It’s a Sailor’s Life for Me

Well folks… after being a land lubber for the past 35 odd years, I have accepted a crew position beginning in the Spring onboard a Flying Scot at Monmouth Boat Club in Red Bank, NJ. My skipper is none other than the wonderful and talented Wendy Elovich.

Flying Scot crew

Although this is NOT a picture of Wendy, or me… this is a photo of a Flying Scot in action. I will be the one in lime green, ready to do whatever the skipper asks. The smaller sail, the jib will be under my control, as well as the spinnaker (the bright-colored balloon sail to you non-sailors).  Ahhh…. the salt water hitting me in the face, the smell of seaweed and algae, and pulling jelly fish off the lines. Goodie! I can’t wait!

My dad’s passion was sailing… and as his children we had no choice but to love it too. Growing up I just assumed every one knew how to sail. As an adult I now know that’s not the case.

During my marriage and raising my own brood… sailing wasn’t in our life. My husband wasn’t a fan, and therefore it was ‘off limits’. Occasionally my brother would invite us all down to the club for a ride on the Race Committee Boat… and I even worked with the Girl Scout’s and brought my troop down for a weekend of learning how to sail. But on a day-to-day basis sailing just didn’t exist.

In a brief moment of craziness I found myself crewing on the historic maiden race of the schooner Virginia in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race in October of 2005. Prepared to race for 2 to 3 days, the howling winds at 22 knots allowed us to finish in only 14 hours… all 127 nautical miles!!! To say it was the most thrilling adventure of my life just doesn’t say enough. The awesomeness of being onboard a great vessel, in the dark, in heavy winds is just too hard to put into words. The feeling of the large boat, creaking in the wind, water splashing against the sides, mates calling signals down the line to the captain because he can’t see where he’s going, is too difficult to convey.

At one point a hush fell over the crew as in the dark we felt the boat flatten out, the bow tip up slightly and the boat take off under us in a plane. THAT is the grand moment of sailing!!! THAT is what it’s all about!!! To think I experienced that moment frozen in time leaves me in awe still.

schooner Virginia

The wind direction swung around quickly, and our captain made the split-second decision to jibe… without calling down below. Our cook (ahem, chef) having never cooked onboard a moving vessel was down in a catch hole digging up supplies when the action took place… slamming him against a rail where he bruised a few ribs and cried out in pain.

Meanwhile the flames went out on the diesel fueled stove spewing heavy fumes and thick black smoke in the galley. The cook, screaming for help and directing someone… ANY ONE… to hit the emergency OFF switch woke me from my 4 hour rest shift. I was the only one who heard him. I choked back the smoke and through tear streaked eyes burning from the fumes, I fumbled around and located the switch.

Helping the cook to his bunk he continued to moan in pain and asked that I send word to the captain he needed to be airlifted off the ship. I explained that wasn’t going to happen. We were racing. Whatever and whoever was on board at the starting line, must also be onboard at the finish. Only a case of imminent death would require the captain to make the decision to airlift. Some tape tightly wrapped around his ribs and a bottle of whiskey held him to the finish a few hours later.

This race was newsworthy as it was the very first race for the new boat. Reporters were onboard sending detailed reports to their publications on every facet of the voyage. The gourmet food we ate, the comfortable accommodations, the experience of the crew… you name it no slight piece of information was left out. The Internet was abuzz with pictures. On my return home I printed out every word I could find, there was even a photo of me coiling line during the race… ME, A STAR!! Sadly those papers were destroyed in subsequent basement floods and moves.

At my age, most people consider retirement from the sport. Instead I’m running straight for  the opportunity. I’m told it’s like riding a bike… you never really forget, and everything you ever learned comes back to you once you step onboard. Well… that’s what I’m hoping.

See you on the water!

 

 

Books, Books, Books and more BOOKS!!

I’m sure you all thought I had given up posting to this blog… but in reality I was dedicating my time to a NEW VENTURE and simply didn’t have a moment free to type.

