Sunday, November 30, 2008

If Only We Were Books - What a Story We Could Tell

A book registered on BookCrossing is ready for adventure.

I like to read travel magazines, every now and then I find a really good bit of advice. Did you know that Cipro is becoming resistant to T.D. in Southeast Asia and that Zithromax (or a Z-Pac) is a better choice for the duffel to that destination?

Stuck at home because of a slumping stock market and crazy schedules, it seems easier to read about traveling these days. I am in the middle of reading An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof recommended by some friends who like to travel the way The Kid and I do. Until recently I've never really thought about the books I leave behind for others to read. Friends who are going to Grenada at the end of January are intentionally taking books that are suitable for the Grenada Library in St. Georges. The library there was devastated by hurricane(s). They are also donating all kinds of goodies to local schools. We asked American Airlines to drop the charge for extra baggage, so book schlepping wouldn't be totally painful, but they couldn't. Times are tough for everyone I suppose.

Aside from intrepid travelers who leave books behind, there is one group - I think is still around and doing good in bringing books to the Caribbean is Boaters for Books.

But back to thinking about the books one leaves behind, it seems there was an entrepreneur
a few years back who thought about this too. He started a fun website called BookCrossing where you assign a number to a book and give it away. From the BookCrossing FAQ:

I'm looking at your site here, and I can't believe what I'm reading. Do you actually want me to give away my books?
Ummm, yes. Trust us on this one. Registering your books with, then giving them to a friend, a charity, or otherwise releasing them "into the wild" and following their progress and travels, is infinitely more fulfilling than the small satisfaction you'll get by looking at your books in your bookcase every day.

As Austin Powers would say, "It's karma, baybee!"
When you give the book away, it's "released". In releasing a book, you make an entry (journal the book) at BookCrossing indicating that it's been released. When someone "captures" or finds a book with a BookCrossing label and number, they add an entry at BookCrossing. The bookcrosser who released the book - in this case that's you - receives an email telling them it has been found and from then on, everyone in the chain who held/read the book will receive an email every time somebody journals the book. Each person will also be able to see the book's journey you just look at it on your bookshelf at the website. (Please note email address and journals are sent in the form of a PM (personal message) directly from the BookCrossing site.)

Seems like a lot of fun and an interesting journey - if you're a book.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's Bad When You Tell Your Kid to Take the Shop Vac to His Room

It's fun to watch currency rates change as our economy tanks.

First the Euro: 0.7814 U.S.1.00

Next the Canadian Dollar: 1.2636 U.S.1.00

Then the East Caribbean Dollar: 2.6705 U.S.1.00

Where would you head this time of year?

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
Jimmy Buffett 1977

I took off for a weekend last month
Just to try and recall the whole year
All of the faces and all of the places
Wonderin' where they all disappeared
I didn't ponder the question too long
I was hungry and went out for a bite
Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum
And we wound up drinkin' all night

Its these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldnt laugh we would all go insane

Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places Ive been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a bitches
Ive seen more than I can recall

These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands
If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane

I think about Paris when I'm high on red wine
I wish I could jump on a plane
So many nights I just dream of the ocean
God I wish I was sailin' again
Oh, yesterdays over my shoulder
So I cant look back for too long
Theres just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just cant go wrong

With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of my running and all of my cunning
If I couldn't laugh I just would go insane
If we couldn't laugh we just would go insane
If we weren't all crazy we would go insane

I have a brilliant, disorganized teenager.

In each room is a twisted pile of amazing stuff that lays as a tribute to the disorganization and randomness of a teenager. The Tasmanian Devil.

The Kid's travels and mine will vary greatly in the future, but right now, we're traveling the same path. His path to launching into the adult world. I can push him along, I can drag him along or we can walk side by side. Some days I do all three with him.

My job is
to get him to study and put education first, but also to to nag him to get organized, get things done, to do the things he is supposed to do in order to become an adult, an adult that can take care of himself .

I am The Nagger, he is Taz. That's life at my house.

Above The Kid's desk is a sign I made that says:
Above my desk is another sign I made that says:
We have a group of friends who are meeting up in the Caribbean. These are friends we met sailing on the S.V. Mandalay and traveled again with on the S.V. Polynesia. We'll probably hook up with them as we need a break from being The Nagger and Taz. We're also looking at an immersion language class. Maybe we can do that in the Caribbean too. We'll see. Anyway, travelin' feet are moving again!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not Back to School: Camping With Eating Machines

The thing about going camping with two teenage boys is that you begin to realize that there is a thin line between sanity and insanity. Tea Lake campground at Algonquin Provincial park is a quiet place to get away for that last week of summer, just before you don't go back to school. It was there I spent 5 nights with The Kid and his cousin.

