Navy Days – Danger on the High Seas!

I happened to see a post about a sailor from my old ship saying the USS Dixon had a severe corrosion issue. No kidding! I remember the ship being caught in Pacific storm that busted a hole in the hull.
We were on a Western Pacific 6 month cruise out of San Diego California. I had met the ship in Honolulu, the first port of call. I was directly out of Nuclear Power School and had never been on a ship before…what an experience. Not being at sea, but being on a ship full of crazed sailors! Command wouldn’t let them off the ship the first day, so when I arrived they were in a frenzy. I heard that ‘the ship was welded to the pier’ ‘We would never go on Westpac’ so many times, but somebody must have changed his mind because I met it in Hawaii, already underway.
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I toured Oahu with some of the guys from my Division and they treated me to my first hard liquor, a Tiki Liki (souvenir cup in the header) from Trader Vic’s…Gee Wiz, enough of that!
The Dixon had a rounded hull, as it was a repair ship and we needed all available space for machinery and supplies for fixing up the submarines at sea. After Hawaii, we went to the Philippines, a whole book in itself. From there we had to cross the mighty South Pacific to reach Australia, passing through the Straits of Malacca at night to see the lights of Singapore. Far from any island, we rammed smack into a vicious storm, with swells so high all you could see was a midnight blue wall of water all around, electrified with thick and close lightening bolts; could be terrifying unless you were brave and stalwart like me.
We would ride a swell up, the entire ship would rise from the water and  shudder (yes, actually shudder) from prow to stern, then whammo ! We bammed down, over and over. Then suddenly it felt like a detonation. All our guts fell to our boondockers (boots). Alarms! Flashing lights! All hands shut those watertight hatches! Run Dammit! The ship was sinking! Honestly, I never found myself worrying. There was only one other person I knew on the ship of 1300 that wasn’t barfo seasick, and we went around with forks asking green sailors for the big chunks. We passed the word around the Psychic Jean Dixon had predicted a ship with her name on it would sink.  It’s a wonder one of them didn’t throw us overboard.
USS Dixon and Subs
USS Dixon AS–37, with the SSN Gurnard and SSN Pintado

Right after the storm they put divers over the side to keep us from actually sinking, with guys aiming rifles at them, ready to kill the hungry Great Whites. They put an emergency patch over the gaping rusted hole so we could carry on.

The ship laid on it’s side all the way to Sydney, where they wouldn’t let us dock close because we couldn’t confirm or deny the presence of nukes. I loved Rushcutter Bay where I had fish and chips for the first time. Maybe I should write a book on all this?

Cool Stuff From JPL and NASA!


NASA and JPL have a very neat set of travels posters for Solar System and Interstellar vacation destinations at

You can download these as poster-quality PDFs!

ceres is one on the menu, a nice one.

If you download a poster, you’ll come to this screen that has more goodies.

I used Planet Quest by JPL often when researching for the first book in my Elise t’Hoot series; I wanted to get the latest facts on the exoplanets. FYI, exoplanets are the worlds that orbit suns not our own and it’s amazing how many they’re found. They have lots if the latest news on planets, asteroids, satellites, space, and have many helpful pictures to illustrate the concepts. Now they have lots of interactive stuff as part of the “Exoplanet Travel Bureau”.

All the pictures for this post are from the NASA JPL s1te, I hope you try it out and have fun!

Amish Market, Anyone?

I have a sister that lives in a podunk little town in Pennsylvania. While Ma lived there, I drove or flew up on occasion. Seeing family is great, but the town is moribund. The big deal is the Wal-Mart, right. Except for me.

Cabin June 2015 073The Amish market there sprawls across a mini-mall sized lot. It has all manner of furniture on one side. The other side specializes in baking needs. I ALWAYS spend a gob of time and a wad of cash in there! Specialty flours, dried fruits, various sweeteners, a cornucopia of spices and more. I admit I go overboard and still have buckwheat flour from three years ago. You can see I have my (self-made) shelves loaded, and I use most all of it. I did get semolina flour to make pasta and haven’t even attempted it yet.

I have to go on a business trips to Wisconsin every year or so. Last year, my host hooked me up with the local Amish Store and I left with a big ball of butter among my usual haul of local cheeses. Yum and a half! They say there’s one south east of here. I drove all over the place and saw buggies but no store. I shall keep an eye out where ever I go because they are great!

Other than that, yes I did got to the cloth store though I have an Everest stack of sewing projects already. I got stuffDownload 090915 017 that was originally $20 -$25 a yard or item at 60% to 80% off PLUS a blanket 25% off my entire purchase!  My theory is when receiving a huge discount, get the pricey stuff. I would not splurge on the expensive fabrics otherwise, and some are very beautiful. I would rather save $10 than 10 cents!

