The Musketeers

I’ve been watching a limited series on Hulu titled“The Musketeers.” It is based on the characters of the Alexander Dumas historical novel, “The Three Musketeers,” written in the 1800s.

In watching this series, the term “swashbuckling’ repeatedly comes to mind with visions of Dumas’s Musketeers and the Earl Flynn movies of the 1930s.

The Dumas novel is the epitome of “swashbuckling swashbucklers.” Swashbuckling is described as “engaging in daring and romantic adventures with bravado or flamboyance.” Swashbucklers are described as “heroic protagonistic characters who are skilled in swordplay, acrobatics, guile and chivalrous ideals.”

“The Musketeers” is all of this and I highly recommend this series on Hulu. You will be transported to a time in history filled with good, bad, divine, ugly, faith and a lot of swashbuckling! I didn’t want it to end!

  Aramis Athos D’Artagnan Porthos
Santiago Cabrera Tom Burke Luke Pasqualino Howard Charles

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh, My….Part II

ZooLights at the Phoenix, Arizona zoo has new light displays scattered throughout the zoo grounds this year. They are totally awesome and are worth the trip alone. I will let them speak for themselves as the photos turned out well. Enjoy these great displays.

This could become an annual event on our holiday list. If you get to Phoenix during the holidays, don’t miss this one. It starts December 1 and runs through January 1.


Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh, My!


The Phoenix Zoo puts on a holiday light display that is second to none. Zoo Lights or Lights At The Zoo provides a spectacular array of light displays. We recently visited this night-time event at the zoo. I took 195 pictures, 57 of which will make it into 2 different blog posts! The first post here shows the colored lights creatively designed in oh so many ways.

This is the entrance to the zoo.

Many visitors dressed for the occasion with santa hats and lights that blinked, twinkled or stayed stationary. This photo is of a VERY young visitor being pulled in a wagon that is all lit up. She had a head band with 2 twinkling lights and was on the move as you can tell.

The lion and tiger here have tails that wave from atop this building.

This purple tree was spectacular and the photo can’t do it justice. It has shooting lights as well as what you can see.

Everyone walked through the tunnel of lights!

Entering the aquarium. A ‘jelly’ and a ray.

All along the paths there are moving/jumping/leaping light displays. I actually managed to capture this cricket as it flashed along.

The Saguaro Cactus is the Arizona state tree/flower and protected. They can be seen growing wild at a bit higher altitude than Phoenix. But, they are a popular plant in yards and gardens. Here on the Sonoran Desert you can see them in many landscapes. This time of year they are often wrapped in holiday lights as they are here at the zoo with a squirrel in the foreground.

There were a variety of trees wrapped or strung with lights. On this one, the lights rolled off and on. I somehow managed to capture it when the lights were at their best.

The next few photos just give you an idea of some of the many displays. The rattlesnake’s rattles rattle and the dragonfly’s wings flap. Can you spot Big Foot?


We are especially fond of Big Horn Sheep. The sculptures you will see are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever come across! I was actually taking a photo of the lizard and didn’t notice them at first.

Under the sea…

The humming bird’s wings flap….

There were reindeer visiting from California. Kids were fascinated. There was a set of reindeer horns for them to touch.

On one side of the lake light displays dance to music. And on the other side is this awesome sight…

The bees were definitely buzzing around their honey hive with flapping wings…

The Praying Mantis is a personal favorite. I used to play with them when I was a child.

Butterfly wings also flap….

Just a bunny and her carrot….

Watch for part II coming soon with this year’s new, different and awesome displays.











Oregon Coast Shore Acres Holiday Lights

We post about Shore Acres at holiday time every year but it is our favorite place to visit this time of year. Below is a repost of one of our visits. We never tire of this amazing place this time of year or any time of year. We hope you enjoy all the displays pictured here! Happy Holidays from Umpqua River Haven!

Shore Acres Botanical Gardens just outside of Charleston, Oregon on the coast is lit up for 30 days over the holidays. Starting at Thanksgiving time, this beautiful coastal place is filled with lights, light displays and decorated Christmas trees. The Friends of Shore Acres do most of the lighting work and man the cottage and grounds during December every year. Various groups such as the local Corvette Club decorate the trees.

