Travel: Exploring Switzerland

{Lake Geneva}
Hello friends,

If you were following us on track my tour, you have seen some of these photos. Now it's time to share the story.

The World Traveler is in Switzerland all the time, but never long enough for me to have a proper visit. When he mentioned having to attend a conference for a week, I jumped on the chance to explore life in Vevey.

We flew into Geneva and took a train for a hour to Vevey, a small village sitting on Lake Geneva.

Our plan: As is our custom, we had a list of options but didn't make plans until we arrived. This approach takes pressure off us to check off a list of ten things we have to do/see. Once we settle in and meet with friends/colleagues, they tend to suggest must see's not listed online or in a travel log.

Vevey is a tiny french speaking village, you will not find much online to help plan.

I hope you enjoy traveling with me, via the written word. Let's get started with an overview the region we explored. ~ enjoy!

{old town Vevey}
Vevey: Trios Couronnes was home base for our visit. Part of the old village, the location was perfect. I was able to explore the delightful streets, shops while looking at these shop windows.  Every morning I was out walking the streets within fifteen minutes of waking up.

There is a paved path to walk/bike along the shore, playgrounds everywhere.  Vevey has a train station, and a bus loop to Montreux but mostly is a walking town.

The village center is located on the lake, but look to the south and you are surrounded by vineyards, and a cable car leading to the International Hotel School. Charlie Chaplin lived in Vevey, click here to learn more about the Charlie experience.

{Chateau de Chillon}
Montreux Riveria: This is a lovely town, with a castle at the end of town.  It's home to the famous Jazz Festival, Freddie Mercury tribute, and the Noel Village.  On foot, the journey from Vevey to Montreux is 4.2 miles.

During our stay, the Noel Village was in full swing which gave me the perfect destination for a daily run. I could run there, walk the shops lining the lake, grab a nibble and work my way back to Vevey in under two hours.

Lausanne: Lausanne is a large city with an old world feel.  Located between Geneva and Vevey.  We didn't spend much time there but it's a lovely place to visit, you can walk everywhere AND you can take the twenty minute ferry to France, for lunch, or a run!

{Evian, France}
Evian, France: Another town we didn't spend much time in but it's just a twenty minute ferry ride away (from Lausanne). Home to Evian water, museums, cheese(!), and it's own old town feel.  I will be back to explore, and need to learn more about the towns display of driftwood.

We happened to visit opening weekend for la fabuleux village (Evian's noel celebration) so we spent our time enjoying this rather than visiting a museum.

The Language: I was thrilled to discover I can read French pretty well. Sadly, the locals speak so fast I couldn't understand much.  After mentioning this to a few colleagues I learned they speak in a different dialect from what I'm learning with Rosetta Stone (and my foreign movie consumption).

A few things you should know before visiting the area:
- Vevey, Montreux, and Lausanne speak french but most of Switzerland speaks German.
- Residents speak one or the other, not both.
- Shops are open from ten to noon, and 1:30 - 7PM
- It's hard to eat out midweek, most restaurants are not open past 8PM
- 99% of Switzerland is closed on Sunday's

More posts to come, from cultural observations, our travel adventures, and more! Have you been to Switzerland?  There's SO much we didn't see.  Let me know if you have any suggestions for my next visit.  I would love to hear from you.

Next travel post: Montreux Noel (Christmas Village)

Book Review: Insurgent

Why I picked it: I read the first book knowing the movie is coming out in the spring, now I'm reading the series.

Click here to read my review of book one in the series (Divergent)

Synopsis: One choice can transform you, or destroy you. Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Quick Take: I read this book immediately following the first one, mostly because my son is reading the series and it's fun to be able to discuss it with him.

Book two continues to reference the importance of values, always a good thing!  I noted this statement on guilt, which is good for everyone to remember: "Let the guilt teach you ho to behave next time," my father would say.

I didn't love book two but it did fill in the back story, set up the plot for book three. I can see why this series is so popular.

Have you read it? Did you let your kids read it?  If yes, did you read it first?

Rating: 3 stars
Source: Personal copy

Travel: Christmas time in Vevey

Hello my lovely friends! It's hard to believe I have been in Switzerland for a week: exploring, living, and loving everything about Christmas in Vevey.

Lac Leman (also known as Lake Geneva) has embraced Christmas, most of the shops in old town Vevey look similar to this one. Having been to towns in Switzerland, France, and Italy this week I can tell you that this photo expresses the holiday spirit to perfection.

Santa likes to rope climb!  He's creative but could learn some tips from the elf.   Speaking of the elf, I have not spotted one yet but I have been smurfed!

I promise to share every detail soon, I have so much to share with you that I need proper time to sit and process what you might want to read.

