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Laureen

    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – A Wrinkle in Time

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book review A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

    I’m not keeping up with my “book a week” reading schedule.  Since arriving in the USA there has been a lot less reading.  No Scrabble games. And fewer relaxing moments.

    But it’s just as we expected it to be, and I am reading when I can.  This week I finished Madeleine L’Engle’s classic children’s novel A Wrinkle in Time.

    On Father’s Day both my boys saw me reading this book.  I told them I had never read it before and they were both surprised.  They remember the book from their childhood, but I’m sure we did not have it in our collection so they must have read it in school.

    This classic novel written in 1962 wear’s its age well.  The recently released Disney film A Wrinkle in Time brings the tale more into modern-day.  I’d be curious to see how they changed the story to make that work…iphone’s perhaps?

    A Wrinkle in Time is the fantastical story that combines childhood fantasy with science fiction.  It’s a tale like many other beloved children’s works that includes an evil and magical side that is overcome, in the end, with the greatest force in the world – love.

    A precursor to Harry Potter (and not nearly as involved) the story of Meg and her incredible family also reminded me of many other of my favorite childhood books such as the Narnia series, The Giver and even Bedknobs and Broomsticks.  Each of these have the similar theme; overcoming the darkness in our lives and pursuing honor and love.

    A beautiful, easy to read classic for any age.  Four stars for A Wrinkle in Time. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Check out last week’s review of Jodi Picoult’s Vanishing Acts.

    This blog contains affiliate links and we may receive compensation if you purchase this book.  Any money earned goes back to support the maintenance of this blog.  Thank you.

     

    Fab North America Travel

    Let’s Go Gondola in Gig Harbor Washington

    Authentic Gondola Experience in Beautiful Gig Harbor

    Location: Gig Harbor Washington USA

    It’s been three years since John Synco realized his dream of starting his own Gondola business, Gig Harbor Gondola.  But John isn’t Italian.  Nor does he live in Italy.  He is just another amazing entrepreneur in the small town of Gig Harbor Washington who made his dreams come true.

    John had been a professional Gondolier in Southern California for several years starting in 2002.  He had traveled to Venice

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    Onboard Nellie

    several times and loved the beautiful boats and the life of the Gondolier.

    A friend of John’s purchased two authentic Venetian Gondolas a few years back. At the time John was living with his wife and young daughter in Edmonds, having recently left California for Washington.  John wanted one of the gondolas, but knew the waters in Edmonds wouldn’t be conducive to a peaceful gondola ride.

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    Peacefully slicing through the water

    So after searching the area, the family moved to Gig Harbor, with its peaceful small harbor, to start Gig Harbor Gondola. His new Venetian Gondola christened Nellie.  A dream realized.  Three years later John’s business is his full-time, year-around job.  And he is so good at it.

    I took my Mom on the gondola for an evening one-hour tour of the beautiful Gig Harbor Bay.  The $85  one hour tour is for two people.  You can add up to four more people for $20 each.  You can also do a one and half hour tour for $115 for two people and again each additional person is $20 up to six people maximum.

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    My Mom and I enjoying the ride

    The Gig Harbor Gondola price includes appetizers (meats, cheese, grapes and crackers) and you are welcome to bring additional food and drinks.

    John has done his research, and even though he is a relative newcomer to Gig Harbor he really knows the history of the town.  His tour provides lots of fun information, history and insight into this tiny community on the bay, nestled so peacefully in the shadow of Mount Rainer.

    The night we toured was calm with little wind and though a bit chilly, the sun was shining.  The gondola includes blankets though just in case.  Through out our tour one harbor seal followed the gondola around the bay, curiously watching us and

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    The mouth of Gig Harbor Bay and it’s welcoming lighthouse

    keeping just to the right of John’s oar.  Speaking of John’s oar, he has learned the craft of being a gondolier perfectly.  The rowing oar, which is not attached to the boat, is used to both propel the boat and as a rudder. Our ride was smooth and silent and safe.

    After learning and chatting as we calmly sliced through the water, John took a moment to serenade us with a beautiful Italian ballad.  I have no idea what he was singing about – but it was lovely.  I’m sure people on shore could hear his crisp tenor voice across the water.

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    The sun sets on our tour

    Spending time on Gig Harbor bay with Gig Harbor Gondola is always a treat.  Seeing this lovely town from the water gives you such a different perspective.  And now I’ve seen it through new eyes, the eyes of John and Nellie the Gondola.  Bellissimo!

    Grazie John!  What a lovely, relaxing excursion.

    Favoloso!

    Make your reservation to enjoy Gig Harbor Gondola today! Click here!

    Visit Gig Harbor

    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

    I snatched this book from the cruise ship recently, where you could take a book and leave a book.  I left several, and took this one and a couple of others.

