Monday, December 31, 2018


Every New Year’s Eve in Taiwan the tallest building in the country (and once the tallest in the world), Taipei 101, is the center of an impressive fireworks display visible for miles around. When we were in Taipei in October, we had our photo taken with a picture of the tower and fireworks in the background. We are with our gracious host for our visit to Taiwan, Liang-Yo, who watches the real fireworks every New Year's Eve with his family.
Tomorrow it is the beginning of a new year. Wherever you celebrate I wish you a very

                              HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019!

Monday, December 24, 2018


I have a new ornament on my tree this year, a charming miniature library made for me by my friend and fellow children's book writer Caroline Hatton in a repurposed mint container just two inches square. The tiny books inside include my book Hatching Chicks in Room 6, Caroline Hatton's book Surprise Moon, and Ann Whitford Paul's book When Animals Say I Love You. It is reminder of the importance and joy of books and reading during the holidays and all the year through. As we celebrate this holiday season with its message of joy, hope, peace and goodwill, I send best wishes to all of you for a very

Monday, December 17, 2018

IRELAND, Part 2: The West and Southwest, Guest Post by Tom and Susan Weisner

Ireland. Irish musicians play in bars and restaurants everywhere!
In September, our friends Tom and Susan Weisner took a driving trip in Scotland and Ireland. They have graciously agreed to share a few of their photos and thoughts about the trip. Here is their report of the second half of their ten days on the road in Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare on the southwest coast of Ireland are beautiful, but incredibly windy and cold. They were a long day’s drive from Galway, where we were staying.
Susan and Tom at the Cliffs of Moher on the Southwest Coast of Ireland
Another beautiful day's drive was to Roundstone, Ireland, a small village along the Connemara District coastal drive outside of Galway. 
Shop in Roundstone, Ireland, with Irish music, crafts, blankets and wool weaving.
It was a good place for crafts and gift shopping--like this place for example.
Beer, books, eggs, marble, wool, for sale!
The Ring of Kerry is a beautiful all-day drive around the southwest coast, departing from the town of Killarney, which is about 2.5 hours drive from Galway. Charlie Chaplin had a place in a small town along the way that he visited all his life. Who knew?!
With Charlie Chaplin statue
Killarney lakes and castle in County Kerry are part of a  Killarney National Park (the first national park in Ireland) and make a beautiful day's outing, with walks to ruins of Abbeys and the lake itself.
Did we mention the importance of Irish writers to be found in restaurants, bars, hotels? In a lovely Irish restaurant at our last stop, the town of Kilkenny, southwest of Dublin, we saw this poster.
Some Famous Irish Writers
Here are some of the beautiful Irish throws, blankets, scarves and Irish music CDs that we brought back home in the extra suitcase we had to buy!

Beautiful Irish textiles
Many thanks to Tom and Susan for sharing the highlights of their Scotland/Ireland trip!

Monday, December 10, 2018

IRELAND, Part 1: Dublin and Northern Ireland, Guest Post by Tom and Susan Weisner

Dublin, Ireland.  The Guinness Storehouse
In mid-September our friends Tom and Susan Weisner took a driving trip in Scotland and Ireland. They have graciously agreed to share a few of their photos and thoughts about the trip. Here is their report of the first half of their ten days on the road in Ireland.

The Guinness brewery tour at the old Guinness Storehouse is a must in Dublin. Yes, we got samples of Guinness (not Susan’s favorite though) but then there were options of sodas, light beer and a beautiful panoramic view at the end of the tour from the top floor.
Susan tastes some Guinness
Here are some famous people had already sampled the Guinness! 
The Obamas enjoy a pint of Guinness ale on a visit to Ireland in May 2011.
The Trinity College Dublin historic library room is beautiful, and also has the famous ancient Book of Kells.
Dublin. Trinity College Library
Irish writers are visible at many places around Ireland and their words and posters are found in pubs and restaurants. The Oscar Wilde water was very tasty, for example.
Oscar Wilde Sparkling Water
We toured the Northern Ireland Troubles districts in Belfast, N.I., on what are called “black taxi tours”, and saw murals still documenting the British vs. Irish Republican struggles.
Belfast. Mural depicting Northern Ireland Troubles
The swinging bridge walk is in Northern Ireland. (Originally a narrow crossing built by seasonal fishermen, it is now a tourist destination.) Also, the Giant’s Causeway walk is nearby.
Swinging Bridge
The Irish Famine Memorial is along the river where the victims boarded ships for America and elsewhere. There is an excellent Irish emigration / diaspora / cultural museum here too.

Irish Famine Memorial. The Famine statues, in Custom House Quay in the Dublin Docklands, were presented to the City of Dublin in 1997.
Look for Part 2 of Tom and Susan's Ireland trip on The Intrepid Tourist next week.

