31 August 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Serious Sailing

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 - This was taken during the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race during one of their in-port races in Auckland. Scott and I were on one of the marshal boats during the race.

2 - I have to confess, I'm not all that into the technical aspects of sailing. To me, our sailboat is a sort of floating RV, which can take me to new and interesting places on the water. 

3 - I was scared the Telefonica boat was going to crash into us. Then it tacked at the last minute. Phew.

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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29 August 2016

Psst...Are You Awake?

"Psst...are you awake?"

"Is that you, Georgie?" I asked, rubbing my eyes. "When did you learn how to talk?"

"Don't be daft. Georgie's a cat. Cats don't talk. All they say is meow. Meow this, meow that, all day long. Frankly, it's bloody annoying."

I turned over to look at Georgie on the pillow next to me, her paws twitching as she dreamed about catching lizards and snakes. "If you aren't Georgie, who are you?"

"I'm one of the voices in your head. I don't think we've been properly introduced. I'm Gus."

"Nice to meet you, Gus. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going back to sleep," I said pulling the blankets over my head.

"Hey, wake up! I'm not done talking to you."

"Geez. It's the middle of the night. Can't this wait until morning after I've had a cup of coffee?"

"No. There's something that's been bothering me. I need to get it off my chest. Not that I have an actual chest, being an imaginary voice in your head and all, but you know what I mean," Gus said. "You know that short story you just wrote. Well, what if it wasn't an original idea?"

"What do you mean? The idea came to me in the middle of the night. It's 100% original. It's all mine."

"Well, how can you be sure? Maybe someone's already written a New York Times bestselling novel with the same exact idea. Maybe there's a mini-series airing on the SyFy channel right now with the same exact plot and characters. You know what that would make you? A thief. A plagiarizer. How do you like them apples?"

I sat up in bed and petted Georgie while I thought about it.

"But, I haven't read anything with the same idea. I don't have a television, so how would I even know what they're airing on the SyFy channel? See, I can't possibly be a plagiarizer," I huffed as I curled back under my blankets.

I tossed and turned for a few minutes, trying to get comfortable. "For goodness sake, now how am I supposed to be able to sleep with this on my mind? What if I did steal the idea from someone else without knowing it?"

"Think about something else."

"What, like counting sheep?"

"Don't be stupid. That never works. I don't know, think about something completely unrelated, like mascara."

"Mascara? I haven't worn the stuff in ages."

"Don't think we haven't noticed. Would it hurt to make a little effort once in a while? A little mascara, some lip gloss, you'll feel like a new woman."

"I don't know. I bet if I tried to wear mascara now, I'd end up poking myself in the eye with the wand."

"See, it worked. Now, you're thinking about mascara instead of being a plagiarizer. Well, my work here is done."

"The mascara thing isn't really working, Gus." I pulled the covers down and looked around. "Gus, are you there? Where did you go? Hey, Gus, wake up!"

Do you ever wake up in the night and can't fall back asleep because you keep thinking about things? What keeps you up at night?

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26 August 2016

Flashback Friday | National Parks

Today is the Flashback Friday blog hop over at A Life Examined. 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 many more followers now then we did back then. I figure that there are probably a number of our earlier blog posts that some of you haven't seen before which might be of interest.

Our National Parks turned 100 years old yesterday, so it seemed fitting to share this post about our favorite National Park moments and celebrate this incredible national resource.

{This was originally posted in April 2015 as part of the A to Z Challenge. You can find the original post here.}


One of Scott's favorite words lately is outstanding, always said with a slightly sarcastic tone. Scott is from North Dakota. I don't know if you know anything about North Dakota, but the folks there aren't exactly known to be effusive with their praise about anything. Ask Scott what he thinks about something and he is likely to say something like, "Could be better, could be worse" or "It's fine" or "It's okay" etc. So when he says that something is outstanding, I get pretty confused. Does he really think it is outstanding or is he just being sarcastic?
While we were touring some of the National Parks in the western part of the States towards the end of last year, we did have some amazing experiences. Things that even Scott would say were outstanding. So here they are - just a few of our outstanding National Park moments. There were so many outstanding moments, that I'll probably have to do another installment at some point.
Death Valley | Golden Canyon & Gower Gulch

Many people who visit Death Valley do the Golden Canyon walk. Its two miles round trip and is classified as an "easy" hike with a gradual and steady uphill grade on a rocky trail. And if you're a Star Wars geek you can see where some of the scenes from the original movie were filmed (check out this amazing site for more details!) Even if you're not into Star Wars, the Golden Canyon walk is well worth doing as it gives you a great insight into the geology of Death Valley. Once you get to the end of the Golden Canyon trail, be sure to continue on for 1/4 of a mile to see the Red Cathedral.

After you're done seeing the Red Cathedral, rather than go back the way you came, you really should continue on to the Gower Gulch loop which turns the whole thing into a 4 mile round trip hike. We saw spectacular painted hills, hiked across a narrow divide which led to some amazing views of the badlands, walked through main drainage of the Gower Gulch and scrambled over rocks before making our way back to the Golden Canyon parking lot.

We weren't really prepared for the hike, only having the vaguest idea of the trail from a map at the Golden Canyon parking lot, and I think that's what made it so outstanding. We had absolutely no idea what to expect. Every turn brought something new and unexpected. And the trail was marked very poorly in parts, so we had to guess which way to go at some points, which made me feel so adventurous! Definitely worth going those couple of extra miles beyond the Golden Canyon and exploring Gower Gulch.

(You can find more details about the trail, including a very useful map, here. And you can read more about our adventures in Death Valley here.)

