Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Laptop Traveler Has Moved

Point your browser and change your bookmark to for the latest posts and pictures!

Why did I move? Glad you asked.

A few weeks ago, I went to visit my blog to see how long it had been since I posted. I was shocked to find a message there that said my blog had been removed!

I could not log in ... I could not find it anywhere. I was gone!

After a little research, I discovered that Google / Blogger had decided to take a stand against SPAM blogs, and thus removed great numbers of blogs without checking on them -- and without notifying blog owners!

I followed the "procedure" for reinstatement, and thankfully my blog was reinstated. However, I decided at the very moment I saw my blog back up again that I could never allow all this work and investment to be subject to the whim of some uncaring button pusher!

I bought and hired someone to move my old blog over.

Now, my blog is mine, and I don't have to worry about it being removed.

So -- what are you waiting for? Head on over, check out the new "digs," and subscribe to continue receiving blog posts as I travel virtually--and really!

See you there!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Etiquette of Home Exchange

Greetings, friends!

It has been so long since I have posted that I am almost ashamed! But life has been busy; I have not had time to scan and share all of the lovely postcards I have collected since I last wrote--and there are a lot!

One of these days I will do it. I am just not sure when.

But I did want to write about a topic of interest right now, which is the etiquette of home exchanges. Actually, since I have not yet actually done a home exchange, I am thinking more of the etiquette of requesting a home exchange.

My husband and I recently joined We want to travel but find the cost prohibitive for our family of five. For example, do you know that, right now, round trip airfare to Munich (a place I'd LOVE to vist) is running about USD $1,400 per person? That comes out to USD $7,000 for a family of five. I don't know about you, but that's way too much money to spend on airfare alone.

A family outside of Paris recently wrote to us asking for an exchange this summer. While we would have LOVED to do so--PARIS!--airfare would have been the same as if traveling to Munich--$7,000. So, unfortunately, we had to decline. In my email reply though, I did ask if they would be interested in considering an exchange during other times--perhaps in the winter months when fares are lower, or maybe even Summer 2012, as I understand that fares may be lower if you book far out in advance.

However, to that proposal, I received no reply.

Another exchanger in Florida also wrote, asking to exchange homes this summer. The area was not one where we'd like to visit, so I proposed a possible three-way exchange: perhaps I could find someone in an area where we'd like to visit who wanted to visit Florida? Then I would stay in the 3rd party's home; the third party would stay in Florida; the Florida party would stay in my home, which is what they wanted all along.

However, to that proposal, I received no reply.

I have also written to two parties myself asking about possible domestic exchanges this summer--one more than a week ago, the other yesterday.

However, to both proposals, I have not yet received replies. (I'm not as concerned about the proposal sent yesterday; it takes even me at least one full day to ponder a request and to reply!)

And this leaves me wondering about the etiquette of requesting and responding to home exchanges.

  • Is it not hospitable to respond to every request, even if the response is negative?
  • Is it not hospitable to respond to requests promptly, within three days or so?

The people making requests are trying to plan--if the dates and details can be worked out, there are airfares to book, travel plans to make, lots of planning and dreaming and scheming to do! :)

I don't know about others, but I will not be offended if you cannot or do not want to take me up on my proposal. If you do not want to come to my area, or if you are otherwise engaged, just say so. But please, don't leave me hanging. I sent my request to you in full readiness to start acting--now! :)

I think this is a reasonable request. And I think that perhaps home exchange websites ought to publish information to members so that they know to respond courteously and promptly to all requests.

But--since I know I can't change the world, I will simply continue to do what I do and hope that others will follow my lead: I will respond to all requests promptly!

So if you're interested in an exchange, please review our listing online--and then write!

Even if it is negative, I promise a prompt reply.... :)

Monday, October 04, 2010

Official card from Mauritius

Sept1_0002, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

A very pretty art card representing a local tree! I love it -- all the way from Mauritius, "an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about 900 kilometres (560 mi) east of Madagascar." [Thanks, Wiki!]

Official card from Mauritius

Sept1_0001, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

A lovely postcrossing card, with lovely round stamps!

Character stamps from Finland!

I recently swapped with a lovely postcard collector in Finland, choosing a selection of cards from her very nice album. When the cards arrived, I was so pleased to see them in this envelope, with many interesting Finnish stamps worth keeping! I like the two stamps in the upper right corner, showing books and reading. And then are the character stamps, which come with little stickers that allow the sender to "dress up" the characters themselves! Very neat -- I'd like to see more of these types of unusual stamps, as we have nothing like this in the U.S.

Cats, an oil painting by Anna Hollerer

This card, received from a swap with a Finnish collector, was printed in Austria. I love cats, art cards and foreign languages, so this card triply appealed to me! The titles of the books are: My Friend the Dog, Cats, Cats, and Big Cats.

