30 September 2016

Flashback Friday | Holding Your Breath Underwater


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.

I originally wrote this post when Scott and I were in the planning stages of living and cruising on a sailboat full-time. I was doing lots of reading and researching at the time. While I learned tons, I also found about all sorts of things to be scared of when it comes to boating. Like worrying if your boat is going to capsize and whether you can hold your breath long enough underwater before it turns itself back around.

{This post was originally published in August 2013. You can find it here.} 


How long can you hold your breath for underwater? This is a really important question so think carefully before you answer.

Are you ready? Do you have your answer? Good. Let's see how you did.

The correct answer is 2 minutes. 

And how do I know this? Well, as a very supportive wife, I thought I should do some more reading about sailing so that I can show an interest in Scott’s passion. So I was reading through Beth Leonard’s book, The Voyager’s Handbook, when the following passage caught my eye:
“An offshore boat needs to stay upright. It if is rolled by an exceptionally large wave, a monohull needs to come back upright within less than 2 minutes, the length of time most of us can hold our breath.”

Holy buckets!! Are you kidding me?!

A couple of years ago, Scott gave me a copy of a glossy brochure entitled "Cruising into the Sunset with Your Partner." I read it very carefully especially the small print. Scott is very crafty and twists words and phrases with the polish of a politician so it is really important to read the small print carefully.

I read the brochure multiple times. It described walks on moonlit beaches, tropical drinks served in coconuts, relaxing with a good book in the cockpit and had lots of pictures of dolphins and Narwhals frolicking in the ocean.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, did it say anything about boats rolling over and needing to hold your breath underwater for two minutes. If I wasn’t married to him, I would report him to NZ Commerce Commission for violations of the Fair Trading Act. (Note: If Scott ever hands you a glossy brochure with a mischievous smile on his face, I implore you to read the small print very closely. Then read it again. Then consult your attorney and have him/her read it too.)

I have absolutely no idea how long I can hold my breath underwater or if I can hold my breath at all. Clearly, I need to test this out.

I thought about filling up my bathtub with water and trying it out there. Then I remembered that the apartment I live in is roughly the size of a shoe box so I don’t have a bathtub.

Next I thought of filling the kitchen sink up with water and sticking my head in. Seemed like a good idea but then I realized I won’t know when two minutes are up because my head will be stuck in a sink full of water.

I headed off to my local Warehouse store to buy a kitchen timer so that I can hear it go off when two minutes are up (this is assuming I can hold my breath for two minutes and I’m still conscious by the time the timer goes off).

For those who don’t know, Warehouse is New Zealand’s answer to Target. Well, it is actually New Zealand’s answer to a down market type of Target. It's the type of store that generally never has what you’re looking for and the pricing information on the shelves doesn’t actually correspond to the merchandise displayed on those shelves. They do however have displays up front of weird and wonderful products on special, such as tubes of toothpaste for NZ$1 each. Upon close examination of the writing on the toothpaste box, however, you’ll note that the toothpaste was intended for sale in Malaysia, not New Zealand.

By the way, if you were ever wondering what happens to all of those containers which fall off ships, they wash up in New Zealand where they unpack them and sell the stuff in the Warehouse accounting for the randomness of their inventory. On the particular day I went to the Warehouse there were no kitchen timers. There was a price tag on the shelf that said “Kitchen Timer - $5.99”, but no actual kitchen timers. I did, however, walk out with five tubes of toothpaste.

So with no reliable methodology to test whether I can hold my breath underwater for two minutes, I’ve decided the next best thing to do is to learn more about sailboats. There are two great benefits to this:
    1 - When Scott is rambling on about sailing enthusiastically imparting his sailing expertise to me, I’ll have some sort of clue as to what he is rambling on about sharing with me and on what points he needs correction.
    2 - I’ll have a better idea about what to look for when we upgrade our boat, in particular, ensuring we buy one that won’t roll over.

    To that end, I’ve decided to do a series of blog posts about boat buying. It should prove to be educational and amusing (well probably more amusing than educational). {You can find the series here.}

    What kind of wacky things does your partner talk you into doing? How long can you hold your breath underwater?

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    28 September 2016

    Wordless Wednesday | Hare Krishnas

    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 - These are pictures from a Hare Krishna parade in Auckland, New Zealand a few years ago.
    2 - I love the bright colors of the women's saris.

    3 - I've eaten at a Hare Krishna restaurant before. Delicious vegetarian food.

    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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    26 September 2016

    Whales, Crazy Ladies & Microfilm

    My great-grandmother, Margaret Chadwick, was born on a whaling ship in Taioha'e, Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands in 1883.

