travel

If I Went to Niagara Falls

Image from Pixabay

I know we’re living in a pandemic and traveling for leisure is discouraged. But at some point, things will return to normal, including travel.

Anyway, this is just an ideal imaginary trip and what I would want to do while in Niagara Falls

Transportation

I would either take Amtrak (if it goes anywhere near there) or fly, although the train is more favorable. There are fewer security rules and restrictions. I would take car services to get around or even walk.

I would also need a passport since much of the area, especially the exciting stuff, is in Canada. Why wouldn’t I drive, you may ask? It’s too far, several hours away from Long Island, NY.

Accommodations

Perhaps, a hotel or an Airbnb. Maybe even a lake house. Whatever I could afford and whatever my plans involved.

Things to Do

Maid of the Mists – hands down! This is a huge highlight of Niagara Falls. I’ve done it when I was little. When I went back at age 14, it was too cold for that boat ride.

Those Vegas-Like Rides and Videos: I did those when I was 14 and in Niagara Falls. The one I remember well was the SpongeBob ride. There were more, but I don’t recall them.

Amusement Parks: I went on a Ferris wheel in the town we stayed in, but I don’t recall the name of that park.

Marineland: An aquarium with certain animal interactions and other fun activities. I’ve never been there, but I have read about it.

Dining

It would probably depend on my mood. I could crave continental, casual, Asian, and so forth. I likely would not choose a fancy place as they can get crowded, expensive, and slow—unless I was with somebody and he or she chose it.

So, there you have it.

travel

My Florida Bucket-List

Image from Pixabay

While this pandemic continues, I will hold off any travel plans, including New York City, which is only about an hour away from me. But once it’s over—fully—I would love to consider visiting these places in Florida.

These will be in no particular order. They are just loose ideas

1: SeaWorld

The last time I went to SeaWorld was in 2007, when I was 13. I saw the orca show and rode the kraken roller coaster as well as did other fun activities. As you may know, however, the killer whale show discontinued in 2017 after the documentary, “Blackfish” and the infamous incident where an orca killed a highly experienced trainer many years before. I don’t think the park keeps killer whales in captivity, either. So, if you visit SeaWorld after things return to normal, you could see a dolphin show and maybe ride a roller coaster as well as experience the other attractions.

2: Universal Studios

They have some interesting rides, like a 4D “Shrek” one. I’ve done a 4D movie experience in Ireland. While my parents didn’t enjoy it, since they wanted to sleep and we had to wait for our hotel rooms to be ready, I found it amazing. I saw “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”, which I found meh, like many others.

Speaking of which, I would love to visit the “Harry Potter” theme park. What I found funny a long time ago was when I thought the whomping willow in the franchise would make a good amusement park ride and then Rupert Grint (who played Ron) said the same thing in a print interview. But I don’t think the park has that. It could one day, though.

3: Discovery Cove

I used to talk about this place a lot when I was younger, despite never going there. They have a dolphin swim, reef snorkeling, stingray swim, pools, otters, and a bird aviary. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

I think you would have to book a year in advance or so due to its popularity.

4: Places where you can hold baby alligators

I don’t know a specific place name, but I do know that they exist. Their snouts are tied so they won’t bite you. Wouldn’t that make a fantastic Facebook profile picture?

5: Marco Island

I went there when I was 15 and it was an upscale city with shops, a beach, great dining, and much more. Now that I’m older, it would differ for me. Hopefully, I would not go too crazy.

So, there you have it.

Where’s Disneyworld, you may ask?

As much as I love Disney, Disneyworld is expensive, competitive, and has lots of strict rules and restrictions, which I’m generally okay with. Their forbidden item list contains items I don’t usually carry with me, anyway. But you can read more about it on this post.

fiction

Review of Book, “Cooking with Caroline” by Katharina Marcus

Sixteen-year-old Kirsty Matthews attends an assembly with her school, where a celebrity chef named Caroline Connelly announces a healthy cooking class for students. She learns more about the program as students ask Caroline different questions related to it. She unintentionally signs up for it as well as gets in a little drama with a boy named Jake Deacon. How will things progress? Read the book to find out.

This novel had a lot of unique aspects. One thing that stood out to me was the protagonist being overweight. It is not too common for main characters to have heavy figures—at least not in the ones I have read.

Another part that I found surprising was that every other chapter switched from third-person to first-person and focused merely on Kirsty’s thoughts. While that did displease me a bit, it did not distract me too much nor did it bother me a lot.

The food Caroline made the kids prepare sounded interesting, such as healthy soup and even pasta dishes. Sometimes, my mouth watered just from reading this fictional story. Lol.

From the teen life to the cooking lessons, this book brought lots of different feelings to me. I would rate this 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to both kids and adults.

cooking

The Process of My Pumpkin Cheesecake

That above is a pumpkin cheesecake I made from scratch. Why? I’ll tell you.