We will start at the entrance to the gardens as we are greeted by the lighted tall ship.


 Just past the tall ship we find this display from under the sea.


Moving along the garden lights open up for a full view that is spectacular to take in.


This post is about the lights. Following are some of our favorite light displays.

As you walk in past the Under The Sea display these sea lions are diving into the water and will make a splash of light.


In the opposite direction are 2 whales. One leaps and the other one, a grey whale, spouts.



Continuing around the walk is a somewhat new lighthouse display.


 The plants here are filled with colorful lights creating their own display.


Continuing on you will come to the Puffins.


And next is the pond. I am just giving you an idea of the displays. You really need to visit here during December to take in the full beauty of all the various displays and decorated trees. The frog actually leaps from one side of the pond to the other creating a splash when it enters the water.


As your walk around the pond you will come to the place that makes the ‘Ribbit’ sounds. It’s a bit of a surprise when you hear it!


 The pond supplies endless, lighted views. The cranes and salmon are no exception.


Shore Acres sits up on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean a short distance past Charleston, Oregon. The core of this property originally was the home of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson who built a large mansion with formal gardens overlooking the ocean. The State of Oregon purchased the property in 1942 and added land as it became available. The gardens were let go until 1970 when they were restored even grander than before with flowers and plants from all over the world. One of our favorite parts of the gardens is hidden a bit. There is an area with rows of all kinds of roses!

The mansion no longer exists but there is an observation area where it once was where you can read all the history. However, the caretaker’s cottage survives and is now the Garden House. It, too, is filled with all things Christmassy and is on the tour.


Inside you can sign the guest book and then head on upstairs to visit the front bedroom, Santa’s bath and the back bedroom. You can sign up for the raffle to spend New Year’s Eve in the front bedroom with catered breakfast.


 There is a Christmas tree in the bedroom also.

And the view out the window is spectacular!


And don’t forget Santa’s bath.


As you pass from the front of the house to the back you are greeted by many volunteers giving out cookies, hot apple cider, punch and coffee which you can enjoy there or take out to the pavilion.


You can sit and sip and enjoy the evening’s entertainment. There are a variety of groups that play/perform/sing on any given night and there’s often a sing-a-long. One year this bell choir performed beautifully.


If you are on the Oregon Coast during the month of December do not miss the opportunity to visit Shore Acres Holiday Light Display! There is a $5.00 charge for parking worth every penny. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop on the way out. Shore Acres State Park, 80939 Cape Arago Highway, Coos Bay, OR


Happy Holidays From Arizona

If you are traveling on Arizona’s I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff, you will pass this unique tree. It is growing on the median between the north and south double lanes on I-17. It is up “on top” as you have climbed up out of Phoenix into the Arizona high desert country. Every year, apparently, Santa’s Elves decorate this tree. It is unknown who/how it becomes adorned with holiday decorations as no one is ever seen doing the decorating. Keep watch if you are traveling this route, but, you really can’t miss it! And it now has its own song–Scrubby (see below).

Northern Ireland by guest blogger Natalie Bowen

Dunluce Castle

The first spot my husband and I visited in Northern Ireland was Dunluce castle. Dunluce castle overlooks the coast and has been greatly affected by erosion and the harsh seaside environment. Our tour guide told us that rumor has it, the lady of the castle was having a party and due to a rock slide the kitchen and kitchen staff fell into the ocean. The lady did not cancel the event and they partied without refreshments. Divers have found parts of the kitchen on the ocean floor.

The tale of the Giant Causeway-

The tale of the Giant Causeway goes there was once a giant that lived in Northern Ireland. This giant lived by the ocean and looked out for that area. There was also a giant who lived in Scotland. The Scottish giant liked to call out to the Irish giant and talk trash. The Irish giant grew tired of the trash talk and challenged the Scottish giant to a fight. The Irish giant built a bridge from Ireland to Scotland so the giants could meet. As the Scottish giant approached the Irish giant realized he was outmatched for a fight. He devised a plan to outwit the Scottish giant. The Irish giant had his wife dress him up in baby clothes. The Scottish giant arrived ready to fight. The wife said to please wait her husband was out in town and would be back soon. When the Scottish giant noticed how large their “baby” was he decided he did not want to stick around to see how large the father was. Thinking the Irish Giant was a baby, he fled assuming he was outmatched. As the giant fled he tore up the bridge. The remnants of the bridge are unique  rock formations that can only be found in Ireland and Scotland.

