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Monday, March 31, 2014


Once again I have been hit hard by a book.  This time the novel is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Almost a year ago at a party I spied a young friend sitting on the deck deeply engrossed in a book and facially reacting to what she was reading.  The book was The Fault in Our Stars, and I respect her enough to want to see what had her so mesmerized.

This is a powerful book.  It deals with the lives of three young cancer victims, and it is told through the eyes of one of them, a seventeen year old girl, Hazel Grace.  John Green adeptly gets inside Hazel's head and shares her view of family, friendship, sickness, love, and death. 

Hazel's attendance at a Support Group she attends to please her mother but which she finds incredibly ineffective serendipitously leads her to find a friend in Isaac, a boy who has already lost an eye to cancer and then, through Isaac, to Augustus Waters, a boy who has lost his leg.  This trio, removed by fate from other teenagers, forms a bond and creates a support system that includes humor and an understanding of the flaws in the universe as it applies to them.  Despite the ways their illnesses vanquish some of their hopes and dreams, sickness does not eradicate all of them.

As Hazel's relationship with Augustus grows, she decides to share her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten, a strange book that ends midstream because the main character, Anna, dies.  Hazel's obsession is to contact the author to find out what happened to his other characters: a hamster, Anna's mother, and the Dutch Tulip man.  She writes to Van Houten who is a recluse living in Amsterdam but receives no reply.  How can one recommend a story that doesn't end?  Augustus becomes obsessed with An Imperial Affliction as well, and because of his feelings for Hazel, he wants her to have the answers she needs. 

I refuse to be a spoiler and tell you what happens to any of the three main characters or to the quest to find the ending of An Imperial Affliction.  In fact, I am not going to tell you any more about the plot.  I will promise that you will be thoroughly engrossed and involved with these teenagers and their families.  Augustus' parents have “Encouragement signs” all over the house with sayings like “Home is Where the Heart Is.”  Hazel overheard her mother say, “I won't be a mom anymore.”  Isaac’s mother becomes his eyes.  Yes, some of it will stab you deeply.

We get to learn about Hazel's cancer and treatment through her own voice.  She defines the other characters to us.  She fluctuates in her tolerance to their caring and presents, probably an honest reflection of the fluctuating hopes and fears she as well as the people she loves feel.  John Green does an extraordinary job of presenting his story without sinking into melodrama.  He uses literature, philosophy, and just to keep us all grounded, video games, to make points. 

Most of all, John Green uses love in its many manifestations.  Love can be wonderful; it can also result in excruciating pain. Young love in all its bittersweet manifestations is here.

One of the many things I appreciated about this book was the feeling that I was reading real-life reactions to real-life tragedy.  Getting the teenagers’ reactions to their plights was particularly important.  What happened to their pre-illness friendships and aspirations?  From what source did their strength and faith spring?  How do they react to the deaths of other cancer friends?  In the end, I believe I learned something. 

Essentially an existentialist, I appreciated the approach on all levels.  Lately I’ve been reading books, quite by accident really, that explore our natures and our dealings with everyday struggles.  This book certainly falls into this category, and as I’ve always felt that the lessons in a good book can improve our own lives, this book has improved mine.

As was The Book Thief, The Fault in Our Stars is listed as Young Adult fiction.  Once again, I suggest that parents read this book and discuss it with their children.  It's that powerful.  It can be frightening.
Adults will approach The Fault in Our Stars on a different experience level.  Who knows, maybe it is more difficult for us to accept cancer in children. While I really thought The Fault in Our Stars was a wonderful book for me to read, I admit to very teary reactions to some of it.

I read John Gunther's Death Be Not Proud when I was 11 or 12.  I became so obsessed with Johnny’s cancer that I convinced myself that I had a lump on my head just as he did. The book hit me so hard my mother made an appointment with our doctor so he could tell me I was fine.  But hey, that’s me.

You might be wondering why I am recommending this on Third Age Traveler.  Simple.  John Green has a lot to say.  The novel is written beautifully, and it will keep you totally engrossed.  Go for it.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Moonglow in beautiful Mexico.
This is from our outside Cancun patio looking across to Isla Mujeres.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Blueberry Hill Market Cafe
The Blueberry Hill Market Cafe
We pass through some very small upstate New York and southern New England towns on our way up to Vacation Village in the Berkshires in Massachusetts.  We like to take the Taconic Parkway rather than travel up the New York Thruway.  It’s a windy country road most of the way with very little traffic.  It’s pretty too,  with a wide wooded center island and woods and pretty scenery along the borders. We can see deep into the woods this weekend because it is still winter, and the ground is covered with snow.  It's a great start to a weekend away.

