Time Travels

time travels .png

Image Credit ~ The Time Tunnel is a 1966–1967 U.S. science fiction TV series.

 

There was a flurry of excitement,

as she approached the murky “Tunnel”

Up ahead, a gaping, shadowy hole,

marvelling where, that entry would go?

 

Was there a switch, or a teleport door?

should she stand up, or sit down on the floor?

Psychedelic lights flashing, vividly around

hearing the brrrummms of strange, buzzing sounds.

 

A soft voice was speaking, up ahead,

“this may take a while, for our journey to end”

A long winding passage beckoned and twisted,

as she encountered a new sensory, existence.

 

A bright beam glowed, at the end of the tunnel,

it was the gateway of departure of her, times travel.

An instance of silence, as she prepared,

in wonderment about, what lay ahead?

 

Dad would then give, a nod to Mom,

“here is the exit of the Mersey Tunnel, hold on”

The entry point had begun in gloomy Birmingham City,

finally the exit, into Lancashire landscape, so pretty.

 

A great place to escape to, to be beside the sea,

it was a countryside haven of nature’s beauty.

These trips she would make when she was a kid,

to visit her aunty, at the seaside, she loved that, I did.

Victoria Healing ~ 5.6.2019

Time Travels

 

mersey tunnel

The Mersey Tunnel Entry ~ As I remember

 

As a young child, I looked forward to travelling from Birmingham, through the Mersey Tunnel to visit my aunty Nett and uncle Bob, who lived in Southport, Lancashire.

I grew up thinking that the Mersey Tunnel was a Time Tunnel and a means of escaping the bleak, city life of Birmingham, into a refuge of endless beaches , country landscapes and the smell of salty, fresh ocean air… and creamy, vanilla ice cream.

Rhyme Universe
@rhymesvpoetry

 

Thank you for reminding me David ~

https://davidhopcroft.wordpress.com/about/

 

Fast, Furious and Deathly Hallows.

In November 2012 scenes for the film Fast & Furious 6 (2013) were filmed in the Mersey (Queensway) Tunnel.[3]  

It was also used to film scenes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010).

 

 

We Were Wrong. And We Have to Fix It.

In the fall of 2006, a colleague and I sat at a backyard picnic table supervising freshman Homecoming float building. In the course of our meandering conversation, she vaguely alluded to relationship problems. She was clearly being evasive. I don’t remember if I probed or if things just got awkward, but eventually our exchange went like this:

“I’m gay, and I have a partner.”

“Okay…”

“I didn’t know if I should tell you. I know you go to a Presbyterian church, and I’ve been reading in the newspaper…”

“Oh. Right. I’m sorry. It’s fine.”

She was right. At the time, the Presbyterian Church, USA was embroiled in a very public internal clash over the question of whether “practicing homosexuals” could be ordained in the church. This was by no means a new issue. I first remember it arising in the mid-80s, and it wasn’t new then; I had only just begun to pay attention. The issue bubbled up every few years, as progressives periodically challenged the denomination’s official position, but so far, a “hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner” ideology had prevailed.

I had written my first-ever college research paper on the question in 1990 and, oddly given my whole-hearted buy-in to conservative theology, took the position that yes, the church should allow it. It was the right academic answer based on the research I had done. The evidence supported this position. But it bothered me. It was one of many times in my high school and college years that I felt torn between the doctrines I had been taught as a lifelong conservative Christian and the ideas that compelled me in school. I turned in the paper with a hint of queasiness, feeling that I’d compromised my faith ideals for a grade. That those faith ideals might have been flawed was not an option I was willing to entertain. I couldn’t.

By 2006, I had settled uneasily into the decision to believe despite doubt, to take the Bible (or the interpretation I’d been told was the correct one) as the infallible Word of God, and to accept the positions that made me uncomfortable because that’s what it meant to be a true Christian. I viewed this as humble, not arrogant. Who was I to pick and choose? God’s Word was God’s Word. I might not like it, but God called me to obedience. I could be a friend to my colleague and still oppose her lifestyle. So I did. And so I was the worst kind of friend. I stood alongside her and stuck tissue paper in chicken wire but looked at her disapprovingly. I let her stay in my spare bedroom when she separated from her partner but worried about what people would think. Once we were no longer co-advisors, we quickly drifted apart.

