Olympics Sparks Interest in Curling

On podcasts and in conversations with colleagues, everyone is fascinated with curling during this Olympics. I love being able to say, “I tried it.” Quickly I’m peppered with questions about the rules. I try to get by with saying it’s a lot like Bocce.  Here is my post from my Otago Rail Trail adventure in New Zealand. But first watch this 2 minute video from and see how much curling is not like Bocce.

Indoor Curling Rink in Naseby

Indoor Curling Rink in Naseby

Curling is the winter olympic sport that inspires both fascination and ridicule. Naseby in Central Otago boasts the only Olympic standard indoor curling rink in the southern hemisphere.

Why you may ask? Because Central Otago was settled by Scottish immigrants in the 1840s and they brought their curling stones and love of the sport with them. Most winters the lakes freeze over sufficient to send out the call and assemble teams for a Bonspiel.

The rink provides these rubber covers for your shoes to enable you to walk safely on the ice. No special equipment needed. Dress warmly!

The rink provides these rubber covers for your shoes to enable you to walk safely on the ice. No special equipment needed. Dress warmly!

If you book a tour with Off the Rails, Nick ensures that you enjoy an evening lesson and curling session. If you are unassociated with a tour you may book your own session.

The rules of the game are similar to bowls, kube, or bocce ball. You can throw the stone with your arm or you can push it with a stick. Your teammates can use the broom to sweep the ice and encourage your stone to reach the target. Your opponents can use the broom to sweep the ice and keep the stone moving past the target. I joined some other visitors for a lot of practice and a lot of fun.

If your back is stiff or sore, use the stick to push the stone.

If your back is stiff or sore, use the stick to push the stone.

When a Pencil Becomes a Destination

IMG_3707I love using pencils of all kinds. Pencils graded and numbered for drawing. Did you know that Henry David Thoreau created our numbering system for hardness/softness (i.e. light/dark)?  Mechanical pencils for notes at meetings. The classic No. 2 yellow pencil for nostalgia. Finding a pencil sharpener these days is as hard as finding a phone booth. But they make all these cool small sharpeners that fit in your pocket. The eraser on the end never seems to last as long as the lead. Maybe I make more mistakes than most, but it gives me an excuse to buy separate erasers.

So it may not surprise you that when I was in New York City I twisted my cousin’s arm to go with me to CW Pencil Enterprise in Chinatown. It was also meant to be a lesson in using the subway. She uses an app to find the best routes and honestly it was like watching someone who is really good at using Word or Excel show you a shortcut. It all happened so fast that I didn’t learn much except the subway seems well used and looks antique.

IMG_3709I digress. Pencils! So many in one place. A store dedicated to the humble pencil. It is a delight and seems like an “only in New York City” kind of thing. I could have fondled the pencils all afternoon. Alas, we were also going to a Broadway performance later. So I bought a lot of pencils, stickers, journals and children’s books. Oh and some erasers. The whole experience made me happy!

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Do you know what also made me happy? This video that my bff Harriet shared on Facebook. If it doesn’t make you smile then maybe you need to spend some time getting reacquainted with the humble yet mighty pencil.

Perfect Day in Central Park

Some people would say Central Park is not at its best in January. The greatness of Central Park is that it is terrific year round.

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When the tree limbs are bare and the sun is working hard to shine, you notice the statues more, and without the quacking ducks and geese you hear the horses hooves on the pavement as they pull the carriage by.

My mom and I just enjoyed a weekend in New York City. She wanted to spend time in Central Park. She is 82 years strong, although her knees give out after a third of a mile. So we walked from our hotel to Rockefeller Plaza to watch the ice skaters, then called Lyft.  Our driver dropped us right at Tavern on the Green where I made a reservation a week ago on Open Table.

We slept in because for the first time in I don’t know how long, neither of us had pets to wake us up. And then I walked around the corner to Essa Bagel to get bagels. So it hadn’t been long since breakfast. Nonetheless at 1:30 p.m. we happily dove into cobb salad (me) and crab cocktail (Mom).

 

I expected something much more humble because it had “tavern” in the name. Wow. It is really beautiful and the service is great and the food is great. And it only has 2 $$ on Open Table, which in New York City means entrees are in the $20-30 range. It was so worth it. Even my mom, who has been on Weight Watchers her whole life, said we should splurge on the apple crisp a la mode. The ice cream was incredibly rich and delicious.

When we were done we felt like walking. We set off for the lake to see where Stuart Little sailed his boat. It was iced over and quiet except for the high school kids living out their Glee fantasies. We sat on a bench unraveling a ball of yarn and watching people and dogs.

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We continued but it was very cold, thankfully without wind, so we sat on a few more benches. I realized that Mom needed to warm up. Previously I had researched a few yarn shops. It made sense to head to the closest one where she could sit and get warm and I could call Lyft.

We made it to Strings at 144 E. 74th Street. It would be a super store if the salespeople were friendly. Instead I had a sullen woman act as though my desire to buy yarn and patterns was the biggest imposition. Plus Mom had to walk up a flight of stairs and then back down. You also have to ring a buzzer to get into the stairs. It’s all kind of Upper East Side snooty. I did buy yarn though because they had some yarn I had never seen before.

We rode back to the hotel and Mom rested so we’d be ready for our musical later in the evening. I was worried that she was disappointed with how little we walked in the Park. She was thrilled. She estimated that we walked miles so I’m glad we didn’t have a fitbit to contradict her. I enjoyed our day and the cold didn’t bother us much with an extra shawl for warmth and her special scarf hat and long underwear.