It's a 12 hour drive from Cincinnati to Algonquin, and for once I was grateful for
iPods. Not being into the sort of tunage that teenage boys are, I didn't drive them crazy with Jimmy Buffett, and they didn't drive me crazy with the likes of White Stripes.

The funny thing about teens is that they can find stuff to do no matter where they are. My nephew was absolutely sure he was going to catch a fish while we were there and to honor that hope, I brought along three sticks of butter that we were going to use to fry them up over an open fire. Needless to say, the fish eluded us all week.

The first time we went to Algonquin, The Kid bailed on a camping trip that involved paddling. We of course had to take our cousin to show him the wonders of camping from a kayak at the ranger station. It seems kayakers are required to take toilette "kits", not the kind you're thinking about, along on the boats. They were both glad we had vault toilets in the campground. It's the simple things in life.

WARNING: One cooler and
three crates of food is not enough for two teenage boys who have played hard all day. Why do boys eat so much?

With that idea I'll leave you with an eating machine food hit.

Campground Nachos
In the following order place these ingredients on a large square of foil:

  1. A mix of Mild Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack
  2. Sliced Black Olives
  3. Canned Salsa
  4. Corn Chips, Tostitos work best
  5. Another large square of foil


  1. Crimp foil edges together to form a foil package.
  2. Place foil package on the open fire, provided you got the fire started in the first place.
  3. Wait until you hear sizzling.
  4. When you hear sizzling, remove from fire.
  5. Flip foil package over on large platter so the cheese is now on the top.
  6. Peel back foil.
  7. Feed eating machines.
  8. Start next batch.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On The Steps to the Launch Pad

Well. I have finally recovered from that rite-of-passage all teenage males go through.

Driving the family car, alone.

Right now The Kid is at the car dealer, on an errand for mom. The driver seat in the car has to be adjusted one way for me, another way for The Kid. Unfortunately, when that adjusting mechanism broke, it was in The Kid's setting, so off he had to go to the car dealer to have it fixed.

It was hard for me to drive the car with my head sticking out through the sunroof.

Actually, The Kid has been an excellent driver and on his own in the driver seat for a couple of months now. Between his volunteer work and now his part time job, he uses the car as much as I do, though we've managed to work out a decent schedule of sharing a single car.

The steps to the launch pad. It's been fun getting The Kid ready to launch as an adult. He took a part time summer job because he wanted to help pay for that young-male-insurance-heart-attack-sized premium that comes with the rite of passage.

In the fall he'll be driving to two classes at the local community college, another step to the launch pad....what's next?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Student Driver: Feel Sorry for Me

There was a time when I would look at a slow moving vehicle on the highway, the one with the "Student Driver" sign taped to the back window and feel irritated, today, I have a different sentiment. That sign should say "Student Driver: Feel Sorry for Me".

The legislators of Ohio must have been really sadistic bunch when they signed into law the condition that new drivers must be accompanied by a licensed driver for at least 50 hours. 50 hours is a lot of hours, especially if you're a single mom. In general I think our lawmakers think about families as ones that include two married adults, thus 25 hours isn't too bad if mom and dad do some of the passenger seat time.

The Kid is basically a good driver, obeys the speed limit to the letter, holds the wheel at 10 o-clock and 2 o-clock, leaves the car seat raised just high enough that I bang my head when I have to get in and drive. We decided that cell phones and radio were too much of a distraction, so neither are on when we drive, and boy, 50 hours is a lot of hours.

The funny think about a 16 year old is that if they think they can get away with something, they will. The Kid was afraid of a moving violation thanks to his driver's ed class at AAA. So after that announcement, it was just too easy for The Kid to let mom drive him everywhere, 5 days a week, so the 50 hours weren't getting done - at all.

Just as I thought I was going to lose my mind with all the driving I was having to do, I realized I needed to get The Kid in the driver seat for 50 hours, and thus the term "Mom's taxi" became a reality. After that revelation, each time The Kid got into the car for a ride to one of his "things", the following conversation would take place.

"Do you have ten dollars?"

"For what?"

"The ride you are about to take."

"I'm tired."

"So. Do you have ten dollars?"

I haven't made one dollar yet and The Kid is a few hours short of the 50 hours he needs to satisfy the requirements for the State of Ohio.....

© 2005-2008. Amy Cortez. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Travels in Your Own Backyard, Happy Birthday to the Kid

We've had a lot of life lately, sometimes life gets in the way of writing. But I can't forget my annual post to the Kid on his birthday. Usually we plan a big trip and we might still do that, but the Travelin' Homeschooler has had an illness that has effected our ability to fly. You never really recognize how important your sense of hearing is until you lose it to a strep infection that perforates the eardum, but enough of our gore.

Late Winter in the Midwest has been rough, but now we're getting ready to hit the road and it's looking like a good travel season is upon us, starting with a milestone Birthday.