A short time later, our church worked through a difficult separation from the denomination and moved to a new, more conservative one. As a new, incoming elder, I had been asked to affirm three tenets: that the Bible is the infallible Word of God (check), that Jesus is God’s only son, sent to die and rise again for our salvation (or some version of that; again, check), and that marriage is between one man and one woman (WHAT??). I was told in response to my query about why the last statement should make the Top Three that they wanted leaders during this time united on the issue. I accepted, with reservations. I convinced myself that I agreed with the premise, if not that the ordination of gay pastors warranted separation. In fact, there were larger issues at play. The ordination of gay pastors was enough for many, but the conflict was multilayered. Still, those reading about us in the paper didn’t see the complex theological debate. They saw Christians willing to fight other Christians in court over the right to exclude people from full participation in the life of the church. I asked a fellow elder one day, “Do you think it’s okay that I support the decision but not the reason?” He didn’t answer. And of course it was not. But I did it anyway. I cast my vote, first as elder, and then as a congregant.

The church’s role in state-level legal battles exacerbated the tension I felt. When Proposition 8, eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry, came before California voters in 2008, I voted no, primarily because I could not justify denying a legal right on a religious basis. The “marriage-is-sacred” argument did not sway me. Christians did not oppose the legal rights of atheists and Muslims to marry. Proposition 8 felt discriminatory. I knew that I had broken with most of my fellow conservative Christians with my vote. I also felt far more comfortable with it than I did with the vote to leave the denomination. In this vote, I felt I was standing up for people rather than doctrine.

Six years later, I moved from my conservative community to a progressive one in order to attend a far more progressive university. Before I left, I had “Psalm 71:5” tattooed on my wrist: “For you have been my hope, sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.” Politically, I had long since moved left of center. 20 years working in public education will often have that effect. But from a faith perspective, the move scared me. I knew my beliefs would likely be challenged, and I desperately wanted to stand firmly in my Christian faith.

At the very first department event I attended, my advisor casually pointed out a colleague’s partner and told me her name. I nodded and then glanced sideways at him, waiting for…something. He moved on. There was no awkward pause, no qualifier, no raised eyebrow. It had not even occurred to him that I would flinch. He had told me his colleague was gay as easily as he would have pointed out that the sun was shining. And I wanted to be like that. I never wanted to flinch again.

Over the course of the year, as I entered into this new community, I continued to marvel at who these people were and how they lived their lives. They accepted each other’s varying family configurations, partnerships, and other personal choices. They attended diligently to the language they used, striving for inclusivity. They celebrated each other’s new relationships and engagements, no matter what gender or orientation the partner was. These were not morally bankrupt people who appeared in need of the Truth that I held. These were deeply compassionate people. They shed tears over police shootings and immigration raids. They had come to graduate school because they had recognized the ways in which the education system ignores, fails, even actively hurts some kids, and they wanted to change it. They had devoted their careers to pursuing justice. They came from a range of religious backgrounds. Some had grown up in Christian churches and since left, some had no religious background, some were Muslim or Jewish, some had connected with other spiritual traditions. But to a person, they showed love, they spoke and acted with integrity, they welcomed the stranger, they fought for the oppressed, they cared for the poor. That some of them were gay or bi or gender-nonconforming had no bearing whatsoever on how they lived their lives. It made no sense to me qualify their morality. These were not good, kind people EXCEPT…These were just good, kind people. They treated their partners with the same love and respect and took their relationships as seriously as any Christian married couple I had known. For me to take issue with their “lifestyles” made no logical or moral sense. They may not have identified as followers of Christ, but their lifestyles reflected the values I had long associated with Christ.

When I began attending progressive churches and engaging with the online progressive Christian community, I experienced these same convictions. Same-sex couples, trans men and women, and gender-nonconforming people honored God in their worship and in their church leadership and service as faithfully as straight married couples. They identified as Christian for the same reason I did: they were compelled by the story and the example of Jesus, and they strove to follow that example alongside and in accord with the rest of us -as part of the body of Christ. And it struck me that the only thing in their way of being powerful Christian witnesses and leaders was a church that shut them out.

