Gola (Gabhla) Island: A Photo Blog

The Island of Gola was once a prosperous fishing village of two hundred inhabitants. Fishing was not an industry that could be operated year round.

In the off-seasons, most of the able-bodied men, girls, and children left for rural Scotland. For six months they were farmers, domestic workers, and construction workers.

In the twentieth century, people on the island began migrating to rural Scotland and never returned to the island life.

The island comes alive in the Summer. Children play in the area, families bring food for picnics and swim in the pristine waters and beaches. There are no public facilities on the island. A small store provides snacks and drinks during the busy season.

Our group, The Ireland Writing Retreat, went on a four-hour hike around the island. We had lunch with Eddie and his wife, the only inhabitants of the island.

Snack shop

Our transportation to Gola Island

An abandoned church

Many buildings are left abandoned. Most of them are still in their original condition.

Unbaptized Catholic babies cemetery

Unbaptized Catholic babies were not allowed to be buried with other Catholics. They were buried in this cemetery. People leave hand- painted colored stones in remembrance of their souls.

Hand-painted stones left behind by visitors

A white cross in the children’s cemetary

A memorial to two residents who died in 9/11

Grazing sheep

Farmers leave their goats and sheep on the island all year to graze. The blue stripe on the sheep indicates the owner. The sheep lead the life of luxury. They can eat and wander as much as they like. The farmers come to check on them when the weather permits.

Twin Cave

Tourists come on the island for the hiking adventure. A map and marked posts provide the directions. You must be careful. There have been hikers who have fallen over the cliffs.

The island of Gola in the distance



7 Things to Know About the Ireland Writing Retreat

Less really is more. It’s a tendency of beginning writers to want to prove what they’re talking about by going too far with description. I think you’ve got to keep it short, crisp and clean

Brad Thor

How long have you been writing? This is the first question we must answer on the first day of classes at the Ireland Writing Retreat. My answer “I just started one year ago”. Yes, that’s right. I am an ESL writing teacher and performed this job for forty-two years. I wrote academic papers. I never wrote for travel. Now, I want to write for travel.

How do I become a better travel writer? I attend a writer’s circle once a month, take online classes from various organizations that don’t offer feedback and want you to continue taking their courses so they can make money, and attend local workshops at featured bookstores. I felt I wasn’t geting what I needed.

How about attending writer’s workshops in other countries? Travel and writing! I have never been to Ireland and it was on my list of travels.  I was searching various writing retreats online and stumbled across the Ireland Writing Retreat. I signed up, paid my tuition, and off I went. I didn’t really know what to expect.

I would like to share my experiences with others who might be looking for writing retreats. This is only my experience. Everyone has different experiences.


The Ireland Writing Retreat is held and organized at Teac Jack.

Teac Jack is a B&B located in Gweedore in Donegal. It has a bar, restaurant, and a beautiful view out the front door.

Breakfast is served every morning from 8:00-10:00.  A full Irish breakfast includes bacon (fried ham), eggs, sausage, mushrooms, and a warm tomato. The eggs can be ordered sunny-side up, boiled, poached, scrambled, and over easy.

Orange juice, milk, apple juice, and coffee are available for drinks. There is a table that includes yogurt, cheerios, rice cereal, and oatmeal.

Bread includes wheat, white, and dark brown. Bread can be toasted in a toaster oven. There are no pancakes or waffles. Scones are not served for breakfast, but you can ask and you shall receive.


Disadvantages: Teac Jack is isolated. The only place to walk is to the beach. There are no other shops, bars, or restaurants nearby. I began to get cabin fever.


The program description includes the following activities.

Boat trips to the island of Gola:

There is one trip to Gola. The island was once inhabited by families. Most of the families moved away. The island is very busy in the summer with people having picnics and swimming. We are greeted by a couple who prepare lunch for us. They are an older couple. She has a job in Donegal and comes to prepare lunch on the island when there are guests. Her husband lives on the island full time. Lunch includes sandwiches, scones, cupcakes, bread, marmalade, tea, and coffee.

Leisurely walks and a tour of Glenveagh National Park and Castle:

The history of the Glenveagh castle is a tragic one. Many of the Irish farmers were forced to leave because Mr. Adair wanted to build his castle and did not wish to look at poor farmers and their animals. They were evicted from the property.  Unfortunately, it is raining. The gardens are beautiful. I can’t get many pictures of the garden because of the dark clouds and mist all around. There is a little café that serves, scones, cakes, tea, and coffee. We stop in to have tea and dry off.


Glenveagh Garden

Irish language and dance classes and lively, heart-warming, foot-tapping traditional music concerts:

There are no dance classes. Every Tuesday night Tech Jack hosts the residents and their friends to a Ceili (Kaylee), Irish traditional music event. I attend with some of my classmates. Two of my classmates are Irish and one of them is an avid Ceili dancer.

My new Irish friends and writers, Norma and Jo

Most of the dancers are women. They tell me they leave their husbands at home because they are boors.

The dancing starts at 8:30 and continues until 11:00. Most of these women never stop dancing. These are not young chicks. The ages are from 60-82. I am dragged out to the floor a few times. I don’t know any of the steps. I try to follow and end up stepping on a few toes. I wish I had a few lessons before attending.

