Patience, Avid Cruisers, Smooth Sailing Ahead

The global pandemic put a sudden stop to cruising around the world on April 9, 2020. On that date the Center for Disease Control issued a no-sail order, which put cruise ships in their quays until further notice. The order has been extended to September 30th as infection numbers continue to rise in many areas, and especially in the United States.


But there will be better times ahead. And while there are still many reasons for caution in regards to travel, the cruise industry is looking toward limited openings as early as this fall. 

All major ocean cruise lines are in the process of planning their re-openings. With careful strategies they hope to begin cruising again this fall and have new methods in place to assure the openings are successful. For starters, they will begin small. Most will schedule only a fraction of their ships and travel in restricted areas only as they open. These early cruises tend to be located in Italy with itineraries from Rome to Athens, Rome to Venice or a visit to “Ancient Adriatic Treasures.” As long as these cruises go well, the companies will expand in phases until they reach their full capacity.

It is fully expected that the fares for upcoming cruises will be deeply discounted to attract travelers. The lower prices may be as much as twenty-five to thirty percent cheaper. In addition, many cruises are adding incentives such as shipboard credit up to one thousand dollars per couple per cruise. To encourage the public, there are relaxed cancellation policies offering full refunds should the travelers need to cancel for any reason.

What Has Changed?

The pandemic has most likely changed cruising rules and regulations forever. You can expect to see some of all of the precautions in place on your next cruise:

  • Staggered boarding and a reduction of interaction/crowds throughout your cruise
  • Health checks before boarding. You may be given temperature checks both before boarding and at several times during the cruise. You will also fill out a health questionnaire before boarding.
  • Some expect cruise lines to either refuse passage to those over seventy or require a letter from a medical doctor stating the senior citizen is healthy enough to travel and has no serious chronic illnesses.
  • A reduction in numbers of people allowed on each cruise. The ships will not operate at full capacity.
  • A limit of fifty percent capacity in theaters, bars, and entertainment sites onboard.
  • There will be no self-serve buffet lines. Instead staff members will serve both food and drinks to reduce touch spots.
  • Staff will conduct sanitation processes more often and more thoroughly.
  • Crew members may wear masks.
  • In general, itineraries may be shorter than in the past.

When is it Safe to Plan a Cruise?

While no one can speak for your level of concern about travel, you can make informed decisions based on the number of active cases of the disease and also on your own general health. In addition, you’ve already learned some important health practices such as hand washing, avoidance of touching your face, sanitizing living spaces, wearing a mask in public and the like. You’ll know when it’s time to break free of your home and get out to enjoy a lovely cruise.

To read the latest from the Center for Disease Control, look here.

Finding the Best How-to Book for Your New Project

So you want to learn a new skill or you want to do a home improvement project. Where do you begin? In this day of googling everything, you’ll want to find some written material to guide you as you begin this new endeavour. How-to books are your obvious choice.

But there are so many books, and so many voices out there. How do you begin to wade through the offerings to find just what you need for your level of skill or lack thereof? Here are four guidelines as you search for the help you need in your new venture:

  1. Clear and concise information: Your desire is to do something you’ve never done before and do it well. You’re looking for the most clear and concise information possible. So as you scan various how-to books, you’ll want to look first for clear written instructions, combined with simple step-by-step illustrations. The lay-out of the book is extremely important. A cluttered page with too much information or too much verbiage will distract from your learning curve. Remember, clear, simple and straightforward.
  1. Foundational Information: Look for a how-to book that presents foundational information up front. For example if you were trying to learn the Japanese art of Origami, you’d need to first learn the twelve basic folds. Every project in Origami will be based on those folds, and not knowing them will hinder your finished product. Again, if you’re learning to crochet, you’d first need to learn to do the basic crochet stitches: the chain, single crochet, double and treble crochets. You might also need to learn about crochet hook sizes, two or three-ply yarns and other basic information essential to a well-done completed project…
  1. Personal narrative: In new learning that is not so hands-on, but requires certain behaviors or understandings, you may want to find materials that include personal experience narratives. For example if you’re learning how to do the best job interview you may want to hear the stories of several people who were successful in seeking a particular job. Or, let’s say you want to learn to be an excellent cook in French cuisine. You might want to read the personal stories of those who have gone before you with all their successes and failures as your guide. Your how-to book becomes your mentor.
  1. What to Watch Out For: As in all learning, there are trouble spots and “glitches” to beware of. Look for how-to books that give you practical recommendations about things to watch out for as you proceed in your learning. A good example of this is when learning to knit, one must understand the gauge, that is, the size the product will be based on the size of the needles, the ply of the yarn used and the individual style of the knitter. These three entities will determine the size of the item created and may be quite different for each person. A knitter who doesn’t take the time to knit a test piece to determine gauge will run the risk of spending many hours of knitting to end up with a piece that doesn’t meet the size requirements.