    Margaret's mother was the wife of a whaling ship captain. Back then it was perfectly acceptable to hunt whales. Nowadays, not so much. 

    Whaling wasn't for the meek. Imagine trying to harpoon one of these massive creatures. I don't read German, but I think this whale is saying, "Don't mess with me. I'll smash your ship to smithereens." Sadly, the whalers often won the battle.

    This whale looks scary until you notice the pom-pom sticking out of its blow hole. I think the artist meant for this to look like a water spout, but all I can picture are whales waving their pom-poms around and yelling out cheers. "Give me a W! Give me a H! Give me an A! Give me an L! Give me an E! What does it spell? WHALE!! Go WHALES!"

    When the whaling ships left New Bedford, Massachusetts, they would be gone for years. I guess Margaret's mother had a choice - stay behind and wait or join her husband on the whaling ship. She, like many other whaling captains' wives at the time, chose the crazy option - she went with him. Can you imagine being the only woman on a boat full of whalers, giving birth to your children on board and praying you would survive storms at sea?

    Was she crazy or adventurous? Maybe a little of both. 

    My mom assigned me a task to track down Margaret's birth certificate. I'm not sure why I got this particular task. Maybe because I can read a little bit of French. Although my French is pretty limited to saying things like pain au chocolat and haricots verts. Useful words if you want to eat lots of gooey chocolate pastries and then feel better about your gluttony by polishing off a plate of green beans, but perhaps not as useful for reading historical records.
    I headed down to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Palm City on Saturday to visit their Family History Center. Mormons are really into genealogy and have done a phenomenal job compiling all sorts of historical documents. 

    I had a look at some of the Tahitian records on microfilm which have been digitized online. Isn't the handwriting amazing? I wonder if they even teach cursive and penmanship in school anymore.

    The microfilm that I need hasn't been digitized yet, so they're sending it from Salt Lake City. Then I'll get to spend a few hours huddled over a microfilm reader trying to find Margaret and her sister's birth certificates and imagining what life must have been for two small girls and their mother living on a whaling ship.
    Are you into genealogy? Would you have wanted to live on a whaling ship back in the 1800s?

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    Images courtesy of The Graphics Fairy. 

    23 September 2016

    Morning Coffee | Random Thoughts & Oddities

    Paul at Lat43 does these hysterical Morning Tea blog posts which are a brain dump of whatever pops into his head while he's writing them. I decided to steal his idea. Except, I'm drinking coffee while I write this and he drinks tea, so it isn't really stealing, is it? Fortunately, I'm not the only copycat out there.

    So, here we go - all of the random nonsense floating through my head while I sip on my morning coffee.

    • I wonder if Paul will read this. I wonder if he'll sue me for stealing his idea. He's American. Americans like to sue each other.
    • I think Paul's American. Maybe he's Canadian. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference. If you're not sure, ask them to pronounce "about" and what their favorite coffee and doughnut shop is. If they say "aboot" and Tim Horton's then chances are they're Canadian.
    • The Canadians should start heading back to Indiantown Marina next month. During the high season, it's about half Canadian here. Maybe more. They're fun people.
    • When I moved back to the States after years living overseas, I was reminded how different things are here. Everything tastes sweet, including the bread. And the election cycle goes on for far too long. 
    • The first presidential debate is next week. I don't have a TV so it looks like I'll be missing it. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
    • She made them in an Omnia stovetop oven. I want one of those, but I don't want to pay for it. They're pretty pricey. I keep hoping one will end up on the free table at our marina.
    • People shouldn't post pictures of yummy looking treats on their blogs unless they plan on coming over to your boat and sharing with you.
    • I used to catch the 6:00 AM flight from Portland to Salt Lake City on a regular basis for work. The only thing that made getting up that early bearable was the fact that I would get a cinnamon scone fresh out of the oven at the airport.
    •  That's a lie. The cinnamon scones didn't really make getting up that early bearable.
    • When I would travel from Scotland to Portland for work, I used to catch the 6:00 AM flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam. That was a drag. The scones at the Edinburgh airport weren't that great. That was a really long flight. Well, three flights really. At least I got to fly business class on the company's dime.
    • I'm having oatmeal for breakfast. Not as tasty as a scone, but still pretty tasty especially if you put  brown sugar, raisins and peanut butter in it. Kind of like eating an oatmeal raisin cookie with a spoon.
    • People in other countries don't get peanut butter. Americans get peanut butter.
    • The WiFi keeps cutting out. I wonder if I'll be able to post to the blog today.
    • I need to get another cup of coffee. Don't go anywhere.
    • Okay, I've got another cup of coffee. I take mine with milk. No sugar.
    • I like how they say, "Do you want a coffee?" in British English speaking countries. Americans say, "Do you want some coffee?" Something to do with countable vs. uncountable nouns. Grammar can be fascinating at times.
    • I started reading a Regency romance set in Sierra Leone for my Around the World in 80 Books challenge. I think it's the first Regency romance I've ever read. So far, I've haven't learned anything about Sierra Leone. But I have learned that buccaneers are very dashing and irresistible to the ladies.
    • I visited Sierra Leone when I was 19. That was a really long time ago.
    • I'm not sure what a buccaneer is. Are they different from pirates? I could ask my friend, Mr Google what the difference is, but the WiFi went out again.
    • Some people who live on sailboats are into the whole pirate thing. They dress up in pirate costumes.
    • I don't like costume parties.
    • I want to try to write 3,000 words today.
    • I had to have one of the sheriff's deputies do a VIN inspection on my vehicle. He was a very serious fellow. He was pleasant enough, just really serious. I wonder what he was thinking about - maybe cinnamon scones?
    • The deputy's uniform was really crisp. Not a wrinkle on it. I've noticed that about law enforcement officers (not that I've run into that many in my time, mind you) - their uniforms are always wrinkle free.
    • What's the difference between a police officer and a sheriff's deputy? The WiFi still isn't working.
    • All of my clothes are wrinkled. I don't own an iron. That might have something to do with it.
    • My coffee cup is empty. I better go try to be productive and see if I can find WiFi.
    • I got the graphic of the kettle from the Graphics Fairy. A great site for copyright free/public domain images. 