Ceili dancing with the locals

There are no traditional music “concerts”. An accordion is the only instrument used. There is a performance by one dancer and a fiddler for about two minutes. A singer sings one Irish song. This is not a concert and should not be promoted as a concert. I was disappointed.

There is one leisurely walk that took us down to the beach. We picked wild raspberries. They were sweet.

A walk with Sean’s dogs

A visit to Teac Mhuiris introduces us to the life that once was in Donegal, Ireland. After the lecture, our host, Maggie, brings out bread, cakes, scones, and tea. A Gaelic teacher teaches us a few Gaelic phrases most commonly used in everyday language. Many people in Donegal speak Gaelic as their native language. The pronunciation is complicated. I am not able to get the words to come out of my mouth in an understandable way.

Afternoon tea

Living room of the traditional home


WIFI is available in “Jack’s Bar” and the room where the classes are held.  It is not available in the hotel rooms. This is a disadvantage because we must sit in the bar with our computers to do our work. The heat in the classroom is shut off when we are not using it. The bar is noisy and there isn’t much space to work.


The writing classes take place from 10:00 am -1:00pm every day.

The information on the site includes the following information:

Hands-on teaching techniques including one-on-one, sentence-by sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, critiques of participant’s own work completed before and during the week-long writing retreat. 

We are given an assignment and it is due within 24 hours. There is no offer of one on one in person critiques. The critiques come in the form of feedback on line. The critiques help me to take care of the basic problems. They are not profound critiques. The critiques are given by Sean Hillen the instructor/author.

Emily DeDakis, a dramaturg, presents a workshop. She has us do various writing activities including putting our ideas into various groups. She gives us an assignment to write about something that we would never tell anyone. I don’t do the assignment. She isn’t going to give any feedback and I don’t understand the purpose. Why should I tell her a secret when I don’t even know her? Laurence McKeown, a play writer. Laurence had a very interesting story about being held in prison for 17 years. He was on a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We found his story fascinating. He gave us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment was to write a story that included 50% dialog. It was misunderstood by all the class participants.

Laurence McKeown, a play writer tells us about being held in prison for 17 years and a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We find his story fascinating. He gives us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment is to write a story that included 50% dialog. It is misunderstood by all the class participants.

He corrects them in a way that makes them bleed. So much red ink!

Farewell Dinner

The agenda lists the Farewell Dinner as an “evening filled with wine snacks, and lively conversation”.  We have sandwiches that are hastily made and not tasty and lots of wine. The “lively conversation” includes a local guitarist whose voice gives me a headache. He tells us that he doesn’t write music, he just sings from memory. Another local woman tries to sing a traditional Irish song. She has a very bad cold. We have some lively music from one of the participant’s husband who plays country western music and she sings. She has a beautiful voice. The lively conversation switches to Irish politics.

Welcome Dinner

A magical mystery welcome is the title of the welcome dinner.  The owner of Caife Kitty gives a presentation on potatoes and how they can be cooked. She brings a sampling of her mashed potatoes for us to try. Sancho entertaines us with a few Irish fairy tales.

Later in the week we go to Caife Kitty for lunch.


There is no public transportation. Cabs are available and expensive. This is a problem if you want to go to another town to go shopping or eat. The cost of transportation by cab to the airport is 25 euros.


Meals are not included. You could spend between $30-40 for food and drink per day. Breakfast is included. The menu in the bar and restaurant offers a variey of foods.  Don’t forget the fish and chips (fries).


If These Castle Walls Could Talk

If These Castle Walls Could Talk

John Adair was one of the most hated men in Ireland. Many Donegal natives would consider it a curse to even mention his name in conversation. Adair had a temper and felt a sense of entitlement that most people did not appreciate. He became a very affluent man by traveling to New York in 1850 and working in land speculation. In 1870 he returned to Glenveagh, Donegal. He began to buy up smaller portions of land the locals owned to create his large estate. The local farmers were struggling to keep their families fed and clothed. Adair was not interested in the problems of the people around him. He had no interest in helping them.

Adair began to evict the local families. Some say it was because he wanted to “improve the view from his castle.” Who wants to look at the poor?” The local families lived in homes with thatched roofs made of cereal straw and reed covered with wooden rafters. The walls were double packed with earth. The floors were flagstone or packed earth that didn’t help in keeping the home warm. A hearth was located in the central area of the home. There were neither chimneys nor windows for the smoke to escape. The people would have had to pay more taxes for the windows. The soot-blackened homes were known as “black houses”.

It is also said that the locals became very upset and protested his hunting retreats crossing over their lands. They reported him as trespassing. He became furious and even more determined to get these people off of the land. Adair wanted to use the land as a sheep farm. He had brought his own shepherds who eventually got into a bit of trouble. One of them was accused of murder and having an affair with the dead man’s wife. She became pregnant and was sent off to Scotland.

Eviction of the locals began with Adair acquiring the necessary documents that would allow him to send his “crowbar men” house-to-house evicting families. The first house they came upon was the home of a widow and her seven children. After the family was given the news, their house was destroyed so that they could not come back and live in it. A total of two hundred and forty-four people were homeless including one hundred and fifty-nine children. Half of the people were given passage to Australia provided by Michael O’Grady. O’Grady had also purchased land in Australia for the sole purpose of providing land for the people. Forty-two of the evicted ended up in workhouses in Letterkenny. These evictions were recorded as the most infamous in the history of Ireland.

