This book. Wow. A Pulitzer Prize winning narrative with an incredible leading character who will break your heart. Here is my book review Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Stout.
Stout brilliantly writes a collection of short stories, each with an overriding character named Olive Kitteridge. Those 13 stories become this Pulitzer Prize winning book. Stout’s ability to pull the reader into each separate story reveals her creative aptitude. Although often sad and depressing I couldn’t put it down.
This book. These characters. What you find here is the truth in living. How everyone has some hidden sadness we may never really know. How first impressions are often wrong. How the process of just living changes each person over time. In the small Maine town, these are the people Stout writes about, each dealing with something; lost love, addiction, suicide contemplation, lack of self-confidence, infidelity, loneliness, death.
Throughout these stories there is Olive Kitteridge; wife, mother, retired school teacher. Sometimes tyrannical, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes kind, sometimes irritable. And often quietly insightful. Olive Kitteridge is a mirror of each of us, as we endure life’s trials and tragedies, joys and jubilation. A life too short and usually over before we really know how precious it was.
We love Paris like everyone else. But really that’s the problem. EVERYONE loves Paris (and London and Rome) and so you find lots of crowds and high cost. In our travels around the world we have really tried to find new places that few tourists go. Often these destinations end up being our most favorite. And the more we travel the more we want to encourage everyone to consider stepping out of their travel comfort zone, and exploring the unknown – the favorite destinations no one goes. Finding your way to the lesser traveled destinations creates less impact on the planet while bringing greater cultural awareness to the traveler. We ask you to consider these options:
Instead of Croatia consider visiting Bulgaria, one of our favorite countries we have ever been to. Bulgaria has so much to offer, and yet we did not meet a single American during the entire month we were there. We did meet lots of Russians, Germans and some Brits. Bulgaria has a remarkable coastline along the gorgeous Black Sea as well as great mountains for hiking. The food is amazing, the wine is cheap and the 5000 year history is astounding. And the people are so amazing, welcoming and proud. They have endured a great deal in their history, and they have a “come what may” attitude that is infectious. Go visit Bulgaria.
Instead of Italy go to fascinating Slovenia. From Trieste, Italy it’s just a hop across the border to Slovenia, the tiny country once part of Yugoslavia. We have been to Slovenia twice and I suspect we will be there again. Slovenia has a tiny coastline on the Adriatic, and our favorite town of Piran is a perfect place to visit and get some local flavor. But don’t stop there, Slovenia has some of the most beautiful mountain towns and lakes. Much of Slovenia is still agrarian and the people are welcoming and patriotic and friendly. Oh and the seafood. So darn delicious. Go visit Slovenia.
Instead of Mexico go to El Salvador. We just spent two weeks on the Pacific Coast of tiny El Salvador and we absolutely loved it. There are some Americans coming here, but mostly 20-year-old surfers. The media has made us believe El Salvador is a dangerous place, and yet it is no more dangerous than Mexico and Americans flock to Mexico. Come to El Salvador where the water is warm, the people are welcoming, the food is delicious and the history though brutal and bloody – is fascinating. El Salvador will soon come out the shadow of its violent past, so visit before the secret gets out. Go visit El Salvador.
Instead of Germany go to Poland. Poland is just beginning to step out of the shadow and become a tourist destination. And it should. We fell hard for Poland spending three weeks there last fall. Poland has some of the most astonishing history anywhere in Europe. The food is fantastic. The people are warm and happy to meet you. The historic villages are well-preserved and beautiful. And it is cheap and easy to get to. We loved Krakow as well as all the other places we visited and using the train in Poland was a great way to travel. You really should visit Poland now.
Instead of India go to Bangladesh. I loved our time in India too, but if you want to push yourself and visit somewhere no tourists go, visit the remarkable, tiny country of Bangladesh. Our short visit to Bangladesh provided us some of the most rewarding moments we have ever had in our travels. It’s difficult to visit Bangladesh without a guide, and we were lucky to find Deshguri, one of the few tour operators in the country. Through Deshguri we able to meet so many Bangladeshi people, who greeted us with more kindness than anywhere we have ever been in the world. We certainly stood out in both crowded Dakar as well as the beautiful villages and countryside, since almost no Western tourists come here. We learned so much during our time in Bangladesh, and left our heart with its beautiful people. A remarkable experience that everyone should have. Visit Bangladesh soon.
