30 November 2016

Wordless Wednesday | NaNoWriMo & Secret Projects

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words. Plus this isn't a photo, it's a picture of a screen shot, so that's another rule broken.

1 - So, that secret project I was working on during November - it was NaNoWriMo.

2 - NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a challenge where people sign up to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1-30. That's 1,667 words a day.

3 - After my dismal failure last year, I decided to keep it a secret this time around.

4 - I was late to the party, starting the challenge on November 11th, and finished on November 27th. I skipped three days along the way, which means I wrote 50,021 words in just 14 days. No wonder my brain hurts.

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

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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28 November 2016

Emigrating To New Zealand | How & Why We Did It

New Zealand has a rich Maori history.

One of our blog readers (hi Richard!) asked if we could share a bit more about our experiences in New Zealand. That wasn’t a hard request to say yes to considering how much we love New Zealand.

When I was visiting my family in Portland, I went through the boxes we have stored at my sister’s house. I found all sorts of weird and interesting things, including chest x-rays.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Chest x-rays? That’s weird.” 

Yes, saving chest x-rays is kind of weird. Honestly, I have no idea why I saved them. But they were really important once upon a time when we applied for permanent residency in New Zealand in 2008.

Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “So, what were the chest x-rays for? Get to the point already.

Okay – here’s the point. If you want to emigrate to New Zealand, then you have to prove that you don’t have tuberculosis (TB). Normally, this wouldn’t be a worry for folks like us who didn’t live or work in areas with a high risk of TB. However, my sister had TB and underwent treatment for a year, so I was terrified that it might turn out that I also had TB. That would have probably meant that we could kiss the opportunity to move to New Zealand goodbye.

So, because I have TB and chest x-rays on my mind, I thought I’d tell you all about our experience applying for permanent residency including all of the other things that caused me to lose sleep during the process, like worrying that I was on the FBI’s wanted list because I had accidentally robbed a bank while sleepwalking back when we lived in the States. Or worrying that they would think that one of us was some sort of mail order bride.

If you’re thinking of emigrating to New Zealand, and a number of Americans are looking into it following the election, then read on. Even if you’re happy where you are, you might be curious about what's involved in emigrating to another country or maybe you just want to know more about this mail order bride thing. If so, read on.

Haihei Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Why New Zealand?

Probably the more logical question is why not New Zealand?  The country is gorgeous, the people are down to earth and friendly and the sailing is great. Who wouldn’t want to relocate to New Zealand?
Prior to our move to New Zealand, we had been living in Scotland since 2001. During the dark and gloomy winter nights, we would watch shows on the telly about people who decided to chuck it all in and move to faraway places, like New Zealand.

I remember that we would say to each other, “Wouldn’t it be fun to move to New Zealand?” But the conversation usually ended there as we moved onto more profound discussions about which soap opera is better - East Enders or Coronation Street. Okay, we never really discussed that. It was more along the lines of Scott saying, “Why do you want to watch that stupid soap opera again? Didn’t you just see it yesterday?”

Then, one day, out of the blue, I got a call from a headhunter asking if I’d be interested in a job in New Zealand. I asked her if they aired East Enders and Coronation Street on telly in New Zealand and when the answer was yes, I said, “Sure, sign me up.” 

Turns out getting the job was the easy part. Going through the visa application process with Immigration New Zealand was the hard part. Here’s what it involved.

{Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this was our experience in 2008 and things will probably have changed since then. Plus, we’re not immigration experts or lawyer. This isn’t immigration advice, so take our story with a grain of salt. If you’re seriously interested in moving to New Zealand, check out Immigration New Zealand’s site for the real scoop on how things work.}

The port of Auckland as seen from our sailboat.

Types of Visas

First off we had to decide what visa to apply for. We could have gone for the relatively straightforward work visa which would have allowed us to stay in the country temporarily (up to five years) while I was working for the company that made me the job offer.