Yosemite National Park | All Of It!

Yosemite Valley

Jaw Dropping Wow. That pretty much sums up Yosemite National Park. The place is truly outstanding. I wasn't sure if it would live up to the hype and it did. Big Time. There is a reason Ansel Adams spent all that time in Yosemite taking photos. There is simply so much stunning beauty that it would take a lifetime and more to ever do it justice. I don't even have the words to describe it, so the best thing you can do is go there yourself and see what I'm talking about. I think you'll agree - it is outstanding.

(You can read more about our time in Yosemite National Park here.)

Petrified Forest National Park | Blue Mesa Trail

We weren't originally planning on going to the Petrified Forest National Park, but I'm sure glad we did. While the petrified wood is interesting, in our opinion, the real stars of the park are the brilliantly colored badlands on the Blue Mesa trail. The colors are really as amazing as those in the photo above. You can view the badlands from up top at a viewpoint, but they're even more stunning if you walk down the moderately steep path and do the 1 mile loop trail. Sure you might huff and puff a little bit as you walk back up the hill to your car, but totally worth it.

While the Petrified Forest National Park (and the adjacent Painted Desert National Monument) might not be on your bucket list, if you're in the area, its worth a visit. Not only can you see enough petrified wood to last you a lifetime, you can also take a step back in time and see where the historic Route 66 once cut through the park, as well as visit the historic Painted Desert Inn which has been lovingly restored. But, whatever you do, don't slip any of the petrified wood into your pocket. Just one little sliver and you're looking at hefty fines and possible jail time. I've never been able to figure out why people might think it is okay to steal stuff like that, but I guess it takes all kinds. 

Grand Canyon | Bright Angel Lodge

Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon

When we were at the Grand Canyon, we splurged just a little and stayed at the Bright Angel Lodge. There is something to be said about staying right in the middle of the park in one of the historic lodges. Most of the lodges in the National Parks are actually pretty pricey and you have to book well in advance. Fortunately for us, we were able to do a last minute booking and it actually wasn't too much of a splurge, compared to the other lodges in the park and hotels outside of the park. Bright Angel Lodge is one of the more affordable lodges at Grand Canyon. If you're looking to do things on the cheap, you can share a room with three other people and use a communal bathroom. (We chose to just share a room with each other and opted for a private bathroom.) And if you want even less privacy, book a room next to ours with connecting doors. I saw a door in the little hallway in our room, assumed it was a closet and peeked in. Instead of finding a closet, I found some guy changing his pants. Oops.

Bright Angel Lodge was designed in the 1930s by Mary Jane Coulter, a famous Southwest architect. Today it is a registered National Historic Landmark which has preserved historic features, such as the Buckey O'Neill Cabin where one of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders stayed. It sits right in the middle of the park on the edge of the South Rim. During the day, it is popular stop for the folks on tour buses, but during the evening things quiet down nicely. And, if you like baked enchilada pie, head to the Bright Angel restaurant. Delicious!

(You can read more about our adventures at the Grand Canyon here, here & here.)

Joshua Tree National Park | Camping

We camped in a number of National Parks, but my favorite spot was at Joshua Tree National Park. We had a great campsite - pretty spacious with great views and surrounded by Joshua trees. I'm not sure why I liked it so much, but for some reason I just had a real sense of peace that night sitting around the fire and looking up at the stars. That is until some unidentified creature ran across our feet. A bit unnerving to say the least. We never did figure out what it was.

(You can read more about our adventures at Joshua Tree National Park, including an encounter with evil tribbles here.)

Have you ever visited any of the National Parks? Which one was your favorite and what was your most outstanding moment?

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24 August 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Birthday Cat

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 - This is Georgie the Adventure Cat. She wanted to wish her human, Jessica from MJ Sailing, a happy birthday by wearing a festive hat since she can't be there in person to celebrate.

2 - That's a lie. Georgie doesn't know what day of the week it is, let alone the fact that it's Jessica's birthday. The only thing she keeps track of is when her next feeding is due. She also thought the hat was pretty lame and made a much better toy.

3 - Why yes, the festive birthday hat was made from one of the pages in the Mandalas for Masochists coloring book.

What words do these picture bring to your mind when you look at them?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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22 August 2016

Is It Better To Read Fast Or Slow? {Or, Procrastinate Your To Do List By Testing Your Reading Speed}

Image Source - The Graphics Fairy

Are you looking for a way to procrastinate those boring and unpleasant tasks on your to do list? Are you stuck in a cubicle and need a break from crunching numbers in an Excel spreadsheet or making PowerPoint presentations?

Not to fear, I'm here to help. After all, why wouldn't I? You all are nice folks. I'm always there for you when it comes to procrastination.

This morning, I'm supposed to try to find the lithium grease so that I can take apart our marine toilet and fix the annoying squeak in the pump handle. Sounds like a good plan, except I can't bear the thought of taking everything out of the v-berth (otherwise known as the scary room of chaos and disorder) to find the lithium grease. Which, of course, will be buried in a deep and dark recess somewhere under one of the berths hiding from me behind a family of spiders who have taken up residence there.

Instead of doing what I'm supposed to be doing, I tested how fast I read on this nifty site. Far more interesting than looking for lithium grease. Let's be honest - pretty much anything would be better than looking for lithium grease.

Turns out I'm a fast reader. Which explains how I can plow through so many books each month. Well, that and the fact that I read as a form of procrastination on a regular basis.

