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Laureen

    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

    H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️

    I wanted to read this book because it was receiving accolades and rave reviews from every corner and genre. The story of the authors unique experience raising a goshawk.

    But I just didn’t love it. I liked it but didn’t love it. It dragged for me.  Sorry, I really wanted to like it more.

    But I still think many readers would enjoy it, lovingly told the underlying story is how author and bird find themselves and succeed together.

    If you love birds or if you have felt lost with grief “H is for Hawk” might ring true for you, as MacDonald chronicles her experience raising one of natures most viscous predators and coming out whole on the other side.

    H is for Hawk ⭐️⭐️⭐️

     

     

    And All the Rest  --  Travel Around the World

    Smoke on the Water

    Chapter Nine – Split Fired Up

    We have been in Split Croatia now for four days and it is a very beautiful city.  I’ll write more about the city itself soon, but today I want to briefly mention the heat.  The heat is definitely on in Split, and all through out Croatia and the result is some devastating wildfires.

    Split sits on a beautiful harbor and the city itself is low.  But on three sides rise beautiful mountains and it reminds me very much of Eastern Washington.  And today it reminded me very much of summer fires in Eastern Washington.

    We first spotted the smoke

    We first noticed the smoke yesterday, very subtle.   We had noticed a similar situation when we were in Dubrovnik but it never amounted to much.  But yesterday it did.  In the morning it was just a little smoke.  By late afternoon it was a firestorm, that unfortunately resulted in loss of life, loss of property and loss of homes.

    The locals seemed shaken.  Even though summer forest fires in the pine forests and dry scrub are common.  But this fire was close.  Too close for

    Late yesterday

    comfort.  Several villages in the surrounding hills lost buildings, schools and homes and one man was said to have died from a heart attack while watching his olive grove burn.

    By the early morning hours today the fires were said

    Fire plane in the distance ready to dip in the sea

    to be under control, although throughout the day we could see smoke and watched the firefighting airplanes dip into the sea to fill their tanks and head back up to the mountains.

    We are safe, and the part of the city we are in is also safe.  We will see how the rest of the time in Croatia plays out – and the rest of our time throughout

    Another fire in the distance today

    Europe.  Portugal, where we arrive on August 1st has had its share of fires since June.  We may see more there.

    Tomorrow we take a ferry to the island of Brac for the day and like everywhere else, the forests and villages there are like a tinder box.

    Cautiously we go.  The heat is on.

    Travel Around the World

    Dubrovnik on the Rocks

    Chapter Nine

    Two weeks in Dubrovnik is a perfect amount of time.  Not just a day excursion from a cruise ship but a chance to explore deeply this beautiful region, the interesting and ancient and recent history, the spectacular beaches and the food.

    Two weeks on the rock. Fabulous !

    We chose to stay outside of the old town in the Lapad neighborhood and I’m really glad we did.  This quiet little suburb is very near the beach and an easy and convenient ten minute bus ride to old town     Our Airbnb had a small but convenient kitchen and

    Lapad

    best of all a private little patio where we did yoga, played scrabble, hung out laundry and ate our meals.

    We test drove several beaches during our visit.  Each offering something a little different.  There is no sand – so people strewn boulders and even gravelly beaches are the norm.  You can hire a chair and umbrella (which we did twice) or lay on the concrete  or rocks (which we did three times).  The water is refreshing and clear and a great place to swim.

    We spent a lot of time enjoying old town and I

    Old Town

    recommend the guided walking tour ($15) and the wall walk ($20).  I also recommend taking the cable car (http://www.dubrovnikcablecar.com $23) up and if you are physically fit take the trail up instead.  It’s a great work out and the view is incredible.

    Lokrum Island

    We took the ferry out to Lokrum Island ($10) and really enjoyed that day walking around the island, swimming in the sea and seeing the old monastery.

    We enjoyed two cultural experiences – a live theatrical Performance of “A Midsummer’s Nights Dream” inside Fort Lovejenac and a live operatic performance of Carmina Burana outside under the stars in the square.  The later is part of the annual

    Carmina Burana under the stars

    Dubrovnik Summer Festival an 8 week performance  extravaganza annually.

    The wall walk

    And definitely go to a cooking class and or a food walking tour.  A great experience.  Read more about that experience here.

    We rented a car one day and drove to the amazing ancient town of Kotor in Montenegro about two hours south.  If you have the time I thought it was a beautiful place and the drive was spectacular.

    Kotor Montenegron

    We did not go out to any of the other local islands, but there are several to choose from.  We decided to wait and visit some islands from Split, where we are headed next.

