Weekly Photo Challenge: Contents of My Constant Companion

I’ve carried a purse since I was five year’s old. Although the contents change, they symbolize where I am in my life. Since I have a constant companion, I thought I’d share the contents of my traveling purse and explain my purse psyche.

IMG_3162I am a frequent international traveler. Presently, I’m in the states and the contents of my purse are spread out on my mother’s dining room table. I’m baring it all in this post, hopefully enabling you to understand my traveling philosophy and delve into my purse psyche.

1. First, I carry everything in a shoulder bag given to me by a friend who frequents the Salvation Army stores. It’s free…it’s purple ( one of my favorite colors)..and it’s compact.
Notice the little Canadian duck pin on the front? I prefer to let foreigners think I’m Canadian. I won’t go into it here, but let’s just say, that little pin has opened doors for me in some Latin American countries.

2. Salvation Army tissues fit neatly into the front mesh pocket. They came with the purse and are ever so handy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been without toilet paper when I’m traveling.

3. My used 3S/3G iPhone. I just bought an Otterbox Defender for it in the states because Nicaragua and the tropics are hard on phones. It is like a mini-computer and I have lots of cool traveling apps on it.

4. Just a little money. I never carry too much money in my purse when I travel. I have a few dollars for tips, and I have a little stash of my cordobas for my return trip to Nicaragua.

5. Of course, I need my passport and my Nicaraguan residency card ( When I return, I don’t have to pay the entrance fee of $10 in customs.)

6. My wallet has a few things in it, but my one credit card is hidden in another place in my purse. I won’t say where, but I can get very creative. The wallet is over 10 years old. I bought it at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama. That place is incredible.

7. I always carry a toothbrush. I couldn’t find travel size toothpaste in Nicaragua, and it’s a hassle to carry any liquids regardless of the size on a plane.

8. Under my toothbrush, I have two very important papers. One is a tracing of Julio’s foot. He wanted me to buy him some running shoes, but he didn’t know his size. I started compiling the other list months before my trip to the states. It contains all of the things I want to buy, or things my friends want me to buy while I’m in the states. Hard or nearly impossible to find things such as; pickling spices, cheap solar lights, a hummingbird feeder, raw peanuts, horseradish, pretzels ( I have a lot of food items on my list), and an assortment of little tools from Lowes.

9. My cheap knock-off sunglasses, and prescription glasses’ carrying case. I usually wear my glasses because it is easier than digging around for them when I have to read something (the only reason I need glasses, but when traveling, there is always something to read). I also discovered that my empty carrying case can hold little things that most airlines don’t want you to take. My little secret, but they are never detected when they run my purse through the x-ray machine. Nothing dangerous, of course.

10. My mother always told me to either wear clean underwear, or take a clean pair along with me and I’ve never broken the habit. 🙂

11. I can’t forget the pen. I confess, I am a pen stealer. This pen came from the director of House Hunter’s International when they came to film us for 5 days in May. No wait! I’m wrong. He kept reminding me to return his pen. I thought he would forget about it, but NO, so I begrudgingly returned it. Hmmm…I must have stolen this one from the airline personnel at the check-in counter.

So, there you have it…the contents of my constant companion. I think my purse psyche would show that I lead a simple, cheap life and I’m not very fashion conscious.

Now, when I get my travel vest loaded with 40 pounds of children’s books, and my zebra print backpack stuffed with my MacBook, Kindle, and other electronics…I am a sight to behold as I waddle through the airports. What’s in your purse today?

Timeout for Art: Happy in Nature

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” –John Muir in a letter to his wife Louie in July 1888 

Visiting my mother in the states for two weeks, I find that I miss the solitude and the heart of nature. Street lights, traffic, crowded stores, a hot concrete jungle, and constant artificial chatter unnerve me. I am happiest in nature.

Opening the local paper listing events in South Carolina, I had a serendipitous moment when I noticed a tiny picture of a painting by Albert Bierstadt, Valley of the Yosemite, 1864. Zeebra Designs and Destinations Timeout for Art this week is Happy in Nature! The theme was a perfect reminder of the peacefulness I needed to overcome my cultural shock.

