London Sunset over Cannon Street Station

Lovely! (said with or without a British accent…) Hope you enjoyed the trip!

Sat Nav and Cider

Sunset over Cannon Street Station, London, United KingdomOn our last full day in London, my husband and I travelled to the London Bridge to see the Olympic rings hanging from the nearby Tower Bridge. We arrived just in time to witness sunset and so were torn by two competing attractions. This is the westerly attraction: Sunset over Cannon Street Station, which is located at the foot of the Cannon Street Railway Bridge. (The easterly attraction will be the subject of a future post.)

Sunset over Cannon Street Station, London, United KingdomI took this photo after we walked farther out on London Bridge. A perfect end to our Olympics experience.

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Small Town Dreaming


Several years ago, I feel in love with a house (I say “I” because my husband isn’t the type to fall in a love with a house, per se, he’s unequivocally happy where ever we lay our heads, and would be just as happy in a RV as he would the “perfect” home).  Speaking of which, we might try that RV thing some day…. But I digress.

This house, a somewhat simple house, had a mid 20th century small town charm to it.  Original hard wood floors, spacious nooks and crannies… As if calling to me, I drove past that house weekly, circling the block and wishing.  As luck would have it, the house was on the market.  As fate would have it, it was priced at almost twice the amount we could have afforded to pay for it.  And so I dreamed (as I am known to do).

Days passed.  “Want to go for a ride kids?”  Being preschoolers, they happily compiled.  And off we’d go, down the road, over the river and through the woods (no, no, not really).  But we took many a “drive” simply so I could see that house one more time.

What is it about certain “things” that speak to us in life?  Whether a lifestyle, or a career, or a house?

That house seemed to speak to me, calling my name.

Time passed.  And the house didn’t sell.  A year later we found ourselves miraculously in that house, thanks in part to a recession (a great recession) and a lease option.

What joy!  I was in a paradise.

For a time.

A large house with charm for days, big enough to provide space and room for each of our children, and then some.  A gloriously blooming garden replete with beautiful flowers three seasons out of the year.

But (there’s always a but)…

Turned out the the house had leaks.  Really bad leaks in places where you’d expect them, and then places where you wouldn’t.

Turned out that the picturesque small town was home to a handful of really (really) nice people and then the rest were, well, not so nice (ranging from indifferent to downright rude especially toward us, the newly arrived not-from-around-here “diverse” neighbors).  I was amazed at how little they knew about each other, even though many had been in the neighborhood for 10, 20 or even 30 years.

Turned out that original hardwood floors come with original plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets.  Outlets that appeared to be artifacts of a bygone era (AC/DC, what’s that?).  The kind of outlets only your grandparents would know what to do with, and they would have made reference to their grandparents, oil lamps, and minimal electrical needs.  This museum worthy wiring came with the requisite trips to the fuse box every evening when all were home and the gadgets were actually on and running.

Turned out that there were chipmunks and a squirrel living in the walls of our house.  Oh and a possum under the back deck, so big he could have scared away a city dog any day.  In what appeared to be a casting call for a Ken Burns take on The Insects, the carpenter ants had established enemy camps in three of four corners in the kitchen walls.  This all makes for great stories (after you’ve moved).

Turned out that the rated “10” school in our neighborhood was great, but not so great for our kids.  Particularly our delayed reader.  When I asked if we should be concerned about dyslexia, they responded with “well, we might not ever know what the ‘problem’ is.”  He was in the first grade.  It’s funny but educators will talk until their blue in the face about the trouble with boys being late readers but when faced with the reality of the challenge few are capable of truly stepping up to the plate.

Turned out that even though small towns are fairly safe, much more safe then a big city, overall, crime still lurks around the corner (the only attempted break-ins I’ve ever experienced were in this small town).  On a side note, small town police can be quite friendly though, and would often park outside my house, waiting to  see if the perpetrators ventured back to the scene of the crime.

Turned out that the lack of cultural activities for me (a big city gal) was a bit more than I could bear.  Opera? Please.  Diversity?  Not so much (although a neighbor did say, well, we’ve got several kinds of Protestants in the neighborhood).  Foreign film festivals? Are you kidding? And don’t get me started on the abysmally low WalkScore….

Turned out that paradise takes more forethought and hindsight and less wishing on a star, then I’d thought.

We were there two years, and by the end we were so miserable that the original charm and beauty of the house and its setting was more of a prison then it was a life to be loved.

So we hit the high road and headed back to the big city.

Now we’re in the cramped confines of a big city low rise, with shared spaces in every corner and a kitchen that would make galley kitchens laugh.

Gone are the wide open spaces that was our back yard.  Gone are the flowers and bees and the old oak tree (yes, we had that too).  Gone are the dreams of raising kids small town American style.

And yet, we’re happier then we’ve been in a long time.  And the delayed reader is thriving (thanks to a school with much better resources and an attitude that says “it’s only 3rd grade, we’d hardly write him off yet”).

And culture is right outside my door, along with mass transit (not to be taken for granted), and a schedule so full we really don’t have time to sit around and miss our old precious homestead…

But there are moments when I’d love to look up at the sky and see stars like I’ve never seen them before.  To hear the calm quiet of a small town night, with crickets playing their music in the background.