The idea of having our visa status tied to a specific job was a little unnerving. What if that didn’t work out? What if we wanted to stay in New Zealand? So, instead we applied for a skilled migrant visa which would allow us to live in New Zealand permanently. The downside of this decision was that the process was more onerous and time consuming, as well as having a greater risk of not working out. Considering I had already given notice at my previous job and was due to start my new job in New Zealand in a couple of months, the thought of not obtaining a visa in time was nerve-wracking.

{You can see the different visa options here.}

Peachgrove Bay in the Mercury Islands. Great place to anchor and watch the sunset.

You’ve Got Skills?

In order to get a skilled migrant visa, you need to have skills that can contribute to New Zealand’s economic growth. Because New Zealand is such a small country (around 4.4 million people), they have skills shortages in certain areas, like medicine, procurement, forestry science, physics and, to my surprise, organizational development. My background and work experience were pretty run of the mill when I worked in the States and Scotland, but fortunately they turned out to be my golden ticket to New Zealand.

I love the flower baskets hanging in front of the police station.

Expression of Interest

Once I figured out that I had desirable skills, the next step was to fill out an Expression of Interest (EOI). To be honest, it seems like a silly name – who wouldn’t be interested in moving to New Zealand?

The EOI is an online form that you complete to make sure you meet the criteria for a skilled migrant visa and, more importantly, have enough points to be considered. It’s kind of like a game show where the host asks you increasingly difficult questions. If you answer them correctly and earn enough points (minimum of 100), then you’ll be accepted into the selection pool. Every two weeks, the EOIs are reviewed and some are selected and invited to apply for residency. You currently need a minimum of 160 points to be selected. I can’t remember how many points were needed when we applied – I think 140.  We had 180 points. {You can check out how many points you have using the points calculator here.}

Here’s the criteria you have to meet and how we stacked up when we submitted our EOI back in 2008. {N/A means points aren’t awarded for that specific criteria.}

If you’re selected, then you have to provide proof of everything listed in your EOI. You don’t have to provide it up front.

1 – Identity (N/A)

This one’s easy-peasy. You just have to be able to prove you are who you say you are. Have your passport handy.

2 – Character (N/A)

New Zealand doesn’t want to let any dodgy characters into the country. I can’t really blame them. I’ve sat next to plenty of people on trains late at night who were of questionable character. They’re usually the ones that have had way too much to drink and throw up on your shoes.

This one was one of the biggest pains in the you-know-what for us. Because we’re Americans, we had to have an FBI background check. This involved getting our fingerprints taken at the local police station in Scotland, filling out a form and sending it into the FBI. Then it was a matter of praying that neither of us had unknowingly robbed a bank in our sleep or had had our identity stolen and used by people who knowingly rob banks while awake. We also were up against the clock as the FBI background check can be notoriously slow.

Because we were living in Scotland at the time, we also needed a background check from the UK. And to top it all off, because we also hold Irish passports, we needed a background check from the Republic of Ireland, despite the fact that neither of us has actually lived in Ireland.

Most people only have to deal with one background check.  We had to deal with three. Plus three times the fees. Fortunately, it turns out we were of good character in the States, the UK and Ireland.

3 – Health (N/A)

This was where TB comes in. We both had to have medical exams, blood tests and the infamous chest x-rays. It’s all understandable. After all New Zealand doesn’t want to take people in who could be a danger to their population or be a burden on their health care system.

You can only get these exams done in the UK by certain doctors who are approved by Immigration NZ. In addition to worrying about TB, I was also paranoid about my weight and waist measurement. I’m not sure what they require nowadays, but at the time we applied your BMI and waist measurement had to be within certain parameters. I had read too many horror stories on immigration forums about people who had been denied because they ate one too many delicious McVitie’s digestive biscuits. We went on a bit of crash diet before our medical exams.

Thankfully, we passed the medical exams with flying colors. And then we went back to eating cheese, bacon and cookies.

3 – English (N/A)

Kind of a no-brainer. You have to be able to speak English. Because we’re American, we didn’t need to take a test to prove it.

