You Can’t Expect the Unexpected

“Expect the unexpected.”
Can someone please explain to me how this phrase makes any sense? FullSizeRender-4By definition, the unexpected cannot be expected. Or it wouldn’t be unexpected, would it?

The Urban Dictionary is even more virulent with its definition of the nonsensical phrase. Click through if you care to read their opinion.

This unexpected/expected concept has been on my mind because the past week has been filled with unexpected developments.

My darling cat, Rosa, started doing this weird winking thing with one eye, which meant an unexpected visit to the vet. A half hour later and $118 poorer, I learned she had Pink Eye. (She’s fine now as you can see — doesn’t even fret when I put the eye drops in.)


The next morning, my tooth implant popped out when I was flossing, providing the unexpected opportunity to visit my dentist. I won’t share a picture of that since I look like a crone without the implant.

Darling Daughter was to sign her first lease on Saturday and unexpectedly felt the need of motherly support. This meant an unexpected (but welcome) trip to Delaware (OH), which proved fortuitous because my brother unexpectedly ended up in a Columbus hospital with an infection in his knee.

Since I was already in the area, it was easy to run in and see him. Several days and a surgery later, he’s home with a PIC line and more than a month of antibiotics and rehab ahead of him. FullSizeRender-3

Then, last night — shortly after I’d seen a neighbor’s cat stalking around our property — a nuthatch crashed into the glass door in our dining room. We live in the woods, so this occasionally happens. Birds generally give a shake of the head and fly off.

But Nuthatch just lay there, looking stunned.

Fearful of the feline predator, I grabbed a towel and picked up the bird, setting him on the railing for a running (flying?) start back into the air. But when Nuthatch tried to fly, he kind of flopped over sideways, landing first on the deck and then on the grass below.IMG_0526

In another case of fortunate timing, earlier that day, my friend Carole had told me about her grandchildren taking an injured bird to the Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center at Penintentiary Glen.

So I knew just who to call. Following Carole’s directions on handling the injured creature, I put Nuthatch in a box with air holes and left him in a quiet place. (Instructions are also on the website above.)

When the poor bird’s flying skills had not improved by this morning, I took an unexpected journey to Kirtland to take him to the Wildlife Center.

It was a beautiful drive, the people were kind, and the visitor and wildlife centers lovely. With luck, Nuthatch will recover from his concussion, or at very least, he won’t be a cat’s dinner.
Rosa’s eye is no longer pink.
My tooth is back in my head.
Darling Daughter’s lease is signed, and we had a pleasant afternoon together, ending with a visit with my brother.

I am a planner and a to-do lister by nature. If I had been able to expect these unexpected events, I would have scheduled them in my life as I do most things, and been lulled into a greater and even more false sense of control.  But the simple truth is we cannot plan for every eventuality. It’s foolish to try.

I know this, yet the unexpected sometimes makes me cranky. <Insert Darling Daughter’s sarcastic comment here. “Ya’ think?” or something similar will cover it.>

A week filled with the unexpected reminded me to quit being so rigid.

“Expect the unexpected.”

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Travel Magic in Chincoteague

Travel Magic — Magic happens when you travel.

“I’ll go if you get me across the bridge.” That’s what T said when asked if she’d do a Road Scholar bike trip with me on Chincoteague Island.

I don’t much care for bridges either, but if that’s what stood — or possibly swayed — between me and a bike ride that promised a seafood feast the first night, well, let’s just say I’d go a long way for fresh crab.

Even across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

It wasn’t until after we’d registered that T mentioned the Mosquitos. Initially, I capitalized the word by accident, but honestly, the Mosquitos on Chincoteague deserve the attention of a proper noun. In fact, the word should be boldface.

Mosquitos love me, even when I wear insect repellent. I think they consider it a condiment.

I came home with more than twenty-five bites.

I don’t think T got any.

Anyway, I got us across the bridge, though we spent the whole seventeen miles telling each other how not bad it was.

“This isn’t so bad,” I said, eyes glued to the car in front of me.

“No,” T responded. “It’s okay.”

“We’re okay.”

“Yeah. We’re fine.”

“Fine,” I echoed. “We’re fine.”

