Monday, June 17, 2019

Reviewing FLEXUS by Spring Step Shoes

Cute and comfortable shoes.
I dislike shoes. I really, really dislike shoes. So when I find a pair that I enjoy wearing I feel compelled to tell others about them. The FLEXUS shoes made by Spring Step are affordable, comfortable, and everyday cute. 


FLEXUS by Spring Step


The other day I wore my FLEXUS shoes to an event and got several compliments. Perhaps my co-workers were so surprised to see me wearing something other than my same ol' tennis shoes that they complimented my shoes out of shock. But I don't think so. These shoes are cute. 

Not only are they cute, they are affordable. I bought my pair (the style: Bedrock) at DSW

They are comfortable. The soles are slightly flexible and the shoes are lightweight. I like to keep my toes covered and the wide toe box is comfortable. No squished, cramped toes crammed into a pointed toe! The treads of the shoe are a type of hard rubber - solid but not loud and clackity on hard surface floors. 

On the Spring Step website, they list the 5 points of comfort of the soles as:

  • anti-sock
  • anatomic
  • self-moulding
  • slip-proof
  • flexible

The older I become, the less I like to wear heels. Once upon a time I liked wearing wedges for special occasions. And prior to that I LOVED stacks. Yes, I'm giving away my age. But honestly, I would just prefer to be barefoot. If I absolutely must wear shoes, I'm glad I found the FLEXUS line by Spring Step.

If you prefer shopping on Amazon, there is a large selection of shoes by Spring Step.




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Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Finishing School Book Review

The Finishing School Book Review
I enjoyed Joanna Goodman's The Home for Unwanted Girls enough to seek out and read this book, The Finishing School. At first I did not really understand what Goodman meant by 'finishing school.' Of course, once I discovered that the book was about events in a boarding school I realized that I should have understood. Since then, some friends have told me that they understand the term finishing school while others have drawn a blank when I told them the title of this book.

Anyway, The Finishing School is the story of a group of children and the adventures and tragedies that befall them at school and of their lives afterward. It is the story of families that shipped their children off to school and sometimes left them to be mostly raised by strangers in a strange country. It is the story of how a private school sought to protect its reputation by failing to properly investigate a number of serious incidents.

The narrative of the story flips easily back and forth between the modern day and the late 1990s and is set both at a fictional boarding school called Lycée Internationale Suisse in Switzerland and in Canada. Haunted by them, one of the girls returns to Switzerland as a young woman to uncover the truth about the events that unfolded during her time there.

It turns out that the story is much more complicated than that of the single incident that brings the young woman back to Switzerland and as it unfolds you will find yourself hoping that this is a totally fictional story though, of course, you know that events like those that unfolded at this school have happened and do happen in real life.

The author says that the story is based on her own real life experiences at a boarding school when she was 17 years old. She says that, like the main character in this novel, she was a fish out of water. She was a middle class student surrounded by children of the wealthy, a group that included members of royal families and children of international superstars. She also says that the stories in the book came from real ‘secrets and scandals’ that happened in the year she was there. As a matter of fact, she says that her real life best friend at boarding school was in the same situation as the best friend of the main character in this novel. The author explains that she used the events of that year to create this story of “entitlement, of the power of beauty and status, and of the relentless pursuit of approval that afflicts even the wealthy.” She says that this “book is inspired by real people and events, but is (mostly) fiction.” If you want to learn more about the author’s life as relates to this story, you can find her interview here.

There are some plot twists in this story, one large one that had me wondering if I had missed something or misread something. I guess it jarred a bit and, to be honest, that twist almost put me off reading this book but I did not put it down and yes, I would recommend this book. It a mystery about relationships both of the family and friendship variety and about the life of the wealthy and the world of the boarding school. It deals with pregnancy, both unwanted and wanted.  It definitely has some unpleasantness in it but it is handled well, especially in how the victims come forward in a way that seems particularly timely.

If you read The Finishing School, be sure to come back and let us know what you think. You can find your copy on Amazon right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Order your copy of The Finishing School from Amazon here.
Find a list of questions for your book club meeting here. 
Find my review of The Home for Unwanted Girls here.

Book Details:

Title: The Finishing School
Author: Joanna Goodman
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Page Count: 352
Format: Available in Kindle, audiobook, paperback and audio CD formats.
ISBN-10: 0062465589
ISBN-13: 978-0062465580





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Saturday, June 15, 2019

The How & Why of Chia Seeds

why to add chia seeds to your daily diet and how to do so
Adapted from a Pixabay image
Today I"m going to review how I use chia seeds and why I use these powerhouses of nutrition (a slight hint there) in my daily diet.   First though, what exactly are chia seeds?   They are actually the seeds from the chia plant (Salvia hispanica) which is a plant native to Mexico and Guatemala.   The name chia is in fact the ancient Mayan word for strength and they were a staple food for both the Mayans and Aztecs.

The chia seeds 'strength' comes from it's nutritional contents.   For such a little seed it packs a mighty nutritional punch.  They contain a large amount of fibre, quality protein, omega 3 and several essential minerals and antioxidants.

It certainly seems like something cool to add to your diet right?  The only question now is how.   I brought some chia seeds to use last year, but before I got a chance to use them my husband brought me home a chia pudding to try.   I did NOT like it!   I then left the chia seeds in the cupboard unopened, I'm sure some of you can relate to that happening!

So what changed?   As many of you know beginning January 2018 I embarked on a journey to reset my health, fitness and lose some of my excess weight.   At the beginning of the year I was looking at the chia seeds and thought - I'll pop a teaspoon into my morning protein shake.   This was upped to 2 teaspoons in my shake.

Now to be honest I couldn't tell you if it was helping my health at all, but it certainly wasn't hurting it and you can't really beat good nutrition.

Around this time my daughter was following a fitness guru on Instagram and brought home some chia seeds because she was going to put a tablespoon into a liter of water every day and drink them.  Her face when I opened the cupboard and showed her that I already had chia seeds was priceless (any mom to a teen will appreciate that moment!)

