travel

My Ideal Trip to a Winter Resort

Image from Pixabay

It’s another game of make-believe for me. Here, I will describe my ideal winter resort trip and what I would want.

Remember, I am not necessarily planning this, even after the pandemic. This is just imagination.

Now let me get started.

Activities

Snow tubing – I did this at a dude ranch before. Although it was tedious to go up the hill, the sliding part was fun.

Skiing and snowboarding – Not that I’m passionate about these, but others would love it. After all, what’s a winter resort with just snow tubing and no traditional activities?

Indoor heated pool and possibly a hot tub – Ah, warmth. Who wouldn’t love this on a cold day? Perhaps, a slide and even ropes to swing on. Maybe even an entire indoor Waterpark, catered to all ages.

An arcade/game room – This would make a great place for fun and entertainment. I would love skee-ball, mini bowling, pool tables, and much more.

A shopping village – It could be outdoors or indoors. It could have places that sell food, treats, clothes, souvenirs, and lots more.

Fitness Center – Health still matters. I would go on a treadmill or elliptical and watch YouTube videos, such as Disney and mature animation, like “South Park” or “Family Guy.”

Dining

Buffets – Who doesn’t love buffets? Breakfast could have the usual foods, as well as waffle making and an omelet station. Lunch could have hot foods and special stations. For dinner, how about a carving station, seafood, mashed potato martinis, and delicious desserts, like ice cream sundaes and chocolate cakes? Yum!

Seating service – This is okay, too. There could be different cuisines, like Asian, Spanish, Italian, Greek, and much more

Accommodations

Traditional hotel rooms or even suites – there would be warm and comfy beds, nice bathrooms, and excellent Wi-Fi as well as cell phone signal.

Location

Probably the US – Canada would be okay, too, although I would have to have Canadian money as well as a passport to enter the country. Staying within the US would be easier.

So, there you have it. Doesn’t this sound like an exciting idea?

travel

Hotels vs. Airbnb’s – Which Do You Choose?

Image from Pixabay

It might not be a good idea to travel now. But when things return to full normalcy, you can think about overnight trips again, either hours away via car or plane.

For much of my youth, my family has stayed in hotels, often fancy ones. Later, that became rarer. We stayed in cheaper hotels, suites, or once, I stayed in an Airbnb. That is when someone allows you to rent a space for a certain amount of time.

So, let’s weigh the pros and cons of hotels and Airbnb’s.

Hotels

Pros:

Less work to do – there are housekeeping workers who will clean your rooms, usually in the afternoon, as well as chefs to cook your food, and so on. You can be easily pampered or spoiled by it, depending on your lifestyle and preferences.

Nice décor – Whether it’s a cheap chain, like Holiday Inn, or a luxurious one, the décor is always something to admire.

Cons:

Not much control over food quality – If you stay in a hotel, you could get a microwave or kettle, but nothing to really cook in. So, you’re left with commercially-made food. Of course, this is okay on occasion, but don’t let it spoil you. It already did to me. I reversed it and lost a lot of weight from home-cooked meals. A good number of my shirts became big on me in just a few weeks.

Less control in general – Less work to do means there’s little to nothing you can control. Sure, you can watch TV, use your computer, and so forth. But hotel rooms are usually nothing like homes.

Can be expensive – This is certain if you stay at an upscale one. But even lower-key ones, like Holiday Inns, aren’t necessarily affordable for everyone.

Airbnb’s

Pros:

More control – You can stay in a place similar to your home. Sometimes, you can even cook. You also don’t have to leave to make room for housekeepers.

Cheaper – While this varies, Airbnb’s tend to cost less than hotel rooms. But their décors are still acceptable, as they are often part of people’s homes.

Cons:

No one to do your chores – in Airbnb’s, you’re responsible for making your beds, cleaning, and so forth. So, remember to be careful, otherwise, you might need to pay a fine.

