Sunday, 27 February 2011

Weekly Picture Project: Week 8 (H)

Once again, this week's topic was left open for us to choose. Earlier this evening I thought, "Oh crap! I've taken a lot of pictures this week, but I don't think any of them have to do with the letter H!"

As it turns out, though, when I looked through my pictures, I had way more H options than our standard 3 or 4 pictures per week. So, I'll upload my 4 official pictures, as well as a couple extra ones. Consider them the "Director's Cut."

Picture 1: I had taken this picture because "Handle" starts with H. But then it occurred to me: "Duh, it's even got the letter H in the picture. And a Hair scrunchy. And it's in a Hotel. Hjackpot!

Picture 2: Hangers in a Hotel.

Picture 3: Hawaii towel.

Picture 4: Happy. 

Here are the "Director's Cut" Pictures:
The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss. One of the books I read this week.

Hot: It's been pretty warm and dry, so I've had to put the sprinkler in parts of the yard to keep the grass from dying or going to weed.

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. Another free download, another book that happened to start with H, but which I didn't notice until later.

So, that's it for this week. Thanks for checking out the pictures, and have a great week!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Looking For Cheap Vacation

Budget travelers and not only they look always more often for cheap vacations. There are different reasons because this phenomena is so popular in the modern world. We work hard and want to have a good vacation, but we are conscious that there are many vendors that have excessive prices thought for unsuspecting tourists. And, from other side, it can happen that we do not inform us about the ways we have to behave in other countries and places we want to visit.

The most evident example from the life. If you go in a bar in a central street of a popular among the tourists town or in one that is near a very popular touristic destination, you can often pay what you order in that bar much more in confront to an other bar that is situating just some steps far from the main street.

Sometimes, I find advises about the airfares. You have to book your ticket choosing a little airport where there are not too many flights, they say. It can be right for some places. But using the air transportation in Italy, I noticed that the best prices I found, were always in the most big and hectic airports like Milan. Personally, I look in all the most important online agencies and carriers sites and choose the best for my intentions price among all them.

Sometimes, cheap means not "less paid". For example, my husband went in Argentina booking a flight for an incredible low price about half a year before the flight. In these 6 months, the company changed the time of departure and other similar things every week. Every time, we had to call their paid call center to confirm that he, my husband, wants to take this flight. Every call's cost was very high.

The other time, I bought an incredibly low cost ticket to fly in Russia about 2 month before the flight. I had an emergency and had to fly there in any case. The company suddenly transfered the flight from the airport near my house to an other, in North Italy just some days before the departure. All the "last minute" flights costed a fortune it that moment, and I had to accept the change of the airport. All the additional expenses raised the price to the business class sum.

That is why you have to read advises of those who just experienced the travel destination you choosed to avoid such bad experiences.

Lesley's Nature Watch - Love is in the Air...

...quite literally as I witnessed this week when a pair of Goldfinches flew vertically up from a gorse bush, beak to beak & breast to breast. This image was made more bizarre by the fact that one of the birds was holding a twig in his beak. I then noticed that Magpies, Crows & Rooks everywhere are flying around with twigs in their beaks.
I just had to go to Cap Frehel, one of my favorits 'birding' spots. Already the Guillemots have started to gather, the first Kittiwakes are mewing & the Shags are nesting...see photo. Brittany is the most southerly nesting place for Guillemots & Razorbills & also boasts France's largest nesting colony, at Sept Isles, of Gannets.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Sitzbook: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (This Time, NOT The Warrant Song)

A few days ago I finished Uncle Tom's Cabin and in the meantime I've actually made it through a whole other book, but I think I needed a few days to digest everything in UTC. The book was interesting, to say the least, although I didn't really realize how loaded it was with history, criticism, and controversy. I'm not referring to the actual text, but to everything else associated with it. My friend Marie pointed me to this page, which is pretty exhaustive and fascinating.

I don't intend to get into anything in this post except the actual plot of the book, since so much has already been said about it. 

My question: "Did I like the book?" 
My answer: "Yes." 

My other thoughts related to that answer:

-I had actually expected the character of Uncle Tom to be an antagonist, because of the connotations that the name carries today; instead, he just seemed to be overly passive and submissive. Certainly, that's gonna come with its own set of problems, but nevertheless, he seems to be just about the only character that I found to be likable, as well as at least halfway-conceived.

-Don't expect to understand why it's called Uncle Tom's Cabin until almost the very end. Even then, it doesn't really make sense. If anything, it ought to have been called "Uncle Tom's Shitty Journey Through Slavery in Various Unappealing-Sounding Places."