Do it yourself projects are a great way to expand your skills and interests and with the right materials you can move forward on learning a new language, understanding the stock market, or mastering virtually any skill under the sun.  Fifty best how-to books  The best how-to books by genre

Grandparents, Your Stories Are Pure Gold

When my children were young nothing got their attention faster than my husband or I telling a story from our own childhood. They loved to hear how things were different in our day or what we did for fun. They especially liked the stories that told of our less-than-perfect young lives. And if we really wanted them to learn a lesson, we simply told each other a story about the value of telling the truth or being respectful to others or some other nugget of truth. The kids just eavesdropped their way to becoming better citizens. 

Stories are powerful. Stories showcase characters in some sort of dramatic action. They have adventures, problems to solve, heroes to save the day or scoundrels to catch and set aright. Stories are fun. Grandparents, you have stories to tell your family whether you know it or not. I remember my Dad, who grew up on a farm, telling of how my Uncle Leslie locked his Ma in the chicken house and proudly said, “We sure have a big hen in there today!” All those stories of how hard kids worked in the olden days may elicit yawns, but how about the stories of times you struggled in school and then succeeded? How about the times you were either wonderful or horrible at a certain sport? Is it sad or funny, scary or silly? If it is, then it’s a story. You need to tell it to your grandchildren.

Reading and writing are eternally connected to one another. In school both skills are highly valued. Why don’t you sit down with your grandchild and write one of your family stories together? Perhaps you can talk and he or she can write down the main ideas. Then together you can flesh it out, being sure to place the right emphasis on the funny or hair-raising parts. You can add original illustrations, bind it and keep it forever. Or you can put your stories on tape recordings or CD’s for future enjoyment. A family friend, a wonderful 91 year old who went sledding down her great-grandchildren’s driveway last winter, has written her memoirs of raising her five children. It was a special edition written only for them and they treasure it. This great grandma has no college degree; she just has a life filled with all the joys and sorrows of real life. 

Sit down and think. Where did you live? Where did you go to school? Who were your friends and why? What were your parents and grandparents like and what is there to tell about their lives? What adventures did you have or imagine as a child? What was hard for you, easy for you, challenging for you, fun for you? Did you spend your days reading books or working in fields? Did you have overseas military service? Did you have a job that your grandchildren may not know about? The possibilities are endless because life itself is interesting to your own family members. Jot down some notes. You may find yourself digging up memories you had long forgotten. Tell your stories, they are pure gold.

Fully Satisfying Summer Days: Learn Something New


One of the best ways to brighten up our days is to set a new goal—get inspired to try something new and do it. It’s important to set measurable goals, so we’re not going to say, “I’m going to learn to knit someday.” Instead we’re going to say, “I’m going to learn to knit and I’m going to start tomorrow. I’ll buy my supplies, find some teaching videos or order a how-to book online. Then when I have everything ready, I’m going to practice beginning knitting stitches for half an hour a day. My long-term goal is to complete a simple scarf by the end of summer.”

When we have clear and measurable goals, we’re much more likely to be successful in learning something new and that feels very satisfying. So, what do you want to accomplish this summer? While we may be able to return to a more normal lifestyle in the summer months, many of us will be limited in leaving hearth and home. If that’s the case, a summer goal to learn a new skill may be just the ticket to enjoying each day more fully. 

Here are some broad categories to help you select a new skill or hobby. Within the categories are several suggestions, but if those aren’t exactly what you want, go ahead and research something more appealing to you. A brand new endeavor can create excitement and help us focus our attention and abilities in a way that is healthy in this challenging time. 


Most of us had a satisfactory exercise program in place before the quarantine kept us at home. We walked, played tennis, took classes at the local gym, or swam at the club. But now many of us are forced to find something to keep us fit without leaving our homes. That’s a challenge. If we can walk in our neighborhoods, that is a plus. But if not, here are some exercise ideas to keep our bodies healthy while at home.