Ma will have a new long sleeved, floor length fleece nightgown so when the one I made her last month is in the laundry, she’ll have a back-up. She also gets a blue paisley flouncy skirt of rayon, floor length do she can wear long johns under it. I can knock those out in an afternoon. For me I got a slate blue cotton-poly blend, very nice, that I’ll use a Vogue pattern with. I got a few yards of dark brown long fur because I downloaded those stuffed animal patterns from Pinterest a few days ago…I shall make a big dog with moveable legs. We’ll see what the cats think of that! No pictures yet, I’ll get some this weekend.

Speaking of pictures, hover over most pictures and the Pin It icon now shows up! Except this post, I have no idea why not. Try on some of the other recent posts, I think the work there.

They Took Pictures!

Vision to Share from the New Orleans Trip

Some folks may know I wrote and essay on vision care a while back and won a trip to New Orleans with Ma, the subject of the essay. I got this VSP Production (click the link above) in my mailbox Wednesday morning, wow! I knew they had guys with cameras roaming about but thought it was all over by now. By the way, I made the clothes Ma and I are wearing.

On another note, I made a big mistake…I looked at the special offer from Midwest Brew Supplies. They have fully set-up tandem Cornelius kegs with independent dispensing! I bottle all mine, I do not need this, repeat, I DO NOT NEED THIS! If they were Pony kegs instead of Cornies I would not be able to resist as I have an 80’s vintage cabinet-style small keg cooler. We used it for Bass Ale and Felonfoel (sp) Welsh Ale. Would not having my own ales in it be snazzy!

Ornament Clip

Christmas decorations!
Cabin spider 2Oops, this is a Black Phase Rabid Wolf Spider in my Kitchen sink. These are great guys, good pest predators. This was a big fella, and he stayed a few days  before disappearing to who knows where. I love the black tarantula look. They jump fast, too. We always wear shoes in the house.

Now, where the Dickens did the Christmas decorations go? Here we are! That multicolored thing draped across is a scarf Ma crocheted for me decades ago. I have worn it every

Christmas Lights

Christmas, but the last couple years it has done double duty as décor.








NOLA Vacation 023One reason I was so jazzed about going to New Orleans was the prospect of seeing ALLIGATORS! I’d already done a Swamp Tour there and an Everglades kayak tour a couple years ago, so my focus this time was the gators in town.

Here’s one at the Tourist Information place in the French Quarter. He’s the Master of Brochures.

One might think this is a terrible thing to do to a living creature, however I got over that by reasoning that there are a zillion gators and NOLA Vacation 022if the locals couldn’t make money off of them, they would exterminate them as dangerous reptilian menaces. Hence Swamp Tours, purses, boots, barbecues and storefront greeters. The fame of gators helps conserve them and their habitat, and the habitat is continually at risk.

This Praline Guardian is certainly an eye catcher.

Check this out:

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I’ve had a gator-fixation for quite a while. It started with a really hectic day at work; I felt I had gators on my butt all day. One thing led to another. I painted this 6 ft wide floor cloth. In this one, the gators get revenge by luring tourists with beach umbrellas. There’s a row of cars parked to the left, but where did the people go? I assure you it looks better in person.

Gator Floorcloth



Gator Poster 001
copyright 2007 Niall Benvie/Nature Picture Library

And as a constant reminder of the perils I face here at work, this poster hangs directly in front of me, forever in mid-slurp.



Whirlwind New Orleans!

NOLA Vacation 011Ma and I got back from New Orleans Saturday, nigh onto midnight. It was a quick trip, but lots of fun. Wednesday night, we were treated to a fancy dinner in the French Quarter, at Muriel’s. The Grilled Puppy Drum (fish, not canine) with toasted pecan and cracked caper dressing in a gruyere sauce was delectable. And ooh-la-la, Crème Brulee afterwards.

The next day we worked the vision clinic all day. I helped folks fill out the complicated forms most if the NOLA Vacation 006time, then switched to helping them pick out their frames. In the end, we gave 353 people free eye exams and on-the-spot glasses courtesy of the VSP lab in the van out back. Tiring but wonderful!

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Ma, with the Prize-Worthy Glasses

Friday, the only full day we had on our own, started at Café du Monde for beignets followed by a Natchez steamboat trip down the Mississippi and back, with a jazz band serenade. Shop, shop, souvenir, French Market, walk, walk, look, look, pralines, t-shirts, gator hats.