Instead of Thailand go to Sri Lanka. Thailand is overrun with tourists anymore. So if you are looking for beautiful beaches, mountains and more, visit Sri Lanka instead. The young backpacking set has found Sri Lanka, but few American visitors of the Fab Fifties era are traveling here. Why not? It is amazing. We spent three of our most favorite weeks in Sri Lanka, one of the friendliest countries we have ever visited. The Civil War is over and Sri Lanka is safe and inexpensive. The food is the da bomb. Hiking and history is around every corner and the beaches are incredible. We saw elephants and leopards, monkeys and snakes. Oh my. It’s Sri Lanka for me.
Instead of South Africa go to Namibia. Our ten-day tour in Namibia with Wild Wind Safaris will go down in our travels as one of the most remarkable places. This country that nobody has heard of is one of the most beautiful in the world. We had an amazing private guide during our time there, but you can also see the country easily with your own 4×4 vehicle (careful though, there is a high traffic fatality rate in Namibia). Namibia has a gorgeous Atlantic coastline, dry mountainous region that is like a moonscape, and multiple fascinating cultures such as the Himba, Damara and Herero people. And to top it off Etosha National Park – single-handedly the best wildlife viewing we have ever encountered. I absolutely fell in love with Namibia. If you have ever considered a safari in Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa take a moment and research Namibia. You will be so glad you did. Go see Namibia now.
Instead of the Maldives go to the Seychelles. First a word about the Maldives. We loved our time there, and luckily we found a very inexpensive place to stay. But in general the Maldives are expensive and there is no alcohol! So consider the Seychelles instead. A beautiful set of small islands out in the middle of nowhere off of east Africa. We spent a month on the tiny island of Praslin and loved every minute of it. Groceries were expensive and the variety was less than desirable, but the rest of the experience was very positive. The islanders speak French/Creole mix, and the shy people are friendly and religious. If you are looking for a place to kick back and relax with the warmest turquoise waters in the world, visit Seychelles now.
Instead of Spain go to Portugal. I hesitated about adding Portugal to this list because Portugal does have a thriving tourism industry. But we met very few Americans while we were there. Perhaps more Americans go to Spain because Spanish is a language more Americans can handle. But during our time in Portugal we had very little difficulty with the Portuguese language. We loved Portugal so much we would consider living there. The food is incredible, the cities are beautiful and the beaches are fantastic. It’s a remarkable place with such a variety of geography. Historically Portugal was once a powerful country of explorers and merchants, colonizers and tyrants but today, this quiet and beautiful country is laid back and relaxed and fun. Visit Portugal.
What is next for us?
We are now into a full-fledged planning phase of our next chapter of the Grand Adventure. We will spend May-September in the USA then depart again. Without really trying, we have noticed
a trend in the countries we are planning to visit next, a trend towards less touristy. A trend towards staying longer in one place. A trend towards trying to make less of an impact and remove ourselves from the fray.
I think this is what we always intended to happen on this journey, but it just took us a while to get there. But when we look back on our favorite places we have been so far, it’s always the places with the road less traveled. It’s always the places with few western tourists. It’s always the places the cruise ships don’t go. The authentic and relatively untouched destinations.
It’s been about seven years since I read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters and it remains one of my all time favorite books. So when I saw he had a new book, I snatched it up not even knowing what it was about. Here is my Book Review The Cold Millions by Jess Walters.
In the Cold Millions, Walters takes us to his own hometown of Spokane, here in the State of Washington where I live. But he takes us back to the early twentieth century, a time where Spokane was a hard-scrabble industrial town. It’s a changing time in America, a time where the rich are trying to keep their power over the poor as workers rights and women’s rights are coming to the forefront.
Walters creates a magical collection of characters, including brothers Rye and Gig who are caught up in the unionization turmoil and the police brutality and corruption that accompanies it, as they try to make a better life for themselves. The story includes real life characters, like feminist activist Elizabeth Gurley-Flynn who is placed in this fictional story that also includes some true life historical events.