There is no happier place in nature than Yosemite. Our son, Cory, works in Yosemite as an interpretive naturalist. Because I can’t visit him on this trip to the states, and I’m in a bit of a cultural shock frenzy, I grabbed my sketch pad and settled into a tranquil mode of sketching Albert Bierstadt’s painting. With every line and soft shade, I was transported to Yosemite and to our son, who shares his love of nature with us.

IMG_3155Below is One Day in Yosemite, with several clips of artists painting in Yosemite. If I can’t join them, I can live vicariously through my sketch.

Timeout for Art: This Little Piggy Went to Market

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

A good friend of mine in Nicaragua is a pig farmer. Her two sows recently had two litters of 19 piglets in all. When the piglets are six to eight weeks old, she sells them. She invited me to visit her two farrows of piglets the other day. Scrambling on top of one another, bouncing, jumping, playing, napping…I enjoyed every second watching piglet antics.

This quote seemed very appropriate because there are two giant mama pigs, who take turns nursing the 19 piglets. The piglets sidle up, snuggle close, and I think they just want to be sure of each other.

IMG_3135During this video, there was a 6.3 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Nicaragua. There was plenty of rockin’ and rollin’ going on, but the sweet little piglets didn’t seem to mind one bit. And if you are rooting for the runt (who walks away unable to find a teat), don’t worry. He sidled up with the other mama pig a few minutes later…just to be sure.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Savoring the Sunset

This week’s photo challenge is “The World Through Your Eyes”. A good photograph   conveys the subject at the moment of capture through light, composition, angle, and imagination.

Have you ever wanted to preserve a beautiful sunset and save it for a rainy day or bottle all the beauty so others can see the world through your eyes?

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. ~ Maya Angelou

Sitting on my favorite beach at Playa Gigante, Nicaragua, while sipping a rum, through the miracle of photography I canned the sunset. Here’s to savoring the sunset! If you are experiencing a rainy day in your part of the world, I hope you enjoy my canned sunset because no matter how bad it seems today, life goes on, and it will be better tomorrow.

As for the lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights…well… you’re going to have to figure those things out for yourself. lol

IMG_1724 2



Bathing Rituals

There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. ~ Sylvia Plath

I am on my way to the states to celebrate my mother’s birthday. Yesterday, she asked, “What are you looking forward to the most?” My response was, “A hot bath with lots of bubbles.” It’s been years since I’ve taken a hot bath. Cold water showers are refreshing in the tropics, yet there is something soothing and relaxing about soaking in a hot tub of water.

I never realized that most Nicaraguans have never seen a bathtub before. When shown a picture of a bathtub, they have no frame of reference and are puzzled about what it could be. I’m not saying that Nicaraguans are dirty. Not in the least. They are meticulous about their appearance and cleanliness. In fact, they often tell me they feel sorry for the foreign backpackers with their dirty clothes and dreadlocks. “Why do you feel sorry for them?” I ask. “Because where they come from it is too cold to take a shower, so they can never get clean,” they respond.

Our big shower in Nicaragua.

Our big shower in Nicaragua.

The most intimate contact between human and water can be found in cherished bath rituals in Japan. Instead of one room dedicated for bathing, the Japanese bath is designed solely for spiritual cleansing and refreshing the body. My host family explained the Japanese bath ritual when I visited many years ago. First, there is a small stool, similar to a farmer’s milking stool, and a ladle for scooping steaming hot water from the deep tub. The bather, sitting on the low stool, vigorously scrubs away the dirt and cares of the day. Then, using a hand-held shower the bather rinses the dirt and soap down the floor drain. Only after the bather is thoroughly cleansed can he or she enter the steaming deep tub. No soaps are used, and the bather quickly immerses into the commodious tub for a few minutes, exits the tub, rinses again with the hand-held shower, and immerses one’s body again in the steamy tub for a long, spiritual soak. Now that’s my kind of squeaky clean!