-I guess their whole story is more of a sub-plot, but how come Stowe seemed to forget about Eliza and George for about 4/5ths of the book?

-Don't get me started on Eva. And definitely not on Topsy. Not even gonna open those two cans of worms.

-Evidently, back in those days people said "ejaculations" instead of "exclamations," which could have led to confusion and humor in both the dining room and the bedroom.

-For a story that's nearly 160 years old, I have to admit that it's held up remarkably well. Its antiquity only adds to its interest, in my opinion. Plus, it was a free download through Amazon (more info here), so the price was definitely right!

If anyone else has read UTC, I'd be interested to hear what you thought of it. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Sitzbook: "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

I just finished this book yesterday, and I'm sure I'll have more comments to come in the future. But for now, I just wanted to mention this weird phenomenon: Does anyone else hear the song "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Warrant in their head every time they hear this book mentioned? And if you're in the bookstore and walk past Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls, does your mind hear the pounding guitar riff from the Metallica song of the same name?

In any case, now that I've finished the book, I may have some respite from continually playing this (admittedly great) song on repeat in my brain:

(Note: From what I can discern based on the lyrics, the video, and the book, this song has absolutely nothing in common with the book, besides a title.)

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Weekly Picture Project: Week 7 (G)

We tossed around a few ideas for our "G" topic this week, but I think the one that I liked the best turned out to be "Great." We had also mentioned "Grain" or "Grey Scale," and I think I managed to get a bit of those this week, too. I noticed that these shrunk-down small pictures are turning out kind of grainy and crappy, so if something looks interesting, you can click on the picture number or the actual picture to see a higher-quality photo. So, have a look:

Picture 1: A coffee table that Wilson made. We recently bought it from him and Lucy, so they came by one day and dropped it off. It's a truly great table! It was also great that I was able to use my new tripod to take this picture!

Picture 2: Another great thing: Many different, beautiful trees seem to be blossoming all over Costa Rica these days. I really like the pink and white ones, but I think these orange ones are my favorite.

Picture 3: Now, for a bit of greatness, as well as grey scale and grain. This is part of a statue mural at the entrance to Filadelfia, Guanacaste, in northwest Costa Rica. Apparently it's a famous archaeological town.

Picture 4: A lounge chair at the hotel where Angela and I stayed on Friday night. We decided to stay at the Best Western in Liberia, and it turned out to be quite nice. It was not really close to where my class was, but the price was really good, and it included breakfast and a lovely pool area. To me, that was simply Great.

So, that's it for this week. Let's see what we come up with for the letter "H"! Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

An A-Z of the Things I Love

As I mentioned the other day, Lucy's having an international picture competition. The topic is "An A-Z of the Things I Love." She actually just extended the deadline to Monday, but since I was just using my old pictures (which is allowed), I decided to put them up now, since I've already got them ready.

So, all of these are pictures that I took in the past. I wish I'd had more time this week to do an all-new A-Z, but I didn't. You may have seen some of these, or you may not have. Either way, I hope there's something you like!

A: Angela (Taken in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010)

B: Books in Berlin (Taken in Berlin --the real one-- in 2006)

C: Coffee (Taken in Salzburg, Austria in 2010)

D: Docks (Taken at Steinhuder Meer, Germany in 2010)

E: Eggs (Taken in Hannover, Germany in 2010... and almost used for the letter "X," since that's how my students pronounce the word "eggs.")

F: Fields (Taken in eastern Washington in 2005)

G: Guns N' Roses (Taken in Sintra, Portugal in 2010)

H: Hannover (Taken in Hannover, Germany in 2005)

I: Ice Cream (Taken at Steinhuder Meer, Germany in 2010)

J: Jumping (Taken in Berlin, Germany in 2010)

K: Kids Who Aren't Mine (Taken in Hannover, Germany in 2010)

L: Llamas (Taken near Humahuaca, Argentina in 2006)

M: My Mom, and My Mom's Mom (Taken in Littleton, Colorado in 2010. Originally, I had put up a picture of the Little Mermaid, since I thought I didn't have any pictures that I had taken of my mom recently, with the exception of one I took of her eating a D�ner Kebab in Switzerland in 2006. But then I remembered I had taken this picture!)