    If you visit Dubrovnik in the summer just come with an open mind that it will be crowded and hot.  But taking two weeks gives you time to avoid some of the crowds and get a bit deeper.  The ancient history as well as the history around the more recent 1991 war is worth learning and truly understanding.  It’s fascinating to talk to those who lived through it and see how far they have come in just a couple decades.

    Tourism is the economic driver of Dubrovnik so be prepared for it to feel touristy.  It does.  But you should come anyway and take your time discovering all that is here – old, new, traditional and beautiful.  One of the oldest cities in the world – Dubrovnik on the rocks.

    Chapter Nine continues in Split! Fabulous!

     

     

     

    And All the Rest  --  Travel Around the World

    The Care Package

    Chapter Nine

    I’m getting used to not having access to the things I use regularly back in the USA from deodorant to peanut butter.  But with the arrival of my mother-in-law we took possession of a whole lot of items we’ve been missing. It was like Christmas when she dumped out her bag.  In fact, her suitcase was full of our things – more than her own!

    In the past couple of months we have ordered things online and shipped them to my sister who delivered them to my mom in law. She has also done some shopping for us. And my friend Sonja went and bought me a collapsible colander!  What a treat!

    The things we wanted included –

    • Powdered Gatorade
    • solid stick Deodorant
    • Giant bottle of Ibuprofen
    • Tylenol Sinus Medicine
    • Hiking socks
    • Crossword puzzle books
    • One lightweight sleeping bag (for the Camino)
    • Can Opener
    • Collapsible Colander
    • Contact lenses
    • Prescriptions
    • Refill for Gillette woman’s razor
    • New heads for our battery operated toothbrushes
    • Travel books (Australia and Bali)
    • Camino passport
    • Bed bug spray for Camino
    • Updated credit cards
    • Camera lens for the iPhone
    • Freezer bags
    • One cardigan sweater (that I regretted sending home in February)

    When Lynn leaves we plan to ship some things home with her as well. Even though we already shipped a box home, the longer we are gone the more we have honed down the clothes, shoes and miscellaneous other items we don’t need or want on the Grand Adventure.  So she will take home some long pants and long sleeves shirts and a few other clothing items, my green Chucks, our water bladders that go in our backpacks,  a few gifts and cookbooks we have purchased and a few miscellaneous other things.

    Simplify.

    Despite taking possession of all the items mentioned above, we still believe we will be lighter and more sharply appointed for our minimal needs.

    A big thank you to Everyone who helped get us these goodies!  Our comrades!

    The journey continues!

     

    Family and Friends

    Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

    Chapter Nine – We finally get company


    Very early in our travels and by sheer coincidence we were able to meet up for dinner with a friend of mine from high school (in Chiang Mai) and then again friends from Gig Harbor (in Saigon).

    We made it clear when we left home that friends were encouraged to catch up with us and spend some time on the Grand Adventure. So far though it hasn’t happened.

    Until today. Today we welcome our first visitor and actually begin a series of opportunities over the next few months to either host or hook up with friends.

    Today Arne’s mom arrives from Bremerton to spend two weeks with us. We are excited.

    Arne took this sign to the airport.

    We are excited to see her and catch up on news from home.  We are excited to start doing the touristy things here in Dubrovnik that we have been saving for when she arrives. We are excited to take possession of the care package from home – things we have ordered and had shipped to her house that we can’t seem to get here and both need and want.

    We are excited. Something new and different on the Grand Adventure.

    In the months ahead we will also be visiting friends in Slovenia, seeing Erik in Portugal, visiting our friend Leslie in Tunisia and enjoying a holiday with our friends Steve and Sarah in Morocco.

    But today we focus on Arne’s Mom. Welcome to Croatia Mom – Lynn – Granny!  Let the games begin!

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    Food As Culture and History

    Chapter Nine – Croatian Cooking

    It’s my goal in each country to take a cooking class.  It is always an unforgettable experience – as much about culture and history as it is about food. Unfortunately it didnt happen in New Zealand, Seychelles or Bulgaria. But here in Croatia I’m back at it, and enjoyed last night an amazing cultural Croatian experience at the historic Agroturizam Kameni Dvori

    Coming to Dubrovnik?  Make this a priority. Definitely.

    Our tour guide Marija with Dubrovnik Food Story picked me up right across the street from our Airbnb. I joined one other couple, Americans on their honeymoon from Dallas.  We drove about 35 minutes into the hills outside of Dubrovnik, enjoying the scenic views along the way. Our destination Kameni Dvori in the village of Livorno in the Konovale region. This tiny part of Croatia is about ten minutes west of the border with Bosnia Herzegovina and 15 miles north of the border with Montenegro and is steeped in agricultural as well as border conflict history.

    We were greeted on arrival by Katerina, one member of the 16 member family that lives on this site. The family Mojo can trace their ancestors in this very house back to 1536. Remarkable.

