I’m not sure how this book go on my to read list…because it is pretty old. Published in 2001 but I had never read it, or anything by this author. I am definitely glad I found it though. It was heartfelt and uplifting. Here is my book review Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio.
It’s the 1950’s in rural Kentucky. A tight knit community but poor and misunderstood. We meet a little orphan girl named Icy. Icy lives with her grandparents – a loving and hard working couple whose only daughter was Icy’s mother.
There Is Something Different
But there is clearly something different about Icy. Not only does she feel shame about her being an orphan, but Icy suffers from an undiagnosed disorder that causes her to have “fits” – today we know this disorder as Tourette Syndrome.
But for little Icy her childhood and teenage years are a life of humiliation because of her illness which causes her to jerk, croak, tick and yell. Misunderstood and shunned, laughed at and chastised, Icy retreats into her small farmhouse and never goes anywhere.
This character Icy really pulled at my heart strings as she navigates life with confusion and sadness. Her only friends, an obese woman named Miss Emily and her grandparents, a grown-up Icy narrates the story of her childhood pain with humor. I felt so much empathy for this dear young girl.
Eventually Icy will receive a diagnosis, an education and find her way to give back in a world where few have been kind to her, but she comes out shining on the other side. I enjoyed this sweet girl and this often laugh out loud story.
Thanks for reading my book review Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Miller
****Four stars for Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Miller
Despite our hundreds of countries and thousands of miles covered over the years, we had never made it to Ciudad de Mexico until late 2021. At that time we came just to enjoy a week long Eating My Way Through Mexico City food tour…thinking that was all there was to do. Boy were we wrong. So, we couldn’t wait to get back to this fascinating and historic place because there is just so much to love about Mexico City.
Ciudad de Mexico
Beyond the food – which is phenomenal and inexpensive, CDMX has some of the friendliest people, most beautiful architecture, incredible ancient and recent history, fantastic parks and green spaces, so many museums and… well should I mention the food again? So on this our second visit, we dug deeper to find more of the heart of this place which helped us to realize there is so much to love about Mexico City.
Museo Nacional de Anthropologia
We spent three amazing hours at the Museo Nacional de Anthropologia and you could easily spend an entire day. A vast and impressive collection that chronicles the ancient and recent history of the geology, people, and arts of Mexico. One of the best museums I have ever been to any where in the world…and that is saying something. Tours are available but it is simple enough to do without a guide. Entry fee is around $5. The museum also houses a fantastic restaurant with foods that focus on each distinctive region of Mexico. Do not miss.
Free Walking Tour
On our last visit we did an incredible free walking tour (tip-based) in the regions surrounding the beautiful historic centro area. I highly recommend that if it’s your first visit to Mexico City. This time we decided to do a free walking tour of the Roma Condesa, the neighborhood where our hotel was. We used Estacion Mexico, the same tour we used last year. Our guide Eduardo was funny, knowledgeable and passionate about this place. We loved it!
We try to do cultural performances whenever we can. And we often do performances just to see local performance venues. This Ballet Folkloric gave us both opportunities. The show was one of the best I have ever seen with music, dancing, acrobatics and more…performed in one of the most beautiful theaters I have ever visited, the Palacio de Belles Arts. Do not miss this show.
Eat Like a Local Mexico City
When we visited before, we spent five days with Eat Like a Local Mexico learning, tasting, cooking and seeing the wonders of the history and culture of Mexican food. We enjoyed our new friends and we definitely wanted to tour with them again. Eat Like a Local Mexico owner Rocio created a personal tour for us and guided us herself. A special treat for us was starting our tour with a cooking class learning to make Octopus Tacos with Chef Diego at Temporal. Then we worked our way around the city enjoying so much wonderful local food from tacos pastor to tamales and the finale was a very unique dessert made from mushrooms. Be absolutely sure to book with Eat Like a Local Mexico when you visit Mexico City. Don’t choose any other food tour…and don’t eat before your tour!!
I booked our dinner reservation at Pujol seven months in advance, because I did not want to miss having dinner at this restaurant, one of the top five restaurants in the world. It is expensive, but it was a wonderful experience to enjoy some very unique and beautifully presented dishes. And the service was outstanding. Cost was $165 per person before alcohol or tips for the prix fixe dinner. This price and experience were similar to the prix fixe dinners we had in both Maui at Merriman’s and in Giverny France at Jardin de Plumes.
