Friday, December 30, 2011

TGIF: First & Last

TGIF at GReads
This feature is for Fridays to re-cap the week's posts & to propose a question for Ginger's followers.

I know I kind of did a post like this earlier in the week, with my favorite books of the year, but this is a little different, and I felt like I should get another blog post in before the year is out.

As of right now, I’ve read 115 books this year, just 10 shy of my goal to read 125. Not too shabby. I should finish another tonight, making that 116, and if I’m really adventurous, possibly even read another tomorrow for 117. But we’ll see how that goes.

The first book I finished in 2011 was Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts. It was the last in her Bride Quartet, and I have to say, of all the Nora books/trilogies/etc. I’ve read, this one was one of my favorites. (And the covers were all gorgeous.) I work at a country club, where people have weddings all the time, so I know some of what goes into doing them (and how crazy it can be). And even knowing that, I still found myself wishing I could work with the girls at Vows. Nora’s setting for the quartet was written so well, I wished it was real so I could see the gorgeous property in person, and all the characters were interesting and likable. I loved how each book focused on not just a new member of the Vows staff, but a new aspect of the wedding business: from photography to flowers to cakes to the overall organization of it all.

Since 2011 isn’t quite over, I don’t know what my absolute last book will be. It will either be the one I’m currently reading, My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent, or One Magic Moment by Lynn Kurland, which is what I plan to start next. I got halfway through My Soul to Save last night, and would have gotten farther if I hadn’t stayed up until 3am the night before to finish Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead. (Which would have been on my favorite books of the year list if I had waited to write it.)

So, since I can’t review a book I haven’t finished or read yet, that leaves Succubus Revealed as my “last book” of the year. I really loved this series, and was very satisfied with how it ended. I wasn’t sure how we were going to get a happily ever after for Georgina and Seth, but I was pleased with the way it all worked out. Sometimes these things can get overly contrived to make the HEA work, but in this case, I didn’t feel that way at all. It made sense, it worked in her history well, and everything was wrapped up nicely without being too over the top. A great series I would recommend to anyone who likes paranormal romance. So now I’m 2 for 2 in liking Richelle’s writing (the VA series being the other one I’ve read), which means it’s about time I try her Dark Swan series. My library has the first 3 in a bundle available on their ebook site, so one of these days, I’ll be sure to check it out.

All in all, a good year for reading. There were very few books that I didn't like, and only a couple I DNRed (rare for me). I hope 2012 is not only just as good for reading, but even better for me writing-wise. Destined is out and getting good reviews, and if all goes well, my next release will be in the early part of the year. Very exciting!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Favorites of 2011

I’m not a book blogger, and only do occasional reviews over on GoodReads, but I am a reader. An avid one, at that. My goal this year was to read 125 books, and while I didn’t quite make it (I’ll be at 114 when I finish the one I’m currently reading, and doubt I will read another 11 books in the next 4 days), I came close. I might have made it if I hadn’t published Destined this year: editing and formatting that took me a couple of months, in which I didn’t read much else. Still, I read a lot, and will probably get at least one, if not two, more books finished before the year is out. I’ve been eagerly waiting to read Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead for months now, but always had library books to get through first. I’m finished my last library book tonight, so I can FINALLY read it. I predict some lost sleep, as I tend to read books I’m really excited about in one late-night marathon reading session.

But enough about that. I wanted to do a quick listing of my favorite books this year. They may not necessarily have been released in 2011, but most probably were.

My top favorite:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I don’t know what it was about this book that I loved so much. Maybe it’s my inner Child of the 80s? All the nostalgia was fantastic, but the story itself was really original and engrossing. If you like dystopian books and the 80s, you’ll probably love this one.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Speaking of dystopian novels, I have to include this one. It didn’t win GoodReads Favorite Book of the Year for nothing. Plus, I’m originally from Chicago, so the setting only added to my initial interest. I loved this, and can’t wait for the next one to come out.

Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

Holy crap, do I love this series. Each book only got better than the last, and I really didn’t want it to end. You can’t even imagine how thrilled I was to hear Karen was going to return to the Fever world and write more! (Okay, maybe you can, since I imagine many of you loved this series as much as I did!) Iced is already at the top of my “can’t wait” list for 2012.


Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I read this one at the start of the year and almost forgot about it (I have a bad memory for what I’ve read, no matter how good the book). But going back through my GoodReads lists, I saw that I gave it 5 stars, and I now remember why. This YA dystopian was disturbing. But it was also very good, and I only wish the second would come out sooner than September.

I know there’s a lot of dystopian YA on this list, and if you saw my full read-in-2011 list, there’d be even more of it. It’s been one of my favorite genres the last few years, and for the time being, I don’t see that changing much. Granted, some of the dystopians that have come out lately aren’t as good. That happens when a genre explodes like that (it happened with vampire romances, too), but for the most part, I’ve been pretty happy with the ones I’ve read. And while I didn’t read it this year, I have to give a quick nod to the book that got me back into dystopians in the first place (besides 1984, which I read many, many years ago).