Monday, December 3, 2018

SCOTLAND: Edinburgh, Loch Ness, Glasgow and More, Guest Post by Tom and Susan Weisner

Tom and Susan Weisner at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
In early September our friends Tom and Susan Weisner took a trip to Scotland and Ireland and have graciously agreed to share a few of their photos and thoughts about the trip. Here is their report from their week in Scotland.

Edinburgh Castle is the historic anchor at one end of the “royal mile” road in Edinburgh, Scotland. There are beautiful views of the city from the top. And of COURSE there is an historic dog cemetery near the top of the castle!
View of Edinburgh and Firth of Forth from Castle
And a tour of the Glenfiddich whiskey distillery in the North of Scotland was essential, near The Cairngorm National Park, where we stayed in the very nice local “Boat Hotel.”
Susan at the Glenfiddich whiskey distillery
A visit to Loch Ness and the Urquhart Castle tour and boat excursion are only an hour or so from the National Park. Look cold and windy? Yep. Apparently the Monster kept out of the wind that day.
Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
In Glasgow we visited the Cathedral - representing the Catholic - Protestant conflicts and the separation of the nobility and commoners within the cathedral.
Interior of the Cathedral, Glasgow
There is an historic Merchants Row tour in central Glasgow, where we found this nature mural in a parking lot.
Mural of Scottish animals near Merchants Row in Glasgow
And then we found this plaque along the wall of the nature mural, documenting that Frederick Douglass came to Scotland. It pointed out that much of the wealth on display came from the slave trade and he wanted the money refunded!
"Send Back the Money" plaque on Merchants Row in Glasgow
Next week on The Intrepid Tourist: Tom and Susan's report on their week in Ireland.

Monday, November 26, 2018

GRAND CANYON: Hike on the South Kaibob Trail, guest post by Tom Scheaffer

On the South Kaibob Trail of the Grand Canyon in Arizona
In early November my brother Tom and two friends took a trip to Northern Arizona and visited the Grand Canyon and Sedona. He has graciously shared a report of his trip and some of his beautiful photos.
View of the Grand Canyon from the South Kaibob Trail
We flew from our  home in San Diego to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, where we stayed overnight in a hotel (the Maisik Lodge.) The next morning we got up before dawn and went to the rim so we could see the sun come up over the canyon. It was a beautifully clear and cold morning. At 7,000 feet altitude the temperature at the rim was below freezing!
View at sunrise from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
After breakfast back at our hotel, we took a shuttle bus to the trail head for the South Kaibob Trail and set off on our walk.
Looking down the South Kaibob Trail
The first part of the walk consists of steep switchbacks down the cliff face. The views are amazing.
We walked for about two miles into the canyon to a rest stop, where we found a sheltered place behind some rocks and ate our picnic lunch.
Tom at a great view spot on the South Kaibob
We then retraced our steps back to the top, the whole time going up and down–none of the trail was level and much of the trail is steps. Going back was much slower than going down. We were lucky there was no heat to deal with as there is when hiking during the summer. The crisp fall air made perfect hiking weather.
Red rocks of Sedona, Arizona
On our drive back to Phoenix we stopped in the town of Sedona for a night. Our hotel had a beautiful view of the spectacular red rock formations Sedona is famous for. Altogether, we had a short but inspiring trip.

Go the Grand Canyon National Park website for more information about visiting the Grand Canyon.
In the winter of 2014, Tom went another trip to the Grand Canyon, that time with a friend who hiked down the South Kaibob Trail and back up to the rim on the Bright Angel Trail (more than 20 miles round trip!) For Tom's Intrepid Tourist report of that trip, click HERE