And as I saw what the church could look like and the richness of Christian community that grew out of inclusion of LGBT+ people, I began to reflect more honestly on the role I had played in exclusion. In the name of faithfulness to God’s Word, I had turned people away -in off-handed comments about “Christian values,” through my votes on denomination policy, and simply by being part of a church whose conflicts over this issue regularly appeared in the news and failing to dig deeper and examine our stance. Now that I read the work of LGBT+ Christians and attend an affirming church, I see with new eyes how much we have lost over many generations by silencing these voices.

The conservative church’s approach has not made anyone less gay, less bi, less trans; it has made them less Christian. Countless LGBT+ people have walked away from church, and often, as a result, from God, as their church communities have condemned them. Gay Christians have limited options. They can pretend not to be gay and enter into a heterosexual marriage, which may be perfectly loving but will never be sexually fulfilling for either partner (and given all the “God-created-sex-and-he-wants-you-to-enjoy-it” youth group talks I sat through, it seems that component should not be ignored). They can remain single and celibate, sacrificing the opportunity for partnership that Christians believe God so highly values. They can seek a church that will accept them, which can be a painful, lonely, and frustrating process. Or they can walk away. None of these options allow people to live out their full identity in Christ the way straight Christians can. And to impose this forced choice on people because the interpretation of Bible we’ve chosen to accept deems their relationship sinful is to ignore a number of other Biblical commands, some of which Jesus himself identifies as more important than the others.

I regret that it took me 45 years to understand what has always been obvious to progressive Christians and to LGBT+ Christians themselves. As Jared Byas pointed out in a recent episode of “The Bible for Normal People,” in conservative Christianity, we are “conditioned not to trust ourselves.” On some level, I have known since I wrote that freshman-level research paper that the conservative church was wrong on this issue. But over and over, despite the conflict I felt, I squelched my own intuition, and that was dangerous and unwise and ultimately hurtful. God creates us to know right from wrong. I should have heeded my own internal discomfort.

I regret the part I have played in perpetuating the harm that conservative Christians have done to LGBT+ people. I will never again attend a church that isn’t openly and fully affirming of LGBT+ people. I will do all I can to amplify the voices and teachings and scholarship of LGBT+ Christians. And I will not sit passively by anymore. It is important, and it is urgent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Bring Me Back” by B. A. Paris

To say I didn’t have an inkling as to how “Bring Me Back” by B. A. Paris would finally end is a lie. I had ideas, I had a lot of ideas. What made the plot great is that I had no idea which idea was right, nor did I have any idea how the main character would come to find out the truth behind Layla, Ellen, and their Russian dolls. However, although I honestly loved this book, the ending wasn’t great. Did it answer all of the questions created in my mind as I read it? Yes. Did it do it in a creative way? No. The note, found after all is said and done, is a cliché way to reveal all of Layla’s secrets.

When I initially started reading, I was immediately drawn into the urgency that the author created in the reading: what had happened to Layla all those years ago? In a deliberate manner, Paris ended every chapter with a hesitant clause, one that allowed the thoughts of “what if?” to linger on the border of my mind.

In Part One of the book, we are introduced to Finn and Ellen, a seemingly perfect couple. Of course, we then learn that Finn has been in another serious relationship with Ellen’s missing sister, Layla. Although it is evident that Finn love’s Ellen, it’s also blatantly obvious that he was -or truly believed he was -in love with Layla. This endearment resulted in a very negative reaction from Finn when he started receiving emails and mementos -in the form of Russian dolls -from a man named Rudolph Hill, who claimed to know Layla. Ironically, around that same time, his elderly, previous neighbor -who had known him while he was in a relationship with Layla -claims that he saw her. Since the man was ninety-two, his word wasn’t exactly much to go on.

As the first part of the book continues on, questions start to cloud Finn’s mind. Is Layla alive? If she is, where has she been? If she isn’t, who the hell is sending the emails and leaving the dolls? Is it Ruby, his ex-girlfriend that is behind this? Maybe she’s jealous that Finn has now gone on to be engaged to Layla’s sister Ellen. Or is it someone else, someone with a more sinister motive? Then, at the very end of the first section of the book, all of Finn’s previous questions are answered – the sender of the emails is Layla, herself.