4 – Age (20 points)

You have to be under 55 to apply for a skilled migrant visa. The younger you are, the more points you get. I was middle-aged at the time, so I got 20 points. {Because I was the one with the job offer, I was the principal applicant and only my age was factored in, along with other criteria.}

5 – Skilled Employment (50 points)

You have to be able to prove that you’re able to work in skilled employment by providing evidence of work experience and qualifications. Because I had a job offer from an accredited employer, I earned 50 points. If my job offer had been outside of Auckland, or if I had been offered a role in an area of absolute skills shortage or a future growth area, I could have earned even more points. It’s kind of like picking Door #1 and winning a washer/dryer vs. picking Door #2 and winning a brand-new convertible.

6 - Qualification (60 points)

You can earn points if you have a recognized qualification, such as a university degree or vocational qualification. I racked up the maximum points in this category due to my Ph.D. Turns out all those years of study finally paid off.

7 – Work Experience (30 points)

I had 10+ years of work experience related to my job offer so I earned 30 points. You can earn additional points if you have New Zealand work experience and/or work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage.

8 – Family in New Zealand (Nil points)

Because we didn’t have close family in New Zealand, we didn’t earn any points in this category. Heck, we hadn’t even been to New Zealand before we moved there.

9 – Partner (20 points)

This is where Scott came in. We earned 20 bonus points because he has a university degree.

A cute single track bridge somewhere in the countryside.

Mail Order Brides

Once our EOI was selected from the pool, we were invited to apply for residency and provide proof of everything we claimed. This was a mad rush of collecting paperwork, medical exams, background checks and, interestingly enough, proving that neither one of us was a mail order bride.

I would have thought a marriage certificate and the fact that we argued over the remote control would have been enough to prove that we were in a genuine and stable relationship, especially as we had been married for 15+ years at the time of application, but  it wasn’t. {By the way, a partnership can be two people, same or opposite sex, who are in a legal marriage, a civil union or a de facto relationship.}

To prove our marriage was genuine, we had to provide copies of joint bank account statements, letters addressed to the two of us (like holiday cards and party invitations), photos of us together on vacation (I used one of us riding camels in Tunisia), mortgage documents and the like.

Blue Lake on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Biting My Nails

After submitting all of the paperwork, then the waiting started. I was starting to get concerned that our gamble wouldn't pay off and we might not get approved or get approved in time for me to start my new job.

Why didn't we just go for the regular work visa rather than go through all the hoops for the skilled migrant visa? I asked myself this over and over again as I bit all of my nails off. After I ran out of my own nails, I tried to bite Scott's nails off, but he gave me a pack of McVitie's digestive biscuits to chew on instead.

I hit refresh on the Immigration New Zealand's tracking system constantly  to see what our status was. If your internet crashed during 2008, I might have been the cause by overloading the system with my incessant demands for updates. Sorry. I also might have been the cause for the McVitie's shortage at your local grocery store. I'm not sorry about that one though. I needed all the McVitie's I could lay my hands on at the time.

Auckland's Sky Tower as seen from a cafe on K Street.

Breathing a Giant Sigh of Relief

Finally, and just in the nick of time, our approval came through and we were the proud bearers of passports with lovely New Zealand residency stickers in them. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Although, it was probably more like some sort of hyperventilation kind of thing than a simple sigh. Either way, it was time to pack the bags and head to New Zealand!

If you want to read more about our adventures in New Zealand, you can find a list of all of our blog posts on our time there on this page.

Have you ever emigrated to another country? What was your experience like? Is there another country that you've ever thought would be fun to live in one day?

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25 November 2016

Flashback Friday | Freedom Of Speech & Boat Names


Today is Michael d’Agostino’s Flashback Friday. The idea is to republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc. We started this blog almost three years ago and have lots more followers now then we did back then (thanks guys!) and many of them may not have seen some of our earlier blog posts.

I had mixed feeling about whether to share this post for Flashback Friday. I often write quite silly and fluffy stuff on the blog, but this one is much more serious post about freedom of speech.  