LIfe As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

You know how sometimes, when you go tot the movies, when you come out of the theater you feel sort of weird and disconnected, like you’re not quite ready for reality to come back? It’s not often a book does that to me, but reading this one did. I had to read most of it in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down until I knew how it ended, and once it did, I wasn’t ready to let it go. It was a disorienting feeling to go back to “real life” once I closed the cover, and the story stuck with me for a long time afterward. I also cried, which is something I don’t do very often with a book. Movies and TV, no problem: I bawl like a baby pretty easily with them. But not with a book. This one was a rare exception, and I have devoured dystopians ever since. There are 2 more in the series, both also fantastic, but nothing quite compares to the first. I highly recommend it.

So what were your favorites this year? What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Wishes

For those who celebrate, Happy Hanukkah! (Chanukah? They’re both technically correct, right?) I remember when I was a kid, I was always a little jealous of my Jewish friends because they got presents for 8 days. And even more, many of those friends had parents from both religions, so they celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas. What can I say, I was all about the presents back then. Come to think of it, I still am. I do love presents.

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and not just because of the gifts. I love the decorations, the music, the food, the general merryment of the season … everything, pretty much. It took me longer than normal to get into the mood for it this year, but I think I’m finally there. I still have a little shopping left to do (I’m a procrastinator), and have yet to wrap a single gift, but I’ll get it all done. I always do, even if it’s at the last minute. I baked this weekend, put up both trees, helped with the outdoor lights and listened to lots of Christmas music. I think that’s what I needed to feel like it really is that time of year, since the weather certainly isn’t showing it. We live in Florida, so it’s always warmer than my childhood Christmases were in Chicago, but this year it seems warmer than usual. It was nearly 80 degrees when we were putting up lights! I keep hoping a cold front will come through, just enough to make it a little cooler. I have Christmas shirts I want to wear, but they’re all long-sleeved, and it’s been too warm for them.

I know, not exactly a bad problem to have. I’m not complaining, trust me. I love living here, although I’m a little less excited about it in the summer, when it’s miserably hot and humid.

My original plan for this post was to do a “Christmas on the Titanic” article for Titanic Tuesdays, but I wasn’t able to find enough information to say much. Obviously, the Titanic never had any kind of Christmas celebration, since its one and only voyage was in April, but other ships at that time would have. Her sister ship, Olympic, most likely went all-out and decorated in December, much like cruises do nowadays. I’ve read that many of the ocean liners at the time would put up trees and lights and serve special holiday menus, even hire on special entertainment (famous choirs, for example). I had hoped to find some pictures or detailed accounts online of some of these, but had no luck.

Still, I can’t help thinking Captain Smith would have made an awesome Santa Claus. Don't you think?

I probably won’t post again before the holidays, so Merry Christmas to those who observe it. I’ll see you all again before the New Year. And hopefully once the craziness of the holidays passes by, I can get back to working on my next book. I’m still aiming for an early 2012 release (February, maybe, if I’m lucky), so keep an eye here for more news!

Friday, December 16, 2011

My new toy

Warning: technogeekery ahead

I realize I haven’t been very chatty online lately, either here or elsewhere. It’s been a busy month, between work getting crazy and my own procrastination. I never seem to start Christmas shopping as early as I should, so I find myself going nuts in the last few weeks of the month, trying to get everything bought. We still haven’t even put up decorations! I think this is the latest I’ve ever waited to decorate. I love Christmas, and am usually wanting to put up the lights and trees right after Thanksgiving. This year I just… never seemed to get around to it. If I don’t do it later today, definitely tomorrow!

I might have decorated yesterday, except I ended up spending most of my afternoon getting a new toy: a Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone! It’s all new and shiny and I already love it. I was due for my 2-year renewal, so I’ve been waiting for this particular model to be released, but Verizon has been cagey about setting a date. They finally announced it Wednesday night, so I reserved one at my Verizon store and went in the next day after work to snatch it up.

Apologies for the crappy quality of that photo. I had to take it without flash to avoid glare, and the light in here isn’t that great. But you can see the difference: the one on the left is my old Drois Eris, on the right is the Nexus. So much bigger! (That’s my iPad underneath them.) Yes, I like technology. I think it’s partly due to being a Taurus. I don’t normally follow astrology much, but whenever I read personality descriptions of Taurus I find myself agreeing with most of them. This bit in particular:

"The key words that best describes Taurus is the phrase "I have" which basically means that you have a nature to own and possess whatever you think is yours; from relationships to material goods. How I have seen this trait in just about every Taurus is the quality of never liking to let go of anything that they have previously invested any time or energy and especially money."

To put it simply: I want All the Things. And once I have the Things, I rarely let them go, unless it’s to get a newer, better, faster Thing. Combine being a packrat with wanting to buy everything you see and you get very full closets. Sometimes I manage to control myself, but if it’s electronic and shiny, chances are I’m going to cave in sooner or later. Most of the time I’m at war with myself: my materalistic Taurus side is usually fighting my spendthrift Bohemian side, and it can get ugly. (Bohemian is what people nowadays would call Czech.) So while I always want these new, expensive Things, I also tend to take a long time reading reviews and price-checking before I finally go out and buy one, to be sure I’m getting the best deal possible. Case in point: the Galaxy Nexus.