Yoga is great for low-impact body toning. It’s also relaxing when done properly. Try several yoga routines and select the one just right for you:  free yoga classes, or  

Exercise Routines

Are you missing your exercise classes? If so, get online and find an exercise routine that fits your needs. You’ll find everything from ten minute to hour-long workouts requiring a minimum of equipment. Start slow and build. Try Eldergym or Seniors Exercise.

Tai Chi 

Tai Chi is another low impact exercise that is also calming and beautiful. Try everyday tai chi  or free tai chi for seniors. 


Those who do Pilates swear by this workout for toning and overall healthy bodies. Try this Beginner’s Pilates workout.

Musical Skill

Music is one of the richest sources of enjoyment in this life, whether we listen and enjoy or learn to make some music ourselves. Create new playlists, break out the old vinyl records, unearth the old CD’s or watch and listen to the quarantine concerts people are creating for others out of their generous hearts. 

Music Appreciation is usually offered as a high school or college class. It teaches you the basics of music vocabulary and the major artists throughout each period in the history of music. Do you know your Baroque from your Romantic composers? Do you gravitate toward a certain time period and want to learn more about the composers of that era? Try this music appreciation class for a minimal fee.

Learn to Play a Recorder Recorders are simple starter wind instruments. They are often used with children to give them a basic understanding of reading music and playing simple, but lovely songs. Try this beginning recorder class or this free lesson for beginners.

Strum a Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin/Ukelele Playing songs on a stringed instrument is extremely satisfying and you can learn a few basic chords in a single day. There has been a resurgence in the popularity of the basic ukulele. Learn to play one and have some fun.


There are lots of jokes flying around about gaining weight in this time of staying home. We’re forced to cook most of our meals and people have been defaulting to comfort foods. But cooking and baking really are arts in themselves and this is a great time to expand your cooking repertoire. 

Cook Using a Pressure Cooker Maybe you’d like to know how tomake meals in minutes when youcook using a pressure cooker.   

Learn to make French Pastries You’ll wow your family when you try these ten new and tempting recipes for making French pastries.   

Homemade Granola Everyone loves this sweet, delicious and healthy breakfast cereal. If you’ve always wanted to learn to make homemade granola, now is the time.And you can alter the recipe as long as you keep the ratio of dry to wet ingredients at eight to one.                                                                                                       


Read in a New Genre

If you’re like me, you have a favorite type of reading material. While I enjoy some thrillers (not too scary) and I enjoy many short stories, my go-to reading is the mystery novel. I always say I love a dead body, but really, it’s the character development over a series of books that I love. What do you love? What if in this extended time of shut-down, you tried something new

Write in a Journal

Go ahead and buy a pretty new empty journal. There are all those blank pages just waiting to be filled. Write your thoughts. Make lists. Jot down the things that make you angry or drive you crazy. Empty your thoughts and emotions onto the pages. You’ll be amazed. Writing our ideas is a way of organizing them, realizing the truth of them, and a way to calm our ragged nerves. I guarantee you’ll benefit from writing in a journal regularly.

Write Your Family History

You may never win a prize for your novel or short story, but you may take a great deal of satisfaction from chronicling your family’s history. Go back as far in your family tree as you can and write out the stories you know. Where did your grandparents live and what was their life like? Who has a story of success and who was the black sheep of the family? Where are your roots? Add pictures if you have them and write out the funny stories you remember from your own growing-up years. Your kids and grandkids will absolutely love to read your family history.

Be Brave: Try Writing a Poem

Forget everything that scares you about writing poetry. It doesn’t have to rhyme and it doesn’t have to be about earth-shaking topics. But it does have to have a certain rhythm to it and it has to be honest. It’s a little like writing a journal entry, but with fewer, “just-right” words. Why not try?

We’ve only scratched the surface of skills and hobbies you might want to learn about this summer. You may have interests in drawing, sketching or painting. You may want to create simple crafts for your walls or garden. You may have a desire to try sculpting or collage. 

You may really enjoy playing board games or card games. There are hundreds of them. Or how about playing a trivia game with friends over a period of time? You can play games via online programs such as Teams or Zoom and it’s almost like being in the same room with them.