When we lived in New Zealand, we would walk the docks at our local marina and check out the other boats, and their names. One boat had a name which I found offensive. It inspired me to reflect on the importance of freedom of speech, even when you don't always like what someone else is saying. 

I realize this post may not be everyone's cup of tea, but freedom of speech is something I've been thinking about quite a bit recently following the recent US election. I'm curious what you all think about it too. I'd love for you to have a read and share your thoughts in the comments.

{This post was originally published in September 2013. You can find it here.}


Westhaven Marina, where we currently keep our boat, is a lovely marina centrally located in Auckland with friendly staff, good facilities, great views of the downtown area and Waitemata Harbor and lots of different types of boats. 

Like most children, all of the boats in Westhaven are sweet-natured and have their own unique beauty. Except for one boat who I suspect bullies the other boats in the marina around and quite frankly frightens me. I blame the boat’s parents for giving her what I think is an offensive name, which may be the reason she is so mean-spirited. 

I’m not going to say what the name of the boat is, but it basically describes what a mob of angry people might do to a poor innocent person whom they hate because he or she is different. What they do their victim might involve a rope and a tree perhaps. And if you can’t quite figure out what the boat name means, they have a very helpful illustration on the side to help you out.
I’ve given some pretty obvious clues so you’ve probably figured out the name by now. If not, trust me, it isn’t pleasant. And if you’re American, it's particularly unpleasant. But maybe that’s just me.

I happen to think that describing ways to kill people on the side of your boat both in words and pictures isn’t very pleasant. A sailboat is meant to be a “pleasure vessel” and death kind of takes the “pleasure” out of it for me. You expect pirates and violence in the Gulf of Aden, but you don't really expect to see a boat with a death threat on it sailing in the beautiful Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand.

I try to give the boat owners the benefit of doubt. Maybe they adopted her and find it too expensive and time consuming to change the name she came with (I can relate to being cheap and lazy). Perhaps they don’t know what their boat name means (although the picture kind of gives it away). They’re probably Kiwis so I imagine the name doesn’t have the same impact on them that it would have on an American (although it does describe a way to kill people). Maybe they can’t read (but again there's the picture). Or maybe they’re just trying to be ironic. Who knows.

Part of me would love to set up my own little private agency which gives out tickets to people with offensive boat names (and maybe silly and stupid boat names too), but then I remember that I’m a big fan of freedom of speech and that it does come with a price. Sometimes that price involves being offended. People are free to  name their boat what they want and I'm free to choose to be offended or not.

By the way, feel free to give us a ticket for having a silly boat name – Rainbow’s End. We inherited the name when we bought the boat and, while it isn’t the name we would have chosen, we don’t find it offensive. Plus we’re too cheap to change her name and repaint the boat. And the bonus picture of a seahorse on the stern somehow makes up for it. If you’re offended by the name “Rainbow’s End”, exercise your freedom of speech and let us know.

What are the best and/or worst boat names you've come across? What are your thoughts on freedom of speech?

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23 November 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Parade In Rhodes


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

1 - There's nothing more fun when you're traveling than to stumble across a parade, like this one when we were in Rhodes.

2 - I'm thinking about starting to wear flowers in my hair on a daily basis. They really jazz up an outfit.

3 - The costumes some of the kids wore during the parade were incredible. So much work must have gone into them.  

4 - I think my favorite group of kids were the ones with their pets. One even carried his bunny rabbit in a cage along the parade route. Not sure what the bunny thought, but it was adorable.

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

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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21 November 2016


It's that time of year again in the States - the countdown to Thanksgiving. A time to reflect on what you're thankful for and count your blessings. So that's what I'm doing - thinking about just a few of the things I'm thankful for.

1 - I'm thankful that I don't like pumpkin pie. One less temptation at Thanksgiving.

2 - I'm thankful I don't have to cook Thanksgiving dinner and instead have an invite to a friend's house. I was at the supermarket yesterday and it was a madhouse. More than a few folks were looking stressed out trying to get all their shopping done and everything organized for the big day.

