Archive for the ‘Travel/Living’ Category

Had an intense dream the other night about the Maldives. I have no idea what triggered it…but when I logged onto my computer the next day I noticed that the background of my search engine was a picture of an emerald green island in an aqua sea – maybe my subconscious had noticed something that I had missed!

The Maldives, a series of 1200 islands, sit on the equator in the Indian Ocean (translation: flights to the Maldives are exorbitant).

Look, how lovely! I hope I get to see them sometime…


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There’s a lot to be said for living in the south.  Since moving from Canada 11 years to marry my husband, I have been extremely happy, and felt fortunate to be in a location that offered me many benefits – a wonderful church home, happiness with my husband,  a varied and comfortable climate, a culturally rich history, and access to great shopping!  Occasionally someone will ask if I find much a difference between people here and people where I grew up. Initially, I would have said no, but the longer I am here, the more differences become apparent.

 I joke that the South is like finishing school. In the olden days, girls would be trained in the nursery, tutored by a governess, then sent to finishing school where they learned manners, deportment, dancing, and the like. They were then considered “finished” and were ready for the European tour that would complete their education.

I learned a lot from growing up in Canada. Many would argue that the things I learned there could be learned anywhere. This blog entry is not meant for that argument. Here I am focusing on the parts of my education that are distinctly southern.

So, here in finishing school, I’ve learned that:

  • It’s okay to be a little ornamental.

It’s okay to be there just to look pretty. A little tongue in cheek, I call this the “Southern Belle” mentality. Girls here are deliberately taught to look pretty. While my mom was encouraging me to spend as little time in front of the mirror as possible, Southern mamas were booking tanning appointments, pedicures, and eyebrow waxings for their daughters. As I had “poodle” tendencies that were a little squelched, living in the south has given me an opportunity to primp acceptably with the best of them!

  • Homes are supposed to be Beautiful.                                                                                                                     

Growing up, our home was always the nicest of anyone that I knew. My mom enjoyed decorating. I had an aunt who also loved decorating, and between us, we always had nice homes that were tastefully decorated. But it wasn’t until I moved to the south that I really saw what homes COULD look like – not that they had to be huge, grand showcases of wealth, but places where every aspect of a room was carefully considered and planned. I’m sorry, my dear Canadians, but the Southerners have got you beat in this one. Even the most well-planned Canadian homes just don’t come close. This doesn’t mean for one second that every southern home is well done. No, not by a long stretch. But the ones that are…I’ve never seen Canadian homes to equal them.

  • Think before you speak.

It seems as though I SHOULD have learned this in Canada. However, I’ve decided that Canadians as a nation have thicker skins.  Most southerners do not want the truth. They want compliments. Be careful, too, for even something that you mean in a complimentary way can be easily misconstrued as an insult and you will find yourself being politely shunned when you have no idea what you’ve done. It is most unlikely that someone will come tell you, either, for Southerners remain polite and sweet as cream no matter how they’re offended – at least to your face. Watch your phrasology, and watch your tongue! Mo matter what the motivation, this was a good lesson for me to learn (although I do occasionally still offend). I have learned to make my words sweet, in case I am forced to eat them.

  • Biscuits are to be eaten for breakfast.

I grew up eating biscuits with soup. Ummm, biscuits are apparently breakfast food. I must confess that it took me every bit of ten years (I gave up for about a five year stretch in the middle) to learn how to make a proper southern biscuit. These do not fall into the category of health food – the minute you start adding fresh ground flour, they lose their biscuitness and start becoming something else entirely. Biscuits made with white flour are my weekly concession to Southern cooking (although I use aluminum-free baking powder and organic milk). I refuse to overcook my veggies, have yet to eat “soup beans and cornbread,” but I make southern biscuits once a week. If I view them as a conduit for local honey, then they aren’t so bad, right? Yum! (and great thanks to the dearest of friends who taught me how to make them!)

  • Tea is supposed to be sweet.

And cold. I grew up on hot tea. I still drink a lot of hot tea. But I drink a lot of cold, sweet tea, too! Remembering a few friends who came  from Louisiana to Newfoundland for my sister’s wedding – they tried to find some sweet tea in local restaraunts, and were appalled by the Nestea drink crystal concoction they were offered. At the time (not having yet lived in the south), I didn’t understand what the big deal was. Now I know. Tea runs in southerners’ veins. They need regular transfusions!

