A tumbled into this book without any knowledge of what it was about. I made the assumption that it was a fictional novel. It is not. What it is, is story of family through one simple object…told both through historical facts and speculation. Here is my book review All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles.
I have never visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. This Smithsonian museum was opened a decade after I last was in our capital. But this book alone has made me realize I need to put this museum at the top of my visit list.
A story told about a simple, embroidered, faded and worn sack. Miles uses the story of the sack (currently on display at the NMAAHC and on loan from the Middleton Family Plantation) to trace both facts and assumptions about the women whose hands it has passed.
Beginning in the 1850’s with Rose a slave and mother, to Ashley a slave and daughter, to Ruth the great-granddaughter who embroiders the reflective words onto the sack. “A tattered dress, three handfuls of pecans, a braid of hair, my love always…”. All a mother could offer a daughter. But through the sack their lives are remembered and these women’s stories are meticulously researched in All That She Carried.
But because slave records are often difficult to trace, particularly for women, Miles must use her wits and stories of other families and women to create a lineage of what may of happened along the way for the women and the sack. Miles takes the reader through the contents of the sack and we learn of history and family, slavery and sales, love and honor and the sheer will to survive through the story of the sack.
This book was not what I expected, but I learned a great deal and felt a emotional attachment to the generations of resourceful women. Thank you for reading my Book Review All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack.
****Four stars for All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles
Growing up in TV and Hollywood seemed normal to Ron and Clint Howard as children. But through this memoir they look back in wonder at an incredible journey. Here is my book review The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Clint Howard and Ron Howard
For my generation Ron and Clint Howard are a fixture of our childhood; Andy Griffith, Gentle Ben, Happy Days and many more. But unlike many child actors, Ron and Clint went on to survive and be successful thanks in a huge part to the love and guidance of remarkable parents.
I really enjoyed this book for the reminiscence it gave me of movies and television I had forgotten about from my youth, but just as much for the anecdotes and stories. Stories of what it was like to grow up in front of the camera in an industry that more often than not destroys hopes and dreams.
How did Clint and Ron survive and thrive? In this book, chapter by chapter, each brother tells his point of view of the good times and bad, love and loss, drugs and money, hopes and dreams. And through it all the remarkable guiding hand each had of loving parents who served as guardian and friend but never demanding stage parent or money-monger.
Nostalgic and insightful, The Boys is a journey of one families experience in a city that is unforgiving and an industry where more fail than succeed. I enjoyed it and I think you would too. Thanks for reading my book review The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Clint Howard and Ron Howard
*****Five Stars for The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Clint Howard and Ron Howard.
Read last week’s review Taste – My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
My current read So Brave Young and Handsome by Leif Enger
One of the most fun things for me about traveling all over the world and being a travel writer, is meeting so many other travelers and travel writers. One travel writer I consider a friend is Heather Markel, despite the fact we have never met in person! Heather and I will meet for the first time when I am in New York later this month. She has a wonderful story about how she became a full-time traveler, and it is one story featured in this week’s book. Here is my book review Voices of the 21st Century by Gail Watson and Heather Markel.
Voices of the 21st Century
This book is the fifth in a series of Voices of the 21st Century books, highlighting women who make a difference. This book focuses on a series of inspirational essays where women from all walks of life and from many countries share. From triumphs to tragedies, these brave women motivate and galvanize through their writing. They influence and encourage other women to overcome, validate and soar.
I really enjoyed reading all of these essays (a total of 50) but certainly had a few I identified with the most. Of course I enjoyed my friend Heather’s story (page 97) about leaving the corporate chaos for a life of travel. And here are a few more that really spoke to me;
Clearing the Clutter by Sandra Ateca page 5
Dear Younger Me by Kim Combs page 25
Impacting the World One Child at a Time by Dr. Gloria Gonzalez page 41
Dear Zan: A Letter to My Younger Self by Zaneta Varnado Johns page 61
Nature is Conscious by Chiara Marrapodi page 101
An Ever-Evolving Journey: Coal-Mine Canary to Living Legend by Dr. Michelle St. Jane page 133
Calling All Parents: Don’t Forget to Say Thank You by Janet J. Sawyer EdD page 149
And many more…as you can tell from the variety of titles these women discuss a wide range of experiences, challenges and achievements. There is truly something for everyone in this book. I enjoyed getting to know these remarkable women through their individual stories. I think you would too. Thank you for reading my book review Voices of the 21st Century by Gail Watson and Heather Markel.
This book is one that I read for my book club, and I likely would never have picked it up otherwise. But I am glad I did. This is unlike most of the books I read, but it was fascinating; a historical look at one of America’s least known historians. Someone who has roots right in my own back yard. Here is my book review Short Nights Of The Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan.
Handsome, brilliant, talented Edward Curtis could have chosen many paths. But when an accident and injury as a young man caused him to discover photography his life would change forever. And with it the lives of thousands of people in the blossoming United States.
