Increasing readers.

Salam (peace) all,


I would like to get more readers.




The more people that read my content the more ‘reward’ that I get. In Islam if someone benefits from a good deed that you carry out you get the spiritual reward, which can mean blessings and goodness coming your way in this world and also the value of your good deeds being increased in the scale of good and bad deeds in the hereafter in the day of judgement. Every good deed you have done will be put on one side, and all the bad will be put on another, and if your good deeds outweigh your bad, you will be rewarded with paradise.


This blog has been around for 11 years and the world has changed a lot in that period with many events taking place. I normally refrain from talking about politics or current affairs in my blog but for instance there have been three US presidents during the time period of this blog. Bush junior, Obama and Trump.



Obama, US president from January 2009 till early January 2017, most of the time period of this blog.


Trump, current president of the US, who assumed office in January 2017.

The world has changed during these 11 years in many ways.


The rise of social media. Facebook existed in 2008 and was very prominent but it has expanded then including from being a mainly individual user based platform to one which is used by many businesses and organisations and also communities be they ethnic communities, local communities, faith-based communities and others to interact with each other and the world.

Whatsapp has emerged and expanded, strengthened and intensified the nature of social media in our lives.

Image result for social media


We are living in an age with the rise of artificial intelligence and automization which threatens the livelihoods of millions.


During this 11 year period it is possible for a single person to have graduated from high school, university, got their first job, got married, had their first child and even their first home, some people are able to achieve all of these between the ages of 16 to 27, though many will have graduated from high school and got their first job in that period.

Some will have lost loved ones unfortunately and my condolences to them for their sad loss.


My blog isn’t as big as other blogs and I can understand that because it has not had as much content as others or the frequency and regularity of posting as others, but I aim to try and change that.


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Thanks for reading!

Industry’s strange and terrible beauty

A quick look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory map for the nation reveals a startling fact: The states with the largest waste streams per square mile are Utah and Nevada. Arizona’s not all that far behind. Who’s dumping all this stuff? Mining companies, that’s whom.

Nevada, Utah, and Arizona are all home to massive hardrock mines, and hardrock mines produce gargantuan quantities of solid waste.

Utah’s Bingham Canyon Mine, west of Salt Lake City, is the largest human-made excavation on earth. More than 1,000 tons of explosives are used daily to blast loose about 150,000 tons copper-bearing ore, which is then sent to the smelter to extract the metals. Copper makes up less than 1 percent of the ore, meaning the remaining 99 percent ends up as tailings, or waste, and is dumped in huge containment “ponds.”

In 2017, Kennecott, the owner of the mine and smelter, reported that they released more than 230 million pounds of chemicals, mostly in the form of tailings containing lead, arsenic, mercury, and other toxic materials. Newmont’s Twin Creeks Mine in Nevada spewed out a similarly huge stream of solid waste.

As nasty as these facilities might be, they do tend to be striking when seen from above, whether the viewer is looking out an airplane window or at Google Earth on her computer screen. One might even say that they are aesthetically appealing in a terrifying and sublime way. The following images are all from Google Earth.


One corner of Kennecott’s tailings pond on the southern shores of the Great Salt Lake. Interstate 80 is visible at the top of the image.


The Sierrita Mine tailings pond looms over Green Valley, Arizona. This tailings storage facility measures nearly three miles across.


The town of Miami, Arizona, is dwarfed by Freeport-McMoran’s Miami Mine.


Four Corners Power Plant settling ponds. When one thinks of coal power plant pollution, one usually thinks of releases from the smokestacks: carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulates. But coal plants also have a giant solid waste stream, known as coal combustion waste, that includes ash, clinkers, and scrubber sludge (the would-be air pollution that is captured by pollution control devices). Much like hardrock mine tailings, CCW can contain a variety of hazardous materials. Its disposal is only lightly regulated.


Two gigantic tailings impoundments from the Hayden Smelter in Arizona sandwich the Gila River.


Moab, Utah, is known for its redrock formations and recreational bounty on surrounding public lands. It’s also home to a large potash extraction facility. Potash, or potassium chloride, is used in fertilizers and other applications. The blue ponds aren’t tailings, they are for evaporation. The potash is dissolved underground and the solution is put in the ponds. Blue dye is added to speed evaporation. The Colorado River is also visible in the photo.

Meanwhile, Peter Simons, a (fictional) character from my yet-to-be-published novel, Behind the Slickrock Curtain, isn’t too impressed. Here’s a dialogue between him and Eliza Santos about this sort of thing:

“Holy shit,” Peter said. “Check this out.” On his screen was a video showing an emerald green field slashed by what looked like a Tang-colored snake.

“What is that?” She asked.

“It’s the Animas Valley above Durango. Some mine spilled into the river and turned it orange. It’s nuts.”

“Huh,” she said, bristling a little at Peter’s enthusiasm. “That’s about what color Cement Creek is in Silverton almost all the time. It’s just iron.”

“Okay, but still, I don’t remember the river turning that color in Durango. Do you?”

“I guess not. But those mines leak nasty stuff into the river every day. You just can’t see it, usually. This is only different because it’s so colorful.”

“Huh. That is really interesting.”

“It’s not that interesting. People just don’t give a shit about pollution unless you hit them over the head with it, in a visceral way.”

“But don’t you see, Eliza? It’s the ultimate piece of land art. The spill, I mean. These guys from the EPA just made visible what always existed but that was unseen, and suddenly everyone’s freaking out. Everyone is a goddamned radical environmentalist now. It’s awesome. It’s art. It’s beautiful — that shade of orange against the green — and it’s sublime. So … original.”

“I don’t think they intended it that way. And even if they did, Burtynsky’s already done it.”

“No, no, no. Burtynsky takes pretty pictures of pollution, sure. He takes what is already quite visible and goes all high-def with it, makes it so dramatic that it becomes abstract, meaningless. It triggers aesthetic pleasure and moral despair, but no action. This is different. By making the invisible visible it is rousing people to action.”

She couldn’t deny him that. His conviction that the disaster was triggered intentionally for artistic purposes concerned her, but Eliza did her best to share his enthusiasm. At the library she dug up some essays by two land artists, Robert Smithson of Spiral Jetty fame, and Robert Morris. Both of them were interested in turning old mining and industrial sites and other environmental catastrophes into monumental works of art, but Smithson died before bringing his vision to fruition, and Morris’ dream of sculpting the colossal laceration known as the Bingham Canyon Mine was stifled by ongoing mining. Perhaps Peter could revive that effort.

Bastogne Half Marathon

It wasn’t an organized event, just my own way of paying respects to the soldiers who died defending Bastogne. In traveling to France and Belgium, my husband and I made a special trip to the Ardennes region, seeing Bellau Wood on the way. My husband is a prior USMC Captain, I being former USN LCDR medical corps, we have learned about the history of these battles through our military career but also books, Netflix, and the HBO show “Band of Brothers.” I had no real planned route, I just knew where I wanted to start, where I needed to end up, and freely ran where my feet decided to go.

So on the morning of 02 June 2019 I set my alarm for 5:00 am and drove from our Air BnB, leaving behind my husband to care for our two kids age 2 and 4. The summer morning fog rolled through the green hills as I weaved through sleepy little towns until 45 minutes later I pulled up to the Bastogne War Museum and Memorial.

No announcer, no balloons, no crowds, just me and my jogging hydration pack, headphones, and shirt from my deployment to Afghanistan from 2013. Turning on a Jocko Podcast I had downloaded ahead of time, I set out on my run to remember.

Mile 1 took me around the memorial pretty quick, then down to the city of Bastogne. Seeing the Liberty Cones for the 75th anniversary, I also passed the town plaza where we would later drink Airborne Beer out of mini “helmets.” I turned to go past the 101 Airborne Museum, which has a photo of my co-workers grandfather Frederick Becker who was 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. I also snapped some photos at the entrance of the Bastogne Barracks which is where HQ was.

Around mile 3 or 4 I’m listening to the podcast and Dick Winters talk about planning an attack on Foy. Just then, I come to a fork in the road and see a sign indicating that to the left is that same town, 5 kilometers up. Well I guess I’ll go check that out. Sometimes trusting the world and the path laid before me leads to amazing things.

By now I’ve found a path I think is for cyclists, or just some paved road that goes North West and is nice and tranquil, quiet, not crossed by many roads, and the flowers and morning sunlight are all I have to appreciate. However as I’m running, I realize this idyllic landscape was a harsh winter to many miserable men just 75 years ago. Each step I’m taking was fought for with blood and gunfire and fear and ferocity.

Suddenly a road is in front of me, and I see a memorial to my left. It’s the 506 PIR Easy Company monument. Apparently I have been running through an area hard fought for all this time. After snapping some photos, I figure I may as well see the town of Foy, so I take a left. It’s only 1.7 km, and I’m at mile 6 or so.

Now I start to see the pine trees recognizable from the TV show. Also I am listening to Jocko talk about Charles MacDonald’s book “Company Commander” where he describes running from the initial assault of Battle of the Bulge and the trees exploding over and next to him, losing his men through the brush.

To my left now I find another memorial. I learn this is the Bois Jacques (Jaques Woods), and the memorial says this was an area of unusually heavy fighting. I run in to see what it looks like from inside the woods. Then at a clearing overlooking Foy, I see holes dug in, and I can only surmise they must be Foxholes. Later on I would take my 4 year old daughter here and tell her that people died in these Foxholes. She began to sing a soft song, and I didn’t recognize it. I asked her what she was singing, and she said it was a song for the people who died here.

Well my heart just shattered in a million pieces and grew back stronger when she said that. I am lucky to be her mother.

Back to the morning of my run however, I continue down to Foy then head back to the memorial and north on the trail again. Now I’m at mile 8. Now I’m listening to “Memorial Day 2018″and tears start to come. My face crumples up and the gut wrenching sobbing starts. Crying, heaving breaths, out of gratitude. For all who died here as I run. All the men who will never be fathers. All the men who were fathers. A debt that can never be repaid. What I have gained from that sacrifice. I keep running as tears fall.

I’m running with an American and Belgian flag the whole run as well. I debated whether to do this. Honestly the reason is that I felt like for those men who died, if their ghosts are hanging around and turn to see this crazy combat veteran running through their battlefield, they will see the Stars and Stripes boldly held alongside the flag of the citizens oppressed by the Nazi flying high and proud and strong. A banner of freedom, one for the USA and one for the Belgian people.

So mile 8 and 9 pass, around mile 10 I beging to hear through my headphones from Jocko Podcast #67 at 4:07 “When a warrior falls… Get on your knees and praise what that man has sacrificed and acknowledge the supreme and uncorrupted Eminence of that soldier, of that warrior.” Trust me, you have to hear the whole speech to understand why, at that moment, looking back over the Eastern front of Bastogne, I dropped to my knees, and prayed. I thanked the men and their spirits and their history in that dirt under my knees and knew I had no words eloquent enough besides “Thank you.” Here now writing this I know that my words are not enough. My measly 13.1 mile run is not enough. But I can be thankful for every minute of my freedom, every moment I have with my family, every small liberty that I have, to men like this. To those who died and those who lived but still bore the scars. Who came home, but never the same.

But the world carries on and so did I. Running towards Bizory I passed a sign for the Peace Woods and lazy cows in the morning sun, now nearing 9 am.

Finishing my 13.1 miles at the top of the memorial, overlooking Bastogne and the plaque to all the soldiers and the remembrances offered, I took a deep breath and appreciated it all. Each footstep, each turn that led me to the next, feeling as if guided by chance and intuition, or maybe something more, was a blessing for me to take. Each step was my prayer of thanks, each breath one of gratitude. Your sacrifice is not forgotten.

New Sofitel opens in Beijing

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New Sofitel opens in Beijing

sleep June 04, 2019 13:35

By The Nation

Accor expands its portfolio to 1,100 properties in Asia Pacific with the opening of the brand-new Sofitel Beijing Central.

Standing in the middle of Beijing’s diplomatic area, this new hotel is linked to several historical sites and tourist attractions including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the National Museum of China and the National Grand Theatre.

Its design blends modern French art de vivre with Beijing’s s resplendent imperial history, rich culture and storied traditions.

“We have had a record six months since announcing our 1,000th hotel with the Pullman Tokyo Tamachi late last year and it’s incredible to think that we have added another 100 hotels since then,” said Michael Issenberg, chairman & chief executive officer, Accor Asia Pacific at the recent press conference.