The conversation continued in this vein until we reached the other side.

“That wasn’t so bad,” T said as we exited.

“Nope,” I agreed. “It was okay.”

I also got us back to the mainland at the end of the trip, but that time our discussion was a muttered litany.

“We’re okay-we’re okay-we’re okay-we’re okay.”

I think the return side of the bridge is higher.
Unsurprisingly, neither of us took pictures of its span so we may never know.

But the seafood feast was worth it — a long table covered with newspaper, steamed crab and shrimp, potatoes, and corn on the cob, with pots of melted butter on the side. The only utensils? Our fingers, a mallet and a pick.

It was magical. In fact, I may never be able to eat crab again (unless I go back to Chincoteague). It was that fresh.

Usually travel magic happens once or twice during a journey, if you’re lucky. You look down from a plane just in time to spot Crater National Park. Perhaps wander into a restaurant because it looks interesting, and there’s a steel drum band playing. Show up at the Globe Theater hoping for a tour, only to discover they aren’t running because of the performance. Which starts in five minutes with “groundling” (standing) tickets available for only five pounds. So you end up seeing a Shakespeare play from where other peasants actually viewed his productions during his lifetime.

But the whole Chicoteague trip was magical.
Beautiful scenery. Great weather on the days we rode. Friendly people.
I think it’s best to let the pictures tell the story.

IMG_0232Answering the burning question: “What do librarians do on holiday?”

Chincoteague Library was all a small, island library should be,
including the statue of Misty (as in Misty of Chincoteague).


The beach at Assateague Island was nearly deserted the day we arrived, so it was just us and the waves.

We drove down early and stayed the nights before and after the tour at the delightful and charming Sea Shell Motel (family run for over forty years!).
This gave us extra time to explore the island (and its library). The last night, our neighbors were a couple of hard-working, southern boys who addressed us as “Ma’am,” and asked if we knew where there was a laundry. I took a photo of their workboots outside the door because I liked the the juxtaposition of them and the beer can. I also liked the bricks chosen for the patio outside our room. Look closely, and you’ll see the leaf imprints.IMG_0264

The tacos at Pico Taqueria were as delicious as they look.

IMG_0201This pot was outside a shop. Its sign read “Please do not disturb. Nesting duck.” IMG_0207
It seemed there were roses everywhere.

Also sea and marsh birds of endless variety.
The picture on the right was taken through the windshield because I didn’t want to get out of the car. For one thing, I’d scare the bird, and for another, I’d immediately become mosquito bait.

The first stop on our bike ride was the oldest house on the island. It still has the mortar it was built with, though the house was moved from its original location. Someone in the family was probably a sailor because there were carvings of ships in several places.
Here’s the back door view from the home’s new spot.IMG_0226

The second day, we met Randy, a waterman whose spent his life making a living from the sea. Here he demonstrates how to shuck an oyster. Several of our group indulged.
I wasn’t one of them.
When I posted this on Facebook, my phone tried to correct the caption.
It took “Shuck ’em, suck ’em, eat ’em raw,” and changed every”’em” to “me” to create an X-rated version of my statement.  Fortunately, I caught the error before posting. IMG_0241I saw this along the road one day.
Other, less lucky riders including T, saw a truck full of dead chickens.
(There are many factory chicken farms in the area, and after hearing the pathetic sounds emanating from the buildings, I’ll never buy another Tyson or Perdue chicken.)

But Chincoteague is a magical place, despite its mosquitos. I’m so glad we went.FullSizeRender_1

“Suffering makes you deep. Travel makes you broad. In case I get my pick, I’d rather travel.”
— Judith Viorst

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How to Create a Legacy

How do you create a legacy? If you’re a philanthropic billionaire, you might donate money to a school or a hospital or a children’s home in the hope they’ll name it after you. If you’re an earthbound saint like Mother Theresa, you give up your worldly goods and spend your time ministering to the poor.

And if you’re my friend Pat, you create a legacy by being who you are and sharing your gift for quilting by making them for others. Pat has created quilts for new babies, weddings, the Guthrie Center (she’s a huge Arlo fan), and for charity auctions including Relay for Life and the Ovarian Quilt Project. She even made one for me, which I wrote about last April, though I’m still not sure what I did to deserve it.