Switzerland is the most magical place, I'm sad to think of my home with only the tree decorated (without presents), stockings to be hung, no cookies or baking this year. We are planning to bake on Christmas Eve, and enjoy our family tradition of Raclette. Maybe I will decorate when I arrive home and keep things up for a few weeks in January so I can enjoy an extended season.

Lastly, I'm working remotely this week so our adventure's will slow to daily life in Vevey.  I am posting a few photos daily to instagram, and this weekend we have two action packed days planned.  You won't want to miss our adventures!

Three things:

Reading: I finished the third book in the Divergent series and hope to start reading Mating (by Norman Rush) tonight.

Loving: I must find out the smell being forced down the hallways of our hotel.  I want to bottle it up and bring it home.

Wanting: to go for a sunny run around part of the lake before work emails start arriving from the US

Are you ready for Christmas?

Book Review: Night Sweats

Why I picked it:  I enjoy reading memoirs, and decided to read this after reading Joy's review.   Her review is lovely, and she has a connection to the author (always love reading these tidbits).

Synopsis: Laura Crossett was thirty-five years old, one month into a relationship, and six months into a new job when she sat in a staff bathroom and looked at a stick that told her something she already suspected.

Almost half the pregnancies that occur in the United States each year are unplanned. Some of them happen to married women, some to unmarried; some occur due to failure to use contraception; some due to contraceptive failure. Some happen to women who hope one day to have children; some to women who never wanted children at all.

In a political climate that polarizes around issues of sexuality and choice and a popular culture that glamorizes pregnancy and fetishizes motherhood, we rarely hear the stories of women who did not seek to become pregnant. Night Sweats is one of them.

Quick Take: I find it challenging to review a personal story, knowing that life is filled with unexpected moments that define us.  That said, the author has a lovely voice and captures the emotions of her story while keeping the reader interested.

I enjoyed her honesty in writing about the struggles she dealt with while pregnant (relationships, family, values, the future, her career).  The only complaint I might have it that it's just 104 pages!

If you enjoy memoirs, pick up a copy of this book.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Personal Copy

Book Review: The House I loved

Why I picked it: Mostly due to author buzz, and the setting... who doesn't love the setting of Paris!

Synopsis: Paris, France: 1860’s. Hundreds of houses are being razed, whole neighborhoods reduced to ashes. By order of Emperor Napoleon III, Baron Haussman has set into motion a series of large-scale renovations that will permanently alter the face of old Paris, moulding it into a “modern city.” The reforms will erase generations of history—but in the midst of the tumult, one woman will take a stand.

Rose Bazelet is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the old house on rue Childebert, ignoring the sounds of change that come closer and closer each day. Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her beloved late husband. And as she delves into the ritual of remembering, Rose is forced to come to terms with a secret that has been buried deep in her heart for thirty years. 

Quick Take: I do enjoy stories told with letters! The author did a beautiful job bringing historical Paris to us, the story a sad one though.  

I struggle sharing my opinion of this book. The plot didn't move much from set up to the last chapter, other than secrets being revealed along the way. It's a book that I enjoyed more after completing and having time for reflection.

Two questions (source: reading group guides):

1. One of the central elements of the novel is Rose’s deep and abiding love for the house in which she spent her married life, which becomes apparent from her many memories tied to every room. What does the house represent for Rose and how did it change her life?  I love the idea that she was so attached to her home and it's family history.  I remember reading a book years ago mentioning the concept of a 'forever home', something that has stuck with me over time.  I wonder if I will ever have a forever home.  Do I want one or am I'm interested in the idea of a forever community... 

2. Between the years of 1852 and 1870, Napoleon III and Baron Haussman remodeled major sections of Paris in an attempt to bring the city into the “modern” era. Did you know anything about this major period of time in Paris’s history before reading this novel? Have you read The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.?  I learned SO much about the early 1800's which helped set the stage for Paris as described in this novel. I was in Paris last year, walking the streets, exploring, feeling the history. This helped me get the feel from words to the mood set within these pages.

Book clubs: Has your book club read this book?  Did you have a good discussion?  My book club might enjoy the genre but there's not a lot to discuss. 

Rating: 3 stars
Source: Library

Book Review: Divergent

Why I picked it: After seeing the trailer for the movie, to be released spring 2014, I decided I should read the book.  Why? Honestly, it's time to get out of my comfort zone... especially when I know I will see the movie with my family (they love this genre).

Synopsis: In Beatrice Prior's world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue. On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is. She can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

Quick Take: I didn't expect to enjoy this book but it wasn't as futuristic as I expected and it's filled with messages to reinforce values/ teachable lessons that are revisited on almost every page.  Here are a couple that I highlighted:

Fear: becoming fearless isn't the point.  That's impossible.  It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it, that's the point.

