Shoe and Tell Monday

Just when I think I need to start writing something, anything, again, along comes a nice little push from beautiful style blogger Style Nudge. She does a Monday feature on of all things, SHOES! One of my favorite subjects, of course.

I don’t have a shot of myself wearing these yet, but going to write about them anyway.

My must-have shoe list has included a pair of real USA made cowboy boots for a long time, and I finally ticked that box just about a month ago on a business trip to Texas.

I always try to combine work travel with fun, and this trip fit that bill nicely, with a pair of boots one of the trip goals.

My pre-trip online research revealed that the best place to buy American- and Mexican-made boots in Texas is Wild Bill’s Western Store in Dallas’ West End, so I planned an afternoon in Dallas to include boot shopping. (I also visited one of my absolute favorite small museums-The Crow Collection-but that’s another story).

I had a blast at Wild Bill’s! The girl selling boots was so fun and helpful and knowledgeable! She never blinked while bringing me 10-12 pairs of boots to try. These Liberty Black boots were an afterthought, really, and a bit over my budget, but as soon as I saw them I had to try them, and once I did? Well the boot fit.

So that’s my shoe story for this Monday (these also qualify as a now not-so-secret Secret Souvenir).

Thanks Style Nudge and her Shoe and Fashion Link Up for inspiring this post.

Monday is now shoe day!

PS. These boots do not appear on either Wild Bill’s or Liberty Black’s websites, so if you’re looking to buy them online, try here.

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My Orlando

The travel experience on a work assignment is much different than vacation, of course, but I never let the fact that I’m working get in the way of experiencing a place.

I spent several months in Orlando in 2016, and fortunately had a chance to be there over many weekends, and during times of the year with a good bit of sunlight after 5 for exploring and sunset watching. My work assignment was located in Maitland, which is in the northern part of the Orlando area. I didn’t spend any time downtown, but concentrated my playtime to the north and south of downtown.

When I go away for work for any time longer than a work week, I try to establish a “local”; that is, a restaurant I can and will go to many times over my stay. I tip well for good service, and it helps when going back. So where is my “local”? Hillstone Winter Park! Hillstone is one of a chain of restaurants, but each adapts itself to the area it calls home. The Winter Park location is set on the banks of Lake Killarney, and the outside area is low-key, with Adirondack chairs scattered about in groupings, and a fire pit for those chilly nights, but the sunsets over the water are spectacular. (Of course Orlando has no beach, but surprisingly there is plenty of water. Google map it and you’ll see what I mean.) Not only is the setting aesthetically pleasing inside and out, but the food is consistently delicious and the service top notch. Just the place to unwind after a hectic day at work!

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Downtown Winter Park itself is a lovely place to stroll, window shop independent stores, dine and drink at independent restaurants, and generally take in the ambience. I didn’t eat any dinners there, as after a crazy day the sunsets at Hillstone were a balm on my soul, but I did enjoy a delicious brunch at The Briarpatch. Next time I go to Orlando, though, a Winter Park Food Tour is on my list. What a great way to sample some of Winter Park’s best offerings-the ultimate in local knowledge!

For sheer wow factor, in a very understated way, make sure you check out the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum right in downtown Winter Park. Their collection of Tiffany is out of this world. Mr and Mrs McKean (the museum is named after Mrs. McKean’s grandfather) of Orlando were avid collectors even before they traveled to Tiffany’s Long Island home after the tragic fire there and salvaged some of the most amazing pieces. Oh they have the requisite lamps of course, a whole room full, but the collection of windows, and entire rooms, is just dazzling. This place is a must! No photos allowed inside, unfortunately.


Another must see in Winter Park is Leu Gardens. This is a small but lovely botanical garden, with meandering paths through a variety of tropical and temperate plants, all situated on the banks of Lake Rowena. Leu Gardens is just the place to bring your blood pressure down a notch, and smell the roses (literally and figuratively) along the way.