Once we get off the Taconic, we are in farm country.  Upstate New York is rural, a surprise for people who visit for the first time.  They often expect one big New York City, but that's not the real nature of our state.  Small towns.  Little shops.  Wooden houses, many with front porches.  It's a nice ride as we head toward Massachusetts.

Just as we are about to leave New York State, we drive through a little town on Rte. 20, New Lebanon, New York.  There aren’t too many places to stop for lunch along the way, but we spot the Blueberry Market and Café as we drive past and decide to turn around and try out this small breakfast/lunch/grocery store. You can't miss it; it's right on Rt.20.  (518 794-2011)

It’s a delightful surprise.  There is still ice on the driveway, so the main entrance to the restaurant is closed, and we enter through the grocery store.  It’s more of a specialty store with local products, freshly baked goods, and a chalkboard menu that tantalizes.  It takes longer to decide on our lunch choices here than in a diner with a 12 page menu.  Everything looks great.  The aromas in the air make our mouths water, and it’s more a matter of eliminating one choice after another than choosing what pops out from the menu! 

We place our orders at the counter and are given a stand with a number to put on our table.  We’re also given huge empty mugs to fill from the selection of their own roasted coffees.  Yes, there is that beautiful aroma in the air as well, and plenty of choice.

Carrying our full cups (probably equal to 3 or more regular cups), we choose our table upstairs. You'll have your choice of several wonderfully aromatic and freshly roasted coffees or if you'd prefer, a choice of teas.  Very pleasing.

The restaurant and grocery was once a house, and the restaurant section is a collection of glorious old tables and chairs.  Remember those marvelously brightly colored metal kitchen tables with the drawers?  The one here is a bright, sunshine yellow. Remember those chairs with the metal rivets down the strip on the side?  They’re here too.  Wooden tables, dining chairs with covers, round tables with cross-stitched table clothes under the round glass, and other tables with cloth table clothes unprotected.  It’s incredibly inviting, picturesque and comfortable all at once. 

Blueberry Hill Market Cafe
The ladies who lunch in this picturesque cafe
We stop by a utensil station and pick up whatever we will need for lunch, and we settle in at a table for two near the window so we can observe the traffic passing by.  This is one of those round tables with a cross-stitched tablecloth under a round glass.  Cozy. It’s frigid out there, and there are no walkers out on the street..

There are other diners: a few groups of ladies, some single men, and several other couples.  One single woman sits down near us and immediately opens a thick library book. She reads intently.  She flips the pages with purpose, and I know I am going to speak to her before I leave.

Blueberry Hill Market Cafe
How pretty is this?!  Frittatas
Within a few minutes, our lunch arrives.  Don’t think for a minute that there is anything small town about our meal.  We’ve both chosen a frittata.  But they are different.  Look at the lovely presentation.  These and the delicious coffee are more than a satisfying way to begin a relaxing vacation, wouldn’t you say? 

Blueberry Hill Market Cafe

When we finally decide we really need to push on, we are sated and smiling. Lunch was perfect. We take our dishes to the station where they are to be left, and Rob goes to pay our bill.  Remember the reader?  I stop to talk to her.  She had just come from the library where the book was highly recommended.  "Nothing better than an panini and a good book," she says, "especially when I've been cooped up so much this winter."  I leave her to enjoy her day.

How much did we enjoy the Blueberry Market and Café? Well, a week later, on our way home from the Berkshires, we stop for breakfast.  Once again, the selections are all so tempting and the coffee so hot and delicious.  There were breakfast frittatas on display, but we resist this time.

Blueberry Hill Market Cafe
How delicious does this look?  And that English Muffin bread. Yummy!
Never had something like that before.  There are scrumptious homefries
hidden under that bacon.  Yes, we rolled out of there!
Look at this breakfast.  This is maple cured bacon that is to die for!  Just enough flavor to set your taste buds a-tingling.  See those thick slices of bread.  That’s homemade English muffin bread.  Superb! 

We decided to pick up some of their home baked pastry to take with us, but somehow we used our heads and rolled out empty-handed.  Not without regret.   

If you’re heading this way, make sure you stop in.  It’s pretty special!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


There's always a beautiful beach on Oahu.
No problem escaping crowds.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
One of the magnificent lobbies on the Queen Mary
Expect surprises when you travel, and you will not be disappointed.  Rob and I booked a room aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for a one night stay just to see what there is to see on an antique luxury liner no longer at sea.  What a good surprise in many ways. 