Castles are pieces of European history. They represent the great divide between the rich and the poor. Who built this grand castle in Glenveagh? There is no mention of the men who carried the massive granite stones one by one up and down the hills. Were these men paid? How much were they paid? Where are the answers?








Frank Lloyd Wright: Cedar Rock, Iowa

“As we live and as we are, Simplicity – with a capital “S” – is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.”
Frank Lloyd Wright, The Natural House

I look around my house and wonder if I am living in Simplicity. Are there enough windows to let in the natural light? Are plants able to survive naturally in my house growing straight from the soil? Is there too much space?

A road trip through the Central part of Iowa brought me to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most complete designs. Cedar Rock in Quasqueton, Iowa. The house was completely designed for the personal use of Mr. and Mrs. Walter. Mr. Walter was a native of Quasqueton. He was a very successful businessman who owned the Iowa Road Building Company for thirty-seven years. He sold the company in 1944 to his employees. He wanted to retire and enjoy life. He and his wife became very involved in the arts. They admired the work that Frank Lloyd Wright had done on his architectural designs. They asked him to design their house.

Cedar Rock

Frank Lloyd Wright was the greatest architect of the 20th century. He designed more than 1,100 buildings before he passed away at the age of 91. Wright builtis the first house in Spring Green, Wisconsin where he grew up. He named it “Taliesin”. This building had to be built three times. It was destroyed by fire twice. The first caused by a “deranged servant” and the second by an electrical problem. He didn’t have much luck with wives either. He was married three times. The first two he divorced.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Cedar Rock home using the Usonian design. Usonian was the concept he wanted to use for designing homes for the middle-class families. Although I don’t think that many middle-class families between the time of 1944-1955 could afford to buy a house for $120,000.00. The house my parents bought in 1956 was about $8,000.00. We were classified as middle class. The Usonian homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright were tailor made for the individual and his family. The spaces in the house would be practical and functional. He incorporated “organic architecture”: fresh air, in-house plants, and the sunshine. There were no basements or attics for storage. If you needed to store something and not use it, then get rid of it. He would be very annoyed to walk into some modern-day houses because everything is kept whether needed or not.

No room for storage in this bedroom

The Cedar Rock house was completed in two years. The Walters made a list of the most important items they wanted to include in the house and Wright designed it their way. He chose the curtains, carpets, and picked out the accessories. The house came with furniture, appliances, and plants. The Walters brought their books and clothing. The house was move-in ready.

The natural decor was a must. These are colored rocks illuminated by the natural glow of the sun

The biggest room in the house is the “entertainment area”. This room has a grand piano, movable pillows to allow for more seating and a very small area for sitting and eating. The idea was to socialize with everyone and not to compartmentalize the people. Instead of standing in a corner you had to stand in the center. No wall flowers allowed. The entertainment area is all glass windows. The windows give you the feeling that you are outside in the garden and the woods. The view also includes the river. It’s a dinner without flies.  The skylights brighten the interior space and the windows above help release the hot air trapped near the ceiling.

Dining table

There are no air conditioners. An indoor garden has plants growing in the natural soil of the ground. Not planted in pots.

Plants growing straight from the floor

There is a separate entrance from the exit. This was to help the guests feel more comfortable. You could sneak out the door without the host noticing and you didn’t have to explain why you were leaving. The house is airtight. Our guide describes a night that had winds blowing at tornado strength and torrential rains and the house was not affected.

Cedar Rock “Entertainment Area”

Mr. Walters was a very avid boater. He had the biggest boat around at the time. He had a private boathouse designed so that he could get away without anyone knowing about it. Not even his wife. The boathouse is equipped with a bed. Maybe for longer nights.

The Getaway Boathouse

The property has a very nice walkway and trail. The walkway goes out to the river and through the trees. I arrived early for the tour and decided to walk to the house. Tours are provided by boarding a wagon that is pulled by a tractor. You can not enter the house or walk around it without a tour guide.

Garden steps

Small trail from the Information center to the house

Mr. Walters passed away in 1981 and his wife followed in 1986. They had no children. Mrs. Walters donated the home to the Iowa Conservation Commission in 1982. The money left in her account when she passed was given to the Commission for the upkeep of the house. Her wish was to let other people come in and admire the beauty of the house.

The houses now are designed to be very big. They have attics or basement in the East or Midwest. Walk-in closets are a most for most new homes and families. In a Usonian house, the kitchen was very small. The size of a “butler’s” kitchen or a walk- in pantry. The hallways were narrow and book shelves were designed to blend in with the hallway. Having all windows eliminated the problem of interior decorating. Nature was the decoration.

The bedrooms are very small and so are the beds. The windows in the bedroom open out into the garden to give the feeling of being one with nature.

Master Bedroom

The official plaque of a Frank Llyod Wright Home

My house has a lot of windows to view the desert. My plants don’t grow straight from the ground. They are in pots that need to be watered often. There is too much space. My house has three bedrooms, a loft, a medium sized kitchen, living room, and three bathrooms. Only one bedroom, one bathroom, the kitchen, and loft are used every day. Wright would not be happy with the way I live. It is not very Usonian.