Some people are offended by the “Southern by the grace of God” attitude. I don’t understand that. I think it’s wonderful that Southerners think that the South is the best place in the world to be. Really, would you have it any other way? The amount of pride southerners have in their homeland is almost unrivaled, in my opinion. Have you ever met anyone, say, from Michigan, that had half the amount of pride in their geographical origins? I doubt it!

So, as I sit in my beautiful home, looking pretty, thinking before I speak, drinking my tea, and eating a biscuit, I ponder living in the South. Yes, it has been very good for me.

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         I’ve been stringing pearls…a string for a dear friend’s birthday, and a string for myself – one of my favorite strands had broken. It reminded me that I had read some very interesting things lately about pearls, and I thought I would share them with you. Many cultures revere the pearl, and it is often considered a very precious gem, second only to the diamond.

        I read a lovely novel entitled “Anna and Her Daughters” by E.B. Stevenson in which one of the girls is given an extremely valuable strand of pearls to wear, but the pearls are “sick” and unrecognizable. You see, from what I understand from the novel, pearls need some moisture, or they dry out and become “sick.” The idea was that the girl would wear the pearls and see if their lustre would return. (I won’t tell you what they represented or what happened in case you want to read the book!) Using my trusty search engine, I tried to discover if this was something that would truly occur – that pearls would deteriorate if not worn, and possibly return to  their prior beauty if worn. I found an legendary reference to in the New York Times from 1892 to some sick pearls belonging to the Archduchess Rainier. According to the legend, her pearls had become sick from disuse, and a special locked cage had been designed for them, and they had been immersed in the Adriatic, where they were slowly regaining their lustre (the small part of the article that I was able to read can be found here http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B0DE6DA1E39E033A25755C0A96F9C94639ED7CF). The Archduchess Ranier is reported to have been Carlotta, wife of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, who built Castle Miramar. Another archduchess,  Princess Maria Immaculata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, loved pearls,  for her husband gave her a string of pearls with the birth of each of her ten children.

Miramar Castle on the Adriatic Sea, below which the pearls were supposedly submerged

        Apparently, none of this is true. However, experts do state that pearls need some moisture to retain their beauty. So, ladies, wear your pearls. Don’t let them languish in the jewelry box! I believe in using beautiful things – there is a lesson in the fact that the beauty of pearls diminish over time if not appreciated through use…. 

(Thanks to G.Kunz’s book “The Book of the Pearl” which helped me in my little search for the truth of the story about the Archduchess’s pearls. The book is out of print, and some of it can be viewed online…or you may purchase it from Amazon for $1400.00. No, rather, skip it and go buy some pearls….)

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fogSome dear ones, having read my Missing Newfoundland blog, suggested that I write a Not Missing Newfoundland blog. You see, they lived in Newfoundland with me, and while they too miss the ideal Newfoundland, they remember the not-so-lovely aspects of an island that history considered uninhabitable for nine months of the year. Newfoundland began as a seasonal fishing community, and when the brief summer waned, it was forsaken until the following spring. With the advent of man-made comforts such as electric heat and snowplows, Newfoundland became inhabited year-round by the most hardy of individuals (or by those who had no choice – it was also a penal colony). So, why? Why would you not want to live in a place with such gorgeous scenery, such pristine habitats? Well, here are the things I think about when I’m feeling glad to be in Tennessee….

1. Newfoundland has more overcast days/ days with precipitation than almost anywhere on Earth. The Cullens could live here year round and never have to hide. If your mood is tied in any way to barometric pressure, this is NOT the place for you….

2. Cold water. Yes, hypothermia sets in after three minutes, so the beautiful ocean can only be enjoyed from a distance, or with the comfort (?) of a Neoprene wetsuit. The beaches – great for bonfires, not much good for anything else. Too rocky. Water’s tooooo cold. Even on the hottest summer day (which, FYI, is only about 30 degrees Celsius and happens only once per year) you still can’t stand the water for more than a few minutes.

3.  The economy is very poor. I remember a 20% unemployment rate.  Jobs can be scarce, difficult to keep, and short-lived. Add this factor to the barometric pressure issue previously mentioned and you have a location where depression may be simply a fact of life, especially for those who are “come-from-aways” and know that the sun is shining somewhere else.

4. It’s expensive to get there, expensive to leave. Flying to Newfoundland is so expensive that it is about prohibitive. Unfortunately, there’s just about no other good way to get to the island – you can take a ferry for six hours and then drive for twelve more to get to the major city, or you can take a ferry for thirteen hours and then drive for three to get to the same city. Either way, motion sickness will likely ensue.

5. Shocking lack of diverse seasons. As one expatriot says, “There are only two seasons in Newfoundland – winter and not winter.”  Spring is late in coming, is mostly muddy, cold, and foggy. The icebergs that are so picturesque keep the island chilled well into June. The summers are brief, windy, and very few things grow well since the season is so short. Winter can range from warm and rainy to cold and snowy. Shovelling can be the bane of existence if the winter proves to be a snowy one. Either way, there is more “slush” than you’ve ever seen in your life, and no boots can keep your feet warm or dry.

6. Yes, the rugged cliffs are wonderful to hike, and very photogenic. Did I mention the wind? I always get a chuckle when a meteorologist from Tennessee warns people about the wind. They really have no idea what a “wind warning” means. I used to think that rain fell sideways everywhere. Umbrellas work in Tennessee – if you use an umbrella, you stay dry. If you use an umbrella in Newfoundland, only the very top of your head will stay dry, and you will struggle to maintain control of your umbrella since it will be trying to fly away in the gale.

7. Ugly trees. Okay – they’re not ALL ugly, but all the ones along the coastline are ugly because the branches only grow on one side, and the tops are completely bent – this is due to the constantly windy weather mentioned above.

8. Newfoundland has a horrifically short growing season – while the wild berries can be wonderful, all other fruit and most vegetable come from the far-flung corners of the planet – I remember once seeing tomatoes from Israel at the grocery store. It’s very difficult to grow anything more than the hardiest of flowers – I am so delighted at the ease with which plants grow here in Tennessee.

  All this aside, on a beautiful day, there is no place like Newfoundland. However, realistically, there may only be 50 days out of 365 that qualify. For some of us, it’s not enough.

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Every year, about this time, I go through a period of really missing Newfoundland. I’ll let the photos speak for me…

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I’ve been reading Michael Crichton’s “Travels” and have found much to think about and ponder…I loved this – after climbing Kilimanjaro, he writes, “I realized then that I had defined myself too narrowly. The experience of climbing Kilimanjaro affected me so powerfully that, for a long time afterward, if I caught myself saying, “I’m not a person who likes to do that activity, eat that food, listen to that music,” I would automatically go out and do what I imagined I didn’t like. Generally, I found I was wrong about myself – I liked what I thought I wouldn’t like. And if I didn’t like the particular experience, I learned I liked having new experiences.”

I loved reading this because I it succinctly defined a feeling that I’ve always had, yet challenged me at the same time.  Although I have always enjoyed new experiences, I recognized that often the experiences I consented to fell within a certain comfort zone. Often enough, I have refused a new experience out of fear or a fairly vague feeling that  I wouldn’t enjoy it. To a certain extent,  self-delusion played a part – I felt as though I was being adventurous, but if it fell within a preexisting comfort zone, it was neither truly adventurous nor brave. Here is where the challenge came in…immediately having read this, I remembered several things I had been loathe to try, and vowed that I would try them – there was no legitimate reason why I shouldn’t other than the aformentioned vague discomfort with the idea. The other temptation when dealing with this trait is to compare yourself with others. Yes, compared to a certain population, I am exceedingly adventurous. However, I am not as apt to try new things as I feel I should be.  To meet my personal goals for growth and development, I need to be more willing to try something a more daunting, and practice what I am constantly preaching – that growth only occurs outside of your comfort zone. I have no intention of making my life a quest for new, daring adventures – I am no Evel Kneival,  and the thought of doing somthing like eating a live octopus is just plain ridiculous. I won’t forsake common sense. However, I won’t let prejudice stop me from trying new things any longer.

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