Bravery: half of bravery is perspective

The story moved at a quick pace, with enough back story to keep adult readers engaged. I'm happy I read it.

Three questions: 
- What faction do you think you would have been born into, given your family and its values? This is hard to answer, my parents wouldn't have picked the same faction at sixteen.  Which means they wouldn't have married or had children.  Based on who I am, I best fit Amity.  

- How would you feel about making a decision that would determine your life’s course at the age of sixteen? The characters in the book are raised to be mature enough to make this decision, and guided by the exam they take.  As the book continues (and in book two) we learn more from the adult experience of being raised in one faction and moving to another (consequences, good and bad).  This is interesting.

My husband and I are complete opposites, something that can't happen in this world.  Interesting concept, making for unique situations, stressors, etc... depending on the faction you choose. 

- During initiation, is it selfish of Tris to crave victory, or is it brave? I'm not sure if it's either but might be how she's wired or more importantly... what's expected from her. 

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Personal copy

Have you read it? Did you like the book? How would you answer the questions above? 

Books: September / October Reviews

I continue to average 2-3 books a month (mostly listening).   I enjoy listening while walking the dogs, working on a home improvement project, or folding clothes.

and... I remain in awe of the bloggers/readers who ready five or more books a month - how do you do it?!!

Have you read any of the books below? I can't pick a favorite from the list below, I enjoyed them all.

Reviews in this post: 4

Why I picked it: I'm a fan of the author, I really enjoyed the dark fictional story Girls in Trucks and am drawn to her writing style.

I'm not one to read a lot of YA, but decided to read this book based on the author's name.

Synopsis: When her free-spirited mother dies in a tragic accident, sixteen-year-old Alexandria Lee is forced to leave her West Coast home and move in with a wealthy grandmother she's never known in Savannah, Georgia. By birth, Alex is a rightful if unwilling member of the Magnolia League-Savannah's long-standing debutante society.

Alex is the first in decades to question the Magnolia League's intentions, yet even she becomes entangled in their seductive world. The members enjoy youth, beauty and power...but at what cost?

Quick Take: Confession... I really enjoyed this book!  So much so that I expect to read the next book in the series.  Crouch writes about two different worlds, live on a commune vs a southern debutante life, teenage life issues, boys... all mixed up with a sprinkle of magic.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Library (audio)

Why I picked it: I'm a huge Gilbert fan, my favorite book of hers is Committed.  I think about this book often, mostly about life in other countries, and the way we see marriage today vs a hundred years ago.

I was excited to read her fiction.

Synopsis: An enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery.

The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad.

But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas.

Quick Take: If you know me you know I love good writing, Gilbert is a lovely writer.  Over 500 pages, I read this book in a week and found myself looking for time to sneak in a page throughout the day.

Loved the character development, the plot moved at a good pace.

Recommend for book club?  Probably not, I don't think there's enough to discuss/explore with a group.

If you enjoy historical fiction, you will love this one.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Review Copy

Why I picked it: I picked this one solely on a book blogger's recommendation.  She loved it.

Synopsis: "My darling Cecilia, if you're reading this, then I've died...." Her husband had not intended that she read the letter until after his demise, but Cecilia's curiosity betrayed him. The unsettling words that she read forever changed the life of this once contented wife and mother; yet this well-intended posthumous missive also becomes the spur that enables Cecilia to connect with two other women recently pushed towards crossroads.

Quick Take: Life got in the way while reading this one, causing me to read/listen over a few weeks.  I didn't love the plot twists and wasn't surprised by the ending.

Recommend for book club? Yes, there is a lot to discuss. It's an easy read with dark subject matter.

Rating: 3 stars
Source: audio

Why I picked it: My Omaha book club read this one.

Synopsis: Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

Quick Take: I enjoyed the first half, it was over the top, fun, and the story made me laugh at times. The second have was a little far fetched, or maybe it's that the story became serious.  I didn't love this one but understand why so many are enjoying it.

Recommend for book club? Yes, it's mostly absurd, funny and your group will have a good conversation.

Rating: 3 stars
Source: audio

Book Review: The Good Wife

Normally I share a months worth of reading in one post but my ipad is on holiday (being repaired) which means goodreads isn't updated.

Darn technology!

I have been thinking about books though, specifically... what makes a good book club book. I'm reading a book now that will create good discussion, and there's a series my friends and I keep talking about... Jane Porter's latest collection: The Good Woman, The Good Daughter, and The Good Wife.

These books are full of life moments, from infidelity to illness, motherhood to family order, judgement to learning to forgive.  Jane has a way of writing that draws the reader into the story.

If you haven't read them yet, add them to your list!  The Good Wife is the last book in the series, released just last week.