Giant Causeway rock formations

According to BBC, the Giant causeway is made out of 40,000 basalt steps created by volcanic activity. Scientists say the geological marvel was created approximately 50 million years ago when lava cooled at different rates creating hexagonal stone like steps. It was so much fun to climb up the different levels of the natural made rock playground. We definitely looked out into the ocean and thought about the Irish folklore that went along with this beautiful  site. Note: That’s Natalie and Clint atop the rocks.


Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge-

We could not get enough of Northern Ireland’s seaside views. Our next stop was Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The rope bridge was once used for fishermen who were catching salmon. It was said there was so much salmon they would fly up and you could literally catch them. The salmon swimming pattern has changed and now you might not catch fish, but you can still catch great views while swinging approximately 100 feet above the ocean. 

The dark hedges-

The dark hedges is a road lined with beech trees planted approximately 250 years ago. According to discover northern Ireland’s website, they were planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family. The dark hedges have been used in Game of Thrones as King’s road. The impressive road reminded me of something out of a medieval story. I definitely would not want to be there at night though. 


Dublin’s Cathedrals, by guest blogger Natalie Bowen

The most recommended cathedral to visit in Dublin is St.Patrick’s Cathedral. Every tour we were on mentioned the cathedral as a must-see. I loved the detailed stain glass windows and the colorful tile floors. According to St.Patrick Cathedral’s website, it is the largest and most visited cathedral in Ireland.

On the same street of St.Patrick’s Cathedral is Christ Church Cathedral which is the oldest church in Dublin. According to Christ Church Cathedral’s website the original Viking church was founded in approximately 1030 by the Norse king Sitrius.

An important relic in the Christ Church Cathedral is St. Laurence O’Toole’s heart. St. Laurence O’Toole is the Saint of Dublin so the relic is nicknamed the heart of Dublin. According to the Irish Time’s the relic was stolen in 2012 and then miraculously found in a park unharmed in a plastic bag in 2018.


Dublin, Part I, by guest blogger Natalie Bowen

One of the first attractions my husband Clint and I visited was Dublin Castle. According to the Dublin Castle’s website, the castle was established in the 13th century and was the seat of British rule from 1204 to 1922. We were able to explore the state apartments which held a banquet hall, throne room, grand hall and several other rooms filled with ornate paintings and royal trinkets.

My favorite part of the Dublin castle tour was walking through St.Patrick’s Hall. I could feel the history and imagined the grand ceremonies that have been held in this room. Dublin Castle’s website states that not only was this hall once a meeting place of knights, but also dignitaries such as Princess Grace of Monaco, Queen Elizabeth II and President John F Kennedy. The room still hosts ceremonies like the President of Ireland’s inauguration.

To take a break from the hustle and bustle of Dublin, you can take a stroll in St.Stephen’s Green Park. A lovely place to visit as a couple with a romantic stone bridge, beautiful fountains and a peaceful lake. The stone bridge and park were used in Amy Adam’s romantic comedy Leap Year.

The iconic book of Kell’s is housed in the Trinity College library. Unfortunately to protect the integrity of the book’s original ink you cannot photograph the Book of Kell’s, which Trinity College website describes as a 9th-century gospel manuscript. After viewing the Book of Kell’s you then walk through an 18th-century double-decker library with grand bookcases, marble statue busts and significant historical documents.


The Bridges of Ashtabula County

Annually, we go to Amish Country in Holmes County, Ohio. We visit Lehman’s Hardware Store (just to window shop!), the world’s biggest coo coo clock in Sugarcreek, Ohio, and always Der Dutchman for that great Amish buffet (hoping it’s peach season for some of their famous peach pie). However, there is fun Amish Country just an hour or so east of Cleveland in Ashtabula County. We found Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen (we always want that yummy Amish buffet!) and a couple of shops. We missed the Amish flea market which is only on Mondays.