N: Nyhavn/New Harbor (Taken in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2005)

O: Old Folks Hanging Out (Taken in San Antonio, Argentina in 2006)

P: Paintings in Portugal (Taken in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010)

Q: Quixote (Taken in Madrid, Spain in 2010)

R: Regensburg (Taken in Regensburg, Germany in 2010)

S: Sweet Swedes (Taken in Regensburg, Germany in 2010)

T: Train Tunnels (Taken in Munich, Germany in 2010)

U: Urinals (Taken in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2005)

V: The Virgin Mary (Taken in Berlin, Costa Rica in 2007)

W: Windmills (Taken in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2005)

X: Xylophones (Taken in Liberia, Costa Rica in 2010)

Y: Yuan (Taken in Munich, Germany in 2010)

Z: Zocalo (Taken in the Zocalo --it's a word in English, too; I checked!-- in Mexico City in 2008)

Well, that's my A-Z. I tried to keep the descriptions short and sweet, but if you have any questions, feel free to mention them in the comments section. Thanks for reading and looking, and remember: it's not too late to get in your own A-Z of things you love!

Visit to Rennes in April

Our postponed visit to Rennes will take place on Tuesday April 12. There will be a guided tour in the morning and free time to enjoy the many shops, bars, churches, museums and interesting sights in the afternoon. We will be meeting at 10.30am near the cathedral. Cost 6�.
Further details will be provided nearer the time. If anyone wants hotel recommendations for going up the day before, please email Also let me know if you can offer a seat in your car or want a lift so we can try to car-share.
Rennes is a very vibrant, exciting place to visit!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Sitzbook: "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest"

This is my first official "Sitzbook" blog entry, besides the one where I introduced the project. My idea is to generally just talk about the books I'm reading and any thoughts related to them. I'd love to hear any comments or ideas you have.

Anyhow, I recently read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. It's a new little book, pretty obscure; maybe you've heard of it? Ha ha, just kidding. Everyone --and everyone's literate dogs-- has heard of and read this book, so I won't really get into it too much here. I did have two things I wanted to mention, though:

1. I think it's great that the people in the book drink so much coffee. There's nary a point in the novel where someone isn't making it, drinking it, or talking about making or drinking it later. Apparently Sweden is only the 6th biggest coffee-drinking country in the world, so maybe Larsson was trying to rally the troops. Evidently other readers and reviewers think the amount of coffee consumption in the novels is a bit absurd, but it's helping keep Costa Rica's economy afloat. So, coffee-cup bottoms up!

2. It would seem that I'm not the only person who noticed quite a bit of product names being mentioned in these novels (people talk about this phenomenon here, here, and here). In this trilogy, people don't use computers, they use Apple iBooks. They don't call someone on a cell phone, they call someone on an Ericsson or a Palm Tungsten. They don't drink mineral water, they drink Raml�sa. Maybe it's because I read the first book in the series in German and the second in Spanish, but I didn't really notice until the third (which I read in English) that these product mentions were so frequent. I don't think I'd necessarily go as far as to call it "product placement," though. In fact, I can almost imagine that when Larsson dropped these names, he was sort of doing it semi-ironically, since so much of his writing seemed to contain a critique of modern society. Sometimes that criticism was outright, and other times it seemed more subtle. 
Then again, I suppose he could have just been really into 7-11, IKEA, and Billy's Pan Pizza. But since he died before the novels were published, I guess we'll never know.

In any case, if you've read these books, did you notice the coffee addicts or the name-brand products? If so, what did you think of them? Feel free to chime in below in the comments section.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Photo Contest!

If you've been following this blog even slightly, you may get the impression that I like recurring, long-term projects. That impression is completely true! I have my Pictures of the Day, my Weekly Photo Project, Sitzbook, Blogtoberfest, and other projects and schemes that even I've probably forgotten about.

So, I wanted to share Lucy's idea for an international picture competition! You can find the guidelines here. Basically, it's called "An A-Z of Things I Love," and it's open to anyone who's interested. You need to find pictures that YOU have taken (in other words, older pics from your collection are OK) or will take before the competition ends, and you should have one picture for each letter.

The deadline is February 19th, so there are only a few days left. I'll be participating, and I hope that some of you will, too! If you do, post a link in the comments section here so others can see your entries. Good luck!

Not a washout!

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Chris and Barry on the remarkable, unprecedented achievement of arriving FIRST at the meeting point - sorry, on their 42nd wedding anniversary today. Felicitations!!!
We had a very pleasant walk in attractive scenery, mostly in good weather, including spring sunshine, tempered only by a burst of rain after the turning point where we crossed the lock over the canal. Best behaved dog prize goes to Harry ;-) Best behaved photographer - definitely Dave (thanks, mate).

The Last Trip

Last weekend, one of our favorite groups of fishermen arrived to try for some trout. Some of these fellows have been coming up for more years than I have been here, so they know the lodge, the family, and more importantly, the lake, really, really well. I know that I've shared a tale or two about them on these pages. When I think of trout season, I often think of these guys.