    What random thoughts popped into your head today?

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    21 September 2016

    Wordless Wednesday | Old Sailing Book

    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 - When we downsized and moved onto our sailboat, we had to get rid of a lot of things including an old Adlard Coles sailing book. We took pictures as a memento.

    2 - I love the old advertisements. I want a pair of those beach ballet shoes.

    3 - We don't fly any burgees on our boat. 

    4 - Since we don't belong to a yacht club, maybe I should make our own burgee. I think I'd have our symbol be a plate of brownies.

    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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    19 September 2016

    5 Frugal Things | Keeping The Cruising Kitty Happy

    Katy at The Non-Consumer Advocate regularly posts about five frugal things she's done. Some things are big, some things are small, but they all help keep her spending down and her savings up. I've shamelessly stolen her idea (as many others have) and started to share my five frugal things on occasion. It's a great way to inspire me to keep looking for ways to top up our cruising kitty (fancy sailing talk for savings). Maybe it will inspire you to find ways you can save for your personal goals and/or stretch your income further.


    1 - Flip-Flops

    Pretty much the only thing I wear on my feet these days are flip-flops (aka jandals or thongs). I've found that the 99 cents flip-flops from Walmart last far longer than the more expensive ones. Walmart always has a big tub of them on sale but the stock has been getting picked over lately and I'm not sure if they'll be restocking. So I grabbed a couple of pairs while I could to tuck away for when I need them. And the best part is, one pair rang up as a children's size (they still fit me) and only cost 50 cents. So two pairs of flip-flops for $1.49. Bargain. Not necessarily the most attractive shoe out there, but a bargain nonetheless.

    Frugal Lesson - Sometimes, it's worth stocking up on something when the price is right.

    2 - Dominoes

    I have a group of friends that I get together with regularly. One of the great things about this gang (and there are many great things is that we're all living on relatively tight budgets. That means we're all happy to visit over a game of dominoes and have a potluck, like we did this weekend, rather than go out someplace to eat or pay for entertainment. Sure, I lost, but I still had a blast.

    Frugal Lesson - Having fun doesn't have to cost a dime.

    3 - Coupons

    I don't normally use coupons as I generally don't buy the types of things they have them for. But when I was at the store the other day, as I was putting a package of chicken sausages (surprisingly, they're quite tasty) in my cart, I noticed it had a coupon on it. $2 off any Minute Rice product. Okay, I know what you're thinking - Minute Rice? But, seriously, this stuff is magic. It cooks up in minutes (clever name, they've got) which saves on propane. A box of brown Minute Rice costs $1.98 which means that it was free. Free is always good. But, wait, there's more! The Minute Rice had a coupon on it for 75 cents off of a can of Dole pineapple. While I normally buy the generic version, the Dole kind came out cheaper with the coupon. I like pineapple. It's a happy sort of fruit.

    Frugal Lesson - Sometimes, brand names can be cheaper than generic, especially with coupons.