I didn’t really need such a fancy smartphone. Hell, I probably don’t even need a smartphone at all. I have the iPad to use at home, and unless I’m at work (where there are computers), home is usually where I am. So it’s not that often that I need to check my email or a website on my phone. Need and want are two different things, however, so I’ve had a smartphone for 2 years now and couldn’t imagine going back down to a regular cell. So fine, there are plenty of smartphones out there that are free with contract renewal, why not one of them? Because they aren’t NEW. I like new, and I like having the latest Thing. My old phone, the Droid Eris, was great when I first got it (because it was new: Droids had only just come out), but it wasn’t long before they stopped selling it, then stopped updating it. It’s been a dinosaur for about 1 1/2 of those 2 years I’ve owned it. The Android OS was ancient (I’m not even sure it ever got an upgrade to 2.0, and if it did, not much past that), it was sloooooow and every time I tried to look something up online, the web browser would crash. I had come to hate it. So when it was time to get a new one, I had to be sure I picked a phone that wouldn’t fall into the same black hole of non-updates. I’ve been researching Verizon smartphones since early November, making sure when I finally bought one, it would be the best choice for me. And even though I was sure by Thanksgiving that I wanted the Nexus, it wasn’t out yet, and everyone was doing these great sales on the other new ones that was tempting me to stop waiting because that Bohemian side of me can’t resist a Good Deal.

I almost went with the Droid RAZR or the HTC Rezound back then, because both were being sold for almost nothing online in Black Fricay/Cyber Monday sales. I liked the HTC part of my Eris (the big clock with weather widget was nifty), but the fancy audio didn’t really matter to me, and without that it seemed like any other smartphone. The RAZR was cool-looking, but felt too wide in my hand, and I read some negative reviews about how bad Motorola is about updating their phones. The Galaxy Nexus had many things going for it: one, it was preloaded with Ice Cream Sandwich (aka Android 4.0, the latest version of the OS). Two, it has one of the biggest screens of a smartphone, which with my bad eyes, is a godsend. I hated my tiny Eris screen. I couldn’t read anything on the damn thing most of the time, which only added to the reasons I hardly ever used it. Also, the Nexus screen is HD and absolutely beautiful. Bonus! Three, it’s a “pure Google phone,” which means (so they say) it will be among the first to get updates in the future. Also, by being a “pure Google phone,” it didn’t come preloaded with all the crapware most smartphones have. Crapware being all those apps you didn’t want, won’t ever use, but can’t delete because the carrier won’t let you get rid of them. The only apps on the Nexus were the basic Google-centric apps and a couple of Verizon apps that I suspect all their phones have to have (one to view your account and I don’t know what the other is for). Nothing that bothers me. And four: it’s really pretty. And shiny. Have I mentioned shiny?

So that was my excitement for the week. A shiny new toy to play with. And it’s not even Christmas yet!

Enough with the geekery. I’m going to go play with my phone some more. I still haven’t tested out how the HD video works. Where are the cats?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Titanic Tuesdays: Message in a Bottle

Those of you who have read Destined may recognize the following name, but if you haven’t read it yet, it won’t spoil anything. Jeremiah Burke is mentioned towards the end of the book, and his story given briefly. But because he interests me so much, I wanted to expand on it a little.

Jeremiah Burke (age 19) and his cousin, Nora Hegarty (age 18), from County Cork, Ireland, sailed on the Titanic in third class from Queenstown (now known as Cobh). Jeremiah was traveling to the United States to join two of his sisters who were already living there, while Nora was on her way to join a convent. They nearly avoided the tragedy, however, because their initial intent was to sail on another ship. According to his grandniece, Brid O’Flynn McSwiney, in an article from the Cork News, Jeremiah went to buy their tickets a month in advance, with the intent to sail on an earlier ship. But he knew the girl at the ticket counter, and she advised him to wait a few weeks for the Titanic. (An alternate account says Jeremiah’s mother bought the tickets.) Sadly, both he and Nora perished in the sinking. Their families waited for weeks afterwards for news, but never received any, and neither body was recovered (or at least, never identified).

Before heading off for the ship, Jeremiah’s mother gave him a holy water bottle filled with Lourdes water. In those days, this sort of thing was an important gift, something that would be treasured. Yet a year later, an off-duty Royal Irish Constabulary officer was walking his dog along the river near Cork Harbour, and spotted a bottle on the shore. It was an empty holy water bottle, and inside was the following note:

13/4/1912 from Titanic, Goodbye all: Burke of Glanmire, Co. Queenstown

Given the date, the message and the fact that the bottle was not something he would have tossed overboard on a whim, most came to the conclusion that Jeremiah wrote the message as the ship was sinking, put it in the bottle and threw it in the water. How it made it back to not only Ireland, but very near to where the Burke family lived, will always be a mystery. According to Brid, “Over the years people have suggested that he could have thrown it out at Cobh. He could have, but it’s unlikely that if your mother gave you a holy water bottle, you would fling it out there. The note was in blue pencil and in very distinctive handwriting. The bottle was something that his Mother had given him as a special memento - going to Lourdes at the time was huge thing - so it wouldn’t have been thrown away as a flippant action.” In a sad twist to the story, Jeremiah’s mother died shortly after the note was found.