Central Iowa: 8 Cultural Observations Made on a Road Trip

Contrary to slanderous Eastern opinion, much of Iowa is not flat, but rolling hills country with a lot of timber, a handsome and imaginative landscape, crowded with constant small changes of scene and full of little creeks winding with pools where shiners, crappies and catfish hover.
Paul Engle
I had the chance to take a five-day road trip through Central Iowa after completing a Summer writing course at the University of Iowa. I am addicted to road trips. There is no hassle of people checking my bags, taking off my shoes, removing my lap top, or waiting for a delayed flight. I can stop where I want, take pictures, and enjoy the scenery.
The following cultural observations are my personal observations not scientifically investigated facts.
Iowa is not completely flat

The backroads of Iowa have plenty of hills that take you up and down like a roller coaster. Most of the time you can’t see over the next hill.

Corn in Iowa

Ninety-eight percent of the corn grown in Iowa is not edible for humans. It is used to make ethanol, cooking oil, and feed for animals. It is not sweet corn.

Drivers in Iowa are cautious

There is not much traffic on the back roads of Iowa. Cars don’t try to speed by you, drivers don’t honk or flip you off. They drive slowly.


No sign of diversity

Most of the people that I saw in Iowa were not of color. I didn’t see any migrant workers in the fields or hotels. I saw some students from China and the Mideast at the University of Iowa.

No out of town license plates

Not many people visit Iowa. I think that the Iowa State Fair draws from nearby states. I could not play the license plate game because there were only Iowan license plates.

Limited places to use the restroom and restaurants to eat at

If you are traveling the backroads of Iowa look for Casey. They saved my life twice when I was lost. Casey is equal to QT or QuickStop. They have gas, snacks, and coffee. It was the only place to get coffee. Many of the restaurants and shops in the small towns are closed on Mondays. No one could give me a reason for this.

Casey General Store

State Center, Iowa

Picturesque farm houses

The farm houses were usually white and their barns red. This fascinated me because it reminded me of pictures in story books about farms. The corn stalks were more than “knee high” and ready to be harvested. The soybeans spread like a thick green carpet up and down the hills. It was so different the desert where I live.

Farm with soybeans

These markings appear on barns that are more than 50 years old. The farmer chooses the quilt pattern and it is then painted on the barn. There are actually tours that will take you around and show you the different markings. I saw many of them. I was only able to take a picture of this one.

For more information, click here

Knee high corn

Lincoln Highway

Route 66 has the notoriety of being the first highway to cross the US.

It was the Lincoln Highway which first ran coast-to-coast from Times Square in New York City west to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, originally through 13 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. It was dedicated on October 31, 1913.


Lincoln Highway Bridge, Tama, Iowa


I would like to thank all of the people who helped me when I was lost. Thanks to my cousin Anna and her husband Steve for letting me hang out at their house.

Get to know the USA. Tavel by car and enjoy what you don’t have at home.








7 Historical Facts About the Amana Colonies

The history of the Amana Colonies is one of America’s longest-lived communal societies which began in 1714 in the villages of Germany and continues to live on the Iowa praire.

A short history of the Amana colonies

The people who came from Germany to live in the United States were known as the “Community of True Inspiration”. They broke away from the Luthern Church in 1714. They were being persecuted for their beliefs. They first found refuge in Ronnebery Castle in central Germany. They still felt that they could not live a happy and productive life. Thye left Germany between the years of 1843-1844.

The first place they came to was Buffalo, New York. They lived a communal life. They did not own their own property or businesses. Property and resources were shared. No one received a wage. Their biggest business was farming, production of wool and calico, clock making, brewing (yes, they did drink), and well-crafted furniture, and other farm tools.

Buffalo began to get too crowded for their farming needs. Men from the commune were sent out to look for a place in the US that would provide them with more land. They soon landed in Iowa and bought 26,000 acres of farm land. They sent messages to the group in Buffalo and closed everything and moved to Iowa. The move was complete by 1855.

The communal way of life ended in 1932. The people wanted to achieve individual goals and make money. Private enterprise exists in the Amana Colonies. This is apparent in the many hotels, restaurants, coffee houses, ice cream shops, and the numerous antique shops. The Amana church continues to be the main religion in the Amana Colonies.


Historical Facts
The Amana Colonies are not and have never been Amish.

The first fact the people who live in the Amana Colonies want everyone to know is that they are not Amish and are not related to the Amish. There are some similarities. They both came from Germany because they were being persecuted for their religions. The Amana colonies have always adapted to technology and the most advanced techniques for farming. They have telephones, drive cars, and use computers. They drink alcohol. You can only find the Amana Colonies in Iowa.

The Amish reject all kinds of technology and advanced techniques for farming. They have never lived a commune type of life. They help each other, but own their own homes and have their own businesses. The Amish live throughout the US. The Amish continue to dress in the traditional way. The people who live in the Amana Colonies dress like everyone else. You would not be able to tell a tourist from a resident in the Amana Colonies.

There are six villages in the Amana Colonies

The six villages are Amana, East Amana, West Amana, South Amana, High Amana, and Middle Amana.

They are very close to each other and have the same beliefs and regulations. These villages were created because of the communal style that existed at the beginning. It was much easier to service small groups of people than larger groups. Each village was responsible for taking care of those in their village.

All meals were eaten in a communal kitchen

The women were in charge of the cooking. Each day a different family, the wife and her daughters, would cook the meals of the day. People ate five times a day. Three main meals and two snacks. Everyone had ten minutes to eat and move out of the kitchen for the next group of people to come in. Most of the meals included soup, bread, and some cheese. Only small pieces of meat were eaten.

