I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Novel Worthy

By Jennie Atkins

Have you ever seen that holiday commercial where a person takes a picture, likes it, and says its “card worthy”?
As writers, we experience, watch, or hear about ideas that are “novel worthy”. They can become the basis of our whole story, be a memorable scene, or just something that falls perfectly into our plot.
I have just moved into a sprawling three-bedroom ranch on four acres, in a peaceful country community.  With every move, one expects a few hiccups along the way and we’ve had a few that could fall into my “novel worthy” bucket.
Upon arriving at our new home, we found the guest bathroom beautifully decorated with bits of toilet paper. Yes, my bathroom had been T. P.’d! Hanging on the cabinets, adorning the towel racks, and draping over the edge of the tub were streams of toilet paper.  I am assuming at this point, the kids did it, but do you think they’d used it in the traditional manner?  No way!  The toilet paper roll was empty and they had used heavy brown paper towels in its place.  Needless to say it stopped up the toilet and the main line flowing (or not flowing in this case) from that bathroom to the septic system. 

Another “novel worthy” even occurred when my daughter went to use our one and only outside hose. When turned on it emitted a stream of hot water, but then again, the hose had laid in the sun.  Nothing amiss with that—except—instead of cooling down, the water got hotter!  The builders had tied the outside faucet into the hot water line—not quite what we were expecting.
As I stated above, we have a deck that runs the length of the house.  It sagged and bounced and it was already on our to-do list to rebuild in the spring.  What we hadn’t realized was the propane tank was attached to the flexible boards of the deck.  When you walk on the deck, the propane lines are in motion.  Can anyone say…Kaboom!?!?!
Needless to say, I’m filing these away as nuggets I can use later.
Your turn – Do you have any moving stories (or nightmares) that are novel worthy?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How to Maximize European Tours - Part 2

Delores E. Topliff

Taking a computer along saves travelers money. Buying train and bus tickets online was 33-50% cheaper than standing in line at the depot. Our hotel’s main desk printed tickets for us free with a smile. We made one mistake by unwittingly buying a return trip from Venice for 8:06 (which turned out to be a.m.), earlier than our departure--hard to do. But just as the train office in Venice was closing, a clerk adjusted our tickets to the midnight train for only seven more Euros each. The complication was Bologna’s city buses don’t run after midnight, but three of us sharing a cab was worth it. One young barefoot Italian woman got put off the midnight train for a repeat offense of riding with no ticket. We all heard her loud screams of protest.

Venice and its gorgeous lagoon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its history began around 400 AD when people from prosperous Italian mainland cities fled to lagoon islands  for refuge when Barbarian invaders overwhelmed the Roman Empire and precipitated its collapse. Today Venice is associated with centuries of highly successful trade (Marco Polo for starters), romance, singing gondoliers, and lovers (George Clooney). Sunset beautifully highlights richly painted old buildings including majestic sites like St. Mark’s Basilica Square, the Doge’s Palace, and other stately edifices where splendor reaches galactic levels but you still find bargains. It’s tempting to think about traveling more by starting an import/export business, including travel writing.

Next, ancient Ravenna was capital of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until 476 AD when the Ostrogoths took over, and then the Lombards. It originally bordered the Adriatic Sea but is now 11 km. away and is reached by a major canal. The city has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites displaying wonderful mosaics and monuments from the 5th and 6th centuries. For me the most outstanding was the splendid Basilica of San Vitale, an octagonal building in mid-Roman and Byzantine style. The interior is filled with mosaics on the floor, walls, and ceiling including lots of gold and Christian symbols.

It helped to wade in the warm Adriatic Sea but it was polluted and I broke out in a rash.

July saw record-breaking temperatures soar above 40 C. (well over 100 F) across Southern Europe, so it helped to travel early and carefully plan where to be when. After returning to Madrid, the continuing great heat made me more willing to say farewell to my two amigas knowing my next stops in Ireland and Scotland would be vastly cooler. What I didn’t know was both of those countries were so much cooler than the hot Sahara-drenched winds baking Italy and Spain that I froze and borrowed heavier clothing and piled on blankets.


Those fine days saw less travel exploration and more quality visiting times spent with other friends, former students and families, and connected church groups. The lovely home I stayed in in the Wicklow Mountains 40 minutes from Dublin airport, is a Georgian Manor housing a wonderful Christian community. I also enjoyed dear friends I hadn't seen for six years in Northern Ireland where like the song says the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. 

Next I returned to a smaller equally wonderful group on Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre who live in a manor whose original part once sheltered Robert the Bruce for several days before eventual victories made him Scotland’s king.

Even during days with steady rain, a soft light sheen shines over everything showcasing the grays, moss greens, blues, browns and muted shades that appear in Scottish tartans, especially the Harris tweeds displayed in a shop in Oban, beautifully capturing their world in all seasons, weather phases, or times of day or night.

And then finally many pictures were snapped, memories made, and all of the allotted days had passed. As Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home,” but trips like this filled with heart-warming experiences show me that home and family are also much bigger and stretch further than I ever imagined.

What am I doing now? Dreaming about when circumstances might permit me to go again, plus inviting my friends to visit here.

What about you. What is your best trip ever? Which trip would you like to take next, and why?