Writing life, vacation’s over, now what?

Back to work I go. On the flight home I worked out a schedule looking at the hours in a day, and what I can allocate to writing. Also to blogging, photography, social media.

 I allocated four hours a week to photography. Well I spent four hours just processing the photos from Vermont. And an hour or so writing this post, now I am rewriting it. I changed my mind about what I wanted to say. So that’s 6 or 7 hours on photos and blogging in one day.

But I like it. Maybe I’ll cut out what I “should” do, and just do what I love to do. I love blogging and taking photos. And writing and editing and fiddling with my website and reading and talking about books.

I was going to cut down on being online, planning on cutting way down on social media and networking, but it’s early morning (still on east coast time) and I just spent an hour reading the New York Times and links to other articles. And I like sending emails to friends, chatting on messenger with friends, and meeting for coffee, lunch, or writing marathons.

I guess I’ll plan to keep doing things the same way because I’m going to anyway, and if I embrace my choices instead of doing that while I’m supposed to be “disciplined” about my time, I’ll just feel bad, but not really be doing anything different. I think I just had an early morning epiphany. LOL

I guess I’ll just keep making lists of the important stuff, embrace the chaos, and see how I go. Do you adhere to schedule or just wing it?

Here is the chronicle of my last day of vacation, spent with friends in Vermont.

Picking apples is really fun. My friends and husband did most of the picking while I did most of the clicking.

Picking apples at an orchard in Vermont
Picking apples

I picked a couple apples…and ate them. I did contribute a couple to the bags, but the rest of the time I was having a blast taking photos.

Macintosh apple

Vermont orchardsv
Vermont orchards
Artsy apple picking ladder shot
Artsy apple picking ladder shot
Macintosh apple
Macintosh apple

My friend said my taking photos was okay, though, because if all four of us picked apples, the fun would be over too quickly. As it was, it only took 20 minutes to fill two bags. These Macintosh apples were incredible tasting. We also had fresh-pressed apple cider and hot fresh cider donuts.

Then we went for a hike in a park called Red Rocks near Lake Champlain to try to work up another appetite for our picnic lunch.

River rocks in Lake Champlain
River rocks in Lake Champlain
Forest trail at Red Rocks park
Forest trail at Red Rocks park
Lake Champlain, Vermont
Lake Champlain, Vermont
Sail boats on Lake Champlain
Sail boats on Lake Champlain
Forest trail in Red Rocks Park
Forest trail in Red Rocks Park

The orchard also raised and sold flowers, and they made a beautiful display in front. What an inviting display.

Vermont orchard
Vermont orchard

Oh…wait, guess how we ended our vacation in Vermont? Watching the eclipse. We all had our chairs out under a cloudless sky. Because we were in Vermont, we could watch the whole thing. Here’s one shot.

Moon eclipse 2015
Moon eclipse 20

Travel theme: simplify

It has come to the point of my blogging career when I am now grateful for themes. Thanks to Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack for today’s theme. I highly recommend her post, and her blog.

I love to simplify! Here are my suggestions for simple travel:

  • Pack items that can do two things, like convertible pants, or black pants that can be dressed up or down.
  • Bring only pants so you don’t have to pack heels.
  • Minimize the pairs of shoes.
  • Take a camera that can do almost everything and is small.
  • Leave beauty products at home; wear a smile.
  • Collect all mementos in digital format on your camera.
  • Bring an ebook reader and get digital travel books.
  • Come home with memories and an expanded mind, not stuff.

These photos are a reminder of how much movement is involved in travel…so pack light!

Paris Near-the-champs-de-mars-Paris ferry-on-the-seine-Paris Forme- train-statio-now- Musee-D'Orsay-Paris ferry-in-Amsterdam

Here’s how to join today’s theme:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Simplify
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!


How to pack for a two-month trip with one carry-on suitcase

You all are going to be seeing me in these clothes for a couple months. I did my best to incorporate some variety for the sake of the photos.

After thinking about this for months and coming up with one strategy, I learned they have convertible pants for women and changed my strategy. Yesterday I bought two pair of convertible pants at REI. These are pants that can have the legs zipped off to make shorts. They also are made with fabric that seems like it will dry quickly, so I can hand wash them in the hotel and hang them up to dry. Since we are staying at least 3 days in each hotel, I can wash one pair and let it dry the whole three days, if needed. The convertible pants form the core of my plan. I will wear them with various shirts.