Friendship Quilt

Friendship Quilt

However, a big part of Pat’s legacy is the way she’s dealt with ovarian cancer — continuing to live her life with laughter and fun, through its trials and pain, exhibiting more strength and grace than most of us could muster.

Now, she’s receiving hospice care, which you already know if you read either of my blogs. What you don’t know is how the quilting community has rallied round to make sure Pat’s legacy continues.

First, two  women in her quilting guild and another friend offered to help finish the quilts Pat still had in progress. Then, the rest of the guild volunteered to take charge of the fabric in Pat’s sewing room — a huge task since there’s enough to open a small quilt shop. The group plans to use the fabric to make quilts to donate to charities in Pat’s name.

I have to pause to compose myself whenever I tell people this because it always makes me cry.

<deep breath>

But Pat’s legacy is bigger than that. Like me, she started following “Tall Tales from Chiconia,” the blog of a fellow cancer survivor and quilter who lives in Australia. This blogger was organizing a quilting event called Foot²Freestyle, where 12 members from around the world (USA, UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, and Australia) were assigned a month to receive three blocks from each other member and make three of their own to compose into a quilt. The blocks are 12″ square (the “Foot²”) and could be made in any design the quilter chooses (the “Freestyle”). The recipient could choose three colors for her quilt.

Pat was to be “Miss May,” and her colors included teal, which is associated with ovarian cancer support. But things changed.

<deep breath>

The group responded by bumping her up. Not only are they making the quilt for Pat, who will donate it to the quilt project, they somehow through the magic of computers, created a virtual quilt for her, in case it isn’t done in time. (There’s an awful lot of mailing involved with quilt squares coming from three continents.) Here it is. Gorgeous, don’t you think?pats-virtual-quilt

There’s more. Kate, author of “Tall Tales of Chiconia,” has asked her fellow bloggers to share this story, along with information about the symptoms of that sneaky bastard ovarian cancer and a link to their country’s national ovarian cancer support organization. In the US, that organization is the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. 

The symptoms, alas, are equally vague no matter where you live. As Kate put it:

“We urge you to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of ovarian cancer — symptoms which are so common and so ephemeral that many don’t consider them symptoms at all. For this reason, ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed in its early stages, often leading to a poor prognosis. Some of you reading this are men, in which case, please pass the information to your mothers, wives, sisters or daughters. It’s important.”

Here are the symptoms, quoted directly from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance website: “Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Several studies show that even early stage ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms.

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

See your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of one month and the symptoms are new or unusual for you.

Kate has also offered to make a quilt for the Australian Ovarian Cancer organization and invited her fellow bloggers to either join her or make a similar offer to the organization where they live.

And now, I have a favor to ask. To help spread Pat’s legacy, I hope you will please share this post, or at least the symptoms and a link to the Ovarian Cancer Alliance.

Because we all have Pats in our lives.

<deep breath>

And it’s very hard to lose them.

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Cancer Lesson #77: It’s Not Always All About Me

Source: Cancer Lesson #77: It’s Not Always All About Me

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Taking Stock — Ends and New Beginnings

About six months ago, I realized I was done with writing romance, a conclusion that may or may not prove final. The joy was gone, and all I could see was how little I seemed to have accomplished in the more than seven years since I’d begun to seriously pursue a writing career.

It wasn’t the rejections or the critical evaluations — I understand no one can please everyone. And it wasn’t the amount of effort it took to produce the books I completed.

But we are granted just so many minutes in life, and we must choose how to use them. If we are spending much of our time pursuing an activity that brings us little satisfaction, it’s time to consider whether that activity is still worth our time.

I looked at the time I spent writing and decided the answer was no.

Sure, I could have stuck it out, become the poster child of “Look how many times she was rejected before finally getting published,” but frankly, I have only so many years left, and wasn’t sure I wanted to spend them querying and waiting for replies.

So I stopped.

Does this mean I’ll never write again? Probably not.

Does it mean I plan to sever all ties to the romance writing/reading community? I couldn’t. I have made too many good friends there and will always enjoy a well-written romance.