    4 - Chop, Chop

    Okay, here's a way that I've saved money for the past year. However, before I tell you about it, promise me that you won't try this at home. Consider yourself warned. Are you ready? Here's the secret. I haven't had my hair cut professionally in ages. If you saw my hair, you would know that this isn't necessarily a good thing. I made the mistake (aided by a couple of glasses of wine) of cutting my own hair last year. I saw this video about putting your hair in a ponytail and chopping it yourself. Seemed sensible. It probably wasn't. A friend evened it up for me later. Since then, I've just been letting it grow out, wearing it up pretty much all the time  and trimming my bangs as needed. Maybe one day I'll let a professional have at it, but in the meantime, just think of all the money I've saved! It's a good thing I never really liked my hair to begin with. At least that's what I tell myself.

    Frugal Lesson - Maybe being frugal, isn't always a good thing.

    5 - Star Trek

    This may come as a shock to some of you, but I haven't seen the new Star Trek movie. I had planned on going to a matinee at a nearby movie theater but for some reason they stopped showing Star Trek only a few weeks after it opened. It was playing at another movie theater, but ticket prices are higher and it's farther away (more gas to get there), so I made the brave decision to skip seeing it in the theater. Eventually it will come out on TV or I can check it out of the library or somehow score a DVD at some point. Crazy, huh, what folks will do to save a buck.

    Frugal Lesson - Good things {or cheaper things} come to those who wait.

    What things have you done to save money lately? Any frugal tips and tricks to share? How much do you normally spend on shoes?

    You can find more links to blog posts from ourselves and others on how much we spend and how we try to save money on this page.

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    16 September 2016

    Eek, I Pressed Very Scary Button!

    I have lots of buttons, switches, levers and the like on my boat.

    Some are pretty ordinary, like the one on the back of my alarm clock which you press to turn the annoying beeping off. I can't remember the last time I set an alarm. Ah, the blissful life of the intentionally unemployed.

    Then there's the tiny on/off switch on the overhead light fixture. Yep, I know, it's definitely showing its age. I bet this looked really snazzy when our boat was built 29 years ago. You know what's been on my boat project list forever? Changing out the light bulbs to LED ones. One of these days.

    This is one of my favorite buttons. You press "power" and it makes cool air magically flow through your boat. Absolutely essential if you're going to spend the summer in southern Florida.

    This is a very important button. When the water tanks on my boat are running low, sometimes the fresh water pump keeps running, desperately trying to get every last drop out of the tanks. This is not a good thing. The last thing we want is for the motor to burn out and for me to have to add something else to my boat project list. The easy solution - turn off the water pump at the board.


    But the buttons on your computer can be the scariest of them all. They're the ones you press when you want to submit something online. Usually, I'm okay with it, especially when I'm buying something fun on Amazon.

    But the other day, I used my computer buttons for evil. Okay, maybe not evil. That's a bit dramatic. I used them for torture. That might be closer to the truth. Torturing myself, mind you.

    I decided to submit a short story to the online Critique Circle. You willingly put yourself out there and ask people to critique your work. See, that's a form of torture. You wait and wait and wait, hoping someone will critique it. Torture. Then you panic when you realize someone has critiqued your story, but you're afraid to read what they said. More torture. Then you have to take what everybody said on board and make more revisions to your story. Extreme torture.

    Stupid button.

    What kind of buttons do you have in your house, boat, RV or where ever you call home? Have you ever asked anyone to critique a story or other creative endeavor? How'd it go?

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    14 September 2016

    Wordless Wednesday | Weird Stuff

    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 - Sometimes, you see some really weird stuff.

    2 - Weird stuff should be photographed whenever possible.

    3 - Looking back at pictures of weird stuff can bring a smile to your face.

    4 - Smiling is good. Try it. You'll like it.

    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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    12 September 2016

    An Ordinary Day In Indiantown & Gratefulness

    Greece - where we were headed to on 9/11

    Yesterday I was thinking about the fact that fifteen years ago Scott and I were waiting at the airport in Portland, Oregon for our flight to JFK. From there we were due to catch a connecting flight to Athens, Greece. Needless to say, that trip didn't happen. We sat in the airport watching events unfold on the TV monitors in shock, grateful that we were safe.

    With the events of 9/11 in my thoughts, I spent the day yesterday trying to be mindful of all that I have to be grateful for. It was a very ordinary day. Nothing special. Nothing too exciting. Just ordinary. But even in the most ordinary of days, if you pay attention, there are things to be grateful for.


    Like food storage...

    Even when I haven't been to the grocery store for a while, I know that there's always plenty to eat squirreled away on the boat. I might not have the fixings for a gourmet dinner, but I can always find something to throw together, like canned soup and Ryvita crispbread.