Last month I was on holiday and at the hotel they offered a buffet style breakfast - one of the offerings was a small bircher muesli in the bottom of a shot glass filled with yogurt and topped with chia seeds (about a teaspoon of them).  I had one with my breakfast every day I stayed there and it was delicious - might be time to try chia pudding again!

We are now entering winter here in Australia which means porridge season and this past week I have been adding a couple of teaspoons of chia seeds to my oats and almond milk before cooking it.   It tastes delicious.

If you're baking for a vegan, chia seeds can also be used as an egg substitute (I haven't tried this yet).   You simply add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to 3 tablespoons of water and leave to sit for 20 minutes.

Now you know both how to use chia seeds in your diet and why to use them - will you be getting some anytime soon?


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Friday, June 14, 2019

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Reviewed

An inexpensive rice cooker that everyone should have in their kitchen!

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Reviewed
I love rice, but I always hated the mess on my stove-top created by the sputtering pan.  I have several friends who have commented over the years, that their rice would burn on the stove if they cooked it according to the package instructions.

On the stovetop, Riceland Rice, the brand I prefer, should be cooked on a low boil, covered for 15 minutes.  You are not supposed to lift the lid or stir the rice for 20 minutes.  I have always believed my rice did not burn simply because of my brand of cookware, and not because my friends were doing anything wrong.

Regardless of the cleanup required, I cook rice frequently.  After all, cleanup is just a part of cooking and I do enjoy cooking.  

When my children were in school, there were mothers who found their solution by buying a rice cooker.  However, it wasn't until this last Mother's Day that I discovered the real beauty of a rice cooker in my own kitchen when my son gifted me with a Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker.


Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Review


 Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker,
4 Cups uncooked resulting in 8 Cups Cooked
Comes with Steam & Rinse Basket
Check Availablity & Price
See Below for Newer Model
I want to start by saying, I really love this rice cooker and I wish I had it decades ago.  It is so easy to cook and clean with this fabulous little cooker.  Plus, it doesn't take up very much storage room.  Because I use it often, I leave mine out on the counter, but it would be small enough to store in a standard kitchen cabinet.

I have yet to experiment with all that this beauty can do for me, but cooking the rice without a mess is enough for me to recommend this cooker to anyone.  It came with a small steamer basket, which I look forward to testing soon by steaming fresh vegetables.  The basket can also be used as a colander for rinsing.

You can cook white or brown rice, beans, hot cereal, hot soup and grains in the cooker, in addition to steaming vegetables.

The cooking pot has a nonstick coating and is dishwasher safe.

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Review


To Cook White Rice in the Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker Reviewed
  • Simply add 1 cup white rice, 1 teaspoon of butter, dash of salt and 2 cups boiling water into the cooker pot.  
  • Set the pot into the cooker and close the lid.  
  • Plug in the Rice Cooker
  • Select Warm, then Select White Rice
The cooker will auto set the timer to the default timing and auto-adjusts the time as it cooks.  (usually takes about 35 minutes to cook the rice according to my recipe, but let the cooker auto-adjust itself) 

When it has finished cooking, the cooker automatically switches over to a warming cycle to keep the rice warm until you are ready to serve.


Rice Cooker Vs. Instant Pot


I want to note that I do have an Instant Pot, which I also love.  The 8 cup rice cooker is perfect for rice or sides.  It is smaller and lighter-weight than my Instant Pot, which makes it much easier to store.  However, I could never cook my Minestrone Soup in it.  I need my Instant Pot for complete dinner size meals.  

If you have space for both, I highly recommend having both the 8 cup Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker and the 6 Qt. Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.

Note: A few days ago, I needed a housewarming gift and thought this would be the perfect gift. However, I noted that my model (37518) was no longer available "new". Therefore, I purchased (37519 - shown on the far right below). Other than a slightly different color control panel, it is exactly the same in size and function.  



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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Reviewing -Will That Be Regular or Ethyl?



My cousin's  husband grew up in a small town in mid Missouri.  He recently published a book he wrote about his growing up years.

Growing Up Along Route 66 in 1950's Missouri

This is a delightful book filled with anecdotes about life in a small town in the 1950's.  Remember when: 

  •  Kids rode their bikes all over town
  •  Members of the opposite sex had "Cooties"
  •  Students got their vaccinations at school
  • To research a subject you used the Encyclopedia
  • Some teachers resorted to paddling to keep kids in line
  • Gas for your vehicle was filled by the attendant who also would sell you needed repairs for the car

Lessons for Life

Small town living gave DeWayne many lessons that were to last throughout his life.  Some of these included a strong work ethic built while working in the family chicken hatchery, a church community that is a big part of every day life, and a large family that looked out for each other. 

DeWayne's father also gained some great insights from his father who was a rather quiet man, but taught through his examples.

A job at a gas station on Route 66 was also full of lots of humorous incidents and some good life lessons.


Humorous Incidents

There are many humorous incidents scattered throughout the book as DeWayne gives us a glimpse into his childhood.  Here are just few of the many you won't want to miss.

      •  Cow Patty Softball
      •  Mishap while fishing in frozen pond
      •  Church organist falling asleep when time to play
      •  Mishaps at the service station on Route 66


So, if you are looking for a walk down memory lane and you want to read a book that is sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, but always realistic be sure to pick up "Will that be Regular or Ethyl?".


Book Available on Amazon

   




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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Option Ocean: Navigating the Sea of Possibility A Book Review

Devotional, spiritual, christian books
                                                           
Image by RENE RAUSCHENBERGER from Pixabay


Option Ocean: Navigating the Seas of Possibility is categorized in the Christian Devotional category on Amazon.com.  

 **Warning, Warning**  It is more than just a book to be read, it is a workbook!   Just published on May 28th 2019, it is the second book in a set of inspirational books written by Kristi Bridges.  Unlike other books (like a good novel), this book is so much better if you take the time to read it as a "guide"!  