The meals were served at 6:00 a.m. 2:00 p.m and 5:30 p.m. Snacks were served at 8:30 and 11:30. You could not eat in your home. If someone in your family were sick and not able to come to the table, you were allowed to take food to them. No food was allowed to leave the kitchen. There was no talking allowed during the meals.

Strangers were also welcomed to come and eat. At this time there were hobos who wandered the country and they were welcomed at these communal tables.

Typical menu for the week

Women and children ate after the men had finished their meal.

Half of the dining room

Everyone belonged to the same church and followed the same rules.

Alchohol was not prohibited by the Amana Colony Community.

The only church in the Amana Colonies

People from all six villages come to service in one church. The church is very simple. There are no stained glass windows, religious statues, a cross, or paintings on the wall. They believe that people should not be distracted in the church. The benches are made of pine and very hard to sit on for long periods of time. People kneel on the floor at the appropriate times. Heads of women are covered before entering. This tradition could soon come to an end because many young girls don’t want to wear a head covering. I remember being in the fourth grade and refusing to wear a chapel veil on my head to enter the Catholic Church.

Families did not sit together and still don’t. Men and boys sit on one side of the church and women and girls sit on the other side of the church. Services take place twice a day. Most people only attend on Sundays now. The service can last up to two hours.

There is no official baptism for members.

Marriage and dating

Men were not allowed to marry until twenty-five years of age. A man expresses his desire to date a young girl. The parents of both the young man and women meet. The young man is banished to a nearby village and only meets his girlfriend three times for one year. They are able to participate in group dances chaperoned by their parents throughout the year. If everything works out they get married.  The records show that 50% of the couples change their minds.

A man expresses his desire to date a young girl. The parents of both the young man and women meet. The young man is banished to a nearby village and only meets his girlfriend privately three times for one year. They are able to participate in group dances chaperoned by their parents throughout the year. If everything works out they get married.  The records show that 50% of the couples change their minds.

A typical house were multiple families lived

Weddings are not anything special.  They always take place at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. An elder presides over the ceremony. Only the families attend and the couple does not receive any gifts. They don’t exchange rings. The reception after the marriage includes wine, beer, sandwiches and special cakes. Not a wedding cake. They return to their parents home after the wedding until the community finds a room for them. They have no choice in their living space.

In the time of communal living, couples were encouraged to have no more than two children. When a child was born the couple received a “sitting room” in the house. The garden and the cleaning were done by the people living in the house. If a couple wanted to buy something such as furniture or clothing, they had to give a reason for the purchase. The person who was in charge of their living conditions would decide if it was a good reason or not. Money was not exchanged between the people. Everyone had the same amount of credit.

Typical wedding dress that is still worn today

General Stores were not only places that sold goods. They were places to meet and talk with your friends.

In the time of communal life, young girls would go to the general store to get the necessary kerosine, and ingredients to prepare the meals of the day on Friday or Saturday.

The general store in the Amana Colonies

The general store sells everything from candy to flour. It is a place to catch up on the news of the day. As our group walked in to take a look at the general store our tour guide who is a member of the Amana Colony church struck up a conversation about an event that happened the previous week before with the store clerk.

Items sold at the General Store

Jams, marmalade, and jellies are locally made and sold at the general store. Candy is displayed on the front counter for every child to see and buy. Now I know where the supermarkets of today got the idea of candy displays at the checkout counters. Some things never change.

Children’s clothing on display

Annual Festivals

The Amana colonies celebrate various festivals every year.

  1. Oktoberfest– Brats, beer, parades, autumn colors, and the feel of Bavaria

2. Prelude to Christmas/Tannenbaum Forest– A forest of  live decorated  Christmas trees and a 15′ German style pyramid along with Santa Claus

When: Begins the day after Thanksgiving and continues through the weekend prior to Christmas

3. Wurst Festival– Festival of sausages

When: Saturday of Father’s Day

4. Maifest– Famous Maipole dancers with “Art in the Barn” showcasing local and regional artists. Parades, wine, beer, and food walk

When: The first weekend of May

5. Colonies in Bloom– Residents show off their private gardens

When: One day early in the summer and one day late in the summer

Note: No specific dates are given

6. Winterfest– 5k fun  run, winter mini-golf, best beard contest, open fire chili, Snowball dance,  and a wine and beer walk

When: No specific dates are given


The Amana Colonies is an example of why the United States is such a great place to live. People seeking religious freedom come to the United States to live without the persecution they receive in their countries. This should be something for all of us to think about because there are people seeking the same freedom who are not allowed to come to the US now. This is not good.










Five Thousand miles: Five States: Seven Lessons Learned


I travel to discover different cultures. Every state and every city in the US has a culture. People from all over the world come to visit the US to see how Americans live. Americans travel to different parts of the world to see the culture of others. Americans don’t look for cultural differences in their own country. We tend to think that we are all the same.

What is culture? It is not only the language, the food, the historic sites of an area. It is the way people think and act. The US is not a homogenous society. People are different and that’s what makes the US so interesting.

The seven lessons that I have presented here are cultural examples of American life that we don’t recognize. People from other countries would recognize them as part of American culture.