Synopsis: Sarah’s love for her husband, professional baseball player Boone Walker, is bottomless—so much so that her sisters say it will end up hurting her.  Living apart most of the time makes life difficult, especially since Sarah often wonders whether Boone is sharing his bed with other women on the road, even though he swears he’s been true to her since his infidelity three years ago.  Now, with Boone facing yet another career change, tension rises between the two, and the emotionally exhausted Sarah must choose whether to break free from the past and forgive Boone completely, or leave him behind and start anew. 

Rating: 4 stars and discussion worthy!
Source: personal copy

Books I can't wait to read!

It's book season! Crisp weather, snuggling by a crackling fire with a blanket, and a good book.

Just last night a few neighbors were sitting on the deck, covered with blankets, enjoying a glass of wine... chatting about summer, the first day of school (today), fall, and reading.  Our discussion moved to Jane Porter's latest series which focuses on the Brennan sisters.  I ended up passed along book three to my neighbor, books one/two to her friend visiting from Germany. They are heading to the Cape, with the series.

My books have been on a global book tour, causing an attachment in knowing how many people are enjoying them. They have been read in Ireland, London, Canada, Thailand, Japan, Turkey, Tanzania, and now they are heading on vacation to Cape Cod! This is a good sign for a book series - good, smart, entertaining novels that invite discussion.  Books worth traveling with. 

Here's a list of books I can't wait to read!

The Good Wife (published last week): Sarah’s love for her husband, professional baseball player Boone Walker, is bottomless—so much so that her sisters say it will end up hurting her.  Living apart most of the time makes life difficult, especially since Sarah often wonders whether Boone is sharing his bed with other women on the road, even though he swears he’s been true to her since his infidelity three years ago.  Now, with Boone facing yet another career change, tension rises between the two, and the emotionally exhausted Sarah must choose whether to break free from the past and forgive Boone completely, or leave him behind and start anew.  
The Lowland (publishes Sep 24):  From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Namesake comes an extraordinary new novel, set in both India and America, that expands the scope and range of one of our most dazzling storytellers: a tale of two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love that lasts long past death.

Masterly suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a work of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga and a story steeped in history that spans generations and geographies with seamless authenticity.


In The Signature of All Things (publishes Oct 1)An enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. 

Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. 

Looking ahead... I can't wait to read Linda Ronstadt's memoir!

Publishing Sept 17:
- The Longest Ride
- Simple Dreams

Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy (Oct 15)

Have I missed any wonderful reads?  What are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Travel: THE Serengeti

Lovely Friends,

Visiting the Serengeti was the last part of our adventure.  By the time we left the Ngorongoro Crater, Bill and I were worn down and sick.  On day two in the Serengeti, the lodge called for a doctor to see us.  This took about 36 hours.

To our surprise, the Serengeti is a ragweed minefield!  Bill is extremely allergic to ragweed.  I was diagnosed with bronchitis/walking pneumonia. The doctor offered us some herbal medicine and when we asked his visit/medicine fee... he said no charge.  We pressed a bit and he finally let us pay him.

Bill quickly got better but we had to leave a day early.  Avoiding a hot and bumpy day journey we asked Gregory to coordinate a flight to the Arusha Lodge. I was treated for pneumonia shortly after returning home.

Now to get to our amazing experience!

Travel: NgoroNgoro Crater

Lovely Friends,

Have you heard of the Ngorongoro Crater? Located in Tanzania, exploring this magical place was Part III of our Africa Adventure. The crate looks like a painting, an optical allusion.  When you drive into the crater you quickly understand this is a thriving ecosystem. I was awe stuck.

Part I: Getting to Africa via Istanbul
Part II: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Ngoro Ngoro means Gift of life, named by the Maasai.  Part of the Great Migrations, and our final stop before visiting the Serengeti.

We stayed at the Serena Lodge, and highly recommend this company.  We arrived in Arusha, greeted by a host and our guide, Gregory.  Gregory was our personal guide, driving us on the well know desert roads (they were rough). We spent three days exploring the Crater with picnics and learning so much about this wonderful place.

Adventure: meet me at the Summit!

Earlier this week I shared the physical/fitness part to climbing Kilimanjaro, today I'm sharing the experience.

I loved writing this post! Reflecting on my experience, sharing it with you.  There is a photo link at the bottom of this post for those looking for more ~ enjoy!

Setting the stage: We hiked in the dry season, winter.  The high temps around 35 degrees, low 10. We had two VERY windy days.  One long hike day, about seven hours... and summit day.

The higher the elevation, the less oxygen in the air.  Windy days make breathing a challenge, trying to get a full breath AND not take in dust.

Let's get started!

Fitness: I can't believe I did that

It's hard to share my Kili story in one post, with this being fitness day... it seems like a good day to share my emotions behind this accomplishment (I will post an experience recap later this week, with photos).