The good thing about avoiding work by taking this reading test is that if your boss catches you slacking off and asks you what you're doing, you can tell him or her that you're trying to improve your reading speed so that you can be more productive at work. That should factor favorably into your next performance review.

It got me thinking about whether it's better to read fast or slow. Yes, I know, thinking about this is another form of procrastination. But, hey, you're reading this blog post, which means you're probably procrastinating something too. So, here's my thoughts on the matter. I'd love to hear what you have to think in the comments.


Image Source - The Graphics Fairy

Reading For Speed


1 - You get through a lot of books, which means more wonderful stories and characters to feed your imagination and dream about at night.

2 - You have time to give books a chance, for example something in a genre you don't normally read. If you end up not liking it or if it bores you to tears, at least you haven't wasted too much time on it.

3 - Other patrons at your local library love you because you return books quickly and the next person on the hold list doesn't have to wait as long to get their hands on the latest bestseller.


1 - You might miss some of detail and nuances. As you skip through the pages quickly to find out what's going to happen next, sometimes you can gloss over things.

2 - Your comprehension might not be as deep if you skim and skip up and down over text looking for important words or phrases.

3 - People don't always believe that you finished a book in just one day and they quiz you on the plot to see if you're telling the truth.

Image Source - The Graphics Fairy

Reading Slowly And Steadily


1 - You know a book inside and out and savor every word and phrase.

2 - You don't waste your time reading books that bore you and instead carefully pick and choose what to put on your reading list.

3 - Reading can take on a meditative quality as you become deeply engrossed in a book, turning over each page slowly.


1 - Everyone else you know is on book #7 in that fabulous series about werewolves and vampires, while you're still plowing through book #2. You're constantly worried they're going to throw out spoilers when you get together for coffee.

2 - You don't have time to read all of the wonderful books that people recommend to you.

3 - You feel pressured to read faster, just because some annoying person wrote a blog post about it and bragged about their high score on a speed reading test.


Like most things in life, everything has its good and bad points. Slow reading isn't better than fast reading or vice versa. The important thing is reading, and enjoying reading, not how many books you read each month. At least that's what I think. Now, I'm off to find the lithium grease. Or, read a book instead.

Check out what other people have to say about fast and slow reading here, here, here, here and here.

Are you a fast or slow reader? What do you thinkthe advantages and disadvantages are? What are you  procrastinating today?

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19 August 2016

The Love Boat | Red Rose Hotel In Chiang Rai, Thailand

It's been ages since we've traveled anywhere and my nomadic spirit is getting a little restless. It wants to go someplace new and exciting. Apparently, driving to Home Depot doesn't count.

It's going to be a while before we set out on new adventures, so I did the next best thing - look back at pictures from old adventures and reminisce. Like the time we stayed at the Red Rose Hotel in Chiang Rai, Thailand. They bill it as an amusement hotel. I'd use the word quirky to describe it. It's a bit weird too, in the nicest possible way.

We had hired a motorcycle in Chiang Mai and were making our way up to the Golden Triangle and needed a place to stay. I was just hoping for a comfortable bed and clean sheets, but we got so much more.

By the way, if you run into my mom, don't tell her about the motorcycle. They kind of freak her out. Definitely don't show her this picture of the machine of death.

This is the office. Right away, you know you're in for something different.

There's all sorts of themed rooms to pick from - Star Wars, cartoon characters, race cars, jungle etc.

We went with one of the Love Boat rooms. A nautical theme and romance - you can't really go wrong.

After you pick and pay for your room, you drive into a covered parking lot and are greeted with all of this wonderful weirdness.

We parked our motorcycle, grabbed our stuff and unlocked the door. The moment of truth - would the room be as exciting as the picture promised? The answer is yes. It was even more bizarrely wonderful in person. Just look at those murals!

Alligators are everywhere. Even in quirky hotel rooms in Thailand. See the river that our boat is floating on? That's hot water and coffee supplies at the bow of our boat.

Yes, we slept in a boat - such fun!

And we had a monkey sitting on top of the toilet paper in the bathroom. I'm not sure why he's holding his nose.

Even the common areas are quirky.

What was just a stopover on the way up to the Golden Triangle, turned out to be so much more. If you ever happen to find yourself in Chiang Rai, the Red Rose Hotel is definitely worth checking out.

What's the best or worst hotel you've stayed in and why?

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17 August 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Corinth Canal In Greece

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 -  The Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea and cuts through the narrow isthmus that separates the Greek mainland from Peloponnese. It's four miles long and only 70 feet wide. 

2 - We traveled through the canal many years ago on a no frills budget cruise run by the folks at the European budget airline company, Easy Jet. It was a cheap and cheerful way to see the historical sights in Greece.

3 - I love Greek food, especially spanokopita and pretty much anything with lamb.

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

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here.

15 August 2016

Scary Water, Annoying Inner Voices, Music & Friends

Do you remember this picture I posted of the gross, smelly algae surrounding my boat a couple of months ago? It’s a result of runoff from sugar cane farming and is all over the place in southern Florida. Ick.

While the algae hasn’t been quite as bad as it was back then, it's still alive and well at Indiantown Marina. Not only is it disgusting, it’s also scary. I dropped one of my flip-flops in the water the other day. For a few minutes, I considered just leaving it there while the voices inside my head had a heated debate.

“Grab it quick before it floats away! The last thing we need is more plastic polluting our waters. Don't you care about the environment?” 

That was the responsible voice. This is the same one that’s horrified by the lack of recycling at our marina and thinks I shouldn't spend so much time doing online crossword puzzles.

"What’s wrong with you? You just spent 99 cents on those flip-flops at Walmart. We don’t want to shell out for another pair already!” 