Marching and Penguins

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Today was the Women’s March. Around the world men, women and children gathered to march for women’s rights. Oh and dogs came too. I found the excitement of being with people who all held out hope for better days energizing. Last year I was in Washington, DC and this year I marched in my hometown Sacramento. Sacramento has the advantage of not having so many people that you cannot move like last year on the Capitol Mall.

As always the signs were creative and sometimes outrageous. We walked to the state Capitol where there was a rally. I had loaded my bike Gidget with flowers to take to the Women’s Empowerment booth. The best part of marching in my hometown was seeing so many people I know: Al, Patricia, Chantay and others.

Today is also Penguin Awareness Day. They don’t usually overlap like this. Along with my Auntie J’s birthday! Now I am going to go on YouTube and look for penguin videos.

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Penguins at the Boston aquarium

Observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day

I have observed MLK Jr holiday in different ways over the years. I’ve marched, read essays by MLK, and volunteered locally. Today, I watched as the Sacramento Black Lives Matter marched up J Street, I thought about my intention to visit Birmingham, Alabama this year. I need to wait until after April so I can experience the National Memorial for Peace and Justice also known as the national lynching memorial. I learned about it from a TED talk by Michael Murphy.

After watching this, are you interested in going too?

This morning I was reading Marcus J. Borg’s Heart of Christianity. Coincidentally he was writing about justice. Something to meditate on today.

“…a common misunderstanding of “God’s justice.” Theologically, we have often seen its opposite as “God’s mercy.” “God’s justice” is understood as God’s deserved punishment for us for our sins, “God’s mercy” as God’s loving forgiveness of us in spite of our guilt. Given this choice, we would all prefer God’s mercy and hope to escape God’s justice. But seeing the opposite of justice as mercy distorts what the Bible means by justice. Most often in the Bible, the opposite of God’s justice is not God’s mercy, but human injustice. The issue is the shape of our life together as societies, not whether the mercy of God will supercede the justice of God in the final judgment.”

P.S. If you have young people in your life, consider sharing Angie Thomas’ novel, The Hate U Give.

 

Where are you going in 2018?

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All of my travel magazines have lists of the best places to see in 2018. Some of the places on their list are on mine also, making me rethink my list. (Will it be too crowded?) I don’t actually think the travel magazines has as much influence as they want their advertisers to think they do. Travel is an investment and most people have many reasons for choosing the places they go. If you are like me, these articles sometimes help with information on a location I already plan to go. They have never been the spark for wanting to go in the first place. Have you had a different experience? Did an article inspire you to go somewhere you never thought of before?

Actually, I just experienced something similar with a story on National Public Radio. I’ve never been that keen to go to Puerto Rico. Then I heard this story about one of the world’s best bioluminescent bays getting its glow back after Hurricane Maria. Suddenly I wanted to go. Plus it would have the added bonus of helping the economy.  So Vieques, Puerto Rico is on my 2018 list of possibilities.

This year I was able to go to a few places that have been on my list for years, such as Denmark and Sweden. In 2018 I hope to finally visit Detroit, Michigan. Some friends are interested in meeting up there. We have another friend who grew up there so if she can’t meet us we know we’ll get some good recommendations from her. She still visits often. I realize that going to visit friends is a huge motivational factor in my travel wish list.

I’m hankering to get back to Belfast, Northern Ireland after a decade away. And to New Zealand after just a year away. I already have my tickets for another trip to New York City with my mom for Broadway plays and the New York Times Travel Show.

Where are you going in 2018 and why? Where are you dreaming about as close out 2017?

I have been away from my blogs for a couple of months. I bought a house and moved. I traveled and had a lot of work on my plate. I also just needed to gain some perspective on blogging. Why do I do it? Shall I continue to do it?

Then I read something my daughter wrote to me in a card about how I observed more closely the beauty in the world and shared it in my blog. She appreciates that and so do I. The process of writing about the encounters with wonderful generous people, or special places does help me look at the world more generously, more kindly.

Finally, I read a post on one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I was reminded of all the good things about blogging. Including big ideas like freedom of expression and creativity. The Smitten Kitchen inspires ME to cook so a blog can clearly be powerful.

I hope you have wonderful lists of places and travel ideas where you may go next and heaps of photos from the places you already been. Happy New Year.

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My reason for staying home more…

 

Monarch Butterflies Find Sanctuary

IMG_2915You may know that the Monarch Butterfly migrates thousands of miles in it’s life cycle. The caterpillar needs milkweed for food, the adult needs groves of pine, eucalyptus and cypress for overwintering. Their habitats have been reduced, chemicals in our environment threaten them, and their numbers have greatly diminished across the USA.

IMG_2916For several decades one town, Pacific Grove, California, has taken special pride in their protected Butterfly Sanctuary and the thousands of Monarch butterflies that arrive from October to stay until January or February. The peak time to see them–especially in clusters of a thousand or so–is around US Thanksgiving.

IMG_2922The sanctuary is an easy walk from the main street in Pacific Grove (Lighthouse Avenue). There is parking and it is wheelchair accessible. Although there is an incline from one end to the other. There are fun activities for children and plenty of benches for all ages. And there is no charge for entrance.

IMG_2921We took a picnic lunch and sat among the trees watching the butterflies dance high in the air among the tops of the trees. Occasionally one would drop down closer to us and alight on a branch and then we could try for a photo. It would have been more dramatic if we’d been able to see the clusters, but this was also relaxing and fun. We read the well designed signs to learn more about the butterflies and gained a new appreciation for these beautiful insects.

Pacific Grove is on the Monterey Peninsula and an easy activity to plan as part of your next visit. It is walking distance from Asilomar and just off 17 Mile Drive near the entrance to Pebble Beach.