It’s winter!

Seasons greetings–happy Winter Solstice Day! Yes, today marks the first official day of winter, for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, which means

1. In terms of daylight, it’s the shortest day of the year.

Night and day

Here at latitude 47, solstice kicks off at 8:28 am Pacific Time, less than an hour after sunrise (7:54 am). Sunset happens at 4:19 pm. If you’re doing the math, then you know that means about 9.5 hours of daylight–barely enough to fit in a work day.

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At noon, the sun will be at its lowest point on the horizon–since the summer solstice–for this midday time slot, casting lengthy shadows. To be shadowless at this time, one would need to stand on the equator (a bucket list item of mine). And why is the sun so low?

Scientifically speaking, planet Earth is rotated to the point where the sun is directly facing the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. This leaves the North Pole completely–and literally–in the dark.

Of course, the opposite is true for our southern hemisphere friends. That means the people of Christchurch, New Zealand enjoyed an early sunrise–5:44 am–with sunset several hours later at 9:10 pm. Yes, that means over 15 hours of daylight!

Sun and seasons

Up for a little True False quiz? “Regarding its orbit, today (December 21) the Earth is farthest away from the sun.”


2. This time of year, the Earth is closest to the sun.

Our seasons–winter, spring, summer, autumn (fall)–react to the slant of our planet in relation to the sun, not Earth’s distance from the sun.

How ‘bout one more True/False? “In the northern hemisphere, moss grows only on the north side of a tree.”


3. In the northern hemisphere, moss grows mostly (not exclusively) on the north side of a tree.

Because the sun is shining from the south, shadows–and shade–occur on the north side of things, including trees. This creates cooler, more humid, conditions for surfaces, therefore allowing moss to grow without significant exposure to the sun and heat. However, these conditions can apply to surfaces that face south, west and east as well.

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Percentage-wise, during my recent walks, I found more north-facing mossy tree trunks than I did south-facing ones, but I found enough mossy surfaces with southern exposure to thwart the myth.

Daylight and night-lights

For anyone preferring daylight to the hours between sunset and sunrise, this can be a frustrating time of year. And for anyone preferring sunshine to any of the other weather-related elements, well, it can be doubly frustrating. But take heart! First of all, as of tomorrow, the days are getting longer.

Yes, day by day, sunrise will be earlier and sunset will be later, which means more daylight. And while the weather depends largely on where in the northern hemisphere you reside, your chances of sunny days increases too. Although not for a few months.

Hang in there! One great thing about darkness it that it allows for electric lights (and natural ones like the Aurora Borealis–also on my bucket list) to be not only visible, but enjoyable. The sharp contrast of the light to the dark can be mesmerizing.

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December is a month filled with holidays, traditions and festivals around the world, and notably marked with strings of lights, candle displays, and even fireworks. So, enjoy the show!

Rocks and history

And speaking of festivals, Stonehenge–one of the world’s oldest and most popular monuments–hosts quite the celebration of both winter and summer solstices. People from all over the globe trek to this remote, famous location in England to witness sunrise or sunset (or both), and to enjoy the festivities. These attendees honor the history, people and cultures of this very special place.

One last quiz question. Who built Stonehenge?

  1. Romans
  2. Neolithics
  3. Vikings
  4. Druids

Answer: B–the Neolithics! These early native people of England began construction of Stonehenge in 3000 BC. The Beaker and the Wessex peoples also contributed, completing construction in 2000 BC. The Druids often receive credit for building Stonehenge, but they did not become a part of this celebrated place until about 200 BC.

Our visit to Stonehenge took place one October afternoon, absent the festival goers. We enjoyed ample time (and elbow room) to walk the grounds and marvel at this amazing monument. The designated pathway creates a gentle circle around the stones that allows for excellent views from many angles. This circular structure is a beautiful combination of natural wonder and human engineering. And plain hard work. No hydraulic cranes doing the heavy lifting in the BC world.

A return visit to Stonehenge is on my bucket list, so it only makes sense for me to time it with a solstice event, and to be caught up in the celebration.

What celebrations do you have planned for this winter? What activities or hobbies do you enjoy when the days are shorter and the weather is cooler? Between now and springtime, I’m looking forward to taking a few short trips and planning several more. And along those lines, here is my new year’s resolution: to create my official bucket list. Stay tuned for that!

Whatever you choose to do over the next few months, even if it’s just to enjoy a little downtime, I wish you all the best in the new year. J 😎



Infamy and peace

Sunday, December 7, 1941. A date President Franklin D. Roosevelt would soon refer to as “…the date which will live in infamy.” With Oahu’s beautiful Pearl Harbor lying under thick smoke and fire from that morning’s surprise attack, the president penned his declaration of war. He delivered his famous infamy speech via radio to our nation the very next day.

The American flag flying over the USS Arizona Memorial
Honor. The American flag flies ever watchful over the USS Arizona Memorial.