    Katarina welcomed us with two kinds of homemade grappa, two kinds of homemade candy and dried figs followed by a brief tour of the main house which is now used for the cooking classes, a taverna and for dining for guests of the inn.

    The massive open fireplace dwarfs the tiny kitchen where we headed next to make Turkish coffee.  While we sat and enjoyed our coffee Katarina and Marija talked about some of the history of the house and the family. Then it was time to head to the garden.

    Baskets in hand we proceeded to gather the fresh ingredients for our dinner picking tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green beans, celery and parsley.  Then we toured the rest of the garden where everything from laurel trees, figs,olives and pomegranates grow.  We gathered eggs from the happy Croatian chickens and headed back to the kitchen.

    First job was to get the fresh bread mixed and kneeded and set it to rise. Next we whipped a dozen egg whites to a lovely froth, added sugar and flour to prepare the traditional Croatian wedding cake called padispanj. While it baked we popped in to the car and drove to the next farm over where we milked a goat. My first milking experience! Thank goodness for a patient goat!  It was fun, not too difficult and surprisingly warm!!

    Milk pail in hand we thanked the neighbor and looked forward to the goat cheese we would be having at dinner thanks to her goats.  Back to the kitchens we went where it was time to start the fire for the main attraction the Peka, traditional Croatian meat and potato dish .  It takes an hour to get the coals hot enough in the fireplace so while the fire burned we prepared a vegetable soup with hand made gnocchi.  Our gnocchi was not potatoe but made simply with egg, olive oil and semolina flour.

    Next we sliced eggplant and zucchini dipped in corn flour and fried it golden brown on the stove, then let it sit on paper towels.

    When the coals were ready the Peka was prepared – olive oil (produced on the farm) is poured into a large round and shallow pan.  Into the pan goes veal, lamb, garlic, onion and salt.  A layer of potatoes goes on top and then it is placed into the fire and covered with a giant steel “bell”.  Ashes are placed all around to seal and then the bell is covered with coals.  Now it bakes for 90 minutes.  Oh the smell!

    Peka is a complicated and time -consuming dish. Not something you would prepare everyday. It is for special occasions and unfortunately there is no “quickie” version.  If you don’t have a giant fireplace you aren’t going to be making Peka.

    While the Peka was on the fire we hiked up to the top of the property to survey the estate. Here you can see the entire valley and all the way to the Adriatic Sea. We learned more about the incredible history, including that during the 1991 war the Yugoslav Army occupied the village and the estate and the family fled into old Dubrovnik. Luckily the estate was not destroyed, although many things were stolen.  Not everyone was so lucky.

    Back to the kitchen and it was time for dinner. We first enjoyed grappa and figs as well as our own bread with olive tapenade, pickled peppers and cheese from our friendly goat.  Next a beautiful selection of smoked meats they do on the farm and a different cheese from our goat as well as sliced fresh tomatoes and our fried eggplant and zucchini.

    Next the Peka was served and it was incredible.  The lamb so tender and the veal falling apart.  Best potatoes I ever had.  When our platter was empty and we were all full here comes another platter full! All of this washed down with both white and red wine made on the farm. Delicious.

    We ended our Croatian feast with our light and airy cake with a cup of warm fresh goats milk and mint tea.

    A remarkable experience.  I felt very much a part of this family and their remarkable tradition and dedication to their culture and history- all while enjoying a spectacular meal based on sustainable farming and dedication to historical practices.

    When you are in Dubrovnik, make this a priority. And anywhere you travel – slow down and embrace food as culture and history.

    Hvala to Dubrovnik Food Storyand Kameni Dvori. Hvala!

     

     

     

     

    Eat and Drink

    Mexicano es Delicioso

    Capítulo Nueve

    When we were leaving the USA I was often asked what I thought I would miss the most. Of course I answered my family and friends and often included the beautiful Pacific Northwest, reliable technology and my bike.

    Not once did my answers include Mexican Food.

    But being out here now going on eight months I’ve been craving Mexican food so bad!  The last Mexican restaurant we saw was in December in Phuket Thailand. Since then – nada.

    So when we stumbled on a place just a couple blocks from our house in Dubrovnik I was all over it. I mean really, in the USA it’s “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Mexican Food” right?

    Maybe it’s a West Coast thing but in our house we cooked Mexican about once a week and went out for Mexican about once a month. When I was working I had a Taco Time Taco Salad for lunch at least twice a week.

    So it was much of a surprise when I realized the entire world doesn’t inhale Mexican food like we do. You can get a pizza in every country (even the stingy Seychelles). You can find pasta almost anywhere. But Mexican? No va a pasar!

    I got my fix tonight and am fat and happy. Who knows when I will get a fajita again?  So until then muchos gracias!