How long or how quickly you go through this book, is entirely up to you.  But, if you are searching for meaning in your life, this book should be read slowly and very mindfully.  Each day will bring a new way of looking at your life.

Where most books are broken down into "chapters", Option Ocean: is broken down  into "days".  That is one reason I suggested that it's not a book to be read in a hurry.  It's best taken one day at a time.  There are lessons  for us as we grow in  devotion, understanding  and prayer.  We will take what we understood in the first day and build on that foundation as the month unfolds for us.  Each day there is a "theme" and then there are questions for us to ponder.  Personally I think this book is better when we are prepared to share, with ourselves, the insights and questions that will come to our minds. We will open up our physical, mental and spiritual understanding of God.  To that end I would encourage anyone to have a journal ready.  Use your own style of writing to make points to consider, passages to revisit, and questions that come to mind.

The world today has little time for us to ponder those things that are of a spiritual nature. We are constantly encouraged to live for today, live in the moment and not to think about anything beyond that. Navigating the Seas of Possibility encourages us to live in the moment of course, but to also listen and see the Hand of the Almighty at work in our daily lives. 

Christians are called to do much more than that.  We are called to have a personal relationship with our God.  To proclaim Him in our lives and our actions and be inspired by His Words to us in the Bible.  We are called to worship and adoration to the God who created all things and calls us each by our name.

As Christians we can find living life mindful of God,  hard to do sometimes.  Especially when things happen around us that are not nice, kind or loving.  We can lose our way so easily.  That's why it's nice to have some help and guidance for our individual journeys.  Everyone walks their own path to God through all the trials and tribulations of life.  Your way and my way might be completely different.  But our ultimate goal is the same.  To come to know the will of God in our lives and to give thanks for all we have.

Christian Devotional, Olivia Morris, Book Reviews
                                       
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Navigating the Seas of Possibility would be a great book for any Christian that is questioning their faith.  It's not a book just to be read, but rather, it is called to be "lived".  It is a workbook for  Christians, all Christians.  After reading the introduction you will already see that this book is more than words on a page or a story to keep our interest.  It is a call to action, a call to prayer, understanding, and a call to search for God in our lives.  It is also a call to remember Gratitude, Love, Peace and Joy!



Christian devotional, faith workbook, spiritual book, Olivia Morris
                                       
Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay



My hope is that during the summer months, when you get a chance to sit back and relax, read one day of Option Ocean: Navigating the Seas of Possibility.  Use what you have learnt and keep a journal.  I bet there are lessons for everyone, but most importantly for you!  This is your life and He knows your name.  



** I was given a copy of this book to read prior to publication, by the author, in exchange for my review.  The opinions stated are my own and no coercion was involved.






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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Fabric Pots Reviewed

Gardening In Fabric Pots

garden vegetables
Could these grow in a cloth container?
Image courtesy of pixabay.com
Do you have a garden? Have you considered growing in fabric pots? Let's review the possibilities. 

I am familiar with the concept of container gardening and have tried it a few times over the years. Until recently, I was not aware that another option is to grow my vegetables, herbs or flowers in a fabric pot. Now, that sounds interesting!

The advantage to using a cloth container is that it allows for better aeration for the roots and better drainage, too. From what I glean from the description of the brand that I am interested in using; transplanting from them allows for a better chance of the plant not going into shock. I am thinking it might work well for starting a small tree to be planted elsewhere when it gets some height to it. 

I love that there are so many options for sizes to grow in, too. A fabric pot can be as small as one gallon or as large as 100 gallons. (Now that is a huge bag!) Personally, I am drawn to the 7 gallon size because I think it offers some real versatility. It also seems to be a very popular size with other gardeners, too. The pots made from cloth would also fit in places that a standard pot or container might not. They won't be as heavy to move, either. 

The possibility of using these little fabric pots over and over again appeals to me. When the growing season is over they can be laundered and saved for the next batch of gardening. Granted, we can do the same thing with clay, resin and plastic pots but the bags would take up much less storage space when not being used. Storage can be a problem for most of us especially the urban gardeners who need to grow their items on a small patio or balcony. 

How about you? Did you know that fabric pots were even an option? Would you be willing to try them out? I am going to give them a try.




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Sunday, June 9, 2019

Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers & Travel Mugs Review

Image: Thermos Stainless Steel Travel Mugs & Tumblers for Home, Office and Travel - copyright 2019 Margaret Schindel
Today I'm reviewing my favorite Thermos insulated stainless steel travel cups. I use mine every day, whether I'm at home, at work, or on the road. Staying hydrated is important to everyone's health and wellness. If you're on a keto diet or low carb diet, you need to drink even more water to help avoid damage to your kidneys. So, to help me drink enough water daily, I keep a Thermos Stainless King Vacuum-insulated Stainless Steel Travel Tumbler and a Thermos stainless steel hydration bottle next to me so I can take sips of water and hot or cold decaf or green tea throughout the day and refill the containers as needed.

Several years ago, my husband and I decided to replace our motley collection of plastic and probably BPA-laden water bottles and travel mugs (most of them free swag from employers and trade shows) with high quality, vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottles and mugs that had the features we care about.

We really liked our new Thermos stainless steel hydration bottles, so we ordered two Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers to try out. We loved them so much that we ordered three more, one for my husband's office, one for my office and an extra for home. So, now have five of these wonderful stainless steel travel cups, in Electric Blue, Cranberry, Midnight Blue, Raspberry and Matte Black. (The Matte Black cup isn't in my photos because my husband keeps it at his office.)

Prefer a Travel Mug With a Handle?

The Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug is identical to the travel tumbler except it has a handle.

Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug 16 Ounces - Pine Green - photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Why I Love Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers and Travel Mugs

Large Capacity

Both the stainless steel travel tumbler and the travel mug version with the handle hold a generous 16 ounces of your favorite hot or cold beverage. Both the tumbler and the mug are 7.8" tall and 3.3" wide (excluding the handle on the travel mug), tapering down to 2-5/8" wide at the base so they fit in most cup holders.