I’m not sure where I go from here. Perhaps I’ll finally make good on my threat to self-publish Keeping A-Breast: Cancer Lessons, based on my other blog (which I have also been shamefully ignoring).

It’s time, I think.

Also, I’m now an intern at Entangled Publishing, reading and evaluating submissions. (Yes, it is a bit unusual to be an intern again at 54, but I know the experience will be both valuable and interesting.)

Soon there will be more changes. Darling Daughter graduates from college in May, and plans to take a gap year to work (and travel, if she can swing it) before pursuing her MLIS. At the same time, The Engineer’s job seems to be entering a new — and not necessarily welcome — phase involving more travel.

After a recent discussion with a counselor at the Ohio Publice Employee Retirement System,  I may choose to end my long and varied career in libraries sooner rather than expected, opening the door to even more possibilities.

Thus, as this year ends and I look forward to 2016, I know our lives may be quite different a year from now.

I hope you’ll stick around to find out.






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Time to Spare, Go by Air

Travelling in a small plane is sometimes an adventure, mainly because weather plays such a large role in both timing of a trip and whether you can fly at all.

Last weekend, we planned to fly to Montgomery, New York and back on Saturday. Unfortunately, a storm front was dithering its way in from the west.

Would we be able to fly? If so, when? The Engineer checked radar and weather repeatedly throughout the week, finally making the call Friday afternoon.

We’d leave that evening.

I arrived home from a bike ride to find him packed, ready to leave to pre-flight the plane while I showered and packed.

Within an hour we were eastbound. Within two, the rolling forests of Pennsylvania spread before us like a rumpled carpet.Over Pennsylvania

This might be a good place to explain why we were flying to Montgomery, a place neither of us had ever been or heard of before planning this trip.

You see, though we bought our plane from a dealer in New Jersey, it was previously  based in Maine, where a guy named Bob happened to see it. Bob, a model plane builder, wanted to build a Cessna 182, so he snapped a few photos. When he began working on his plane few years later, he looked up our plane’s tail number on the FAA website and sent The Engineer a letter asking whether we’d mind our tail number and paint scheme on being used on the model.

We were happy to agree, enjoying the idea of a little version of our plane flying around New England, and Bob kept in touch, sending occasional updates on his progress.

Fast forward to earlier this year when Bob wrote to say he was getting out of the model hobby. Did we want to buy the little Cessna, a plane we already affectionately referred to as “Mini-me”?

We decided to meet in Montgomery, a three-hour flight for us and a three-hour drive from Bob’s home in Connecticut.

With our usual impeccable timing, we managed to arrive the night before “General Montgomery Day,” an affair that appeared to be the Montgomery event of the year. Within five minutes of landing, the airport manager warned us the parade was staged from the airport, and the roads would be blocked off until noon.

Not a problem. Bob and his wife were meeting us at noon, so that would work just fine.

The same manager helped us snag the last hotel room at the Holiday Inn, a hotel that, as it turns out, did not have a shuttle as he previously believed.

What the hotel did have was an extremely kind receptionist who came to pick us up in her car, though she made a point of telling us there was a taxi service we should use in the morning.

She also told us about the parade as she drove us what seemed to be the long way round to a hotel that was supposed to be just two miles away.

The clerk behind the desk told us about the parade too. So did the taxi driver the next morning as he drove us an equally meandering route back to the airport.

I assumed this was because of the parade and braced myself for an exorbitant fare at the end of the ride, especially after we were turned back by the police and forced to take a detour because of — you guessed it — the parade.

No matter. We pulled in behind Bob and his wife Sherilyn and told the bill was only ten dollars, less than Cleveland taxis charge for a ten minute drive from Hopkins.

Bob and Sherilyn and The Engineer and I dined at Culinary Creations. If you’re ever in Montgomery, New York, I suggest you do the same. The place is amazing. (Check out their website, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a far cry from the usual airport restaurant fare.)

The weather, however,  was not amazing. This resulted in somewhat abbreviated rides for Bob and Sherilyn and a damp photo shoot for Mini-me.


Isn’t she cute?