The Kid's 16th Birthday, how could I make it memorable? Sometimes ideas just drop into your lap simply by reading a small local paper.

"Aviation show: helicopter rides".

What an awesome memory.

Especially since earlier in the year The Kid gutted a radio control helicopter to build a lighter than air vehicle (LTAV) for an aerospace course through MIT Open Courseware.

Generally we celebrate a Birthday for a week and thata's what we did, starting with the helicopter ride and ending with a cookout and cake.

The Kid is still working on getting his driver's license, the AAA guy is taking him driving soon.

The poor man. I wonder if he'll appreciate the ski helmet and snorkle I plan to hand to him.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Caine Mutiny and Other Snowbird Pursuits - Florida 2008

I guess it would be appropriate to elaborate on the title I chose for these three previous entries.

As a Sophomore, The Kid has been reading some books that require a little more thought than usual. Herman Wouk, another one of my favorite authors is a great story weaver and this trip to Florida we took 2 Herman Wouk books with us. One The Kid was reading, The Caine Mutiny: A Novel, is a story about an incident that happened during WWII. The Kid, in a conclusion essay, had decided to focus on an interesting character in the story, Captain Queeg, (a YouTube Video) and on the classic question one always asks about this novel, was Queeg's sanity questionable? I had my all time favorite Herman Wouk story with me, Don't Stop the Carnival: A Novel. This is a story about changes in attitudes and changes in latitudes, a theme I am rather fond of.

Rarely do we travel without purpose, and this year our trip to Florida was to kayak, but also to read these great books.

Our Kayak adventures in Southern Florida included a passage across the intracostal waterway to Don Pedro Island. This island is only accessible by boat and worth the effort.

A quite paddle on Red Lake near Caspersen beach. Red Lake is a home to abundant wildlife and if you're not careful, can dump you out into a very busy Florida intercostal waterway!

And after all the reading and paddling, we took time to walk the famous "sharktooth" beach.

Caspersen beach is where you can find sharks teeth on the beach. It used to be that you could find thousands in a walk, now you're lucky to find one. The word is out!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Caine Mutiny and Other Snowbird Pursuits - The Venice Beach Mooch

Florida 2008

Carl Hiassen is one of my favorite authors. He writes about all kinds of characters that can only be found in Florida and one of our favorite studies in Florida is people. The Kid and I love to watch people and the pier at Venice Beach seemed like just the place to do that.

It was 96 degrees, really hot for winter in Florida and the pier was a refreshing break from the heat of the sand. Generally the pier is crowded with tourists, but this day the fishermen were out enforce, including the Pelicans and Snowy Egrets. I am always amazed at the way critters manage to score a meal.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Caine Mutiny and Other Snowbird Pursuits - The Wakulla Kid

Florida 2008

A friend sent an email with just one link: A Hotel Built of Ice and Snow

Just for grins I nibbled and landed on:

ICEHOTEL (YouTube video) is situated in the village JukkasjÀrvi, 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden. The heart and backbone is the River Torne flowing freely through the unspoilt wilderness. Covered with a meter thick ice layer winter time the river is the source of all our art, architecture and design. The pure water and the steady movement of the river creates the clearest ice possible.

I have only been in Sweden twice. Once in Stockholm and that was basically civilized and the other time was in Lulea, in Northern Sweden, about 70 miles from the Arctic circle. That was a party. I went in June when it was daylight all day.

My friend has a warped sense of humor I suppose, especially since I had sent Valentines greetings from the sunny state of Florida...

The Kid and I have been kayaking in Florida, while temperatures in Ohio dipped to the teens and below. One of my good friends moved to Tallahassee and invited us down with the lure of a Manatee sighting in the Wakulla river. The Wakulla is situated near Tallhasse and is an intersting place. There is an awesome lodge that is on the National Register of Historic Places, a spring and a river that are crystal clear and an assortment of wildlife I thought was only reserved for the Everglades.

We launched kayaks in 90 degree weather with the hopes of seeing Manatees and after an hour paddle upriver, saw incredible birds, plantlife and alligators, each one bigger than the last one and no Manatees. Now as gators go, they really don't mess with you much because they'd rather sit in the sun - like us snowbirds, but this big fella was one I'd have tossed a beer as a peace offering if I had had one. Instead I told him if he posed real nice, I'd get him on Hollywood squares(a tale I reserve for really big gators).

Needeless to say The Kid didn't stick around for the photo opportunity.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Travelin' With The Kid in 2008

With the state of the American stock market and the economy in general, it's very difficult to think about actually planning a real trip this year, but it can be done. Recently friends of ours did a traditional Windjammer trip, not on a tallship, but out of backpacks and on local ferrys and mailboats! These folks aren't teenagers either!

It's possible to to travel and see all kinds of wonderful sites, even with the current strength of the American dollar! So here's to hitting the road in 2008!