I have spent months preparing, planning, scheduling, never doubting, just wondering, anticipating.

Since returning from my trip I have felt off my game and today I realized why - I haven't let myself feel a sense of accomplishment for reaching the summit.

I'm struggling to process the following: 

Instant gratification: a nine day journey, with no communication didn't let friends and family celebrate our achievement real time - darn it social media and cell phones!

Travel: Tanzania from my eyes

I may have traveled to Africa to climb a mountain but what I saw before and after has left me wondering what role fate and karma play in our lives.  How might my life be different if...

~ Market Day ~

I'm left wondering how I can help, or if I'm honest... I'm really wondering 'can I help'. I wasn't expecting to see the poverty we did, slums, and squatter settlements.  My husband and I found a way to help during our visit but we need to focus this energy and continue help now that we have settled back into our daily routine.

Observations from my recent visit to Tanzania: This is important to share before my summit story, most was experienced from the time we landed, to the drive where our adventure would begin.... 

Books: June 2013

Don't you love this quote?

I tend to enjoy books set in a foreign land or have me learning about a culture I haven't experienced - this quote sums it up nicely.

In June I loaded my ipad with books written by go-to authors. Having a comfort that I enjoy these writers and know what to expect from them.

Let's talk books!

Reviews in this post: 6
Favorite book read:  Stories I only tell my Friends (Lowe)


Why I picked it: I picked this one after hearing several people wave about his storytelling and knowing Lowe was the narrator.

Synopsis: Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last twenty-five years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable

Quick Take: I loved this book - I knew little about Lowe's life.  I haven't watched The Outsiders so I was surprised to hear this was his breakout role.  I gasped a few times when he mentioned roles he thought he would get but didn't, or role others should have played.  I can't imagine ANYONE but Lowe playing Youngblood.

It was the perfect companion for a bumpy road and game safari!

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Library (audio)


Why I picked it: It's unfair to simply say I read this for book club.  I would have read this anyway, I adored Helen of Pasadena and couldn't wait to read Dolan's second novel.

Synopsis: Elizabeth, an English professor at Pasadena City College, finds her perfectly dull but perfectly orchestrated life upended one summer by three men: her movie-star ex-husband, a charming political operative, and William Shakespeare.

She’s off to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the summer to make sure her ex-husband doesn’t humiliate himself in an avant-garde production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Quick Take: I love all things Shakespeare and love a story about a strong woman with a fun story.  This is a great book for summer vacation, and book clubs will have a lot to discuss.  The Manic Mommies Book Club discussed it for over an hour!

Read it, you will enjoy it.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: personal copy


Why I picked it: I enjoyed American Wife and Prep so much hat I had to read her new novel.

Synopsis: Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of American Wife and Prep, returns with a mesmerizing novel of family and identity, loyalty and deception, and the delicate line between truth and belief.

Funny, haunting, and thought-provoking, Sisterland is a beautifully written novel of the obligation we have toward others, and the responsibility we take for ourselves.

Quick Take: While I love Sittenfeld's storytelling and sentence structure... yes you read that right... I'm sorry to tell you that I didn't enjoy this story very much.

At the root of this story complications arise when someone has a premonition and takes advantage, twisting a story for attention.  I didn't like either sister enough to care what happened.

Did you read it? Did I miss something?

Rating: 2 stars
Source: review copy


Why I picked it: I was in London earlier this year and loved all the history.

This popular history book explores daily life in Queen Elizabeth’s England, taking us inside the homes and minds of ordinary citizens as well as luminaries of the period, including Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Francis Drake.

Organized as a travel guide for the time-hopping tourist, Mortimer relates in delightful (and occasionally disturbing) detail everything from the sounds and smells of sixteenth-century England to the complex and contradictory Elizabethan attitudes toward violence, class, sex, and religion.

Quick Take: If you appreciate history and plan to visit England soon, this is a must read book.  I learned so much, it's a handy book that you can jump around in... and learn.

I have a real copy of this book - so happy to put this on my bookshelf and share with friends.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: review copy


Why I picked it: Did you see who wrote it? I love Hilderbrand's blend of summer reading, smart women's fiction.

Synopsis: When Arch Newton, a prominent New York attorney, dies in a plane crash on his way home from a business trip, his beautiful widow, Beth, can barely keep things together. Above all, though, she decides that she must continue the family tradition of going to Nantucket, and at the same time fulfill a promise that Arch made before he died.

Quick Take: Here's another story where I struggled with the plot, there are too many complicated sub-plots: murder, class issues, eating disorders, dysfunctional relationships, and more.

Just too much going on, I wonder how this book would have read from the young daughter's voice.

Rating: 3 stars
Source: personal copy (audio)


Why I picked it: I have read some books from this author, it was on sale on Nook so I bought it.