A few months ago I alluded to a great idea that would set the book world on its edge… and wow… did it EVER!!! On October 12th Shari Sanford from The Paperback Exchange in Belmar, NJ and I threw the first annual Belmar Bookcon!!!! Filling Pyanoe Plaza with 24 authors… all either self published, or published by small independent houses… PLUS 4 Independent Publishers! The world of PUBLISHING is changing… and we felt it was time to educate the world about it.

Years ago when a self published author came into one of my bookstores suggesting I read their book and perhaps place it on my shelves… I would barely give them the time of day. I’ll be honest… I looked down my nose at them. My view was if they couldn’t get a book agent or publisher interested in their cancer survival story… then why would I be interested??

Being a sucker for sob stories I would upon occasion read one or two of them. It was rough going. Misspellings, no continuity, major grammatical errors, lost train of thought, dull as dish water. Ugh! The more difficult part was returning the book and telling this person who just spent the past 7 years of their life writing this tome that ‘although the story is compelling, I suggest you hire a professional editor to put the final polish on your book’. Inevitably they would reply that their 2nd cousin once removed on their father’s side is an avid reader and THEY edited the book… and besides, there were already 1,000 copies printed and sitting in their garage. OY!

One day… one magical day… this all changed!! A man named Keith Smith walked into my Princeton bookstore and asked us to take a look at his book. His approach to the desk was different than most. Most authors were sheepish and shy, Keith was not. Well dressed, attentive, and sure of himself… he waited for a paying customer to finish their transaction and walked confidently up to the desk. OK… it didn’t hurt that he was ‘easy on the eyes’ either.

He proceeded to tell my daughter and me about his story… notice I said his STORY… not his book. By the time he was finished my mouth hung open and I couldn’t wait to read his book… Men In My Town. It’s a true unsolved crime which happened to him as a young man in Rhode Island. I devoured the book in one evening!!!

Keith returned to the store a few days later. As I handed the book back to him and placed an order I remarked, “I smell movie rights.” The only disappointment I had was while he recounted his story to me verbally, he mentioned a few things that were not in the book, which I felt needed to be added. But as usual, the books were already printed.

My view of self publishing changed that day. Some AWESOME books were being written and regular John Q. Public would never know about them. It took a few more years for me to get my life in order and begin to trumpet these wonderful books. Along the way I have stumbled across The Bronze Horsemen written by David Mallegol… about the domestication of the horse, Ridiculous by D.L. Carter, a Regency Romance I would NEVER have picked up to read but absolutely LOVED and Sweet Tea by Wendy Decker, a great story about a girl dealing with her mother’s mental illness… just to name a few.

Of course all of these books are available through your favorite online bookstore… HOWEVER… I would prefer you help out your local Independent Bookstore and order it from them. If you don’t know who that is… may I direct your attention to Indiebound.org. Simply type in your zip code and ta-dah… your local stores pop up. This is also great for when you are away from home :-)

If all else fails… or you want to save some time… call Shari at The Paperback Exchange… 732-681-6829 and she will gladly ship you a copy. PayPal and all credit cards accepted.

NOW for the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!

I have made the commitment to read TWO books a month that were either self published OR published by a small Independent Publishing House and review them on my other site… Unique and NovelJoin me over there if you are looking for something new and different to read. I promise you these are books you won’t ever hear about unless read my blog!

 

 

 

The Power of the Kitchen Table

This morning I had a flashback to a metal trivet that hung in my mother’s kitchen, right near the sink. I believe she placed it there when we moved in… and it didn’t budge until we sold the house fifty-five years later.

The trivet was black cast iron with a few flowers painted in red and yellow with some green leaves. White lettering read: Of all the places I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best.

Why is that??? Is it because of the power of the kitchen table?? Of all the tables strategically placed around our houses… coffee, dining, end, picnic, hall… what makes the kitchen table so special? I mean really… the dining room table gets all the glory. Called into service only on special occasions, it’s the Grand Duchess of the home in comparison to the Cinderella kitchen table.

The dining table gets to play dress up with the fancy china, crystal goblets, and silverware, while it is lovingly draped in beautiful flowing linens. Finishing touches of flowers and candles lend a formal feeling to the air. Family, friends, and guests gather around it and laugh, and tell stories. A magnificent turkey (or roast) is brought to the table with a flourish and greeted with ohs and ahs. Manners are on high alert and the meal ends with an extraordinary dessert! Wow!