This was the frugal voice that thinks we should save all of our nickels and dimes for more important things, like a water maker and many boxes of brownie mix.

“Stay away from the water! Don’t even think of putting your hand in the water! Your hand will develop green scales on it, shrivel up and then fall off!” 

While the scaredy-cat has a kind of an annoying, shrill voice, it actually makes a lot of sense at times. The algae is toxic and scares the crap out of me.

When you have so many voices living in your head, the key is compromise. Otherwise, they start to argue, shove and pinch each other. Did you know that’s what causes headaches? It's the voices in your head acting like kids in the backseat of the car fighting over a toy.

So, I compromised. I found a hangar and scooped the flip-flop out of the water with it, avoiding putting my hand directly in the water. I then washed it off for ages to get all of the gross, scary algae off of it.

Everyone was happy. I avoided polluting the water with plastic, kept us from having to shell out another 99 cents for a new pair of flip-flops and avoided the soylent green algae water as best I could.

This stuff is everywhere in southern Florida. I was out in Stuart yesterday hanging out with my friends from Sailing Wind Spirit and MJ Sailing. We walked over from Sunset Bay Marina to hear a concert and along the way I saw this sign, which goes to show you how downright horrifying this algae is. The fact that it says "Declaration of Emergency" kind of clues you into that.

Fortunately, the music, conversation, drinks, food, a nautical trivia game and pretty views from the marina managed to take my mind off of the dangers lurking in the water. It even managed to keep the little voices inside my head quiet for a few hours too. 

What's the grossest thing you've ever touched? Would you be scared of the water out here?

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12 August 2016

Around The World In 80 Books | Update #9

I've just finished up another month of the Around the World in 80 Books challenge. The idea of the challenge is to read books set in 80 different countries, effectively exploring the world from the comfort of your armchair. Since my last update, I've read books set in five more countries – Finland, the Republic of Kiribati, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vanuatu.

That makes a total of 45 books since I started the challenge - only 35 more to go!

You can read more about the challenge here, as well as check out Update #1, Update #2, Update #3, Update #4, Update #5, Update #6, Update #7 and Update #8.



Scott is Norwegian-American from North Dakota, so I have an interest in understanding the Nordic psyche. To date, pretty much all I knew about Norwegians came from the movie Fargo and time spent with Scott's family. So, I decided to read up and find out more about these "nearly perfect people."

Booth focuses on the five Nordic counties in his book - Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland - which are often depicted quite positively as European success stories, and presents his views on their imperfections, such as the Icelandic financial crisis, the rise of neo-Nazis in Norway and Swedish conformity. I'm not usually a big reader of non-fiction, but I liked the way Booth interspersed humorous anecdotes in the midst of all of the facts and figures.

Since I had already crossed Noway, Sweden and Iceland off of the "Around the World in 80 Books" list, I decided to use Booth's book to tick off Finland. My sister spent a year living in Finland, so I was curious to see how Booth presented this country which lies between Russia and the rest of Scandinavia. One of the things I found fascinating was his description of the Finnish language, particularly all of the cases, which I remember my sister telling me about.
Finnish nouns have no gender, and, in fact, people have no gender – the word for “he” and “she” is the same, the masculine hän. A Finnish friend tells me that, increasingly, the Finns are just using “it” to refer to everything: “It is getting married in the morning,” “It has been drinking since breakfast,” and so on. There are no prepositions in Finnish and neither are their definite or indefinite articles, “a book,” “the book,” and “book” are all just “book” or kirja. (That said, Finnish does apparently have fourteen case-endings, so perhaps it is not all that straightforward.)

You can find out more about Almost Nearly Perfect People on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS: ADRIFT IN THE EQUATORIAL PACIFIC by J. Maarten Troost | Republic of Kiribati (2004)

This book was a perfect choice for this challenge - not only did it have me laughing out loud, but I also learned a thing or two about the Republic of Kiribati, an equatorial Pacific island nation, a place I knew nothing about before this challenge. Troost lived on the island of Tarawa in Kiribati for two years with his partner who was working for an aid organization. He's written a hysterical travel memoir about what it's like to live on an island in the middle of nowhere which is as far from a tropical paradise as you can get. Between dealing with toxic fish, stifling heat, beer shortages and the relentless playing of the song La Macarena by his neighbors, Troost keeps his sense of humor and almost makes you want to visit Tarawa for yourself to see if it could all possibly be true.

I'm a bit of a Crazy Cat Lady, so here's a quote about a Kiribatian cat. Cats are all the same, no matter where you go.
Sam the cat also wandered out to the reef at low tide. He liked to go fishing. Hovering over a tidal pool, he deftly scooped out a fish, which he could bring back to the house and play with until it died, and then he would find an ingenious hiding place for it. It was the same with geckos. Whenever he heard the soft plop of a gecko losing its grip, Sam darted with astonishing speed, clasped the gecko firmly in its mouth, no longer fooled by that devious lose-the-tail trick, and brought it back inside the house, where he mercilessly taunted it until it also died. Then he would find an obscure nook somewhere and hide the gecko. Decomposition occurs swiftly on the equator. Hours later, we would follow our noses in an exciting game of Where's the Dead Animal? Sam enjoyed this immensely.