Keeps Hot Drinks Hot and Cold Drinks Cold

I love being able to use my Thermos travel tumbler for hot or iced tea or coffee, hot or chilled apple cider, hot cocoa, cold milk or any other non-carbonated drink I'm in the mood to drink.

Thermos' Vacuum Insulation Technology

The most important criterion in choosing a travel mug or tumbler is how long it can maintain the temperature of whatever beverage you put into it. Thermos’s vacuum insulation technology and double-wall stainless steel construction mean that hot drinks stay hot for up to 7 hours and cold drinks stay cold for up to 18 hours if you preheat or pre-chill the travel tumbler with hot or cold water for 5 to 10 minutes just before filling it with your beverage.

Travel Tumbler Exterior Stays at Room Temperature

Whether you fill it with a hot or cold beverage, the outside temperature of the tumbler is not affected by the temperature of its contents. (Of course, if you take it outside on a very hot or very cold day, the exterior of any metal container will get hotter or colder, based on the temperature of its environment.)

No "Sweating" Even When Filled With Ice-Cold Drinks

Even if you fill it with ice cubes and a cold beverage, this stainless steel travel tumbler doesn't "sweat" — i.e., condensation doesn't form on the outside of the mug. So, I never have to use a coaster under this tumbler to protect my antique mahogany dining table, coffee table or end tables.

The DrinkLock sealing lid has two openings

Leak-proof Lid

Thermos' DrinkLock sealing lid makes this travel mug leak-proof (unless you don't close the lid properly or reassemble it correctly after taking it apart for cleaning).

Dual Openings for Easy Access

There are slots on opposite sides of the lid that are controlled by a single lever. Sliding the lever to the side opens or closes both drinking slots simultaneously. So, when you pick up this travel tumbler, one of the openings will be no more than 1/4 turn away from your mouth.

Built-in Tea Bag Hook

The underside of the lid has a clever built-in hook for wrapping a tea bag string around or attaching the chain of a loose-leaf tea infuser.

Attractive and Functional Design

This vacuum-insulated stainless steel travel tumbler's graceful shape not only looks good but also feels good. The narrower "waist" (where the Thermos logo is) makes it easier for my small hand to hold this wide cup securely. Hand-washing is recommended and the surface colors and finishes stay looking great for years if you don't put these mugs in the dishwasher. There's also a great selection of colors to choose from:
  • Electric Blue (AKA Royal Blue)
  • Cranberry
  • Midnight Blue
  • Raspberry
  • Stainless Steel (Matte)
  • Pine Green
  • Army Green
  • Cranberry
  • Matte Black
  • Smoke (Grey)


Follow the Care and Use Instructions to Enjoy Your Thermos Stainless Cups For Many Years 

We bought the oldest of our Thermos travel tumblers, the Cranberry and Midnight Blue ones, in 2015. As you can see, after four years they've held up extremely well. However, to keep your Thermos travel tumbler or mug looking and functioning well, it's important to follow the manufacturer's care and usage instructions.

Hand Wash Your Cup in Warm, Soapy Water

Although these Thermos stainless steel travel tumblers and mugs are top-rack dishwasher safe in terms of their function, the company recommends hand washing them with mild soap and warm water to preserve their attractive appearance.

Worn finish on bottom edges of Cranberry cup after
dishwasher vs. like-new finish on hand washed blue cup
A few months ago, I found out the hard way what happens if you wash one in your dishwasher. I was feeling lazy and decided to put our Cranberry tumbler in the top rack of the dishwasher as an experiment. After washing it in the dishwasher this way a few times, I realized that the shiny, colorful finish had begun to wear off around the edges on the bottom of the cup.

Fortunately, the finish on the sides of the Cranberry tumbler still looks fine and the bottom hasn't gotten any worse since I went back to hand washing it. You can see in the photo that the bottom of my Royal Blue cup, which has always been hand washed, still looks like it did the day it arrived from Amazon.

I hand wash my Thermos travel tumblers with mild yet effective sulfate-free Puracy Natural Liquid Dish Soap, a soft sponge and long-handled OXO Good Grips Bottle Brush.

Don't Use Cleansers That Are Abrasive or Contain Chlorine Bleach

Abrasive cleansers (including dishwasher detergents), scrubbing sponges, etc., can dull or even wear away the finish on your Thermos travel tumbler or mug. (That is exactly what happened to the bottom of my Cranberry cup after I washed it in the top rack of my dishwasher a few times.)

The company also says not to use bleach or any products containing chlorine on these containers. Over time, some beverages, such as tea, can stain the gasket and seal if the lid is not washed promptly and thoroughly. Fortunately, replacement gaskets and seals are available.

If You Disassemble the Lid For Cleaning, Make Sure to Reassemble It Correctly

I don't disassemble the lid every time I wash my travel tumbler, but I do so fairly frequently to make sure I've cleaned it thoroughly. If you don't reassemble it correctly, your travel mug won't be able to maintain the temperature of your beverages as well and the lid may leak. I highly recommend reading and following the Thermos Vacuum Insulated Mug and Tumbler Care and Use Guide.





Thermos Stainless King vacuum-insulated stainless steel travel tumblers and mugs reviewed by Margaret Schindel



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Saturday, June 8, 2019

Book Review of Bomb Shell, an FBI Thriller by Catherine Coulter

Catherine Coulter has written 23 books in her FBI series featuring Dillon Savich and his wife & partner Lacey Sherlock. A few years ago I introduced you to a new series of crime thrillers by Catherine Coulter staring American-born, UK-raised Nicholas Drummond, a tough chief detective inspector with Scotland Yard in my review of “The Final Cut”. Little did I realize that a Savich/Sherlock mystery thriller written just before “The Final Cut” gives us hints within the story of this upcoming 'A Brit in the FBI Series'.