Meanwhile… back in the kitchen, Cinderella has been relegated as a catch-all area. When the kitchen counter seems too small, the kitchen table steps up to fill the void. Dirty dishes, flour dust, seasonings, and food containers cover every available square inch. It took a beating, but still stands proud, happy to be of service.

The rest of the time the lowly kitchen table is the hub of family central. Kids spread their school books out and do their homework while dinner is being cooked by the parental unit in charge. Impromptu visitors gather around the table to chat over a cup of tea and slice of cake. Got a craft project to do? Spread everything out on the kitchen table. Need to roll out a pie crust? The kitchen table has plenty of room. Need to have a family discussion? Yup, the kitchen table is the place to hold it.

Every nick, scratch, pen mark, marker or crayon stoke means someone sat there and created a masterpiece. Oh, if only kitchen tables could talk… just THINK of the stories they could tell.

High-top kitchen counters are trying to push the table out of the lime light… but so far it hasn’t taken over rural America. It’s just not the same. Dinner time should be ‘family time’… sitting in a circle around a table encouraging conversation. Not all in a straight line staring straight ahead, or worse eating while watching someone else still cooking and cleaning.

If you knew my family life when our kids were small, the above statements would strike you as funny. Every night I had dinner on the table when my husband came home from work. Every night we would sit in our usual seats. Every night, after admonishing the kids about their elbows (or forearms) on the table, to chew with their mouths closed, to sit up straight, and eat their peas… he would ask each child what they learned new that day. At least once a month one child or other would leave the table in tears. Once, a little girl eating over one night was the one to get up and run upstairs in tears. I GLARED at my husband.

That kitchen table heard me assert myself one night and declare I purchased a much desired Mini-Van WITHOUT my husband’s permission. It beamed as my daughter introduced us to her serious boyfriend.. who soon became her husband. It served as a Christmas tree one year when I couldn’t afford one and stacked the donated Poinsettias in a pyramid in the center. It became a support when my son and I held a very serious conversation through the use of post-it notes and a pen… because we didn’t want to speak out loud and be overheard. Years and years of memories were made at that table.

The kitchen is considered the ‘heart’ of the home. I guess that’s true… and I guess that is why guests feel so more at ease there. Life is less formal in the kitchen. Coming in the backdoor is considered an honor… being deemed a friend as opposed to a guest. It’s kind of like taking a peek behind the curtain… at where the magic happens… a happy place.

Looking back, I find it strange my mom’s trivet hung on a wall in a kitchen without a table… or any space at all to visit while she cooked. It was a dark and cold north facing room without a hint of comfort. My family ate every meal at the formal dining table. Hmmm… Curious.

What stories would YOUR kitchen table tell if it could speak??

Pinterest – My Morning Coffee

Pinterest doodlesSome people can’t start their day without a hot, steaming cup o’ Joe. I’m not one of those people. Instead I choose an hour of Pinterest to get my motor running. Yup, Pinterest. What? You’re not on Pinterest? What are you waiting for?

A few years ago I was sick in bed, and bored beyond belief. My daughter mentioned something about this new site named Pin-Interest, so I grabbed my laptop and began typing. I didn’t get the concept right away. Virtual bulletin boards? Followers?? Huh? But then I saw a recipe for the yummiest little snack… mini-pretzels topped with a Hershey kiss and tossed in the oven to melt just a bit. I think it was topped with something else, perhaps a Peanut M&M. I pinned it… and I never looked back.

Currently I have 107 boards with almost 10,000 pins and hundreds of followers. I pin anything that piques my interest. I’m big on pinning quilts, watercolor inspiration, great photos, yummy food, and things for the house. I even have a board titled, ‘In My Spare Time’… yeah, right… like we all have plenty of that, right?

I have made a few things I have ‘pinned’… but mostly I use the boards as inspiration. I have even posted things that I have done… and people I don’t even know have ‘pinned’ them. It’s really a jolt to be scrolling through someone’s board about creative lettering and you say, “Hey! That’s mine! I did that!” At first it seems a little creepy, but then a bit of pride seeps in. Someone in this Universe who I don’t even know (nor ever will) thought something I made was worth remembering for the future. Wow!

