lbs!) of my imminent departure. I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m hoping the trip is uneventful, I’m sure I’ve forgotten a thing or three. I’ll be out of touch until after I return–let’s just call it July–when I’ll post an update here, probably with pics!

Until then, carry on, and happy Wednesday.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, Travel

2018 Brings Me the Flu

Ugh. Yes, I caught this terrible flu. I’ve been battling it for nearly 2 weeks, and am feeling better, but still not 100%. This is why I’ve been so quiet for so long here–I’ve been busy sleeping, and drinking water and Emergen-C and echinacea tea, and sleeping. I’ve done a lot of sleeping.

Captive manatee snoot.

Just before the flu, however, my sister came to visit (fortunately, she did not catch the flu; only I was so lucky!). Since the weather was cool, the manatees had congregated thickly in the rivers around the springs, where the water spouts up from underground at a lovely 72°F (22°C) year-round. Sister-dear wanted to see manatees, so we went in search of manatees. Ironically, Manatee Springs Park did not have manatees; by the time we arrived, they’d already headed back to the ocean, as the unseasonably cold temperatures had begun warming up. We did find some at Fanning Springs, though, and later, we got really great views of some injured/rehab manatees at Homosassa Springs. 

 

We also visited our old favorite, Payne’s Prairie State Park. It’s been flooded since Hurricane Irma dumped so much water here last fall, so only the boardwalk and a narrow band of land before the boardwalk is open. Fortunately, that still left us with plenty to see.

Mama and her young foal wading for breakfast. Baby really didn’t like the cold water on his legs.

 

 

 

 

Joining the stallion

 

 

 

Why the trail is closed at this point…gators basking at the end of the boardwalk.
My sister is fascinated by armadillos. They were out in force at Payne’s Prairie, and completely unbothered by our presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then we went to the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, where, despite cold weather, many animals were more than willing to greet us.

 

Caracal in her pen.
Lemur, blessedly quiet, basking in the sun.
Peacocks wandered the grounds, looking otherworldly with their shocking colors.
Riches of gold, emerald, and lapis.
Magic of the Everyday, Nature, science, the dog, Travel, Writing

Mid-June Update

Things have been busy here, and I’m still in a bit of a whirl. Dasher is fully recovered, according to Monday’s liver enzyme test, which is the biggest news for me. And the best. He’s been acting fine, so it’s good to see it’s more than just a temporary reprieve.

He also got his shots yesterday, including a new one for the canine influenza that’s hit Florida. With his frequency of appearance at the UF Vet Med Hospital, which is a hotbed of diagnosis for this outbreak, I think it’s wise that he get all the protection a dog can get; after all, he’s had enough issues without adding one more. (Trupanion will probably thank me for this, too!)

Last week, spousal unit and I took a short trip north. Our first night we spent at a friend’s home in New Jersey, near where we used to live. The weather was cool and fine, and we got to harvest some of the last asparagus out of the garden! Oh, so delicious. I miss garden-fresh asparagus so much after tasting that lovely treat! The gardens were also a delight, with columbine, roses, iris, foxglove, and clematis. The long, cool spring held the blooms perfectly for our visit.

Afterwards, we traveled into New York City and absorbed city atmosphere and energy. We walked neighborhoods and parks, ate a a few favorite restaurants and tried a few new ones, took in some new sights as well as revisiting some old favorites. Can I admit that it was relaxing? Yes, NYC and relaxing don’t normally work together, but it was. Both of us just slowed down and enjoyed being on vacation. It was great.

Back home again, I’ve started to dive heavily into the research end of the literal “world building:” How long would the planet’s rotational period be? How about moons–could I have two, and what would their cycles in the night sky be? Could/should the planet have a great rift, like the one on Mars? How would that affect the story, or would it be located elsewhere? What are the different languages spoken by the various peoples, and how are they visually/aurally different? Etc…

Yes, it’s work, but it’s fun work. And it’s calling me, calling…

Bye for now. Time to research biology and form for a cool critter I’m making.

Nature, the dog, Travel, Writing, Writing Workshops

Round-Up for late-June/July

Happy Belated Canada Day to my neighbors to the (now far) north, and Happy (forthcoming) Independence Day to those of us in the U. S.

Husband, dog and I celebrated by taking Thursday & Friday off and making a break to the gulf coast town of Dunedin, FL. We stayed in the dog-friendly Best Western Hotel (great spot for dog owners, with a shady park right across the street for “walkies.”), which was, amazingly, also right on the waterfront! Part of the draw was the quaint town filled with cool little shops and awesome restaurants (not enough time for all of them on this short trip–we must return!).