But what does that mean!?!

At the beginning of Part Two of “Bring Me Back”, Finn is freshly aware that the person who is sending the emails is Layla. However, for the first time -at least to our knowledge -we are now aware of what Layla is thinking. Her thoughts and goals are simple, really:

Layla wants Finn back and, to ensure that happens, Layla wants Ellen gone -not just gone away, but dead.

Throughout this portion of the book, Layla begins a countdown for Finn. He has ten days to get rid of his fiance, or else… (To be honest, I’m not sure if the “or else” is what actually happens at the end of the book or if it’s something else that we just never are told.) Not only does she send him a lovely email every evening -TEN, NINE, or EIGHT… -but she also delivers a doll, every morning.So distracted by his nearing deadline, Finn starts to draw away from Ellen. Not only do we, as readers, see this, but so does she. She points it out to Finn, telling him how he barely even notices when she leaves for Cheltenham – the town where the doll’s envelopes are postmarked from.

During the turbulent events of their relationship gone awry, we continue to receive insight from what seems to be an unstable Layla. What leads me to believe she’s not quite right? Perhaps it’s her lack of qualms regarding the murder of her sister, but what gave it away is the author’s reference to the “voice” in her head. Unfortunately, as we continue to see through Layla’s insanity, we become privy to the fact that Ellen has her own secret. Although Paris rarely refers to this secret before revealing the ending, I started to grow curious as to whether there were multiple personalities at play. However, when Layla reveals that she had met with Ellen after her disappearance and discussed whether or not Finn would choose Ellen over Layla, this curiosity is minimized.

As the plot builds and the story thickens, we reach the end of Part Two. Layla is right where Finn isn’t and Finn is distraught.

Finn rushes home from the cottage he shared with Layla to find that Ellen is missing. However, after he finds a trunk filled with discarded Russian Doll shells and her computer mysteriously unplugged, he contacts his closest friends -Tony, Harry, and, coincidentally, Ruby -to come help him. He then passes out for a day, while they work together to unravel the mystery.

While he’s sleeping, they realize that Ellen may have been Layla all along. Once Finn awakes, they prove this theory accurate when he is able to log into Rudolph Hill’s email account. Immediately, although his friends suggest that Ellen may be unstable, Finn jumps to the conclusion that all of this was a cruel prank. He then realizes that Ellen is where she grew up -in Lewis -and he finds the means to go there immediately, only telling Tony.

Once he arrives, he finds Ellen sleeping in an abandoned old house. Confused, she assumes he’s figured out the whole story. He hasn’t and he is infuriated, to the point where he shakes her ina manner similar to the way he had shaken Layla the night she had disappeared. It isn’t until after he cracks her skull on the hut floor that he receives the important note from his friends, who are still at his home. It turns out, in killing Ellen, he indeed finally found out the fate of Layla.He murdered her.Of course, you have to read the book to find out what the note said.

A similar version of this book review was posted to www.cassicorner.wordpress.com.

4 days in Rome

rome-map

Have you been to Rome yet?

If not, then that should be on top of your list. Here are some things I am listing, which you can do in short visit to Rome.

Rome is huge, HUGE. You can’t expect a one-two day trip and absorb all the rich history of this ancient city. I recommend minimum 4 days. You can also do a month and not get bored, so you get when I say Rome is so rich.

If you are on your own, meaning not with a tour package then this how you can divide your days:

DAY 1

1
  • Colosseum – Because that’s the most visited, important and ancient site. Its a must. You have to. Spend a little extra and buy – skip the line entry ticket.
  • Roman Forum – I took a combined ticket for Colosseum and forum which gave me a semi guided and free day in both the places. Around €50 skip the line. Pretty good.

These two spots are so rich in history that you will pretty much consume your whole day and energy.

  • Don’t forget to relax, have a nice lunch, enjoy gelato.
  • You can also visit Museo Centrale del Risorgimento (Central Museum) and Arch of Constantine which are all walkable around Colosseum.