Let me get the negative off first because the positives totally outweigh it.  Our room was not nice at all.  It was not even particularly clean, and the TV remote was missing.  Despite calls to the desk and promises from them, a replacement never arrived.  It’s true I booked an inside cabin because we were arriving from New York after dark and had plans for the next day; I saw no reason to spring for more expensive fare.  But that’s no excuse.  And, to be perfectly clear, we politely registered our complaints as we checked out.  Without requesting any compensation, the clerk apologized, spoke to someone, and then deducted a sizeable percentage of our bill.  They did the best they could to make things right, and I hope they also had a talk with the housekeeping staff.

Now for the surprises! 

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
Age has its beauty.  She's a graceful ship.
This is a magnificent ship with a stellar history.  At night it looks like something out of a movie, and indeed that is exactly how I felt.  The ship is festooned with lights, and the smokestacks are regally tilted back as reminders that they sent their smoke behind them.  The stewards are dressed in uniform, and around the ship there are pictures of and engravings of  Queen Mary, England's monarch at the time.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
This ship was not originally going to be named the Queen Mary, but the builders had to have the royal permission to name is after Queen Victoria.  When the King was asked, "May we name it after our most beloved Queen?" the King replied that his wife, Queen Mary, would LOVE to have the ship named after her.  Would you have the nerve to say, "No, I meant Queen Victoria?" Hence, the new luxury liner was christened The Queen Mary.
We arrived while  a winter program, CHILL, was in progress with ice skating and other winter events going on in the midst of warm California.  We didn’t participate, but we did enjoy the beautiful sight.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
The view from the deck down to CHILL with its lights, ice skating,
and winter activities in the middle of Long Beach.
We also arrived just as a Steam Punk Symposium was getting underway, and no, we had no clue what that was about, so let me define by way of that nefarious source, Wikipedia:

 Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.  Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West,” in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
Everyone was in a party mood, and this man carried his invention.
The Symposium participants were a delight.  They arrived, some entire families in costume, carried steam inventions, and had their own Steampunk Boutique in one of the ballrooms—a fascinating place where we were definitely conspicuous.  They definitely wanted to be photographed.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA

Why book the Queen Mary for this Steampunk gathering?  She is post-Victorian, so post their interest time period.  It’s as close as they could get in time.  For us, it was perfect!

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA

One of the complaints I read on Trip Advisor is that staying aboard the Queen Mary was like spending a night in a museum.  How great is that!!!!!  That's precisely why I wanted to stay there.

In the evening we dined aboard the Queen in The Chelsea Chowder House and Bar.  We had very lovely, ice cold oysters, and looked out over the water at Los Angeles’ sights.  Rob’s seafood platter and my calamari were just right, and if the linens were not first class, it didn’t matter at all; the service was good, and we were aboard one of the world’s greatest ships.

Walking around the ship after dinner was delightful.  Occasionally we’d see the Steampunk folk strolling the teak deck as well.  The walls inside and out were covered with poster-sized photographs of the rich and famous who sailed on this ship--clearly the world’s most exciting ocean liner in its day boasting five dining areas, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, and even a small hospital.  She was also, for 14 years, the fastest transatlantic steamer as she outraced her sister ships across the Atlantic Ocean.  Civilized and luxurious, she carried Bob Hope, Loretta Young, Clark Gable, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  Queen Elizabeth sailed on her—the current Queen Elizabeth’s mother!

In the morning we breakfasted in the Promenade Café amid many Steampunkers dressed for their Symposium.  It was a grand way to begin the day.  On the walls here were photos of the kitchen as it ran during the ship’s heyday, and that put us in the mood to take the self-guided audio tour which came as part of the hotel package.  We expected to skim through and be gone in an hour or so; we stayed for more than three amazing hours learning about this grand piece of history.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
This wasn't the only complex panel we saw, but only one part of it,
that piece at the bottom, seemed familiar.  The number of gauges and
controls was staggering.
Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
This photo captures a mere sliver of the engine room.  It is enormous.  We
spent a lot of time reading the information down here and being dazzled by
the power and complexity of it all.
Movies of ships' bowels and engines simply do not do justice to the size and power of these mammoth vessels.  The Queen Mary spent the WWII years chauffeuring American and Canadian soldiers to the front.  Its speed was appreciated.  Returning to passenger service after the war, it saw the beginning of a different kind of trans-Atlantic voyage--by air. They attempted retro-fitting her with stabilizers to make the voyage less "rocky," but that proved less than successful. Eventually she ended here in Long Beach, California.  Take a look at some of these pictures taken on our tour.  There is also an impressive timeline that traces a thoroughly captivating history.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
Just to give you a view at an original anchor.  Compare that with the height of Rob!
If you are in California in the LA area, this is definitely worth a day trip! We won't see her likes again.

Friday, March 07, 2014


Pelican in Florida

I've always gotten a kick out of this pelican photo from Sailfish Marina on Singer Island, Florida.
He is waiting for the man cleaning fish to throw him the offal!  Terrific.
This was not the year for us to stay home from Florida.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


I've been gone a while, but I am back!  We have been traveling, so I have a lot to share with you.  It still is an amazing world and wonderful to explore!