    That sentence there - "I can always find something to eat." That's something to be grateful for. So many people struggle to find anything to eat on a daily basis. The only hunger I've known is self-induced from some crazy diet. I've never experienced true hunger, for which I'm grateful.

    And meeting interesting people...

    I was hanging out at the communal kitchen at our marina yesterday with some friends and met the most interesting couple who were passing through on their boat. They shared stories of their Cajun culture and what it's like to live in Cajun country in Louisiana (which I learned has nothing to do with New Orleans). They painted such a vivid picture of large family gatherings, big pots of gumbo and dancing to zydeco music.

    It made me grateful for the reminder of the rich cultural diversity we have in the States and the importance of valuing that diversity.

    Getting frustrated with writing...

    I spent much of the day endlessly revising a short story and getting very frustrated in the process. And then I thought about a friend of mine who struggled with dyslexia growing up long before they even knew what dyslexia was. Reading and writing was a real challenge for him in school.

    So while I tore my hair out yesterday trying to find the perfect words and turn of phrase, I reminded myself that many people struggle with dyslexia and literacy, with basic reading and writing. I was lucky - reading came easily and I choose to write stories for fun. A good reminder that my frustrations are of my own making and that they're frustrations others might be grateful to have instead of the true hardships that they face on a daily basis.


    So, that's what was on my mind yesterday. I know, not the usual silly fare that you've come to expect from the blog, but sometimes it's good to just take a step back and reflect on things. But don't worry, I'll be sure to make it up to you later in this week when we get back to our normal programming.

    What does an ordinary day in your life look like? What are you grateful for?

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    09 September 2016

    Around The World In 80 Books | Update #10

    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 – Afghanistan, Armenia, Paraguay, Sri Lanka and Turkey. 

    That makes a total of 50 books since I started the challenge - only 30 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, Update #8 and Update #9


    FEAR OF BEAUTY by Susan Froetschel | Afghanistan

    Fear of Beauty is an engaging mystery novel set in present day rural Afghanistan When a young boy is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, most people assume he fell accidentally to his death, while others believe American soldiers camped nearby might be responsible. The story is presented from two perspectives - that of the boy's mother and that of one of the Army Rangers. It's an interesting take on life in rural Afghanistan and the tensions between the villagers, Taliban and the US forces. I especially enjoyed the insights into what life is like for Afghani women. For example, mirrors aren't commonplace so the women aren't aware of their own youthful beauty and the toll that a hard life takes on them over time. Imagine rarely seeing yourself in a mirror, or not at all. Is it better to not know what you look like? I wonder how Kim Khardasian would cope with that?

    How she dreaded a marriage that would take away her helper and friend. During times like this she was thankful the village had no mirrors. Her oldest daughter had a haunting beauty, long, dark waves framing sweet green eyes against skin that was softer than an almond blossom. Mari had last seen a mirror some years ago, and suspected after bearing children and working years in the field that she would no longer recognize herself. Though there were some, like Sofi, who still moved like a young girl and gained a certain grace with age. But Sofi didn't know, and it was better that women did not know their beauty.
    You can find out more about Fear of Beauty on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

    THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS by Chris Bohjalian | Armenia

    Although The Sandcastle Girls is set in Aleppo, Syria in the early 1900s and present day New York, I'm using it to tick off Armenia as the story focuses on the plight of Armenian refugees trying to escape genocide in their homeland and Armenian immigrants and their descendants in the States. I have to confess, I was completely unaware of the Armenian Genocide, during which 1.5 million Otto-Armenians were exterminated by the Ottoman government starting in 1915.  

    One of the main characters in the book refers to it as the slaughter you know next to nothing about. She's right, I knew nothing about it, perhaps because I didn't pay attention in history class or perhaps because it was glossed over. In any event, one of the things I enjoy about historical fiction is learning about events in a more enjoyable way than reading dry history books. 

    Not only did I learn about the Armenian Genocide, I also learned a bit about what life was like for Armenian immigrants. I found the views on how we stereotype various immigrant groups fascinating - some we label as nice, honest and hardworking (like Armenians), others we label as dangerous and threatening.
    When I was growing up and when I was a young woman, I might meet someone for the first time, and he or she would understand instantly that I was Armenian because my last name is Petrosian: it ends in "ian." Then, almost invariably, this person would say, "You people are so nice. I knew an Armenian family once in Ridgewood, New Jersey." Or, "You people are so industrious. You always work hard and make money. I knew an Armenian family once in Rockwood, Illinois. They were very wealthy." Or - and this might be my absolute favorite - "You people are so artistic. There is a wonderful carpet store in Concord, Massachusetts, and I think the rugs are made by Armenians."...Nevertheless, no one introduced to someone named "Alvarez" would ever dare begin a sentence, "You people." Same when meeting a "Svensson." Or a "Yamada." But we Armenians represent well. We are exotic without being threatening, foreign without being dangerous. We are domestic, we make rugs.

