Sunday, July 25, 2010


When my children were small, they’d cuddle around me in our overstuffed chair on dreary winter afternoons and listen to me read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Then after I put them down for a nap, I’d make a cup of coffee and return to the chair and continued to read them.
Laura’s books appeal to all ages. Did you know she was 65 when she wrote her first book? She is an inspiration to us all. As my friend Sue Falcon says, “at any age, at any stage!”

I was as big a fan of Mrs. Wilder as my children were. When I learned the house where she wrote the books was only a short distance from Branson— our usual vacation spot—Neal and I gathered up the kids and took them on an “educational” excursion.
We had a great time seeing things in the museum that we read about in her stories. Pa’s fiddle holds a place of honor in a glass case. While staring at it, I imagined the family sitting around him clapping their hands to the music. Then we toured her home. It is unique and built especially for Laura’s short stature. That vacation was many years ago. Since then the Wilder Home Association has opened the “Rock House” that Rose Wilder built for her parents with the money she earned as a journalist. I had no idea that Rose had been such a success. You will learn a lot about her at the museum as well.
Why not plan a themed vacation for your kids? First, nurture their interest. Read them a little house book, watch a rerun of one of the early television shows, cook a meal like Laura would have eaten. Then take them to one of her home sites or museums.  For a list of locations go to:
Other themed ideas could be Helen Keller, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville, Emily Dickenson, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemmingway, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne, just to name a few. Themes do not have to be limited to authors. Any famous person or event would work.
Times spent together before, during, and after vacation make rich memories that our children will share with their children.
More than anything we could buy our kids, great memories are the best gifts we can give.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Hello everyone!
I’m excited to introduce you to my guest blogger, Normandie Fischer. In her blog she offers insight rarely heard and for those of you thinking about visiting Mexico this will be especially interesting to you.
A little bit about Normandie. She has been a sailor all of her life. She and her husband, Michael, sail through their days wherever the Wind of God blows their sailboat, Sea Venture.  Normandie writes, sculpts (she studied in Italy for several years), and adores her adult children, Ariana and Joshua Milton. (Find out more about her writing at and She is also available to chat with you about the wonderful things God has done in her life: the miracles she’s seen, the blessings she’s known, and the lessons she’s learned. Contact her at normandie at

Sipping an espresso on New York’s Upper East Side at an elegant sidewalk restaurant, I felt worlds away from the trash-strewn streets of the garment district through which I’d passed that morning. I had the same experience when I visited cities in Jordan years ago, and then later in Lebanon. I remember rolling rice into a ball as I ate from a plate of mansuf at the home of middle-class Jordanians. We were mere kilometers from the king’s palace, where riches slipped through jeweled fingers instead of outward to alleviate that nation’s poverty and the squalor of the refugee camps. 
The rich of New York or Amman inhabit the same city as the poor, and the poor like it not. “The poor you will always have with you,” Jesus said. Which I suppose means that we’ll always have the rich with us as well.  
The assumption seems to be that the rich fare better than their poorer brethren. But I’m not all that convinced that the rich neighbors in New York or Amman bask in the sublime either. There’s never quite enough, is there? Never quite enough money or things or good times or love. For either group. So, who lives in the greatest poverty? 
Contrast this with the attitude of a number of the folk I’ve met here in Mexico. Yes, there are rich and poor, but more of the latter. Certainly more of those with modest means in the areas we visit on board Sea Venture.  
I can’t write about the places that I know only from sensational stories of murder, mayhem, and drugs. There’s misery wherever man submits to the demonic. And I’m sure there are subsets within each group here who hate other subsets, and large numbers here who also envy and covet. 
We were warned that Mexico abounds in crime. It probably does. So did the CA Delta, where another boater stole things from our boat…after all, we had and he didn’t. We’ve heard of thievery in San Carlos, but in the incident we heard about, the thief who had his hands in the cookie jar was a gringo. The fellow stuttered excuses after trying to loose  another boater’s outboard so he could "try it out for fit" on his boat. Obviously, he believed in the they-had-and-he-didn’t school of thought. He wanted, so he tried to take. 
When we first sailed into Ensenada, we heard rumors of unrest and violence, and, yet, during our six months in the marina there, smiles greeted us daily as we wandered past the gringo enclave of yatistas. Children grinned from behind parents’ legs. Mothers smiled at our “Hola!” Tour guides offered us free carriage rides once they’d dropped off their paying clients. Hawkers for one store showed us where we might find the best tacos and then escorted us so we wouldn’t get lost. Taxi drivers stopped to usher us through a stop sign when we drove anywhere and smiled as they did so. Cars halted if we stepped into the road. Their drivers grinned and waved us on. 
And then we drove north for supplies. En route, Mexicans in toll booths laughed at Michael’s jokes. Soldiers smiled and told us to pass, please. But once we got to the border, no one smiled and no one laughed and horns blared and people cursed. 
Why? What is the difference? North of the border lies the land of opportunity, doesn’t it? There are riches to be had if you work hard enough, aren’t there? Perhaps. 
Only, joy seems sadly missing on the highways, in the toll booths, in the supermarkets or restaurants and in the doctors’ offices. 
The doctors in the States fear malpractice suits. They hurry us through and then bill exorbitantly. They charge for Kleenex and gloves and Q-tips. They recommend test after test after test. Just in case. And then warn us about Mexican doctors. 
In La Paz, an English-speaking cardiologist examined Michael’s records, administered an EKG, and then discussed the results for $47. The oncology specialist did the same, going so far as to call the boat after hours (way after hours) to give me my mammogram  results. I was so shocked when a man identified himself as Roberto that I almost hung up. Roberto? Oh, right, the doctor. The GP in La Paz charged 500 pesos per visit, which can’t be more than $40, and will even make boat calls. 
Malpractice is a non-issue. One assumes the doctor cares and does his best. So, he cares and does his best. He puts the patient first, not the insurance company. He treats what needs treating and then does a little more if you’re worried – or if you must satisfy that doctor back home.  
Who is happier? The doctor with his Mercedes or the one who lives like the rest of us? The patient who pays hundreds for insurance, who lives at a disconnect from the doctor via a receptionist and then a nurse? Or the patient who pays a pittance in cash to a doctor, with instructions to call his cell phone if any problems or questions arise? And, you know what? EVERY single time the doctor has answered his cell phone and talked to us. Each one: the cardiologist, the oncologist, and the GP. 
Here in lower Baja California, the desert heat scorches, but a shy smile radiates from the old man passing on the sidewalk. He doesn’t look as if he owns much, but, oh, he is rich. What’s the difference?  
Ah! I smile. Could it be that here is a culture that values the family and hard work tempered with patience and a siesta? Could it have to do with villagers, some with few ties to the outside world, who act communally to help each other? Yes, there’s poverty. Yes, there’s dirt. Yes, Mexico is inhabited by imperfect people living in an imperfect society. And, yes, some of them have been seduced by the idea of more. But for every one of those, there are hundreds who have learned how to say gracias for the life they have.  
There will always be those who have and those who have not, those who smile and those who grumble, those who give and those who take. We align ourselves by choice. Where do you stand? Wanting more or grinning happily because you have so much – whatever so much means to you? 
By Normandie Fischer