If you liked This Tender Land or Peace Like a River you will like The Cold Millions. I enjoyed this book very much, especially learning some history about this era in Spokane that I was not familiar with, but more than anything enjoying Walters writing and character development.
*****Five Stars for The Cold Millions by Jess Walters
This is a repost of one of our favorite blogs from 2020. Enjoy again or for the first time.
We spent seven weeks on the island of Cyprus – 37 days longer than we thought we would be here. During that time we were basically under house arrest so there was very little sight-seeing. Fortunately we are allowed to go out to the grocery store (with advanced permission) and the stores were bursting with wonderful fresh produce; avocados, citrus of every kind, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, pomegranates, lots of greens and potatoes and cucumbers. Just about anything you can think of to use in my Cyprus test kitchen.
I’m very grateful that one of the first things we did on arriving in Cyprus in early March, (before all hell broke loose and quarantines and lock downs became the norm), was take a cooking class. By doing so during our first few days, I was introduced to the incredible cuisine of Cyprus; a little Greek, a little Turkish and a bit reminiscent of Eastern Europe. The cuisine is hearty with pork, beef, lamb as well as middle eastern spices and lots of beans, rice and local produce. There is also seafood, although we unfortunately did not experience it.
Since the island was on lockdown during our visit, we were unable to go out and taste the cuisine at the hundreds of restaurants and tavernas dotting the island landscape. So I decided to use all that time I had on my hands to bring the cuisine to us, creating a personal Cyprus test kitchen. I did a similar thing when we spent three weeks on the island of Antiparos a few years ago. We were there in the off-season and almost everything was closed. So I taught myself to cook Greek (see it here). And that was my attitude and goal here in Cyprus. It’s been one of my favorite boredom-buster-in-lockdown activities.
Taste of Cyprus
Before the lockdown began, during our first few days on the island, we signed up for a full-day tour with Cyprus Taste Tours, a local tour company and we were so blessed to meet Liza (Lee-zah) a Cypriot who loves food and loves introducing it to visitors. Our day included a beautiful drive through the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus, a visit to the Vouni Panayia Winery and a visit to the Loukoumia Geroskipou candy making factory. We also made a brief stop at the Chrysoroyiatissa Monastery to learn a bit about the ancient ways of making wine.
But the best part of the day was the four hours we spent at Mrs. Sofia’s Traditional House learning and eating several of Cyprus’ most traditional foods. She has a perfect Cyprus test kitchen and I was infatuated.
We were at the family home of Sofia and Andreas, the home Sofia grew up in. The original part of the home has been preserved in a way that guests can see how a traditional Cypriot home was in the past. Sofia and Andreas have added a cooking kitchen on to create a space for classes (only through Cyprus Taste Tours) as well as serving meals to tour groups that come through.
We learned so many things during our time with Sofia. First she pulled fresh bread out of the outdoor oven and fresh halloumi out of the outdoor cheese maker. Wow. Delicious.
Next we watched the interesting process of making traditional Cypriot Coffee in a special machine where the coffee cooks in hot sand. Amazing.
Then we began to prepare the ingredients for our feast.
Six Famous Cypriot Dishes
During our time with Mrs. Sofia we learned to make the following dishes;
Halloumi Cheese – famous cheese of Cyprus is fantastic eat fresh, boiled or grilled. Squeaky texture with a very high melting point give it an unusual variety of cooking and eating options.
Koupepia – stuffed grape leaves, very similar to Greek Dolmades, the Cypriot version is filled with rice, pork, tomato and parsley and simmered in a tomato broth.
Keftedes – a word that means meatballs and can refer to many kinds but the most popular are a minced pork, grated potato, onion and parsley with a hint of cinnamon.
Pligouri – which is a pilaf of bulgur wheat. Bulgur wheat is what you might know in tabouleh. Pligouri is considered a poor man’s food, but is delicious, quick and easy to make.
Spoon Sweets and Anari Cheese – Anari Cheese is the fluffy white byproduct of halloumi cheese made by adding fresh raw milk to the whey after the halloumi curds have been separated. Spoon Sweets are spoon size bites of usually fruit but sometimes vegetables, usually the rind preserved in a sweet syrup.
