A CASE for AMTRAK

Hello from Sunny California! As some of you know, I posted lots of photos of our cross-country train trip on Twitter . . . but I know not everyone is on Twitter, so I thought I’d do a little recap here for those of you who missed it.  I’m posting from our hotel room in Seal Beach, California, starting with MUSICA and a question:

adventure and tea

Let’s do both at the same time! You will need sustenance for this post! I’m not kidding. I would suggest you make a pot! I’ve been working on this post off and on, between visits with my family, early in the morning, getting the photos together, this is my third day . . . and here we go!

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So this was me (and Joe), in our train “room with the view” crossing the country the pretty way, from Boston to Los Angeles, “Twittering from the Twain,” a very human, feet on the ground type of travel. And with all the connectivity we have today, it’s very easy to “work” on a train. Not a lot of sketching and painting, because of the train rocking, but almost anything else; knitting, writing in diary, reading, having tea, anything on the computer; all is possible on the train.

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We start at dawn on Martha’s Vineyard with a boat ride.  This is what it looks like when the first morning boat comes in, lots of worker bees coming to the island, trucks and cars unloading and loading. I discovered, watching this, that the new-man purse is a cooler.  Almost every guy getting off the boat carried one ~ I figured out it was more than just lunch when I saw someone open his and pull out a hat!  See that cart in the background, upper right ~ when you come and go from the island, you put your luggage on the cart, they drive it on and you can pick up your stuff on the other side. Very sane.  In thirty years, we’ve never had anything go missing.

Joe, loading up the cart

Joe is just finishing putting our luggage on the cart.

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off we go

And off we go, 45 min to the mainland.

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Arriving in blue-sky Boston at about 10:30 am.

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South Station and here’s our stuff, on the cart, ready to board.

South Station. Boston

South Station . . .Boston, USA.

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Our other three black bags on the cart behind Joe will be put in the luggage car; we won’t see them until LA.  We of the “bring it all mentality” (if that counts as a mentality) will have these bags in our room.  Joe is in cat-bird seat of joy of travel.  See Club Acela in the background?  That’s where we go to wait for our train.

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Anyone who has a room on the train, gets to hang out in the Club Acela (most big cities have them) and drink free cokes and coffee and have free pastries while waiting for the train to arrive.

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And here it is.  All Aboard!  Are you ready?  The red cap comes and gets us and our bags, we follow him to the train and he deposits us and our stuff in our room with a view.

zee pillow

This is the viewing perch.  We have brought the necessities of life for train travel.  I’ve been taking the train to California and back since the 1980′s when I realized just how much I did not enjoy the whole flying experience, since, despite appearances these days, I am not cattle, and so I decided to try something else.  And fell in love with the quiet gentleness of it.

slow down

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We get settled, hang up our jackets, get out our books, and soon, in the gentlest possible way, the train moves a tiny bit, and then, rocking gently, we lumber out of the station on the first leg of our trip. There are hooks in the room, perfect for hanging these very accommodating French market bags filled with the little extras from home that make life sweet, carrots, oranges, celery and peanut butter, gingersnaps, and somewhere in there, a large chocolate bar. You can see what you want through the holes before you go for it.

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I used to only bring an extension cord.  But we had to get over that as we’ve been “gifted” with more and more electric equipment: must have: battery chargers for iphone and camera, cord for computer, then there is the most important of all, the tea pot.

morning

Because what is morning without your own cup of tea in your room with a view?  Minus the normal styrofoam cups. Why? Because we can. Oh, so civilized.

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And so here we go . . . with appropriate MUSICA . . . to see how America is looking these days . . . past lakes and rivers . . . it’s

America-the-beautiful

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She is looking wonderful, as we ride along roadsides . . .

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Passing traffic as we leave the city . . . Where our train, speeding in one direction, and this truck going in the other, gives quite an interesting distortion for the camera.

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And then it gets truly beautiful as we head toward Chicago . . . a one-and-a-half-day overnight trip from Boston.

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The gentle rocking movement of the train encourages three things, sleeping, eating, and watching out the window.  It is exactly the same sort of “watching” we do when we watch flames in the fireplace, or the Atlantic ocean when we cross on a ship.  Mesmerizing.

leaves

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It’s fall, in case you didn’t notice!

the world is a garden

leaves

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East of Chicago, trains are different than the ones on the west side of the country.  The west-side ones are double-deckers, with rooms upstairs and down. The trains on the east are like these, only one level but with high windows.  Doubling the viewing pleasure.