DAY 2

Hire a scooter, bike if you can.

2
  • Start fresh from the fountain of love, our insta favorite spot Trevi Fountain and explore the beautiful streets nearby. You will find it less crowded than evening.
  • Pantheon – A former Roman temple, few minutes away from Trevi.
  • Piazza Del Popolo – A free spot to visit in the afternoon. It’s an old Egyptian obelisk erected in the centre of a large city square next to a famous church Santa Maria del Popolo.

DAY 3

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  • There is a lot of walking, cycling you will do in Rome. Your 3rd day can be about food. After all you are in Italy.
  • Try a different flavour of a special neighbourhood beyond the Tiber river – Trastevere (means beyond the Tiber). It’s got most beautiful and delicious restaurants.
  • Explore the markets, try local food, nightlife and walk around Piazza di Santa Maria.

DAY 4

The Vatican

3
  • I suggest that one day should be kept for The Vatican. If it’s a Sunday then you might want to leave early and get a chance to see the Pope.
  • As you enter you will see St. Peter’s Square, hard to miss.
  • Vatican museum and The Sistine Chapel is a must. For tickets check the link below.

So here it is, your 4 day itinerary for Rome. I am definitely going back again.

I stayed at The Yellow Hostel which was very comfy, clean and a vibrant place. Close to Castro Pretorio metro. Hope you enjoy your stay..


Stay : The Yellow Hostel  |  Tours : Special Quality Rome Tours

Illustration by Packed & Ready, Inspired by Pinterest

Images by Packed & Ready

Reminiscing on Percy Jackson

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

Today’s #dearjune prompt, lightening, also takes the form of a book review/discussion.

I think of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series fondly. It reminds me of my middle school days- years five to seven – before I moved county’s and, thus, schools. I picture myself sitting in my school’s library in what was known as the ‘Beaumont Building’, running my fingertip along the shelf to find the Percy Jackson novel I was up to so I could check it out and deliver it home in my backpack to devour its pages ravenously. Shortly afterwards, I’d return the book and it’d be rinse and repeat.

When I think about this series, I think of comfort. These books were among many that I borrowed, read, bought and then reread. The mythology enticed me, the plots had me up too late under my covers and the characters spoke deeply to me. For my younger self, they were endearing and attractive – specifically Percy’s witty quips stick in my mind as one of the virtues of the series.

To this day the novels sit on my bookshelf, their pages a little worn-looking or at least well-loved. Often I would slide a volume from the shelf when I couldn’t sleep and let the familiar plot and characters lull me into a state of repose. For me, there are few better ways to escape that anxious restlessness of insomnia than rereading something so well-known. It becomes a process undeniably intimate. And repeated often enough, the novel becomes a little haven in itself.

Despite this, I regret not having kept up with the series. The last of the novels I read was ‘The Son of Neptune‘ and I remember thoroughly enjoying it. Part of me, even now, is curious about where Riordan’s cast of Gods, demi-gods and beasts ended up. What happens to Percy, Anabeth, Piper, Nico, Leo, Clarissa, Thalia and so on? Back in the day, I used to wait in anticipation for the next novel’s publication before eagerly getting my hands on it, but then something happened. I moved onto other things, other books, and let Riordan’s series fade in my memory.

I wish I had the time to revisit them now and to continue where I left off. Yet, at the same time, I have so much unexplored literature to get my teeth into- works that would benefit me so much more in terms of literary knowledge. It is such a shame knowing that my interest in classical Greek and Roman mythology has bloomed in the past months, having studied Ovid and Homer as part of my literature degree. In a module titled, Transformations, I was taught the intricacies of textual transformations and the rewriting of authoritative, canonical works. Percy Jackson fits this thematic core so well; it being a contemporary reworking of the Greek classics. It would be so interesting returning to the YA series with this newfound perspective but, again, if only I had the time…

I suppose this is ultimately every reader’s catch-22; the more we read, the more we realise that we can never read everything we set out to.