Having just finished reading this book, Bomb Shell published in 2013, I would like to review it for you now.


Bomb Shell Synopsis


Bomb Shell available on Amazon

Throughout Catherine Coulter's FBI series with Savich & Sherlock, we are introduced to other regular characters who are sometimes introduced in one book and reappear in subsequent books. One such character is FBI Special Agent Griffin Hammersmith whom we first met in "Backfire”. Griffin was working in the San Francisco office and aided Savich and Sherlock in solving a crime. Savich sees something special in Hammersmith and recruits him to join his unit in Washington, D.C. 

While on his way cross-country to his new assignment in D.C., Griffin plans to visit his sister, Delsey, who is a student at a School of Music in Maestro, Virginia. Before he gets there, a phone call tells him that Delsey has been found naked and unconscious, lying in a pool of blood that isn't hers. No one knows whose blood it is, but Griffin knows he must protect Delsey. But from whom?

Meanwhile, back in D.C., the FBI, headed by agents Savich and Sherlock, is called to the scene of a murder, a body lying naked and frozen on a bitter winter day at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.  The victim turns out to be the grandson of a former Federal Reserve Bank chairman. Is his death revenge against his grandfather for the banking crisis, or something personal?

With two crimes to solve, one in D.C. and one in Maestro, Virginia, will the FBI agents figure it out while coping with the cold and snow that is hampering their investigation? And, is Griffin Hammersmith really gifted with a unique ability to “see” how criminals think? 


Author Catherine Coulter



Personal Photo taken off book cover
Original Photo by (c) Charles Bush
Catherine Coulter has written over 83 novels, 78 of which have been on the New York Times Best Sellers list.  Her FBI thrillers starring Savich & Sherlock now number 23. 

Coulter ends Bomb Shell with the crimes solved and Dillon and Sherlock making plans to attend a showing of the Koh-i-Noor diamond at an opening gala of the Crown Jewels on display in New York City. This is her clever seg-way into the introduction of her new series starring Nicholas Dummond ~ The Brit in the FBI ~ in The Final Cut.

Both Bomb Shell and The Final Cut are excellent mystery thrillers, as are all of Catherine Coulter's books. There is drama and danger and bits of humor and touches of caring in all her stories, without any blood & gore or extreme violence. I think this is why Catherine Coulter has become such a popular author. I hope you will enjoy Bomb Shell as much as I did.



Related Links:

The Final Cut - Book Review


(c) Wednesday Elf - 6/8/2019




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Friday, June 7, 2019

Fall Hollow Waterfall on the Natchez Trace Parkway Photos & Review

Fall Hollow Waterfall on the Natchez Trace Parkway Photos & Review
There are lots of spectacular places to stop along the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Fall Hollow Waterfall, located near Hohenwald, Tennessee, is only one of the fabulous spots of heavenly beauty here on earth.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a scenic two-lane highway that follows the historical old Natchez Trace trails and roads used by American Indians, explorers, and travelers for centuries.  

The parkway stretches through 3 states (Tennessee, Alabama & Mississippi) and preserves important areas in American history, as well as preservation of the natural beauty.  The highway is a 440 mile stretch between Nashville, TN and Natchez, MS.   Not only is it a beautiful drive, but it has stopping areas that are perfect for picnics, hiking, taking photos, or simply breathing deep and enjoying nature.  

Hohenwald, TN is also a great place to stop for gas, food, or even for the night, as you tour the Natchez Trace Parkway and discover the natural beauty of the South.


Fall Hollow Waterfall on the Natchez Trace Parkway Photos & Review


The Fall Hollow Waterfall
Located on the Natchez Trace Parkway


Fall Hollow Waterfall Photo by Cynthia Sylvestermouse
Photo of Fall Hollow Waterfall by Sylvestermouse
from Observation Deck
Tennessee is home of the stunning Fall Hollow waterfall and surrounding trails.  You can easily see the waterfall after a short walk on the trail that starts at the parking area on the side of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  It is a beautiful sight!

We opted to climb down the steep path to the bottom of the waterfall to experience the full adventure.  It is a well worn trail created by natural stone "steps".  However, I used the word "climb" because I don't want to mislead readers by referring to it as a walk, which evokes the image of straight, level ground.  I did have to use my hands several times as I moved from one step down to the next step.  Many times in our descent, I worried about slipping on the wet stone and preferred to find my footing on the surrounding grass and mud instead.  The trail is narrow and drops off down the hillside.  It would be easy to get injured if you are not careful.  By the way, we also took Merlin, our Labrador Retriever, with us.  He hopped those stone steps with the agility of a deer.  I was extremely proud of him.  Of course, he frequently had to stop to wait on me, as I was literally climbing down using my hands for support. 


Fall Hollow Waterfall Path photo by Cynthia Sylvestermouse
I snapped this photo of the path before
we started our hike back up.  This was the
easiest part of the path to the waterfall
I don't wish to dissuade anyone from taking the path down to the bottom of the waterfall.  But, this trail could be very dangerous because it is steep, slippery and uneven.  By all means, wear proper climbing clothes and hiking/climbing boots.  This is not a casual walk through the woods.  While I was dressed properly with my selection of jeans, I was wearing Keds canvas snickers.  Not the best choice for shoes on this waterfall trail.  I was careful and I know my own limitations.  I didn't hesitate to balance myself with my hands or knees, but next time, I will wear my hiking boots.

It was necessary for me to stop a few times to catch my breath on the climbing hike down and also on my way back up.  Be prepared to pace yourself.  Don't try to hurry.  Besides, stopping for a rest gives you time to look around at the surrounding vegetation, flowers, and streams.  

Well, that does work well, as long as you don't look down the side of the drop-off!

Fall Hollow Waterfall Photo Collage of Surrounding Area


I did not take water down the hill with me and I was fine.  However, we were there in the spring.  On a hotter day, I would have required water.  Therefore, I recommend a lightweight shoulder strap water bottle for this trail.