    You can find out more about The Sandcastle Girls on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

    INVISIBLE COUNTRY by Annamaria Alfieri (aka Patricia King) | Paraguay

    Invisible Country is another one of the many mystery novels I read during the past month and another one of the books I read which taught me something about history. Invisible Country is set in Paraguay in 1868 during the War of the Triple Alliance between Paraguay and its neighbors, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Paraguay was defeated, losing 70% of its male population during the war and having to cede territory to the victors. Again, something I knew nothing about. I must have been asleep the entire time during world history class in high school.

    After one of the most powerful men in the country is found murdered in a village church, the priest and some of the villagers set out to investigate the murder and discover who the killer is. It's a fun mystery, filled with twists and turns, interesting characters and insights into Paraguayan culture and customs of the time. Like this little tidbit regarding intermarriage:

    The old dictator Francia - El Supremo - rescued them. Help from the most unlikely place. The decree said that within Paraguay, no penninsulare, or member of the white elite, would be allowed to contract marriage with another member of that same class. They could only marry mestizos or mulattoes or Indians. The called the decree the bando because it was announced to the sound of fife and drum. Salvador's father and those like him were indignant, saying Francia was out to break the power of any family that might challenge his absolute rule. But Salvador and Alivia danced and sang, and drank aguardiente, and made love for two days to celebrate. Then they were married in the church, under the eyes of his bitter father. 

    You can find out more about Invisible Country on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

    ISLAND OF A THOUSAND MIRRORS by Nayomi Munaweera | Sri Lanka

    I'll just tell you right off the bat - this is a sad story. A good story, but sad. Island of a Thousand Mirrors is set in Sri Lanka during the civil war between the Tamils and the Sinhalas. I was aware of the Sri Lankan Civil War, probably due to the fact that it was a contemporary conflict (1983-2009) and because we had to cancel a planned trip there due to the hostilities. The book tells the story of the conflict from the perspective of the eldest daughters of a Tamil family and a Sinhala family. Having been fortunate to never have lived in a conflict zone, I'm always amazed at how people endure with their hopes and dreams, like wanting to become a school teacher one day and finding a husband:
    Miss is training me to take her place in front of the blackboard. When I get my teaching certification, I will live in the small house behind the school, and maybe I will also have someone who looks at me the way he looks at her. In practice for my Maths paper, Miss sets me complicated equations. They take a long time to solve, but I love the long columns of numbers, the need to proceed logically and patiently as the number lead you to the final and inevitable answer. It reminds me of dancing. The way my shoulders, the tilt of my arms, and angles of my knees must stay within precise formations, yet also lead where I want to take them. A sort of freedom that can only be attained within strict rules.

    You can find out more about Island of a Thousand Mirrors on Goodreads and get a copy on Amazon.

    TEARS OF PEARL by Tasha Alexander | Turkey

    Tears of Pearl is a mystery novel in the popular Lady Emily Mysteries series set in Victorian England. Lady Emily is an amateur sleuth who travels to Turkey on her honeymoon. Of course, a murder takes place, which seems to be a regular occurrence for amateur sleuths, and Lady Emily sets out to investigate. Because she is a woman, she is allowed to enter the harem and question the Sultan's wives and try to uncover why one of the harem girls was murdered. Throughout the book, there are wonderful descriptions of what Constantinople (now Istanbul) must have been like at the time:
    Constantinople was like an exotic dream full of spice and music and beauty - the scent of cardamon blew through the streets like a fresh wind - but at the same time, it had a distinct and surprising European feel. The cobbled streets, winding at seemingly random angles through the city, teemed with gentlemen, as many wearing top hats as were in dark red fezzes. Stray cats darted in front of us with alarming frequency, slinking confidently in search of their next meal, while brazen shopkeepers called out, inviting us into stores brimming with Eastern treasures. Noise filled every inch of the air: seagulls crying, carts clattering, voices arguing in foreign tongues.

    You can find out more about Tears of Pearl 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: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, 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, Paraguay, Republic of Kiribati, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia,  Scotland, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

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    07 September 2016

    Finding Time In My Busy Day | IWSG


    The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

    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:

    "How do you find the time to write in your busy day?"

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


    Goodness, it's a pretty serious question this month. One that requires lots of data collection, research and analysis. My days are so darn busy that I wasn't sure how I was going to find the time to really give the question the attention it deserves. So, I called in a few favors from some folks at MIT and got a crack team of scientific geeks together to crunch the data and pull together a detailed report.