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


One of the things ingrained in this Southern girl is the importance of “pass along” plants. Some call them “heritage” plants because they tell a story. 

Like Tiger Lilly bulbs that grew by my grandmother's kitchen door. The orange blooms with black speckles seemed huge to my little girl eyes. My grandmother died nearly ten years ago, however, today, when I see Tiger Lillies I'm immediately transported to the happy days of my childhood. There is something comforting about the enduring past. 

My uncle gave me purple hull pea seeds that come from the seeds his father planted. The neat thing is that I know without a doubt that every seed is a purple hull pea unlike some companies that label their seeds as “field peas” because there may be a mixture of types of peas. The remnants of previous pickings get lodged in the harvesting machinery and are mixed with the next picking, therefore mixing purple hulls with crowder peas, for instance.

Why am I talking about gardening in a travel blog? Well, one of my fav places to order seeds is from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company where you know what you are getting! While on vacation in Branson, Missouri, it just so happened that while on vacation we were close to their retail store in Mansfield, Missouri in a their pioneer village, Bakersville. 
What a fun place to visit! I found walls of heirloom seeds in the Mercantile. A gardener's heaven. I took my time browsing what seemed like thousands of seed packages, looking through books on gardening and talking with Mary who answered my questions.  

But it isn’t just seeds you will find there. I browsed the herbs, soaps, teas and gifts in the Apothecary and enjoyed a yummy meal in their historic Asian restaurant from veggies grown in their own gardens! By the way, payment for your meal is by donations. You don't see that much anymore. The day I was there they served Mediterranean Wraps with green beans, beets, and fried onion rings! It was all good, but oh, those onion rings! Amy and Hannah made sure we were well fed and refreshed with their mint tea made from the mint grown in their own garden. Wow!

After returning home, I looked at their site,, and found out they have festivals! Next year I plan on attending their Spring Planting Festival and listen to their expert gardening speakers! Also, the first Sunday of every month they have Heritage Days Festivals. So why wait until the spring? At these festivals they offer great music, demonstrations, crafts, a farmers market, garden exhibits and contests for the kiddos.

Wow. Who knew? This all is happening in my own back yard, so to speak.

If you are in the Branson or Springfield area of Missouri, it is worth your time to visit Bakersville. Buy heirloom seeds while you are there, and pass them along to friends and family. Tell your story.