I could not quickly find information about Anna the artist, but I did discover that she has painted many cat scenes that now appear on postcards! I will have to add her cat cards to my wish list :)

Inge Löök's Old Ladies Celebrating a Birthday!

I love these cards :) When I received my first from a penpal several years ago, she described the scenes as two old ladies enjoying each other and their golden years. She also said that she hopes to have a friend like that one day. And I have always wished that, too :) So I was very pleased to find that a Finnish swapper had a collection of Inge Löök's cards available! This one shows the old gals celebrating a VERY OLD birthday, with a gazillion candles on the gigantic cake :) They are enjoying large mugs of beer, and lots of other yummy goodies as well :) Looks like fun!

Inge Löök's Old Ladies Waiting for the Mail!

I love this card, because it's just like me :) The grannies are sitting by the door, with their clock and tea and munchies, just waiting to see what fabulous goodies the mailman will bring! :) And look how delighted they are with today's delivery! I have felt that way many times, myself :)

This text on Inge Löök comes from I also found the information in Finnish on Wiki, but the translation did not come out so well. This, however, is written in English :)

"Inge Löök (Ingebor Lievonen) is an artist and gardener from Pernaja, Finland. She was born in Helsinki 1951. Her artistic name Löök means onion in swedish.

She graduated from high school 1972 and got her gardening degree in 1974 and graduated 1979 from the Arts and Crafts University in Helsinki as a graphical designer. She worked as an gardener for six years but then her art work became a full time job.

She has drawn over 300 postcards, half of which are Christmas themed. She also designed more than 800 greeting cards and illustrated numerous exlibris book-tags. She has illustrated various childrens and young adults books and Christian literature and schoolbooks, couple of CD-covers and magazines especially gardenig magazines. She has worked for different publishers in Finland.

** The anarchistic grannies **
She is best known for her anarchistic grannie figures. Her first Grannies illustrations where born in 2003. The motto of the grannies is “Time is not money and spending it isn’t a sin.” At first her grannies were rejected by the publisher when she offered them as Valentines Day cards ( commonly known as ystävänpäivä friends day in Finland). Pirjo Laakso noticed the grannies at a postcard fair and they were included in the Paletti card manufacturers prints. Then the grannies started their world-wide success. In a couple of years grannies have sold more than hundred thousand copies. They represent a humorous approach to the world.

In spring 2008 a book and a wall calendar was published called “Paljain jaloin mummojen puutarhassa”- barefooted at the grannies garden. Grannies have now appeared in various prints and textiles and Finland has used them in stamps.

The visual appearance of the grannies comes from the artist's childhood and the old ladies who lived in her neighborhood. Grannies picture a gentle caricature of the artists own attitude towards life."

Inge Löök's Old Ladies

Inge Löök's Old Ladies, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This time, enjoying treats in a "fort," just like the kind my children build, and just like the kind that I bet most of us also built as children :)

Turning Torso, Malmo, Sweden

Turning Torso, Malmo, Sweden, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

What a very unusual building -- and since I love unusual buildings, I could not resist this card :)

From Wiki: The Turning Torso is a deconstructivist skyscraper in Malmö, Sweden, located on the Swedish side of the Öresund strait. It was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and officially opened on 27 August 2005. The tower reaches a height of 190 metres (623 feet) with 54 stories. Upon completion, it was the tallest building in Scandinavia, the tallest residential building in the EU and the second tallest residential building in Europe, after the 264-metre (866 ft)-high Triumph-Palace in Moscow.

Reindeer in Kaamos-time, Lapland

I love this card. The image is serene, beautiful.

I also love what I learned about Kaamos-time while doing research.

"Kaamos-time is not the coldest time of year. The winter’s most freezing part begins at the end of Kaamos, the time of year when people in northern Finland live in a dim blue twilight. There are only four hours of light during the day. It is not pitch dark but visibility is almost as good during bright moonlit nights as during the days, because the moon light shimmers on the snow and reflects off of it. As well as the snow reflecting light the winter sky is lit with northern lights.

Animals living up north during winter have adapted to this lack of sun light. The scantiness and total lack of natural light cause more problems for humans than animals. Constant darkness has many effects on the human mind and body; some tire easily, some lose their sleep rhythm and others crave sweets. On the other hand, Kaamos is a perfect time to wind-down and regain one’s strength.

Kaamos is the opposite of the summer’s midnight sun. Both phenomenons are based on the axis of the Earth and our planet’s tilted position towards the sun. During winter the North Pole is tilted away from the sun and is therefore left in shade.

The further north one travels the shorter the time of daylight is each day and the longer Kaamos lasts. The North Pole is for this reason the darkest point. The time of blue twilight begins at the end of September and lasts to the middle of March. In the northernmost village in Finland, Nuorgam the sun drops below the horizon at the end of November and stays there to the middle of January, the darkness thus lasting bout two months. In the Ivalo area Kaamos lasts 37 days. When the northernmost part of the planet is draped in the deepest darkness at the end of December the South Pole is washed over by the midnight sun."