  1. Hotels

Hotel chains are not the same. I learned that one La Quinta is not going to offer the same services as another LaQuinta. LaQuinta is known for their dog-friendly hotels. They don’t require a pet fee. The LaQuinta I stayed in Medford, Oregon wanted to charge me $15. I pointed out to her that LaQuinta doesn’t charge a pet fee. She decided not to make the charge.

Hotels are franchises bought by private people. They don’t have to follow the rules that would make them the same as the others in their franchise division such as the Choice Hotel group, Holiday Inns, or Hampton Inns. Hotel owners charge anywhere from $5- $50 for pet fees. There is no set fee for one group of hotels. Hotels should follow the Starbucks model. Every Starbucks serves the same kind of coffee and you can count on getting the same service at any of them.

The Hoover Dam Lodge was the last hotel we stayed on the way home. They didn’t charge a pet fee and allowed me to take Chloe, my cocker spaniel, into the casino area. She did not like it because it was too noisy. I was winning and she wanted to leave. I was ordering my food at the little Mexican restaurant to take to the room and the waiter told me to go get the dog and bring her with me.  He got a big tip!

2. Fuel

Google Images

The price of fuel depends on the city. I paid the most on the Oregon Coast, $3.75 per gallon and the cheapest in Idaho, $2.25 per gallon. I learned to have a full tank of gas when I traveled the scenic back roads. There were no gas stations and if I did find one, the price was almost doubled. Oregon does not allow for self-service gas. An attendant will come and fill your tank and even wash your front windshield. I asked the attendant why they didn’t allow self-service and he replied, “It provides more jobs.” I agree with that. Being a self-serve state eliminates a lot of job positions.

Gas stations were also the best places to take a break, use the restroom, and get something to drink.

3. Car Warning Messages

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I believe everything my car tells me. Halfway through my trip the “maintenance required ” light flashed on. I was really nervous because I was traveling the backroads. I continued driving hoping that the car would not die in the middle of the forest. Who would help me? I didn’t have cell service either. I arrived at a place that had service and called the Toyota dealer and asked him what I should do. He said, “Don’t worry you can bring the car in tomorrow.” I said, “I am in Bend, Oregon and still have 3,000 miles to go.” He replied very calmly, “You can drive the car up to 4,000 miles more.” He said, “The warning light is like a timer on your oven. It is telling you that it is almost time to take out the cookies.” I don’t think so. When the timer goes off in my oven, it is TIME to take out the cookies or they will burn. I continued driving and with great caution.

I learned that I could drive up to 3,000 miles after the warning light comes on!

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This is another annoying warning that indicates the tire pressure is low. I learned that the temperature can trigger this light to go on. I was traveling in much cooler weather. Every morning the light would go on. I kept driving. When the temperature reached 75F the warning light would turn off. I no longer worried about this warning in cold temperatures.

4. Speed Limits

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Speed limits vary from city to city and state to state. Interstate speed limits across the USA go from 65 mph to 80 mph. Backroads have slower speed limits. Many of the roads pass through small towns and the speeds are reduced to 35-45 mph. I learned that most drivers, including me, do not drive the speed limit. I tend to drive faster when the roads are straight. I slow down passing through mountains ascending and descending. I become nervous descending the mountains and other drivers are speeding past me or getting closer to my bumper. I really didn’t find many problems with speeders during my travels.

5. Interstate vs. Scenic Backroads

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The advantages of traveling the interstate are speed and time. I did not want to pass up the opportunity to travel the scenic byways of Oregon. I learned to appreciate the beauty and quietness of the state. I stopped at various places to take pictures. There were many turnouts to allow other drivers to pass if needed.

The backroads from Medford to Waldport followed the Umpqua River part way before encountering the cliff driving on the 101.

I passed through towns with names Grass Valley, Madras, Shanko, Dalles, and Rufus on the Journey Through Time byway. Most of these towns have a population of 1,000-1,500 people. There were usually a general store and a very small gas station. I wondered how these people did their grocery shopping. They were sleepy villages with charm.


6. Restaurants/Coffee Shops

Coffee Shop in Sisters, Oregon

Stand alone coffee shops owned by women are very common in Oregon. This coffee shop was located near a park and catered to bicycle riders and cars. The coffee was great and the man on the bike paid for my coffee. Chloe and I sat at one of the picnic tables and had our coffee.

I was at a disadvantage because I did have my dog with me. I could not go into restaurants. I sought out restaurants and coffee shops that had outdoor seating. I bought beef, chicken, and vegetables and grilled out at the park. There were a couple of sandwich places in Bend, Oregon that did allow me to take the dog inside.

I would sometimes go for three hours without a cup of coffee. This is really a difficult almost impossible thing for me. I am a coffee addict. There were times I was driving and not a single coffee shop in sight. Not even a gas station! I learned that I could survive without coffee.

7. Rest Areas

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Rest areas are few and far between. Sometimes it was 75 miles between one area and the other. Rest areas are expensive to keep clean and safe. Many states have decided that fewer is better. I learned that I needed to use every restroom stop available. The interstate provided more chances of finding restrooms and most of them were well used. The majority of the restrooms were clean and there was plenty of toilet paper. I hate walking into a bathroom and not finding toilet paper in the US. I never carry tissue.

Some of the rest areas had vending machines and picnic tables. They also allow sleeping for a limit of 8 hours. I encountered one young couple who had pitched a tent the night before at one rest area early in the morning.

The rest areas also provide a place for your pet to do their business. Chloe did hers anywhere. I always cleaned up!