Warning About Hiking to the Bottom of the Fall Hollow Waterfall

Fall Hollow Waterfall Stone photo by Cynthia Sylvestermouse
The photo on the right is a picture of the type of stone steps on the trail down to the bottom of the waterfall.  As you can see, they have a slick surface, which is why I often opted for the grass or mud at the side.  It would have been very easy to twist my ankle though.

For those who have health or mobility issues, heed the posted warning sign and do not go on beyond the observation deck area that provides seating where you can easily see the waterfall.    

If you have any concerns, fear of heights, are already fatigued, or unsure about climbing the hillside for any reason, allow wisdom to dictate and stick to the deck.  You won't be disappointed by the view.

I do not recommend the path down to the waterfall for children or most pets.





For More Information on the Natchez Trace Parkway, visit Natchez Trace Parkway (U.S. National Park Service)



Recommended Equipment for the Waterfall Hike




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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Deep Creek - Book Review

Deep Creek by Pam Houston
Terrifying splendor.  Wonder nested in grief.  Reconciling grief and hope.  Traveling the world over to discover the real adventure awaits you at home.  Creating a life in the midst of a thousand departures.  Savoring the one thousand arrivals that bring you to you—to your home of homes.  This is Deep Creek.

In Deep Creek, Finding Hope in the High Country, author, teacher, ranching greenhorn, and survivor, Pam Houston, takes us inside the paradox of becoming.  Though we may initially think the genesis of this homecoming odyssey is Houston's purchase of a dream ranch and homestead in the Colorado Rockies, the larger revelation, as unveiled through linked essays, is how her connections to nature, animals, trauma, and eventual healing come together in perfectly imperfect ways to build a life filled with gratitude and wonder.

This is a memoir that finds its essence in those spaces where two disparate elements are held together.  For instance, while the West Fork wildfire is threatening to destroy Houston's beloved ranch, she is able to stand amazed at the extreme beauty of the raging firestorm.  There is a breathtaking awe to be felt in the face of the fury that might destroy everything you own.  This capacity of the author to appreciate the splendor of potential devastation turns something bleak into something transformative.

Likewise, while Houston explores the grief associated with climate change, she simultaneously urges us to sing the song that is the language of wilderness and to feel a certain joy within the mourning.   In this manner, one may begin to reconcile grief and hope.

Besides these themes, there is more to appreciate while reading Deep Creek.  If you love animals, there are horses, mini donkeys, Icelandic sheep, Irish wolfhounds, and chickens.  And then there is the glory of Colorado's San Juan Mountains and the Upper Rio Grande Basin.  For those who dream of living on their very own piece of land, there is plenty to stoke that fantasy.

I was drawn to Deep Creek for many reasons.  As one who lives in Colorado's San Luis Valley, I have  been to the places shared by the author.  To experience them through another's perspective, makes those places come alive in a new way.  Houston's affection for her animals also resonates deeply with me.  To read of how the land has been so significant in her becoming who she is today, reinforces my own connections to this place that is growing me into the fullness of my own being.

If you need any more reasons to read this book, read it because the writing is compelling.  Read it because the author is an enigma.  Read it to contemplate how you become who you are in relationship to what matters to you.  Read it to celebrate the life that emerges when you dare to dance with paradox.














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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review

A Brief History Of Lawrence "Larry" Moore Park

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review
A Trail in Larry Moore Park, March, March, 2018, © B. Radisavljevic

I first saw Larry Moore Park, as it's commonly known here in Paso Robles, after I moved to this area in 1993. Larry Moore Park was actually established in the 1980's when the Riverbank Track across the street from it was built. My mother bought a home in this tract in 1995 within walking distance of the park. I visited her regularly and often took a walk in the park after the visit. I was delighted to live close to a river for the first time in my life. I have featured some of my photographs of the river itself here. 

At first the Riverbank tract homeowners were assessed by the landscape and lighting district that maintained the park. But by the end of 2015 it became evident that this would not be enough. The city made plans to take jurisdiction over the park and its maintenance and the city now owns the park. It has built a new playground and has plans to later build a new ball field and a parking area within the park. In 2014 after my mother's death we moved into her house and became Riverbank residents ourselves. 

Not all of us are thrilled that our "wild" space will become so much more developed than it is now. We don't exactly welcome the parking lot and the added traffic and the glaring stadium lights that are coming. I'm not sure the river walk will be the same after that. We were hoping that at least park maintenance would improve, but so far about all the city has done is build the new playground. 

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review: New Playground
Part of New Playground, November, 2018, © B. Radisavljevic

The River Walk Trail Entrance

The main trail for the Salinas River Walk begins at the south end of Larry Moore Park right across the from the west entrance to the Charolais Corridor Trail

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - West Entrance Charolais Corridor Trail

At the south entrance of the Salinas River Walk in the park you will find a park bench, trash cans, and some very large rocks marking the beginning of the trail. Here's how it appears if you stand in the park and look toward the Charolais Corridor Trail entrance you see above. The road itself turns into a cul-de-cac just past these trail entrances and one can park along the curb.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review: Salinas River Trail Beginning at South End of Park
South Entrance to Salinas River Walk at Larry Moore Park, © B. Radisavljevic
 In front of the bench is a very large oak tree and an access path heading west to the Salinas River. The flora you see in the photo below is typical of that which dominates the park in spring and summer. The yellow flowers by the rocks are mustard. The white flowers near the right middle are poison hemlock. In front of the blooming poison hemlock is a mallow plant, but its purple flowers are too small to see here. I show the blooms later under Flora.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review
Bench at South Entrance to Larry Moore Park, © B. Radisavljevic, June 3, 2019



"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review

To take the trail get up from the bench and turn to your right. You will see the trail heading northeast in this photo. It curves slightly parallel to the river until the trail seems to end just past some benches and a river access pass through. You will notice that one of the benches is broken. Maintenance in the park is almost nonexistent except for the playground, playing fields, and restrooms.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review