It was obvious we wouldn’t be flying home that night. Once again, we found one of the last hotel rooms left in the area, this time in an Econolodge. Afraid of being left with no place to stay, I read the top review and booked the room.

Then I read the rest of the comments, which proved much less favorable.

As visions of bedbugs and roaches danced in my brain, The Engineer and I loaded our bags into Sherilyn and Bob’s car for the ride to that night’s lodging. After a thirty minute drive to a place six miles away, we were feeling extremely grateful for the lift, and it was finally beginning to dawn on me that this part of New York was like Pittsburgh. The distance to where you’re going doesn’t matter near as much the number of mountains between you and your destination.

There were no bedbugs at the motel. No roaches either, at least none I saw. The furnishings were clean, if worn — the word “shabby” comes to mind — and we had a king-size bed, a great advantage when your husband is 6’3″.

We ate dinner at Cilantro, an elegant tapas bar not far from our inn. It looked out of place on a main road surrounded by not very much of anything else. I’m not normally a fan of sangria but we drank two carafes with our (delicious!) dinner and then stumbled, I mean walked, back to the Econolodge.

By morning, the weather was clearing. The ride home was a bumpy one, flown mostly above the clouds, but it was still pretty. Cloudy RIde

Weather affected our trip the previous weekend as well. On the way to Illinois, we had to swing south, almost to Columbus to avoid the weather that was hanging over northwest Ohio and moving slowly east. Weather Enroute to IL

This is probably western Ohio or Indiana. Illinois is mostly corn and bean fields, a mix of green and gold with fewer trees, more like quilt than a carpet. I know the simile is cliché, but it’s apt.

IL CornThere are lots of wind turbines, miles of them planted among the other crops. I like this picture in black and white, the way the gray tones play up the whiteness of the turbines.

IL windmillsIt’s incredible to see the country from a small plane, but you have to be willing to go where the wind, or weather, takes you.


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It’s Time to Pack for Oshkosh

So, I thought I’d share my top ten list of things to pack.

Top Ten Things to Pack for Oshkosh

#1 Comfortable shoes. I cannot emphasize this enough. Define “comfortable shoes” as ones that don’t give you blisters even when you walk for miles.
Because you will walk for miles.

#2 Sunscreen – Wisconsin may not sound like a hot place, but Oshkosh has very little shade. I usually return home looking like I’ve been laying on a beach in Hawaii. Also, I can tell you from experience that if you sit under the wing of a polished aluminum plane, you will get quite a sunburn. Consider yourself warned.

#3 Bug spray – The mosquitos aren’t bad every year, but when they’re bad, they’re really bad.

#4 A hat, preferably wide-brimmed. (See #2.)

#5 A water bottle. Are you sensing a theme here?

#6 Your cellphone. At some point, you’re bound to lose whoever came with you.

#7 Money. For food. Or souvenirs. Maybe even a t-shirt from the SOS Bros. tent. I’m told men go there for the beer. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the bikini-clad barmaids. I go because I like the food. It has nothing to do with beer or escaping camp for a couple of hours.

#8 Earplugs. Only if you’re camping and plan to sleep past 6 am.

#9 Your camera (if your phone doesn’t take good photos). You’ll see planes you never imagined even existed.

#10 A sense of humor. Because, well, you know what they say about if you can’t take a joke. If you don’t, read my previous Oshkosh blog, and you’ll understand.

Cessna and C17

Big Plane, Little Plane

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Berlin: The War and the Wall

Berlin. Germany. Both place names conjure up visions of World War II and/or the Berlin Wall. Yet, during our visit, I kept forgetting the city had been the scene of so many tragedies, despite Germany making every effort to help visitors remember.

This is weird because when we visit England, I swear I can feel the history beneath my feet. In Berlin, I got … nothing. Or mostly nothing, which bothered me. I should have felt it, should have been overcome, steeped with visions of man’s inhumanity to man.

That’s probably why it’s taken so long for me to write this post, which in the end will only share the brief glimpses of when and how I felt flashes of horror.