However, Amish wasn’t what we went for. We were just happy to discover that the Amish reside here. We went to visit the 19 covered bridges of Ashtabula County. We only made it to 12 of them, but that gives us a reason to return—to see the rest of the bridges (and again find Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen). Following are pictures and some of the history of the bridges we explored.

Windsor Mills Covered Bridge was our first stop. It was built in 1867 and renovated in 1002-03. It is 120’ long and crosses a tributary of the Grand River, Phelps Creek.

Next was the Riverdale Road Bridge. This Town Lattice bridge is 114’ long and sits high above the Grand River. Built in 1874, the bridge had center steel bracing added in 1945 and the floor was rebuilt and glue-laminated girders added to the interior in 1981. This created a bridge-within-a-bridge and narrowed the width. In 1987 the road at the east end of the bridge was washed out. A new concrete abutment was then built.

The Netcher Road Bridge followed. It was built in 1998 and is one of the modern bridges. This “Neo-Victorian” designed bridge is 110’ long and spans the Mill Creek. It opened to traffic in 1999.

The South Denmark Road Bridge came next. Built in 1890, this Town Lattice bridge crosses the Mill Creek and is 81’ long.

We then found the Caine Road Covered Bridge built in 1986. This bridge honors the County’s 175
th anniversary. At 124’ long, it spans the west branch of the Ashtabula River.

The Graham Road Covered Bridge was built from parts of a bridge that washed downstream in the flood of 1913. The bridge is now part of a small park on the south side of the road.

When we come upon an old barn, we just can’t resist taking photos. While not a bridge, this old barn has weathered many Ohio winters.

Root Road Covered Bridge was built in 1868. It is a Town Lattice bridge and was raised 18” when it was renovated in 1982-83.

The Middle Road Covered Bridge was built over the Conneaut Creek in 1868. Conneaut Creek is a favorite of steelhead fishers. The bridge was renovated in 1984 with the aid of 7 volunteers. It is a 136’ Howe Truss bridge.

The State Road Covered Bridge contains 97,000’ of southern pine and oak. It was built in 1983 over the Conneaut Creek. This was the first covered bridge designed and built by John W. Smolen, Jr., County Engineer. It is 152’ long.

Creek Road Covered Bridge is 125’ long. This Town Lattice bridge is so old that there is no record of the date it was built. It is 25’ above Conneaut Creek and was renovated in 1994.

The Olin’s have owned the property next to Olin’s Covered Bridge on Dewey Road since 1873 when the bridge was built. This is a Town Lattice bridge 115’ long spanning the Ashtabula River. This bridge was renovated in 1985.

The last bridge we visited before we needed to head back home was the Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge. This is the newest covered bridge on the tour, built between 2006 – 08. There is a park that sits a short distance from the bridge, over-looking it. That is where these photos were taken. This is the longest covered bridge in the U.S. and the 4th longest in the world. The structure was designed by John W. Smolen, Jr. and the architectural design was done by Timothy J. Martin (the current county engineer). The bridge is on State Road crossing the Ashtabula River and is one of 17 drivable bridges here. The bridge is 613’ long (in 4 sections), has walkways on both sides, supports 2 lanes of legal-weight traffic, and is more than 93’ above the river. It cost 7.78 million to build and is on a main thoroughfare. This bridge replaced a steel bridge built in 1949 which had replaced the Crooked Gulf Covered Bridge built in 1867. It is expected to last 100 years.

Ashtabula County has many other adventures to offer such as the 23 stops on the winery tour winding through Ohio’s green, rolling hills. Then there are the 107 stops on the quilt tour (note one or two of the bridges has a painting of a quilt on it because it is part of the quilt tour also). To say nothing of the Lake Erie shoreline in this county. And then there’s Geneva-On-The-Lake, but, those are all other stories.

We plan to return to the covered bridge tour in Ashtabula County and find the shortest covered bridge in the U.S., along with the other ones we missed. And Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen!