Here is the river access just before the trail turns. Notice the broken fence between the bench and the river access pass through. I took this photo and the one below looking west from the east.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - River Access


Above you see that the trail is turning. It will soon lead to the footbridge. The trail from the south turns onto the bridge by the elderberry tree. I was coming from the other direction when I took this photo.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Footbridge over Creek


 Not long after crossing the footbridge you will come to a fence that borders a riparian mitigation area. Most of what's behind the fence looks like what's below. Lots of poison hemlock is in bloom there in June.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Poison Hemlock in Bloom
Riparian Mitigation Area that Borders Trail, Poison Hemlock in Bloom, © B. Radisavljevic

The trail then parallels the fence until it crosses the park to the east and reaches a dead end. At this point you can turn south toward the southern exit to the Riverbank Tract or you can turn north toward the Veterans' Memorial Bridge underpass that takes you on a trail that continues north and east to 13th Street. Here's a view of the intersection on January 9, 2017.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Trail Intersection

I took the photo below on June 3, 2019. You can see farther down the trail to the north here. It goes past the Kohl's store. A block wall separates the commercial area from the trail. Near the trail intersection you can see the shopping carts the homeless leave there as they go back and forth to where they like to camp in the riverbed. You will find these abandoned carts scattered through the park.

There is a vacant lot beside that sign that leads to the J.C. Penny parking lot where some homeless folks park before walking to where they plan to camp in the park. Some hikers also park in the J.C. Penny lot because it's close to the park trails going both north and south.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Intersecting Trails
Trail Intersection at Larry Moore Park, © B. Radisavljevic

Although you can't see it above because the trees hide it, the fence for the riparian mitigation area borders the north side of the east-west trail from the river. If you were standing where the north pointing arrow is above, looking back toward the river, you'd see this.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Homeless Campsite
Looking West Toward River and a Homeless Encampment (illegal at the time), © B. Radisavljevic

In October 2017, I left my house during some construction in search of some quiet and spent some time photographing the park entrance from the bench by the trail entrance. You can see all those photos and the video I made that day at What I  Observed from my Bench at Larry Moore Park.

Here is a photo of the large rocks along the trail entrance taken in October, 2017. I was tempted to crop out the piles of mulch so the rocks would be more prominent, but I simply didn't have the heart to crop out most of that magnificent sky just to get rid of the mulch. 

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - South Entrance
Rocks at Park South Entrance, October 2017

Here's a better photo of the rocks in January, 2012, without mulch piles. 

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - South Entrance
Rocks at Park South Entrance, January 2012 

Larry Moore Park is a Great Place to Photograph the Sky


I really appreciate the clear view of the sky I have from the Salinas River and the River Walk. It's a great place to photograph the sunset, or, as you can see above, cloud formations. 

I often walk as the sun is setting. I took the photo below through those trees you can see from the park bench near the entrance. 

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review -  Sunset Behind the Trees
Sunset behind Trees, © B. Radisavljevic


I shot the photo below near the river at Larry Moore Park. It's one of my favorite sky views so I used it to make this inspirational poster at Zazzle. 


I also made a poster of this pastel sky from the park. I made it part of my blog post on Medium: What a Glorious Gift is the Sky! The blog contains other views of the sky, mostly taken from the Veteran's Memorial Bridge in Paso Robles. If a photo seems not to have loaded, just click it to make it appear.


This next sky view comes from the other end of the trail closer to the northern Riverbank Lane entrance.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Bare Cottonwood Tree in the Sunset


Here's one more. It's hard to stop.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Sunset

Below is another interesting sky effect framed by one of the park trees. Some people call this a buttermilk sky.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - "Buttermilk" Clouds


I like the pink contrails in this one.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Pink Contrails
Pink Contrails over Larry Moore Park, © B. Radisavljevic

I could share many more sky photos taken at Larry Moore Park, but there simply isn't room. There's much more to see here than sky. The sky will probably appear in many other photos I will share below.

Accessing the Salinas River from Larry Moore Park

Larry Moore Park offers the easiest access to the Salinas River in Paso Robles. Even when the riverbed is dry there is plenty to see. My favorite access path is near the south entrance I showed you at the top by the large oak tree. It is featured in this Zazzle poster. When taking this trail you need to be careful of the poison oak that lives on the right side of the trail. It's especially dangerous in winter when it has no leaves to warn you of what it is. The path can also be slippery in the wet season.



In the poster photo above you can't see the steep part of the path. Here is what it looks like looking up from the riverbank or riverbed, depending on the season. Perhaps by now you will recognize the bench at the top near where this path begins.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Access Path to Salinas River
Access Path to Salinas River, © B. Radisavljevic
Although many people use this path to reach the river, it's only one of many unofficial paths they use to get there.

The more official designated entrances meant for accessing the river look like this and are found along the main trail fence. I think these pass through "gates" are designed to let people in and keep horses and vehicles of all kinds out.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - River Access Pass Through

After entering at one of these access "gates" you will find your own way down. If you are fortunate, you will find a path through the brush somewhat like this one.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - River Access Path


Take a Short Walk On the North End of the Trail with Me

I made this video to test the camera on my new Galaxy Note 9 phone last November (2018). So it's an autumn walk. It will show you some plants in the park I haven't featured below and autumn views of some I have, like the jimson weed.



Fauna at Larry Moore Park

I confess I've paid more attention to the flora than the fauna, since the fauna are better at keeping out of sight. I've seen birds, ants, bees, gophers, squirrels, hares, tadpoles,lizards, and cottontail rabbits. I've not yet seen a snake or any deer in the park. But that doesn't mean there aren't any.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Squirrel
Not exactly in the park when I took the photo, but I took it from the riverbed just south of the park. Squirrels tend to roam, so I'm sure this one got to the park when I wasn't looking.
I'm not good at identifying birds, but these are very common in the park. It's also common to see birds of prey, probably hawks or turkey vultures, flying high above.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Birds
Birds I See Often at Larry Moore Park, © B. Radisavljevic
Tadpoles

It occurred to me when I saw a very shallow pool unattached to the rest of the river that it was tadpole season and I might find a few. So I went to explore. I expect we will later see frogs or toads in the park if they can survive after the river dries up.