Synopsis: What would you do if an old friend needed you, but it meant turning your new life upside down?

Pen, Will, and Cat met during the first week of their first year of college and struck up a remarkable friendship, one that sustained them and shaped them for years – until it ended abruptly, and they went their separate ways. Now, six years later, what happens sends past and present colliding and Pen and her friends on a journey across the world, a journey that will change everything.

Quick Take: It took me three weeks to finish this book!  I would love to read this for book club, I can imagine my Omaha group of gals picking this one apart, discussing life experiences, would we handle the situation like Cat did?  There is a lot to talk about!

Rating: 3 stars
Source: personal copy

Life: vacation hangover...

I have a hangover - a sensory/experience hangover. I have only been home for six days, from an experience that I have been planning in my head for decades.

I know several of you are anxious for me to share my Kili story, it's coming.  I did journal so I just need to take time to translate my notes into a post. I promise to share this in the next few days.

While you wait, here's a story for you.

Trekking story: WT was just talking to a good friend, bonding over the British Open when I overheard him share a story that I hadn't thought to share.  He was talking about how hard the hike was (it wasn't hard physically)... one day we hiked for eight hours, starting at 13,000 feet, climbing to 15,000 and ending the day back at 13,000.  We were walking around the mountain, while acclimatizing!

Fitness: a dancing duel on the mountain?

I missed you guys! Reading blogs, following my fitness friends embracing summer. Joy hosts Reader's workouts, feel free to join us.

A dancing duel on the mountain? Calvin is a trek guide, a person with a spirit rarely found these days. He is happy, the life of the party... and he likes to sing and dance.

We quickly bonded, laughing, giggling, singing. We challenged each other to 'dance move duel's' often while standing on a rock during a water stop.  I miss this guy.

Kili reflections: I am thrilled to tell you the physical part of the mountain was a breeze for me! Fellow trekkers commented on stiffness, sore muscles, aches... I had none of this. People seemed shocked that I actually trained towards the 60 miles distance vs hours on a stair stepper.

Once I have time to narrow down a thousand photos to a dozen... I will share my Kili story with you.

Life: a retreat on the Bosporus

Today is my birthday!

I woke up just after sunrise, in my own bed - looking around and exhaling, feeling my home hug me.

After 3 1/2 weeks of travel, we couldn't have planned this any better. Greeted with cards and a few gifts to open later today, we will BBQ and have a glass of wine for dinner as we adjust to life.

There's a lot to do today... unpack six bags, laundry, baking, settling back in.  I have so much to share with you but find myself overwhelmed by the events of the last month so I will let the photo's tell the story.

Today let's start with part one... Istanbul.

Istanbul highlights:

Have you been to Istanbul? WT told me I would love it, he was right! This was the perfect way to begin our adventure.  A few days to adjust to the time zone while decompressing before heading to Tanzania.

14 million people, second largest city in the world, filled with religion, history... click here to learn more

Happiness: 100 Day Project (Reflections)

2013 has been a good year.  My heart is full as I write this post, my Happiness Project is complete, and I'm leaving for Africa soon.

I'm going to climb a mountain!

What did I learn over these last 100 days? 
-  It takes a bit of effort to be truly happy: creating a happy life vs being happy in the moment. They are two different experiences, both rewarding.

-  What started as a recovery plan after the injury - walking every morning, reading something good for me, and learning to find 'calmness' - has become habit.

-  Happiness has a snowball effect. People around me are acting different, making decisions they wouldn't make if not for me actively instilling this into our life.  

Books: May Reviews

I started the month with a visit home to see family and friends.  My niece performed in the school play, chips & salsa! happy hours (yes... plural), rain provided ample time for shopping and I ran a half marathon with friends.

WT left a few days after I returned home.  He was in London, Switzerland, Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore, somewhere else in China, back to Singapore, and finally returned home.

Our paths crossed just 4 days in May.

Let's talk books!

Reviews in this post: 4


Why I picked it: I discovered this on iTunes while looking for something light/fun to listen to while walking.

Synopsis: When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon

Quick Take:  This book might lean towards YA.  I knew is was about a young college girl, who's heart is broken but I expected a lot more Shakespeare and not a break down.  It was worth the listen to remember that girls get stuck, emotions and the way we react often impact our life long after the appropriate window of time. 

I loved the ending - it's exactly what should have happened!

There is a book two, which I believe is the boy's side.  That will/could be very interesting.  I will read it.

Rating: 3 stars
Source: Review Copy

Why I picked it: Decorating, party planning, food... all set in the Hampton's!  I might plan another day trip in the next few weeks, to explore and shop local.