 You can find out more about The Sex Lives of Cannibals on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

THE CITY OF VEILS by Zoe Ferraris | Saudi Arabia (2010) 

I do like my murder mysteries and I thoroughly enjoyed The City of Veils, not only because it was well written, but also because it was set in Saudi Arabia, a country I don't really know much about. The author is married to a Saudi and spent time living there, so she has an interesting perspective on the country. One of the characters is an American ex-pat, whose husband is working in Saudi in a security job. It was fascinating to get a feel for what life in Saudi is like from the eyes of an ex-pat:
On the street, she felt safe and terrified by turns. Some days she could wander freely, going where she liked as long as she wore her cloak and headscarf, and kept her burqa at the ready in case she started to feel too exposed. Sometimes people stared blatantly, even occasionally stopping to gawk at her. Sometimes women would greet her politely. But on other days she would encounter resistance. Men would notice that she was out alone, and they would stop her by whistling and even standing in front of her, blocking her passage. They would tell her to go home. They warned her that it wasn't safe to be out. She believed them. Even though she was never arrested as her neighbors had promised, she felt more and more unsafe as the weeks went by. She began to think it was only a matter of time before something horrible happened.

You can find out more about The City of Veils on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

GRANDAD, THERE'S A HEAD ON THE BEACH by Colin Cotterill | Thailand

I was really into reading murder mysteries last month, including Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach, which is set in Thailand. And, yes, there was a head on the beach. Every good murder mystery needs a body, or, in this case, a head, to set the stage. This was a fun and easy read, which I probably found more interesting as Scott and I have traveled in Thailand. It's full of some very quirky characters and funny scenarios, but it also provides some insights into real issues the country faces, like the status of illegal immigrants from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). I could see some parallels with the issue of illegal immigration in the States. 

One of the things I found interesting was the description of the Thai language. It's tonal, which means that the same word (to us at least) has different meanings depending upon whether you use a high or low pitch. Say something in the wrong pitch and you could have a very embarrassing situation on your hands.
We doubted their names were real. They certainly lacked imagination. They insisted that we call them Noy, the mother, high-tone, and Noy, the daughter, low tone. Thai is a wonderful language that leaves many a foreigner ripping out chunks of hair. It has the ability to change a dog into a horse, a skein of silk into a bush fire, an entire town into an irrigation ditch. And all at the mere drop of a tone. For a Thai, when speaking, Noy and Noy were two completely different words.

You can find out more about Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

I enjoyed The Sex Lives of Cannibals so much that I read another one of Troost's memoirs. Getting Stoned with the Savages picks up where the last book left off. After living and working in Washington DC for a while, Troost and his now wife decided to escape city living and return to the islands. They first found themselves in Vanuatu (which is what country I'm using this book to tick off), before ending up in Fiji. "Getting stoned" refers to Troost's fondness for drinking kava, which makes one very relaxed, and he relates several hysterical stories about his kava fueled episodes in his memoir. I also enjoyed his descriptions of the challenges around daily life in Vanuatau, such as dealing with the heat. I can relate to the following quote as we've also had small creatures find their way into our air conditioner, die and create a horrible stench.

Over the next few days, the weather had become unbearably sticky and humid, a sure precursor to a storm. There wasn't a cloud anywhere, and yet everything was damp and soppy. The heat and humidity were such that we even considered turning on the window unit air conditioner in our bedroom. This required considerable fortitude on our part. Since our arrival, three geckoes had somehow managed to dive deep within its bowels. I had disassembled as much of the unit as I dared and scraped out what I could of the lizards' carcasses. But much remained, slowly, ever so slowly, decomposing beside our bed.

You can find out more about Getting Stoned with the Savages on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

If you're participating in the challenge too, I'd love to hear what you've been reading. Even if you're not doing the challenge, let us know what books you've been enjoying lately.

COUNTRIES READ TO DATE: Algeria, Australia, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Djibouti, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Haiti, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Republic of Kiribati, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia,  Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, Thailand, United States, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

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10 August 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Photographers

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 - Whenever I try to wear high heels, like the lady in the top photo, I end up tripping at the most embarrassing moments. 

2 - For two people who rarely post photos of themselves on this blog, we sure do have lots of photos of other folks. I think the word you're looking for is hypocrisy. 

3 - Scott takes most of the photos on our blog. I just point at things I want him to take pictures of and he obliges.

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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08 August 2016

Cost Of Living Aboard Tickety Boo | June & July 2016

It’s time for our regular cost of living update, which I do every two months. We've been tracking how much it costs to live aboard our Moody 346 sailboat, S/V Tickety Boo, at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida, where we were initially laid up during last hurricane season and where I'm now living while Scott is working overseas. While Scott has been in Scotland, I've been staying on our boat and slowly ticking things off of our project list. So, our live aboard costs are pretty much just that - cost of my daily living aboard our boat and occasionally buying stuff for Tickety Boo to keep her happy.

You can find links to other cost updates from ourselves and others on this page, as well as on The Monkey's Fist. If you want to know how much we spent over the past two months, have a look below.

Cost of Living Aboard | June & July 2016

Overall, we spent $3,159.78 during June and July which is down a little over $500 from the previous two months.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of what we spent, here are a few things to note:

1 - All costs are in US dollars.

2 - Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:

(a) We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising and RV costs.
(b) We haven't included costs related to storing our Scamp travel trailer ($21 per month) because we track the cost of our RV and cruising adventures separately.
(c) We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka ACA/Obamacare), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition. After spending a pretty big chunk of change for health insurance during 2015, we were in a bit of a quandary about whether we should go ahead and get coverage for 2016 or take the risk and pay the tax penalty for being uninsured. In the end, after weighing up the potential tax penalty, possible tax credits and risk of being uninsured, we ended up getting insurance for 2016. If you want to know more about our health insurance options and quandary for 2016, check this post out.
3 - Scott has been in Scotland taking care of some work projects and tending to some other matters, so grocery and entertainment costs are less than they would be normally.