Word over the weekend was that this was the last time one of the guys would be up. Wow, that was tough to hear. Fortunately, it wasn't that he is too ill to come--he's quite healthy. Rather, it just isn't so easy to do this anymore. He's getting on up in years, so mobility is more challenging, and staying warm in the cold weather presents itself, too. Even at my "tender age", I notice these things, albeit on a whole different scale. But he wanted to do a last trip, and so they came and fished, and with the aid of trucks and snowmobiles and space heaters, they made it a comfortable expedition.

That thought of a last trip stayed with me throughout the day. I contemplated it more as I lay in bed that night. Recognizing something as important as "the last time" is hard for me to do. I remembered when our oldest son Robert was getting ready to leave home and move to Alaska. It struck me that because we had not taken a family vacation that year, our last trip together had already occurred, and I didn't even know it at the time. It made me sad to think about it. But would I have done anything differently, had I known? Maybe not.

I think the tough part is that I would be attempting to get every last bit of enjoyment and importance out of each moment. And I would be sad at the same time, so that might actually interfere with the fun of it all. It's probably better for me to be clueless, in these cases. It's kind of the same way with good-byes for me. I prefer to say good-bye to someone when they leave with the hope that I will someday see them again. The nature of this lifestyle and business we have is that we do see people come and go all of the time. Of course it is impossible to expect that we will see them all again, but we've been blessed with many return customers and guests who have become good friends. I love the opportunity to check in with them each year, to have them back around my table so to speak. I guess I'll just forever be an optimist that can't say a final good-bye.

One thing I do know is that when a certain west wind starts to blow on Gunflint Lake, and the trout fishermen are waiting to head out, I'll be thinking of Wes. That's his kind of wind.

Everybody Loves Dubrovnik

This port in Croatia that visit maybe all the cruise liners and not so big ships, too, is known -and I read about it many times- as the most beautiful town in Europe. It's possible not only come for one day for a short shore excursion, there are many hotels and resorts here. My friends that stopped in this town for a day during their vacation  on board of their own car, told me, there were even wild roebucks that were not afraid of them and neared them so, that they could make photos.

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As we can see on this photo, the place has interesting history, too. There was a Roman settling and a Slavic settling from both sides of a little river here. With time, the persons conjuncted their towns, burried the river that is the main street today.

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Who knows why we are fashinated by the towns situated in similar places?What is so attractive to make us feel we are in a kind of Paradise? Colors? Our love to stay near water?

By the way, the name Dubrovnik comes from the groves that grew here. As I see on the photos, there are not those groves more. I would plant them...

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Monday, 14 February 2011

Something New: Sitzbook

As you may know, I like to read. I also like to write and take pictures. In an effort to combine these three things, I've started "Sitzbook." If you look on the left and scroll down a bit, you'll see a slideshow and a list of books. The slideshow is also the same as the one in this post, but I'll be adding more pictures and books in the future.

In any case, I usually try to read a book every two weeks or so, but now that I've gotten a Kindle --great for avoiding Costa Rican book mold, by the way!-- I'm trying to read a book a week. I'll try to comment on some of them and do some mini-reviews along the way. It's mainly just something for me, but if I put it on the blog, maybe some of you might be interested or have some comments. In any case, below is the slideshow so far. I'm currently on book seven of the year 2011, Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I had been meaning to read it for some time now, but I was also motivated by the fact that it was free through Amazon's Kindle program (and remember, you don't need the actual reader; you can download the program for your computer for free!).

So, here's what I've been reading this year:

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Weekly Picture Project: Week 6 (F)

For this week's Picture Project, we had quite a few ideas for possible topics, so I think we each decided to get what we could. Some of the big ideas were "filter," "flash," and "f-stops." However, I don't have filters or a flash for my camera, and after two weeks of exposure and depth of field, I was about f-stopped out. We also mentioned "food" and "fun." So, I just figured I'd get what I could:

Here's my picture for "food." We had some friends over in the afternoon, and I made some pizzas. I took this picture when I was preparing the sauce.

Here's one for "fun": Angela sitting in front of a giant bull statue (next to a giant monkey statue that made howling sounds). They're outside a BBQ restaurant on the highway back from Guanacaste.

And as for "filter," I don't have a filter, but I forgot that I can just use sunglasses to filter light. So the picture above is normal...

...this one is taken with Angela's pink sunglasses in front of the camera lens...

...and for this picture I put my own (black) sunglasses in front of the lens. Not the most amazing filter, but it'll do in a pinch, I guess.

So, thanks for checking these out. Have a great day!