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Looking for a great spot to hang out, watch the sunset, go for a boat ride, listen to live music, eat and drink, and maybe do some shopping? There is one place for all of this, and most of it is FREE! Where, you ask? That’s Disney Springs, the Disney enclave formerly known as Downtown Disney.  (Link to the google map)

I am not a Disney fan particularly; if it wasn’t for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal (more about that later), I would probably have never set foot in a theme park at all. Disney Springs is not an amusement or theme park, but more like an incredible outdoor mall with a lake. But that doesn’t really even begin to describe it.

First off, the parking is free. That’s amazing in itself. The first thing I usually do upon arrival is jump directly onto a boat for a trip to the other side of the place. The boats leave from three different spots on the property, which is laid out along the side(s) of a lake (see google map link above), and guess what? The boat rides are also free. So what’s next? Dockside Margaritas is a great place to watch the sun go down with a margarita and some island music, although the bar outside at The Boathouse , a nautical-themed restaurant with beautiful decor, including antique boats inside and outside, also boasts a smashing sunset view. (Boathouse tip-it’s difficult to score an inside table, but if you wander out to the dockside bar area, the bar itself and the tables are first-come first-served, and they serve the exact same food.) Even though the menu isn’t exactly a bargain, there are plenty of choices, and it’s all reliably good.

Disney Springs also offers a myriad of opportunities to shop til you drop. Not only can you purchase any and all Disney swag, shops like Anthropologie and Uniqlo also have outposts here. There is even a market-like building showcasing local artisans.

Speaking of local talent-the live music is everywhere. There is a stage with kid-friendly acts, but also all kinds of other options available, including Jimmy Buffet style guitar at the margarita bar, Spanish guitar outside the boathouse, and on and on. Again-all free. The place really is a good value.

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Last but not least, I give you the only reason I go to a theme park-the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! You may know I am an all out Harry Potter nerd, so spending time in the world created by some of same artisans who created the original sets was/is a must on my Orlando list. (Yes, I’ve seen the original sets at the WB Studio Tour outside London, twice in fact, and I hope to go back next December. My thoughts on and photos of the tour here.) I’m not going to go into a lot of the logistical details in this post, as the folks at Orlando Informer have that down pat. But I do want to bring  you some of my insights, along with some of my hundreds of pictures. (If you are a map geek like me, you’ll find this page helpful.)

The Wizarding World comprises two separate “lands” at Universal Orlando. The first and oldest is in Universal Islands of Adventure and brings to life the wizarding village of Hogsmeade and of course Hogwarts Castle. As this is the original WWOHP site, it is not as detailed as the Diagon Alley side, but still worth a visit. Click above for more about rides (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, inside Hogwarts, the Dragon Challenge rollercoasters), entertainment, dining (The Three Broomsticks), and shopping (Ollivander’s, Owlpost, Honeydukes, Filch’s Confiscated Goods)!

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The other, newer section of the Wizarding World is located at the Universal Studios part of the park. The two sections are connected by the Hogwarts Express, which in addition to providing a Harry Potterish experience, with fun animation outside the “window”, really does transport one between the two parks. A park-to-park ticket is required to ride the train, however. Remember to ride the train both ways, as the experiences are different.

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Because I spent much of my Wizarding World time in 2016 during Halloween Horror Nights, which occurs at the Universal Studios part of the park only, I am much more familiar with this side, which is newer, larger, more awesomely detailed, and for my money, better.

One starts out as Harry Potter did, on the streets of London. In addition to Kings Cross Station, the street features 12 Grimmauld Place, shop fronts, and the Knight Bus. One enters Diagon Alley is through a passage in a brick wall, which is not magical. But once you get through it, I promise, magic awaits!

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And more!

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What are my favorite things about/to do in the Wizarding World?