4 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax. Boo.

GROCERIES | Total = $410.33

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good.

One of the interesting things I bought during the past two months were some freeze dried bell peppers from Harmony House. We eat a lot of bell peppers in things like scrambled eggs, chili, spaghetti sauce etc. Finding fresh vegetables can be challenging in the Bahamas (we'll be heading back there next season), so I thought I would see if adding freeze dried vegies to our food stores might be worthwhile. I haven't tried them yet, but you can find a review of their soup mixes on the RV blog, Interstellar Orchard. If any of you have tried freeze dried food, I'd love to hear what you think.

PERSONAL & HOUSEHOLD | Total = $60.33

This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here - like bug spray.

ENTERTAINMENT | Total = $51.81

One of the great things about hanging out in Indiantown is that there really isn't all that much to spend your entertainment dollars on. It's a pretty small town and things are really quiet at the marina, so there's not a lot of temptation.

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat. We also track how much we spend on Amazon Prime (for streaming video), books, magazines, movies, colored pencils and coloring books etc. in this category, as well as the occasional lottery ticket.

My spending is down $87 from the previous two months, mainly because I haven't gone out to eat as much with friends.

COMMUNICATIONS | Total = $140.00

Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. I have a $60 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 6GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. While Scott is away, I've also added on a $10 monthly international call plan so that we can have our daily phone call.

BOAT FUEL | Total = Nil

Because our boat hasn't left the slip, we haven't needed to spend anything on diesel or gas.

LPG | Total = Nil

I've been primarily using our microwave, an electric burner and crock pot for cooking, so haven't needed to top up the LPG tanks. Electricity is included in the slip fee so it makes sense to use that for cooking.

MARINA COSTS | Total = $1,166.00

Keeping Tickety Boo in a slip is one of our biggest expenses. The monthly cost of a slip with electricity at Indiantown Marina for a 34.5' boat is $572.40. The guys at the marina will also come pump out our holding tank on demand - $5.30 for each visit.

BOAT STUFF | Total = $257.37

This category is for all the stuff we've been buying for the boat. We've got a long list of stuff we need to get for Tickety Boo - some upgrades, some maintenance related items, equipment etc. I'm trying to spread the costs out because I simply find it too painful to spend so much money all at once.

The major boat expenses over the past two months have been for supplies for a water filter and a multimeter. We also renewed our Coast Guard documentation ($26).

TRANSPORT | Total = $37.54

This category is for costs related to our vehicle, mostly for gas to keep it going and drive into the nearby "big city" of Stuart for errands. Gas is so cheap these days that I've really been able to keep these costs down. Beside filling up the tank with gas, I spent $9.96 on electrical cleaner during July to fix the headlight switch on our vehicle.

MEDICAL EXPENSES | Total = $401.14

This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance. I've been expecting some rather large medical bills to come due for the past several months, but it looks like insurance companies take their time processing claims, rejecting claims and dealing with appeals. I'm guessing this will be a painful update at some point.

OTHER | Total = $634.26

In this category, we break out how much we spend on clothes and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else - things like laundry ($3.25 for a wash and dry at Indiantown Marina).

I ended up going a teensy bit crazy during the Amazon Prime Day buying a few things that were on my list of stuff to get like a dry bag, batteries and a solar powered lamp. I also spent some money getting pictures framed to hang on the walls and make our boat a bit more homey, storage baskets for our aft cabin and materials for several sewing projects (lee cloths, harnesses, mosquito screens etc.)

Do you budget and/or track your expenses? If so, do you find it helps you manage your money better?

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05 August 2016

July In Numbers

Clockwise from left: (1) Perhaps the most important thing I did in July - register to vote in Florida; (2) My newfound appreciation for tools; (3) The latest creature to invade our marina - vegetation that's floated down the canal from Lake Okeechobee; (4) A pouch for my iPod made from scrap material; (5) A padded case for my laptop made from more scrap material leftover from throw pillows and slipcovers on our settees.

It’s time for my usual recap of the past month in numbers. It’s a very random assortment of things that I got up to in July.

  • 20 – Number of vegetarian days during July. I find that by keeping tack of my veggie days, I have a lot more of them.
  • 2 – Number of days I ate beef. After four months of not eating any red meat, I broke down in spectacular fashion with taco salad one night and steak on another. While the taco salad was amazing, the steak was so-so. I can probably easily go another four months without red meat. 
  • 29 – Number of days I went without any chocolaty treats. I know, I don’t believe me either. But, seriously it's true. I went on mini-chocolate cupcake eating binge for a couple of days, but then they weren't anymore left and the binge was sadly over.
  • $3.25 – How much it costs to do a wash and dry at our marina. Some larger boats have washers and dryers onboard. That wouldn’t be us. I’ve got a bucket and a plunger for when we’re out cruising, but happily use washers and dryers when they’re available on land.
  • 3 – The number of crafty and practical sewing projects I magicked up on my Sailrite sewing machine including a tool roll, a padded laptop case and an adorable little pouch for my iPod. iPods are tiny and can easily get lost and scratched up, so I keep it in it’s pouch when not in use. It makes me feel just a bit like a mama kangaroo, putting things in pouches to keep them safe.
  • Unknown – I’m not actually sure how many things I bought on Amazon Prime Day and I probably don’t want to know. In my defense, most of the items were practical bargains and on my “to buy someday list” – like a thermometer, a solar powered light, portable water-resistant speakers for my iPod, a dry bag and batteries. I also got some colored pencils for $9.99. Not a necessity, but oodles of fun. I did show some restraint and skipped the 36 roll pack of toilet paper which surely makes up for the pencils.
  • 24 – The number of wrenches we have. Ever since I did a bit of car repair, I seem to have a newfound fascination with tools. I find it disturbing. 
  • 11 – The number of books I read. The usual eclectic mix of thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi and non-fiction.
  • 30 – I met a woman, probably in her 80s, at the VA hospital the other day. Her son has been there for 20 years, and in other facilities for 10 years prior to that. He’s blind, can’t communicate and only has limited movement of one arm. His mom has been visiting him regularly for the past 30 years, talking to him and giving him hugs. What an amazing lady. If you ever think your life isn’t all that great, just keep in mind there’s probably somebody who has it a lot tougher.