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What can I say? This part of the country is all rivers and streams, lakes and trees and woods.

back of the train

Our dear conductor did very nice thing and opened back of train so I could take a photo, so I could see it the way Lincoln saw it, or Roosevelt, from their little porches on the backs of trains.  Train travel is our heritage. The history of it is long and interesting.

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the views from the lounge were spectacular . . .

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And so it goes, rocking and swaying down the tracks . . .

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And this is the perfect place to do it!

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On a very colorful day . . .

what a wonderful world

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We are going fast and the late afternoon sun is turning everything gold. Thank you God.

storm brewing

Weather was coming into Chicago, and as we got closer we felt it and saw it . . . I just love this photo.  The train moves so quickly that often you just don’t get the photos you want.  This one was a little miracle.

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in the woods

Hill and dale . . .westward we went . . .

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It began to rain . . . I loved the way this tree was dropping its leaves. Lots more nature for the viewing down here at people level than at 30,000 feet.  Leaves blow past our window in constant tatters, piles of them flying by too fast for our cameras to catch.

rain!

We stop all along the way, night and day, to pick up and let off passengers.

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Many streets and neighborhoods look like this.  You often see pumpkins on people’s porches ~

bittersweet

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and once, at four AM Halloween morning, we were stopped in a train station somewhere, I looked out the window and saw a witch getting on the train!  Hat and all! No, I did not go looking for her, I stayed tucked in my bed. Next day, Chicago . . .

good witches

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And here we are, arriving in Chicago.

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Back to Club Acela . . . we were late coming in; so what is usually a six-hour lay-over between trains, was only one. That was good news and bad news.  Bad news: no Michigan Ave for shopping and lunch.  Good news: it was freezing and storming out there, not fit for man nor beast, and we didn’t have long to wait for the next train, the one that would take us the rest of the way, to Los Angeles. 

time

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In the station, amazingly accommodating Red Caps pick you up at the train in these little carts, see the wagon on the back?  That’s our luggage; we sit on the front. They deposit you in the Club Acela, then come back and get you when it’s time to go.  Heaven forbid we should walk the length of a train! Actually we did give our cart up on our way in, to someone who had walking issues, but on the way back, we had it all to ourselves.

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And here we are again, in our room with a view, heading west ~ we each have our own window, there is one behind me too.

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And just in case you would like to see the dining car, this is it.  It’s where we sit for each meal (if we want to come, they will even deliver it to your room if you ask nicely); meals come with your ticket, but tips are appreciated by the servers.  We are usually seated with perfect strangers from every walk of life, from 747 pilots, to Amish couples, to people traveling through America from other countries, kids going back to college, doctors coming home from conferences and us. Some are very friendly, rarely someone isn’t, but politeness is the name of the game in this room.

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Here’s the breakfast menu . . .

get-attachment.aspx  I think they might be lying when they say this is the low-cal choice!  Of course, being the health nut that I am, this is what I had, every day.

too much of a good thing

get-attachment.aspxOn the left, those are two Albuquerque doctors we actually met later that night at dinner; they just happen to be in this picture; and that’s Joe behind them with his camera.  This is the Observation car, speaking of rooms with views.

The thing to do, if you want to travel by train, is get an Amtrak credit card (Chase, Mastercard) … you get points, and travel for free. Oh yes, you do!

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Can you imagine? Free! While rocking in your little bed on the train.

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there's the moon

And the moon too, and the stars, all from your bed.  There are many in congress who would like to do away with the train system (not the freight part, just the people part).  Over the years I have seen a huge difference as they cut back on everything. Many of our routes have already been discontinued; a few years ago they came this far →.← from taking away the Boston to Albany birdroute, which meant I would have had to drive five hours to get the train in New York to get to Chicago! We were saved by the bell, but it’s a very bare bones route these days, no dining car for one thing; and often not the kind of repairs you would hope to see in the sleeping cars. But many other routes have not fared even this well; they are already starting to put trains in museums.  Some folks have to drive hundreds of miles to get on a train. Beggars can’t be choosers. It’s a terrible thing in my opinion . . . and in the opinion of this guy . . . 