Core sight-seeing outfits

Then I have a stack of polo shirts. One eggplant-colored long sleeved shirt that is in the upper right, a brown turtleneck with a scarf. The scarf also goes with the eggplant shirt. A blue turtleneck goes with the blue scarf. The little taupe pile next to the pants is a Chicos stretchy knit tank and a silky light jacket which I bought a couple years ago at Ross Dress for Less. Then that red tank, to which I also added a navy-blue cotton jacket made by Charters Club (not shown). Both of those came from Kohl’s a few years back. The pile of polo shirts are all hand-me downs! Handy…indeed.

Next, what to wear to dress up? I bought a nice outfit in New York many years ago at the discount store called Century 21. (If you get to Manhattan and want to shop, I highly recommend it.) The outfit has a pair of black lightweight pants and a long shimmery tunic. I added another tunic I just bought locally (the red and black striped one to the right of the pants), and then I had to have my favorite blouse, which I bought in New York at Filene’s Basement.  (Another recommended shopping spot!) That is the one on the right. It has little pictures of Paris landmarks. So this gives me three different outfits in case we eat dinner in a fancy hotel three nights in a row. I will look a little different each time.

Dressy outfits
Dressy outfits

I don’t know why I’m giving you all this shopping detail, except that this blog post has reawakened my love of clothes, something that has withered on the vine since I retired from my day job and became a full-time fiction writer (see: sweats).

Okay, next we have to deal with possible cold weather and rain. Also beach weather and workout clothes. The jacket on the left is, I believe, Patagonia. A hand-me down. Yes it’s nice being the youngest; even as an adult I get stuff! Then there is long underwear, a baby alpaca sweater that I bought in Peru, a thin bathing suit cover up from TravelSmith, some Tevo sandals, and a couple pair of workout shorts and tank tops.

Cold weather clothes, swimsuit cover up and workout clothes

I also packed a leather jacket I spent too much on but it is such high quality it has lasted 10 years so far and I wear it all the time in the winter. It is not shown, however you will see it in my travel photos.

It all had to fit in here.

Carry on bag

You can see I’m not a fashionista when it comes to luggage. Not that I don’t love beautiful luggage, but it’s not super important. Mostly I want practical and this travel-weary bag does the trick.

Carry on bag interior
Carry on bag interior

That’s a pink cube which is used for…who knows. I’ll explain in a minute. There’s a blue umbrella in there, a memento from a Paris tourist shop and a plastic bag. Hang in there, we’re coming to the great packing adventure.

Failed packing attempt
Failed packing attempt

I love the color of the pink cube. It seemed like a good idea to use it to separate out some of the clothes. But it was a space hog. The shoes, shown in those two plastic bags, didn’t fit.

My husband was watching all this and explained that the cube was forcing me into a certain configuration and not allowing me to use all the space. He also told me about rolling the clothes.

Rolled clothes in the suitcase

Even the shoes now fit!

Fully packed bag
Fully packed bag

You’ll notice on the left side there are a couple snaps. Turns out this bag has a separator there and that’s where I put the leather jacket.

On the plane, I’ll wear BCBG black sweats that have a pretty rhinestone flower on them, a polo shirt, my running shoes and a black hoody.

We don’t leave for a few weeks, but I’m packed. All I have to do is add the swimsuit, which I still need, and toiletries. A few other essentials and my computer and camera will go in my second carry-on, a backpack.


Pacific Beach farewell (more beer)

We loved the California Kabob restaurant so much and really thought our son and his fiancee would also like it, so we invited them to meet us there. Well … when we arrived we found out the restaurant is actually a brewery called Amplified Ale Works. If you approach it from the beach there is the kabob sign, but if you approach it from the street, Mission Boulevard, there is the Amplified sign. A tad confusing! We frantically texted our guests, but fortunately, being part of the next generation, they figured it out on their own.

So, how great is it when you love a restaurant for its food and ambiance and then find out it’s a brewery?!

I’m also celebrating receiving a contract for my second book with The Wild Rose Press today, so here’s a toast to a good vacation, family, good blog friends, good food, good beer, and a new book:


Here was the view … a wonderful farewell to PB.






San Diego beer, sand, and water

This brewery is really fun if you like beer. They have small sample sizes and many choices. I tried samples from the dark varieties.


It’s a popular place for bachelor parties and bachelorettes too. There are party buses that bring in big groups.