3 - I'm thankful for all the interesting connections I've made through blogging. I got to meet up with Dan and Jaye from Life Afloat, some friends who I had originally met through blogging, and see their boat yesterday. While I was visiting, they introduced me to a really cool family on S/V Octopussy who are off cruising full-time and boat schooling along the way. They all love pumpkin by the way.

4 - I'm thankful that there are people out there who look out for animals in need. I met this adorable puppy yesterday. He witnessed his owner being killed by a car a week or so ago and, fortunately, some nice folks have taken him in and are making him feel loved. He's such a sweetie.

5 - I'm thankful that I have enough to eat every day and a sheltered place to put my head every night.

6 - I'm thankful for pants with some stretch in them. What did we do before spandex and lycra? I'll be needing my stretchy pants by the end of this week, if not before. Indiantown Marina is putting on a full week of Thanksgiving festivities complete with bands, dinghy races and plenty of food and drink. It's definitely the season of overindulgence. It's a good thing I don't like pumpkin pie.

7 - I'm thankful Scott will be back in a few weeks.

What are you thankful for? Do you like pumpkin pie?

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18 November 2016

Some Secrets Are Dead Boring

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Did you ever do anything that backfired on you? Well I did the other day. Normally, I post on the blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, except when I don’t. A few months ago I had one of those "except when I don't" days.

Big mistake.

You see I have a mother who checks the blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. {Moms are the best blog readers by the way.} There was an immediate flurry of emails.

“Is everything okay?”

“You didn’t post today. Is something wrong?”

“Why haven’t you answered my last 436 emails?”

I think I wasn’t feeling well that day and had gone to bed which is why I didn’t see her emails right away.

On Monday, I had another one of those "except when I don't" days. This time I decided to prevent the panic by posting a short update on the blog letting everyone know that I wouldn’t be doing my normal blog post because I was busy working on a secret project.

Then the emails started.

“So, what secret project?????”

“When will you announce your secret project?”

“Tell me what this project is right now or I’m cutting you out of the will!”

Okay, she really didn’t send that last email.

I also got comments on Facebook and the blog from people keen to know what my secret project was.

Here’s the problem – my secret project isn’t all that exciting. In fact, this blog post explaining why I wrote about my secret project is a million times more exciting than my actual secret project. Sometimes, secrets aren’t all that exciting. Often they’re dead boring.

So let’s play a game, which will be far more exciting than my secret project. Trust me on that. I’ll give you some options about what my secret project is and you leave a comment saying which one you think it is.

(A) - Kitten

I’ve adopted a kitten and I’m trying to train her to use a harness and leash. I’m keeping it a secret because Scott will freak out when he gets back next month and finds a boat cat on board.

(B) - Spider

A spider has taken up residence on my boat and I spent all day Monday trying to hunt it down. I kept it a secret because my mom thinks it’s bad luck to kill spiders. We used to have to trap them and gently put them outside. This particular spider is freaking me out. It’s fast and jumps at me out of nowhere. I’m not sure that the trap and release method is what’s going to be happening here.

(C) - Lottery

I won the lottery and I’m busy meeting with accountants and lawyers.

(D) - Watermaker

I’m installing a watermaker so that I can have long showers whenever I want. It's a complicated project so I didn't want to tell anyone in case I messed it all up and ended up drilling through the hull and sinking the boat.

(E) - None of the above

If you go with (E), leave a comment about what you think my secret project is below.

Do you have any secret projects you're working on? Don't worry, I won't tell anyone what it is.

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16 November 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Mountains

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

1 - Florida is flat as a pancake. Pancakes are delicious, but not necessarily I'm looking for in landscapes.

2 - When I flew to Oregon, I got an amazing view of all sorts of mountains.

3 - I like walking down mountains better than I like walking up them.

4 - If you walk up and down enough mountains, you burn off lots of calories and can indulge in a really large stack of pancakes. With extra syrup and oodles of butter. Guess who hasn't had breakfast yet.