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite blog posts during July:

Shopping Lists | What Do They Say about You?
Happy Birthday Mr. Blog!
Wordless Wednesday | Car Repair in Thailand

How was your July? What are you looking forward to in August?

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03 August 2016

Glitter, Stickers & Getting Older | IWSG

I'm excited to be co-hosting this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) day along with Tamara Narayan, Tonja at Kidbits, Lauren at Pensuasion, Stephen Tremp and Julie Flanders. The IWSG is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak.

I think our world could use a lot more places like this - places where we can safely share our concerns, doubts, fears and insecurities, whether about writing or anything else that we're passionate about, and get support and encouragement in return. When you find a place like the IWSG, it makes you want to keep coming back for more.

A new feature of IWSG is a monthly 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 was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

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


I was talking with a woman at our marina the other day and she told me she thought I was in my late twenties or early thirties. My first thought was suspicion - What does she want? Why is she buttering me up? Then I had a closer look at her and noticed she was squinting in the bright sun and her eyeglasses were all smudged with dirt. I realized that she couldn't see the lines on my face, gray hair on my head and the jowls that are starting to form, all of which clearly give away the fact that I {gasp} recently turned 50.

Some people find their passion for writing when they're young. Their first pieces of writing might have been written with colored pencils in little booklets made out of construction paper. And they've been writing ever since.

Me, not so much. I started blogging three years ago and decided to start writing seriously last year, when I was almost {gasp again} 50. So, my first piece of writing isn't a colorful homemade book covered in glitter and stickers that I poured my heart and soul into when I was a child and presented to my mom to read with a hopeful smile on my face.

Instead it's a rather dull looking Word document in my computer with the rather uninspiring working title of Draft #341, filed next to the naively and optimistically titled document, The Only Draft I'll Ever Need (which goes by its nickname, Draft #1) and sits next to The Draft To End All Drafts (which goes by its nickname, Draft #2) and their offspring, Drafts #3-340.

I've been working on my first murder mystery novel since November of last year, so it hasn't had a chance to get too dusty yet. But, enough is enough. I need to finish a decent draft of this so that I can print it out, apply some glitter and stickers and give a copy to my mom to read with a hopeful smile on my face before I turn {sigh} 51.

What do you want to accomplish before your next birthday?

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01 August 2016

Godzilla, Tiaras & #BlatantBrag

So, what made you want to read this blog post? Was it the promise of Godzilla wearing a sparkly tiara or were you wondering what #BlatantBrag was all about?

Let’s start with #BlatantBrag. Notice how I put a hash tag in front of it to seem like I’m young and hip? Everyone has their own way of coping with their midlife crisis. Hash tags are mine.

When it comes to bragging, there’s three kinds of people in this world:


These are the people who never, ever brag about their achievements. They’re self-effacing, turn bright red and change the subject if you dare to praise them for something they’ve accomplished. I admire these people. I strive to be like them. Sadly, I don’t always succeed at it.


People who #humblebrag are sneaky little creatures. They’ll say something self-deprecating or downplay their achievements all with the intent of making you actually notice how awesome they are. “Oh no, I dropped the keys to my new Porsche into the swimming pool at the country club. I’m such a klutz!” Yep, I’ll admit it. I can be a sneaky little creature at times. I’m guilty of the #humblebrag.


We're in the midst of a election cycle, so there's plenty of #blatantbrag being thrown around these days. Folks running for office are often quite skilled in the art of #blatantbrag. This is where you don’t give a hoot about what people think – you’re great, you’ve done great things and you’re not ashamed to admit it.

I never thought I had much in common with a political candidate, but turns out I’m guilty of the #blatantbrag too. Have you noticed how I’ve openly and shamelessly told you how awesome I am for fixing my car both here and on Facebook? I’m such a #blatantbragger that I even gave myself my own certificate.

Well, in my defense (which is just the type of thing a #blatantbragger says to keep on bragging for just a little bit longer), I was pretty darn proud of myself for stepping way outside of my comfort zone and tackling something I would never, ever have dreamed of doing if Scott was here.

Our dynamic, which I imagine others of my generation are familiar with, is that men fix things and women bake brownies to reward them for fixing things. Obviously, I’m greatly oversimplifying things to make a point. But, in general, I’m really much more comfortable letting Scott take the lead on mechanical, engineering, building, fixing type activities and will happily pass him tools and brownies as required.

With Scott away, when things break I have three choices:

(1) Ignore it.

(2) Pay someone else to fix it.

(3) Fix it myself.

While option #1 has its appeal, there are some things I just can’t ignore. Like leaks on my boat, my engine not working or my car breaking. Option #2 sounds great except for one tiny problem – we’re on a budget. So, that leaves me with option #3 – channel my inner Godzilla, slap on a sparkly tiara to remind myself of my #girlpower and fix things myself.