Another huge draw was Honeymoon Island State Park with its much-touted dog beach. We went, and it was good. However, even on the beach and in the water, dogs had to remain on a leash, which, okay, I get it–but it made it less than fun. Since I didn’t know this, I’d only brought a 4-foot leash, which made me work hard to let him swim. Also less than fun for poor Dasher was the fact that the water was actually hot! Warmer than the air temp, which was around 86°F–and after a few blissful minutes of swimming, he just wanted out and up, into the cool breeze and my arms. I actually felt bad for the small conchs plopped there in the low-tide shallows, slowly turning into soup. 😦

On the plus side, in a very short trip we managed to see much interesting and unusual wildlife: 4 sandhill cranes, 1 spoonbill, 2 perched/nesting osprey, scads of scuttling land crabs (really, it was almost unsettling; they made the undergrowth rustle with their passage on the way back from the dog beach), and a dolphin. Dasher made quick canine friendships with many other dogs, and charmed a number of folks walking in Dunedin, as is his nature. (How did I end up with such a social butterfly for a dog? Oh, yeah, that was husband’s doing…makes perfect sense. They’re the extroverts of this family, I’m the wallflower.)

You may have noticed that I’ve been rather scarce around this blog of late. I’ve been busy preparing for Taos Toolbox, coming up in just a week. Each participant submits up to 10,000 words of their novel + a synopsis of up to 3 pages, and we all read and crit one another’s work. There are 15 students this year; that’s a lot of words to be read beforehand. In addition, Nancy Kress has assigned 2 short stories, and Walter Jon Williams has assigned a short novel. There has been much reading and wearing of eyeglasses going on here, but I’m not complaining. I’m already learning things; there is no way to read that many words and not pick up a few things here and there, and my future classmates are a very talented bunch!

Which leads directly to a warning: I’m leaving next Saturday, and I don’t expect to be posting here on the blog during the workshop. Which means you won’t see activity here until the end of July, when I return. I’m hoping to have a summary of my workshop experience after I return, so there is that to look forward to. If you really, really need a fix of the wit (such as it is) and wisdom (such as it isn’t) of M. E. Garber, I suggest you take a peek at my Twitter feed during my absence. And if not, I’ll see you again once I return.

Happy July, everyone! Hope you’re fully enjoying summer.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, Travel

Kayaking the Santa Fe River

 

riverview

After a few mornings of quite unseasonably cool weather, Sunday got warm. Husband and I decided to “celebrate” by renting a kayak and paddling (sometimes, at least) downstream on the Santa Fe River. This is a fairly long, broad river meandering through northwest Florida, in the Suwanee River watershed.

water+cypress

The amazing thing about this river, though, isn’t the beauty of the river’s banks and the wildlife (although it is picturesque). The truly breathtaking part is the number of freshwater springs that rise up and feed millions and millions of gallons of water into the river. Water bubbles up from underground caverns, in a stream strong enough to make riverview2paddling against it a wee bit of an effort. But you can be rewarded, even without snorkel or dive gear, by peeking into the crystal-clear, aquamarine waters and seeing deep into underwater canyons, mysterious and beautiful (all the more spectacular since the rest of IMG_1872the river is tea-brown from the tannins leaching from leaves and needles). Since I didn’t get good pics of this, check out these here, and here, and more info here. We stopped in at Poe, Lilly, Rum, and Blue Springs on our trip.

eagle

Unlike the last time (which, granted, was morning and thus far less human-populated on the river), we saw no baby alligators (boohoo!). But…we did see all the turtles you could hope for, lots of very large mullet leaping high out of the water time and again, a stunning bullfrog, and even a bald eagle. Another glorious day on the river. If only my knees hadn’t gotten sunburned 😦

How will all this make it into my writing? I have no idea–not yet. But I’m sure it will, somehow, in ways as mysterious and strange as the springs themselves.

research, science, Travel

Vintage-Style Travel Posters…from NASA!

NASA has some absolutely gorgeous space travel posters that you can print (they really have printable file sizes!) to liven up your room with intriguing images. Dream about the glories of Titan’s methane seas, or the eternal night skies of PSO J318.5-22, a rogue planet not tied to any sun. These posters are real beauties, and I’m going to be printing up a couple for my writing space, and dreaming of those who may, one day, actually travel to these wondrous places.

Enjoy!