The California Guitar Trio and The Montreal Guitare Trio

In another life, I spent 5 years as the reviewer for concerts presented by the Seacoast Entertainment Association of Florence, Oregon. I loved every minute of this ‘job,’  but some moments stand out more than others. Enter the California Guitar Trio and The Montreal Guitare Trio (who are thoroughly French-Canadian). Below, somewhere at the bottom, is my original review written in 2013. Fast forward to May 7, 2019, in Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to this date, I had seen the CGT in Phoenix twice in one year, the second time being April 7, 2019, just one month before their Cleveland concert. I’m starting to feel like a groupie.

CGT – on stage, Chandler Center for the Arts (Arizona)

The Music Box Supper Club in the Cleveland Flats (east side) on the Cuyahoga River was host to these two trios on the date mentioned above.  Yes, I went out of my way to attend bringing a guitar friend with me. There was not a disappointing moment all evening long. The earthy French-Canadian/Gypsy flavors were present as well as Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” by the CGT. CGT is blessed with Bert Lam’s classical education at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Belgium. Who expects some guitar trio to walk out on stage and play Bach (intricately arranged by Bert)?? But, it just lends to Bert’s talents and the uniqueness of the CGT. 

Bert Lams  (All photos are mine unless otherwise noted)

CGT has their own ‘style’ because the minute anything by them starts, I immediately recognize that it is CGT which has amazed me. But, they definitely have their own uncommon sound, and, they are all composers of original music they perform such as Hideyo Moriya’s “Fortune Island,” a commemorative piece to the Fukushima disaster. A masterful composition by Hideyo who is also an amazing guitar percussionist!

Hideyo Moriya

CGT is often billed as a ‘jazz’ trio which I find odd. First of all, I don’t much like jazz and while some of what they perform actually is jazz, I like pretty much anything they play. However, they are much more eclectic in their styles of music and ‘jazz musicians’ is a misleading description for this trio. “The Train To Lamy” is a collaborative composition written by Bert, Hideyo and Paul Richards. It is actually a suite and starts out quite jazzy, sounds very country/western in the middle and then becomes one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. 

The California Guitar Trio–photo by permission of CGT

Paul Richards naturally has the look of a California-Surfer (think Beach Boys).  And, he has the charm to go with it. They all smile because they all love and enjoy what they are doing. But, Paul’s smile is perpetual and at the same time genuine. And he never misses a beat as he is usually in motion with the music. Not quite dancing, but close. Paul plays several different types of guitars and causes engaging sounds to stream out of them that I’ve never heard from a guitar before.

Paul Richards (in motion, as usual)

The Montreal Guitare Trio is based in, well, Montreal, Canada. They grew up speaking French and Marc Morin describes their speech as, “A sexy, French-Canadian accent.” They even visit with each other during performances in French. The CGT and MGT have been collaborating and touring together for about ten years. And they do it very well. They have very different music styles but blend with each other flawlessly. 

BTW, I am now the proud owner of 5 CGT and/or MGT CDs and will no doubt own more as it goes. Great traveling companions! You can visit their websites for the inventory of CDs and other neat stuff.  They each also have Facebook pages plus one together. You can query the names to find those pages. But, don’t leave until you’ve finished reading this!

It would be difficult to describe Glenn Levesque, of MGT, without mentioning his voice. “Weird Fishes” (Radiohead) has grown on me but came home when I heard Glenn sing it in concert. His clear tones resonate into your soul. For me, it was a shut- your-eyes and let that awesome voice fill everything around you moment. And it did. There’s an accent over the first e in Glenn’s last name but this program hasn’t a clue how to do that.

Glenn Levesque

Sebastien Dufour (accent over the first e) is the man in the middle. I had a friend with me who plays/performs guitar and he wanted to know HOW does he, Sebastien, get his fingers to travel that quickly over the strings?! I don’t know but I wouldn’t be surprised to see sparks flying out of Sebastien’s guitar. Or even his charango which is a kind of Bolivian guitar. A charango is an ethnic instrument which means it is very similar to its original design that can be centuries or even thousands of years old. Original instruments aren’t always easy to play but Sebastien makes it look easy. A charango looks much like a ukulele and sounds a bit like a mandolin. 