One of the things I have become interested in lately is designing greeting cards. Mostly I’m using my own artwork and cool quotes from books. Some days I have a ton of ideas, and other days I can’t think of a blessed thing. That’s when Pinterest comes to my rescue.

Now I spend my mornings on Pinterest to get my mind spinning. Sitting at my desk that overlooks the lake, I pull out a sketch pad and pens and begin to draw things I like. I pin them too… you never know when I might need to take another peek at the inspiration. For example… here’s a few pages of drawings and quotes I did yesterday:

doodles1

 

A lot of these drawings are a copy of someone else’s work, and that’s OK. As I scribble and color, my mind moves in to another dimension and eventually I begin to draw my own things. I look at the process as jump-starting a car battery. It needs help from another battery until it can function on its own.

doodles2

No matter if it’s a cup of coffee, an hour of meditation, a 3 mile run, or an hour on Pinterest… I hope you all have found your own pleasurable way to start the day.

doodles3

I’ll end with a quote I found on Pinterest that has stuck with me for a few days…

“Let your love give your Heart wings to fly and soar”

Keep smiling!!!

Deb

Club 520

Ya know… we woman are a fickle bunch. We can be your best friend… or your worse nightmare, it all depends on the moment.

We all have our special ‘tricks’ and favorite little things that make our lives bearable and homes running smoothly. If we like you, and feel you are worthy… we’ll share them with you. Trust me… it’s a fine line sometimes and making the choice to share or not is not always an easy one.

Take my family for example. When I was a young newlywed, my sister-in-law gifted me with a cookbook for my birthday one year, The Main Line Classic Cookbook to be exact. This cookbook is a compilation of local resident’s favorite dishes. All of the females in my new family had been given a copy of this cookbook at one time or another. I am certain that through the years of family gatherings, I have tasted every recipe. Some were good, some were horrible, but most were delicious and soon became family favorites.

mail line cookbook

One Christmas Eve I served the Filet of Beef stuffed with Lobster Tails… OMG! As it was cooking I couldn’t decide if my mouth was watering because of the luscious beef smell wafting through the kitchen, or the succulent tender lobster scent. Drool ran down my chin as I continued cooking the side dishes. My mother called it ‘The Last Supper’… because it was ‘to die’ for.

My world-famous Banana Bread recipe came from this book… although I have to admit I tweaked it a bit. And even though I know the recipe by heart… I still turn to page 137 as a reference. Herbed Green Beans, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Cheddar Cheese Soup, Scalloped Potatoes in Garlic, and our family’s all time favorite Scalloped Pineapple which MUST be on the table each Easter dinner… have all come out of this book. I have spilled and splattered so much over the years… and opened and closed it so many times… that my book disintegrated. Thankfully I was able to order a new one.

My mother LOVED this cookbook, and read it like a novel, licking her lips as she imagined what the dish would taste like and how she would adjust the seasonings before turning the page. She decided only ‘special’ people could have this book… and heated discussions about my brother’s dates ensued. She relented only when they were married!

Aprons… Personalized aprons are another item given only to those who prove themselves. Years ago, in another life I owned a monogram shop with a high-speed, professional embroidery machine. Aprons were a staple in my store… always the perfect gift for the person who had everything. Tradition was set early in our family to give each new bride a personalized apron as a shower gift. I no longer have the business or the machine, so THAT tradition has slowly faded.

Now that I have a few more years under my belt, I enter yet another secret club… The 520 club. My sister-in-law in Atlanta began it, and willingly shared her wisdom.