“Sofitel Beijing Central will be a great addition to our network in China and will become one of the premier luxury hotels in the city.”

It features 345 spacious luxury rooms and suites, with Sofitel Club floors providing generous circular bathtubs and access to the brand new Club Millesime Lounge that will be launched towards the end of this year.

Celebrating authentic and lively food culture, the hotel presents a signature Chinese Restaurant, an all-day dining restaurant focusing on western and international cuisine with a French twist, and a lobby lounge serving elegant afternoon tea and evening cocktails.

The hotel has more than 1,500 square metres of event space including nine flexible meeting rooms for up to 400 delegates. Each space offers state-of-the-art technology for gatherings of any type. The hotel’s recreational facilities include a day spa, fitness centre and indoor pool.

“2019 marks the 55th anniversary of Sino-French relations and coincides with the 55th anniversary of the Sofitel brand. We are excited to launch a new Sofitel in China’s capital against the backdrop of these two significant occasions,” said Gary Rosen, chairman & chief operating officer, Accor Greater China.

“France is one of the most popular outbound destinations for Chinese travellers and as an ambassador of French culture, Sofitel enjoys tremendous opportunities as a preferred brand for luxury travellers.”

Book Review: A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

Author: Alicia Elliott

Publisher: DoubleDay Canada

Publication Date: March 26, 2109

ISBN: 9780385692380

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight and understanding to the ongoing legacy of colonialism. What are the links between depression, colonialism and loss of language–both figurative and literal? How does white privilege operate in different contexts? How do we navigate the painful contours of mental illness in loved ones without turning them into their sickness? How does colonialism operate on the level of literary criticism?

Elliott’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a poignant collection of essays discussing her experiences with womanhood, race, culture, sexual assault, mental illness, Indigeneity, and so much more. Elliott ruminates on her experience growing up in poverty with an Indigenous father and a white Catholic mother. Her essays provide insight into her own autobiographical experiences while exploring the treatment of Indigenous peoples in North America. Having spent time in both Canada and the US, Elliott speaks widely of systemic oppression and racism.

Elliott’s voice is one of strength and understanding. Her perspectives are honed and her prose is beautifully conveyed. Her essays are raw and honest as she speaks of the traumas and experiences of her past, as well as her journey in the present. She shares her stories of a woman and a mother, coming to understand her upbringing in new ways as she learns more about the world around her. Her experiences with mental illness and shame are so vivid and visceral, creating an open platform for readers to engage and understand, perhaps sharing their own stories along the way. I enjoyed her captivating voice so thoroughly.

I missed a chance to see Elliott speak and I regret it because I would have loved to listen to her explore her essays in even greater depth. Perhaps I’ll get the chance soon. I can’t recommend this book enough.

In work food poverty. 10 small steps your company could take

In work poverty is real. Our country is not functioning as it should. If you have a job, or in some cases multiple jobs, you should be able to afford the basics (shelter, food and warmth) but sadly this is not always the case.

Campaigns for the Living Wage are important as well as campaigns to reduce the gap between the highest and lowest paid workers in a company are really important but we also need to look at education around how to eat healthily on a budget and within time constraints.

Companies can provide this information to ALL their workers, not just those who can afford to take a lunch break to attend a corporate wellbeing workshop. Which would you choose if you were really tight for money, to attend a workshop which you are not paid for (if you are paid per hour or are not given a paid lunch break), or to earn some extra money so you can actually buy the food you need.

There are lots of things employers can do:

  1. Pay the living wage.
  2. Remove zero hours contracts.
  3. Pay staff for a lunch break.
  4. Provide a microwave and fridge so employees can bring their own lunch (it’s cheaper than buying it every day).
  5. Consider having free fruit and veg available for staff.
  6. If you are providing a lunch buffet, ensure it is a healthy balanced meal with at least 2 portions of fruit/veg per person, low fat proteins, wholegrain starchy carbohydrates and minimal processed meat. Limit sugary foods. And have pots so staff can take leftovers from lunch buffets home with them.
  7. Try to get rid of the culture of bringing food in when it is your birthday. Provide a birthday surprise on the company budget. This helps those who are struggling not to feel like they have to spend their whole month’s food budget on feeding others rather than themselves or their kids.
  8. Think about how you do Christmas work dos (as above)
  9. Provide support for staff around food habits, especially eating well on a budget
  10. Include food as part of the return to work questionnaire when staff have been off sick.

There is lots more you could do to address this issue. If you would like a review of your work practices to help improve the health and wellbeing of your staff, to improve staff retention and reduce absenteeism, get in touch

On Chemical Dependency…

An Organised Initiative had been made to get rid of drug addiction by the mid-20th Century… after serving jail terms, some drug addicts had set up the first self-help group in California, and New York in the 1940s! Even after that, the State did not allow drug addicts to organise rallies in the US. However, they decided to fight their own battle, as they received no help from the Greater Society!
The scenario is quite similar in India in the 21st Century! Due to the lack of public awareness, common people fail to differentiate between drug addiction, and other physical or mental (or psychological) illnesses… The Global Experience shows that even Doctors and Psychologists have, at times, failed to rehabilitate drug addicts in our Society. In recent past, the psychiatrists were seen using strong drugs, as well as electric shocks, to ‘treat’ drug addicts in the Government-run and -initiated Health Centres. The doctors had little idea that it might not be possible to remove the addicts’ (psychological) dependency on drugs through medicines there, at that time…

Drug addiction.jpg

The Government can be blamed easily for not monitoring these Health Centres, properly… however, we cannot depend solely on Government Surveillance! The Government of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte had gunned down thousands of drug addicts in 2016, as a part of its initiative to War against Drug Addiction. Singapore, too, awards Death Penalty for possessing drugs. Unfortunately, a majority of the Governments across the globe has failed to possess a clear idea about the characteristics of drug addiction, and also about how to help addicts lead a normal life again!
A working person can enjoy Medical Leaves in India… but, a drug addict cannot apply for leaves, if s/he wants to receive treatment. India should, it is felt, take a leaf out of the lessons imparted by the US, where the American Family and Medical Leave Act has allowed drug addicts to enjoy this Right. The main aim of the Minnesota Model, which was introduced in the 1940s, was to establish such a Healthcare Facility that could ensure the basic Human Rights of the Drug Addicts!

Mental illness.png

India, too, has set up a number of Health Centres especially for drug addicts in different parts of the country on the basis of the Minnesota Model… however, lack of information about these Centres has rendered the initiative almost a failure. It is important for the Government to sensitise people about ‘drug addiction’, and ‘mental illness’. The Family, Society, as well as the State, need to take a close look at ‘Mental Health’, as the move could provide a great relief to such patients. Keeping in mind the increasing number of patients suffering from Schizophrenia in India, the State should make a serious attempt to ensure the Human Rights for patients suffering psychologically, and the drug addicts. Else, it will be difficult to tackle the situation when each and every family might be having at least a child with a more than a bit of Mental Illness

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Spring Fields

It is the spring of 2005
I am not yet tall enough
To avoid the free ride at the cable car
No matter how much I stand on my toes
The ceiling in my bedroom a skyscraper
Always out of reach, even when I jump
On my bed with my hands stretched to the high heavens

We are walking to the rice fields
It is plantation season, and the whole family
Has come together, a mundane task turned into a celebration
I spot my partners in crime; a small gang of gangly seven year olds
My cousins and I get down to business
Our bare feet dipping into the muddy ground
There is no music playing in the field,
But it is loud and joyous
My uncle bursting simultaneously into off key song
We laugh and shake our heads

Under the grinning sun, our tiny hands
Excavate the earth to leave behind
Little droplets of life
They may be smaller than my nails
But in months they will be tall enough
To clear the free ride at the cable car
Sometimes I wish I could grow like that
Shoot up towards the sky like the beanstalk
As my friends all marvel Jack-like

Photo by Daniel Klein on Unsplash

My cousin slips into the mud
We watch as the earth swallows him
Into the gentlest of embraces
And as his head peeks out,
Hair still prominently displaying the
Leftovers of the ground’s affection
He pulls us down with him
And we mud-pile on top of each other
Sweaty and tired but still
Bursting with laughter
This maybe a time before the internet found us
But there is so much more to happiness
Than just connectivity

Later, as the sun climbs to its glorious apex
We are sent home, our share of work
Done for the day, we race each other
To my house
In the living room, lies a world entirely
Different from our own
A cartridge insertion video game
Where we take turns to become
Things we could never otherwise be
An Italian plumber hopping his way atop evil
Turtles to rescue a princess
An Arabian prince gliding on a flying carpet
A ninja on a mysterious quest
Olympic high jumpers
Street car drivers on a dangerous highway
We are not just four tiny seven year olds
Too short to avoid the free rides at the cable car

When the grownups all come home
We make a dash to the plum tree
Awkwardly climbing thin, snakelike branches
Hoping to pick the small fruits that fit comfortably
In the center of our palms
I remain grounded, feet too clumsy to navigate
The maze that is the plum tree
A bucket in my hands to catch all the fruit my cousins pick
One of them nails me on the forehead
And I sit down and laugh
And my cousins laugh along with me
And we sit there picking and eating fruit until it is dark
Just to start all over the next day

Camp Week Tuesday and Brother Battles

Hello, hello! How are you guys doing so far this week? Things are trucking right along over here and today I figured I’d bring you along on a little recap of my day yesterday since I managed to snap a decent number of photos of our adventures.


I opted out of my usual 5 a.m. wake-up yesterday morning in favor of sleeping in until 6 a.m. because I was up for HOURS reading on Monday night and then Ryder randomly woke up screaming for the first time in a long time and needed some middle-of-the-night soothing. Thankfully Ryder settled back down easily after I rocked with him but I was definitely more tired than usual after reading for so long before bed. I started reading The Banker’s Wife on Sunday night and flew through it in two days! It was just the kind of book I was looking for and had the perfect amount of mystery and suspense without terrifying me in the process. I’ll definitely share more thoughts on The Banker’s Wife in Friday’s blog post but if you’re looking for a quick, suspenseful read, I highly recommend it!

Once I was up for the day, I made myself a cup of coffee, grabbed the vegan protein overnight oats I prepped the night before and settled myself on the couch with my latest small group study. (For those who have asked, we’re doing this study but it’s currently all sold out! I hope they bring it back because it’s a good one and does a great job of helping me navigate and apply scripture to different areas of my life.) I then made my way into my home office to work until the boys were awake.

Ryder was up first yesterday and I nursed him in his room before setting him up with some toys in our bedroom while I got dressed. It didn’t take long for me to hear Chase calling my name from his room, so I scooped Ryder up and we all read some stories before I got the boys dressed. As I type out the last sentence, I realize this makes our morning sound seamless but morning story time is getting harder and harder now that Ryder is on the move and so grabby! Lately reading stories with Chase and Ryder looks a lot like me scooping Ryder up when he wants in and then setting him back down to play with toys before the cycle repeats itself over and over again. I love easing into the morning with a book or two with the boys and Chase really counts on it so I’m doing my best to go with the flow and make it work.

Eventually it was breakfast time for everyone and I quickly reheated some pancakes I had in my freezer stash from a large batch I made last week and served them with some fresh berries.

This week is a “camp week” meaning it’s one of the four weeks of the summer I have Chase signed up for camp so we didn’t have too much time to spare in the morning before we had to head out the door. The boys played for a bit together while I got Chase’s lunch ready and then we were off!

After Chase was settled at camp, I brought Ryder with me to Burn Boot Camp where I met up with some friends for a push/pull strength training workout.

After completing about a million push ups, the workout was done and I scooped Ryder up before driving home and settling him in his crib for his nap. Immediately after Ryder went down, our contractor, Mike, arrived to begin replacing our backsplash!

We were responsible for picking up all of his materials over the weekend and then he came by on Monday to begin taking out the old backsplash. What Mike thought would be a two-day project is turning out to be a lot more work than we anticipated. I’m so, so glad we hired Mike to help us because once he removed the old backsplash, he pointed out some seriously uneven gaps between our granite and the kitchen wall behind it and all of this requires a lot more work. Hopefully we’ll have a new backsplash up by the end of the week!

I talked with Mike as I made myself a post-workout smoothie (one of the plant based Daily Harvest protein smoothies — I just added coconut milk, cashew butter and frozen cauliflower) and then gave him some space as I worked in my office.