Maybe you’d like to brush up your French, German or Spanish. Or maybe you’d like to tackle that math course that eluded you back in high school. No matter what you decide to learn, be sure to make that measurable goal including timelines and you’re on your way to a focused, enjoyable summer.

The Uplifting Power of Poetry

Many of us feel lacking in expertise when it comes to poetry. We may think of Shakespeare’s sonnets or William Blake and his elusive imageries. We may have foggy memories of studying Evangeline in the long-ago world of classrooms. Poetry seems like hard work.

But take another look. There are wide horizons when it comes to verse. Yes, some of it comes in proscribed numbers of syllables and rhyming lines, but much of it is more like a stream of consciousness in which questions, emotions and vivid experiences tumble out across the page in truly delightful ways.

As in any form of writing, there are as many purposes as there are poets. But, not surprisingly, many poets have tried to bring life and hope to readers as they interact with universal themes: life, death, meaning, joy, sorrow.  Let’s look at some uplifting poetry and poets in this time when we all can use a bit of hope.

Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, writer and civil rights activist. She was most famous for her seven autobiographies, but also wrote powerful poems in which she asserted her strength as a woman. Read Phenomenal Woman or Still, I Rise.

Mary Oliver was an American poet best known for her observance of the natural world. She explored themes such as solitude and was famous for her inner monologues in which she examined the ups and down of life. She won many awards in her long career. For a taste of Mary Oliver’s work, read Poppies. Two of Oliver’s volumes of poetry are entitled Dog Songs and A Thousand Mornings.

Emily Dickinson, the American poet often linked with heavy and morbid themes, wrote a delightful little poem on hope entitled Hope is the Thing with Feathers.

Edgar Guest was another American poet, known as The People’s Poet for his clear, optimistic verse. He is best known for encouraging words for tough times. Take a look at several of his poems, Don’t Quit and Things Work Out.

Rudyard Kipling was a British journalist and poet, born in India. Much of his writing relates to his experiences living in British-ruled India and the relationships between British servicemen and the native people. His most famous poem, If, is a study of fortitude in adversity.

Garrison Keillor is an American author, storyteller and humorist. He hosted a weekly radio program on Minnesota’s public radio called The Prairie Home Companion from 1974 through 2016. He is widely known for his fictional town of Lake Wobegon and all the characters living there. His book, Good Poems for Hard Times, is a compilation of poetry by a wide variety of poets, chosen for their clarity and humanity. “Good Poems,” says Keillor, “is for everyone who loves poetry whether they know it or not.”

Wendy Cope is a brilliant contemporary British poet who knows how to make her readers laugh. She loves to write parodies of famous poems. Read her poem, The Orange , in which she examines the joy in the small details of life and why she’s “glad she exists.”

Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and American mother. She has lived in Ramallah, Jerusalem and currently in San Antonio, Texas. She is a poet, songwriter and novelist. She has written for both children and adult audiences. Read her poem, So Much Happiness.

Walt Whitman, beloved American poet, was a prolific writer. His most famous collection of verse is Leaves of Grass. In his preface to the collection of poems he writes about an encouraging way to live daily life entitled This is What You Shall Do. Several quotes from inside the covers of Leaves of Grass are: “Ask as to me, I know nothing else but miracles,” and “Do anything, but let it produce joy.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, wife of Robert Browning was an English poet. She was the eldest of twelve children and her father, a wealthy businessman refused to allow her to marry. She and Robert eloped to live in Florence, Italy after corresponding for years. Their love letters have been read and appreciated over the years. Elizabeth is best known for her romantic sonnets. Her Sonnet 43 is perhaps the most loved.

Poetry Websites

It’s obvious that poetry is a powerful medium. There are thousands of poets and hundreds of thousand verses written. Here are a few websites which may guide you to the topics and the artists you’ll enjoy most. 

Research Your Family Tree: Get Started in Genealogy

Many of us wish we knew more about our family history, but few take the time to dig in and find the information. Maybe you have an elderly family member who knows all about previous generations. Now would be the time to gather the rich body of knowledge that only our senior family members know. Get their stories and map the family tree.

But you may have to begin your family history search entirely on your own. In that case, our modern technology enables us to do the entire search online. There are hundreds of websites dedicated to tracing family histories.