    Here's what they found after exhaustive study. My typical day looks something like this:

    As you can see from the table above, much of the day is focused on meeting basic needs - sleep, food and personal hygiene. The rest of the day is devoted to scholarly research (erroneously labeled "playing on internet") and meticulous and detailed planning for writing projects (erroneously labeled "thinking about writing"). There is no time left in my hectic days to devote to actual writing.

    The team at MIT also did a comparative study, looking at a the typical day of a cat.

    You can see from the table above that cats spend an extraordinary amount of time sleeping. Shocking, really. Also, for creatures that are highly interested in when their next meal is, surprisingly, they spend very little time on food related activities. The cunning creatures get humans to prepare their food and then they snarf down those delicious, crunchy nuggets in minutes, freeing the rest of their day for other important activities like personal hygiene and playing loudly with toy mice during the middle of the night while their humans are sleeping.

    The feline study did raise some interesting data points. For example, while cats spend part of their day planning how they're going to hunt critters outside (correlated to humans planning their writing projects), they also manage to find time to actually go outside and hunt lizards and snakes (correlated to humans actively typing on their keyboards).

    The team at MIT concluded that there were some key lessons to be learned from felines, which could be applied to my own life and free up time for actual writing - namely, get other humans to prepare my food and then wolf it down quickly, growling at anybody who looks like they might take my food bowl away.

    In all seriousness, my days are anything but busy. Now that I don't work in corporate la-la land, I theoretically have hours each day to devote to writing. But, I often spend more time thinking about writing, than I do actually writing the draft mystery novel that I've been working on for ages.

    Interestingly, I recently wrote a short story in a matter of days and didn't have any problem finding the time to write it. Perhaps, I've been trying to write the wrong thing and putting my energy in the wrong place?

    How to you find time in your busy (or not so busy) day to get things done?

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    05 September 2016

    Tired Of Politics? Talk Controversial Boat Stuff Instead

    I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of over the whole American presidential election cycle. I can’t seem to get away from it – bumper stickers on cars, people posting their thoughts on Facebook, television coverage and ads etc. This is the first presidential election I’ve been in the States for since George W. Bush vs. Al Gore in 2000 (we moved to the UK in 2001 and then to New Zealand).

    Having been an expat for so many years, I’m not sure if this is a normal cycle. It’s hard to imagine it is normal considering many Americans are planning on voting less for a particular candidate and more for a candidate who they don’t really like, but think they can stomach better for the next four years.

    I try to avoid discussing politics with other folks, unless, of course, I know in advance they share the same views with me. Then, I’ll happily chat for hours about it because there’s nothing better than hearing other people tell you your views are 100% correct. No one really wants to hear that someone disagrees with them. Especially, when disagreement can get so disagreeable, as it has during this cycle.

    So, if you’re tired of talking politics and want some surefire ways to change the conversation, give these boating scenarios a try and see how people answer (some of them work for RVers too). Although, be warned, some of the discussion may get really heated, possibly even more heated than talking about who’s running for office.

    Folding Someone Else’s Knickers | Laundry Etiquette

    Imagine you’re doing laundry at the marina. You’ve put a load in the washer, sat by the machines with a book and waited for it to be done. The spin cycle finishes and you go to put your laundry in the dryer. Except there’s a pile of clothes already sitting in the dryer. They’re completely dry and nobody has come to claim them in the thirty minutes you’ve been sitting in the laundry room. Do you:

    A - Wait patiently for the person to come back and take their clothes out of the dryer.

    B - Take their clothes out of the dryer and put them in a heap on top of the machine.

    C - Take their clothes out of the dryer and fold them neatly, including their knickers.

    D - Save some quarters - take your wet clothes back to the boat and hang them on the lifelines to dry.

    Too Much Noise, Not Enough IPA | Generators

    Imagine you’re anchored in a lovely spot, sitting in the cockpit of your boat and indulging in a particularly hoppy IPA. Another boat anchors nearby and cranks on their very loud generator. After your third IPA, they’ve still got their generator running. When you get up in the middle of the night to go pee (perhaps too much IPA?), they’re still running their generator. It’s so annoying that you’re thinking about having another IPA, but you’re all out. Do you:

    A - Shrug your shoulders, put ear plugs in, go back to bed and dream about IPA. It’s a free country and they can run their generator if they want.

    B - Shine a spotlight on their boat and blow your air horn over and over again. Two can play this game.

    C - Go over the next morning in your dinghy and politely ask them if they wouldn’t mind turning the generator off at night.

    D - Move your boat to another anchorage to get away from the noise.