I got a jump start on my Father’s Day Gift Guide post for this year and plugged away until Ryder was up from his nap and ready for some playtime!


Eventually it was time for us to go get Chase, so we scooped him up before spending some time with friends at the playground. By the time I had everyone back home, we were all hungry, so I made snacks for the boys, settled them in their rooms for their afternoon naps and then reheated leftovers for lunch to eat as I worked.

My leftovers looked like a lemon pesto cauliflower rice dish with chopped green beans, regular white rice, chicken thighs and sundried tomatoes. (I loosely followed this recipe for the lemon pesto cauliflower rice on Monday night.)

As I heard Chase making noise on the monitor, I quickly logged off the computer and grabbed some 12-18 month baby clothes from the attic to go through since Ryder seems to get bigger every second.

Once Ryder was up, we hung out at home for the remainder of the afternoon and I’d love to say it was wonderful and lovely but some days around here are just plain tough and yesterday was one of them.

Now that Ryder is crawling and on the move, “brother battles” seem to happen around here all the time. They’re nothing horrific or long-lasting but they DO feel very constant and typically look like Chase taking a toy out of Ryder’s hand, being too physical, etc. Sometimes I feel like I’m telling Chase some variation of “be gentle / share with your brother / please don’t take a toy right out of Ryder’s hands when he’s playing with it” a billion times a day. I try hard to have Chase hear me “talk” to Ryder and correct him, too, even though he’s a baby so Chase doesn’t think he is the only one getting reprimanded all the time but, honestly, I’m struggling.

Chase is a truly fantastic big brother and loves Ryder so much and Ryder completely adores Chase but sometimes these “brother battles” drive me absolutely bananas. If you have been through this with your children before, what did you do? Any tips or tricks for getting older children to give the little ones some space/share their toys/be gentle? So far the thing that has worked the best for me is taking Chase aside and talking with him about his feelings and communicating with him one-on-one. He definitely responds best to me taking the time to acknowledge his feelings and brainstorming alternative ways to behave toward Ryder when he feels frustrated, upset, etc. but I’d love any insight you guys might be able to provide if you’ve been through this with your little ones.  It can be incredibly frustrating and try my patience, that’s for sure!

In the midst of brother battles, we did have fun playing at home yesterday afternoon even if a decent amount of frustration was peppered in the mix. Bless the moments that Chase and Ryder crack each other up because they give me life! Phew!


As Chase and Ryder played together in the family room, I said goodbye to Mike as he left for the day and then got to work assembling a simple dinner for our crew.

Since our kitchen wasn’t exactly in the most usable condition thanks to the backsplash replacement, dinner looked like a whole lot of microwavable and canned foods thrown into a bowl. I chopped up some kale quinoa veggie burgers and paired them with my favorite ready-made combination of brown rice, spelt and lentils from Whole Foods and black beans. We dug in right as Ryan arrived home from work (Ryder in particular LOVED this dinner!) and then I put Ryder to bed before saying goodbye to Ryan and Chase and heading off to my small group. We meet every other Tuesday at a local coffee shop and it was so, so nice to have the chance to talk with my friends and also hear I’m far from alone in dealing with sibling-related frustrations.

I made it home around 9:30 p.m. and talked with Ryan for a bit before beginning a new book and reading until my eyes could no longer stay open.

And now I’m off to get this Wednesday started. I hope the rest of your week is a good one!

The post Camp Week Tuesday and Brother Battles appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.

from Health & Wellness

Mandalay Days

The lay of the land can be a great tell about a people just like a first view of Myanmar on a sunset landing.

Mandalay | Mandalay State | Myanmar (Burma)

The flat land around Mandalay had thickets of bulbous trees, winding rivers and parched sandy embankments; there were ponds and oblong fields stitched in with trees and bushes.

But it’s the temples and pagodas that stand out. Their vertical golden spindles are omnipresent, and looking down from the plane in the pink sunset-light, they shimmered, glinted and winked in an electric, neon gold, outdoing the beauty of the land with the help of the day’s last light.

These gold pinnacles weren’t just occasional, they were everywhere, sprinkled generously on hills, on the flat suburbia of Mandalay, sitting there in their perfect ornate rings of gold and pastilles.

Myanmar’s devotion to her Buddhist faith was spectacularly and eye-catchingly apparent even before we had even touched down.


Where’s the inconvenience?

Contrary to my expectations, things were easy on arrival. The airport had lines of gleaming lit-up ATMs, and counters for 4G tourist SIM cards. Gone are the days when tourists had to carry wads of pristine, unfolded and unmarked dollar notes. Gone are the days when Myanmar’s ATMs didn’t accept foreign bank cards and some places wouldn’t even accept their own currency, the kyat. Go figure.

Everything in our first few nights in Myanmar felt so normal, so convenient. Our hotel about three miles from the centre, was a relatively comfy place, that played Bryan Adams and the theme to Titanic at breakfast and served coco pops that even made the milk chocolatey. It all felt so familiar.

Myanmar’s moving on, and now is a great time to visit it; the tourist conveniences are happening and yet she’s still off the beaten track of hordes of tourists. I was expecting a little more inconvenience from Myanmar, cancelled flights, ATMS out of order, a dearth of taxis, having to fill in forms or show your passport for any activity including sneezing; these were hassles we thankfully never found.

We had a favourite restaurant that served great food, Burmese, Chinese, Thai, played rock, served draft beer and accepted card.!And when we tired of eastern cuisine, yes we went to the KFC next to the hotel for chicken wings, maxed fries and huge Fantas.

But there were hints that this wasn’t quite Bangkok which we had just left, when we had browsed its bright and airy shopping malls and watched Aladdin in a multi-plex. The Mandalay Airport electricity cut out, the luggage carousel froze and for a few seconds the entire airport was suspended in blackness; it was only a matter of seconds though, and the light soon returned.


We spent three days exploring Mandalay, a sprawling flat-as-a-pancake city, visiting its pagodas, climbing Mandalay hill, ambling its ancient moated city and watching its puppets and people at Marionette shows, and at the jade market.

Before I arrived the name Mandalay evoked for me a certain romanticism, of ornate carved teak palaces of elephants strolling on wide open lawns. In reality the city is not pretty, it’s a huge series of wide intersections where roads are named by numbers, and it’s not particularly pedestrian-friendly either with its occasional broken and missing paving stones, expose booby-traps of the brackish water underneath. But taxis and tuk-tuks are plentiful and cheap and getting around is easy. And on the plus side for pedestrians, the traffic is conformist, and traffic lights are generally well respected.


“I get knocked down but I get up again…”

Mandalay was made the royal capital in 1857, the previous capital having been dismantled and brought over by elephants. By the time the British had won the final Anglo-Burmese war and arrived, they shifted the capital down to Yangon.

Mandalay’s sprawl is a result of the Japanese bombing in the Second World War (60% of its houses were destroyed) so today nearly all the structures are modern.

Even the moated royal city, which was the final royal city before the Brits came and told the king and queen to kindly leave, or words to that effect, was recreated in the 1990s because the allies had bombed it in the Second World War as the Japanese had used it to store provisions.

Today it is the Chinese who are rebuilding central Mandalay. Many players, it seems, have had a part to play in either building up or knocking down this place.

A visit to the jade market of Mandalay

Since colonial times, Myanmar has been famous for its mining of rubies, sapphires and jade.

Sarah and I were keen to visit the jade market in Mandalay, where rows and rows of gem traders, bright torches in hand, wait to sell their jade stones, all lined up in trays or in huge slabs of rock striated with veins of rich green and white.

It’s a labyrinthine place, of alleys of dust and noise, its floors dotted randomly with betel nut spit; there are shops and eateries, small bars and people playing pool or carom.

The people at the jade market are mainly men. Away from business, it all looked distinctly like the men were enjoying themselves, sometimes too much, in a relaxed and slightly raucous environment, gambling with cards and conch shells, staring intently with cigarettes dripping from their lips.

The market is a socialising area, you can feel that vibe in abundance. I can just imagine some Mandalayan man telling his wife ‘just going down the jade market love,’ raising her expectations of a shiny green present, but all ending in him playing pool, having beers with his mates, getting home late and going straight in the dog-house.

It was worth going to the jade market just to people-watch, because in the euphoria of the buying and selling, and people unwinding, people come together and just be their unselfconscious selves.

Myanmar Marionettes

In the evening the streets of Mandalay are on a dimmer switch; the street lights aren’t that powerful and are quite sparse in places. It gives the night a medieval feel. We took a tuk-tuk in this half-light to the Myanmar Marionettes show.

Myanmar has a rich 500 year old history of marionettes, which died down over the years and this little theatre is trying to keep the dying form alive. They had a little orchestra to which the puppets came on stage and danced, there were horses and people and their movements were agile and supple and quiet lifelike. It was a lovely evening.

U Bein: The longest wooden bridge in the world

In the suburbs of Mandalay is a bridge of teak, 1.2 kilometres long, to where Mandalayans in their relaxed, recreational selves throng.

It’s rather a special bridge because it dates from 1850, and is considered to be the longest wooden bridge in the world. More importantly, it occupies a special place in the hearts of the locals and at sunsets you are treated to seeing a cross-section of them chilling out.

The people of Mandalay traverse this bridge with a slow amble; the wooden slats are a little uneven meaning you have to watch your steps and there are no hand-rails; but anyway, it’s evening and people are relaxed; it’s a promenade and there’s a distinct feel of being at the seaside, what with the food stalls, the sandy embankments, the boats ferrying people on the lake and the horse and cart hires.

The ambiance on the bridge is worth absorbing well before sunset; whole families chat and laugh together; cool teenagers with their bleach blonde mop-tops and ripped jeans listen to music on their phones; secret teenage sweethearts seek some quiet time to whisper sweet-nothings; Buddhist monks in their elegant maroon robes traipse thoughtfully across the slats.

I got chatting to an elderly bespectacled monk as we watched the sun set from a bench on the bridge. He spoke perfect English and his narrative was full of hope for the country; he mentioned how beautiful the Myanmarese are; how he felt the country was improving since the return of democracy especially in rural areas. He told me about his life of early starts and meditating five times a day (one hour a go) and an evening walk along this bridge every day at sunset.

We spent three days in Mandalay and then took an early morning flight, empty except for 5 other people (I told you now is a good time to visit) to Bagan; we had been introduced to urban Myanmar, but next came a place that would prove to be truly special.


This post is part of the series called 90 Days in South East Asia about our travels in India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia in March to June 2019, and was written on-the-road.

Travel Diary: New Years Day Hatsumode

Originally posted to Patreon: January 7th, 2018

Hatsumode is the first shrine visit of the new year in Japan. Alanna and I planned to go to at least one shrine and one temple this day.

We picked out a few places on the map and head out pretty early in the day. After spending New Year’s Eve at one of the most spiritual places in Japan for the last day of the year, we awoke refreshed and ready to start the new year.

On our way into town, we ended up passing by a small shrine. It was simple and quiet, I don’t think it was even on our map, but there were a few people there for Hatsumode so we joined in.

Alanna went to the bell for her New Year’s wish while I people watched for a short while. We then went together to where they were giving out the fortunes. We had to shake this little wooded cylindrical box and tilt it so that a stick would fall out the hole on the one side. There would be a number on the stick which we would tell to the monk who would then hand us our fortune.

Originally we had planned on bringing them back to the apartment so we could translate them, they were completely in Japanese, but the monk was able to translate them for us. We actually got two of the luckiest fortunes you could get, mine was actually the highest ranked one (yay!). I think it’s going to be a good year. We tied our fortunes to the tree at the shrine, this is done in order to increase the positivity of the fortune, before heading out.

Our next stop was a Buddhist Temple a bit further south. This was a much more crowded area, but everyone was friendly and in good spirits for the holiday.

Out front, there were a bunch of bikes parked from when people rode in. While we were walking in the wind came and knocked the first bike over which caused a dominos effect all the way down. All the bikes ended up on the ground as Alanna and I, as well as all the other people around,  watched on in horror. I jumped in to start fixing the bikes, Alanna joining in, and eventually, a bunch of people were standing up the fallen bikes. It was the first good dead of the new year. Someone shouted out “Good Job!” when we were done and a bunch of us repeated it back before we dispersed and headed on to the temples.