Monday, November 19, 2018


Bridge to Zushi Temple, Sanxia, Taiwan
On our recent trip to Taiwan we had a free day and decided to take a day trip from Taipei to see the new Ceramics Museum in Yingge and the Zushi Temple nearby in Sanxia. Yingge has long been the center of the ceramics industry in Taiwan and is home to numerous ceramics factories as well as the museum and a restored “old street” with pottery shops.We arranged for a taxi driver to pick us up at our hotel in Taipei for the hour's drive to Yingge.
Gymnast ceramic sculpture, Yingge Ceramics Museum
When we arrived at the museum we bought our tickets and went inside the bright, glass-walled building where we were advised to tour the outdoor portion of the museum first. As it turned out, it was good advice, because as the day goes on the weather outdoors becomes quite warm. It is better to walk around when it is relatively cool. (The inside of the museum is air conditioned.) In the outdoor garden ceramic sculptures are arrayed over a large expanse--on lawns, along tree lined walkways, on pedestals and amongst the shrubbery.
Master potter Chan Kao Hsiang; demonstration at Yingge Ceramics Museum
Workshops were going on in several buildings and there were activities for families and children. We stopped to look in on an open studio where a potter was giving a demonstration. When he saw us, he invited us down to take part in the program. He had just finished throwing a tall pot, and, as we watched, he proceeded to turn it into a clay fish, using us as his accomplices.
Breathing life into a clay fish
Although he spoke no English and we no Chinese, all this was accomplished through sign language, much to the enjoyment of the audience. It was the highlight of our day!
Ceramic roof tiles
The inside of the museum chronicles the history of Taiwan as seen through its pottery, beginning with early pots made by local tribes and continuing through the colonial period to modern times.
Objects on display include everything from dishes and roof tiles to ceramic toilets to elegant sculpture.  Exhibits are well labeled in both English and Chinese. We ate a light lunch in the museum cafeteria before leaving to visit Sanxia.
Gate to the Zushi Temple
In Sanxia our driver dropped us off at the gate to the bridge that leads to the Zushi Temple (also spelled "Tzushr") on the other side of the river. It was Sunday and the bridge was crowded with pedestrians and vendors hawking souvenirs and games of chance.
Bell tower of the Zushi Temple with modern apartment building in the background.
The Zushi Temple and its surrounding "Old Street" reflect the town as it was one hundred years ago. They stand in contrast to the surrounding modern architecture. The temple has been described as an “Eastern Palace of Art”. It is certainly a riot of color–red, yellow, green, blue, gold-- with every conceivable surface decorated with birds, animals, flowers, dragons,  human figures and more.
Incense sticks are guarded by two stone dragons.
While many of the people there were tourists like us, others were lighting incense and offering prayers at this Taoist temple. The main part of the temple was at the rear of the inner courtyard. There were smaller rooms on either side.
The drum tower and a few of the 126 hand-carved stone pillars that adorn the temple.
Stairs led to a second story with access to the bell tower on one side and the drum tower on the other.
Flowers and other offerings adorn the rooms inside the temple.
The Zushi Temple honors Qingshui Tsu-Sze, a Song-dynasty general worshiped for his power to protect the local tea industry. First erected in 1769, the current building is a restoration begun in 1947 and still in process. With its lavish decorations it was truly a feast for the eyes.
Then it was time to cross the bridge again to meet our taxi driver for the trip back to Taipei.
Realistically carved kingfisher holding its prey on a wooden screen along the temple corridor.

Monday, November 12, 2018


Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA
The Griffith Observatory sits high on a hill above the city of Los Angeles, its white walls and domed roofs visible from miles away. It is the ideal place to get a panoramic view of the city and to watch and learn about the stars–the real ones, not the movie variety.
City view from the Promenade Walkway of the Observatory
The Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park is one of the premier public observatories in the world. Griffith J. Griffith wanted the public to have the opportunity to look through a telescope, which he felt might broaden human perspective. Mounted in the copper-clad domes on either end of the building, the Zeiss and solar telescopes are free to the public every day and night the sky is clear.
Jennifer and me, in front of the Observatory. The Griffith Observatory opened to the public on May 14, 1935
When my daughter Jennifer was in high school and college, she worked as a guide at the Observatory. She was in town last summer with her family, so we decided to spend an afternoon there.
Astronomer's Monument and Sun Dial on plaza in front of the Observatory
Traffic and parking are always a challenge near the Observatory, so we parked along the road near the Greek Theater. We then ate a picnic lunch on the grass before heading up the hill, about a mile’s walk. One can also get to the top by riding one of the free shuttle buses that stop across the road from the Greek Theater.
Foucault's Pendulum
Just inside the main door of the Observatory is Foucault’s pendulum, a heavy ball that swings in an arc following the Earth’s rotation. It is a favorite exhibit at the Observatory. Visitors crowd around the railing around the pit, waiting to see the ball knock over a peg every few minutes.
The 240-pound brass ball moves back and forth on a 40-foot steel cable suspended from the dome. At Los Angeles' latitude, it takes 42 hours for the pendulum to complete a circle as the earth beneath it rotates. The movement is visually represented by small wooden dowels that are knocked over one at a time by a pointer on the bottom of the ball.
Tesla Coil
Another favorite Observatory exhibit is the Tesla coil. When it turns on, giant flashes of light explode as electricity flows into the air of the chamber.
During our visit we looked at dozens of other exhibits as well, learning about the sun, moon, planets and things astronomical. We ended our stay with a live show in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, settling into the comfortable reclining seats for the show. (Tickets for the shows can only be purchased at the Observatory on the day of the show.)
It was a great family outing and opportunity for our grandchildren to see where their mother had worked when she was just a little older than they are now.
Admission to the Griffith Observatory and Grounds is FREE. For more information click HERE.
North Doors of the Observatory