Category: Travel

Dreaming of Italy – preparations for a cultural immersion vacation

This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the seller’s profit at no additional cost to you.  Please see my Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for additional information.


I am very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to travel to Europe for business and pleasure.  The countries and cultures within Europe are so diverse.  The history of each village or city is interesting and the architecture varies greatly.  I also enjoy the mix of old and modern styles.  Even when traveling for business with a hectic travel and work schedule, I feel more relaxed in Europe.  I’m not certain if it’s the focus on simple food and good conversation, the scenery, the friendly and helpful people, or the excitement of visiting new places and meeting new people.  Regardless, I love the European lifestyle!

I have visited Italy twice and vacationed on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.  I am infatuated with southern Europe.  I have certainly watched ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ too many times in my husband’s opinion, but it satisfies my desire to experience Italy and my interest in architectural renovation.  Who doesn’t want to buy a villa in Italy?!?!

I finally convinced my  little family to indulge me…..we will take a family vacation to Italy in June 2018.

Lemons are extremely popular in Italy. They can be found everywhere from orchards and gardens to food, beverages, and painted on pottery.

Italian Food

I LOVE Italian food.  If I were sent to a deserted island and I could only bring one food item, I think it would be risotto.  What a great base for any spice, herb, vegetable, or protein.  Most of our vacation will be on the coast, so I am looking forward to fantastic, fresh seafood.  We plan to skip hotels in favor of renting  apartments or homes with kitchens, so we can purchase local foods and prepare some of our own meals.  Shopping at local markets is always a great adventure and perfect way to experience a new or different culture.  Not a bad place for souvenirs either!  I can’t lie….I also LOVE wine!  I will most certainly sample plenty of wine and will book a lunch stop at a winery on our way from Rome to Positano.  I’m sure this will provide an excellent opportunity to stock up for our stay.  However, I do want to make sure I have the opportunity to sample different wines from different vineyards.  Spread the love! Continue reading

Travel tips for a visit in Gulf Shores, Alabama

I love to travel.  Unfortunately, vacation time goes by way too fast.  I have discovered that an easy way to extend the vacation experience is to spend some time doing a bit of research to organize the trip.  Virtual vacationing.  Sometimes I relax by planning trips I might never take.  So many great options on this beautiful planet.

We had a wonderful visit in Gulf Shores, Alabama in July 2016.  My brother and I had the privilege of visiting Gulf Shores every summer when we were kids.  My mom had good friends who grew up in the area and she fell in love with Gulf Shores.  It had been over 25-years since my last visit.   During a spring 2016 visit to the Mobile, AL area for work I was reminded of all the great Alabama memories and convinced my family and my brother and his family to head down to the Gulf Coast for a family vacation.

When we were kids, there were no condo buildings or high rises in Gulf Shores.  The condos have a lot to offer visitors (pools, etc.), but we wanted to stay in a traditional Gulf Coast house, so we picked a rental house a little west of the main intersection near ‘The Hangout’.   Comfortable and conveniently located accommodations.   Right across the street from the beach and within walking distance of many restaurants and convenience stores.  We also had a BBQ, so we enjoyed plenty of delicious seafood, including grilled oysters and shrimp.  We had such a great time visiting Billy’s Seafood and purchasing our shrimp, fish, and oysters right off the pier.  A nice, scenic drive.  Rouse’s Market is also a fantastic place to shop for groceries.  Great produce, seafood, wine/beer selection and amazing hot sauce and spice options.  Great for practical souvenirs!

We rented a pontoon boat during our trip and cruised Perdido Bay.  What a fabulous experience.  We had the opportunity to check out gorgeous homes along Ono Island, stopped for a swim and some fishing on a few islands, and swam with dolphins.  When my brother and I were growing up, one of our favorite destinations was Pirate’s Cove in Elberta, AL.  Check out their Facebook page.  This is casual dining at it’s finest.  Located on the water, you can hop in in the bay for a dip while you wait for you food.  Sandy feet welcome!  We always drove to Pirate’s Cove, but pulling up on the pontoon boat was fun and we devoured juicy cheeseburgers with fries and a few cold beers.