  1. The music! John Williams’ amazing scores are all around you at all times, transporting you into the world. This is one of the many reasons to try to go when it is not so crowded. Check Orlando Informer for lots of tips and a crowd calendar.
  2. Performing spells with my interactive wand. I held out purchasing this for many visits, but the magic and wonder are well worth every dollar. If one is not going to let one’s inner child come out to play here, well one doesn’t have an inner child! Besides, when Pottermore assigned me the same wand wood and core as Hermione Granger, well I just had to splurge for Hermione’s wand. It’s as close to my own wand as I’m ever going to get. Vine wood with a dragon heartstring core, in case you’re wondering.
  3. Eating and drinking. I’m not much for butter beer, but the lemon squash is just the thing. The ice cream at Fortescue’s is delicious, especially the chocolate. My recommendations for dinner at The Leaky Cauldron (I think The Three Broomsticks has much the same menu) include the Fish and Chips and the Bangers and Mash. In addition to all the Chocolate Frogs et al you can stomach, Sugarplums Sweet Shop also carries delicious savory pumpkin pasties.
  4. The shops. I listed some of the Hogsmeade shops above; Diagon Alley has many more, including Madam Malkin’s, Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Ollivander’s Wands, Borgin and Burkes. Not only are there so many interesting and cool items for sale (don’t miss Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley-fun for the dark magic-curious like me) but the shop interiors are incredibly and wonderfully detailed. Look up in every one!
  5. The shop windows, including and especially those without shops behind them. These windows are masterpieces of detail, and there are so many! Don’t miss any of them. Some of my favorites? The clocks, the potion bottles at the apothecary, the muggle artifacts, and the bookshop, to name a few.
  6. The Gringotts Dragon! He breathes fire about every 20 minutes or so, and although it’s fun in the daytime, I highly recommend experiencing the dragon fire at night (in fact, I think Diagon Alley is at its absolute best and most magical at night). Photo tip-wait until you see the little flame inside the dragon’s mouth before holding your camera or phone up for the shot.
  7. I’ve saved Diagon Alley for last in this post, but I recommend seeing the Wizarding World as Harry did. Start on the streets of London, make your way back into Diagon Alley to experience the magic there, then hop on the Hogwarts Express (remember you must have a park to park ticket) for the ride to Hogsmeade and the Castle.
  8. What about the rides? I am not much for rides, so I don’t have a lot to say about them. I’ve ridden Escape from Gringotts and it was fun; I certainly will do it again, but it is never the highlight of my visit. I’ve heard that the Forbidden Journey ride in Hogwarts Castle and the Dragon Challenge are a bit much for those like me prone to motion sickness, so I haven’t attempted them. If rides are a big thing for you, I suggest checking out this Orlando Informer page for tips and tricks to beat the lines.
  9. To make a long story about my change of heart on this subject, I understand why people feel safer paying to take their kids to a theme park than showing them a real city. Everyone entering Universal goes through a metal detector and a look through their bags; even if just enjoying CityWalk, which doesn’t require a ticket. The actual parks themselves are much more secure, however, and this is very comforting, even without any children in tow. Not only must everyone have a ticket to enter, one uses their thumbprint to enter and reenter. Granted, terrorists or other criminals could conceivably obtain tickets, but as soft targets go, the parks are probably not an easy bet. This makes me feel good, and I pride myself on being street smart when out and about, so I now understand a bit more about the appeal. (Not to mention, I mean, THE WIZARDING WORLD!!!)

I mentioned Halloween Horror Nights above. Here’s some more detail about my amazingly cheap deal for Diagon Alley. I spent all of September working in Orlando, and when I realized that Diagon Alley would be open extremely late hours with low crowd levels, I bought a pass for Horror Nights, even though I am not a horror fan or interested in haunted houses. My Rush of Fear pass gave me admission to just about every night in September, and I enjoyed many hours of magic in the dark at Diagon Alley for less than $100. A real bargain. If you are visiting in September or October, I suggest you check it out. Again, Orlando Informer, and their group page on Facebook, are invaluable sources of information for your trip.

So there you have it-my Orlando. Thanks for traveling with me! How do you like your Orlando?

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Tonight’s Live Your Legend post-What do people thank me for? 

At work I do get a good bit of thanks and positive feedback; for helping people do what they need to do, for teaching them something, and usually, for speaking the truth as diplomatically as I can without sugar coating.