zen-bathroom-japanese-tubWhen we lived in the Ozark Mountains, we made a bathtub using a metal cow trough since we had no running water or electricity when we lived in our 1952 converted school bus.  We carried water from our hand dug spring, built a fire under the water trough, and waited for glorious, hot, steamy water. Those were the days of blissful bathing!

metal troughThroughout our lives, we’ve bathed in a variety of ways…under waterfalls…in the rain…in lakes…streams…and bubbling hot springs. Yet, nothing beats a hot tub of water where the bathroom is steamy and the bubbles pile up like mountains of frothy snow. Tomorrow, my mother said she’d have the bubbles waiting for me. What more could one ask for?

Happy bubble trails to you all.




Timeout for Art: Happy Trails

This week’s Timeout for Art is all about happy trails and the Chilamate tree. A friend visited us from the states last week, and she had never seen monkeys. Knowing that the Howler monkeys hang out in the Chilamate trees, we went on a quest for the largest and most spectacular trees in tropical forests.

Also known as strangler figs, these majestic trees begin life as an epiphyte in the crotch of another tree, then produce roots that snake to the ground to eventually anchor in the forest floor. Eventually, it strangles the host tree like a boa constricting its prey.  As the support tree decays, some Chilamate trees end up with interior passageways from base to crown, becoming true jungle gyms for the Howler monkeys who like to hang out in the trees snacking on the leaves.

Wandering through happy trails with Chilamate trees shading the worn, dusty paths, we fulfilled our quest. We spotted several Howlers lounging in the treetops lazily sleeping through the heat of the day. By the way, I was going to draw a monkey in the tree, but I wanted to focus on the splendor of the tree itself.

Happy trails to you my friends…. until we meet again.


Weekly Photo Challenge: A Fleeting Fragrance

The Weekly Photo Challenge is fleeting, and I mean that literally. For the moment passed by quickly and here it is Wednesday already. The sour orange tree at the side of our house is blossoming. It reminds me of Nicaraguan snow, yet with a joyous fragrance that transcends time. I only wish I could send the smell through my blog.

IMG_3034An Orange Blossom Haiku

The fleeting fragrance
Blossoms flutter to the ground
A moment of bliss



The Plowman

Living a simple life of hard labor, our neighbor reminds me of the Plowman in the Canterbury Tales. He weaves his way through the fields, calling to his oxen, “Chele, Ya! Chele.” ( Chele is a nickname for white skin. “White, Go! White.”) The plowman was the most recognized symbol of the poor in the medieval world and was associated with great virtue. Nicaragua has many plowmen of great virtue. Lacking high-tech farm equipment such as tractors, these hard-working men travel from field to field with their oxen teams helping their friends and neighbors prepare for the planting season.

Ploughing family farms promptly at the beginning of the rainy season is critical to ensuring household food security and farm livelihoods.
IMG_2876Once the field is furrowed, a worker places sugar cane reeds in the furrows.
IMG_2878They haul the cane on their backs.
IMG_2869Then, sharp machetes chop the cane into small pieces and it is covered with dirt.
IMG_2868The plowman takes excellent care of his oxen. One tractor costs as much as 30 pairs of oxen that can do the work of three tractors. Animal traction is less expensive, more environment friendly, and more flexible than tractors.
IMG_2885The oxen take a rest. On average, a bovine needs 20-30 pounds of forage a day. These oxen are strong and healthy.
IMG_2874Dry season feeding is survival management for the cattle. It is estimated that cattle lose 50% of the weight gained during the rainy season.  Our neighbor understands the importance of growing cane for the dry season. The cane tops are cut and stored once they are mature and used to feed the cattle during the long, six months of the dry season.
IMG_2872It’s a busy morning in the field. The dogs roll and run through the field. The sharp machetes slice through the cane, and the virtuous plowman furrows the fertile earth for a blessed harvest during the dry season.