the situation

Just a regular person, not an Amtrak employee (fighting for his middle class job), but just someone who cares, who took the time to write this smart letter, make copies and leave them lying around in the lounge car.  I could not agree more.  Even if you will never take the train yourself, I would hope our children could see our world from these windows if they want to. It’s birdvoting day, an appropriate time to think about the stuff that makes America great; personally I vote a straight “I love the train” ticket.  Train lovers love America, they love the middle class. Trains use much less energy than any other form of travel, they could even be updated using our wonderful American we-can-do-it kind of know-how; it costs nothing to drag along a few extra train cars . . . maybe a massage car, or a meditation car, a car for MUSICA, a children’s play room, a library, a tour guide or lecturer, or any old thing; I wish Disney would buy it!  But not to be too picky, if we could at least just keep what we have I would be happy.  The cross-country trains provide much needed down time in this crazy world of ours, that’s something to protect.

FYI, with lve from the Heart of the Home and me.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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wide open spaces

And now, for your arm-chair training enjoyment, the wide open spaces of the wild and wonderful Mid-West . . .

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Skies began to clear, the storm was behind us . . . And here is just a part of the Heartland of our beautiful country.  Falling in Love with the English Countryside?  Now we fall in Love with the American Countryside.

Inlovewithnature

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Where generations of families came from all over the world to make a place for themselves; here they farmed the land. I know some would have us believe there is a disconnect between the coasts and the Midwest, but I don’t think so.  So many of us have roots here, my mom was born in Iowa, I think the Iowa in me is my best part!

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Here they laid mile after mile of track; we see houses that are so far from each other, we’re pretty sure they must celebrate Halloween at The Grange!  It is not neighborhood door-to-door trick-or-treat around here! But when we have come ‘cross country on the train at Christmas time, we’ve seen every house lined in colored lights. It was touching to see them, those houses, some seemingly in the middle of nowhere, twinkling celebration in the dark, the whole country, lit up cities and towns, pulled together in gratitude.

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another sunset

Another sunset, getting redder all the time, as we go toward Colorado . . . whistle blowing across the land . . .

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And stop here in Albuquerque. Sometimes we get off here, get a car at the airport and drive one hour to Santa Fe, then up and over the mountains to see our family in Durango . . .

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  It’s always a one-hour layover, they wash the windows and we get to walk and drink in the fresh air . . . and look at the Native American jewelry they sell in the station. 

red

The dirt in New Mexico is red! The sky is blue, the trees are green and the adobe is either white or brick colored.  It’s very primary out here.

wild and wooly west

And now for the land of sagebrush and rock . . . it’s cowboy country right outside your window . . .

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There’s a poem called Out Where the West Begins written in 1917 that sings a song of this part of the country . . .

Love

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“Out where a fresher breeze is blowing . . .”

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“Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing . . .”

IMG_8204  ”That’s where the west begins . . .”

last night

One more of these . . .

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And the next morning we come over the mountains to arrive in Los Angeles, our destination, and travel spot for the next three weeks.

oh my

hearts and flowers

Yes, to go away we had to leave these faces for three weeks . . . and it was hard, but our friends, Will and Debby, are staying at our house on the island and sending photos and we know they are in good hands . . . And in exchange . . .

Paden and Mason

We get this . . . for the last two days we’ve been with these faces; my nephews, along with my mom and my sister Shelly ~ and my sister’s twins, Paden, on the left and Mason, on the right.  They are eleven and this is the first time in my life I’ve totally been able to tell them apart. Whew!  Maybe they can now forgive me for all the times I’ve had to say, “Which one are you?”

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the boys

Paden on the left, Mason on the right.  Poor things, they don’t know how to have fun. I feel so bad for them.

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They helped us move into our hotel . . .

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After they finished with the cart . . .

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which took a while . . .

the boys helping us

But we finally got it together . . . it’s so nice to have some (extra) men around the house. 

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Yes, I know, I’m almost done being delightful. :-) I just want you to know, it might take me a while to get your comments moderated (which I have to do in order to prevent spam from loading up our comment section), but I’ll get there ~ never fear.  We’re off to my mom’s as soon as I get done here. Until then, one small favor? If you could close your eyes for a moment and say a little prayer for Blog Daddy, he doesn’t feel well.  We’re going see him in Arizona on our way home in a couple of weeks, but until then, could you please surround him with your blessings, Girlfriends?  Thank you! You are the best! XOXO to you and a special Muah! to Blog Daddy.