No amenities – That means no room service, phone service, or anything a hotel could provide. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Of course, everyone’s tastes differ. So, one may favor hotels a lot, while others dream of an affordable Airbnb.

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, movie

I Want to Make Comic Book Adaptations of My Books

Who wouldn’t love to see visual versions of their novels? Many writers dream of their books becoming movies. But only a handful of books get adapted to films, and the authors usually don’t have any creative control whatsoever. Only big names, like J.K. Rowling, may be allowed control. The filmmakers often say that what looks good written on paper may not necessarily translate well to the screen. They also worry about their chances of success if they permitted the author creative control.

Regardless of what movie crews claim, I notice that it often backfires. Many film-adaptations of books where the authors were completely left out of the projects have mixed or negative overall reactions. Those, such as ” Harry Potter”, do better. The books already sold well on their own prior to the movies being optioned.

I, too, have dreamed of my books being movies. In fact, I used to try and sell film rights through certain sites many times. But it was too premature and no one would accept them. And I am quite glad that they didn’t.

I’ve gotten to know myself better and how much of a control freak I am over my work. So, now I realize how much I would hate film versions of my novels. I feel the need for input and having things happen exactly how I envision them. In fact, I am teaching myself to have a new mindset, where certain publicity services should be avoided because they will mess with my ideas.

Okay, that may sound crazy. I am not necessarily saying this is a good mindset to have. But for me, it’s realistic. I get very annoyed when people do things to my work that aren’t how I intend or envision them. So, no selling film rights, traditional publishing rights, or foreign language rights, is a message to me.

I did once consider animating my books into movies myself. But, of course, that would be a huge overkill, even if I worked with others. So, that is why I want to make comics of the stories instead.

Yes, the characters won’t move. Yes, no one will hear them speak out loud like in cartoons. But it would be far less work than animating. I would just have to practice my illustration skills over time. Then I would maybe test them by offering them as free downloads from my website. If they succeeded, I would then sell them.

travel

If I Went to Puerto Rico, This is What I Would Want

Image from Pixabay

I’ve been to Puerto Rico when I was 12 during a school break. I had a good time. I also considered going back there in 2017… until they experienced a hurricane.

Of course, now that we’re living in a pandemic, I won’t plan any trips as of now. I probably won’t even go to New York City, which is about an hour away from where I live, until we’re back to typical life. 

But this is just a game of make-believe (sort of). Maybe I will think about visiting Puerto Rico again when it’s safe. For now, though, I will just list the things I would want to do if I traveled there. I’m basically just using my imagination.

Let’s get brainstorming!

Duration: a week

How to get there? Obviously, I would take a plane to Puerto Rico. I would likely want a flight in the morning on the way there and an afternoon one on the way back to New York. I would want a comfortable seat and a plane where they serve food. Sadly, many flights have removed food service, but some brought them back in recent years.

Where would I stay? in a hotel! Hands down. I would never consider a hostel or even a motel in Puerto Rico. One, I am a little bit spoiled with places to stay. Two, cleanliness and quality may make the place safer. 

That being said, I would not mind an apartment-like suite or even an Airbnb. As long as they have enough amenities, are comfortable, and clean, I would be happy.

What would I do? Go to the beach, kayak, hike, zip-line, snorkel, swim, ride horses, watch wildlife, maybe raft (if it’s an option there), and visit a cave (if they exist there). 

I know that when you are older, trips shouldn’t necessarily be all about fun. I understand that. However, I wouldn’t go on any educational tours in Puerto Rico. I would save that for places in Europe or Asia. Plus, I strongly prefer active vacations more.

Where would I eat? If I stayed at an all-inclusive resort, probably the restaurants within the place. Otherwise, I would go to different places, depending on what I craved. I might not necessarily pick somewhere fancy, though, unless I was with others.

How would I get around? Walking or car service. I wouldn’t feel comfortable renting a car. I would also stay somewhere where I could walk around easily and safely. I like to go out a lot.