Last weekend after dinner, she pulled out her lipstick at the table and began to glide it along her lips. I commented, “I’m a ‘chap stick’ kind of girl and never wear lipstick. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just never found a color I like.” (Truthfully… I would rather set my hair on fire than stand at a make-up counter deciding which color looks best on me). That’s when she made a snap decision… and announced I need to go to CVS and purchase Revlon #520 (named Wine With Everything). She exclaimed, “It looks good on everyone!” Apparently she has been spreading the good word about #520 to everyone who will listen… Her sisters, her neighbors, and fellow Zumba participants. 520

This afternoon I drove to CVS, walked directly over to the Revlon section, scrutinized the labels for #520 (they are not in numerical order), picked up the last one… and bought it! As soon as I got in the car I flipped the light on by the vanity mirror (I swear, this is the first time I used it in the 10 years I’ve owned the car) and applied the lipstick. I was a little hesitant at first, since the word ‘pearl’ was on the label. As a teenager I read once the shiny pearl look came from fish scales and vowed NEVER to wear anything that came ‘pearlized’… Ick!  I’m hoping things have progressed in this day and age… and fish scales are no longer an ingredient.

Smacking my lips I looked in the mirror. My sister-in-law was right… I liked it! At first glance I thought it was a little too dark, but it quickly wore on me. I now wear lipstick!!! Imagine that!!!

I urge all females reading this post… RUN, don’t walk to your nearest Revlon counter and join club 520!!! Wearing a fun new lipstick really boosts your self-esteem!

Go wild!!!

Lipstick 520

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

familyBoy, don’t I wish the book I am writing was finished right about now. The timing is PERFECT! The book is my memoir as a wife to a man diagnosed with ALS at the age of 51. With 3 children, a large house, husband in an upwardly mobile white-collar job, our lives instantly screeched to a halt as he began to have fasciculations in his arms and legs and was crudely diagnosed with ALS.

Oh… and did I mention he specifically waited until my birthday to break the news??? Happy Birthday to me… Geesh… speak about putting a damper on the party.

I have been working on this book for about 5 years. A few months ago I tossed the entire thing into the fireplace and lit a match… with no back up! Really… I did! I woke the very next day and started all over again. Completion is anticipated in about 8 weeks… where it will then most likely sit in a publisher’s slush pile for 6 months or so… if I’m lucky.

Anyway… after dealing with the ALS Association for 8 years as my husband plodded through the system I have to admit I am beyond THRILLED to see this #alsicebucketchallenge go viral. Not only do I get a kick out of watching friends and family SHRIEK and FREEZE… but I know the awareness factor is HUGE!!! People who never heard of ALS before are now donating to the cause. They might not fully understand the illness, or how it affects the entire family… but they are beginning to ask questions.

It’s about time this devastating disease was brought out of hiding and got recognition. I am not saying that Cancer, Parkinson’s, MS and more don’t deserve the limelight… I’m just saying I’m thrilled to know ALS is now right up there with them, no longer considered a second class citizen or a poor relation.

CHEERS to the person who started this whole challenge! I applaud you whoever you are. This is a genius idea… simply GENIUS!!

I will continue to post every challenge I receive on my Facebook page… and send a private thank you to all who participate. Keep ‘em coming… and don’t forget to DONATE!!!

Here’s the link… http://www.alsa.org

For those of you with questions… don’t be shy. Drop me a line and I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability… or direct you to a person who can. No question is too stupid… except the one not asked.

 

Yoga On The Beach

Yoga On The Beach

Have you ever tried to do Yoga on a beach??? I did this past weekend, and am spoiled for life. Downward Facing Dog has never been so fun!

A dear friend owns a Yoga Studio in, of all places, Arizona. During the summer months she   works the family business in Wildwood, NJ, teaches Yoga on the beach, and runs the parking lots. Wow… she certainly keeps herself busy.

Last Sunday I took advantage of an unplanned day off from ‘work’ and woke up at 6:00AM to make the 2 hour drive south on the Garden State Parkway just to take this class. It was AWESOME!!

Instead of a yoga mat, you bring a beach towel. Don’t forget the sunscreen, water, and sun glasses. It just so happened it was going to be a full moon that evening, actually a Super Moon, so our practice was more gentle than normal. Beginning with controlled warm ups and stretches, we quickly moved on to salutations.

If you normally practice Yoga inside… I promise you will have an experience like no other. The ions from the water mixing with the ions in the air are so refreshing, filling you with a sense of well being… and making it easy to set your intention for the practice. The summer sun warms your muscles in tandem with a cool ocean breeze wicking away the perspiration leaving a thin film of salt on your skin. Your nostrils pull in the salt air, filling your lungs with goodness as you slowly and completely exhale carbon dioxide. Oh, and  rhythmic sound of crashing surf against the shoreline calms your mind in an instant. The chirping seagulls are an added bonus.

Performing yoga poses in the sand seem easier on the joints. Feet planted firmly in sand help maintain your balance for a better warrior pose, and your body becomes ‘one with the earth’ as you wiggle your spine and hips to settle in to a prone position for Shavasana (my favorite part of the practice).

If Yoga is not your ‘thing’, at the very least grab a beach towel and a bottle of water and head down to your nearest beach, ideally early in the morning, or at sunset. Spread out the towel, sit with your legs crossed (or any other comfortable position), wiggle your butt into place and just sit there for a moment and BREATHE… listening to your inner self. 10 minutes of silence will change your outlook on life. I promise.

Namaste!

 

50 Charming States of America

I need to remind myself at times… I live a CHARMED life. Figuratively AND Literally!!

When I was 16, my mother gave me a sterling silver charm bracelet for Christmas. You could tell she put a lot of love and thought in this precious gift. Each charm represented a specific life event or story.

Charm bracelet

A roller skate to remind me of the time my brother used my only pair to make himself a skateboard, a mouse to represent my nickname ‘little mouse’ (don’t ask), a princess phone for all the times I was reminded phones were for dispatching information… NOT chatting! My favorite charm is the Lie Detector. That one must have been difficult to find. I don’t know if my mom happened upon it, or had to hunt for it… but that ONE charm is near and dear to my heart. It is the only one on that entire bracelet that represents a family memory involving my dad.

At the time our family was living in Shrewsbury, NJ in a sub-division named Vail Homes. My mom liked to call it ‘Vile Homes’. One fall, when I was about 4 years old, mom purchased a basket of apples and left them on the kitchen counter. In the morning she woke up to find 2 or 3 apples with tiny little bites out of them lying on the stairway. She called me downstairs and I was throughly reprimanded. Of course I said I didn’t do it. Trust me when I tell you talking back to my mom was NOT a smart move… even at 4 I knew that!! I was spanked for lying.

This continued the next night… and this time my father did the spanking. I can remember crying and saying I didn’t do it… but they didn’t believe me, and sent me to my room. My dad started thinking about the problem. It dawned on him I wasn’t known to lie, and thought perhaps I was sleep walking and didn’t realize I was doing it. So that night he grab a chair and got comfy, determined to catch me in the act. To his surprise he found out who the real culprit was.

Back in those days our house was heated with coal. A delivery man came to the house on a regular basis and dropped coal down a shoot from the outside of the house to the coal bin inside. Apparently a racoon got inside and was living in the coal bin. My dad watched in amazement as the little racoon crawled up onto the kitchen counter, grab an apple and scurried away. It would then go to the stairs, take a bite, drop it… and repeat the process.

Obviously my parents apologized profusely with hugs and kisses… and treated me to a special dessert.

Anyway… every once in a while as I traveled around, I would purchase another charm to be added to the bracelet. The chain is not that sturdy, and once it was filled, I still purchased charms, but never had them attached. The novelty wore off quickly.

Charms

While traveling through Alaska I came across this ADORABLE moose charm… so I bought it. Which then got me thinking about the bracelet. Knowing I have been to 49 of the 50 US States… I decided I should make a charm bracelet with 50 charms… 1 from each state!!!

Last night I dumped my bag of charms onto the bed and took inventory. Out of the 49 states I have been to, I collected 15 charms… plus a few from other countries. “OK… I can make this work.” I said to myself. So now I’m on the hunt!!! I’ve made a list of all the states and marked which ones I have already. Next to the ones I don’t have, I jotted down a suggestion of what kind of charm to look for. For example… my first view of Hawaii from the air were of sea turtles… so I want to get a sea turtle charm. It might take me YEARS to finish this project… but I am determined to complete it.