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

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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14 November 2016

Nothing To See Here Today, Except A Blue Cat

Normally, I blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, except when I don't. Today is one of those days where there's nothing to see here, except a blue cat. I'm busy working on a secret project and need to stay focused today, so to keep you amused in the meantime, here's a photo of a blue cat from the Andy Warhol exhibit I saw while I was in Portland.

What's on your To Do List today? Do you like Andy Warhol's work? What's your favorite cat (or dog or other furry animal) name?

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11 November 2016

Snapshots From PDX

I just got back from visiting my family in Portland, Oregon - otherwise known as PDX (after the airport) if you're hip. Although if you're 50 years old and you think you're hip, you're probably not hip. You might have a touch of arthritis in your hips, but that's about it. After spending time with my 14-year old nieces, I am under no illusions about my distinct lack of hipness.

My mom wanted a black and white picture of me to display next to the one she has of my sister. We enlisted the help of one of my nieces to snap some photos. She took all of the photos you see in the blog today. That's her behind the camera. 

We decided to do a photo shoot at a cemetery. That's not weird, is it? Maybe what's weird is that we went back to the same cemetery three times while I was visiting. There was a shovel involved. Don't worry, it wasn't our shovel. Although we did have a rake. And a nailbrush. Don't ask.

Let's just say that the photo shoot wasn't a success. My other niece gave me pointers on how to pose and look into the camera. She did her best, but apparently I am the worst model ever. "Stop grimacing, Ellen! Pretend like you're having a good time - smile!"

There are a lot of photos of me grimacing instead of smiling. I'll spare you. Instead, here's a sweet headstone which talks about how much the guy loved watching sports and how he touched people's lives.

My niece did get a good picture of the back of my head. Probably because you can't see my grimace. I'm the shorter one with frizzy hair. My sister is the taller one with straight, smooth hair. Somehow it doesn't seem right for younger sisters to be taller. Shouldn't the oldest child be the tallest?

We were at McMennamin's Kennedy School for lunch. I found a picture of Leroy Vinegar on the wall when we were walking around. We used to love going to hear him play the bass when we lived in Portland.

I had a hamburger for lunch. Not the one below. That's my niece's. She got hers medium rare. I like the moo cooked out of my burgers.

I was surprised to find feijoas for sale at the local Safeway. They're an extremely popular fruit in New Zealand, often grown in people's backyards. I hadn't heard of them until we moved to New Zealand. I had no idea people ate them in the States. Have you ever had one? Personally, I'm not a fan.
Interest in emigrating to New Zealand has sky-rocketed since the election. When we applied for permanent residency in New Zealand we had to fill out a points-based application. At the time, they awarded points for things like education and work experience. Given the surge of applications they may soon get, I bet they're going to start adding questions about feijoas as a screening tool: (1) Have you ever had a feijoa?; (2) Can you spell feijoa?; and (3) Can you describe three ways to prepare feijoas?

And one last picture of one of my niece's boots. It's boot weather in Portland. When I got back to Florida, the first thing I did was plug the air conditioning in and take off my socks.

Have you ever had a feijoa? If you eat red meat, how do you like your burgers done? Have you ever taken a shovel to a cemetery?

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09 November 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Sunny Skies

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

1 - It seems like the sun is always shining in Greece and the colors are always bright and cheerful.

2 - I just spent the past week in Portland, Oregon. This time of year, the skies are gray and the colors are muted.

3 - It was cold while I was in Portland. I had to wear socks. My feet aren't used to wearing socks. They don't like socks. They want to get back to wearing flip-flops.

4 - I think there's a reason why Portlanders read so much. During the rainy season, it's too miserable outside to do anything other than curl up by the fireplace with a cup of cocoa and a good book.

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

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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07 November 2016

Morning Coffee | Random Thoughts & Oddities

Paul at Lat43 does these hysterical Morning Tea blog posts which are a brain dump of whatever pops into his head while he's writing them. I decided to steal his idea. Except, I'm drinking coffee while I write this and he drinks tea, so it isn't really stealing, is it?

So, here we go - all of the random nonsense floating through my head while I sip on my morning coffee.