    Is Two Of Something Better Than One? | Catamarans vs. Monohulls

    Your friends have decided to buy a boat and ask you whether you think they should get a catamaran (a boat with two hulls) or a monohull (a boat with one hull). Do you:

    A - Tell them catamarans are definitely the way to go. They don’t heel over and get all tippy, they’re generally more spacious and they’re called “cats” for short. You’re a bit of a #CrazyCatLady, so anything related to cats is the way to go in your books.

    B - Tell them to get a monohull. Catamarans are for sissies and if something bad happens and it turns upside down in the water it won’t turn itself back over, unlike a monohull.

    C - Tell them to get an RV. Why would you want to live on anything that might turn upside down in the water?

    D - Tell them to get a trimaran. They’ve got three hulls. The more hulls the better.

    Fun With Furry Creatures | Pets On The Loose

    People at your local marina let their cats roam freely. Sometimes the cats get onto your boat and start poking around, even occasionally jumping down into your boat through the open hatches. Do you:

    A - Pet them and give them cuddles.

    B - Run out to the store and buy cat treats to feed them.

    C - Clear off a spot on the settee so that they can take naps.

    D - When the cats’ humans come looking for them, hide the cats in the v-berth and pretend you haven’t seen them. When the humans go away, let the cats out and give them more treats and pets so that they never want to leave your boat.
     E - All of the above.

    What answers would you pick? How do you change the subject when someone is talking about something you’d rather not discuss?

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    02 September 2016

    August In Numbers

    I didn't really take too many pictures last month, so I skipped the usual monthly photo collage. Instead, here's a picture of one of my coloring efforts last month.

    August was a fairly unproductive one when it comes to boat projects, but I did get a bit of writing done which I’m feeling pretty good about. And, I got to kitty sit one of my favorite cats for a week while her humans were gone, so, all in all, it was a pretty good month. Here’s the usual recap of the month in numbers – an assortment of odd tidbits and random thoughts that popped into my head when I was reflecting back on the month.

    • 5,079 – The number of words in a short story I churned out at the end of the month. I decided to take a break from the mystery novel I’ve been working on and write something completely different. And, it is completely different from the things I normally write. It’s not a mystery, it isn’t funny and it’s set on another planet. After some serious revisions, I’ll be looking for some beta readers to have a read and cast a critical eye. Let me know if you’d be interested. 
    • 31 – The number of days I went without sugary treats of any kind. Yep, you read that right – the entire month of August! I’ve realized that I talk about eating sugary treats far more often than I eat them these days. I wonder if I can keep this streak up during September.
    •  24 – The number of art markers my mom sent me for my adult coloring books. She gets me.
    •  $14.97 – How much I spent on books last month. A coloring book, a crossword puzzle book and one of my Kiwi friend’s books – Keep Your Enemies Closerwhich I’m looking forward to reading. His other book, First Edition, was a cracking read and I’m sure this one will be as well.
    •  218 – The number of pages in a book a friend at the marina gave me to read. It wasn’t until after I looked at it that I realized she had written it (she wrote it under a pen name). Hearing about her experiences writing her book is one of the things that inspired me to focus on my writing this month. 
    •  8 – The number of mosquito bites I got the other day on my legs. They’re easy to count because they swell up into hives. Benadryl is my best friend when it comes to mosquito bites. While the mosquitoes are just a nuisance to me, it’s a frightening thing for people in Florida who are thinking of starting a family. The CDC is warning pregnant women and their partners to stay away from certain areas in Miami due to Zika and I imagine it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way to our part of Florida and beyond (if it isn’t already here).
    •  1 – The number of women I met from the Women Who Sail (WWS) Facebook group at Indiantown Marina. I was chatting with her while we were doing laundry and she mentioned that she belonged to WWS and I told her I did too. Small world. If you’re into boating and you’re a woman (sorry guys), it’s a great group to get and offer advice, share your frustrations and celebrate your successes. 
    • 9 – The number given to the tropical depression I kept my eyes on as it made its way towards Florida at the end of the month. It has since turned into Tropical Storm Hermine and, at the time of writing this (Thursday), was forecast to turn into a hurricane and hit Florida in the early hours of Friday morning. Although Indiantown is a hurricane hole, located inland on the Okeechobee Waterway, you still do have to keep an eye on storms during hurricane season. Checking the National Hurricane Center is just part of the daily routine over coffee in the morning. Keeping all of the folks in Hermine’s path in my thoughts.

    In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite blog posts from last month:

    Wordless Wednesday | Birthday Cat
    Psst…Are You Awake?
    Cost of Living Aboard Tickety Boo

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

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