An interesting note: in the same article, Brid mentions that while her grandfather (William, Jeremiah’s brother) never returned to Cobh (Queenstown), he would often visit a Titanic survivor, Eugene Daly, who remembered meeting Jeremiah on the tender that ferried them on board the ship. Eugene is also featured briefly in Destined: he is the third class man Apolline sees out on the stern of the ship, playing an Irish tune (“Erin’s Lament”) on his pipes as the ship leaves port at Queenstown.

You can see photos of Jeremiah and the his note in this article at Until recently, the bottle was in the possession of Nora Hegarty’s family while the letter was with Jeremiah’s, but it looks like the Burkes donated the letter to the Cobh Heritage Centre a few months ago.

There’s one more thing I can’t resist noting: if anyone watched the Curiosity special on the Discovery Channel a few months back entitled “What Sank Titanic?”, there is a brief allusion to this story at the end. Unfortunately, the special wasn’t quite as factual as I’d have liked, and among the errors and fictionalizations, Jeremiah’s note was attributed to a greaser from England named Frank Goree. In the documentary, Goree climbed up the ship’s dummy 4th funnel, finished off a bottle of liquor, then wrote the note, stuffed it in and chucked the bottle into the water. It made for a more dramatic picture, I’m sure, but since I knew the true story of that note, I can’t deny it bugged me a little that they gave Jeremiah’s story to someone else. They also got the time of the sinking wrong (they said she sunk at 2:02, not 2:20), which is hardly a minor detail! That said, it is a very interesting and enjoyable special, as long as you don’t expect 100% accuracy from it. Heck, even the James Cameron movie wasn’t 100% accurate (and neither is Destined for that matter. We all take small liberties when trying to entertain.). If you’d like to watch it, and have an hour and a half to spare, it’s on YouTube in HD.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fun with Genealogy

Before I get to the post, some news: if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Destined, check out this great giveaway being hosted at Starcrossed Reviews. The lucky winners will not only get a copy of Destined (paperback for US winners, ebook for International), but a whole lot of other great books (about 20 in total). Contest rules and details are at the link above. Starcrossed gave Destined a fantastic 5-star review not too long ago, in case you missed it.

Also, it looks like the ebook for Destined has finally been sent to Kobo, for those who were waiting for it to be available for that reader. I’m still waiting for it to show up in their catalog, but am hoping it won’t be much longer. I will post to Facebook/Twitter when it finally becomes available there. I apologize again for the delay. Apparently Kobo was seriously backlogged.

Now that the news and promos are out of the way, I can get on to the actual post. Which I am now writing about an hour after the first part, due to discovering that my scanner no longer works on my new computer. (Apparently Canon couldn’t bother themselves to make Windows 7 drivers for it.) So now I either need to buy a new scanner or a new printer that has a scanner included. The last time I bought a new printer, I intentionally didn’t get the all-in-one kind because I already had a perfectly good flatbed scanner. It seemed like overkill (and a waste of money) to buy one with a scanner when I didn’t need that feature. Now I feel like it’s silently taunting me.

So what was all the scanning fuss about? I got a card this week from a cousin I reconnected with a few years back while doing genealogy research on my dad’s side of the family. She sent along some old photos another cousin found that included my great grandmother, and while it was neat to see some new (to me) photos of her, it reminded me just how important it is to label your family photos. The few that were written on were mostly just names, and I suspect those were written recently rather than at the time they were developed. The caption on this one? “Sylvia & Indian.” I have no Native American blood in my family (that I know of), except for way, way, way back on my mother’s side. I have ancestors there who, in 1704, were attacked by a tribe of Caughnawagas (a branch of the Mohawks, I believe) and had four of their sons captured and taken to Canada. One son was later bought back by the family, while the other 3 were left behind and grew up with the Indians, eventually assimilating into the tribe. One was even adopted as the chief’s son, if the stories are correct. But anyway, that’s not my dad’s side of the family, so I can only imagine the photo here was taken on some kind of vacation. There’s another photo of her and the older Indian, without the younger boy, one of her with two of her cousins in front of the same store, and another of her by herself in what appears to be the same outfit, standing at a wooden railing overlooking some kind of gorge or waterfall. No sign of her husband or son around, even though she’s old enough that they’d both be in the picture (no pun intended).

I can’t help wondering, who were the Indians? Did she know them, or were they just hanging around the store, posing for photos with strangers, the way Egyptians do? (Photo to the right is from a trip I took to Egypt in 2005. I have no idea who these two men are. They posed for my father while we were touring an old site and soon as he took the photo, they demanded a tip.) I can’t help wondering what my descendants will think 60-70 years or so from now when they look at my photos? I suspect they’ll be seriously confused, since I hate to be photographed, and the few photos I am in tend to include minor celebrities (I went through a big soap opera phase a while back and have stacks of pictures of myself with actors from General Hospital.). The photos I’ll be passing down will be mostly scenery from vacations and cats. And none are labeled, either.