Synopsis: HAMPTON WEEKENDS is majestically laid-out with gorgeous photographs of Wright’s delicious dishes, Hampton’s picturesque landscapes and landmarks combined with recipes appropriate for the season which inspire and cultivate a farm to table flair.  In four sections dedicated to the seasons of the year, there are timeless menus compiled from Wright’s personal collection with family, treasured friends and her own culinary experiences all with the 'Wright stamp' which is to entertain with ease and style.

Quick Take: I read this one in March/April but realized I forgot to post about it.  This book reads like a memoir, it's a lovely book filled with stories and good food. Finishing this book I feel like I have experienced the Hampton's life, which happens to be one I aspire to in bits. I love a well thought table, rustic, family/friends focused occasions.  This book is all about this way of life.

Recipes I plan to make: 

- angel food cake with pears and fresh nutmeg
- corn bread
- marinated cucumbers

Rating: 4 stars

Source: Review Copy

Why I picked it: Cathy Buchanan mentioned that she loved it, and she has a high bar for writing/literature.  How could I not try it?

Synopsis: Southern belle Zelda meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918. Before long, Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn't wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. After Scott sells his first novel Zelda optimistically boards a train, to marry him and take the rest as it comes.

Quick Take:  What a delight!  This book is an easy/smart read that draws you in on page one.  I wasn't prepared for the compelling story - I knew enough about Zelda and F Scott that I was expecting a dark story.  It's dark but the author tells Zelda's story in a light/effortless way.  

Add this one to your TBR list!

Rating: 4 stars

Source: Review Copy (NetGalley)

Why I picked it: I was searching the internet for a book and landed on this one.  After reading the 'Oprah love'... I bought it (the power on an ereader).

Synopsis: A dynamic business model for building a thriving career without compromising your faith. DeVon Franklin, vice president of production for Columbia Pictures, shares how being bold about his Christian faith while being driven and ambitious has actually worked in his favor to help him excel in a high-profile, fast-paced, competitive industry.

You are the movie. Produced by Faith parallels each step of the Hollywood filmmaking process with the faith-making process God uses to turn your career into a success.

Quick Take: This book is meant to encourage you to look at life and make changes.  Ask yourself this, would you like to watch your life as a movie? Would you be content/proud to let others watch it?  If not, what changes would you make.  Make a list, set goals and start writing the 'sequel'.   It's a very short book, with good stories.  I'm glad I read it.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: personal copy

Life: Sadie Monster

Good mourning.

Yes, mourning not morning.  Thursday our thirteen year old dog, Sadie Monster, woke up and I knew something was wrong… immediately.  

With the holiday weekend approaching I decided to bring her to the vet, as a precaution. I went to the vet thinking she caught a virus, maybe it was time for arthritis medication.   I wasn't prepared to hear that she had a tumor rupture and was bleeding internally, actively dying.  

I drove home alone, crying while on the phone with AWP. 

The queen is gone and her princesses are looking for her, trying to reconcile what happened, where did she go?  When will she come home?

Yesterday, in memory of Sadie, we took a long car ride to my favorite place.  Stone Barns is a farm to table, organic, a favorite.  I feel at peace when I get to Sleepy Hallow, drive to the farm, see the chickens and pigs, rows of herbs being grown. It’s majestically calm. 

Dogs are allowed on the property, just not in the pastures (yes, people are allowed to walk with the pigs and chickens).  Sadie would have loved it there. We walked in the rain, Jessie and Lily had hard boiled eggs at the cafĂ©, I had…  PB&J and a latte.

We packed up, drove across the Tappan Zee and had a quiet night at home. 

We miss you Sadie, but I know you are in heaven with Balto… running, chasing her, driving her nuts. Don’t worry Monster, I will take care of Jessie and Lily.

Books: April Reviews

April reviews... yes, I'm behind but being confined to the house for four days has provided ample time to catch up with a few book reviews - all solid books that I would recommend to a friend going on vacation over the summer.

A mix of memory loss, missing girl suspense, a memoir, and a new favorite cookbook.

Have you read any of these? Have you read anything worth recommending?

Reviews in this post: 4
2013 Stats: Novels read this year: 10
Books reviewed (all genres): 22


Why I picked it: I adore the author's writing and prose.

Synopsis: A bittersweet masterpiece filled with longing and hope, an emotional novel explores the raw, tender complexities of relationships and personal identity.

Quick Take:  I read this a while ago, while on a family day trip.  This let me dive in and become attached to Lucie.  An interesting take on memory loss, I was invested from start to end.  Eating Heaven and When She Flew are two wonderful fiction novels - add them to your list!

Goodreads rating: 4 stars
Source: Review Copy (Netgalley)

Why I picked it: Manic Mommies Book Club May selection

Synopsis: What happened to Linsey Hart? When the Cornell-bound teenager disappears into the steamy blue of a late-summer morning, her quiet neighborhood is left to pick apart the threads of their own lives and assumptions.