Pronounced Loo-Cha Lee-Bra, this national Mexican past time is a spectacle and a lot of fun. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it but I loved it. It’s a real performance that requires a lot of athleticism and choreography for the scripted wresting match. The masked gladiators are wonderful performers. Lucha Libre started more than 100 years ago. Today thousands of people come out several times a week to enjoy the show and cheer on their favorite masked gladiator. You can attend this on your own, but we chose to go with our guide Alberto from Tours by Locals. I’m glad we did because he provided us wonderful insight, history and stories, as well as other details about beautiful Mexico City and the surrounding area.
Wow. This place was way better than I was expecting and we loved our guide Hilary from Tours by Locals. We spent the entire day exploring this ancient site located about 25 miles northeast of Ciudad de Mexico. Teotihuacan construction began in 100 BCE, long before the Aztecs. The actual name of the people who built it and lived here is unknown and there is no written record. But they left behind this vast site that today is still being discovered. The Aztecs settled here and ruled the region much later from about 1200 CE until the Spanish obliterated them in the 1500’s. Archeological research and discovery first began in 1904.
Today Teotihuacan is a UNESCO Heritage Site and the second most visited site in Mexico after Chichen Itza in the Yucatan. I highly recommend visiting this fantastic ancient cultural site when in Mexico.
The UNESCO heritage site south of the center of Mexico City is where the remains of the original lake and canals still exist. When the Spanish arrived they drained and filled in most of the lakes and canals that were built by the Aztecs. Today only the Xochimilco canals remain. Here the people have for generations used the rich fertile soil for agriculture. The floating gardens are the small islands in the lakes and canals that have been secured using willow trees. Today’s agriculture is primarily flowers, and the gorgeous blooms make their way to homes and businesses, restaurants and hotels all over the city. The tourist boats might seem a little kitschy but we did the boat ride early on a Monday and had the whole place to ourselves. We really enjoyed seeing this unique way of life with our guide Juan from Tours by Locals.
Coyoacan and UNAM
On the same day we visited Xochimilco (see above) with our most amazing guide Juan, we also visited the amazing murals at the Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico. UNAM is the largest university in Mexico and home to one of the most astonishing works of art I have ever seen. The tiled building that houses the central library is a UNESCO heritage site by architect and artist Juan O’Gorman from 1952. This incredible work of art tells the story of all of Mexico from ancient times to present day. It is truly a remarkable thing to see, and having the significance of the art explained to us in detail by Juan was absolutely fascinating. Learn more here.
Our next stop was the amazing Coyoacan neighborhood…a fantastic artist neighborhood and home to the Frida Kahlo Museum. But Coyoacan has more. A vibrant and wonderful place to explore, full of shops and history. We visited two significant churches; a former monastery Church of San Juan Bautista, and Capilla de la Conchita a remarkable chapel built by Cortez in 1525. We walked around the colorful parks and streets and had a delicious lunch. Juan took us to a teeny coffee shop that has been operating since 1953 and we also had the famous Coyoacan Churro. I really love this neighborhood.
We also made a brief stop in the high rent district San Angel – the Beverly Hills of Mexico City. Where the Spanish built the summer homes and still today the rich and fabulous live here. Cobblestone streets and fortress style mansions line the streets.
We also highly recommend The Red Tree House hotel. This is the first time we have ever returned to stay a second time in a hotel because of an excellent first experience. This boutique style hotel is a favorite among Americans. Book well in advance if you can. Comfortable and in the great neighborhood of Roma Condesa and the service is fantastic. The Red Tree House offers a delicious breakfast and nightly wine and beer happy hour. Don’t miss it. Rooms range from low $100 USD and up.
Getting around is easy by Metro, Metro Bus, Uber, Didi or Taxi. Something for everyone. We took a taxi from the airport on arrival but then used Uber or the Metro the rest of our trip. Many locals speak English but if they don’t they are always willing to work to help you understand. If you stay in the main tourist areas and more populated neighborhoods and shopping areas you will always feel safe.
We will be back
I now consider Mexico City one of my favorite cities anywhere in the world. Yes I love Paris, Barcelona, Jerusalem, New York and more. But something about Ciudad de Mexico has really captured my heart. Thank you to the local people for helping me see there is so much to love about Mexico City. And there is still so much more to see…so Hasta Luego Ciudad de Mexico. Until we meet again – Muchas Gracias.
Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors and I have read a lot of her work. My favorites include The Museum of Extraordinary Things and The Dovekeepers. Skylight Confessions, one of her older books published in 2007 was very good, but not my favorite of her work. Here is my book review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.
Like all of Hoffman’s vast collection of novels, there is a mystical element to Skylight Confessions. But Hoffman’s gift is to seamlessly weave the magic and paranormal into a realistic plot with normal characters. In Skylilght Confessions opposites attract early on in the book when John and Arlyn have a powerful magnetism that results in a lifetime of regret. A loveless marriage filled with infidelity will result in two children, the first named Sam finds life and acceptance difficult from the start.