Things I Tackled at Home
After going in to quarantine then followed by lockdown, I realized I wasn’t going to be eating in any local restaurants. So I set out to teach myself in my own Cyprus test kitchen, how to make several more of Cyprus’ most famous dishes. Here is everything I tackled during our weeks of solitude with recipe links when possible;
Sheftalia – a type of sausage without skin its held together with caul fat. Very popular taverna meze. I was able to buy the Sheftalia already prepared at the butcher and grilled it up at home.
Kolokouthkia me ta afka – is a traditional scrambled egg and zuchinni dish often eaten as a mezzo.
Fried Halloumi – this cheese is really amazing, with a very high melting point so it’s perfect for frying…but I also love it’s dense saltiness just to pop in my mouth.
Macaronia Tou Fournou (similar to Greek Pastitsio ) this deep dish casserole was delicious and I plan to make it again. Layers of macaroni pasta, Bolognese sauce, bechamel sauce and grated halloumi it was comfort food at its finest.
Melitzanosalata – smashed eggplant cooked and mixed with garlic, lemon and parsley and usually served as a mezzob.
Avgolemoni Soup – Lemon and Egg Soup. Simple and absolutely delicious. What a refreshing surprise this treat was. I will certainly make it again.
Lamb Chops – for our first Easter dinner we had lamb chops fresh from the butcher, marinated simply in olive oil, lemon and rosemary.
Kleftiko – Lamb Shank. This is the most famous dish on this island, and I wasn’t sure about tackling it. Usually cooked in a traditional outdoor oven for hours and hours, I took my chances cooking it in the oven in my kitchen. This was our Easter dinner on the Cypriot Easter Sunday and it was amazing.
Souvlaki – I’ve eaten souvlaki in Greece and the USA and I love it but I wasn’t sure about making it myself. But on one of our final days in Cyprus I went to the butcher and bought beautiful piece of pork tenderloin and made the most mouth-watering meal! We had a lot of meat left and we enjoyed it again on day two.
Fresh Lemonade – we were up to our ears in both lemons and oranges and we loved having fresh squeezed OJ each morning. We put our fresh lemonade skills to the test and what a refreshing afternoon pick me up.
In addition we learned to make Cypriot coffee in our Cyprus test kitchen, just like Turkish coffee, dark and strong.
Things We Ate Elsewhere
Our lovely Airbnb host kept us in delicious baked goods, including one of Cyprus’ most famous desert flat breads called kattimerka, very much like lefse. She brought us a local molded pudding (cake) made from semolina flour called Halva as well as orange cake. And she also made us our favorite, the traditional Easter bread called Flaounes.
We bought Galaktoboureko at the local bakery, a very dense custard, phyllo, and honey pie.
From the grocery store we enjoyed excellent local olives and olive oil as well as wonderful wines from Cyprus including Commanderia, the Cypriot favorite. As well as Tahini, Hummus and Tzatziki.
At the local butcher we sampled the traditional Tsamarella, a sausage made from lamb or goat and served like an appetizer with cheese and bread.
Things I Didn’t Have
We missed out on one famous Cypriot specialty, a slow clay pot cooked meal called Ttavas. We also didn’t get to experience the cultural tradition of mezzo meals, either a meat mezzo or seafood mezzo at a traditional taverna. This is the most popular way to eat in company, sampling dozens of small dishes while drinking and enjoying each other’s company. So sorry we never got to do that.
Cyprus will always hold a special place in my heart…what a remarkable place to be in lockdown. Even though we missed so much, I still feel a great emotion to the people and the place…perhaps we can return when times are better.
I am so grateful to this country for the love they showed us. EUCARISTW POLU. Thank you very much. You will never know how much it has meant to us.
I’ve been reading some really amazing, but pretty depressing books lately. I recommend all of them, but indeed they were intense. So when I stumbled upon The Rosie Project I was gleeful. Here is my book review The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
This book has been around for a few years, published in 2013 it has come in and out of my consciousness but for some reason I never read it. Until now. And I’m so glad I did.
This is the uplifting story of Don Tillman, an Australian Professor who has extreme difficulty with social interaction, because of his own autism. Don is a genetics professor, and leads his life with a very rigid schedule he doesn’t like to deviate from.