What would I pack? Summer clothes, of course. Puerto Rico usually does not get hotter than 80’s, though, due to their winds. Maybe I would also pack cardigans and long pants, like if it gets cold at night or if I go to a fancy restaurant for dinner.

So, that is my ideal plan for if I went to Puerto Rico.

Writing

Want to be a Serious Writer? Be prepared… it’s Expensive, But There are Some Tricks to Save Money

I have been honing and practicing my writing skills for nearly a decade. Along the way, I’ve had to spend money on editing, cover design, and marketing services. It cost a lot. I am not kidding.

I also fell into the trap of using “self-publishing” services, which were actually vanity presses. They offer publishing packages from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. And those books sell few to no copies. I would avoid those at all costs. And not just because of the pricing, but because of how they treat authors, take their money, and result in poor sales of their books. Try to use legitimate services where you just upload your materials, such as Amazon KDP or Draft2Digital. Both are free to publish on.

But it’s more than just that. I will return to the publishing and marketing topics after I discuss editing and cover design.

Editing can be pretty expensive. Some editors will even charge thousands of dollars for their services, especially if they’ve worked with big-name, bestselling authors. So, unless you already have the money, I would suggest avoiding those. There are editing services that charge moderate amounts. There are also beta readers, who are usually quite affordable. Many don’t price their services over $100. It may be worth using them for content editing.

Also, a lot of editors will be willing to split the payment plans. That might be useful if you don’t want to spend too much money at once. Another approach is not to get every single draft of your manuscript edited. I don’t just mean the sloppy first draft, but any draft you may feel needs more work… from you.

Everyone’s writing process differs, so the editing necessities will vary, too. If you’re new to writing, it may be challenging to improve your writing abilities without customized feedback. You can read books on the writing craft and more, but they could only take you very far. My suggestion would be to spend less on any unnecessary items outside of your writing time. Or take a side job and save your earnings for book production service.

Which brings me to the next part: cover design. Unless you have a great reputation in graphic design or illustration, it’s best to hire someone. But like editing, some may split the payment segments. Keep in mind your book’s genre and what cover design would be appropriate and attract more people. Regardless of that saying, everybody judges books by their covers.

Now back to marketing. If you self-publish on Amazon, you can price your book as low as 99 cents. If you do the select program, you can run a free promotion for up to 5 days. However, if you do KDP select, your eBook can’t be available anywhere else digitally, like your website or blog. You can also ask Amazon to make your eBooks perma-free by publishing them on sites like Barnes & Noble or Kobo, and making them free. This is an option if you publish through Draft2digital. Amazon may or may not price-match your book to other retailers. If you write a series, Amazon might be more likely to allow you to make the first installment free.

There are a lot of eBook promotion sites that will share free and 99-cent eBooks. And they usually cost less than $100. Maybe even $50.

So, there you have it. While being a writer won’t prevent you from spending a lot of money, you can still use these techniques to pay less.

cooking

Very Delicious Oreo Pudding

I’ve wanted to make an Oreo dessert for a while. In fact, my first idea was to make a no-bake Oreo mousse pie. The recipe sounded promising. However, something about the steps in that formula made me too lazy to start. So, I kept postponing until I decided on something simpler. That is what you see in the picture above: Oreo pudding.

There were a bunch of exciting recipes in the Google results. But I desired something quicker. I chose the option where the preparation time was 30 minutes. I made a cream cheese frosting with more cream cheese than butter, which the instructions called for, anyway. Then I made the vanilla pudding from a mix, followed by the whipped cream. I then crushed thee Oreos in a bag. At some point, I removed the cream filling from the inside since it was kind of interfering with the smashing of the cookies. After that, I mixed the cream cheese icing with the pudding and placed it in a pan. I then covered it with the crushed Oreos, and repeated the process until I topped it with the whipped cream and sprinkled the remaining cookie crumbs on top.