Sebastien Dufour

Marc Morin is the one the other two claim is ‘wearing’ hair. They all play more than one instrument but Marc is the only one who plays accordion. Usually with his eyes closed. That’s how good he is on anything he plays. Marc was worried that we were sitting in the ‘loud’ seats but we didn’t notice. It was all just more than good. And fun. Lots and lots of fun!

Marc Morin

The MGT is also often toted as a jazz trio but that is a misnomer in their case too. They play a variety of music styles and do some unique mixing—opera with klezmer, Indian with Arabic. And often there is gypsy woven into many of their selections, and/or Flamenco and/or French-Canadian folk music. And they, too, compose. Marc said one of his favorite things is to play for folk dancing in Montreal. Being a folk dance teacher I just said:  “La Bastringue.” They immediately knew what I meant. Sebastian assures me that it is now on their set list. I can’t wait to hear it next time (and there WILL be a next time as I’ve become a guitar junky and big fan of these 2 trios). I may get up and dance if I can find a partner!

The Montreal Guitare Trio – photo by permission of MGT

Watch for them to come your way as they play everywhere, even some small towns like Florence, Oregon. Don’t miss any opportunity to see/hear them! You will be glad you did. BTW, they are great fun so you will be immersed in fun you didn’t know would be happening in a concert filled with top-notch musicians.They were kind enough to pose for this photo. We’re not sure where Glenn was. As Marc said, we were trying to herd cats. I need a better camera!

I leave you with one of the pieces they have much fun with! You will like it! Listen for the French-Canadian folk tune….video by permission of CGT & MGT

Oh, yes, the review from 2013:

                                        SIX GUITARS ROCK FEC

In a mix of “Once Upon A Time In The West” written by Ennio Morricone blending with traditional Eastern European and Russian tunes, the distinct sounds of nylon guitar strings flowed across Florence Events Center performance hall on Saturday, November 23.

Following introductions by SEAcoast Entertainment Association President Ernie Doud and SEA Producer Sandy Kuhlman, the eclectic music stylings of the Montreal Guitar Trio opened this exciting evening of entertainment.

Rooted in traditional French-Canadian music, Glenn Levesque, Marc Morin and Sebastien Dufour have gathered into their musical characteristics many of the earthy, ancient traditional sounds and stylings of the world.

Composed by Dufour, “Garam Masala” displays the musical spicy blend that its name suggests. This piece requires special tuning to acquire the sounds of the traditional sitars of India. Melding traditional Indian and Middle Eastern music perfectly, the many talents of this trio stand out. The ancient vocals put forth by Levesque transport one to the deserts of the Bedouin.

Suddenly we are transported to Classical Era drawing rooms by the evening’s second group, the California Guitar Trio, with their steel string rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy”. A definite change in styling, there is now a blend of classical, blues and more by these world-class musicians.

Hailing from Japan, Belgium, Utah and having met in England, Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya and Paul Richards eventually settled in the U.S. 22 years ago to become the California Guitar Trio.

One repeated element of the evening stands out during a nostalgic and very California surfer moment, “Walk Don’t Run” written by Johnny Smith and made famous by The Ventures. Richards, Lams and Moriya actually appear to be engaged in happy conversation with each other through their execution of the music. Conversation is again evident in Richards’ unique “Chacarera.”

Following the intermission, both trios returned to the stage to perform original and arranged compositions together. “Breizh Tango” written by Levesque combines the traditional folk music of Brittany in France and tango that leans toward gypsy styling to heights unimagined until now. Audience participation is encouraged to the gypsy rhythm. 

One of the more beautiful moments of the evening was during George Harrison’s “My Guitar Gently Weeps”. In an artfully extended arrangement, Levesque sang the former Beatle’s composition with all the emotion it deserves to the accompaniment of six guitars. 

The audience was on its feet more than once during the evening clapping and vocalizing their appreciation. At the end, the attendees refused to sit or leave or stop clapping and cheering until the two trios returned for an encore.

It is impossible not to recognize the opening strains of Freddy Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. While playing their elegant arrangement, Morin turned the microphone toward the audience encouraging them to sing along. Surprisingly they did reflecting a youthful presence in this almost sold out hall.

One audience member summed up for all attendees in her statement: “This was the best concert they’ve ever had!”