Don has never had a serious relationship, and thinks his good job, intelligence and even financial status should make him an attractive mate. He believes the problem is with the women. So he embarks on the Wife Project, creating a list of criteria for the perfect women.
This of course leads to a hilarious set of events, women and activities. Don finally meets Rosie, who defies all his criteria. But he enjoys her company. Of course you can imagine how things unfold.
It’s a delightful book. Laugh out loud and sweet. An easy read. I’m so glad I found it.
*****Five Stars for The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
On Wednesday January 20th I realized I had been holding my breath. For months. Literally unable to breath. But on Wednesday I let go of a long breath and decided to pull myself up and away from the despair that has settled on me. The two nasty “P” words (Politics and Pandemic) had me unable to relax and enjoy life as I used to…for nearly a year now. This week I realized I have been waiting to exhale.
So the waiting continues…and as the song says, the waiting is the hardest part. But I am feeling more hopeful than I have in a long time.
I’ve said over and over these past months that the hate and vitriol in the USA was causing me stress. My feeling has always been I don’t honestly care how people vote. But I care very much how people treat each other. And both the pandemic and the politics have created a tired, exasperated and often savage nation and dialogue. It’s just not for me. I refuse to participate.
Breathe. Wait. Breathe. It may still be a long time until people are kind again. It may still be along time until I can be vaccinated. It may still be a long time until I can travel abroad. But I am no longer waiting to exhale.
Instead I am going in search of peace.
First of all…
I feel blessed that I have the means to go in search of the sun. Our time in Maui showed us we could safely social distance away from home. In fact, it actually gave us time to invent some creative socially distanced activities. But, we aren’t going back to Maui, unfortunately.
Instead we have rented a house in the desert. Not a condo, a house. Somewhere we can stay completely away from other people if necessary, while enjoying some warm weather. Getting away from the Pacific Northwest gray is my goal. I know some of you like the rain…but for me, it makes me physically ill. No joke. My joints ache, my sinuses ache, I have bursitis and my energy is zapped. So we are no longer waiting for good weather…we will go in search of it and the joy and good health it brings.
While I do a little soul searching and invest in my personal well-being, I’m going to take a mini blog and social media break. Not too long, just enough to recenter and exhale.
I’ve spent some time scheduling ahead some Friday Travel Posts, lots of Reading Wednesday posts and several of our popular Tasty Tuesday YouTube posts, as well as some Facebook and Instagram posts. You will hardly notice I’m on a break. I can log off, tune out, shut down and take a hiatus from the madness. And breathe.
I’ll check in from time to time, but mostly I want to rinse away some of the negative energy and renew my faith in mankind. That should be easy right?
So what’s next for My Fab Fifties Life? Three months in the desert, then back to the Pacific Northwest in the spring. After that, no idea. We will take it as it comes. Fingers crossed we will be able to be vaccinated by April, and won’t get the virus before that happens. Perhaps we can travel next fall or winter. But, we wait.
So I hope you enjoy all the posts I have been working on for advance scheduling, and I’ll check in on Social Media from time to time and probably rejoin after a month.
And by the way, if you are waiting to exhale, feeling a little overwhelmed by world events, USA madness, media, screen time and snarky, judgemental or ignorant people, you should do a little social media cleanse too. It’s a good way to restart your engines for 2021.
Astonishing and heartfelt, A Burning will grip you from the first page. Here is my Book Review A Burning by Megha Majumdar.
There have been many books written about the difficult and sometimes horrific life of those who are born to live in the slums of India, including two of my all time favorites; A Fine Balance and Behind the Beautiful Forevers. This debut novel A Burning by Megha Majumdar deserves it’s place among these.
Jivan is a young Muslim girl from the slums who desires to move up in the world, find a job and have a better life for her and her family. But so many circumstances block her path and then she is accused as a mastermind behind a terrorism attack. Did she do it?
People around her, including a former teacher and a illiterate friend, find themselves caught up in the drama. They can disown young Jivan, essentially throwing her under the bus, to better their own sorry lives. Will they?
The masterful writing by Majumdar had me up late with this page turner, at once riveting, sad, astonishing and emotional.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.