After chilling it for a half hour, I took it out and ate some. It tasted good, but not as delicious as the next day. I guess it needed more time to be in the refrigerator.

One thing I used less of was sugar. Not that it was a choice, but because I was low on the powdered kind. Therefore, I had to made do with what I owned. Despite that, it still came out great. The Oreos already contained lots of sweetness to begin with. What also matters is that I came back for more. That is a sign of success.

I don’t remember what site I got the recipe from, but if you do a web search for “Oreo pudding,” just look for the one that says it’ll take 30 minutes. If you make it, I would recommend chilling it for at least an hour or 2. That way, the ingredients blend better. I hope this helps.

cooking

Making the Frosting was a Tough, But Happy Journey

That you see there is a frosting I made from scratch. It looks liked whipped cream, and yes, it does contain heavy cream. However, it is whipped buttercream icing.

The process of this was no easy task. In fact, it took time to get right. I don’t just mean that for the specific one pictured. I also am talking about other moments I made icing, whether it was buttercream, cream cheese, or just whipped cream frosting.

You could tell me to just buy a premade frosting from the grocery store. However, my family doesn’t really like that. Not only do those kinds contain ingredients that don’t exactly please my parents or brothers, but they think I can do a better job. After all, I know what goes in the icings and any food I make from scratch.

In fact, this is one of the cases where less is more. Homemade frosting consists of softened butter, powdered or confectionery sugar, vanilla extract, and milk or cream. Of course, you can also use food coloring to dye the icing or cocoa powder to give it a chocolate flavor. You may use shortening or almost extract, as well. That is, if you are not allergic to nuts, nor is anyone you serve the dessert with the frosting.

But one thing that you should take seriously is the amount of liquid you put in your homemade icing. Otherwise, it won’t mix well and the thickness might not please you. What happened to me when I added lots of heavy cream to my buttercream frosting was that there were chunks in it, even though I used an electric mixer. It also tasted sour. My goal was to make a whipped buttercream icing. And what I discovered is that in order to get the right consistency, adding a little at a time is absolutely necessary. I start off with the butter, sugar, and vanilla, followed by two tablespoons of heavy cream. Then I mix them for a few minutes. If I want more, then I add a little extra. The process repeats until the thickness is where I want it to be.

The message you want to take home is that you should take little steps at a time when making icing, even when following a specific recipe. I wouldn’t recommend pouring a lot of liquid with mixed butter. In fact, the only time you should really pour a large amount of fluid is if you are cooking whipped cream icing, and without butter. You would stabilize the whipped cream with unflavored gelatin. But that’s another topic.

Anyway, I hope this post helps. Also, take your time when making frosting. It could take several minutes for your icing to satisfy your desires.

art

Food is Hard to Draw Formally

That you’re looking at is a steak I drew from observation. But it was not from a real one… a photo of one. I know it doesn’t really resemble a steak. That is when I discovered a surprise: food is hard to draw.

It is so weird, because I can usually draw pretty much anything. And no, not because I’ve been doing art since I was very little. In recent years, I took a lot of still-life drawing and painting, figure drawing (which I received an A in in college, not to brag), and much more.

Up until maybe a few weeks ago, I hardly ever did any art. Not because of the stress I’m experiencing during this stupid pandemic, but because I am discovering that I am more of a writer than an artist. That being said, I do enjoy art. I would just rather keep it as a hobby rather than a career focus.

I don’t know if that’s the reason why food is hard to draw accurately, or at least not in an ameteurish manner. I looked up tutorials on how to sketch food. However, the results I received from Google were not exactly the right kids for people like me. They targeted more beginner or naive “artists.”

I guess my approach will be to draw actual foods in person from observation. But not just any kinds… the simple fruits and vegetables, like apples, oranges, and eggplants. I will save drawing things, like steak, pasta, and other complex dishes, for when I feel ready and I have improved the traditional still-life food items.