    I’ve read Jodi Picoult before, and liked but didn’t love her books.  This one was similar for my reaction, but I did enjoy the story that addresses not only family, but alcohol addiction and memory loss.

    What would you do if thought your child was in danger? In danger by someone they loved?  What if that someone was your estranged spouse?  Would you take the child and run?  I don’t think we ever know what we would do until we find ourselves in a situation like that.  And this is the basis of the story of Vanishing Acts.

    Delia Hopkins loves her father. She has a beautiful daughter and is engaged to be married to her best friend. She has a career as a highly successful dog search and rescue leader.  Life is good.  Until the bottom of her world falls away.

    Out of the blue Delia’s mild-mannered father is arrested. Delia’s father has been leading a life of lie, ever since he took Delia and left Arizona when she was only four.  Delia remembers nothing of this and as the story unfolds she learns so much about herself that she never knew.  And along the way she also learns who the important people in her life are – and what ends those who love us will go, to keep us protected.

    As the story of Delia life unfolds, Picoult takes the reader from rural New Hampshire to Arizona as Delia fights to learn the truth about her own life, her father’s life and to rationalize and come to terms with a new reality of who she really is.

    ⭐⭐⭐Three stars for Vanishing Acts.

    Read last week’s review of Never Home

    This blog contains affiliate links.  If you purchase a book I will receive compensation.  Any money earned goes back into the maintenance of this blog.  Thank you.

     

    Fab North America Travel

    Being an Ambassador of Food

    And Remembering Anthony Bourdain

    Location: Gig Harbor WA USA

    I’ve decided I can be an Ambassador of food.  My new fabulous role.

    When we used to live in Gig Harbor (Washington USA) I started a cooking club of like-minded friends.  Usually I taught the class and it focused on teaching one of the cuisines I had learned while on a recent trip somewhere in the world.  We also met a few other times when other cooking club

    Ambassadors of Food

    The Gig Harbor Cooking Club

    members organized events such as wine tasting, and a class with a chef at a local restaurant.

    Our Cooking Club included 14 super fun people.  Our time together was always interesting and educational.  And always involved lots of food and

    Ambassador of food

    Enjoying cooking and eating

    wine.

    Since I left the USA the cooking club kind of fell apart.  But I returned determined to bring it back together, at least for one performance, while I was here in Gig Harbor.

    Yesterday eleven of our fourteen cooks gathered

    Ambassador of Food

    In the kitchen

    at the home of one of the members and I taught a class on Vietnamese and Thai cooking.  We had this on the calendar for several months.  But the suicide of my cooking, traveling, world ambassador mentor Anthony Bourdain weighed heavy on my mind – particularly since Vietnamese cuisine I knew was Anthony’s favorite.

    Ambassador of food

    Sharing

    I decided I wanted to talk to my cooking friends about how overwhelmingly sad I felt that Anthony Bourdain chose to take his life.  So that discussion is how we began our class.  Everyone felt the same lost and shocked feeling – all of us knowing it could have been prevented.  We talked a while about Tony and about suicide and about our country and its many troubles. And then to ease some of that heartache, we began to cook.

    It was fun, chaotic, delicious and exhausting.  I love to teach and this kind of event comes very naturally to  me, but it was tough cooking and teaching in someone else kitchen.  But we made it work, didn’t burn the house down, and had a great time. In Tony’s memory.

    Ambassador of food

    Combining the flavors

    I realize, through teaching new cuisines to open-minded cooks, that I am in my own small way, an ambassador like Anthony.  I’ve talked about this before – how I see my world travel as an ambassador role.  Showing people around the world what “real” Americans are like.  So it’s another way to open minds and hearts – I can bring cuisines back here to my friends, help them embrace new cultures and experiences and make the world a better place, one delicious mouthful at a time.

    It’s certainly not Parts Unknown.  But it makes me feel happy.

    I’m grateful to this group of cooks who enjoy the same things I enjoy and so I’ve given them a challenge – I promise to teach another class when I come back to the USA again next summer, but on one condition.  They must organize themselves and have at least one Cooking Club event while I am out of the country.

    Challenge on. Let’s make Tony proud.

    Fabulous.

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Why I Feel Such a Loss over Anthony Bourdain’s Suicide

    National Suicide Prevention Line Call 1-800-273-8255

    Why I feel such a loss over Anthony Bourdain’s Suicide.

    National Suicide Prevention Line Call 1-800-273-8255.

    I worshiped him.

    Hung on his words.

    Watched him mature.

    I was proud of his open admission to substance abuse and recovery.

    I loved his travel ethic. His clear understanding of how intricately linked food is to culture.

    He seemed sincere. Kind. Understood the power he wielded without ego or arrogance.