We found a lovely Buddhist Temple with a zen rock garden. I was at a bigger Buddhist Temple when I first arrived in Kyoto that had a similar rock garden, but the themes of the two were very different. The rock garden at Ryoan-Ji was very peaceful and calming. However, this rock garden was meant to look powerful, like it was full of energy. The rocks were raked in such a way that they looked like fierce waves crashing against the small island in the garden.

The rest of the temple was pretty simple, and the back garden was actually under construction. We took our time poking around and enjoying the scenery before pressing on.

Alanna really enjoyed her day at the onsen the day before so we were on our way to a smaller local one. She would go get clean, and I would check out another nearby shrine, after grabbing a quick lunch at the nearby convenience store.

The shine I went to was much more active than the smaller one we went to that morning. It was also a steep walk up the steps to get to the main part of the grounds.

Once at the top you could see this beautiful view of the surrounding Kyoto area. It was stunning.

There was a small tent set up where people were getting their fortunes, buying charms, and the monk and priestess were handing out warm drinks. The drink was some sort of hot rice milk drink with ginger added in. I’m not 100% sure what it was, but it was delicious.

When Alanna was done with her bath at the onsen I brought her up to the shrine so she could get a cup of the warm drink herself. We then went up another flight of steps where the main shrine was where people would say their prayers. There was also a drum that you are meant to hit for each year old you are so we did that, as well as this staff-like thing that (I think) is meant for banishing bad spirits, so we waved that at each other to send away any bad spirits.

By this time we were starting to get a bit hungry and we had a good bit of a walk ahead of us to get back to my apartment. I made us a hearty chicken and vegetable soup before our tired legs took us to bed. It was a long yet rewarding day, a great way to kick off the new year.

I also made a new friend at the last shrine, he was super friendly!

Don’t forget to check out my full photo album for this trip.

Happy New Year!

The 105th Adventure–Part Ten

Originally published on August 27, 2008

Harley-Davidson celebrated its 105th Anniversary in 2008. I was one of the 105 execs designated to start a ride from a Harley-Davidson dealer to the big party in Milwaukee.  

Wednesday August 27, 2008
Our final day of riding, and anticipation of what is to come.
The morning in Wausau was a flurry of activity. Based on the sounds outside my room window, the early risers hit the road at around 6:30am. Gene and Tim from our riding group took advantage of the relatively warm morning to head home early, so our group would be smaller than in the previous couple of days.
The plan is to gather at Wausau Harley-Davidson for breakfast and departure at 9:30. We weren’t aware that Capital City H-D in Madison had organized a group ride from Wausau to Madison that would leave at that same time. So we watched over 200 bikes mount up and head out while we gave them some space. We left at 10am, using the extra half hour to chat with our old and new friends about plans in Milwaukee and where people were staying. Pictures were taken, smiles were everywhere.
At our final gas stop, we made sure all of the non-Milwaukee folks knew where to go once we reached town. Some were pointed to exits (Jim and Cynthia are staying at the HOG campground, Dave and Jackie in Wauwatosa, Fred and Debbie in Cedarburg, AJ and Hoorda at a hotel Downtown, and Milo was heading for Chicago to weld his bike together). Vince and Jennifer Nye (Jennifer joined us after working with her video crew) volunteered to lead part of the group directly to Juneau Avenue for the Kick-off Party.
So after more than 2000 miles, the group split and headed out on their own. I thought it was like the “So Long, Farewell” scene in The Sound of Music. Not sure who was Liesel.
Though we all knew that we would see each other, or at least be looking for each other, throughout the rest of the week. That made the good-bye feel a little less final.
OK, to wrap this up, here are Steve’s newest rules of the road, as developed on this trip
The first rule was developed in Missoula, Montana when I discovered that my motel room key no longer worked. Frustrated, in a hurry because the group was preparing to leave, I ran to the desk to get a new key. The quizzical look on the young woman’s face told me something was wrong. Then she said, “Sir, that’s a Holiday Inn key, this is a Best Western.” So Rule Number One from this trip, don’t keep hotel room keys.
Rule Number Two. When the GPS and the billboard on the side of the highway disagree, use the directions on the billboard. Somebody paid for the billboard.
And Rule Number Three, yellow tinted goggles lie. They tell you things about the weather that are totally not true. On my first day of riding I used my yellow goggles. I was convinced that the sun was about to come out the whole time I was riding. Combine yellow lenses with and optimistic attitude…and it could be dangerous. I would have ridden into a hurricane with those things on.
If you’ve read these blog entries throughout my adventure, I thank you for joining me. Hopefully, my blessing of being in a position to do a ride like this, to have an experience like this, was shared with you through the time we both spent reading and writing.
And thank you to my riding partners, my coworkers and my new friends from around the country and around the world, for being part of this once in a lifetime adventure.

Camera in Distress


The artist at work – and unaware of impending photographic calamity…

I was sitting in Blenheim Palace the other day drinking tea, as you do (well, all right, it was the visitors’ café, but let’s not quibble), and I was thinking about the way unexpected things can strike out of the blue. Half an hour later I was standing on Vanbrugh’s bridge trying to photograph the lake when my much-loved Canon G12 ceased to function, without warning and definitely out of the blue. It just seized itself solid, making distressing bleeping noises.

My smartphone told me there was a camera shop in nearby Witney, and so, later that afternoon, I rolled into T4 Cameras nursing my ailing Canon. A very nice man offered to render first aid and looked carefully at it, attempted to fix it, sympathised, tried again, regretted he was unable to fix it, said it would likely be prohibitively expensive to send away for repair – or sadly not possible at all since they no longer make this model and spare parts can be difficult to locate, found a spare cap anyway to protect the lens which had jammed open, sympathised again and flatly refused to take any money for his trouble. I walked away with my poor camera bandaged in sellotape and felt bereft.

So what did you do, Kath, you ask? Well, I did the obvious thing and commandeered my husband’s camera for the next couple of days of garden visits. But oh, it wasn’t the same. I wanted my G12 back!

IMG_1161.JPGWhen we arrived home in Dorset, I took my camera to the local shop in Weymouth where it was bought nearly eight years ago, for a second opinion. Yes, they said, confirming the diagnosis, the fixing of it was likely to be ridiculously expensive, and perhaps not possible at all.

‘But it’s been so good!’ I wailed. ‘It taught me to take photos – was patient while I learned to frame a shot, to pay attention to the direction of the light – all I had to do was point and click.’

Had it taken its last photo, then? Very sorry, they said, but yes that is most likely the case. Now, as a mature woman, having a meltdown in my local camera shop would have been undignified to say the least. So I didn’t. My howl of anguish was a mere horrified squeak. My lovely G12, after thousands and thousands and thousands of shots had bitten the dust. And at the height of the garden visiting season, too, just when I use it most. Oh, calamity!

But I’m a great believer in serendipity, and what they did have in the shop, entirely by chance, was an identical camera, second hand, and at a very reasonable price. Reader, I bought it. What I wanted was my old camera back, and that’s exactly what I got; another familiar, weighty, capable, patient G12. Of course, I will eventually have to concede defeat and go for a more modern model, and that’s fine, but for now equanimity and normal service is restored. I have my old friend back, or at least, its identical twin.

Taken For Granted

Whatever we get free of cost, we never value it. We are not even thankful for it. We just presume that it is our right to enjoy everything free of cost. If we visit a place and eat for free everyday, we never really value the effort that the chefs and cooks have put in to prepare it.


Let us not go too far. Let us start with the free basic necessities provided to us. The condition of the air we breathe is depleting every day because no one realises that we need to reduce global warming and the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. We have to, even if we don’t want to, switch on the AC to feel relaxed and sleep peacefully which releases harmful gases in air and pollute it. We also smoke in the name of fashion and id (as Freud suggested) and think that we haven’t done anything wrong since the only major harm has to be borne by us. Nature? How will the smoke emitted by one cigarette affect the environment? It doesn’t really matter, does it? Moreover, my body, my choice, isn’t it? Tobacco smoking leads directly to the emission of 2 600 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and about 5 200 000 tonnes of methane but why does it matter? We will not plant trees unless we need paper to roll the tobacco in. Who needs plants when we have tobacco? Moreover, a cigarette costs less than 300 which is cheaper than a metro ride of a month. Fair deal, isn’t it?

Anyone’s free advice is considered a lecture but attending organised and expensive lectures and seminars and advice are considered worthy. We are all guilty of believing this including me.  Walking on feet symbolises lack of resources but riding in a car makes you fashionable. Any person who cares for us is neglected and taken for granted by us till the time comes when we can only regret ignoring them. 

We take our senses such as the abilities to see, hear, talk, comprehend, the intuitions we receive and all the bodily processes that work continuously for granted and don’t really feel thankful for it. I feel thankful for having a good voice and musical and artistic intelligence but apart from that, I don’t remember feeling grateful for all of me and my processes and senses except on special occasions as this. 

I believe it is not tough if we still start feeling gratitude towards the natural things we take for granted, be it life, our loved ones, the liabilities, facilities or opportunities we get or anything else.  We can always start afresh until we are alive. I have learnt this lesson today and will try my best to remember it on all the days of my life ahead. 


No reservations… 7 weeks on the fly, 5 lessons

I have to confess, I was stressed out at the idea. It’s not how I would do things but I needed to give it a try, not to humor my husband but to see for myself, is it really possible.

I read about people just packing up and going somewhere and my husband tells me all the time about how his siblings traveled to Europe free and easy on $5 a day.

As a former financial planner, I really was a traveling salesperson. I would work out my schedule of meetings to be geographically efficient so as to maximize my time. In my mind, traveling to visit countries is sort of similar. There are “x” number of cities or towns to visit within “y” number of days…we should be efficient with our time instead of going all over the map. Even if we have unlimited miles on the rental car, we don’t have unlimited time.

My biggest concern is sleeping quarters and bathing facilities. I’ve worked hard and have been frugal. I don’t believe in over paying for a room because it’s the Four Seasons…because it’s primarily a bed and a shower. However, I’d like a clean bed and a clean shower. On this trip to Eastern Europe where the food can be heavy and artery clogging…I also want a kitchen to cook some meals so we are not eating salt and fat all the time.

And finally…laundry. We see advertisements for apartments which say they have washing machines and when we show up…it’s non existent. It happened twice. And it made us super cautious about making decisions based on a washing machine alone.

The experience? Stressful and yet fun. Fun because I like getting a good deal. When we score a great deal…I forget all about the stress until it’s time to search again.

We used primarily and for the most part, the rooms are as advertised. The worst dump was one night in Hungary and we learned our lesson. There’s a range of prices usually and the lowest priced places will often be suspect. The highest price…we’re not interested. So it’s the middle range. It’s important to have a daily budget. When we travel, I aim to average US$100 for the two of us for lodging and meals.

Some days we pay $40 for lodging, we splurge on meals. Other days lodgings cost more, we cook our meals by going to the local supermarket.

In Prague, we scored a last minute deal at an apartment, Old Royal Post Hotel. Someone canceled and we got a great deal because during Spring break, Prague costs 2x as much as regular price and regular price is not cheap.

In Budapest, we used our Marriott rewards to pay for a room at the New York Palace Hotel. The main reason is that the New York cafe has become a tourist destination that you stand in line to get in. As a guest, we skip the line as there is a section cordoned off for hotel guests only. Even then, just sitting at the cafe, you are going to be in other people’s Kodak moments.

In Eger, we stayed at Tulipan Garden Country Rooms. It was spacious and comfortable and well within our budget. At a Tokaj region, we stayed at Henye Vendeghaz…a splurge because well, we deserve a periodic splurge. There are only 5 rooms at the vineyard. And they are usually booked solid. So we got only one night and that was perfect for us.

In Slovenia, we’ve been really lucky with apartments. In Bovec, we stayed 2 nights with Dana, in a well furnished apartment with kitchen. In Bled, at Janja’s apartment we have a fully equipped kitchen and convenient location. In Smarjeske Toplice, Apartment Lucija is spacious and has an espresso maker. A real espresso maker…not one that uses plastic pods. The last minute change of plans for an apartment in Piran instead of a hotel in Koper was a risky move, but we are happy with the outcome.

Other times, we’ve stayed in hotels or pensions. When choosing places to stay, we have to look for places with free parking. Otherwise paying for parking is sometimes stressful as we have to figure out the meter system. Breakfast included is always nice. We only used a hostel for one night in Ljubljana and it was fairly decent. The price was right.

Some tips:

1. Have a budget and search within your price range.

2. Double check address on booking site with google maps for distances to walk or transfer by public transportation, and to the sights you want to see.