We enjoyed dining out at several locations.  Lulu’s wasn’t around when we were kids, but we really enjoyed our visit.  Lots to do during the wait for a table and the food was very good.  Keep in mind, they fry everything in the south.  I highly recommend the blue crab claws.  We enjoyed a nice meal at Bahama Bob’s.  Can’t beat the on-beach location and we were able to walk along the beach from the rental.  We also enjoyed a variety of raw and grilled oysters at The Steamer.

My mom’s good friend, who introduced her to the Gulf Shores area, lives there once again.  We had the opportunity to meet up with her and her husband for lunch at Shipps Harbour Grill in Orange Beach.  My favorite lunch….a dozen raw oysters and a blue cheese wedge salad.  Slurp!  Yum!

I highly recommend a visit to the Gulf State Park Pier (easy trip with lunch at Shipps).  You have to pay a small fee, but it was totally worth it.  We saw sharks and people catching all kinds of interesting fish.  We also drove out to visit the location on Perdido Bay where we stayed when we were kids.  The little rental units and pier are no longer there, but it was a beautiful drive.  The bay is shallow, so the piers are really, really, really long.

Gulf Shores, AL is an ideal place for a relaxing vacation.  The water is clear and warm and the sand is white and so soft.  We love the southern manners and hospitality.  Even the kids took notice.  Some other great places for sight-seeing include Fort Morgan and the battleship and submarine in Mobile, along with Bellingrath Home and Gardens.  Beautiful!

I highly recommend a shopping trip at Souvenir City and picking up some boogie boards.   Be careful!  Late July is ‘jellyfish season’.  We kept a running tally on stings.  We actually kept a ‘scoreboard’ on the refrigerator.  Everyone was stung at least once, but there was a clear winner.  All part of the experience.

I would love to know if you have visited Gulf Shores or have plans to visit.  You can never overdo vacation conversation!

Check out the boys boogie boarding.  What an awesome day!


Travel Adventures of a Research Microbiologist

I really love the challenge of working as a research scientist.  I invent chemical treatment programs and monitoring tools to control microbial growth (slime and odor) in paper mills around the world.  After working for over 20-years in this field, I am still blown away by the amount of technology developed for the industry (engineering, mechanical, chemical, biological, the list goes on).  The paper industry also provides a significant number of jobs and has undertaken efforts to harvest trees using sustainable practices, traces the source of the trees to ensure responsible practices, and has reduced water consumption significantly over the past 30+ years with the goal of a 50% reduction in water use by 2030.  Ambitious goals that will require more innovation!

What I like most about my job is that no two days are the same.  Some days, I experiment (play) in the lab testing the antimicrobial efficacy of different chemicals and relevance of new tools.  I love to examine slime under the microscope.  Some bacteria look like little rods or grains of tiny rice, while other look like clusters of grapes, strands of spaghetti, Chinese characters, or even spirals.  I might also observe microscopic worms or rotifers (animal-like creatures) slurping up bacteria.

A filamentous bacterium isolated from paper mill slime. This organism was identified as Herpetosiphon based on DNA sequencing.

A stalked ciliate observed in a river water sample. Tiny structures can be seen at the top (green bulb). These create a water vortex allowing the ciliate to slurp up the tiny bacteria.











Other days, I conduct training or present the results of my research to colleagues or customers.  On many occasions, I have the opportunity to travel to paper mills in order to solve slime or odor problems or evaluate our new technologies.  Travel is a great perk of my job.  It is fantastic to see so many beautiful places and meet so many interesting people.  Stay tuned for a list of  states and countries I have visited for work.  I’ll be sure to include some pictures.

Thanks for reading.  I look forward to your comments.