What do people thank me for in my personal life? The lovely cards I send them in the mail-I learned how to buy the right cards at the feet of a master. 

People thank me for being a friend, even though that may not always be the most comfortable thing for them. And even though I always feel like a loudmouth who talks too much, I think people thank me for listening. I do listen a lot, more than I realize and maybe more than people realize. I do hear thanks for that sometimes but sometimes it goes unacknowledged. Which is ok because, well, I am selfish enough to stop listening if it suits me.

People thank me for doing what I consider just the right thing to do. I don’t always step up and out of my way to do the right thing, but when I am moved to it there is no question, even though I am inherently selfish and like my me time maybe a bit too much. Not apologizing for that though.

People also thank me for sometimes shaking them out of their comfort zones, even if they don’t always say it. Cause people do like their comfort zones. And I don’t always have all filters running. Hah!  

I can’t think of anything else right now.

I know you would thank me for going back and fixing all my grammar and lousy sentences in this post, but please don’t, cause I’m publishing it now.

Thanks for reading.

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What makes me really angry about the world? 

Today’s writing prompt from Live Your legend is an easy one.

I am angry that the lives of those of us blessed to live in Judeo-Christian western civilization have become so easy, due to all the amazing developments that capitalism and democracy have brought, that we have become weak and pampered. And therefore ripe for the picking by those who have no such advantages, because their god needs to keep them subservient to him through his monster of a prophet. We are weak and complacent and complicit in our own destruction. Who said life would be easy and freedom was your birthright? They were full of shit-and it was/is DELIBERATE! Don’t doubt me. 

That is all. 

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Live your Legend? 

Rubbish? Maybe, but one little part of me thinks it may be a good idea.

Thinking about this idea of living your dream, that is, getting paid for what inspires and excites you most about life, and of course I know that it is rubbish.

It seems to me only the luckiest, or maybe only the most advanced souls, have the privilege of earning money at their dream job, or pursuing their dream. Most of us, myself included, are only lucky enough to figure out how to get paid for something we CAN do. But normally that work is only a tiny piece of who we are; and opening all those other doors and windows reveals so much more! However, the cold hard fact is, well, money! I need it-don’t you? 

So anyway-I’m taking this live-your-legend blog challenge, and will try to come up with something from the writing prompts every day. It has to be better for me than reading the political news. 

You are welcome to join me on this little journey, or not. It’s discouraging writing into empty air, but I should be used to it by now. So putting on my big girl panties and accepting the challenge.

If you are interested, link here.

Thanks for reading. 

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Summer Beauty Routine-No Makeup


I am spending the summer sans makeup, and it is wonderful!

It all started on my UK trip. I was already using both of these products, but adding Lancome foundation and coverup to my routine. Maybe the fact that I was on vacation made me bold enough to ditch the makeup; once I did it was quite the revelation. No touchups after being out in heavy (or light) rain meant freedom from the Lancome compact.

Although I’m now home and back to work, I’ve kept up this routine and even though I have a twinge of anxiety about standing in front of a class next week without makeup, at this point in my life I’m happy to just let it all be (well not all).

Does this free and easy attitude stem from old age wisdom? Or just an extension of the freedom I experienced when I let my natural hair shine through with DevaCurl? Maybe a bit of both.

My facial beauty routine consists of the products above (along with a pair of tweezers as I don’t want to share my unibrow with the world). The Tarte Double Detox Amazonian Clay Mask is incredible. I swear it has lightened up my age spots, which were the main reason for coverup and foundation. And it helps with the oily spots, too. (Yes I have age spots and pimples at the same time! Mother Nature is a cruel master.) I use this mask at least every other day, leaving it on as long as possible. Then I rinse with cool water and apply Purpose Dual Treatment Moisture Lotion. This product has been my go-to for years. It provides just enough moisture without any clammy feeling, is fragrance-free, and sunscreen built in.

So how long will I stay with my no makeup routine? That remains to be seen, although the freedom is incredible! I must admit I still have my mascara and lipstick, but that’s it.