3. Descriptions and pictures are sometimes dated on the site, I try to look for newer places for a couple of reasons. (A) less usage since it’s newer. (B) equipment tends to function better

4. Always get free cancellation options, unless you are booking 1 or 2 days before and that is no longer an option.

5. I like to gather information, he likes to “hunt” and so we have very different decision making processes. It’s important to communicate and not assign blame if you end up with a dump of a lodging.

Tomorrow we start heading home. It’s been a blast. It’s possible to travel without reservations during off peak season with a loving husband who puts up with your idiosyncrasies.

The Smartest Man in The Room

The Smartest Man in The Room

1 Corinthians 3:18-20

My son has a friend; we’ll call him Rick, names have been changed to protect the identity of the annoying. Rick is one of those guys who, due to his insecurities, need to be the smartest man in any room. You know, that person who makes you ask yourself, “why does my son hang around him?” No matter what’s going on, no matter what the topic, Rick knows more than everyone else about that subject. And, he’s the guy that always says inflammatory things to see if he can get a rise out of people. No matter what the subject, he’s going to do his best to try to make you think he knows more than you.

Rick and I recently had a conversation about the Church in America, and every point I made he would come back with, “Well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” I mentioned that, although Christ and His disciples spent their entire ministry fighting religion, the Church today has become little more than a religious organization. What was his response? “Well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” I talked about how the Church today has become a corporation, and he came back with that same response. So, I asked him why Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple; he responded that they were making God’s house into a den of thieves…Hello!

We all know Ricks. We all know people who have that insatiable urge to top everyone else. But what does Paul say about this in 1 Corinthians 3:18-20? 18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” 20 And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”

First, he tells us to stop deceiving ourselves. We can all end up in a place where we are deceiving ourselves, can’t we? I know there are times that I think I’m the smartest man in the room, but we need to keep our egos in check and realize that we can always learn from others, even guys like Rick.

This next statement seems to be a little contradictory, but Paul tells us that we may think we are wise by the world’s standards, but to truly become wise, we must first become a fool.

What Paul is saying here is that if you want to be truly wise, you must first renounce the world’s wisdom. You must be willing to look foolish in the world’s eyes; in other words, you must humble yourself to truly become wise. What does James 4:10 say? “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” We must humble ourselves first, then let Christ lift us up. Whenever we try to lift ourselves up, it doesn’t turn out well, even if we think it did.

The Bible talks a lot about humility. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Matthew 5:5. And, when Jesus was talking about who will be the greatest in His kingdom, He said, “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:4. In fact, in Matthew 23:11-12, Jesus said, 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” So, if you truly want to be great, serve others…the world will never tell you that. But if you don’t humble yourself, He will humble you! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be humbled by God…just sayin’.

Let’s face it, our ultimate example for everything in this world is Jesus, and He gave the ultimate example of humility. Look at Philippians 2:5-11, You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

What does it say in verse 8? In obedience to the father, Jesus not only died for our sins but He, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the creator of everything, humbled Himself and died a criminal’s death. What does Galatians 3:13 say? “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” And, because of His humility, we read in verse 9 that God has given Him a name that is above every other name, and that at the name of Jesus every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ IS Lord, and this will glorify the Father. Hallelujah!

So, when you feel that urge to try to sound wise to those around you, take a step back and think of ways you can humble yourself. Think of how you can serve that person. When I’m talking to someone like Rick, I get the urge to put him in his place, and sometimes I try to, but we need just to humble ourselves and, maybe we can learn something.

Water Pump

If you have a not as expensive RV like we do, you know the water pump is louder than hell. I’ve replaced the Flojet model in our RV with a Shurflo 4088 model.

It was not very hard to remove the old Flojet. I took off the clamps, unscrewed it from the location next to the master bedroom and removed the wires. It took about 5 minutes to remove the pump and 20 minutes to wipe up the water spewing everywhere. Never take off the pressure side first.

My idea on installing the Shurflo was to install a screen filter on the input end, but the cabinet was simply too small. Actually it fit but the installed water hoses were so short I would have had to seriously modify them for the item to come close to fitting. So I removed the screen filter and then it fit well enough to install.

I’ve not yet tried it, so I can’t report on the new water pump’s performance. I suspect it will be much quieter than the old water pump.

Speaking of the old water pump, it will be put to good use. I saw a YouTube video where someone used a water pump connected to a 6 volt battery to pull water from a plastic water tank. The object is to refill an RVs fresh water tank while boondocking. I’ll let you all know how that works out.

In the meantime, I’m strongly considering videos of my upgrades. I’d like to show how non-difficult most of the upgrades I’ve made, really are.

The key upgrade on the whole vehicle is the bed. Most RV stock beds are crap. We sleep on a Tempur-Pedic bed at home, so I wanted to get a memory foam mattress. I bought one from WalMart for about $300. It fit perfectly but it’s much heavier than the stock mattress. Then again, it’s a godsend on long trips, like the one to Yellowstone.i was thankful I had purchased that mattress on that trip.

If there’s a second important upgrade I made, its LED lighting. The incandescent lights were power hungry, hot and didn’t provide as much light. I swapped those out early in our RV experiment. Other upgrades were the motion LED pucks in cabinets, mounting a second TV in the bedroom and placing an Amazon fire stick on the device. I also use a Weber portable gas grill with the vehicle. I attach a low pressure hose to the RV gas line and cook using my RV propane tanks.

The last mention is of the tires. I was not too pleased with the tires because the salesman insisted I ditch my hardly worn tires for safety reasons. If he had actually told me the truth – the old tires couldn’t handle as heavy a load and the new ones were better rated, I would have bought them anyway.


4 June 2019

It’s our wedding anniversary today — three years. We celebrated over the weekend with tickets to Walk Off the Earth, which was so much more fun than I expected. Tonight’s off-the-cuff plan is peking duck for takeaway dinner, a decision my belly made at 5pm tonight.

In honor of our anniversary, and my private little public blog, I wanted to share this music video we had an opportunity to shoot with Joy Ike’s “Time.” I love the lyrics, love the music and love her voice! (David cringes when he watches it, but I know he secretly loves it just the same. No shame, husband!)

Taking a moment to ruminate on my past three years, independently and together, I never would have imagined: 

  • Shooting a music video with an exceptionally brilliant artist 
  • Preparing for an staggering cross-country move to California
  • Living back with my parents for an extended bit of time 
  • Writing a blog
  • Living abroad in Edinburgh for a wee bit o’ time
  • Traveling throughout Europe (finally!)
  • Gracefully coping with grief with my miscarriage
  • Finding comfort in sharing tears
  • Quitting a job with no back-up plan
  • Enjoying rest restfully
  • Experiencing internships in DC and City Hall 
  • Being published in peer-reviewed journals
  • Graduating from graduate school with honors
  • Making new friends s/p brain injury and my personality and social skills are evolving 
  • Being married though I’m disabled
  • Optimally sleeping ten hours a day and having no shame about it
  • Laughing until my tummy hurts, almost daily
  • Snuggling in as husband pats my head to bed
  • Kissing the face of my best friend every day
  • Uttering joy in brokenness as I reflect on the truth that God is ultimately sovereign

Strange. Wouldn’t have imagined it this way, nor would I have actively chosen it. I might have traded some of these “life lessons” for more fame, wealth or power. Health. Yes, and beauty and legacy. Just a few worthy gains I might have sought instead of learning to rest. In silence.

Then again, maybe I would not trade the glory and glamour for such life lessons. For the love I have. For the humility I’ve learned (I lack). My heart sings when I hear how my disability, ahem my ability, comforts others. Perhaps 2 Corinthians 1 speaks truth: “He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (The Message)

I know I’m not a perfect example of faith, but maybe I’m being made more faithful.

When I can’t feel you, I have learned to reach out just the same
When I can’t hear you, I know you still hear every word I pray
And I want you more than I want to live another day
And as I wait for you, maybe I’m made more faithful

Brooke Fraser, “Faithful”

Separation of Spirits

Unlike natural humane organisms,
like toad
and squirrel
and goldfinch bodies and brains,

Spiritual humane organisms,
like toad
and squirrel
and goldfinch matters and minds,
remain unchanged
by my perception
reception of them v us
as separate,
even laughably autonomous spirits
rather than One EarthTribe Holonic Laughing Spirit

Of interdependent integrity
with win/win
ego/eco-politically good-humored intentions
for multicultural empowerment
against monotheistic disempowerment
of all these natural
and spiritual
humane nature/spirits,

Natural bodies
do not share this uniting equity
between separate embodied perceptions,
merely sober secular,
and One disembodied unlistening God
stubbornly refusing to open ZeroZone Original Soul
of interdependently uniting re-creation
without uniformly uninviting
reduction of humanity
to win/lose violently inhumane capitalists,

Evolutionary devolutionary
inevitable mortal soul lose/lose terrorists,
anger inflamers
suffering blamers
decay re-arrangers
degenerative fragmenting managers
of separately supremely un-natural
absence of peace history.

Spiritual matters and minds
uncover no natural body and brain differences
in-between One radically Sacred EveryWhere and Time
and No fundamentally secularized timeless place in NotParadise Hell

Interdependently re-articulating
this perpetually changing,
discovering spiritual mind as rational matter
and natural brain within neurally interdependent bodies

Integrally open, not industriously closed,
Organic, not just technologically useful,
refining health, not so much defining materialistic wealth,
EarthTribes spiraling synergetic ZeroZen
Holy Enspirited
Win/Win Soul,

West/East dipolar co-arising Anima Mundi
fundamentally EitherRight/OrWrong RightWing
and evangelically BothNatural/AndSpiritual LeftWing
gospel multicultures
living together, not apart,
for GoodHumored MotherParadise,

Natural systemic healthy/wealth purpose,
inside spiritual polycultural communicating communion,
polynomial Zero

Zone of nature/spirit heuristic separation
with not quite so much LeftBrain dominating demand
for embodied definition
through nature v spirit separation.

A few more pages!

sitting in Melbourne Airport. Winter has certainly been in the air today. All
going to plan, by tomorrow night I will be in Roma, sitting on a Summer
evening, alongside the Tiber, catching my breath, with a glass of vino,
watching the sun go down on a city that traces its roots back an amazing 28

My Outlook “Out of Office” message is set [thanks Johnny, Nithya and Ailin] and with the help of my good wife’s reminders I think I have everything I need for my solo European “pilgrimage”. Bring on Italy, France and Portugal – and the plan for lots of hiking, swimming, some kayaking and lots of other little, spontaneous adventures – hopefully with not a massive carb blow-out along the way.

Search online for travel quotes and you will find this classic from Augustine of Hippo: The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page”.

It’s a great quote and yes on this trip I am looking forward to turning
some new pages in places I have never been before and re-visiting a few favourite
pages from past travel chapters.

The only problem with this inspiring quote is research suggests that Augustine [354-430], the early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced both the development of Western Christianity and philosophy, didn’t write the quote.

The closest the ancient bishop seems to have got was in praising the “book of the world”, a metaphorical description of nature, the study of which he saw as important in trying to understand God.

I’m happy to run with old Augustine here as I’m looking forward to exploring a lot God’s beautiful creation in the weeks ahead, including the rugged Cinque Terre, the French Alps and the Portuguese coastline. Nature and connecting with the Creator go hand in hand for me.

I’m not sure if Augustine has ever been misquoted when it comes to food, but I am sure he would have been thankful to see the gracious provision of God in a simple meal and I’m also looking forward to some locally sliced salame in Italy, some good aged cheese in France and some fresh caught sardines in Portugal. I’m not looking for the flash and expensive, but authentic and low-food miles.

I am so thankful to my wife Megan
for the opportunity to embark on this trip.

a long story behind it – but in short, an extended family European holiday was
planned for early 2017, as I clocked up ten years and long service leave with
my former employer BaptistCare – NSW & ACT.

late 2016 our very settled cage was shaken in Newcastle and within a few months
we found ourselves in Melbourne, rather than Italy, and not on holidays, but
relocating to take up my current role on team at Crossway.

I head away on this shortened, belated trip feeling a sense of double bonus.

I am mindful that most of the world and many Australians don’t get the chance to travel, so I am always thankful for the “first-world” privilege of national and international travel. I’m also thankful, as I mentioned to Megan and the kids, for the chance to unwind solo. I’m reminded of the importance in our lives of embracing gratitude – in the big and the small, in the extraordinary, like this trip, as well as the mundane in everyday life.

