G is for…

GGrand Portage

On the border of Minnesota and Canada on the shores of Lake Superior is an old fur trading outpost. It’s a national monument and has been preserved to show what life was like for the early explorers of the fur trading routes of the northern Great Lakes. Visiting is like taking a step way back in time.

Looking at the lodge from the dock.

Looking at the lodge from the dock.

We paid a visit here back in 2008 while we were vacationing in my home state. It was very cool to walk around and see the way these folks lived in the 18th and 19th centuries in that far north outpost. Even though it was August it was still a cool day with the breeze blowing off the lake. Furs would have been appreciated.

Tools for making a birch bark canoe.

Tools for making a birch bark canoe.


A finished birch bark canoe

A finished birch bark canoe


They aren't kidding. Lake Superior maybe warms up to 40 degrees F in the height of summer.

They aren’t kidding. Lake Superior maybe warms up to 40 degrees F in the height of summer.

Burial Bucket List

I love cemeteries. There is something so peaceful and lovely about them. And then there is the reading of headstones. As a writer, I wonder about the stories of the individuals that lie below the earth. Each human has a different story to tell, some were extraordinary, others quiet and mundane. But each one is a story and the possibilities send me into storyland.

My husband has a bucket list of graves he would like to visit. Some of them have already been achieved. For instance, when we were in England in 2012 we sought out the birthplace and final resting place of Edward Elgar, the famous English composer.

Famous composer Edward Elgar.

Famous composer Edward Elgar.

Last summer on our way to Franklin, NC, we made a side trip to Gotha, Florida where another hero of my husband’s was laid to rest: Bob Ross.

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Bob Ross is buried under a happy little tree.

We’ve seen other graves too: there was a man named John Pendelbury who was instrumental in organizing the Greek resistance during WWII. He had a glass eye and used to leave it on his work table as a clue he was going to talk to the rebels in the hills. He was in a lovely military cemetery on Crete that we visited in 2014. Poor man was captured and shot by the Germans when he was just in his 30’s.

Then of course, we have new graves to look at this summer. Vienna will be chock-a-block with famous composers: Beethoven, Haydn, and my husband’s all-time favorite Brahms.

The funny thing is, I can’t think of a burial bucket list myself. It makes me wonder why I don’t have heroes to whom I would pay homage. I guess I’d like to see Audrey Hepburn’s grave in Switzerland, and perhaps Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. My husband’s passion for music is so huge that seeing these graves is a big thing.

I’ve seen the graves of Michelangelo, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. That was really neat. But to me, there is something much more fascinating in the unknown rabble of people buried beneath the stones of church floors and in crypts.  Their stories, while not known to me, have endless possibilities of stories.

Perhaps the grave I would like to visit most would be that of my grandmother, buried on a hill overlooking the town of Carver, Minnesota. I haven’t been back since she passed in 2010. She’s the hero of my life, and I can’t think of any other famous person who measures up to her.

Where to go on vacation…?

My husband Kosta and I love to travel. The highlight of each year is where we get to go on vacation. Since we don’t have kids we do our best to sock money away so we can go to Europe and explore for several weeks in the summer or early fall.

Since we’ve been together we’ve seen a lot. Our first real vacation together was a road trip to the Southwest United States in August of 2007. We spent time in Southern Colorado, New Mexico, and a brief hop into Arizona.

Wild poppies growing in Red River, New Mexico.

Wild poppies growing in Red River, New Mexico.

Anasazi cliff dwelings at Mesa Verde National Park.

Anasazi cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park.

The two of us at White Sands National Monument

The two of us at White Sands National Monument

In 2008 we journeyed to my home state of Minnesota. I showed my new fiance the wonders of the North Shore of Lake Superior, the beautiful city of Minneapolis, and the lovely woodsy area of Lake Minnetonka.

A cairn we built on the pebble beach in Little Marais, MN.

A cairn we built on the pebble beach in Little Marais, MN.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts--a scuplture of medusa before she became a hideous gorgon.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts–a sculpture of medusa before she became a hideous gorgon.

The view of Lake Minnetonka from Excelsior Commons.

The view of Lake Minnetonka from Excelsior Commons.

In 2009 we got married. For our honeymoon we spent a week at Disney, a week on Sanibel Island, and a week at home. It was lovely, but we really wanted to go to Greece for our honeymoon. But that would have to wait another two years. 2010 was a bust as far as vacation was concerned. But then in 2011 we went to Greece! I had never been before and Kosta hadn’t been in 40 years. We LOVED it.

The famous theater at Epidaurus (Epidavros).

The famous theater at Epidaurus (Epidavros).

The view from the upper town in Monemvasia.

The view from the upper town in Monemvasia.

Preserved ioni column at Delphi.

Preserved ionic column at Delphi.

 

Once we got a taste of Europe, we didn’t want to stop. In the menu bar at the top you can see some of our photos from our trip to England in 2012, France in 2013, and Greece again in 2014. In early 2015 I had to have emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder and that pretty much shot our vacation budget. But as it happened, we spent 10 days in a cabin in Franklin, NC, editing my book for my agent. Then we went to New York for a few days to actually meet the agent. (Hi Alex!)

So that brings me to this year. We have enough frequent flier miles for tickets, we have money saved. But where shall we go? The other day on Facebook I saw this photo:

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

The funny thing is, I remember my mother having an etching or a watercolor of this exact spot.  Then my friend Tammy sent me her picture of being there, and that cemented it: After we visit our dear friends in France we are heading to Bavaria and Austria! And because I work at a library I already have a bag full of travel guides and videos to get started with trip planning.

So look out Die Schwarz Wald, the Karras’ are coming in July! And let me know if you have an favorite out-of-the-way, must-see places in that area.

Meh…


An old relic from another life that I keep around like a safety blanket. I’ve been staring at it for years and just now realized it says, “Meh…”

Just like yesterday when my husband looked at the can of Endust and he said, “Oh! Because it ends dust!”

Things can be right in front of our noses and we never see them.