Does your beauty routine change in the summer? Are you thinking about ditching all the makeup and showing your face to the world? Tell me about it!


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Fiction-The Great Escape

Thanks to Mark for the picture!

Although my personal life is ok right now, the news and truth about the world in general is miserable. Is it any wonder that I feel the need to escape?

Of course traveling is the ultimate great escape; even if one still reads the papers, one is far from the routine of home and with some effort, can immerse oneself in the news of the faraway place. This is a great escape.

Unfortunately, my earning power limits my traveling opportunities. So at least 48 weeks of the year still require some form of escape, and although yes I do like a glass of wine or two, alcohol is not the answer.

So what is my great escape? Fiction! This escape has served me well during times in my life when I felt uncertain; when the ground seemed to move beneath my feet on a regular basis.

Growing up, I was always a voracious reader. After my grooming and abuse at 13, and in my subsequent crazy high school days, when and where I never fit in anywhere and stood on the fringes of everything (good in a way, but of course I didn’t know that then), fiction was my great escape. I carried books around with me everywhere, and they weren’t textbooks. They were stories. I remember Stranger in A Strange Land was a particular favorite, although I wasn’t much for science fiction generally. And Margaret Atwood-oh dear! Although I did also have a penchant for sweeping historical novels. 

Later on in my twenties I didn’t read as much, but fiction was still the preferred material.In my thirties when I decided to go back to school, I realized how much of the world had passed me by as I was floating through life, and I took up non-fiction-mostly history- with a passion. Yes, I earned my degree, but at the same time I taught myself so much about all I had missed, and embarked on a self-education program that continues to this day. In my forties I became obsessed with certain aspects of our world that many in the west, with their multicultural brainwashing, ignored or glossed over, and in the process educated myself yet again. This interest led me to medieval European history, and  more Chinese history. I also went back to American history and filled in many blanks there.

Did I read fiction during this period? Not really. I think I occasionally looked back to Jane Austen or other oldies but goodies, but fiction was like candy in those days. I gobbled it down too fast, and couldn’t see the point. Non-fiction challenged me, made me think, and taught me so much.

So what has changed? The ground is shifting under my feet yet again. I’m older, more aware (although not afraid) of my own mortality,  and frustrated by my inability to open eyes about the truths of the world in any meaningful way. I try to make my points in a coherent fashion to convince people of the truth, but more and more and more I feel like I am yelling down a wind tunnel. I am tired, and although I will never stop fighting, I need an escape.

It probably started with the Harry Potter series. I was a bit behind all the Potterheads in that I didn’t read the books until they came out in paperback (because of course I have a thing about owning the books I read, but that’s another story). For some reason Harry Potter gave me an excuse to escape into fiction again, and it was, and still is, heavenly. I still read all the books at least once a year, as of course one does with good fiction. Jane Austen is also back in my repertoire (at least once a year), along with so many amazing 19th and early 20th century authors like Trollope, Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, and Oscar Wilde. I love Philippa Gregory, a contemporary author who writes about War of the Roses and Tudor era England. And Julian Fellowes!

My new candy, chocolate with just a touch of sugar, is the murder mystery/cozy mystery genre. I started out with Miss Fisher and moved on from there. The wonderful thing about mysteries is the plethora of authors and books. It is a veritable feast! My latest find is Debby Fowler, although I love Kerry Greenwood of Miss Fisher fame, Carola Dunn, Dorothy Sayers,  Elizabeth George, and P.D. James, to name a few.

Yes, I still read history and current affairs, but too much of it, especially since I subject myself to the real news every day (maybe I need to stop doing that?), makes me sad and angry, and forces me to acknowledge the earthquake under my feet. So I pace myself. Although before I traveled to the UK, in both 2014 and just this past June, I immersed myself in both their history and current events, and still take a keen interest in all things British.

But fiction? There is no limit, no boundary. And that is the best news I’ve heard in years!

Thanks for reading! Do you escape with books? I’d love to hear about your favorites! 


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