Quick Take: This is a great summer read for those who want suspense without gore.  A quick read with a LOT to discuss, my book club read/discussed this for an hour.

This story is told from the eyes of several neighbors - I enjoyed Reeva's story, she's flawed and breaking her moral code.  We also hear from Linsey's ex-boyfriend, Linsey's mom and a few others households in her neighborhood.  The story is woven together nicely but in a refreshing way.  

Rating: 3 stars
Source: Review Copy

Why I picked it: I enjoy  memoirs and have a dream to sail for a year or so one day.

Synopsis: The story of Hurley's 2-year outward odyssey, deterred by rough weather and mechanical troubles, combines keen observation, poignant thoughts, and deeper introspection with glorious prose.

It also presents a rare and much-needed point of view on the familiar spiritual-journey narrative. It offers a star-crossed love story wrapped inside a rollicking good sea tale, but it also has something important to say to the reader about relationships, faith and disbelief, life and death, love and marriage, and what really matters.

Quick Take: This is one of the better memoirs I have read recently.  I learned something (boating), the author is very honest, and the story is unique. I kept underlining words of wisdom, things to remember as I read this book.  The most important moment for me in the book was the author's writing on failure and marriage.  We are so afraid to fail that we stay in failing marriages, yet aren't we failing the commitment we made the the definition of marriage? To love and cherish (vs being room mates).

I'm sending my copy to a friend, and hope my marked up copy is enjoyed.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Review Copy

Why I picked it: Soup is probably my favorite food category!

Synopsis: This broad collection of soups, broths, bisques, and chowders ranges from summer coolers and hearty, warming stews to smooth, creamy soups and fiery broths.

The bread recipes alone could fill a cookbook. Loaves, buns, sticks, and flatbreads are here, along with pretzels, pitas, toasts and focaccias. Organized by season and complemented by evocative photographs, The Soup & Bread Cookbook is an ideal volume for anyone who takes comfort in the essential pleasures of a bowl of soup and warm bread.

Quick Take: I have been searching for the perfect carrot/ginger soup for years.  I reluctantly tried it and now am in love with this soup.  Some of the soups I intend to make are: Ginger-Carrot, Spicy Mango Melon, Asian Lemon Ginger, Summer Day Herb-Scented, Chilled Carrot and Orange, Chilled Avocado-Potato, and so many more.

The photography is amazing, I can eat popovers every day! Who doesn't want to eat Orange Toast, I might make this with soup this week. Oatmeal batter bread with dried fruit?  Divine...

I enjoyed the ecopy of this book so much that I have preordered a copy for myself.  I can't wait to make several of the recipes, and it's filled with tips that I will use.  I'm getting to a comfort level to experiment with a recipe (ie: if I don't have an ingredient... this book includes a few great tips).

Rating: 4
Source: Review Copy

Adventure: Kilimanjaro planning (part 2)

You might think I'm crazy after reading this post!

This has been a high activity week for Africa prep.

Click here to read a list of gear already purchased... $1200USD

You get what you pay for: we are paying for two opportunities to summit, staying one night in the arctic zone (18,500 ft) and our summit hike will take 3-4 hours.  If we are feeling good and the weather is favorable I'm told we can stay up there for a while.  

I'm shocked when I see adverts to reach the summit for $2,000 or less.  I read one blogger's experience were he climbed 4,000 feet to the summit in one day, twelve hours of hiking!  He only spent a few minutes at the top and mentioned how painful the hike was..   

Shots & medication: This week I sat down with a travel doctor.  It was really interesting and he provided a lot of knowledge. I'm not to eat ANY uncooked vegetables in Africa, I guess it's a normal to use 'human matter' for fertilizer.... message received!

Shots received this week... 12!
Yellow Fever
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B

I walked out with six prescriptions, traveling with four:
Diamox (acute mountain sickness)
Jungle medical kit

After I recover from the Yellow Fever, I will take the 'live typhoid' over four days.  I go back to the doctor on June 14 for one more set of vaccines and Typhoid sign off so I have valid CDC paperwork.

Bug control isn't an issue on the mountain but is on day one while in Arusha, and when we come back down for the Safari part of our trip.  We will travel with Deet, and our doctor's secret... Permetherin (an insecticide spray that works on gear for one week). 

Shopping: This week we paid for our rental gear, $600USD

Arctic Zone gear:
- Gore-Tex jackets and pants
- Down jackets
- Mittens
- Windstopper fleece gloves
- Insultated Mountain Mittens

- gaiters
- rain poncho
- sleeping bags
- sleep pad
- trekking telescopic poles

Gear for two: $1,800 to date with about $500 to go.

Life, it's happening!

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