Understanding infamy

Just in case you are wondering, defines infamy as “evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal.” War, and the events that bring about war, definitely match that definition. But when such wars are over, when we’ve accounted for our losses and begin to move past grief, we look for ways to honor our fallen. To seek closure and peace. Holidays and memorials can help us with that.

Paying our respects

The USS Arizona Memorial (located at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii), is one of the most popular tourist attractions for our 50th state, hosting approximately 2 million visitors annually. Knowing we would be on Oahu for a few days prior to the start of our cruise, I moved this bucket list item of mine to the top, and made plans to visit the memorial. It was an easy sell for my family members too.

My connection to this infamous date of attack is a small one. My grandmother’s best friend was a nurse stationed in Pearl Harbor. To my young ears, she described the event as absolute chaos. My husband had relatives in the military at the time, but no one stationed in Hawaii. Our daughter’s connection was only what she learned in school. But we all felt drawn to this place.

An active military base, the rotation of tour groups from the theater to the tour boat was smooth and punctual. The documentary was short, but very impactful. It left us with some perspective on that historic day’s horrific events; some things to ponder as we approached the actual site of the memorial. Like learning that most of the USS Arizona’s victims had “won” the opportunity to sleep in that morning. Or understanding that the oil–still leaking from the sunken ship–will continue to leak for years to come. And just how many other US military ships–and lives–were lost that day.

Bird of Paradise flower
Peace. A Bird of Paradise greets visitors to The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

Honoring peace

The memorial itself–a white open air structure placed squarely above the sunken ship–can receive about 200 people at a time. It’s design allowed us to see parts of the ship, the leaking oil, and all around the harbor. We were in awe. As our tour boat made its way back to the visitor center, I asked my daughter what she felt. She said, “Peace.” Those who perished were now at rest.

Peace, according to, means, “a state of tranquility or quiet: such as a) freedom from civil disturbance, or b) a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom.” A feeling the designers, creators, builders, and financiers of such memorials are hoping to give us when we visit their structures. Structures dedicated to the those who died for our country, either in direct military service, law enforcement, civic duty, or citizens and visitors whose lives were taken simply because they were there.

On your next trip to Hawaii–even if it’s your first trip there–I recommend paying a visit, and your respects, to the USS Arizona. Spend a good chunk of your day at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. You will leave with your own sense of peace.

What are some memorials that stand out to you? What was your reason for the visit? What did you come away with? Large or small, memorials are a quiet, important tribute to events in our past. And they serve as a reminder for our future: to always work for peace. J 🗽

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Hello! Happy Thanksgiving!

Cornucopia featuring The Ugly Scarf (Thanksgiving theme).
Cornucopia featuring sugar pumpkins, balls of yarn, nuts and The Ugly Scarf.

Holidays and travel. One of my favorite pairings! Well… except for the higher costs generally associated with modes of transportation before-during-after said holiday, the increased traffic (human and machine), weather challenges and the ticking clock counting down to the when-and-where moments of a family gathering destination, frazzling nerves in the process. But it really is all worth it when you see the smile on Grandma’s face, hug your nieces and nephews in person, and identify–by scent–each and every wonderful food item in various stages of preparation, all for that main event: the Thanksgiving feast.

Getting there

Thanksgiving week is well known as one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, and one of the biggest foodie holidays of the year. And don’t forget traditions–the micro events taking place throughout the holiday that are counted on to be a part of the festivities. What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Enjoying Christmas movies and parades, going shopping, playing (and watching!) football, and eating-eating-eating. All play a big part of many a family’s festivities.

Enjoying traditions

My favorite Thanksgiving traditions? The first that comes to mind: coffee walkies (going for a long walk, then rewarding ourselves with a latte). But here’s one that’s a little more heartfelt. It happens in the first few minutes when we sit down at the table. Taking turns, we say a few words or sentences, some of the things for which we are thankful.

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Being thankful

I am thankful for opportunities. The opportunity to share travel adventures–and good food and wine–with family and friends, the opportunity to write professionally, and a reminder to be grateful for the people in my life that keep me smiling, laughing, thinking (or rethinking) and willing to push myself a little (or sometimes a lot) because they believe in me. And I am thankful for you; I truly appreciate you choosing to read my blog.

So, to all of you from me, have a wonderful, joyous, precious Thanksgiving! I wish you safe and pleasant travels this holiday weekend, and fantastic adventures. J 🦃





My Eclipse Manners

Remember the eclipse? Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back when it was still summer? The most recent solar eclipse visited North America August 21, traveling west to east, and wowing millions from coast to coast. Whether you made a point of witnessing the partial or total eclipse itself, or had something else going on that day, you probably still remember the excitement, anticipation and the outright craze leading up to that moment. Sort of like Christmas, but in August.