I think part of the reason I got so interested in genealogy was because I’m a writer. I love uncovering stories about people I never knew existed, or learning new things about the people I did know. A perfect example is a story I learned about my great grandmother (the one posing with the Indians). While researching her family, I came across a census record that showed a child in the household named Georgiana. I had never heard of my great grandmother having a sister: just two brothers. I asked my father, who also hadn’t heard of her, which made it even stranger as he was very close to that side of his family. Georgiana wasn’t on the next census with her family, but she would have been 21 that year, so it was possible she’d married. Still, it was strange that she vanished so completely, and the online marriage records for Chicago end in 1920, so I couldn’t find anything there. There were no death records matching her maiden name, so if she had died young, I found no proof. She just disappeared! Or so it seemed. And then I found this photo in my grandparents’ things:

The only writing on it was Sylvia’s father’s name and address on the back. It wasn’t Sylvia’s wedding: we knew what she looked like. It also didn’t look like her brother, Anton, or youngest brother, John. We had no clue who this was. The style of clothing was very 20s, but Georgiana was a teenager in the 20s, and I didn’t think it could be her. Sadly, my grandparents had already passed away by the time I started my research, so I couldn’t ask my grandfather. My father and aunt had vague memories of a story that went around about a family member who was killed, but weren’t sure what the details were. Eventually, between them searching their memories and reconnecting with the previously-mentioned cousin (who is the daughter of one of Sylvia’s brothers, and knew the true story from her father), we found out what happened. Georgiana was indeed their sister. She married young (that was her wedding photo after all) and had a son in 1927 at the age of 18 (perhaps that was why she married so young?). She and her husband later became separated, and she was preparing to divorce him, but he didn’t take too well to the idea and one day showed up at her house and shot her, their 2-year-old son and then himself. Her brother Anton was living in the apartment one floor above her and heard the shots. He left his own baby daughter (my cousin, who later told us the story) and his wife upstairs to go see what was happening, and found the bodies. Georgiana died on the way to the hospital. One of the family rumors says that her husband, Joe, had a priest in his family and confessed to him that he was going to kill his wife before going to her house. Back then, there were no laws requiring priests to go to the police with such confessions, so he wasn’t able to warn anyone. It makes for a good twist to the story, but I never found anyone in Joe’s immediate family that was a priest, so it may not have been true.Then again, he’s buried in a Catholic cemetery (Resurrection Cemetery, famous for Resurrection Mary), which strikes me as odd given that he was a suicide. Signs of a family connection to the Church, perhaps?

As for poor Georgiana, she’s buried in Chicago’s largest Bohemian cemetery (that side of my family is from Czechoslovakia), all by herself. The rest of the family is in a different cemetery, closer to where they later lived. It’s almost like her death was so traumatic, they tried to forget about her completely. I guess back then people didn’t talk about unhappy subjects, and this kind of family tragedy was kept secret. The only mention I ever found of her, other than a newspaper article about her murder (where all the names were misspelled, so it took some serious Google-fu to unearth!), was in one of her mother’s obituaries. Everywhere else, in obituaries of her siblings, father and others of her mother, she’s never mentioned. It’s kind of sad to think she was so close to being forgotten. And after learning her story, I can’t deny a part of me wants to write a book inspired by it. It would make for a good ghost story, don’t you think? The house is still there: when we visited Chicago last year, we found it and the paranormal-obsessed side of me couldn’t help jumping to the conclusion of “ooh, maybe it’s haunted!” It had a For Rent sign in the window, though, so no one was home. Not that I’d have the guts to knock on the door and ask.

Here’s a photo of Georgiana’s grave in the Bohemian cemetery. Jirinka is the Czech spelling of her name. The line at the bottom loosely translates to “here also rests my son,” so I can only assumed Joe Jr. was buried with her. Sad that he didn’t get his name on the headstone. Even sadder that the photo on the stone is the only one we have of him, and the only non-wedding photo we have of her.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Titanic Tuesdays: Dining on board

As promised, Titanic Tuesdays are back. At least, until I get busy and/or lazy and forget again. But I promise I’m going to try to avoid that happening too much.

This week’s TT is about eating. Anyone who has taken a cruise knows that one of the biggest parts of the experience is the food. Today, there is food everywhere on a cruise ship, at any hour you might want it. Formal restaurants, pizza shops, casual cafeterias, ice cream stands … if you’re hungry, chances are pretty good that somewhere on the ship, food is available, and with the exception of a super-fancy restaurant or two, it’s all included in your ticket for no extra charge.

In 1912, cruise ships were a little simpler than they are today, but dining was still a big part of the experience on the Titanic. There were three big meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner, and if you were in First Class, there was also an a la carte restaurant where you could choose from a broader menu (but had to pay extra). The a la carte restaurant was run similar to the RItz (very fancy!), and was open from 8am to 11pm, allowing First Class passengers to dine just about any time the mood hit.There were also two cafes on A Deck, called the Verandah Café (or Verandah and Palm Court, as there was one of each side of the ship, just aft of the First Class Smoking Room), where passengers could have light refreshments. In addition to these, there was something new on the ship: the Café Parisien (pictured). This café was adjacent to the a la carte restaurant, and diners here could choose from the same menu, yet this area had a French sidewalk café feel with wicker furniture and large picture windows, allowing them to look out at the sea while they dined: something that hadn’t been done before on a British ship. If the weather was right, the windows could be opened to allow for al fresco dining.