So we take what we have.

In the moment.

And keep our memories tucked in a special place, in our hearts.

Me (not in the photo, just as the writer), blogging last year….

The Social Writer

I’m reminded today that it is ever so important to keep our perspective as we go about our day-to-day, especially in this increasingly “virtual” world that we live in.

A local sportscaster complained that many of his fans on Twitter were insulted that said sportscaster didn’t post all of his show’s tweets personally.  This was not a personal Twitter account, this was his radio show’s Twitter account.  And the expectation was that this host should be spending his days and nights knee deep in tweeting?  Really?  When does he have time for his “real” job then?  And even if it were a personal Twitter account, what about his “real” life?

Other times I’m struck by how personally people take your presence or your absence on Twitter.  As if your world really does (and should) revolve solely around a virtual community of people, the majority of whom you’ve never met (if…

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Reflections for the Week

I think we’ve established that I spend way too much time thinking about social media.

It’s what I do for work, and my hobby, plus a favorite pastime, so that makes for a fair amount of time spent being *social* online.

But one of the things I love about the myriad of connections I make along the way is the sense that the world is so big and yet so small, all at the same time.

Perhaps that’s why we’re drawn to events like the Mars Rover landing. Just how big (and on the flip side), just how small is our universe?

Will we expand beyond the here & now to a greater unknown? Or do we need to check ourselves lest we lose the one life sustaining place that exists in this whole big universe?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say, regardless of what is or what isn’t, that we need to take care of this world’s ecosphere.  It’s unique, it’s precious and we depend on it.

The Freshly Pressed Viewpoint (or How to Go from 0 to 60 on a Whim)

So wow.

Yesterday I work up to work on a new blog post & check my blog’s stats. Stats I now realize were meager beyond belief. I’ve had this blog for several years, started it back in my blogging days (way back about three years ago, which is like 20 eons ago in dog years). I started this blog because I intended to gripe moan commiserate with others on my yearning to travel (a lot) and my lack of traveling (a lot). When you really *get* into social media, the first thing that hits you is d@mn look at all that great stuff I’m NOT doing. And oh, what is that uber-cool looking place? And wow, you live what kind of life where?

This is followed by the Google or Die phase, whereby you spend an hour (or 2 or 3) googling random exotic or remote locations that seem appealing around the world and reading about various lifestyles that allow certain people to blog all day long and taunt others with their coolness (read: the work and live anywhere life). Nice gig, if you can get it. And then you log off and go sit in the corner and lick your wannabe-them wounds.

This can not be good for your psyche.

So you stop reading about said lifestyles, only to realize you don’t have much to blog about.  Not really.

Unless you go back to blogging about current events, espousing your opinions on said events, tweeting and sharing those posts to any and all comers, hoping that your viewpoint matters simply because you wrote it.

Yup.

I spent several months (give or take several months) being a blogger that was noticed (in certain corners) for writing stuff (sometimes witty, sometimes not) about new tech trends (mainly social media) and it led to some interesting opportunities and connections (for a minute).

In the meantime, I was raising four kids.  Running a household.  Trying to work a part-time stay at home job as an ESL teacher.  This was an awesome gig.  Talking to people around the globe.  Learning about new cultures.  Sharing my wisdom of language (I like to share knowledge doncha know).  And the juggling began.

Turns out, I’m not a very good juggler.

So I threw the balls in the air and caught the most important ones and let the others fall to the ground.  The biggest one to fall was the blogging.

That was in 2009.

And that was ok.

For awhile.

But I’m a writer at heart (I was scribbling on a notepad in the womb I believe).  You can never get too far away from the things that are your calling in life (believe that).  So the household has matured and things calmed down a bit, and I still can’t afford to live the *remote* *wandering* life, so I turned back to the one thing any yahoo (like me) can do from any corner of the world (any corner being that place that I’m not traveling from).

I started back to blogging.

It’s been all of two weeks.

And I wake up Friday morning, thinking of all the things I need to do, blogging wasn’t on the top of my list actually.  But I had an urge to login and think.

Lo and behold.

There it was.

The Last Thing I Expected To See

You can imagine my surprise.

Ok, maybe you can’t.  Let me explain.  I’m an early riser (really early) and I think I mentioned I’m a mother of four, so early mornings are when I have ME time.  Extremely important in the life of a mother.  This time involves really important stuff, like sitting by the window, quietly and doing… nothing.  This is really important stuff here, you see.  So I rarely log into my blogs early in the morning.  But yesterday I did.  And I’m glad I did or I would have missed the whole *big* event.

So I’m rubbing my eyes, thinking I’m seeing things, and yet there it is.  Me, Freshly Pressed.  So I let out a big *whoop*, waking up the family, and the kids rush over to see what’s the big deal.  They peer over my shoulder at the screen, look back at my excited face and say…

“What’s for breakfast Mom?”

Yes, I’m a pretty big deal in our household now.

The oldest is more than old enough to get it, but he’s so old he wasn’t up for the big *moment*.  Later in the day, I did get a “That’s pretty cool Mom.”  That was good enough for me.