  • I'm in Portland, Oregon visiting my family. It's cold here. I'm wearing two pairs of socks and sitting under multiple blankets.
  • My sister's two cats are sitting on top of me. I think they're cold too, despite their fur. They're pretending to be loving, but all they want is to steal my body heat.
  • One of the cats decided my face was a good place to sleep on last night. I had strange dreams about being smothered by a large bear wearing a tutu.
  •  I used up all of the half-and-half yesterday and now I have to drink my coffee black. Ick. 
  • I don't normally use half-and-half in my coffee. I usually use skim milk. I've kind of given up on having a low-fat diet this week. So far, I've had three everything bagels spread with an obscene amount of cream cheese on them. I'm probably going to get another one today. Things just taste better with large amounts of fat in them.
  •  It's been fun to see my nieces. They're in high school now. How did that happen? They're great girls - clever, creative and fun. 
  • We played cards one night. I lost. They cheated. I think there's a correlation there somewhere.
  • My sister makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I'm really not looking forward to going back to my normal low-fat diet later this week.
  •  Do you ever check your blood pressure just for kicks? My sister and I play this weird game where we check our blood pressure and the person with the lowest reading wins. My mother just shakes her head at us. I think she thinks we're weird. She's just jealous because we both have super low blood pressure. 
  • I've been getting sucked into watching TV while I'm here. I don't have a TV on my boat. For some reason, despite the fact that I live on a boat, I've been fascinated by all of the home renovation and decorating shows. Some people have really bad taste.
  •  We went to McMenamin's Kennedy School for lunch the other day. They've really raised the prices in the past few years. It doesn't seem like anyone minds because the place was packed. I got tater tots with my bacon cheeseburger. Tater tots are fun. They remind me of school lunches. The only good thing about school lunches was the tater tots. And the chocolate peanut butter squares. 
  • One of my nieces told me she doesn't get why people mix chocolate and peanut butter. I think we need to disown her.
  •  I need to buy a bottle of wine today for my mom and I to drink during the election coverage tomorrow. We may need more than one bottle.
  • Okay, I need to get dressed now. I hear an everything bagel with cream cheese calling my name.

What random thoughts popped into your head today?

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04 November 2016

October In Numbers

Clockwise from upper left: 1) My latest impulse purchase - fake candles; (2) Searching through microfilm for genealogical records; (3) Bottling of some homemade liqueurs; (4) Notes from my first Spanish class; (5) Watch out for tortoises on the road; and (6) Early voting in Florida.

Here’s the usual recap of the month in numbers – an assortment of odd tidbits and random thoughts that popped into my head when I was reflecting back on the month.

  • 2285056 - The number of the microfilm that the Family History Center at the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints kindly had sent to me from Salt Lake City. I've been searching for Tahitian birth certificates for my great grandmother and her sister. So far, no luck, but there's still a lot of microfilm to go through.
  • 4 - The number of AAA batteries I need to operate my new fake candles. They're kind of tacky, but tacky in a fun way and they won't burn down my boat if they get accidentally knocked over. I'll take tacky over fire any day.
  • 24 - The day of the month that early voting opened in Florida. I got there bright and early. Florida is one of those states where you vote really counts. I have to say, I'm not a big fan of the electoral college. It makes votes in some states less meaningful than others.
  • 4 - The number of extra lines I used to secure my boat prior to Hurricane Matthew. Fortunately, he passed us by in Indiantown and it was a non-event. Unfortunately, he caused massive death and destruction elsewhere.
  • 2 - The number of Spanish classes I've attended. The local library is offering free classes which are led by a lovely Venezuelan lady. So far, I can't say too many useful phrases (other than "Where's the bathroom?"), but it's a start.
  • 3 - The number of bottles of homemade liqueurs I decanted after letting them sit for several months. I've got two bottles of limoncello and one of a spiced plum concoction. The limoncello was a tad disappointing. It doesn't taste quite like the real stuff we drank in Italy.
  • 1 - The number of tortoises I almost ran over the other day. He was crossing the road and decided to stop halfway in the middle for no apparent reason. Eventually, he worked up enough energy to get moving again.
  • Nil - The number of boat projects I did in October. I really need to get my motivation back up to tackle things on the project list. Although prepping your boat for a hurricane should count as a boat project, shouldn't it?
  • 5,959 - How long my submission to the IWSG anthology contest was in words. I just squeaked in under the maximum word count of 6,000 by removing unnecessary words like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. {Apologies if you can't get that Mary Poppins song out of your head today now.}