Reason:

I first had this at the Barnes & Noble café and theirs tasted delicious! But because of the pandemic, I haven’t gone back there. It could be open, but I feel that many places are worthless until we’re back to typical life.

So, I decided that I wanted to make my own. I also had leftover pumpkin for something else I cooked and I had to use it, otherwise it would rot. I finalized with pumpkin cheesecake.

Process:

The process was no easy task. I had to make the crust with graham crackers and butter. Then I had to mix everything else. I cannot remember every ingredient, but it did overwhelm me to the point that I kept putting it off. My mom suggested to break the steps up into little ones at a time.

After the cheesecake finished baking, I had to let it chill for several hours. Then I took it out and decorated it with stabilized whipped cream, but I used cream cheese instead of unflavored gelatin. The recipe called for that. I also chopped pecans and sprinkled them around the interior of the whipped cream.

Result:

It tasted good, but was dense. I could not finish a whole piece. Despite using the amount of sugar that the recipe asked for, the cheesecake did not taste very sweet, unlike the Barnes & Noble one.

Regardless, my family enjoyed it and so did my dad’s staff at work. I also really admired the way I decorated the cheesecake as did everyone else.

fiction

The Maid and the Frog: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image taken by me

I started my first job as a maid, serving an elite family: the Galloways. Despite their wealth, they did not spoil their children nor did they act as snobs.

              The Galloways had just left for a day trip to a Japanese stroll garden nearby. They told me to clean the windows.

              It had rained last night, and dirt also covered the glass. Some of it even leaked into the ceiling.

              I sprayed the window and wiped the soot off of it—only for a frog to catch my attention. It rested outside.

              I loved animals of all kinds. So, I put my supplies down and photographed the frog. It hopped to another window. I took another picture of it.

              The front door opened, though. I gaped at it, wondering who would come now. It was none other than…

              “Mr. Galloway?” I asked.

              “What are you doing, Mary-Kate?”

              “Cleaning of course.” I flushed.

              Mr. Galloway gave me a sharp look. “I saw you taking pictures of something.”

              I bit my lip.

              “No phone use while you’re working.”

              I sighed. “I’m sorry, it was just…” I could not inform him about the frog.

              “Daddy, did you get my drone?” asked Parker, his ten-year-old son.

              “Hang on.” He strode over to me. “You go get the drone, Mary-Kate.”

              “W-what?”

              “It’s upstairs in his room.”

              “Why can’t you get it?”

              “Do you want the money or not?”

              I sighed and went to the second floor. I entered Parker’s room and picked up the drone. The frog crawled on his window. I gasped and followed it with my eyes. The creature looked at me—and croaked.

              “Mary-Kate?”

              “Coming, Mr. Galloway!” I rushed back down and gave him the drone. He didn’t thank me.

              A ribbit sounded, drawing my attention to the front step. The same animal came back.

              Mr. Galloway gave me a dirty stare.

              “That’s it. I’m quitting.” I grabbed my stuff and drove away. Perhaps, this job did not work out for me.

              Maybe I’ll be a photographer instead, I told myself.

              My mom had always said to follow your dreams and let your passions come naturally. Sometimes, money was not always the answer. Of course, it mattered, but doing something useful should have held just as much importance.

Writing

Stories Within Stories: When They Work, and When They Don’t

Image from Pixabay

Have you ever read a book with a story within it? I have. 

A notable example includes “The Tale of Three Brothers” in “Harry Potter.” In cartoons, there is “The Crimson Chin” in “The Fairly OddParents,” and “The Justice Friends” in “Dexter’s Laboratory.”

In a book I read, it started out with a background description as well as a bunch of characters. One was an old lady reading to a group of children. I would have continued that story, but it bored me since after several pages, I couldn’t get to the action. The woman just kept reading.

I agree with many experts that stories should start as close to the inciting incidents as possible. Prologues are also not recommended these days unless done exceptionally well.

Anyway, back to the topic. I don’t think the story in a story idea should be reserved for top authors. However, it should be relevant to the main plot, engaging, and not too long. Otherwise, the reader might give up.

You could do a spinoff as long as it will work and keeps your audience engaged. I have a spinoff of my current book series in mind. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that it’s not a story within my books. It might be years until I write it, though.

Do you like stories in stories?

Writing

Writers, Should You Hire a Beta Reader?

Image from Pixabay

What is a beta reader? It’s someone who gives you feedback on your story and its literary elements, such as plot, characterization, conflict, etc. They don’t edit your work or rewrite weak sentences.

So, if you are considering hiring a beta reader, here are some aspects you should be aware of.

Pros

Cheaper than traditional editors

Many book editors, especially those who have worked with big-name best-selling authors (like Stephen King), can charge lots of money for their services. They can range from hundreds to even thousands of dollars.

There are people with that kind of money. But unless you are one of them, start off with a beta reader.