One aspect of collecting that I find interesting is the pricing. Some of my old charms still have a price tag showing $7.50. The current charms are sold for $20.00 each. I guess I should have never stopped collecting them years ago :-)

Which state is the only one I haven’t been to yet??? Colorado! Technically my DNA is within it’s boundaries… but to be honest I haven’t experienced it enough to convincingly say I’ve been there. Many years ago I stood in Four Corners… so my right hand has been in the state, and on the way home from Alaska last week I had a 7 hour lay over in the Denver airport. Neither of these close encounters qualifies the purchase of a charm. I play fair… and I don’t lie!

The Road Less Traveled

Our family’s trip to Alaska had been plotted and planned for months in advance. All airline tickets procured, houses and hotels not only booked, but scrutinized to the ‘nth’ degree. Activities chosen with back up plans if needed as fillers or replacements. So it was surprising we found ourselves with a ‘free’ day.

“Let’s go panning for gold”, was the resounding cry we heard from the male members of our group. “Ok”, our ‘tour director’ agreed. “But instead of going to one of those cheesy touristy places, let’s buy supplies and pan for gold in a local creek ourselves.”

So that was our plan. We let ‘Mr. Research’ google a local creek, then stopped off at the Sportsman Shop to pack in our supplies. Once we entered the store, everyone scattered in different directions. This store was better than any Cabella’s or Dick’s!!! One of our group immediately headed to the Go Pro display, another was found perusing the gift section. Who knew where in the store ‘Mr. Research’ wandered off to… as he is known for his disappearing. Eventually we all met up in the Gold Panning aisle… an aisle you WON’T find in New Jersey.

Pan, pick, and vials in hand… we checked out and headed on our way. We were assured by ‘Mr. Research’ that creeks were not that far away. After missing a turn off and driving a few extra miles before realizing the mistake and turning around… we ended up at the intersection of Fish Creek Rd… and Fairbanks Creek Rd. Sounds perfect, right? We thought so.

Road Signs

Pulling in to the dirt parking lot we quickly realized we weren’t in Kansas any more Toto. Mud covered diesel pick up trucks and Rvs were haphazardly parked and each one had an empty flat-bed trailer which looked like it carried an ATV.

A fella was talking on his cell phone… dressed in muddy boots, dirty jeans, and hooded sweatshirt… and was sporting a few days worth of facial hair and uncombed mess on his head. We ‘city folks’ were dressed in our LL Bean and Columbia backpacking best. Oh… and the clouds were rolling in fast as the wind picked up.

The executive decision to continue on our mission was made… and we put one foot in front of the other and began walking down the dirt road. Our first sign was to beware of heavy equipment using the road… which started us giggling. How funny would it be to stumble upon hard-core panners using machinery who take this mining activity seriously… as we unpack our little pans and travel pick??? Visions of shotguns being aimed at us danced through our heads.

The dirt road went on forever… with no sight of a creek anywhere in the area. ‘Mr. Research’ ran ahead of us to check things out. We began to worry about him when he didn’t return… but we kept on walking. It began to sprinkle, and got cold… then the sun would come out and it would get hot. More rain and cold, more sun and heat.

Dirt road

Guys in pick-up trucks bumping down the road in the opposite direction smiled and waved at us as they passed. We waved back in return… and kept walking… wondering if their smile meant they knew something we didn’t.

Ding!!!!

Hark! We finally have cell service!!! The ‘tour director’ tried to call ‘Mr. Research’… but his phone either wasn’t on, or didn’t have cells where he was. Checking our co-ordinates we realized there wasn’t a creek, or any other body of water for that matter anywhere near us so another executive decision to abort our mission was made. We split up in to two groups. The ‘tour director’ and myself would head back and get the car… while the remaining two continued on the road to meet up with ‘Mr. Research’. Just as we turned and walked about 20 paces… he returned.

Ok… so venturing out on our own to a creek we couldn’t find was not the ideal situation. However, after sitting on boats, busses, trains, and planes… the fresh air and exercise was a welcomed activity. A trip to the cheesy, touristy, gold panning place would be added to the next day’s itinerary to satisfy the guys need to do something ‘macho’.

Suckers for good marketing… we chose to go to GOLD DAUGHTERS because their advertising flyer appealed to us. Metallic gold cardstock with matte black ink… in addition to using a heart in their logo… PLUS a guarantee you would strike GOLD… AND you could PAN ALL DAY had us excited.