If you were in Second or Third Class, your dining options were limited to your dining saloon. Meals were served at specific times, so if you didn’t eat them, you were out of luck until the next meal. I believe it was possible to have food sent to your room during mealtimes, however, but I can’t remember now where I read that. The Second Class meals were prepared in the same kitchen as First Class, and from all accounts, while not quite as lavish, the food was good enough to rate First Class on just about any other ship. Good dishes, nice linens, fresh flowers on the tables—everything you’d expect from a high-class restaurant.

We don’t know all the menus that were served on board the Titanic’s maiden voyage, but a few did manage to survive.

April 11th, Second Class Breakfast

  • Rolled Oats
  • Boiled Hominy
  • Fresh Fish
  • Yarmouth Bloaters (a type of herring, slated and smoked)
  • Grilled Ox Kidneys and Bacon
  • American Dry Hash au Gratin
  • Grilled Sausage
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Grilled Ham & Fried Eggs
  • Fried Potatoes
  • Vienna & Graham Rolls
  • Soda Scones
  • Buckwheat Cakes
  • Maple Syrup
  • Conserve
  • Marmalade
  • Tea and Coffee
  • Watercress

April 12, Second Class Luncheon


  • Pea Soup
  • Spaghetti au Gratin
  • Corned Beef
  • Vegetable dumplings
  • Roast Mutton
  • Baked Jacket Potatoes


  • Roast Mutton
  • Roast Beef
  • Sausage
  • Ox Tongue
  • Pickles
  • Salad
  • Tapioca Pudding
  • Apple Tart
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Cheese
  • Biscuits
  • Coffee

April 14, Second Class Dinner

"On the night of the wreck our dinner tables were a picture! The huge bunches of grapes which topped the fruit baskets on every table were thrilling. The menus were wonderfully varied and tempting. I stayed at table from soup to nuts."
- Kate Buss, Second Class passenger

First Course, Soup: Consumme with Tapioca

Second Course, Main Dishes:

  • Baked Haddock with Sharp Sauce
  • Curried Chicken & Rice
  • Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce
  • Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce

Second Course, Side Dishes:

  • Turnip Sauce
  • Green Peas
  • Boiled Rice
  • Boiled and Roast Potatoes

Third Course, Dessert:

  • Plum Pudding with Sweet Sauce
  • Wine Jelly
  • Coconut Sandwich
  • American Ice Cream
  • Assorted Nuts
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Cheese
  • Biscuits

After Dinner: Coffee

As a picky eater, I can’t say I’d enjoy all of these menus. If time travel were possible, and I found myself in Apolline’s place, I’d be eating a lot of potatoes, cheese, fruit and breads. And ice cream, of course. Note here the menu specifies that it’s “American” ice cream. According to Last Dinner on the Titanic, at that time there were two popular ways of making ice cream. The French method used eggs, making it “richer and smoother” than the American method (popularized by Dolly Madison in the early 1800s) that used no eggs. The American version was most likely lighter and more preferable after such a large meal.

Great. Now I’m craving ice cream.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Big Cat Rescue (photo-heavy)

I took a much-needed girls day today and went into Tampa with a friend to see one of my favorite places, Big Cat Rescue. BCR is a sanctuary that rescues big cats (lions, tigers, cougars, bobcats, etc.) and gives them a good, safe, comfortable home to live out the rest of their lives. They do great work, and I’m happy that I live close enough to visit every now and then.

One of my hobbies is photography, so whenever I go to BCR, I take a ton of pictures. I love cats, and I’m always awed by the beautiful animals there, as well as saddened by some of their stories. But BCR is giving them the best home they can have outside of the wild (where none of them could survive, due to various factors), and it shows when you visit and see how healthy and relaxed the cats all are. In fact, today was a perfect example of just how relaxed: maybe too relaxed at times. The weather was gorgeous, cool and sunny, and this was the first time I’d been there when it wasn’t the height (and heat) of summer. I was hoping the cooler weather would mean more active cats, but it would seem people aren’t the only ones who enjoy sleeping in on the weekend.

Allow my own not-so-big cat, Princess, to demonstrate how most of the cats were spending their Sunday morning:

That was pretty much every cat today, if you could even see them. Some were inside their houses or hiding behind or under bushes. I can’t fault BCR for that: they’re a sanctuary, not a zoo. The cats aren’t there to perform for people, so when you visit, the tour guides make every effort to find cats that are visible and/or awake and moving about, but they won’t guarantee anything. Which is how it should be at a place like that. Many of these cats started out as circus animals, so they shouldn’t have to perform now. That said, there are some that like the attention and are big ol’ hams, so they tend to come out and show off when they hear people nearby.

Now, before I get to the pictures, I feel like I need to clarify something. Most of these photos have obvious cage “bars” in them, but don’t let them fool you. These cats all have very roomy habitats (or, as BCR calls them, cat-a-tats), with lots of foliage, places to hide, things to play with, trees to climb, etc. So if sometimes a cat might look like it’s in a small cage, it’s not. That's just how a particular photo came out, because many of the cats came right up to the edge of their enclosures (or more often, were sleeping at the edge), and therefore the wires are more obvious.

Clicking on any of these photos will bring you to their Flickr page, where you can view them a little bigger.