Icebergs in Iceland

Icebergs in Iceland, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

On the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, by Peter Gebhard.

From Wiki: Jökulsárlón is the best known and the largest of a number of glacial lakes in Iceland. It is situated at the south end of the glacier Vatnajökull between Skaftafell National Park and Höfn. Appearing first only in 1934-1935, the lake grew from 7.9 km² in 1975 to at least 18 km² today because of heavy melting of the Icelandic glaciers. Approaching a depth of 200 m, Jökulsárlón is now probably the second deepest lake in Iceland.

Jökulsárlón is separated from the sea by only a short distance, and the combined action of the glacier, the river that empties from the lake, and the ocean may eventually transform it into an inlet of the sea. There are plans to prevent this from happening, since the only road in the area passes over the narrow isthmus.
It is not far from the Icelandic Ring Road, and buses travelling between Höfn and Reykjavík usually stop there. The lake is filled with icebergs, which are calving off the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier."

North Cape, Norway

North Cape, Norway, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

The nothernmost point of Europe! This would be an awesome place to visit!

Snow light -- a photo by Ove Eriksson

I do not know if there is an electric light under this snow, or if it is a small fire? I have never seen such a thing, but it is so lovely! Printed in Finland.

Lapland, Finland

Lapland, Finland, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Preparing of flame salmon. The gal who swapped with me writes that you can sleep behind the fire and stay toasty warm :) This is such a lovely, peaceful image!

Snowy Swedish Scene

Snowy Swedish Scene, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

A photograph by Peter Lange. I don't know where this is, but it is so idyllic, so lovely! I would like to be one of the people walking in this scene :)

Revontulet - Northern Lights - Auror borealis

Would love to see this in person someday. "Caused when charged particles from Sun collide with atoms and molecules in the Earth's atmosphere at the altitude of 90-250 km. Due to the collision, oxygen and nitrogen are emitting auroral light." Printed in Finland.

Revontulet, Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis

The lights in the card appear much greener than they do in this scan.

Northern Scandinavia, Arctic Circle

Love this map card, which shows the Arctic Circle on it. I also like the smaller images on the card, especially the sign at the lower right corner. But, alas, I cannot read what it says! :)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Europa, 2009

Europa, 2009, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

I like this neat map card showing the EU, put out by, "Europe Information, a network of 20 regional EU information officers providing information services for general public. Its task is to inform about EU issues in Finnish and Swedish.

Europe Information is part of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, constituting one unit of the Ministry’s Department for Communication and Culture. Its publishing and other activities are managed from the Ministry’s premises in the Katajanokka district of Helsinki.

Europe Information produces and distributes information about European integration and Finland’s activities in the EU. The information is based on a Finnish viewpoint and reflects an interaction between the public and the country’s decision makers."

The map shows both member and candidate countries of the EU.

Finland, Aurora Borealis

Finland, Aurora Borealis, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This is a beautiful, oversized card. How I would love to be in that cabin! :)

Martinique, French West Indies

Thanks again to my sister Jessica for all of these awesome island cards, which she picked up on her last cruise.

Martinique, French West Indies

I wish the cards had text on the back! What a lovely view!

View from Martinique, Antilles francaises

Only a little French text on the back, which says, according to Google Translate, "peaks of the hut and Englise balata."

In looking up balata, I found that "Balata Church is a small size replica of Sacré-Coeur Basilica in France. Located on a hill outside of Fort-de-France, the area offers good views over the city and surrounding country."

St. Barthelemy, French West Indies

You are looking at what is called Flemish Cove. How beautiful!

St. Barts, French West Indies,

A view of Marigot Bay Cove and Grand Cul-de-sac. So pretty.

St. Barthelemy from 9000 feet

St. Barthelemy from 9000 feet, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

In reading about this beautiful island on Wiki, I learn that:

St. Barts is considered a playground of the rich and famous and is known for its beautiful pristine beaches, gourmet dining in chic bistros and high-end designers.
St. Barts has about 25 hotels, most of them with 15 rooms or fewer. The largest has 58 rooms. Hotels are classified in the traditional French manner 3 Star, 4 Star and 4 Star Luxe. Most of the rooms allocated to tourism on St Barts are found in private villas. There are approximately 400 privately owned villas available for rent on the island.

Would be a lovely place to unwind and experience peace and quiet, no?


Barbados, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Underwater world of the Atlantis Submarine.