Take the time to find out about the culture around the US.


















2017 Road Trip: Scenic Pictures

There was a time when the most important conversations with my husband took place on road trips. This road trip gave me the needed peace to be once again with my husband in spirit guiding me. The mountains and rushing water helped me to remember the times that we so much enjoyed  traveling around in the USA. I thank him for his guidance and keeping me safe. I could hear him whispering in my ear. “Slow down. You are driving to fast.” I could hear him laughing at me when I got lost. He will always be there in the passenger seat wherever I go!

This summer my cocker spaniel, Chloe, and I set out on a 13 day road trip. Five thousand miles and 5 states was the total trip.

There are so many parks, mountains, waterfalls, and forests dotting the the United States. These are the seven that I photographed along the way. The beauty of the USA is sometimes overlooked. People fly all over the world to look for beautiful places. We have plenty of them in our own backyard.

Day 1

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National park is located 245 miles from Sacramento, California. Early morning is the best time to appreciate the beauty without the crowds. The tall redwoods stand higher than skyscrapers and the smell of the redwoods reaches far into the woods. People take pictures of the redwoods and touch their noses to the trees in order to take in the sweet smell.

Day 2

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is still considered an active volcano. It’s elevation is 14,179 ft (4321.8 m). It is located at the end of the Cascade Mountain Range. There are seven known glaciers on Mt Shasta. Daredevil skiers and hikers try to climb Mt. Shasta. Three out of ten climbers usually make it to their goal. It is a treacherous climb and many climbers have died in the past. I was able to stand at the bottom and look up.

Day 3

Crater Lake

Crater Lake is located about 60 miles from Medford Oregon. The water in this lake is so blue it looks like someone painted it. The lake was formed around 7,700 years ago. The lake is the result of the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. Crater Lake is 1,949 ft. deep and is the deepest in the United States.  The day was cold and the ground was covered with snow.

Day 4

Newport, Oregon

Newport, Oregon is a beach town. It was a cloudy,rainy,and cold day to be at the beach. I have always wanted to travel down the coast of Oregon and take pictures. Unfortunately, the weather was not providing me with any sunset or sunrise pictures. This is a rainy day picture of the beach. The water was very cold and had a grayish tint. It wasn’t blue.

Day 6

Mt. Bachelor

Mt. Bachelor is located about 40 minutes outside of Bend, Oregon. It is a very popular place to ski in the winter. There were hikers and skiers using the slopes on the day I was taking pictures. The ski lifts were not operating. The skiers had to carry their equipment up the mountain and then ski down. It was a lot of work. Mt. Bachelor is an inactive volcano. The last time it errupted was 1000 years ago. The mountain is surrounded by endless forests. It is a great location for hiking and pickniking. I didn’t see many campers.

The Cascade Mountain Range

There were not enough places to stop and take photos along the roadside.

Day 7

Tumalo Falls

Tumalo Falls is a 97 ft waterfall located outside of Bend, Oregon. It is located in the Deschutes (Deshoots) National Forest. We parked in the parking lot. The parking lot is very small and it is much easier to find a space early in the morning. We arrived in the early afternoon and had to do some manuevering to get a space. We walked 1/4 of a mile to reach the top of the falls. The waterfall made an incredible rushing sound. My partner Chloe (cocker spaniel) was spooked by the noise.

Day 13

Lake Mead

Lake Mead is located outside of Las Vegas in Boulder City, Nevada. It is the largest reservoir in the United States for water capacity. Lake Mead provides water for 20 million people in Arizona, California, and Nevada. It is very hot in the Summer. People bring their pleasure boats and soak up the sun in the Summer. Hiking, biking, and walking are better done in the Winter, Spring, and Fall seasons. The sunsets are really incredible.

I hope you enjoyed looking at these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.

















7 Cultural Observations of People Living in Manhattan

Don’t have the money or time to go outside of the country for vacation? Take a trip to New York. The inhabitants of New York City come from just about every country around the world. Stand around for awhile and you will hear Spanish, Thai, Arabic, Indian, Italian, and German spoken all around you. New York also attracts visitors from all over the world.

Why is New York City so appealing?

City Parks

People living in a big city don’t have yards. Their yards are the city parks. People play,nap,jog, walk their babies, and picnic in the park. The grass is green and trees provide shade.

People learning how to juggle in Bryant Park

Playing Board Games in Bryant Park

Taking it Easy

International Restaurants

You don’t need to go to Italy to eat Italian food. You can go to “Little Italy” in Manhatten and find Italian restaurants. Some are better than others. The restaurants are smaller and usually owned by families who live locally. We found Thai, Japanese, MidEastern, Korean, Cuban, Mexican and many more.

Great food and Great prices

Kofte Kebab Ground lamb patties blended with Turkish spices and kasseri cheese on top

French Bakeries

New York has a French bakery on just about every corner. The locals eat pastries and drink coffee on their way to work, coffee breaks, and lunch hours. The pastries are very European. They have more butter and less sugar. Endless varieties of pastries, cakes, fruited pies, croissants, and fresh yogurt choices. Many of the bakeries have outside seating.

Great place to get breakfast.