The extra
bonus – from where I sit tonight – is knowing the wait was worth it, because it
allowed our family the opportunity to step out in faith and embrace the
wonderful adventure of moving to Melbourne and becoming part of the Crossway
and broader local community. We are so much the richer for this faith step.

valued colleague sent me an email last night to say: “Have a great holiday
– eat lots, explore and write!! Enjoy”

So, having made it to the departure lounge, I am taking up Tab’s therapeutic advice and starting the trip doing one of life’s most soulful activities for me – writing! OK I couldn’t find an Italian, French or Portuguese café at the airport, so I am crossing the border into Spain and enjoying a glass of Albarino and some chorizo potato bombs. [I can see the look on my family’s faces know … you can never pass up chorizo!]

Another great friend
Trav, who has been a real blessing since heading south, also sent me a message
this afternoon, wishing me the best but saying he knew he didn’t need to ask
for photos from the trip – there would be plenty to come on social media he

So yes, if you hate travel pics and holiday reflections switch the channel, dismiss me from your feed, ignore my posts … because I know photos and posts will follow, as long as my Telstra international roaming does its job.

been a hectic few weeks as is often the case for all of us in the lead up to
annual leave. Toss in illness and I’m not as prepared for this trip as I
normally would be – but I’m taking that as a good thing. I would never fall
into the under-planned category in life, so I’m feeling relaxed as I step out
on a trip that hasn’t got every day’s itinerary planned. There are more
unknowns than a normal Scott Pilgrim planned holiday and in this season of life
that feels very refreshing!

Time for another sip of cough medicine so hopefully my Emirates’ cabin neighbours don’t need to put up with too much of my barking and here’s hoping for a few good movies, finishing my Melbourne-based crime novel and maybe, just maybe some last-minute planning. I can never sleep on long flights.

awaits and the chance to reconnect with a special family that have become part
of our lives. We first met Elettra when she came to our house as an au-pair
when Megan had been diagnosed with cancer.

Thank God we made it through this stretching season and Megan has been cancer free for more than five years. Life is full of seasons – long and short ones – good and bad ones – mountaintops and valleys and I am so thankful that I can turn to a loving, gracious and sustaining God in all seasons of life.

Tonight, I am thankful for sabbaticals – this will only be a 20 day one – but I know I need it. We all need sabbatical rhythms in our life – be they at home or away; long or short. I am thankful I live in a country and have the resources to make this one.

I open my eyes afresh to await what I will see and learn and all that I can celebrate about the world around me with my old friend Augustine.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 2012

415 Pages

Finished January 13, 2019

I bought this book while at Half Price Books with a friend my senior year of college. While perusing the clearance section, we decided to see if we could find two copies of the same book that we could read and discuss like a mini book club. We found two copies of Gone with the Wind and Gone Girl. Inspiring by the coincidence of their names, we called ourselves the Gone Club. (Creative, I know.) We never met or discussed anything. I never read either book until now.

After reading so many slower reads before this one, boy, was this fun. I went into the book having no idea what it was about, but guessing there was a girl who was gone. The book started out slow, and the more I read about Nick, the more I hated him. I considered stopping, but something about the style and mystery drew me in. As much as I hated Nick, I also just longed for him to be innocent. I questioned him and questioned everything I thought I knew throughout the whole book.

Right before the end of part one, I figured out the big twist. Spoiler: the diary is a fake. There was a good deal of foreshadowing, so this wasn’t a major accomplishment on my part, but it was immensely satisfying and I believe it was designed to be so. Throughout the whole book I was torn between rooting for the genius, yet slightly evil, wife or for the innocent, but unlikeable, husband.

I loved Amy up until the end of the book. Her plan was so well concocted and I couldn’t help but admire the level of detail and effort she put into her plot, but after she goes to Desi’s house, I feel that the overall feeling of the book shifts and it is no longer a fascinatingly vengeful scheme, but rather just sickening malicious. It’s one thing to ruin the life of a husband who cheated on you, but killing a man and doing the things she did to him? I think Flynn took the narrative a little too far.

Overall, even if I hated the ending, I thoroughly enjoyed his book. It kept me up into the wee hours of the morning, flipping pages and telling myself “Just one more chapter…” until no more chapters remained. It reminded me just how it feels to be absorbed into a great story after reading several less exciting reads before this one. Spoiler alert: my reading list started containing a lot more fiction after reading this.

Running Total: 5 books, 1274 pages, 352 days left

What Is Japan Airlines’ 777 Business Class Like?

Hello from Tokyo! It’s the first time I’ve been here in nine years, and I’m really keen on exploring a city I remember loving. Tokyo is a city that I remember feeling a connection towards, a city that excited me with its dazzling vibe. Anyway, the original reason of coming here this time around was because I found award space on Japan Airlines’ 777 business class product, which I’d wanted to try for a while. My June looked really free, so I basically planned the trip around trying a new product (where I’ll also be trying Scoot’s 787 ScootBiz, as well as Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000).

Today was my chance to try Japan Airlines’ new business class product. So how did this much-anticipated product fare in the grand scheme of things?

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Tokyo Haneda Airport

I was hoping to be blown away, though unfortunately, in reality the answer was “eh, okay”.

Japan Airlines 777 Business Class Seat

Japan Airlines’ 777-200s feature reverse herringbone seats in business class, laid out across 11 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class Cabin

While reverse herringbone seats are some of my favourite out there, it’s worth noting that Japan Airlines’ version is especially tight. There’s a reason for this – Japan Airlines’ reverse herringbone seats were designed to be high-capacity, so the middle seats are actually “staggered” upon one another. This means that the footwells of the middle seats are atop one another, as opposed to being beside each other. As a result, the seat pitch and width of these seats are both less than that of a reverse herringbone seat on, say, Cathay Pacific’s 777, despite the fuselages of the two planes being just as wide.

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class Seat 11A

That being said, I found the seat to be very comfortable in bed mode, and the footwell especially spacious. I’m not sure if this particular seat goes “lower” than most, though my legs had no problem moving around in bed, which isn’t usually the case in reverse herringbone configurations.

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class Bed Mode

Japan Airlines’ tighter configuration also retains the heaps of storage unique to reverse herringbone seats, which includes a large side table, a small cupboard beside the seat, as well as more storage space below the retractable armrest.

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class Storage

In addition, a USB and 110V power port were provided and conveniently situated.

Japan Airlines 777 Business Class Amenities

On this shorthaul flight, Japan Airlines had a pillow, blanket, and headphones. The headphones were noise cancelling and very nice, though the pillow and scratchy blanket were both quite sad. Fortunately, Japan Airlines provides legitimate mattress pads on longhaul flights, so the lack of a proper blanket wasn’t a big deal (I would’ve appreciated a nicer pillow cover, though).

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class Pillow

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class Blanket

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class Headphones

In addition, I was pleasantly surprised by the slippers provided, as well as the eye mask, toothbrush and earplug set that they passed out. Provided that Japan Airlines has proper bedding on longer flights, this category is where Japan Airlines excels.

Japan Airlines 777 Business Class Food

This category is where I had the highest hopes for Japan Airlines. I’ve heard great things online about Japan Airlines’ meals, and went with the Japanese option on the menu, as I knew it’d be nice. Well, Japan Airlines certainly puts a lot of thought into their meals, though I have to say that some elements tasted better than others. I liked the rice (in the packet), the cod teriyaki was great, and many of the side dishes tasted good as well, though the same sauce was used for the pork in the main dish, the jelly, as well as the mixed vegetable dish beside the jelly. I found that sauce a little off-putting, as it overpowered the taste of all three elements mentioned above. All in all,, this is still one of the better business class meals I’ve had, though it wasn’t perfectly executed by any means.

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class Meal

Japan Airlines 777 Business Class Service

Japan is known for its hospitality, and on the plus side, the crew was very nice. There was a lady serving my aisle who was courteous and engaging (when I mentioned I wasn’t a fan of the signature Sky Time drink that I asked for with my meal, she said sympathetically “you don’t like it?”).

However, a few issues leave me scratching my head. Firstly, the photography policy was weird on this flight. The crew didn’t have a problem with me taking pictures of my seat, but cabin pictures weren’t allowed, since they could include other passengers. That’s understandable, but what’s less understandable is that I wasn’t allowed to use my GoPro suction camera mount on the window or on my TV during the flight. I get it if I’m not allowed to during takeoff or landing, but to disallow mounting a GoPro on a TV screen midflight seems very asinine to me. In all cases, the policies were communicated to me with an apology, which I appreciated.

In addition, I forgot that the drinking age is 20 in Japan (I’m 18), so I ordered an alcoholic beverage during the meal service only to be denied it when the flight attendant checked my passport. This is my fault, though I was also apologised to, which I don’t think I deserved.

What I found most bewildering was that the crew didn’t come around to do pre-takeoff and landing checks. The window shades were closed during boarding (probably for aesthetic effect), so most window shades stayed closed during takeoff. On my flight on Thai Airways earlier in the year, the same thing happened, which I considered a lousy oversight; considering how attentive the crew were towards minute things such as mounting a GoPro on a TV screen, I’m not sure whether to count this as a huge “miss” or simply a deviation in aviation policies. I’m intimidated by how good Japanese companies are at following their own rules, and believe they might be different from what I’m used to, so I’ll leave that up to you guys for comment.

Lastly, I didn’t see the crew much outside of meal services, and they took a while to respond to call buttons. Long call button waits were always followed up with an apology.

Bottom Line: Japan Airlines 777 Business Class

There’s no denying that this was a solid flight, but from the tight seat to the weird service issues, I can’t promote Japan Airlines business class as industry leading, as much as I’d like to. Japan Airlines uses reverse herringbone seats as somewhat of a “mid-haul” configuration – they continue to use Apex Suites on almost all of their ultra-longhaul flights, and fly these 777-200s to southeast Asia and occasionally Australia – so I’m not sure if I’m being fair to them by calling their seats inferior to their competitors.

That being said, this was a good use of 30,000 Asia Miles, and got me to Tokyo more comfortably than most of my other options would’ve. I’d like to try Japan Airlines’ Apex Suite configuration someday, as I’ve heard it’s quite a bit better.

Have you flown Japan Airlines’ 777 business class before? How was it?

GICL: Our Summer Jobs

The official title of our job is “Interpretive Volunteer,” and that is primarily what we do. The position we applied for required 32 hours of work per week total, 16 from each of us. We were offered some flexibility in the days we wanted and were allowed to work entirely separately or overlap. The schedule we’ve been assigned is Sun/Mon/Tue, with me working solo on Sundays, us both working on Mondays, and TBG solo on Tuesdays. I know, it’s a rough schedule, but we’ll power through somehow.

Our first full week here was taken up by four days of Orientation during which we completed computer module training, took interpretive walks with the rangers to learn the trail and about the dwellings, and were taken on a driving tour of the immediate area to see Doc’s, the two closest non-park campgrounds, and the local commercial hot springs (where we are offered a discount to soak after hours.) We also learned how to run the VC.

We were encouraged to do a little light reading in our off time.

This ain’t even the half of it, and I ain’t even read half of it.

Let me walk you through a typical work day.

New belts made-to-order by TBG!

It is the responsibility of those of us living in the park’s residential area to bring down a work vehicle if there are any left in the motor pool. If they are all taken care of, we can walk down on one of the short connector pathways or on the road.

Most days begin with a morning meeting at 0830 at the VC. A posted pre-printed schedule lets us know ahead of time which duties we will have daily, and if there are changes or additions to that, we will be re-directed at the meeting. VC doors and the gate to the dwellings trail open at 0900.

There are four duties to which we’re assigned: Visitor Center, Trailhead, Dwellings, or Project.

Working at the VC is pretty much like you’d imagine. We operate the cash register, start the interpretive 15-minute film, answer the phone, direct folks to the dwellings and on area hikes, and swear in Junior Rangers. We also monitor the radios, both the walkie-talkies and the regional USFS frequency. Our big screen, on which a video of the dwellings runs on a loop, can be switched over to monitor area lightning storms. That will come into play more in July and August when the monsoon season arrives and afternoon thunderstorms are common.

The next two positions, Trailhead and Dwellings, work in tandem. Two folks drive out to what is known as the Contact Station. On the way, if necessary, they will stop at both campgrounds’ restrooms to check the t.p. supply.