2015-04-18 16.31.58These are Stolperstein, or “stumble stones.” Each represents a man, woman or child who was torn from their home by the Nazis and sent to die in a death camp. There are many of them in Berlin, inserted in the pavement in front of the former homes of those who were murdered. (For more information, visit this Reuter’s blog: or this NPR feature:

Murdered Jews Memorial - BerlinThis is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The Germans seem unwilling to sugarcoat what happened in their country by using euphemisms. The design calls to mind caskets, which may have been its intent. (Here is an article which further explains the memorial:

2015-04-11 16.38.53 2015-04-18 14.23.22 The WallAs you probably know, the Berlin Wall, or Berliner Mauer, ran right through the middle of city. I always pictured it as a straight East/West division. It wasn’t. I know this because much of it is demarcated throughout the city, and it was shown on our map. The Wall zigzagged all over the place, cutting across streets and neighborhoods, separating families and friends. If your house happened to have a door or window opening to West Germany, the GDR (East German government) bricked it up. Some East Berlin residents leapt to freedom or death, and in the end, more than 100,000 tried to escape in the years of the wall’s existence. This happened in my lifetime, but I found it hard to picture even when listening to a recitation of the names of those who died.

( for more complete information.)

Hitlers bunkerThis parking lot, which was built on the site of Hitler’s bunker, is hard to find, a deliberate choice by the German government to prevent it becoming a rallying point. I rather like the idea of oil and gas from non-German cars leaching into his bones. He got off easy, taking the coward’s way out, after orchestrating the senseless death of so many.


Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was not a death camp. Yet tens of thousands died there, and its history of horror didn’t end with the war. Instead it became a Soviet “Special Camp,” a place where people disappeared. (Read more:

This is the crematorium. The dirt there is quite ashy.

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Planes, Trains, and Bikes in Berlin and Amsterdam

As I mentioned in my previous post, we walked a lot in Berlin and Amsterdam, probably about eight or ten miles a day. I estimate this based on my fitness tracker, which gives me a little explosion of lights when I hit four miles. Since I hit this reward most days before lunch, I feel confident in guessing we probably walked at least twice that much each day.

We also used every type of public transportation that you can think of. Underground trains, surface trains, intercity trains, ferries, trams, boats, busses and planes all figured in our daily travel, but the closest we came to a car was noting the electric ones plugged in on our street in Amsterdam and passing the VW plant on the way there. VW Plant

We got there on time, despite having to make two unplanned train changes along the way. Here I am on the first train, gloriously unaware I was being photographed. (This is probably a good time to note that The Engineer took the majority of pictures from this trip  on his phone.)

2015-04-19 11.42.12There is a piano in the station (Amsterdam Centraal), with a sign inviting people to entertain their fellow travelers. Both times we walked through the building, someone was doing just that. It was magical.

Bikes are also a common mode of transportation in both cities, especially Amsterdam, as proven by this multi-story bike parking lot near the ferry dock.

2015-04-20 14.04.31

So I was surprised that the bicycles people rode were often old and appeared exceedingly heavy. The ones in Amsterdam were especially ancient — rusty one-speeds weighed down by multiple locks weighing at least five pounds each. (I picked one up when no one was looking.) Many had boxes on the front or back for cargo, and we saw some with what looked like a wheelbarrow on the front, sometimes with bench seats for kids.

These were working bikes, all right, and we never walked far without hearing a brrrring warning us to get out of the bike lane.  Every bridge had bicycles chained to it, sometimes two deep, and there are a lot of bridges in Amsterdam.Amsterdam canal bridge

It was very cool. As was this sign for a bike shop on our street. Amsterdam Bike Shop

And this one, near a brewery we visited.Amsterdam Bike Shop

Unfortunately, we did not find the opportunity to ride a bike in Amsterdam, something I’d long hoped to do. At least I have an excuse to go back.🙂

I also loved the variety of houseboats we saw in the Amsterdam canals, especially those with gardens like this one.

Houseboat - AmsterdamOn our ferry trip, we even saw an old submarine, which The Engineer said was Russian. What it was doing in the IJ River in Amsterdam was anyone’s guess, but here it is.

IJ RIver SubmarineIJ River SubmarineWe also took a boat trip on the Spree River in Berlin. (Please note my fabulous Barefoot Wines sunglasses. I didn’t want to risk packing — and possibly losing — a good pair, so instead I looked like a geek in most of our pictures.)