What a HOOT!!! We let the guys do the panning as we watched. Originally we girls were planning on laughing while taking pictures, but we quickly became fascinated with the process.

One of the owners, Jordan stayed with us and taught the guys the subtle way to dip the pan to wash away the rocks and dirt… and then swirl the pan with a quick flick of the wrist to uncover the gold pieces.

The process takes patience and concentration. When finished, you use a dry finger to touch the gold which then sticks to your finger… then you touch it to water in a small vial and it easily drops to the bottom. When finished, you have the option to grab a shovel of rocks from the huge pile, and continue to pan… for as long as you’d like.

Boys panning

All in all… Jordan made this a fun experience. She has been panning for gold as a hobby since she was a little girl. Her passion for this fun pastime just oooozed out of her. She was a great and patient instructor, as well as a wealth of information about the area and local geology. The tractor trailer of fossils was a happy surprise… as were the rustic machinery displays placed around the grounds.

Gold pan

By the end of our visit the guys each had a vial of gold, smiles on their faces, we had photos, and a memory of a wonderful day.

Alaska Daylight 24/7

Since summer in Alaska means daylight 23 ½ hours a day… the use of ‘black out’ shades or curtains are mandatory. So far on this trip I have not had to use them… until tonight. The room in the last house I rented was painted in dark colors, only had one window which was blocked by trees… so it felt like you were walking into a cave. Even though it was bright as day at 11:30pm I was eager to go to sleep and had no problem.

Today however I am in a different rental… a beautiful rustic home on the ridge of a mountain in Fairbanks. The bedroom here is painted creamy white… with antique quilts hanging on the wall (I’ll get to them in a minute). Trying to fall asleep at 11:30pm in bright daylight reminds me of being a little kid and having to go to bed in the summer time. It’s still bright out, but just falling into dusk. The only problem now is that in Alaska dusk never comes. Which is helpful when you are driving curvy, dirt roads up an unfamiliar mountain… but not such a pleasure when trying to get some shut-eye.

Fairbanks rental

Tomorrow is another busy day of sightseeing… so tonight I have drawn the heavy black curtains across the window… and it’s beginning to feel like bed time. I wonder what it will feel like in the morning.

This house by the way is AWESOME!! Decorated with eclectic furniture… mixing IKEA with solid antiques, having an old retro oven be the kitchen centerpiece with a collection of antique toasters above it, and old antique quilts hanging on the walls in each of the 4 bedrooms. You would think the owner designed this house just for me!!

The quilts are stunning… and yet I cringe when looking at them. The owner has hung them with nails and push pins. YIKES!!! People in the ‘quilt world’ know NEVER to do that!! For one, you are putting holes in the fabric, but also gravity pulls them down and creates a scallop along the top edge… and enlarges the hole. The proper way is to sew a ‘sleeve’ on the back and suspend the quilt on brackets using a dowel or curtain rod. This way the weight is distributed evenly… which preserves the quilt for future generations to enjoy.

antique quilt

It’s all I can do to NOT make a trip to the local quilt shop to purchase some fabric, needle and thread to make a sleeve. But then I remember it’s not my house… and certainly not my problem. So instead I sit and cringe at the sagging quilts.

sagging quilt

The other bizarre thing in this house is the bathroom. The toilet is in the shower!!! I kid you not!!! The bathroom is completely tiled in really nice, thick, good quality tile. It looks like it is new construction. A drain is installed in the middle of the floor. The floor is graded so all water flows to it. A shower curtain is suspended from a rod installed a few inches down from the ceiling that spans the width of the room. If that were all that was in the space it would be fine… however… at one end of this room… sits a commode. The Throne, the porcelain pot, the toilet… whatever you call it… it’s sitting right there… in the shower.

When you take your morning shower you have to take care not to get the toilet paper wet. And when you go to use the facilities after breakfast… you have to watch out for the water on the floor that hasn’t dried yet. It’s bad enough the person sleeping in that bedroom has to deal with it… but it is the only restroom down on the main level and therefore is considered the quest bathroom.

Very quirky!

I love it!