Once they reach the Contact Station, they go through the opening checklist to get everything set up for the day.

Gila Trailhead Museum a.k.a. Contact Station

One of them remains at the trail head to check park passes and give a little advisory speech to those headed up to see the dwellings. The trail/dwellings is the only controlled access part of the park, all the rest of it being free of charge.

There is a list of what we are required to say, then each of us adds our own individual flair. We spent time with as many of our coworkers as possible during our orientation week to hear what they said and get a feel for it. If you were to visit, and I was working the Trailhead, I would hand you the Canyon Companion, a brochure highlighting the points of interest at the dwellings, and then this is what you would hear me say:

“OK, first things first. Only plain water can go up with you. No flavored water, no gum, no candy, no tobacco products, no food of any kind on yourselves or in your packs. If you have any, please leave it here to pick up on your way back or secure it in your vehicles. Next, after you cross this bridge, please stay on the trail. There is poison ivy here, and it is not a souvenir we’d like you to take home with you today. When you come to the Y, keep to the left, and you’ll travel the loop in a clockwise fashion. The loop is approximately one mile with a gain of 185′. Most of this first part (indicating the trail on the sign board) is a gentle grade. It gets a bit steeper and rockier as you come around this corner. If you get to that point and decide you don’t want to or can’t continue, please feel free to come back the way you went in. If you press on, you’re going to get to the really cool stuff. All we ask of you once you reach the dwellings is that you do not sit, stand, lean on or touch the dwelling walls. They have stood for 700 years, and we’d like to get at least another 700 out of them. There is also a park worker up at the dwellings to help guide you and answer questions. Is everyone excited? OK, go have fun!”

Whew, that looks a lot longer written out than it takes to say! Anyhow, most everyone listens attentively, and most everyone complies. The antics of those who don’t may well be the topic of a separate post someday.

Joseph staffs the Trailhead “office.”

The person working up at the dwellings sets off on the trail as soon as their counterpart is good to go. Occasionally, visitors are raring to hit the trail as soon as we unlock the gate at 0900, but the Dwellings person is usually the first one on the trail for the day. It is pretty spectacular to have the trail and the caves all to yourself for a short while. My first time up alone, I was worried it might be a bit scary on the trail or a little creepy in the caves, but it was neither of those things. It is absolutely the most serene way to greet the day I could ever have imagined (minus coffee.)

When you arrive at the caves, the first order of business is to check for footprints in the sandy dirt off the trail and sweep or rake them away to discourage others from literally following in those footsteps. Then it is just a waiting game before the first visitors round the last bend in the trail, and it’s time to greet them, answer any questions they may have, and show them interesting features of the dwellings. It is also our job to discourage those who just can’t help themselves from touching or running or doing any of the things they promised the Trailhead worker they wouldn’t do. Now that it is almost summer, we offer daily formal tours at 1 p.m. Eventually, TBG and I will lead some of them.

some of our “office cubicles” in the Dwellings

The last formal work assignment is Project, and that is time for working on tasks we have come up with ourselves or those that need continual tending. On our first day, TBG made the faux pas of offering up my fabulous organizational skills when it was pointed out to us that the whole storage room for the VC needs to be redone. While it’s true that I am good at that sort of thing, I always get assigned that sort of thing because I’m good at it. I’d rather do something different this summer, like getting the native plant garden and the hummingbird/butterfly garden box outside the VC growing again, and I was able to officially declare that as my project, despite TBG’s efforts to pigeonhole me. Maybe on some upcoming monsoony afternoons, I will also help out in the storage room.  TBG has yet to settle on a project, but it will no doubt have something to do with mowing or trail maintenance. I have also already taken charge of keeping the hummingbird feeder at the VC filled on my own dime (pennies, really, sugar is cheap and water is free.)

Our favorite work days so far are those when we are working the Trailhead and the Dwellings together. We send people up and back with messages for one another like, “Tell him/her to drink more water!” People get a kick out of the fact that a husband/wife team is volunteering together. Our other favorite days are those we are not working together, and our other favorites are those we have off by ourselves. ??

Speaking of days off, we filled our last set with a few informal hikes and outings. We headed down to Silver for a grocery run and to make some phone calls to our families.

To make the very twisty 1.5-hour drive down worth it, we also took a short walk on The Big Ditch trail.

The section we did was not very well-maintained nor scenic, but it was a way to stretch our legs and earn the burgers we had at Diane’s afterwards.

On another day, we pedaled to the dwellings trailhead lot, where we stashed the bikes behind the Contact Station, changed into our water sandals, and hiked the <1/4 mile trail to the river for some splashy fun.

Don’t step on the polliwogs, please!

Our last outing was a hike along a canyon wash that one of our coworkers pointed us to. It is not a formal trail, so there is no signage, it is merely a matter of following the wash as far as you’d like to go.

Or until you get tired of doing this.

Or this. (Scanning for pumas. Really)

We surmised we did somewhere between 3-4 miles. And that concludes our second week’s adventures. I’m not entirely sure what I will spotlight in my next post, but critters are a good possibility.

What’s that? You’re so intrigued by our volunteer summer job that you’d like to know how you can find one, too? Happy to help! We found this one through a site we check routinely. It’s the best resource out there for these types of opportunities. Additionally, every national and state park’s website will have info on volunteering. We also make a point of talking to every volunteer we meet in person because there is no better reference than personal experience to get the real low-down on a job. If volunteering is something you’re interested in, there is no shortage of places and positions out there year-round. You don’t have to be retired or a full-time traveler, either.

Blue-bellied fence lizard says, “We love volunteers!”





My Baby Sister the Author

Determined. If there was one word to describe my little sister it would be determined. She has always been someone that not only takes the bull by the horns, but twirls it around a couple times before she tosses it out of the arena.

Christina L. Barr is her name and she is one of the most driven people I have ever encountered in my life. She had always been a clever girl and she started writing songs at a very young age that blew the minds of a every professional we would meet. Then she started writing stories for fun and most of it was fan fiction of whatever anime we were addicted to at the time, but it still helped to expand her imagination.

But she discovered something that most people search their whole lives for…something that they love to do. The thing that Christina loves to do more than anything is write. She would lock her self away in her room and let her imagination come alive through her laptop. It was always hard to pull her away from her creative flow and even if you did manager to get her away for a little while she would hurriedly go back to get these brilliant stories out of her head and into a word document.

And in the midst of her creative flow she came up with a goal. A goal that she wanted to write 30 books before she turned 30 years old.

Her 30th birthday is June 10th and she finished writing her 30th book last week.

I Believe everyone should have a goal in place. When you are working towards something, it gives your work more meaning. Setting a time frame for a project helps to push you to actually accomplish your goal. If you don’t you can easily fall into, “Oh well I’ll just do it tomorrow.” Then the next thing you know, ‘tomorrow’ becomes 5 days, or a month.

If you set a task you need to manage your time to complete it. Christina has always been one to try her hardest to complete her tasks. And that will she possessed has always pushed her to go on to do some great things. Whether it’s writing a novel, singing the national anthem for the president or going on live TV for a debate, the girl doesn’t stop.

And no she doesn’t have a million twitter followers, or the New York Time’s best sellers stickers on any of her books(yet), but that doesn’t stop her from keep doing what she’s doing. I’m reminded of a quote from Winston Churchill,

“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”

Sometimes that idea in the back of your head that you can’t shake is not just an idea, but an opportunity. Ideas stay ideas until they are manifested into something else. Christina was determined to manifest 30 different ideas and I couldn’t be more proud.

Happy Birthday Christina and I can’t wait to read and find out about the next 30!

365 Canadian Sights | Day 156: Lighthouse Week – Cap Gaspe/Forillon Park


| Image from Flickr/Andrea Schaffer via CC BY 2.0 |

The east coast has most of Canada’s old lighthouses 

On the tip of the famed Gaspe Peninsula, a beautiful area in Canada, lies limestone cliffs capped with a nearly 70-year-old lighthouse.

The huge cliffs give a huge view of the Gulf of St. Lawerence for miles (the light reaches 12 miles away), making this location already a great view, but what sets it apart, in my opinion, is the…shall we say cute? little lighthouse on the massive bluffs.

It’s a simple, classic structure, surrounded by green grass, some forest and blue ocean, like the setting of a romance novel. Built in 1950, it’s the third lighthouse to stand here, and now that it’s in a National Park, it’s as much a tourism sight as it is a navigational tool.

Located at the end of a hiking trail (you can bike it too) this is another road trip sight. It’s not far from the small town of Gaspe, which is probably a good base if you were to do a trip for a few days in the area. This one takes a couple hours to hike as well, so preperation and a good chuck of time is still needed, but it’s not as difficult as others if you have that time.

Forillon National Park is the most popular thing in the region, according to TripAdvisor, but that’s not just based on the strength of the Cap Gaspe lighthouse (in fact, there’s more lighthouses in the park worth checking out). For more info on the lighthoutse, check out this site. The park’s official site is here (I’ve linked directly to the hiking page, which tells you how to get the lighthouse).

Photos • FeaturedGallery 1Gallery 2Gallery 3

Thursday photo prompt: Choices #writephoto


Welcome to this week’s writephoto prompt. Something a bit different this week as I have a long road trip coming up before the next round-up is due. I did consider not posting a prompt at all… but it did not seem fair to break the rhythm somehow. Instead, I am posting four photographs to cover TWO weeks prompts. The two prompt words are ‘small’ and ‘choices’.

Take your pick.

Each week, choose one of the images below as inspiration to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… light or dark, whatever you choose, by noon (GMT)  Wednesday 19th June and link back to this post with a pingback to be included in the round-up.  There is no word limit and no style requirements, except to keep it fairly family friendly.

I will repost this prompt next Thursday as a reminder.

**Please note that many people on WordPress are having problems with pingbacks not getting through, so please also leave a comment on this post, linking back to your response to the prompt so that I know you have posted. **

a solitary figure on a beach against a wide ocean.

For visually challenged writers, the image shows a solitary figure on a beach against a wide ocean.

an old, carved stone whose recesses are stuffed with red and black ladybirds.

The image shows an old, carved stone whose recesses are stuffed with red and black ladybirds.

The monochrome image shows the base of a tree with a hole, like a doorway, through its base...

The monochrome image shows the base of a tree with a hole, like a doorway, through its base…

dawn-kissed landscape with shadowed, snow-covered hills in the distance.

The image shows a dawn-kissed landscape with shadowed, snow-covered hills in the distance.

All posts will be featured in the round-up on Thursday June 20th at 10am GMT, linking back to the original posts of contributors. Throughout the two weeks I will reblog as many of the responses here on the Daily Echo as time and internet access allows but please be aware that comments may be delayed or minimal on days when I am travelling.

You can find all last week’s entries in the round-up. Please visit and read the stories and poems and explore the sites of their writers. I will feature as many contributions as I can on the blog during the week.

Please link your post to this by creating a pingback. If you are unsure of how to create a pingback, Hugh has an excellent tutorial here.

Pingbacks need to be manually approved, and many people are having problems with them not getting through at all, so either check back to make sure that the pingback has appeared or simply copy and paste your link into the comments section of this post.

Feel free to use #writephoto logo or include the prompt photo in your post if you wish or you can replace it with one of your own to illustrate your work. Don’t forget to use the #writephoto hashtag in your title so your posts can be found.


An invitation

As there are usually too many contributions to reblog all of them every week, and so that we can get to know their writers, I would like to invite all writephoto regulars to come and introduce themselves on the blog as my guest! ‘Regulars’ does not mean you have to take part every week… Click here for details

Footprints in New Orleans – Day 4

I had not booked any tours and had no specific plans for my fourth day visiting New Orleans, so naturally, I allowed myself a lie in. I had a very leisurely morning and left the hostel thinking only of my stomach!

I had a late breakfast/brunch at Café Beignet, making up for the order that I had to leave behind a few days before. The beignets at this quaint little café were excellent and even rivalled the ones of the famous Café du Monde that I had tried on my first day. The food was complimented by a live saxophonist playing out in the street next to the café. This added to the atmosphere of the French style café, as I ate my food swaying to the blues.

The entrance to Café Beignet

Having devoured my breakfast I headed to Jackson Square for a psychic reading. The belief in psychic readings and voodoo add to the bohemian culture of New Orleans and as a tourist I decided to join in with the superstition by treating myself to a reading. Jackson Square is filled to the brim with street vendors and these include a row of ‘psychics’ eager and willing to help you find your way in the world (for a price, of course). Despite my scepticism I was pleasantly surprised and even astonished when I was told about specific things that related to my character. In the least superstitious way possible (as though it can be said in empirical way) I actually truly believe that the reading was accurate and that I could take something from it.