If you don’t have our November Calendar, here’s what you almost missed!  Happy November Girlfriends! XOXO Make it a wonderful one for you and the ones you love.

November

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BATTENING DOWN THE HATCHES

Joe’s putting on the storm windows; we’re getting ready to leave for California next week and battening down the hatches because it will almost be Thanksgiving when we come back, late Autumn when the winds and rain start to roll over the island with more regularity and all we’ll want to do when we get home is light the fire and put on some MUSICA like this. So, pour yourself a wee spot of something delicious to drink . . . I think I should change the name of this blog to Tea with Susan .

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M m m m m, please pass the cream.

Joe's working

Joe’s ladder ~ he’s up there fitting the storm windows into place . . .

storm windows

Although Jack considers everything Joe does as entertainment, I think he’s taking mental notes; planning to get himself born as human next time and hoping to be a handy one . . .

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He follows Joe from window to window . . .

fall

Before we go, we’re doing our part to make our neighborhood festive, we’ve got the pumpkins up, Casper is in the upstairs window, there’s a fall wreath, and Joe just painted and installed a brand new storm door.

punkin time

Halloween is coming! We’ll be gone, but our friends are staying to take care of the kitties; they’ll be the ones opening the door to the hoards of children that come trick-or-treating through our neighborhood every year.  We’ll be on the train heading for California. What a perfect time of year to travel.  The views should be wonderful.

leaves

Casper from the back

Here’s Casper looking out from the guest room.

last of the season

I’ve been outside gathering what I am sure is the last bouquet of the season from our garden.  It’s gotten cold enough that nothing much is venturing forth anymore . . . right in the middle of that bouquet is the last of the “Just Joey” roses . . . a bud.  I hope it will bloom.

fall hydrangeas

These hydrangeas are pure white in the summer but they turn this  color in the autumn.

pumpkins in the garden

We’ve put the pumpkins on the lawn . . .

path in the woods

And we’re going on our walk as often as we can; we’ll only be away from home for three weeks, but we’ll miss it.  I have walked this same walk almost every day of my life since I moved to the island in 1982. That’s over thirty years to the same place! It’s always been the best part of my day.  Here’s our dirt road just after the nor’easter that came through last week.

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It smells woodsy, piney, and leaf mulchy out there. The walk is almost three miles out and back, the leaves still haven’t reached peak color yet.

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With the twitter of birds and not many other sounds, we dodge the water puddles, wearing hats and rain jackets. In the winter the puddles turn to ice.

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There was a really high tide after the storm . . . we love this little cottage out on the end . . .

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Here’s a closer view . . .

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The tide was so high it came right up to the road where we’re walking . . . it’s cold, raw, salty, dark and moody out there . . .

after the storm

Seagulls cry and dive under black clouds, over the beach grass and the shore . . .

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There’s a HUGE crop of bittersweet on the island this year . . . more than I’ve ever seen before.

delicious-autumn

down to the sea

Tangles of it border the paths to the water . . .

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I thought you might like to see some of the little beach houses . . .

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They’re old and funky and real, no one has tried to glamorize them (thank goodness), they are perfect just they way they are.

last of the Queen Anne's Lace

This was the only Queen Anne’s Lace we saw out there; the last of the season and perfect.

cottage on the lake

The Queen Anne’s Lace was in front of this little place . . .

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This is the other side of the red shingled cottage in the photo above . . .

the pond

And this is the view from that house, overlooking the brackish pond . . .

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We followed the road down to where the pond opens to the sea . . . Joe has just found a piece of beach glass . . .

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Behind where Joe was walking, if you look to the right, this is what you see.  We owned one of these little places at one time . . . the one with the little peaked roof way down toward the end, you can see a tiny chimney just behind it.  Note how little beach is left in front of these places . . . high tide attacking the rocks and sandy shore . . .

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So vulnerable to the elements, but most of them have been here for over a hundred years. Fingers crossed for another hundred.

out to the water

Here’s where we turn around to walk back.

after the rain

past the pond, around the puddles,

through the woods

through the woods . . .