Stranger things have happened during our travels than our conversion to something totally new.  Here’s something I will not be fully able to explain to you.  But believe me, it’s worth a read.

In Palm Desert, California we always get to the College of the Desert Fair held each weekend on the college grounds.  It is an upscale market of sorts featuring vendors from near and far.  You can buy gas powered fire pits that sell for thousands of dollars, Baggalini bags, and exotic cars. You can meet craftsmen/women selling items ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime.  For a joke gift, I bought two balls that you throw against a hard surface and watch them splat and then come back to their original shapes.  One is like an egg and one resembles a pink pig.  The College of the Desert fair offers some pretty interesting items.  There’s unique hand-crafted jewelry.  And foodies, there are rows of food vendors.  You want it; they’ve got it.

As we walk the aisles, we pause at one vendor, Superior Magnetics, where Shu and Cricket Avilla have an intriguing line of magnetic therapy products.  They do weekend events and have a mail order business as well.  The idea of magnetic therapy to relieve pain is not new to us, but we are skeptics by nature and just listen for a while as Shu speaks to others who stop by his display.

 Shu is a warm individual and approaches his subject with enthusiasm.  He explains the theories behind magnetic therapy and some of its possibilities as it applies to the person questioning him.  As he speaks to potential customers, Rob becomes interested in the conversation and asks Shu a few specific questions about how magnetic therapy works and what research exists on its efficacy.  It is a pretty involved conversation.

 Rob’s knee had been “acting up,” and he’d been taking half tablets of the painkiller ultram for several days, something he truly prefers to avoid.  Shu convinces Mr. Skeptic to wear a magnetic ankle bracelet for a few minutes and to walk down the row of stalls.  Within minutes, NO KIDDING, Rob’s knee pain calms down enough to make it no more than a slight bother.  It does not eliminate the pain entirely, but the pain subsides sufficiently so Rob skips the next scheduled painkiller and does not ever use the knee brace he carries with him when we travel.

When Rob described the chronic back pain he experiences caused by seven herniated and bulging discs, Shu uses a Piezoelectric Stimulator he says helps restore electrical flow.  Immediately the pain disappears. 

Is Rob convinced of the magnets' efficacy?  Rob left the fair with the magnetic ankle bracelet and a Piezoelectric Stimulator.  

Just to bring you up to date, this occurred on January 18th.  Today is March 4th, and Rob has not taken a pain killer yet. Yesterday, after a strenuous treadmill workout, he used the Piezolelectric Stimulator on his knee, and again, the results were dramatic!

Back to California.  An older man in a wheelchair stopped by Superior Magnetics.  He had some sort of boot on his foot and complained of gout pain.  Shu told him that with gout he might not feel any results for at least a week, but the man wanted to try an ankle bracelet.  Shu put one on him, and they continued talking.  In a few minutes, the man said that his foot felt a little better.

That evening back at Marriot’s Desert Springs Villas, I tried the ankle bracelet on to see if it affected my ankle stiffness.  The stiffness disappeared, and on January 19th, we went back and I acquired a bracelet for each ankle.  They’ve rarely been off, and the stiffness is virtually gone. 

We did some internet research to learn about measuring strength in magnets—called gauss.  We also checked out other dealers for comparison.  Our bracelets use 5200 gauss magnets.  That strength is not readily available by other dealers, and, of course, the stronger the magnets, the more expensive they are.  

If you suffer from pain, you might want to investigate magnetic therapy.  You might well get your answers by visiting Shu’s website, and don’t hesitate to call him.  I think you’ll get clear answers to your questions.  Speak to Shu about magnet strength too.

Shu has many very attractive styles of magnetic jewelry.  Rob chose the Scottsdale, and I have the Wimbledon model in the ankle bracelet.  But you wear the jewelry close to where you experience discomfort, so you might choose a bracelet or a necklace.

There is a lot of information on Shu’s website You will see bracelets, ankle bracelets, necklaces, and items aimed at hitting close to the area where you are bothered. There are articles to read about magnetic health, and you might even sign up for Shu’s newsletter as an additional learning tool.  There is contact information; don’t be hesitant to call him.  We found him very responsive to our questions.

The truth about magnetic therapy is that there is no definitive study about why it works on some people or how it works.  What I do know definitively is that it works for us, and I am passing it on to you.  We are definitely converts to this way of treating chronic pain.

We feel so strongly about Shu's integrity and product, that I am putting a permanent link to Superior Magnetics on Third Age Traveler.  Should you want him in the future, he will be there via this link.