After my reading I found myself on Royal Street and browsed in many of the antique and boutique shops, enjoying live music from the street performers.

For dinner, I went with a group of people that I had met at my hostel to the Acme Oyster House. Here I decided to try a few more of the traditional New Orleans dishes. We shared oysters as a starter and for my main I ordered two small plates, a seafood gumbo and jambalaya. Seafood gumbo is essentially a stew filled with different local seafood and topped with rice; jambalaya is also rice but packed with meat and different herbs to give it a rather unique flavour. Both of these dishes were delicious and a must try to anyone visiting New Orleans that is interested in local cuisine.

Chargrilled oysters packed with herbs and parmesan

Seafood Gumbo (bottom), Jambalaya (top)

Two Tip Tuesday – After a Cruise

I missed last week because I was on an Alaskan Cruise. It was amazing! The air, the water, the mountains, the glaciers, the wildlife, the small communities…ALL so very impressive and a true pleasure to experience. We were on the Bliss by Norwegian. HUGE, not a fan of huge ships after this, but quite the experience. My favorite two photos are below. Seeing a glacier calve, watching a whale and all the eagles in Juneau.

Margerie Glacier

Whale Fluke!!! We got to see her several times!!!










A little plug for a local company, Alaska Travel Adventures!  A high school friend works for them and we were VERY impressed with the tours we did with them.  I highly recommend them!!

Bringing this back to quilting, I went to a wonderful quilt shop in Skagway, AK.  I spent a few hours ahead of time looking at all they had online.  I was hoping to not be overwhelmed when I got to the shop, as I only had less than 30 minutes to shop.  Great Alaska theme fabrics and kits!!!  I came home with several!  Rushin’ Tailor is the name of the shop.  If you want Alaskan themed fabrics, they have a wonderful selection!

#1- Visit quilt shops when you travel (I know I’ve said this before, but it is a great way to get local treasures!)

I could go on and on about Alaska, but I’ll refrain.  It was truly a dream come true to go!  It was wonderful sharing it with some of our Wendt Family that did the trip with us!!

Seals, eagle and great color inspiration!

I usually talk about “go” projects when I travel.  Can you believe I didn’t take one thing with me?!?  I just spent money on future projects.  And that was fine with me.  I added a few more grays from a couple shops in NW Washington State while taking  a side visit to see my aunt and Reece cousins.  More treasures to remember the trip!!

#2 – Sometimes memories can be made in purchasing fabric for those future quilts.  I hope to show results in a few months.

in quilting,


P.S. Checkout my Snuggle Tails Whale/Dolphin pattern on!!



Which is more just, more godly?

A lot of people feel that because I have argued for justice and policy that ensures it, the same kind of policy that can and does fall into the realm of social democracy, I’m turning my back on God’s way. For context, my church has doctrine against socialism. As my other posts have made clear, not all called socialism is actual socialism. However, that isn’t my point. My point is to ask a few questions.

Can anyone explain how using the power of a representative government of, by, and for the people to ensure we help every citizen have an equal chance at success (opportunity and outcomes) is turning our backs on God?

  • Is criminalizing the homeless or shuffling them from state to state more godly?
  • Is shackling 2, going on 3, generations with unending, unpayable, unjust debt (usury) more godly?
  • Is telling a sick person they can’t have treatment if they don’t pay tens of thousands of dollars and working to allow insurance companies to not insure them in the first place more godly?
  • Is making it so a large number of our citizens can’t work 40 or even 60 hours a week and still make ends meet for their families more godly?
  • Is removing one’s right to personal privacy in every form and giving the state legal right to knowledge of one’s actions at any time, without due cause or crime committed or suspected, more godly?
  • Is fighting unjust wars more godly?
  • Is spending 5 trillion dollars on war in 18 years more godly?
  • Is criminalizing people for unjust laws and criminal codes more godly?
  • Is effective indentured servitude at the hands of private agency more godly?
  • Is allowing the mistakes of man to ruin this planet for good, on the “we won’t be able to survive living here much longer” level more godly?
  • Is 40% of all land vertebrates and 60% of all life we know of going extinct due to mankind in the last 40 years more godly?
  • Are all of those (above) not turning our backs on God?

Because that’s what I’m advocating against. I’m advocating for solutions to fix as much of that as possible, and with the concentration of corporate power, and the height of private agency’s influence over our lives, especially through misuse and corruption of government power, the only way to fix these issues is with government power. We need to end corruption and implement policies that help with every single one of these. If that’s communism, I sincerely and respectfully believe you need to double-check the history books, political theory, and economic theory and policy.

9 Places to Check Out in Leith, Edinburgh’s New Cool Neighbourhood

Everyone who visits Edinburgh is bound to fall in love with the breathtaking architecture of the New Town and the whimsical cobblestone streets of the Old Town. But those who wander a few kilometres North are in for something a wee bit spicier – Leith.

When I first moved to Edinburgh, I avoided looking for flats to rent that were anywhere near the vicinity of Leith. I thought that if I lived in Leith I wouldn’t be able to leave my flat without clutching my purse in both hands and having ‘999’ pre-dialed on my phone. It wasn’t until after I spent a year living in the city centre that I gradually started to learn from locals how outdated that belief was.

Though it was once the most economically deprived area of Edinburgh (not to mention the setting for Trainspotting, if that paints a clearer picture for you), Leith has transformed into one of the most up-and-coming neighbourhoods in all the UK.

So when I was looking for a new flat to rent this year, I decided to try Leith. And I’m so glad I did. Leith is amazing. It’s managed to survive a sweeping urban makeover without completely losing its character and grittiness. What we’re left with is an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, cafes, and city spaces.

Here are 9 of my favourite places to go in Leith, and when you come visit Edinburgh, I highly recommend you check them out as well.

The Shore

A stroll along The Shore of Leith is like stepping back in time and finding yourself in a quaint little fishing village from the 1800’s. It’s around here where you’ll find the majority of cafes and restaurants that you’ll want to hit in the area.

But honestly, even just grabbing a takeaway coffee and meandering along the riverbank is entertaining enough. I can easily spend a Saturday afternoon wandering around, watching the swans laze about in the water, and listening to the seagulls throw absolute temper tantrums above (the Leith seagulls are a very lively bunch – kind of like the residents themselves…). If you’re anything like me, you’ll have fun getting lost in your imagination and picturing what it must have been like to live here back when Leith was in its shipping heyday.

Printworks Coffee

This is the go-to café in Leith for when you want a
cozy spot to sit down and catch up with a friend over coffee or just spend a
couple hours hammering out some work on your own. It’s super bright, has big
enough tables to spread out on, has free Wi-Fi (important), and the baristas always
seem to have the perfectly-curated playlist on in the background (and when I
say perfectly-curated I mean lots of Edith Piaf).

I like going here early in the morning on my day off to read my book and sip on a nice cappuccino by the window. What usually ends up happening, though, is that I linger around until lunchtime, become totally starving, and then just have to order one of those insanely-large slices of cake from the display case. Funny how that always seems to happen…

Teuchters Landing

I only discovered this place recently, but I’m completely
in love with it. Teuchters Landing is a snug little dockside pub nestled behind
some trees down by The Shore. It’s quite literally a hidden gem, because I found out that I’ve been living right next to
it for the past 6 months without even noticing.

But once you find it, I guarantee you’ll never forget it. It’s just the quaintest and coziest and most unpretentious of places. With a huge selection of Scotch whiskies and a very traditional food menu (fish n’ chips, steak pie, and – of course – haggis), it’s an absolute must-do when you visit this city if you want a real Scottish experience. I haven’t visited this place in the summer, but I’ve been told by a long-time local that the patio is always buzzing, so I’m definitely gonna be checking that out when it starts warming up (if it ever starts warming up).

Ocean Terminal Deck

One of the reasons I love living in Leith is because it’s a lot more laid back than the city centre. But being the total country girl I am, sometimes even Leith can feel a bit too hectic for my liking. And when that happens, I hop on the bus and head down towards the mall – Ocean Terminal

But instead of going shopping, I go straight through to the back of the building until I reach the deck that looks out onto the ocean. Sure, a deck at the back of a mall isn’t quite the same as lounging on a sandy beach somewhere, but there’s still a very serene and zen-like feeling that comes from gazing out into the moody Scottish waters. Plus, if you’re feeling extra touristy, you can head down to see where Queen Elizabeth used to hang out on The Royal Yacht Britannia (I haven’t actually done the tour myself, I’m quite content with just sitting on the mall deck and looking at the yacht for free).

The Mousetrap

This hip little dive bar will please your inner child
and your booze-loving adult self at the same time. The whole motif of this
place is childhood games (hence the name), so it’s full of strange and quirky
decor that all pay homage to board games and arcade games from the past
(there’s a gigantic painting of that Operation
board game on the celling).

And if you’re thinking that board game-themed bars filled with retro arcade games is just another overused gimmick, well, you may be right. But I promise you it’s still a really fun place to hang out. Also, it does some of the cheapest (and genuinely good) cocktails in all of Edinburgh, so that may be its even better selling point right there. Because for whatever reason cocktails in Edinburgh are so unreasonably expensive.


If The Mousetrap is the epitome of funky cocktail/dive bar and Teuchters Landing is a prime example of a traditional Scottish pub, Roseleaf would be somewhere in between the two. It’s traditional in that it looks and feels like an old-style Scottish pub, but it has these hidden little quirks that give it that “hip n’ happening” edge…

Like, for example, cocktails served in teapots. Or the eclectic mix of vintage hats hanging on the wall. Or the fact that the menu is inside a National Geographic magazine. Or the funny food names on the menu (“Royale with Cheese”, “Leith-al Egg”, and my personal favourite,“Choccy Whoccy”). It’s these little peculiarities and the blending of old and new that make this pub such a popular spot for young and old alike.

Martin Wishart

Okay, this definitely isn’t the type of place I’d come every other week. And I guarantee you that when I went here, I certainly wasn’t the one paying. Martin Wishart is one of two Michelin starred restaurants in Leith (that’s right – one of two. Hooray for gentrification!). And honestly, the food is phe-nom-en-al. It’s difficult to describe just how spectacular the food was without having you actually taste it, but I’m sure the stars speak for themselves.

What I can say, though, is that the wait staff will re-fold your serviette while you’re in the toilet and then pull your chair out for you as you take a seat back at the table. The service alone was astounding. All in all this is just a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime type dining experience – I strongly recommend saving up your pounds for a splurge night at this place.

Leith Links

If you come visit Edinburgh during the spring or summer, you’ll likely hear people refer to “The Meadows”. The Meadows is the huge park smack dab in the middle of the University district in the city centre. You won’t miss it because on those hot summer days, it’ll be packed with students barbecuing, picnicking, drinking and generally just doing student things (more drinking).

But if you’re not in the mood for being around big crowds of students, but still want to enjoy the sun, then the Leith Links is where it’s at. It’s moreso the type of place where families and “older people” hang out (“older” as in not 17-21), so it’s a lot more chilled than it’s uptown counterpart. It’s still, however, the perfect spot for picnics, frisbee games, barbecues, and tanning sessions. There’s also a really great walking trail nearby for when you want to burn off all those post-picnic calories.

Bross Bagels

Bagels aren’t really a big thing in Scotland, at least
not nearly as big as they are in Canada. So I was particularly excited when I
found out that there’s a small bakery just a few minutes walk from my flat that
sells genuine Montreal-style bagels (and it’s actually owned by a

And from the first time I tried one, I instantly became a devout. They bake the bagels in-house every morning and have a variety of flavours including the basics like sesame, poppy seed, and everything, as well as some more interesting varieties like chipotle and cheddar, vegan, and pretzel. But the fillings are where it gets interesting – sauerkraut, pastrami, schnitzel, salt beef, swiss cheese, lox – it’s honesty like walking into an old-school Montreal or New York deli. The only difference is here there is ear-numbingly loud music, neon pink lights, and a sign that says “#JEWITUP” (oh ya, this place is a full-on 10/10 on the hipster scale).


So if you’re planning on visiting Edinburgh, make sure you grab the number 22 bus and head on up to Edinburgh’s slightly funkier side!