Tent Bay, Barbados

Tent Bay, Barbados, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

"This picturesque bay is home to a small fish market and local fishing boats can be seen making their way in and out of the bay in the morning and evening. Like the other stretches of beach along this coast, there are strong currents at Tent Bay and swimming in open water is not recommended." The back of the card is blank; the text comes from the Internets :)

Hidden in the Shadows, Linda Richter

I really like this Bonaire art card (thanks, Jess!), so I decided to look up artist Linda Richter online. Her work is really fabulous; check out her site and see for yourself!

I also like the thought of moving to a far-removed island destination one day, when the cold is too harsh for my bones. Perhaps to Papamoa, New Zealand? As long as I had Internet connectivity, I could continue to work. I imagine the silence, but for the non-human sounds ... of the waves sloshing on the shore ... the endless breezes creeping through tree leaves ... the chattering birds ... the hum of the insects (outside, I hope)....

Ahhh. Maybe it's time for a parents-only vacation! :)

Oh yes, and back to the card: "A baby iguana barely five inches long holds statue still beneath the shade of a spiny tree. The bright neon green is a surprisingly good color to camouflage this little creature from its predators. As the iguana grows, the bright green will fade to be replaced with bars of deep green and gray."

Bonaire, Netherland Antilles

Bonaire, Netherland Antilles, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

"Donkey child in the wild."

Very interesting information from Wiki, now posted here on my blog on October 3, 2010!

"As part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire is a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The structure of the relationship between Bonaire, the Netherlands Antilles and the Kingdom is planned for change under proposed legislation. The Netherlands Antilles is scheduled to be dissolved as a unified political entity on 10 October 2010, so that the five constituent islands would attain new constitutional statuses: the BES islands Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius will become special municipalities of the Netherlands, while the islands of Curaçao and Sint Maarten will become independent states within the Kingdom of the Netherlands."

Karel's by Night, by Jake Richter

"Karel's Beach Bar takes a rest -- offering bright lights intermingled with a serene sort of tranquility, as all one hears is the water lapping the shores of the promenade, and all one sees is the ever changing reflection of Karel's lights on the dappled surface of the sea."

This is a really cool photo -- or is it a digitally painted photo, which is what photographer/artist Jake Richter likes to do? I like that's it a slice of life in Bonaire, and I like how the postcard text matches my imaginings of a quiet island life :)

Karel's even has a website:

As does Jake Richter:

Thanks to my sister Jessica for these two postcards representing a husband/wife pair who left the hustle and bustle for a quieter existence on the Caribbean island of Bonaire!


Bonaire, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This must be where all the action is!


Bonaire, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

I wish I knew what this scene is ... the backs of the postcards are blank.


Bonaire, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Have you ever seen flamingos in the wild? I've seen them in zoos, but never just out and about. I suppose they are often seen here in Bonaire! :)

I usually don't like cards with animals on them, or cards with images that could be from anywhere. But this is different, because it represents a true picture from Bonaire!

Grenada & the Grenadines

Grenada & the Grenadines, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Scenes and the Saturday Market. The cards my sister Jessica brought from Grenada show what appears to be one of the least touristy islands in the Caribbean. The images appear to show real towns, real people, real slices of life, as you will see.

From Wiki: Grenada is an island country and sovereign state consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Grenada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela, and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Grenada is also known as the "Island of Spice" due to the production of nutmeg and mace crops of which Grenada is one of the world's largest exporters. Its size is 344 square kilometres (133 sq mi), with an estimated population of 110,000. Its capital is St. George's. The national bird of Grenada is the critically endangered Grenada Dove."


Grenada, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

St. George's, Grenada

St. George's, Grenada, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

The Island of Spice


Martinique, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

What a lovely scene: Faula Point.

Pointe du Bout, Martinique

Pointe du Bout, Martinique, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Loverly, loverly

Sainte Anne, Martinique

Sainte Anne, Martinique, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Each Martinique view is lovely than the one before it....

Under the coconuts of Martinique

Divi Divi Tree, Eagle Beach, Aruba

I love this view :) What an interesting tree! "The Divi Divi tree is Aruba's own unique tree that grows on the island's shoreline. Its growth and shape are formed by the gentle and steady trade winds."

Aruba map card

Aruba map card, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Renaissance Island, Aruba

Renaissance Island, Aruba, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This private island is part of the Renaissance Hotel, located in downtown Oranjestad. The secluded island is one of the best places to relax and enjoy Aruba.

Holland America Cruise Ship

Holland America Cruise Ship, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Holland America Cruise Ship

This is the ship my sister and parents cruised on during their visit to the Caribbean islands. I believe this is the ship Statendam.

Occidental Grand Resort and Casino, Aruba

Located on the exclusive Palm Beach. Looks lovely!

Fontein Caves, Aruba

Fontein Caves, Aruba, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Very cool! A card from Arikok National Park in Aruba! From the back: "The Fontein Cave is the most popular of the caves in Aruba as it is the only one that has the drawings of Arawak Indians on the ceilings, providing a real sense of island history to this cave."