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite posts from last month:

Hurricane Matthew Prep & An Annoying Tree Frog
Knowing When Your Story Is Ready
Things That Go Bump In The Night

How was your October? What are you looking forward to in November?

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02 November 2016

Ninja Warriors To The Rescue | IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there is a question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question prompt is:

"What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to know how I answered the question, have a read below.


I've found the secret to writing these IWSG posts - enlist the help of others, like the crew from the Better Homes & Gardens test kitchen and a team of crack researchers from MIT. After all, why do something yourself, when you can get others to do the work for you? My time is much better spent reclining in a hammock and eating bonbons.

For this month's post, J.H. Moncrieff suggested I enlist the help of some ninja warriors. J.H. is one smart lady. After all, what could be better than having a posse of ninja warriors come to my rescue. Not only do they wear cool disguises, they're also super fit and can defeat any foe with spins, kicks and jumps. The last time I tried to do some ninja moves, I pulled a few muscles and had to go back and lie down in my hammock for a few weeks to recover.

Ninja warriors are secretive, so getting in contact with them was a bit tricky. I ended up passing a message along to one of the turtles who live at my marina (and keep me awake all night banging their shells on the hull of my boat, but that's another story). I figure they'd know how to get in touch with the ninjas given the whole teenage mutant ninja turtle thing.

It worked. The next night, a man dressed in dark clothing boarded my boat and whispered down through the hatch, "Psst...the turtles passed your message along. What kind of assistance do you need? Do you need someone assassinated? Or perhaps you need us to spy on someone?"

Killing people? Spying on people? I was starting to think this whole ninja thing was a really bad idea. "Um, no, nothing like that. I just need help answering this month's IWSG question."

He drew out a scary looking dagger and waved it in my face. "What do I look like to you? Some sort of English teacher? I am a ninja warrior!"

The moonlight shining on his dagger made me realize how awfully sharp it was. I started to back down slowly into my boat wishing I had asked the ladies at Better Homes & Gardens for their help again this month. Then I noticed my half-eaten box of bonbons on the chart table.

"Excuse me, Mr. Ninja? Would you like a bonbon?" I asked cautiously holding the box out to him.

"Bonbons! Why didn't you mention these before. I love bonbons!" He lifted up the scarf covering his face and popped a few bonbons in his mouth. "These are delicious!"

I breathed a sigh of relief. "I can give you the recipe if you want. I got it from the team at Better Homes & Gardens."

He wiped chocolate off of his fingers and sat down in the cockpit. "Well in that case, I'll help you with your question. But just this once. Next time you send for me, it better involve death and mayhem."

"No problem," I said. I grabbed a bonbon out of the box before he finished them all. "It's a doozy of a question this month - what's my favorite aspect of being a writer? Any ideas?"

He grabbed the box of bonbons back from me. "That's simple. It's a way for you to capture in writing all of the crazy voices that live in your head and the weird stuff they whisper to you at night. Like me. You don't really think I'm real, do you? A ninja warrior sitting in your boat eating bonbons." He shook his head. "That's bonkers."

While he stuffed the last bonbon in his mouth, a green mist formed all around him. When the mist cleared, he had disappeared and all that was left was an empty bonbon box.

Was he real or not? The voices in my head tell me that he was real and since I've written down an account of my encounter with the ninja warrior, it has to be real, doesn't it?

If you're a writer, what's your favorite aspect of writing? If you're not a writer, share a random fact about yourself, like what you had for breakfast or what you're currently binge watching on TV.

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