Can return work more quickly 

Depending on the editor and the work, it can take at least a week or month to have the project returned to the client. From my experience, though, beta readers may take less time before they give the customers feedback. This can vary, however, depending on the reader and other factors.

Cons

Might not necessarily answer the writer’s specific questions 

With my last beta reader experience, I sent a bunch of questions to the person that concerned specific issues in my manuscript. The beta reader clarified that she was not an editor, so I said that she could answer the questions she felt were relevant. Sadly, she didn’t answer any.

Can be tough

Despite working on my manuscript for nearly 5 years, the beta reader said it needed a ton of work. Other beta readers bashed my projects, too. However, when I showed them to editors, the stories pleased them. For my current WIP, an editor said that it was strong and only needed minor editing.

I don’t know how typical it is for beta readers to be super-tough, but I am giving my manuscript to other beta readers as well as a developmental editor.

Remember to do what you think will work for you.

art

Mini Art Show: A Sketch of a Bird

It’s been a while since I’ve shown a piece of art I did recently. That is because I haven’t been doing much of it these days. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy art. I just have other priorities.

Anyway, I sketched this image based off a tourism pamphlet from my house. My parents went to upstate New York (I’m from Long Island) and brought back a wildlife guidebook.

Since I wanted to vary my drawing subjects, I decided to draw the bird on the front cover. Of course, there are differences, besides the lack of color and the pencil marks. I simplified the plants in the background and even changed some. As for the bird, I started off with simple shapes, a technique I learned in college.

The paper was also not a cream tone. It just came out that way when I photographed it with my phone and adjusted some aspects in order to bring out the image more. Despite that, I decided to keep the background that beige. I feel it adds some sophistication and aesthetic.

Will I color this in? Maybe. After my other priorities are out of the way, I could color or paint it, either with traditional or digital media. But I am not sure, as of now. What do you think of this?

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: Are Godparent Roles Different for Wizards?

We’ve heard of godparents in the “Harry Potter” series. One obvious example is Sirius Black being Harry’s godfather, who spent much of his time in Azkaban. Harry is also named Remus’s son, Teddy’s, godfather. Ron and Hermione are godparents to Harry’s oldest son, James, in the seventh book’s epilogue, as well as his aunt and uncle, of course.

But they seem to serve more as mentors or other helpful adult figures rather than religious sponsors, which is what godparents really are in real life. It’s actually a common misconception for godparents to be guardians in the events something happens to their godchildren’s parents, although parents can still grant them legal withstanding. It’s rare, though, and rarer for kids to live with their godparents. Maybe that common misconception can be true if something happens to the parents, yet the kids are over 18, but don’t have enough money or jobs to support themselves financially. They could probably stay with their godparents, and the godparents can likely even take them in if they apply for their overage godchildren to be tenants (or whatever it is) and that gets approved. I’m not sure how that whole process works.

Anyway, religion does not play a huge role in “Harry Potter.” Yes, wizards and witches celebrate Christmas and Easter. J.K. Rowling has also revealed that there are Jewish magicians, such as Anthony Goldstein. I also read that Harry was baptized, so his parents must have been religious to some extent. However, not once has Sirius guided Harry through his faith. Maybe Azkaban and Sirius having to hide and even losing his life contributed. We also don’t hear a lot about Harry’s relation to Teddy Lupin and so forth. Lily and James did designate Sirius as Harry’s guardian, which could be why he was able to sign Harry’s Hogsmeade permission slip in the third installment. But I think Teddy’s grandparents were the designated guardians for him.

Someone on Quora asked why religion doesn’t receive much attention in “Harry Potter,” and somebody from the UK answered by stating that people there don’t usually discuss religion. Many places actually forbid talking about religion here in the US.  But my guess is that J.K. Rowling may have changed the godparent roles for wizards and made them more of other reliable adult figures for children instead of religious sponsors. Either for plot convenience or to avoid sounding too insensitive. What do you think?

TV show

Review of “Very CatDog Christmas” (1999)

Warning: Contains spoilers***

Cat and Dog are preparing for Christmas and go to the mall, where various animal children stand in line to sit on Santa’s lap. Santa is also the only human in that universe. Not long after, a VIP’s spoiled daughter, Rancine, whines about how she wants the CatDog. Dog convinces Cat to take the offer, but he doesn’t agree with it. So, Rancine cries while on Santa’s lap.

Shortly after, Santa is furious and cancels Christmas, where his sleigh erases every holiday element and decoration. Even CatDog’s Christmas tree is gone, so they get creative and try making their own. Then they realize that spending time with loved ones matters more for Christmas than the stuff.

This special interested me a bit when one of my friends wanted to play it at my 24th birthday party a few years ago. Like my guests, I found it odd that Santa was the only person in an animal world. I also found Rancine unlikable, not to mention that her dress is so short and her underwear shows. That’s not exactly age-appropriate for someone as old as her.

But the strengths include the morals and the engaging element of a childhood show. I think it’s a great special that everyone can enjoy. I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars.