Friday, February 24, 2017

Earning those Frequent Flyer MIles

I have been to Europe 10 times, 7 of those trips in free seats from Frequent Flyer Miles.  I tend to hoard the miles for those trips, though I will occasionally use miles for domestic flights.  I am a member of three major frequent flyer programs, Delta, American and United, a couple of them are in alliances that allow me to earn miles for flying on other airlines such as Alaska.  Most of my miles are on Delta or American.  I also have airline branded credit cards for two of these.  I earn miles on all dollars spent on those cards and receive free checked bags and priority boarding on those two airlines.  

Last Friday I was earning my miles.  I flew from Orlando to DC, on American.  Went home to the condo for two hours, did laundry, paid the bills, checked the mail, retrieved packages that arrived while I was out of town, went to the gym, took a shower, packed, dressed and went back to the airport.  I then flew on Delta to Lexington to visit Jay for the long weekend.  That is one of the craziest days of flying I have ever had.  It is also a couple of thousand miles earned, on two different airlines.  That much closer to the next European adventure.   

London, Ireland, or Spain for the next trip? 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Big Bird

I ended up with a mid-size Jeep as a rental car in Florida, I kind of liked it, and I took advantage of it to get a little off the beaten path.  Not off-road, but out onto back roads in the Merritt Island Wildlife refuge.  Out where the big birds can be found.  Above a roseate Spoonbill and a Heron.  The Heron flew away shortly after this first picture was taken, the Spoonbill stayed around and I was able to get several great images, then it flew away.  I didn't catch it in flight, I wish I had, the color was spectacular.  

Do you like to get off the beaten path? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Have I Been Reading 2nd Edition

I have finished reading an imperfect book about being an imperfectionist.  How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self‑Acceptance, Fearless ... by Stephen Guise is a bit of a chore.  I should have known when the introduction warns the reader that book moves a bit slow through a lot of steps, and the in the last chapter supposedly tells you how to tie it all together and put it to use, then in the last chapter reiterates that it has been a long haul to get there. There are a few good nuggets hidden in the book, but unless you are moribund by perfectionism, I would not recommend wading your way through to get to the point of the book.  I paid for it, so I finished it.  I think it could have been half the length and better made it's point (kind of like a lot of my blog posts.)   

I have read a couple of really good popular psychology / self help books recently, Get Off Your "But": How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself, by Sean Stephenson, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good ... by Mark Manson - I would recommend both. Those successes left me open to Kindle's suggestions, and along came this imperfect book. I have a couple more books of this type on my Kindle, I will let you know what I think.  I just started Americas Best Food Writing - and anthology. So far so good - tasty even.    

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Goodbye to Mom

Her adventure is finally at an end, my mother died late Monday evening. The last few years have not been easy, the top picture is five years ago, two years ago, and this summer. She slipped away by inches over the past several years.  

Born Joyce Jean Harp in June of 1927, to a farm hand, and his very young bride in rural Michigan.  She was their only child. She was a C-section birth, at a time when any surgery was terrifying. She was two when the great depression hit, the stories of her childhood are ones of struggle until her later teens when her parents settled on a farm. They didn't have running water or electric power in the house until she was a teenager. During World War II her parents saved up gas ration stamps, and took her to California and back one winter. One of her high school teachers was arrested as a German spy. She finished high school during World War II, her graduating class was about 12 people, many of the men in her class would not survive the war. 

After High School she talked about getting a job, and maybe more education and her father told her she should find neighboring farm boy and settle down and start a family. She wrote an aunt in the Detroit area who offered her a place to live, one of her uncles drove her to the train station, and she left home - essentially running away from home. 

She met my father when she was on a date with one of his friend's. Her date's car broke down, and my father rescued her from a long walk home - he as always prided himself on owning a reliable car.  She and my father have been married 68 years.  She had four children.  

She was a stern disciplinarian, the threat was never wait until you father gets home.  She kept an immaculate house,  cooked a mid western farm diet.  She protected her children, but let life happen to us.  When I was in elementary school we had a crop failure on the farm, and she went to work for a newspaper and printing company.  I think she liked going back to work outside the home.  I learned how to cook and bake while she was working.  

Later she helped run the farm, working the rest of us into the ground.  Five years after I finished high school, my parents sold the farm in Michigan and "retired" to Florida.  Retirement did last long, within a year they were both back working.  They retired a second time about five years later, and that time it stuck.  They traveled a bit, spending summers in Michigan for about 20 years.  They went to Hawaii twice and Europe just once (I have made up for them.)  Ultimately what she liked was being home.  Home being a modest home in Florida that they bought in 1976 and lived in the rest of her life.   