Death visits the family when Arlyn dies and leaves a devastated John who turns to the neighbor for physical love. Arlyn’s death also crushes George, her one true love. But most of all it changes young Sam’s entire world and he will never be the same.
Meridith joins the family as a nanny, but Meridith’s presence is only as a result of her ability to see Arlyn’s ghost. Arlyn is unable to cross over and haunts the families mansion and her husband John. The weight of this paranormal presence will create chaos and unhappiness through the decades, fracture the family even further and cause Sam and his sister Blanca to hate their father and stay as far away as possible.
Book Review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman
This is a sad story of how love, mistakes, dishonesty and grief disintegrate lives and a family…but the ending will give you hope for healing.
***Three stars for Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.
Thank you for reading my Book Review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.
Read last week’s book review The Furrows by Namwali Serpell
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MAUI is open for business and needs your support. Although Lahaina has years and years of recovery, the rest of Maui welcomes you. PLEASE consider supporting the aid efforts for the residents of Maui. We suggest the following;
A re-share from October 2020 –Please check current status of individual suggestions as the situation is fluid.
Maui is hands down my favorite of all the Hawaiian Islands. We have now been on Maui for seven weeks and still have two more weeks to go! Everything about it I love. And despite the fact there isn’t anything negative I can say about this beautiful place, I do have some favorites. So today I thought I would share with you my Maui top five things to do – best of the best.
Top Five Beaches
Keawakapu – our most frequented beach in South Kihei offers a wide sandy beach, warm clear water and gentle waves
Makena Beaches – Makena also in the south, is dotted with public access to dozens of beautiful and often secluded beach. Secret Beach is worth finding. MaKena Beach State Park is a wonderful huge expanse of a beach and rarely busy.
Black Beach Hana – for the sheer beauty of it, Black Beach on the road to Hana is worth a visit
Baldwin Beach – on the north shore Baldwin Beach is great for body surfing
Napili Bay Beach – I have not swam at this beach but it is so beautiful and has easy access at the north end of the island
Top Five Snorkeling
Black Rock Kaanapali – the beach in front of the Kaanapali Sheraton known as Black Rock is one of my favorite places to snorkel. Clear and full of fish and turtles.
Turtle Rock – On a guided snorkel trip a few years ago we had the most amazing time at Turtle Rock – hundreds of turtles here.
Molokini – Though sometimes crowded, a snorkel tour to Molokini is a must at least once in your life to see the abundant marine life here.
Makena Beaches – there are several public access beaches on this long stretch of south Maui with some of the best and easily accessed snorkeling on the island.
Keawakapu – my favorite beach, and the one closest to where we usually stay, has an easy access into the water with snorkel options at the far north of the beach around a large lava reef. Wonderful sealife, turtles and fish.
Top Five Hikes
Waihee Ridge – mid island, five mile roundtrip with incline to spectacular views but weather can be unpredictable.
Kapalua Coastal Trail – hugging the coast from Kapalua to Napili this rugged and beautiful hike has views of Molokai, Lanai and the ocean. Windy.
Halemau’u Haleakala – hike down into the crater starting at 8000 foot level where you will find easy parking. The trail is a switch back and easy for most fit hikers. Temperatures can be very cold at times.
Sliding Sands Haleakala – this is a work out let me tell you, but if you are fit it’s spectacular. Bring lots of water, be prepared for wind and cold or heat and sun you never know. A great place to see the rare and beautiful Silver Sword plant.
Hoapili, La Perouse – past Makena where the road ends you will find parking and the trailhead of the Hoapili, the historic Kings Road. The rough trail takes you over a 300 year old lava field to the far south end of the island. Bring lots of water, it is a hot and dry trail.
So if you are thinking about visiting Maui for the first time, or are planning to return for another visit, check out some of my top fives – you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Be a Kind & Generous Visitor
And remember, Maui took a big hit during the pandemic and is now dealing with an unprecedented disaster. The local people have lost lives, family, homes, jobs, income and businesses closed permanently, on this island that depends on tourism. If you can afford to visit Maui, you can afford to make a donation while you are there. Please be generous.
Help breathe life back into the local economy by shopping and dining at locally owned stores, supporting locally run activities, taking time to talk to and understand the local people and their culture, and donate to a local non-profit agency that is helping the local people.
A strange book. I spent a lot of time wondering what was happening…but I stuck with it. Liked but didn’t love it. Here is my book review The Furrows by Namwali Serpell
A Celebrated Novel
This book, much celebrated and awarded just didn’t do it for me. Sometimes it happens. My mood? My stress level? Who knows, but I struggled. But other’s have certainly found this book remarkable – New York Magazine claiming it “A triumph”.