Berlin River Tour

We took the three-hour bridge tour, which lived up to its name. Berlin Spree River Bridge TourLow Bridge Spree River

Many of the bridges we went under were very low, including this one featuring the Berlin Bear, a symbol of the city.

The Engineer spent several minutes composing this picture of me (sans sunglasses), Darling Daughter, and a swan. Swan -- Berlin

Of course, planes figured largely in our trip, getting us across the ocean and back, but also in a variety of other, sometimes unexpected, places. There was a replica of a Fokker hanging outside a coffee shop at Tegel Airport, which I’ve not included here, and this glider peeping out from a restaurant along our river tour.Berlin -- Glider near river

The Technical Museum in Berlin featured a variety of aircraft, including this Cessna 172 which landed in Red Square back in the 80s. Red Square 172
Red Square Cessna

They also have a Douglas C-47, the military version of a DC-3, hanging outside. Here it is as viewed from the river and from directly beneath. Berlin Airlift C-47 Berlin Airlift Plane

This plane was used during the Berlin Airlift, an episode in history I previously knew little about. If you’re as ignorant as I was, you can read about it here: When the Russians blockaded the city of Berlin after World War II, the remaining former allies developed a plan to supply the city by air. Planes like the one above operated twenty-four hours a day, taking off and landing at Tempelhof and Gatow airports in order to bring in the nearly 4,000 tons of supplies needed by the city residents each day.
But read the article. It’s an incredible story.

Here’s an early Lufthansa passenger plane, also part of the museum’s collection.Lufthansa

But perhaps the most surprising place we found a plane was at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, a place better known for its Vermeers and Rembrandts. This FK-23 Bantam was in one of the few uncrowded rooms of the museum, probably because to get there required climbing several flights of stairs.

Airplane Rijks MuseumRijks Museum Bantam Airplane

And though I enjoyed the rest of the museum’s collection, especially the Vermeers, I must admit finding a plane there brought more surprised delight than any of the paintings. You can read all about it here:–peter-holden/aircraft/objecten#/NG-2011-1,0.
The last plane we saw was also part of the museum’s collection, featured on this Nazi Chess set, which glorified the Third Reich’s territorial ambitions. (,3)Nazi Chess Set -- Rijks Museum
Later, we went for a beer at the Brouwerijhe’T IJ (, also known as the Windmill Brewery. It’s a fine place to drink a locally made brew, although there was some confusion about whether or not they took plastic. Apparently, they do, but only debit cards. When we pointed out that the card we wanted to use said “Debit,” they said, “Not that one.” Go figure. Windmill Brewery, Amsterdam

Anyway, we paid cash for a couple of beers and some locally made cheese (eaten with celery salt — delicious!), found a place to sit outside, and settled back to enjoy. A few moments later, three men sat at the end of our table. From their clothing and speech, it was clear they were American. Within minutes and before they even mentioned flying, I pegged them as airline pilots.

“Those guys fly for the big guys,” I told The Engineer. “You can tell from the way they talk.”

They sounded just like a couple of our friends who fly for the big boys and love to swap tips on where to go when they’re in a particular city (though our friends are not the show-offs these guys were).

It was all Man, there’s a great little place in Paris. It’s down this alley, looks like a real hole in the wall, but they serve the best Bloody Marys. The bartender used to be a model. He’s a real tall dude, and he’s married to this girl, I think she was a model too. Next time you’re in Paris, you should go. They’ll take care of you.

This would be countered by something like How about that place in London? You know the one with the chick with all the tattoos? And Yeah. Kinda reminds me of a cafe my wife and I found in Costa Rica. Run by a couple of ex-hippies.

I was quickly proven right when the conversation turned to landings and flaps and cabin crews.

Aviation. It finds us even when we’re not looking for it.🙂

When we finished our beer and walked toward our bus stop, I saw this sign, which made me laugh. Sign at Brouwerijhe'T IJ


I’ll end by returning you to the Rijks with a librarian-like reminder that you learn all about these forms of transportation at your local library, although your local library probably looks nothing like the glorious one at the museum.

Rijks Museum LibraryShhh! They enforce the silence rule.