Usually, I procrastinate things as long as I can, but when my car broke down it was a matter of life and death. Maybe not life and death, but not having a car meant a long, hot walk was involved in order to get groceries. I hate getting sweaty, so I got on the internet and, in between cute cat videos on YouTube, I researched what was wrong with my car.

By the way, I have the best boat neighbors ever. If one of them hadn’t knocked on my boat one night to tell me one of my headlights was on, it would have drained the battery and left me rather confused the next morning. It was late at night, so (#blatantbrag alert) I popped the hood, disconnected the battery and saved the battery all by myself.

After many frustrating hours on the internet (the WiFi drops all the time here), I found electrical diagrams for our old 1995 Nissan Pathfinder and stared at them blankly. After many more frustrating hours on the internet researching how to read electrical diagrams, they finally started to make a little bit of sense.

Then, I discovered the joys of online forums and YouTube channels dedicated to car repair. There are some very enthusiastic people on these forums. Not sure I could muster up the same level of enthusiasm that they have, but I’m very thankful that they’re out there. What did we do before the internet?

Thanks to these enthusiastic folks, I figured that the problem was a short somewhere in the headlight switch which was causing the left headlight to stay on. {For those auto repair enthusiasts out there thinking to yourself, why didn’t she look at the relay, there isn’t a relay for the headlights in the Nissan Pathfinder. Strange, but true.}

Time to face the Fearsome Metal Machine (that’s what I affectionately call the Pathfinder) and dismantle it. A Fearsome Metal Machine can only be faced by a worthy adversary, like Godzilla. (I imagine someone has made a movie like this - Godzilla vs. the Fearsome Metal Machine). I whispered reassuring mantras to myself and willed myself into a Godzilla-like trance, “You are Godzilla. You are large and intimidating. The Fearsome Metal Machine will cower at the sight of you. Your thick, scaly skin will protect you from the Fearsome Metal Machine’s ray guns.” There was more along these lines running through my head, but you get the idea.

The first task (or Level 1) was to take the cover off of the steering column by removing four screws. Unlike the real Godzilla, my inner Godzilla has opposable thumbs so I was able to use a screwdriver for this task.

Did you ever notice reality never matches what you read on the internet? The internet guys clearly said remove the four screws. Turns out there were six screws, not four. What do I do? Remove all six? Randomly guess which are the four that need to be removed? Go back into my air conditioned boat and watch soothing cat videos? I decided to remove all six.

Here's another thing - did you ever notice that you never have the right tool for the job? Turns out screws #5 and #6 required a screwdriver with a long shaft to get to them. We have 13 screwdrivers (I know things like this now). None of them worked. Thanks goodness for my friend Bruce. Any tool you need, that’s the man to ask.

After removing all six screws, this is what I found. Scary, isn’t it? Level 2 unlocked. I claimed a sparkly tiara as my prize.

The next task was to was remove the headlight switch by removing yet more screws. Two screws later and I had released the headlight switch from captivity. By the way, it sounds simple when you sum it up in twelve words. It wasn’t. Trust me. I can see why the directions said that you needed a screwdriver and one to two beers to accomplish the task.

Then I had to disconnect the headlight switch from the pretty colored wires going up through the steering column. This took ages. It wouldn’t come off. I was afraid I was going to break it. I was out of beer and sweat was getting everywhere. What’s with the sweat? Godzilla is a reptile. Godzilla doesn’t sweat. Finally, Level 3 was unlocked. I claimed a cape worthy of Wonder Woman as my prize.

Next up – taking the switch out of the housing. The instructions were to use two flat head screwdrivers and pry it out. And drink two beers. Seriously, this guy was having a laugh. There is no possible way, Godzilla or not, to get the switch out of the housing using just two screwdrivers. I tried every way imaginable. I even put the end of one screwdriver in my mouth and jammed the other one against my stomach for leverage. All I ended up with was a disgusting taste in my mouth and bruises on my belly. I deserved those two beers.

I gave up at this point for a while.

Then I had a brainstorm worthy of my tiara and cape. The answer was hair barrettes. Yes, hair barrettes. #Girlpower to the rescue. I jammed tiny hair barrettes in the sides of the housing to keep the stupid plastic tabs from locking the housing in place and then pulled with all of my Godzilla strength until it slid out. Level 3 unlocked. I now had a shiny scepter in one hand and a cold beer in the other.

Oh goody. Time to remove more screws and reveal the inner mysteries of the switch and its magical contacts which make power flow to the headlights on demand. You can see where the switch is burned from when the electricity arced and allowed one of the headlights to stay on.

I cleaned the contacts with special electrical cleaner and q-tips. Easy peasy. Then, I realized that I needed apply some more dielectric grease on the contacts. I’ve got a lot of weird and wonderful potions on this boat, but no dielectric grease. So, back I went to ask Bruce to lend me some. I knew he’d have some. He has everything. I think we’re going to stalk them (I mean buddy boat with them) out on the water. They’re the boat you want to be next to when something on yours breaks.

After putting on the dielectric grease it was time to reassemble everything. I basically worked backwards, screwed everything back together and put the newly cleaned and greased up headlight switch back in the car. Then, I cleaned up down below on the boat. That’s when I found some extra screws. Darn. So, I took things back apart, put the screws in where they belong and told my inner Godzilla he could have the rest of the week off.

So, there you go – Godzilla, tiaras and #blatantbrag all woven into an odd little tale of amateur auto repair.

What are you proud of? What’s your biggest achievement? Go on, give us some #blatantbrag.

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