This is Sundari, one of BCR's leopards. She’s 15 years old, and was only close to us for a few minutes. Unfortunately, in those few minutes, I didn’t realize the shooting selector dial had gotten turned on my camera, and I was shooting  at the wrong shutter speed. The first 4 or 5 shots I took today were all black because of that. By the time I noticed and readjusted, Sundari had retreated to the back of her cat-a-tat, and the best I could get was this shot through some grasses. She’s still magnificent, though, even from a distance.

(I’m doing these in the order we saw them, so it’s going to be a random mixture of species.) Our next cat is Sassyfrass, a 13-year-old cougar (aka mountain lion). He was rescued last year along with another cougar, Freddy, from a private owner who was keeping them (and some other wild animals) as pets. He’d been beaten as a cub by a previous owner, and was terrified of men because of it. Today he appeared happy and healthy. His latest owner's husband was killed by a lion they had also rescued and were trying to keep, and then last year, the wife committed suicide, at which point BCR was contacted to take the cougars. If anything, Freddy and Sassy are prime examples of why it’s not a good idea to keep wild cats as pets. Sadly, there are many other residents at BCR with similar stories.

This sleepy kitty is Reno,  a 16-year-old golden spotted leopard who started life as a circus performer. He was trained to ride in a chariot drawn by a horse: not natural behavior for a wild cat! Because of how he was raised, he didn’t even know how to climb a tree when the circus went under, so there was no way he could go back to the wild. BCR took him in in 2002 along with a few other cats from the same circus. Like I mentioned before, don't let the appearance fool you: he was snoozing at the edge of a large cat-a-tat, and was feeling too lazy to get up and do much more than look at us. We were interrupting his Sunday morning nap.

Jumanji is a 15-year-old black leopard (if you look closely, in the sun you can see his spots) who must love this particular spot in his cat-a-tat, because every time I’ve visited BCR, that’s where he’s been.  One of these days, I’ll catch him when he’s awake. ;)

None of the bobcats were feeling very social today, and the few we did see were pretty well-hidden behind grasses and bushes. This one is Angelica, a 16-year-old who arrived at BCR last year. She’d been kept as a pet, but her owner was in foreclosure and couldn’t keep her any longer. Yet another cat that, while smaller than a lion or a tiger, has no business being kept as a pet. Another bobcat that I wasn't able to photograph well enough was Raindance, who had been rescued from a fur farm.

This black leopard, Sabre, was far perkier than Jumanji. Maybe a little too perky, because he never sat still long enough for me to get a clear photo of him. This was the only clear shot I managed. Not the most flattering, but it’s a good example of a black leopard's coloring: you can see the spots pretty well on his legs. Sabre has been at BCR since he was 3 years old, when he was boarded on what was supposed to be a temporary basis (again by someone who was keeping him as a pet). The owners never returned to pick him up, so BCR gave him a permanent home.

Here is one of the most awake cats we came across today, Enya. She’s one of the hams, a cougar (possibly Florida Panther?) and was born at the sanctuary 14 years ago. She was very happy to see the tour group, pacing along the edge of her cat-a-tat and purring (cougars are one of the few big cats that can purr). It was a real treat to hear in person. Isn't she beautiful? She spent a little time playing with a tube that was hanging in her cat-a-tat, but I wasn’t able to get any clear shots of it. The shadowy light combined with her quick movements didn’t make for easy focusing.

Enya, having a drink.

At this point in the tour, we heard something else pretty impressive: a lion roaring. Just ahead was the cat-a-tat for my favorite odd couple, Cameron and Zabu. We’d hear him roaring again later on, though he was quiet when were were in front of him.

Isn't he beautiful? Cameron and Zabu, a white tigress (sadly, she was sleeping in her hut and I wasn’t able to get any photos), were raised together at a roadside zoo in the hopes they would mate and produce white ligers (a liger is an unnatural breed created by crossing a tiger and a lion). He’s 11 years old and came to live at BCR with Zabu in 2004. Because the two cats were bonded, they were fixed and given a large cat-a-tat to share. Cameron, rather than being neutered, was given a vasectomy so that he wouldn’t lose his glorious mane. (Neutered lions lose their manes.) BCR frequently posts photos and videos of all their cats, and the videos of Cameron and Zabu are always my favorites.

My, what big teeth you have!

At one point, Cameron got up and went over to where Zabu was hiding, but she was apparently very dedicated to her morning nap and refused to come out and play with him. Poor Cameron.

This was another little ham, Rose the Caracal. 14 years old, she’s friendly because she was initially raised as a pet. But because of this, she didn’t learn things she should have, like how to groom herself. She was one of the hits on the tour, due to her beautiful markings, striking black-tipped ears and playful nature. She gave us a little show, rolling around in the grass and doing her best to look as cute as possible.

See? Cute!

What a pretty face.

The photo op that almost wasn't. Nikita, a very large and impressive 10-year-old lioness, was sleeping in her night house when we arrived, and didn’t seem like she had any intention of coming out. But eventually, she decided to grace us with her presence and came out to sit on top of the house, where she pretty much posed for the next 5 or 10 minutes. She’s gorgeous, but like many of the cats, has a sad story. She was found in a drug raid, chained inside a crack house where she’d been kept to guard the drugs. She was malnourished and her elbows were swollen badly from living on a concrete floor. She was also declawed, making it impossible to live with other lions, so moving her to a zoo wasn’t an option. BCR took her in and gave her her own cat-a-tat, where she has flourished into a happy, healthy cat.