Eclipse viewing glasses
Eclipse viewing safety glasses

Destination: Salem

Normally I’m a planner, and would have booked a trip for such an event several months in advance. But I claim “too busy” as my excuse for not knowing. So when I finally looked up–in June–decided to go, and hunted for a place to stay, the area of sold out hotels and other assorted rentals matched up perfectly with the path of totality. From where I live, Salem, Oregon was the closest town in that path.

I found a room about 50 miles north near the Portland airport. Now that stretch of road between these two towns is busy on any given weekday, but this wasn’t going to be your average weekday. This would be your average Monday morning of commuters, plus about a million. Time to hit the road early. Like oh-dark-thirty. So we did.

The entrance–we’re here!

Eclipse: the experience

Targeting Salem as our general destination, I narrowed the category of possible venues to wineries. After all, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is well known for its excellent pinots. And Salem—quite conveniently—finds itself in the heart of that valley. Several Salem wineries, sure enough, were hosting eclipse events, and I found one in particular that seemed delightfully different: Cubanisimo Vineyards. Having watched the movie Chef, the appeal of trying Cuban tapas was a big draw. Discovering a new winery would be fun. And having a vineyard as a backdrop for the eclipse? Perfect! So I purchased tickets via their website.

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We arrived just before breakfast, and were greeted by a friendly and helpful staff, and one of the most beautiful countryside venues I’ve ever seen. The sky was pre-dawn clear, revealing just enough light to find Mt. Hood, purple on the horizon. Watching the sunrise was the first celestial treat of the day, the mountains changing to blue, and the grapevines to their pre-harvest green. And the crisp morning air…well, you get the idea.We checked in at their tasting room terrace and received our eclipse viewing glasses, our commemorative wine glasses, and drink tickets to save for lunchtime.

Breakfast over, we grabbed our picnic blanket and made our way up the path to the lawn facing the mountains, found our spot and waited. At 9:18 am, the partial eclipse began—time for our viewing glasses! We watched the black moon drop down over the sun, changing the appearance of our star to shapes that resembled a wedged out wheel of cheese, a banana, and—ironically—a crescent moon. And then at 10:20 am, the ring: totality.

Our hillside crowd gasped in wonder as the blue color of our canopy changed from pale to midnight, complete with twinkling stars. Feeling the temperature drop as we removed our glasses for the two-minute window, the ring’s odd, almost artificial light cast interesting shadows on the ground. And it was the sharing of this rare experience that truly affected us all, uniting us in spontaneous conversations, skipping past formal introductions and other precursors to dialogue with total strangers. Everyone was happy. Excited. Moved. One.

While the eclipse slipped back into its partial stage and began heading east, our vineyard hillside crowd continued buzzing about what we all just witnessed as we made our way back to the terrace and tasting room in anticipation of the food and wine festivities. Seated at our tables, we laughed, talked and continued to marvel at the events of the sky, using our viewing glasses to steal another glance, until our moon and sun were no longer competing for visible space.

The salsa band played, we enjoyed our tapas and wine, and the vineyard’s owner made his way to each table of guests. Talking about the totality, he noted that it was one thing to see the eclipse, but quite another to feel it; feel the temperature actually drop, and experience the odd light on the ground and the suddenly starry sky. Our thoughts exactly.

Post event: the Oregon Trail

The euphoria lasted well into the afternoon, but was challenged from time to time as millions of people began making their way home together. Yes, at the same time. Traffic jams as far as the eye could see (and beyond) lasted well into the next day. Assuming you’ve experienced a rush hour or two or several, you might be able to relate to some of the common behaviors exhibited by other drivers: honking, shoulder driving, weaving, or trail blazing through someone’s property.

The sun, now unobstructed, heated the inside of our car despite the air conditioning. With our seats feeling less cushy and our playlist overplayed, a rest stop couldn’t come soon enough. What kept us from getting too crabby though was talking about the eclipse. The true wonder of it all. About how everyone was friendly toward each other, like the gas station attendant who let scores of desperate travelers use his washrooms, even though we weren’t all customers.

And then, on one of many side roads, we saw it: a covered wagon replica, marking the official end of the historic Oregon Trail. Whoa. Traveling cross country in that?! Suddenly our cluttered and toasty vehicle seemed quite luxurious. Protected from the elements (and bugs), we continued on our well paved road toward home, having all versions of GPS, highway signs and landmarks to get us there.

Sharing: My Eclipse Manners

If I learned anything from the eclipse, it was to remember my manners. To acknowledge people more, smile more, be more respectful to others and to Earth, and have a greater sense of awareness for the natural (and human made) wonders of our world. The two-minute totality was a great reminder to me that windows of appreciation can be very brief. Don’t waste them.

A close-up of wine grapes on the vine
Wine grapes nearing harvest time, Cubanisimo Vineyards

Will I seek out other wonders? You bet! Will I marvel at them? Most likely. But what will I take away from the experience? What impression will have a lasting affect on me? I look forward to letting you know.

Until then, I wish you safe and pleasant travels. And a smile. J 😊