Several years ago she developed Parkinson's and dementia 2 or 3 years later.  Four years ago she was very sick, in the hospital and then a nursing home for a few weeks.  She was home about a month from that when she fell and broke her leg.  She never recovered from that injury.  Physical therapy was painful, and because of her dementia she couldn't understand why the man was hurting her.  She never walked again.  The dementia slowly robbed her of the ability to communicate. When I visited in September she knew who I was and was able to say a coherent sentence or two, by December she was not sure who was around and in the time I was there the only thing she said that was clearly understood shouting at the dog to be quiet (she knew his name.) When I visited in January she didn't seem to recognize me, she was sleeping most of the time, not wanting to get out of bed many days and had little ability to communicate.  Her condition had worsened since then, she essentially stopped eating and drinking almost two weeks ago. She lingered much longer than anyone expected - she was made of tough stuff.   

She is survived by her husband George, oldest son Dale - now 65, middle son Gary - in his early 60's who has worked for Disney for decades, her daughter Karen - who was her primary caregiver for the last three years, and her 58 year old baby, your one and only Travel Penguin. She has two grandsons Michael and Andrew.  

Arrangements are pending at this late hour.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Getting the Most Out of my Daily Commute

One of the reasons I wanted to move to Washington DC, was I wanted to live in a real city with a mass transit system, and by mass transit system, I mean trains and subways.  I enjoy not having to fight traffic on a daily basis. The subway system is not perfect, and it does have it's moments of frustration, but far few frustrations than traffic.  

I live in a high rise condo, on top of a hill about 8 miles directly south of Washington DC.  I am a 10-12 minute walk from the nearest subway station.  The condo runs a shuttle bus mornings and afternoons on weekdays, or I can walk, about once per week I drive to the station and park (the station has three large parking garages.)  
When I can I walk to and from the station.  The route crosses a small park, skirting around a steep ravine that has not been developed (a developer owns the ravine and will do something with it some day.)  The picture above was taken on morning, I nice sticky snow had fallen overnight - it had all melted off by evening.    

Once on the train, I almost always settle into my favorite seat, third car from the end, middle doors, east side of the train.  Most mornings and afternoons I read, looking up as the train crosses the water at Four Mile Run and again as it passes the end of Reagan National Airport - I love checking out what planes are on the ground.  I read again, looking up when the train crosses the River north of the Pentagon.  I change trains at Gallery Place China Town, and if I can get a seat, read for another 10 minutes.  If I don't feel like reading, I people watch, or simply sit and think.  I leave the driving to Metro Rail. My office is five floors directly above a subway station.  My commute takes 50 to 75 minutes each way - depending on how many problems the train has.  I enjoy it, and do my best to get the most out of it. 

What is your commute like? 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Foodie Questions

I sometimes think of myself as a foodie, but I really am not a food snob.  The truth be told, I am an adventuresome eater, who will eat almost anything.  I don't have terribly high standards, though I enjoy really great food.  Except for soggy french fries, I seldom find food inedible.  

Some food questions:
1: Cupcakes, a brilliant idea, or a stupid idea gone viral?
2: Velveeta - is it cheese? 
3: Sashimi - wonderful or bait? 
4: Apples - red or green? 
5: How do you like your steaks cooked? 

My answers: 
 1: Cupcakes, a brilliant idea, or a stupid idea gone viral?  I think cupcakes are the stupidest idea in baking.  I can't eat one without getting my fingers sticky, I can't get it out of the paper wrapper without making a mess.  

2: Velveeta - is it cheese? I was raised with Veveeta in the house, I have eaten a lot of it, and it is not cheese.  It is food chemistry. It has its uses, but don't try to pass it off as cheese.  

3: Sashimi - wonderful or bait? I love sashimi and sushi.  Who knew, raw fish could taste so clean and fresh. 

4: Apples - red or green? Red and ripe.  A sour apple is either not ripe, or a tree that didn't graft correctly.  

5: How do you like your steaks cooked? Rare to Medium Rare, I want red meat to be red in the middle - this is a major conversion for me, I was raised in a family where steaks were cooked well done and beyond, I once heard my father order a steak well done - dried out. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My What A Big Rooster

Welcome to the year of the Rooster.  The Atrium between the hotel and casino at the MGM Grand Resort at National Harbor is decorated for the Lunar New Year and welcomes the year of the Rooster.  The colors are dramatic and the displays nicely detailed.  The music is a little loud and repeats far to often on a loop.  It is a nice place to visit. I hope that the big cock brings you good luck this year.