I had intended to end the evening at a Cajun club for dinner and zydeco but on the way, we stumbled upon a stage sitting right smack in the middle of Decatur Street. Turns out we’d happened on the  Frank’s Italian Ristorante 50th anniversary celebration; soon the quirky Rock ‘n Roll oldies and funnies band captured Mama’s heart. I backed her roller against the curb and soon Frank himself brought us two plates of free food – muffeletas. Ma said yick to that, so I went in and bought a mess of fried oysters for her. You’d though I’d been starving her! I had to treat her right since the story I won the trip with was about her getting glasses…not that I wouldn’t have anyway.

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Alas, Saturday’s flight home came far too quickly. Still, we had a blast and loved every minute of it. Now if I could only find some more of that Abita Springs Turbodog ale, hmmm.

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500 Words = New Orleans!

Hey, I won a trip to New Orleans! Where I work, we have VSP vision insurance. I deal they do is go to different cities with a mobile clinic and provide free eye exams and glasses. They posted an essay contest on how access to vision care has affected me or someone I love. I wrote about Ma because Medicare doesn’t pay for glasses, just diseases. I wrote about the comical way she went about choosing her glasses and apparently the VSP judges thought was entertaining, too. Cash, a posh hotel, airfare, wow!

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One whole day I get to be part of the vision care outreach, right at the scene. That is going to be so cool and I will absolutely take pictures to share. Since I haven’t been there yet, here are some miscellaneous cabin shots…why not? Especially needed is the shot of Ma, with her glasses on!

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One more thing, my newest sci-fi book is officially out! Yippee! It’s only $2.99 for the eBook, and if you have an Amazon deal it could be free. Give it a try – and leave a review if you can. Thanks!


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Folly Beach in November

Just Us
Just Us
Why would anybody vacation on Folly Beach, a barrier island off of Charleston, South Carolina, in mid-November? I just got back from two weeks there; three days were wet and rainy, no higher temperature than the 50s, with a chilling wind. The festive juice and snack stands were closed. The beach was empty but for bundled up dog walkers.

I went with my 82 year old mother who was born and raised on the barrier islands of John, James and Wadmalaw. She married a sailor who carried her far away to the bluegrass of Kentucky. I remember as a child frequently hearing her yearn for the smell of the marsh and the crash of the surf; she kept that Low Country accent and I learned of her childhood back in the alligator infested waterways.

Dad died at 46 and Mama immediately moved back to South Carolina with my two younger sisters – I came home for a short Navy leave and found the old house deserted and ransacked because she just abandoned it but left all of my things and no message.

She lived on Folly Beach as she was able on Dad’s Veterans benefits and low-paying jobs. As soon as I could, my new husband and I bought her a house on Folly. She had a job at Pete’s Grocery and raised hot peppers in the back yard. After Hurricane Hugo, I flew out from California and help her recover from three feet of water in the house and the ruined furniture and appliances. She had two Boogie Boards and used them often, and gathered oysters in season, too.

Years passed. When my sisters moved out, she moved to an elder-friendly apartment and got involved with the local Salvation Army church. She got a uniform and went bell ringing, the whole thing. She missed the surf, but James Island still felt like home.

One day my youngest sister, who now lived with her family in Pennsylvania, called me in to say they were moving Mama up with them, that her health was too poor for her to live alone any more. I began taking Mama on vacations, starting with the auld country of Scotland. We went to Hawaii, Australia, Holland and Florida in alternating years. This year I strongly felt Folly was the right destination.

We went when there were no crowds, when it was not too hot and muggy. Most days were beautifully sunny and in the 60s or 70s. Every day she would stop and get teary, saying, “I can’t believe I’m back on Folly.” We went to Magnolia Gardens where she’d fieldtripped as a schoolgirl. We went to the Charleston Tea Plantation, a place she’d always wanted to see. We visited family, we drove around for the scenery. We communed with the majestic Angel Oak. She ate fried oysters for supper four times and we remarked on the height of the tide in the marsh each time we drove to a restaurant. When we went to church she wore her uniform and many friends remembered her with hugs and cheer.

The place we rented supplied no beach chairs. The first day to the beach, we stood on the sand and eyed a large log of driftwood dubiously. Then a young woman got up from a beached Hobie Cat where she and another young man and woman were lounging. She smiled and invited Mama and me to have a seat on the boat. Mama was thrilled at their friendliness and generosity; we went back to that perch nearly every day for an hour or a few and she basked in the wonder of the waves and the pelicans and the intrepid surfers in their wetsuits.

Ma Kickin' Back
Ma Kickin’ Back

Seeing Mama happy every day was well worth the vagarities of the weather. She felt like a local again, not a tourist. There were no crowds and the restaurateurs and shopkeepers were glad to see us. Borrowed wheelchairs made her inability to walk far moot. Her friends let her know she would never be forgotten. We won’t forget our marvelous November trip to Folly Beach, the Edge of America.