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Berlin: Dining and Drinking

A few weeks ago, The Engineer and I went to Berlin to see Darling Daughter who is spending a semester there.

It was wonderful. Not only were we able to spend time with our beautiful girl, we also got to explore a city neither of us had previously visited.

Shopping for food in a country where you don’t speak the language is a small adventure. One grocery store visit reaped an interesting mixture, when the pack of what we thought were breakfast sausages turned out to be more like small kielbasas and the bread rolls proved to be the type you need to bake. This was a problem. We had a stove, but no means to light the oven.  So I split the sausages in half and grilled them in a pan, then did the same with the rolls. These were served up as sausage sandwiches complete with garlic butter.

We didn’t mean to buy garlic butter, but when we opened the foil-wrapped stick, that’s what it was.

The cheese was better, a hunk of “Old Amsterdamer” that was delicious on the remaining rolls, with (garlic) butter and cucumber slices.

Maybe that’s the trick to grocery shopping in a foreign language — only buy fruit and vegetables you can easily recognize.

Still, where’s the adventure in that?

We also had an Indian meal. It wasn’t bad. It just tasted like the chef had read about Indian food but never actually tasted any. (We fared better in Amsterdam, stumbling across an Indian restaurant that was so good we ate there two of the three nights we were in the city.)

The “Mexican” cuisine we tried in Berlin was equally unusual, chorizo quesadillas, beautifully presented with a lovely little salad and artistic drizzle of sauce. The chorizo, however, tasted more like our breakfast sausage than any chorizo I’ve ever tasted before.

Again, not bad, just not what we expected.

On the other hand, we had a wonderful dinner at a tiny Nepali/Tibetan restaurant in our neighborhood (Kreuzberg). Kreuzberg, Berlin

And the Wiener Schnitzel at Felix Austria (also in the neighborhood) was incredible, served up with creamy potato salad and vinegary cucumbers. Wiener Schnitzel -- Berlin

German beer is also as good as you’ve heard, especially if you’re a fan of lagers and pilsners like me. It’s always served in the glass appropriate to the style and brewery.

Bitburger Beer

I loved Berlin’s cafes, where we were able to enjoy latte macchiatos and beer nearly every day.

I’m not sure why we Americans make such a distinction between socializing over a beer or visiting over coffee, but I’ve noticed it’s nearly impossible to get a good one of both at the same place in the U.S.

In Berlin, cafes are clearly an integral part of the city’s culture, with fresh flowers on the tables and snuggly blankets so outdoor customers can enjoy fresh air even when the weather is brisk.

It’s also not uncommon to see someone drinking a beer while waiting for a train or enjoying the sun in a small city park, often carefully setting the bottle near the waste container for the city’s homeless to retrieve and cash in for the deposit.

Yet during our stay, we saw few, if any, people who were obviously drunk.

One day, Darling Daughter took us to Hannibal Restaurant, where we shared one of these with her and her friend Kevin.

Three Liters of BeerThree liters of pilsner served right to your table.

Another morning, we went to a cafe near our apartment for a bit of brunch.. I wasn’t very hungry so we ordered the breakfast for two (see below). Fresh fruit, juice, cheeses, meats of all sorts, salads, scrambled eggs, and a huge basket of fresh bread. Wow!

Berlin Brunch

Germany is also known for wine and, on the advice of our AirBnB landlord, we visited a neighborhood wine bar/shop called NOR  (Not Only Riesling), which specializes in German wines. It was here I tasted a dry Riesling, something I didn’t know existed. Call me ignorant, but I’d only previously sampled the sweet versions readily available in any U.S. supermarket.

If you visit Berlin, be sure to try a Doner Kebab. This handheld meal can be most closely compared to a gyro, but the bread is crustier, and there’s a larger variety of condiments to choose from. Alas, we demolished ours too quickly to get a picture.

You must also eat a Currywurst, mainly so you can say you did. This is a German hotdog, served with ketchup mixed with curry powder, with more curry powder sprinkled on top and fries on the side. Interesting, but I’m not sure I’d eat it on a regular basis.

Don’t worry about the calories. If you do Berlin the way we did Berlin, you’ll walk it off.

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