Here are some websites to start with. With many you’ll need to create an account and pay a monthly subscription fee. Some allow you to pay for a trial subscription. Other sites are entirely free. Genealogists recommend beginners start with general sites and then when they have a good outline of family lines, search out individuals on more specialized sites.

Most sites are gigantic databases which include records of births, deaths, marriages, baptisms, electoral rolls, military records and access to newspapers and periodicals of days past. Many have chat rooms and forums where you can swap tips with other researchers.

Check out these sites as you begin your family history research: (free) (free) (Australia)

Specialist Sites for Advanced Searches (military records)  (wills, military, apprenticeships)  (reference site for the UK and Ireland)   (genealogical gateway to hundreds of other sites)

Plenty of Time to Read? How About a Memoir?

A list of 10 memoirs you will enjoy reading whilst staying at home.

Most of us are living with restrictions on travel and have plenty of time to read a good book. Go through this list of memoirs and see which name jumps out at you. Then order online and take your time enjoying the stories of the lives of some amazing people.

Michael J. Fox: Lucky Man: A Memoir

Most of us think of Michael J. Fox as Alex Keaton in Family Ties or Marty McFly in the Back to the Future series. His Memoir takes us deeper into his persona revealing his life as a celebrity, but also highlighting his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. 

John Bolton: The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir

John Bolton, is a former national security advisor to President Trump. His long-awaited memoir is available for pre-order on Amazon and now due to be released on May 12th.  Bolton’s service to the country goes back to the Reagan and both Bush administrations, but his frank evaluations of the current administration caused the release of the book to be delayed.  

Katherine Hepburn: Me

Katherine Hepburn’s sixty year career has always been of interest to her fans. This book was published back in 1991, but gives an insight into the private life of this amazingly talented star. 

Woody Allen: Apropos of Nothing

Always controversial, Woody Allen has published a memoir of his long career as an actor, writer director and comedian. He began as a writer for Sid Caesar’s television show, Your Show of Shows, where he worked alongside Carl Reiner and Neil Simon. His career has spanned sixty years and he earned many awards over the years. His recent memoir, originally to be published by Hachette, is now being published by Arcade Publishing and is available as an e-book now. The hardcopy will be available in April.

Martha MacCallum: Unknown Valor: A Story of Family, Courage and Sacrifice from Pearl Harbor to Iwo Jima 

Martha MacCallum is a well-known news anchor for Fox News. She’s written a story of small-town America during World War II. It’s part family memoir and part personal history. This well-written book chronicles a story of love in the midst of battle.

Chief Two White Feathers: Chief Two White Feathers: Portrait of a Spiritual Practitioner as told to Donald Panther-Yates

This is Book 2 in the Cherokee Chapbook Series. It tells the life story of this remarkable healer, storyteller, dancer and singer, painter and ceremonial chief.

Cheryl Strayed: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

This is the story of a journey to self-discovery. It follows Strayed’s 1100 mile solo hike from the Mojave Desert to The Bridge of the Gods in Washington State. It was selected as the first book to be read by Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. 

Michelle Obama: Becoming

Michelle Obama, the first African American to hold the position of First Lady shares her personal journey. Growing up in the tough and gritty south side of Chicago to earning her way to a B.A. from Princeton and a PhD from Harvard, she later became a top-level executive, always balancing her roles as wife, mother and working woman.

Jane Fonda: Jane Fonda in Five Acts

In this DVD interview memoir Jane tells her story of growing up in a celebrity family, learning to act herself, becoming a celebrity in her own right and then her series of marriages. Jane’s activism and causes are also highlighted as she examines her life in the limelight.

Anne Glenconner: A Lady in Waiting: My extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown

Lady Anne Coke, born in 1932 was the eldest daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester and grew up on their estate, Holkham Hall in Norfolk. She tells the story of her life in the shadow of the Royal family. She and Lord Glenconner had five children and spent much of their time transforming the island of Mustique into a place for the rich and famous. She was a Lady in Waiting for Princess Margaret.

I also mention that Anne Glenconner is my 1st cousin, (our grandfather was the 4th Earl of Leicester) and I stayed with her last summer during the time she was writing her story. We never imagined it would be such a huge success in the UK and 4th best seller in the US. Brilliant!

While many of us enjoy a good novel, there is something fantastic about reading the real-life, true stories of those we admire or who have become famous for one reason or another.