Cakes and pies


Fruited Tarts


Many New Yorkers don’t have driver’s licenses. I had an aunt who was a writer for CBS news. She never had a driver’s license. It’s not necessary. The traffic in NYC is slow moving and there is no place to park. People are constantly honking their horns. It pained me to see fire fighters and ambulances trying to get through traffic. It’s not because people would not pull over. There is no space to move. The roads through the city are very narrow.

Public transportation is the norm for most people. Taxis, Uber, Lyft, subway, bicycle, buses, and skateboards. Subways are very crowded during rush hour. They are cheap. The cost for a one way ticket is $2.75. Weekly, monthly and yearly passes are available. The seats are comfortable. The subway is clean and people are polite. Just get out of their way. They will help you anytime you are lost. Look like a lost tourist and they will have pity on you.

People are always in a hurry.

Rush Hour



New York is known for the city that “never sleeps”. People are out late at night. Theaters have shows that end around 11:45 p.m. New Yorkers eat late. The restaurants become very crowded because space is much smaller.

Time’s Square

Unfortunately, there are not as many people here as usual. Times Square was cordoned because of a severe accident.


New Yorkers love their theaters. New shows debut in New York. Tickets can be very expensive for some of the most popular showings. The theater is accessible to those who are rich and tourists who spend the money. They know this is their only chance.

Grocery Shopping

There are no “box supermarkets” in Manhatten. Locals shop at smaller grocery stores. The stores are stocked with every ingredient for just about any kind of international recipe. There at at least thirty different kinds of cheese, dried fruits, fresh vegetables, breads,sauces, ready made salads and sandwiches. There were no carts to push through the store. The aisles are very narrow. The locals don’t buy a lot of food at one time. They have to carry it home with them.

Local grocery store

These seven cultural observations are based on a five day experience I had in New York City. Others might have different observations.

If you get a chance, check out New York City.




5 Cultural Facts of the Victorian Era: Rosson House

Cinched waists, enhanced hips and behinds, fingers jammed into gloves, and petticoats. Top hats, waist coats, startched shirts, knickers, and leather shoes. This was the life of women and men in the Victorian period.

Rosson House Museum at Heritage Square in Phoenix, AZ was built in 1895.  The house had been lived in by 5 different owners in the past years. It has been carefully restored to its original beauty. Some of the furniture is original. Most of the furniture was matched as carefully as possible to the original.

We were guided by a very knowledgeable docent who provided us with some very interesting facts.

The importance of the door

Only very special and important guests entered the “parlor”. The front door of the parlor has eight panels. All eight-paneled doors were designated entrances of only the most important guests. A six-paneled was the entrance for family members and was located at the back of the house. A four-paneled door was the entrance for the maids, nannies, and other employees of the family. When a special guest came to he house the family would greet them by descending from the top of the spiral staircase.

Top hats and gloves

Men never left the house without their top hats. Women never left the house without gloves. The gloves were so tight. The women had to use a device that resemble a plastic pliers to open the gloves and shove their fingers in as fast as possible. Top hats were origianlly made with beaver and rabbit skins. The rabbit was worn by the upper class and the beaver by the working class. The beaver top hat became silk later on.

Clothing For Adults

Wedding attire by the groom and bride was not white. In the Victorian Era the bride and groom wore the best dress attire hanging in their closets. They did not buy a special dress just for the wedding. They had to be practical because it was expensive to have clothes made. Many brides chose dark colors to hide stains or any imperfections. They would were the dress for other occasions.

Women and men in the Victorian Era possessed at the most three pieces of clothing. Women had three dresses and the men one to two suits. Clothing was expensive and had to be made by hand. The material had to be imported. Women only had one maternity dress. They wore this dress everyday and for every pregnancy. Women’s clothes were protected by wearing aprons and petticoats.


Children slept in the same room as their parents until they were about two years old or kicked out by a younger sibling.

They moved to a “big kids” room after leaving the crib. Four to five children would sleep in the same room. Children were allowed to play with their toys and friends in their rooms or in the attic. They were not allowed in the parlor or anywhere else in the house.

When boys became older they began to wear the “sailor suit”. This was the common clothing for most boys. Girls began to wear corsets at the age of eight. A girl of twelve could not have a waistline of more than ten inches. The corset was worn twenty-four hours a day. A softer corset was worn to bed.

Both female and male babies wore dresses. Snaps, zippers, and velcro was not available to help hold up pants for children. Most “kinckers” were held up by suspenders. It was much easier to change the diaper of a baby when they were wearing a dress. Families were not concerned about identifying the children as male or female when they were young.

Food Preparation

The kitchens were very small. Most people shopped more than once a week for staples. There was not much cupboard space. The stove was heated by wood and was small compared to the modern appliances we have in our kitchens. The main table was used for making bread, pastries, and cookies. The flour was stored in the drawers under the table. All food was cooked and prepared at home by the women in the family.

There was always the problem of keeping bugs out of the kitchen. The baked goods were stored in cupboard space with the outside having the design below. The bugs would try to fly into the cupboard . Their wings would get stuck with the spikes sticking out of the design. Unfortunately they were not successful in getting a taste of the goods inside.

The ice man was much in demand. He would pass by about two to three times per week. This sign would be left out on the back porch. The sign is now showing 100 lbs. The ice man would see the sign and bring the ice right into the kitchen and install it in the “ice box”. The ice was usually too heavy for the women to carry. Dried ice was first invented in AZ because the ice would melt so quickly.

Visiting the past always makes me so appreciative of my life now.