P1070347Back at the beach we find evidence of multiple species enjoying the sand.


After our walk, we are treated to some delicious flavored water.



The Van Gogh Museum

This is what the Van Gogh Museum looks like from the outside:

The Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum

As for the inside, the magnificent Vincent, here is the first sign. A recommended read for all the artists (including you, authors) who read this blog. For everyone who follows this blog because life is an art and you can apply lessons from great artists to everything, from cooking to your boring day job.


17 (Central Park) reasons to love Manhattan

Time to make your reservations for New York if you want to go in September. These photos are from a month in New York last year, half September, half October. You can rent an apartment through VRBO, one with Wi-Fi so you can work. Hopefully these photos will inspire you to try living in the Big Apple for a month, experiencing what it’s like to be a New Yorker.

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28 (food) reasons to love Manhattan

Welcome to new followers of this blog! Here is a re-post of a popular topic. Loyal readers, thanks for your indulgence as I work up an interesting new series called: “Inside the author’s mind.” And don’t worry, it’s not my mind we will be exploring. My interviewees for this creative-process exploration are a lot more interesting.

Trip dates: 9/15 – 10/13/12

Pushkin Brasserie (near Museum of Modern Art),


Add to Pushkin Brasserie ambiance this and a spiked cappuccino and you’ll recover from exhausting museum going:


Share these from Crumbs Bake Shop:

4_cu_blackbottom_cheesecake (1)
Blackbottom cheesecake cupcake

(upper west side, 97th/Columbus.)

Grasshopper (mint chocolate chip) to die for

“Wine-dark in a shallow lemon sea, pelted with capers, the curl of octopus ($16) looked messy and primeval, as if just plucked from the deep. It is the dish that a Greek restaurant lives or dies by, simple yet exacting. Tenderness should be victory enough. But the octopus at Boukiés had gone a step beyond, the flesh undoing itself, achieving a texture, at its core, close to nectar.” Ligaya Mishan, New York Times 9/21/12

Looked scary, tasted heavenly:

Day 6 GV Boukies 2
Boukies (pronounced Boo KAY is) in Greenwich Village

For less money and a different though not lesser pleasure, a hot pretzel in Central Park:   Day4 Hot Pretzel

Do you love cheese? There’s a name for that.

Day 6 GV Turophilia
Cheese shop in Greenwich Village

Day 6 GV Cheese store

A choice of Schmears (upper west side, Broadway):Day 7 Shmear 2 Day 7 Shmear 3 Day 7 Shmear 4

Oyster bar in Grand Central Station:

Day 18 116 QQ

Spinach and kasha knishes from Yonah Shimmel’s Knishery on East Houston Street (lower east side):

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Pastrami and corned beef sandwiches at Katz’s Deli (near Yonah’s, lower east side):

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Tiny cupcake:

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Sugary Sweet Sunshine Bakery

Cappuccino in Tribeca:

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Comfort food at The Eatery after a show (The Phantom of the Opera).

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Sesame seed crackers and champagne
Days 16 018 sweet italian sausage risotto croquettes
Sweet italian sausage risotto croquettes
Days 16 019 grilled camembert
Grilled camembert
Days 16 021 meat loaf ravioli mac and jack
Meat loaf, ravioli and “Mac and Jack” (macaroni and cheese with grilled onions on top)

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Elevation of a bagel:Days 16 Lisas bagel

Peruvian cuisine on the upper west side at Flor De Mayo (Broadway around 98th):

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Beef stew in a cilantro sauce with potatoes
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Roasted chicken and plaintains
Flor de Mayo
Aji Gallina Chicken with eggs on a bed of lettuce

Simple repast at The Boathouse (Central Park):Days 20 21 050 A Days 20 21 052 A Days 20 21 053 A

Purples of Amsterdam

This photo of Lilies is out of focus, but this masterpiece is the first thing you see when you enter the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The close ups came out better and show the brush strokes. The explanation is handy. The Van Gogh Museum does an outstanding job explaining every aspect of Van Gogh, including the science of studying and verifying his paintings. His influences are interesting as well. This museum makes a lot of knowledge accessible.

Irises by Van Gogh


Close up of Irises by Van Gogh
Close up of Irises by Van Gogh
Reproduction sof Van Gogh's palette for The Irises
Reproduction of Van Gogh’s palette for The Irises
Close up of Irises by Van Gogh 2
Close up of Irises by Van Gogh 2