People also walk their dogs in the park, and they don't always follow the rule to keep them on a leash. Many people let them loose in the riverbed or after they are into the park. They are not supposed to do this. Here are a couple of posts from my Paso Robles in Photos blog related to dogs in the park.


As I walked in the park today I saw a rabbit rush into the brush before I could even aim my camera. I stepped over many anthills of red ants. A lizard skittered across the path in front of me a couple of times. And I also saw this.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Lost Cat?
Had to Shoot with a Zoom - A Black Cat in the Park, Hunting, June 3, 2019, © B. Radisavljevic
Last month I saw another cat by the river. I'm not sure if these are abandoned or feral cats or whether they come to the park from the tract for some wild time.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Cat in Tree
Tuxedo Cat in Tree by Salinas River,  © B. Radisavljevic


Flora in the Park

I love to photograph the plants in the park during every season -- in and out of the riverbed. Some of the most common plants there are jimson weed, telegraph plant, poison oak, poison hemlock, and milk thistle. Milk thistle and poison hemlock usually grow next to each other in the park. Click the link to learn more about them.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Blooming Milk Thistle and Poison Hemlock
Milk Thistle and Poison Hemlock in Bloom at Larry Moore Park, © B. Radisavljevic

Poison oak also grows abundantly at Larry Moore Park. So be careful, especially in winter when the stems are bare and there are no leaves to warn you of danger. One of the places you really need to watch out for is under this spreading cottonwood (or is it a willow?) tree near the center of the park between the street and the trail. There is open space all around it. See that shady place under the tree? Poison oak loves to grow there.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Large Tree in Middle of Park
Poison Oak Loves to Grow in that Shady Space Under Tree, © B. Radisavljevic
Here's a closer look. See all that poison oak? It loses its leaves in winter and you'd never know what it was, but it's just as dangerous as when it has leaves. See more details and photos of this tree in other seasons and information about other places poison oak lurks in the park in Watch Out for Poison Oak at Larry Moore Park.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Green Poison Oak in June
Poison Oak Growing Under Tree in June, © B. Radisavljevic




Today I found a jimson weed flower in bloom and a several potential forests of the plant. Learn more about jimson weed here. The mustard adds some happy color to this photo.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Blooming Mustard and Jimson Weed


Below is an enlargement of the blooming mallow plant we saw in front of the bench when we entered the park.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Mallow in Bloom
Mallow in Bloom at Larry Moore Park in June, © B. Radisavljevic

I don't often see poppies in the park, but I did on June 3, 2019. This bit of color was snuggling up to a baby oak tree.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - California Poppies Snuggling with Baby Oak

I photographed this cottonwood tree near the river on May 22, 2019. If you have allergies, I suggest you come at a different time of year. The seeds were still flying through the air like snow on June 3.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Cottonwood Tree in Bloom
Cottonwood in Bloom May 22, 2019, © B. Radisavljevic
Here's how the ground looks under this cottonwood tree.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Cottonwood "Cotton" Under Tree
Cottonwood "Snow" on Ground, May 22, 2019, Larry Moore Park, Paso Robles, © B. Radisavljevic
Here is one of the many elderberry trees in bloom in the park during June.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Elderberry tree in Bloom
Elderberry Tree in Bloom in June, © B. Radisavljevic


These are just a few examples of the flora that grow in Larry Moore Park. It has both willow and cottonwood trees. Elderberry trees seem to be everywhere. And, of course, there are oaks. It would take another post to show you all the flora. 

Park Facilities

The park has restrooms that stay open during the hours the park is open, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. I looked at them today, June 3, 2019, and they were clean.  They lock them at 11 p.m. when the park closes. The drinking fountains next to the restrooms were also functioning.

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Restrooms
Restrooms at Larry Moore Park, © B. Radisavljevic


Besides the trails, the park has non-regulation soccer and baseballs fields and a basketball court for shooting baskets. None of these fields were built for competitive play. They were built for neighborhood residents to play for fun. 

"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Basketball Court and Playground

There are very few picnic tables. The city website for the park says there are barbecue areas. They are probably located near the playground beside the one picnic table I saw. There may be more in that clump of trees behind the playground. That's the one area I did not inspect today. 

Vandals have thrown many tables in the creek and in other places where they don't belong and torn them apart. There has been a huge problem with vandalism in the park in the past. Many hope that since the city now owns the park it will patrol more often. 

It is better to visit the park during daylight hours. As I've mentioned above, many homeless camp in the park, especially in and around the riverbed. Some neighbors who use the trail have complained that they have been threatened by men carrying sticks when walking north of the bridge underpass or near it. I have never had a problem myself, but I've not recently walked farther north than the trail I've detailed here. I now stay in the park south of the commercial development and the path intersection I showed you that leads north. 

The park is a wonderful recreation area, especially during the season when there is water in the river. The trails and the riverbed are great for hiking, biking, and walking dogs (on leashes, please). There are many plants and animals to study or just enjoy. There are gorgeous sunsets to observe. But it's probably best to walk with a dog or a friend at dusk. 

And if you happen to be in the park at the right time, you will probably see and hear the Amtrak trains coming and going. I usually see one go  past between 4:30 and 5 p.m. I rather enjoy that. Both the tracks and the 101 freeway are just on the other side of the river from the park. 


"Larry" Moore Park in Paso Robles: A Photographic Review - Amtrak Train Seen from Park
Amtrak Heading South.  I used a zoom lens so the train is really not in the park but across the river. © B. Radisavljevic



I hope you've enjoyed your photographic guide to the park. I know it's just scratched the surface, but that's all there is room for today.





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