I wasn't kidding when I said she posed for us. It's like she knew how awesome she was.

Gorgeous eyes.

Still not quite awake, though.

Our first tiger of the tour, Bengali is a 16-year-old Bengal/Siberian Tiger who started out as a circus performer. Like Reno the leopard, he was trained to ride in a horse-drawn chariot.

He was rather vocal, chuffing at us in greeting.

Across from Bengali was Alex, who was rescued from a failed sanctuary in 2008, along with another tiger and a liger. The story of their rescue is at the link there, if you’d like to read about it. All the links, as a matter of fact, lead back to each animal’s BCR page with information about them and how they came to live at BCR.

More tigers, this time a couple (non-breeding: BCR fixes any cats that are going to be sharing a habitat so no breeding can occur). Shere Khan (left), a 17-year-old male Bengal tiger, was bred to be a white tiger, but came out orange and was therefore unwanted. He lived in poor conditions before being taken in by BCR. Our tour guide told us that he initially didn’t adapt well to the new surroundings, until he was given a companion in China Doll, a 17-year-old tigress who had been kept as a pet until her owners couldn’t afford to keep her any longer. She came to BCR as a cub and was given to Shere Khan as a companion. They bonded and enjoy a 3-acre habitat together with lots of room to roam and access to part of a large lake. Today they mostly enjoyed sleeping.

Look at the size of that paw!

Shere Khan eventually woke up long enough to smile for the camera.

China Doll ... not so much.

Back to the smaller cats, our next stop was Amazing Grace, an absolutely adorable 19-year-old ocelot who came over to say hello to us and rolled around for a little while, showing just how cute she could be. She easily charmed everyone.

Her tattered ears are from the poor living conditions she came from, bitten by another cat trying to get to her through a shared cage wall.

A good sign that a cat is comfortable: she shows you her belly.

Not my best focus job, but too cute to leave out.

Our last cat, and another lazy one, this is Tonga, a 14-year-old white serval.

That's it for my photos. As many as there are, believe me, I took a LOT more. When photographing animals, I tend to go with the “take as many as possible, and if you’re lucky, a few will be good” theory. Today, it worked well for me. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. I hope you enjoyed these beautiful cats as much as I did. And if you ever find yourself in Tampa, I highly recommend a tour at Big Cat Rescue.

One last link you might enjoy. Video of the cats enjoying their Halloween pumpkins.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I fail at blogging

So much for my promise to do a Titanic Tuesdays post this week. I have no excuse other than I completely forgot. Also, I had to do a bunch of graphics work yesterday and spent most of the weekend either editing Bloodstone or reading 11/22/63 (which was great). So I've been busy, even if some of that busy was devoted to relaxation.

Then again, have you seen 11/22/63? Holding that sucker up for hours on end is hardly relaxing. But it was worth it, because it was a great read. Stephen King has been one of my favorite authors ever since I was old enough to read "grown-up" books. As a matter of fact, I think he's just about the first adult-novel author I ever read. When I was a kid, I was addicted to his books. I've always liked horror. My favorites in the kids' genre were by Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine, after all. (Now I'm getting kind of nostalgic for the old Pike books. Remember Me was a particular favorite, as was The Chain Letter.)

Horror movies, on the other hand, are a different story. I still love them, but I'm easily freaked out. I don't know why movies scare me more than books, but I suspect it has something to do with them being more visual. The idea of things don't scare me as much as actually seeing them. I had to sleep with the lights on for a week after watching The Ring, and I was well into my 20s then. I'm a glutton for punishment too, because I watched it again after it came out on DVD. I thought surely the second time it wouldn't be as scary. In a way I was right. I only slept with the lights on for 3 or 4 nights that time.

I've always thought it would be fun to write a horror novel. I even have a vague idea for one, but never got around to starting it. Maybe one day I will. Though with my luck, I'll wait too long and someone else will get the same (or similar idea). Kind of like writing about vampires on the Titanic, waiting 10 years to finally publish it, and someone else publishing a book about werewolves on the Titanic a few months later. What were the odds? (Given the popularity of paranormal romance these days and the upcoming 100-year anniversary of the wreck ... pretty good odds, I'd imagine. Still, I had to laugh at my luck the first time I saw the news about the other book.)

Forgive the rambly post about nothing. I felt like I needed to put something up this week to make up for missing Tuesday's post yet again, but I didn't have a whole lot to say. I brought my laptop out by the pool this afternoon with the intention of editing some more, but got sidetracked. Not the first time that's happened. It's lovely out today (low 80s), and the cats are having a great time chasing squirrels. Poor cats don't seem to get the concept of screens: they can chase the squirrels all they want, but they're never going to catch them from in here. Still, they persevere. You've got to admire the dedication. I could use a little of it myself today.

Another thing I did today, which goes to show just how easily distracted I've been.

I have no idea what to do with the site now that I'm registered. Mainly I just wanted to see which district I'd get. Masonry wouldn't have been my first choice, but I suppose there are worse jobs than Plasterer. Now if only the movie would come out. I'm anxious to see it.