I can certainly say it was unique. A wild ride through a families grief after the loss of a child. A mystery of sorts as you navigate an ever changing narrative of how this child died. Or did he die? Is he just missing?
At its core, this novel is about grief and the multitudes of ways people negotiate grief. Cassandra, who was the only witness to her brothers death is plagued with uncertainty through out her life, her multitude of therapists, her visions and dreams…is she mentally ill?
Her mother, neurotic and obsessive, with no body ever found, she refuses to believe Wayne is dead. Could a seven year old survive alone somewhere? Has he been kidnapped? Her unwillingness to process through the grief leaves the family torn, disembowled, breft.
Cassandra’s relationship with her parents – one who stays and focuses only the lost child and one who leaves and starts a whole new family – will be all she has for her entire life following Wayne’s death. Until she meets someone who also is searching…searching for a life without doubt.
It’s a grim story of mourning and memory, letting go and living.
Thank you for reading my book review The Furrows by Namwali Serpell.
***Three stars for The Furrows by Namwali Serpell
Read last week’s book review The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
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We usually do our mountain hikes at Mount Rainier, it’s about an hour and half from our summer home in Washington. But we decided to venture a bit further, and drove the two and half hours to Mount Saint Helens National Monument for a fabulous Fall Hike in Mount Saint Helens.
May 18, 1980
I was in college in May of 1980 when Mount Saint Helens blew her top. It’s a day I will never forget. One of those “where were you” moments. Fifty-seven people died, the entire region was ravaged and the landscape was forever changed.
It’s been probably twenty years since I was in the national monument, and I was astonished to find how scared it still is. It’s a testament to both the power of the earth and the rebirth of nature. I stand in awe at this mountain, as I do for all the mountains in the great State of Washington.
We drove to the Johnston Ridge Observatory to begin our hike. Named for David Johnston, a 30-year-old volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, who was swept away by the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens on the morning of May 18, 1980.
At the observatory there is plenty of parking and a visitor center. This is the start of several hikes. We decided to do Harry’s Ridge Hike.
Named for Harry R. Truman (October 30, 1896– May 18, 1980) was an American businessman, bootlegger, and prospector. He lived near Mount St. Helens, an active volcano in the state of Washington, and was the owner and caretaker of Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake near the base of the mountain. Truman came to fame as a folk hero in the months leading up to the volcano’s 1980 eruption after refusing to leave his home despite evacuation orders. He was killed by a pyroclastic flow that overtook his lodge and buried the site under 150 ft (46 m) of volcanic debris. (source Wikipedia)
The Ridge is an out and back 7.5 mile hike with fabulous views of of Spirit Lake and Mount Saint Helens. In the fall the area is covered in colorful red bushes (blueberries) and other low growing foliage, creating a beautiful Fall Hike in Mount Saint Helens. This hike offers almost no shade and can be very hot and dusty. Bring more water than you think you will need.
Visit Mount Saint Helens
There is so much to do in the beautiful area from hiking and camping to fishing and sight-seeing. Learn more about Mount Saint Helens here.
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Sometimes wonderful, often strange, I struggled with parts of this book but in the end loved it. Here is my book review The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Slavery is alive and well but the great plantations of Virginia are diminishing and struggling. We are introduced to Hiram, a mixed race slave fathered by the plantation owner of Lockless. Hiram’s mother was sold when he was very young and he struggles to find his own place. Unlike any slavery novel I’ve read the vocabulary surrounding the era is interested. The “enslaved” are referred to as “tasked”, the plantation owners are the “quality” and the low-class whites are “the low”.
Conduction is the super human ability he possesses, with a handful of other like him, he is recruited to help with the underground railroad. He is betrayed by one he trusts, loses the love of his life, meets Harriet Tubman and is able to find his way in helping the Underground, and eventually finding his way back to the family he loves.
Hiram knows always that he is different than many of the other slaves. But he doesn’t understand the super natural events that he has witnessed in his young life. He knows he is intelligent with an extraordinary photographic memory, but only after his half brother dies in a freak accident does his unique super natural abilities come to light…for both himself and one of the “quality”.
Not Just Another Slavery Story
Coates debut novel is a unique twist on the Pre-Civil War story, a look at life in slavery, the Underground work down by black and white alike, and the super natural power many African slaves believed could and would save them from the depths of a horrific life.
Four tars for The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Thanks for reading my book review The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
See last week’s book review Tom Lake by Ann Patchett.
My current read Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
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