Through the trees

Looking up at the sky through the drippy leaves . . .

the woods

Catching glimpses of the water as we go along . . .

collecting leaves

Collecting colorful leaves to take home.

jack

to tape on the windows in the kitchen.

windows and leaves

Probably the best of all decorations, leaves, and they are free!

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Of course Jack sees me with the camera and realizes it’s photo bomb time . . . but truly, he only makes everything better.

fall

I decorate pretty much the same way every year, with just a few little changes now and then . . .

this year

This is how the kitchen looked this morning . . .

last year

And and here’s a photo from a couple of years ago . . .

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I love touches of black in our fall/winter kitchen . . .  Which is just one more reason I love that little kitty peeking out behind the quilt. He is the perfect touch of black.

hooked rugsWe keep the kitchen floors bare in the Summer, the hooked rugs come back out in the fall . . . each with a little touch of black so they look good with Jack.

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Last night we had Debby and Will (old friends who will be taking care of Girl and Jack while we’re away) to dinner.  It was a spiralizer dinner, so I could show them how to use the “machine” while we’re away ~ I made them sweet potato, parsnip and apple “noodles” — and had fun setting the table . . .

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I’ve owned these heavy dishes since the 1970′s, most of them were made by San Luis Obispo Artist Paula Teplitz.  They have images from nature on them, animals and leaves.

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This is my audience while I work.  See what I mean about the touches of black? 

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We got a new dishwasher last week which meant we had to pull the refrigerator away from the wall to install it, and Look what we found under it! One of Jack’s stashes!

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Back to the table . . .

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Light the lights . . . set the mood . . .

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Time for dinner!

snack time

Speaking of food I wanted to share a new, low calorie, high protein delicious snack I love, which is also gluten free.  It’s rice crackers, hummus, pesto (all of which you can find in your supermarket), and a bowl of rice.

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You dip the cracker into the hummus (which is good enough by itself),

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Then into the pesto (making it even more delicious),

snackAnd then into the bowl of rice, making it more substantial.  These are wonderful to help us keep up our strength.

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Here’s the view from where I sit at the computer every day working on my new book.  I’ve heard from several of you, wondering how the book is coming along.  It’s funny, for a person who loves words, I have a difficult time coming up with the right ones to describe how I feel about this book.  It’s so different from anything I’ve ever done.  There is so much of you in it already, like with my other books, I think about you every morning when I get up and begin work while it is still dark.  My how-to-write-a-book reminder cardSaying to myself “Oh, they are going to love this” or “I wonder if they would like this?”  I’ll wake in the night with an idea, an idea that becomes more and more demanding until I can no longer ignore it. I won’t be able to get back to sleep until I reach over my bedside table and grab the pad of paper I keep there for this purpose.  I pat the top of the table in the dark, going lightly over terrain of water glass, books, lamp, vase, until I land on a pen and start writing as quick as I can before I forget what it was I half-dreamed.  I write maybe five lines per page — I can’t see what I’m doing, but I don’t want to write over the sentences so I leave lots of space.  After the fourth page I think, uh-oh, I hope this pen isn’t out of ink.  I pat the table until I find my bedside clock and push the button on it to make it light up and use it like flashlight to see if there is ink on the paper.  There is!  Hooray!  

I make little screams when I think I’ve written something that works (before I find out the next day that I was in a period of delusion WritingDeskand remove it!). It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it might also be the best; I’ll know when it’s done. The book has gone to the editor, the first half of it is back, she said “LOL” to some things; she also said,”Get rid of these twenty-seven pages” ~ I love her because she is honest and I agree with her.  I’ve been rewriting; the second half will come back to me next week.  I still don’t have a date for publication, but I’m definitely getting closer, the little train that could, or would, or will, or else; I’ll be working on it while we’re on the train, in our room with a view.  Almost as nice a view as the one in the photo above, our own view that says Home, a view I see every day, one that changes with the seasons and never fails to interest me. Do I watch over it, or, after all these years, does it watch over me?

Have a wonderful Halloween Girlfriends, watch for Twitter from the Twain; I’ll be sending photos from the road. If you’re in California, there are going to be two fun booksignings in November, be sure to check out EVENTS at the top of the blog and come see me if you can . . . Batten down the hatches Girls, and have fun with your pumpkins! 

pumpkin-carving

to all trains

Off we go . . . ♥ XOXO

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