Leaving his family in the pioneering outback of Port Orchard and traveling by boat to the lumber boom town of Seattle, Edward Curtis became one of the best known photographers in the world. Starting with a photo of Princess Angeline, the last surviving daughter of Chief Sealth (Seattle).
Egan follows the story of Curtis’ life for the decades that follow, where he gives up everything to pursue a dream; a dream to capture and record the disappearing Native American tribes before it was too late. For thirty years Curtis will risk his life, as well as his family and finances in an effort to produce the series of books of photos of the American Indian.
It would take everything he had. And the real recognition of his talent and contribution to preservation of the Native American and American West would not be realized until long after his death. The book is a captivating account of his life and passion, the period in the burgeoning USA as well as in my home state of Washington as well as a factual account of the tribes and people who are the real true Americans.
I really enjoyed this book and learned so much. Thank you for reading my book review Short Nights Of The Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan.
I was trying to write a blog about the local food for this week, but oh my goodness there is so much excellent food and I am still experimenting and eating my way through! So, instead I will wait and have a foodie post next week. I should be ready by then so be sure not to miss it – the flavors of French Polynesia are wonderful. Meanwhile, this week, we have been happily exploring and settling into our long stay on this remarkable island. And so I give you Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two.
Week two provided us exactly the weather we had expected when planning this trip. No more monsoons! Just showers now and then with lots and lots of sunshine in between. We are very happy about all of that. We know we will have more rain, but Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two has provided us many opportunities to be active and explore in the warm (and humid) temperatures. We are now into a regular running and hiking schedule. No golf though, as we left our clubs at home this time.
Food and Culture
Week Two we discovered so much about the local food and culture and this is why it needs its own entire blog post. The local influence of French and Chinese to the Polynesian foods has created a wonderful and delicious as well as eclectic cuisine. I’ll tell you more next week. Meanwhile, the local people are incredibly friendly and helpful. On more than one occasion we have had locals drop what they were doing to help us find our way or interpret for us. They are kind and sweet and make us feel very welcome.
Life is pretty simple on Mo’orea. People live in simple homes and live simple lives. I’m sure on Tahiti it’s a bit more citified…but here it’s very laid back and slow.
The culture of these islands is influenced by many factors. The Polynesian people, known as great navigators, migrated to these islands from all over Southeast Asia starting in 500BC. They managed to govern themselves fine, but the French arrived in the 1600’s and took over. C’est le vie. Today French is the official language but English is spoken by many and the native language of Tahitian is spoken by many. There are still about 2 million people who claim Polynesian ethnicity.
This week we took a food tour, a cooking class, ate in a couple of restaurants and went to a Polynesian cultural show and dinner. All of these experiences will get pulled into next week’s post.
Mo’orea is an ancient volcanic island, about ten miles from its larger sister of Tahiti. This beautiful and lush island is very reminiscent of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Kauai is estimated to be about 5 million years old while Mo’orea is closer to 2 million years old. The green mountains rise dramatically out of the incredible turquoise water with spires and peaks and craggy rocks jutting here and there. This makes for difficult but beautiful hiking options.
The coral reef that surrounds the island was described by Darwin as like a picture frame and helped him solidify his theory about atolls. The coral was originally part of the island’s lava flow. Over the millennia it pushed it way out to ring the island and the coral thrived in the environment. It makes a beautiful lagoon around the island and provides safe snorkeling, paddling and swimming opportunities as well as a wonderful home for sea life.
Although Mo’orea is not an active volcano, the recent volcanic explosion and ensuing tsunami in Tonga (1200 miles west) reminds us how our planet is in constant evolution. Following the tsunami we went in search of information regarding the local tsunami procedures and warning systems here on Mo’orea and learned where we are to go in such an emergency. We feel prepared.
There are however a few negatives, but they are hardly enough to mention. But here they are anyway;
Dogs – like many places we have traveled around the world there are ALOT of feral dogs and clearly there is no spay-neuter program in place. It’s sad to see the condition of many of these animals.
Speed – people drive REALLY fast on the two lane road that rings the island and often pass. Yikes. However, over the past couple of years a bike lane has been added on both sides of the ring road all the way around the island. This gives me a safe running lane, although staying alert with the speeding cars is important. Many people use bikes to get around an Motos too, but the bike lane is a nice addition for all of us.
Mosquitos – not the worst place I have been for bug bites (Seychelles Islands wins that award) but the mosquitos have been pretty annoying. Hopefully now that the sun is back, the mosquitoes will go!
Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two
We are relaxed and enjoying our new little island life. I promise next week we will have lot of foodie information to share! So I hope you will check back! Merci!
It’s that time of year again, when we review our most loved blog posts from the past year. Enjoy these again or for the very first time. The public has spoken – these are our Top Ten. The Best of My Fab Fifties Life 2021.
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.
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