    You’d think we were best friends.  Of course we never met.  The closest I ever got to Anthony
    Bourdain was Row 50 of the Paramount Theatre in Seattle when he and Mario Batali entertained an audience of admirers.

    Why I feel such a loss of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide – I felt like I knew him personally.  I often half jokingly said Bourdain for President in 2020. Maybe I was more serious than joking.  In my eyes he was everything I wanted to be; a talented writer and storyteller, an incredible chef, a conscientious and thoughtful traveler, smart, witty, empathetic and unconcerned about what others thought of him.

    But was he all these things?  Or was it part of the act? What demons possessed him to take his own life, at the height of his career? With a beautiful little daughter?  Loved and respected by millions the world over?  Is keeping up appearances for celebrities just too hard in this age of non-stop media?

    I think he may have been conflicted about his celebrity – because essentially it goes against many of his beliefs.  Should chefs be like rock stars? Does promoting travel to remote places around the world cause too much stress on these places and change them? Did he feel guilty?  Did he think he wasn’t worthy of his unbridled success?

    Was it just all too much? Clearly it was. And it’s why I feel such a loss over Anthony Bourdain’s suicide.

    I am not a clinical psychiatrist, a mental health professional or a doctor of any kind.  I’m just a fan who feels stricken that for Anthony Bourdain there was a burden, whatever it was, he could no longer bear.

    Why?

    The United States has a crisis on its hands.  And although celebrity suicides bring this issue of suicide to light in the media, the real crazy thing is the number of suicides we never hear about.

    In 2016 (the last year that statistics are available) 45,000 people committed suicide in the United States.  That’s 124 PER DAY!  And thousands more, thankfully, attempted but failed to commit suicide.

    Washington State, where I am sitting writing this blog today, ranks 26th in the United States for suicides.  Montana is number one.

    I don’t have the answers.  I just have the questions.  And a heavy heart.  My hero is gone – and I feel the loss.

     

    New York Times Article about suicide in the USA

    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Suicide Statistics

    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    Call 1-800-273-8255

     

     

     

     

    Fab North America Travel

    Peaceful Paradise of Zion and Bryce

    Worth the Trip

    Location: Orderville Utah USA

    Our visit to the USA has been a bit frantic and fast-paced until the past few days as we have enjoyed the peaceful paradise of Zion and Bryce National Parks in Utah.

    Hiking the river valley in Zion

    Incredible Bryce Canyon

    Rock cliffs in Zion

    This is my second visit to these two incredibly beautiful US National Parks. And probably not my last. The beauty here is astounding. The geological features astonishing. Even if you aren’t a religious person as you stand on the edge of somewhere like Bryce Canyon you are filled with awe and a sense of spirituality. An awe of nature, our planet, and how small each of us are in the whole scheme of things.

    With my friends on the edge of Bryce Canyon

    We spent five fun-filled days with two couples who we have known for forty years. College friends of Arne’s and their wives. We have traveled together several times before and it’s a good fit.

    This time we met for one night in Las Vegas then

    Me and Arne enjoying the view

    drove to Orderville Utah. Orderville is perfectly placed half way between Zion and Bryce. We rented a spectacular log cabin and spent three days enjoying the peaceful paradise of Zion and Bryce – hiking and exploring and marveling at these diverse parks.

    Sixty candles on the cake. Wow.

    Me in the Virgin River Zion

    We also celebrated the three guys 60th birthdays as they all turn sixty within three weeks of each other this month. It was a wonderful celebration. A wonderful reunion. And a wonderful reminder of how lucky we are; good friends, amazing travel and a healthy life well-lived.

    Fabulous.

    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Never Home by Laird Hunt

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Book Review

    Book Review Never Home by Laird Hunt

    There are many historical stories of Civil War soldiers who were women masquerading as men.  It’s a known fact that many women fought in the war of the States, and many also died.

    Never Home is such a tale.  A thoughtfully written account of Constance Thompson who took the name of Ash, left her husband to tend the farm and marched off to fight as a Union soldier.

    Hunt’s ability to write in the voice of Ash with accuracy and feeling is the best part of this book.  Incredibly brave and tough, Ash becomes somewhat of a symbol to other soldiers as gallant man and there is even a song written about Gallant Ash.  Ash hides her true identity as best she can, even though many around her suspect. But since she is a stellar soldier, a remarkable sharp shooter, smart and quick she survives where many others do not.  The story will take you along with Ash as she wanders through the years as a soldier; in escapade and battle, prison and torture, starvation and sickness and on the long and eventful journey back to her beloved husband.

    If you loved Cold Mountain as much as I did (one of my all-time favorite books), you’ll notice some similarities in the storytelling of the difficult situations and grueling life of this Civil War soldier as she navigates this particularly bloody and violent war.

    Four Stars for Never Home⭐⭐⭐⭐

    Read last week’s review of The Light of the Fireflies

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