And of course my husband was appropriately excited/pleased/encouraging.  “That’s awesome Babe.”

But never mind.

I’m still thrilled.

It’s not about the stats (although I went from 21 views as my daily high to a whooping 1.7k+), and it’s not about the bragging rights (can I get a job as a big time writer using Freshly Pressed as my calling card?), but it’s about the fact that someone (I’m assuming it’s a person and not just an algorithm or some such thing) somewhere noticed my blog post.

Wonder how that works.  In the hallowed halls of WordPress.com.

Someone goes through random post tags (I’m guessing here), reads through a couple dozen/hundred/thousand(?) posts.  Finds a few they like and forwards that on to …  Who?  The Editors.?  The Team?   The Freshly Pressed Selection Committee.  (Can you see how much thought I’ve put into this?)

And the Committee upon further review, selects just one to highlight.  At that moment.

And the winner is…

Well, it was a big deal to me, and I want you to know I appreciate your being here and hope that I’ll live up to the Selection Committee’s judgement.

That I’m not just a one hit wonder.

I’ll try.

I’ll do my best.

Full Disclaimer:  I am the Wandering Dreamer.  You do get that, right?

Ok.

But in the meantime, thanks for being part of my 15 seconds of *virtual* fame.

============

P.S.  If you’re thinking “Pfft. It’s not THAT big of a deal.”  I hear you.  I thought the same thing the day before I got pressed

Dreaming of the Good Life?

I’ve always dreamt of living near a beach in Hawaii.

I know, who hasn’t right?

But growing up on the west coast was like being a kid at the candy store window, just close enough to imagine being there, not close enough to enjoy it.  And my parents’ idea of family vacations meant weekend drives up and down the coast (so my father could golf).  Even though extended family was there, we never made it to the islands.

Sigh.

And now the Internet (with a capital I) exists and goes about its business with the sole purpose of tempting me.  Often.  Constantly.

With pictures like this:

Sunset at Sunset Beach – Hawaii

And blogs like this and this and this (oh yeah, I could go on and on and on…).  Maybe I will…

And hey, I’m not too proud (or too old) to tell you that I’m frequently left feeling like:

Waaaahhhh!

Could I get used to “the smell of plumeria in my house”?  You’d better believe it!  And thanks to the Ohana Mama for adding 14 other things I’m missing out on as well.

Don’t get me wrong.  My family and I, we live in a truly great city (when it’s not 35 freakin’ degs BELOW zero) and we enjoy the calm, shark-free beach (read: lake) that’s just a few blocks from our house (when it’s not snowed under by 3+ feet of icy white stuff).  And people in the Midwest really are very friendly (when they’re not so cranky about the Artic Chill blowing across their front porch).  And the professional sports options are awesome to an nth degree!  We are a die-hard sports family, and yes I know we wouldn’t get much of that in Hawaii.

But somehow I think I could live with that, if I could have a house like this:

Ok, ok, who am I kidding? That wouldn’t be life in Hawaii for me at this stage in my life (but this is all a great big lookingglass dream, so I’ll dream big!).

Actually, I would be 110% happy with a house like this:

Well, maybe a little less than 110% happy.  That house would challenge even the most romantic of dreamers, like me…

Ok, so maybe what I want is my life (modest, modern housing, really good schools, extremely safe neighborhood) transported to the tropical lushness that is paradise Hawaiian style.  My family, our life, in full technicolor living.  Lush breezes.  Luaus.  Fresh fruit all year round.

Ah, yes.  The good life.

Of course there is the tiny, tiny, ever so small issue of schools for our kids.  I think we’ve established (based on the house I want but can’t afford, and the house I could afford but don’t want) that private schools are out of the questions.  And anyone who’s anyone knows that the schools are struggling in Hawaii, which I find incredibly sad since (based on the money that flows thru there, you’d expect that education would get a slice of the tourist dollars pie).  And then there’s the issue of safety, as with all communities where the extremely rich live among the extremely poor, life gets tough at times.  I know that from my time in LA. Have you ever driven around just past Beverly Hills or just beyond Santa Monica & Venice?  Yeah, well, the dichotomy of life can be startling.  And, of course, I know paradise is what you make of it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that good stuff.

Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.

Dreams are all well and good, until you realize what you love about your present state of being.  And actually I love everything about my life right now (minus the weather meant for polar bears).

So, may be what I really want..

Is just….

A vacation.

If only there were an app for PhD camera users like me (that’s Push Here Dummy!)

indilone

Here are some apps which would help you take some amazing pictures using your iPhone camera. These apps are loaded with preset filters and effects to make your picture look more beautiful and professional and the best part is that all of them are free to use. Here is the list.

1. Camera Awesome

This camera app has been developed by SmugMug Inc. and is one of the most downloaded apps on the Apple app Store. Unlike, Apple’s official camera app which has limited features, it offers so many options to optimize your photos and it’s free of cost. Apart from common features like Grid Overlay, image stabilization and multiple shots you can use this app to edit and control the contrast, color saturation and the sharpness of your photos. It also has presets and filters which give you more options to enhance your photos. You would realize the real…

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