Label Libel

For many years as a librarian I heard endless debates about, frankly, the most trivial of questions. “What does it mean to be a librarian?” “Should we change the name to something else so that people know that we are about more than just books?” “Let’s challenge the stereotype!” “Let’s call ourselves [insert buzzword of the week]!” “Libraries should be called learning hub.” Ad infinitum. Ad nauseam. To what end? We use labels to define ourselves and then spend the rest of the time arguing that the definition limits our potential.

Of recent years I have been struck by this labelling issue extending far beyond libraries. Labels serve a purpose. They let us know what a thing is. If I go to the shop and want to buy a thing it is the label that I look at first. I look at the label that says Cornflakes and know what’s in the box. The label doesn’t say “breakfast cereal” and yet I know that’s what cornflakes are usually used for. However, I’m smart enough to know that cornflakes can be used to make biscuits and they can even be used as a very tasty crumb coating for chicken at dinnertime. See how the label on a box doesn’t actually constrain the potential of the thing?

In the same way, I bore the label of librarian but was secure enough within myself that my existence was not limited to the stereotype of a librarian as understood by John Q. Public. Most librarians I know laugh at the stereotypes.

So now let me apply this same box-breaking logic to other stereotypes. 

I am a Catholic. I am a Christian. Apparently, this seems to equate to certain political views. According to the stereotype, I must be a Bible-quoting, right-wing conservative, anti-abortion, homophobic, pro-gun, anti-welfare, climate science denying, anti-immigration, racist xenophobe. Only one of those charactistics could be applied to me and even that one comes with certain specifications.

I recently read a post on Facebook where someone said they couldn’t understand a scientific explanation about a carbon dating because “I’m a Catholic mother”. I was so angry about this label being used as a reason not to understand a thing. I’m a Catholic mother too and I understood the explanation perfectly well. She would have been better off saying simply that she didn’t have a good understanding of science. 

Labels are helpful as indicators but they do not define us. What definitions may exist are not always universal. Do not presume to know who I am if all I offer in my introduction is one characteristic. I am far more than the sum of my labels. And for the record, I will not be put in a box.

Engel’s England, and Better than Fiction-book reviews

If you want to learn more about England beyond the touristy and famous places, Engel’s England is a book you should try. This massive book (over 500 pages) covers the entirety of England as author Matthew Engel visited all 39 historic counties as well as London itself. However, let me first make it clear that this is a book aimed more at English readers than international ones. The book isn’t about introducing the counties to foreign readers but searching out and highlighting the essence of these places. That means it can get really local in some parts, with a lot of local descriptions and references such as obscure traditions or festivals specific to the county, town or village. Engels drove a lot especially to little-known small towns and rural villages, which does make much of the book “off the beaten track.”

This also means that you get a really in-depth feel of these counties and their assorted towns and villages. Big cities are often skipped or briefly mentioned, such as Manchester in the Lancashire chapter. I learnt that Leicestershire still practices foxhunting, while cricket was invented in a southern coastal part of England (I’d always thought it originated more in the middle). I also learnt about Rutland, England’s tiniest county which was actually abolished before being reinstated after a campaign.

I admit parts of it were tough to get through, especially in the beginning, but the more I read, the more I enjoyed it.  Some chapters were a pleasure to read. But in the end, I felt like I completed a major journey of my own.

Lonely Planet sometimes publishes some good collections of travel tales, and Better than Fiction- True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers is one of these. Featuring true travel accounts from 32 fiction writers, the book is packed with fun stories, poignant reflections, narrow escapes and even a reporting trip. That is exactly what travel is like. Travel can be adventurous or scary, uplifting or teach us painful life lessons. Regardless of whatever impact you get out of it, travel should always be something you can treasure.

The stories take place all over the world from Antarctica to Africa to Fiji. The authors include travel writers (of course), as well as literary big names like Joyce Carol Oates and Isabel Allende and detective novelist Alexander McCall Smith. There are some fun stories, but it’s not all fun and games. One of the grimmest stories takes place in Xinjiang, China, where the author hires a driver to visit local places and eventually gets tracked down and stopped by the police, who force her to return to the hotel. The driver was not so fortunate. Even though this was many years ago, Xinjiang was under heavy police control.

It’s a very good anthology of real-life travel stories that shows that travel can be a lot of different things.

 

Greek Yogurt Flatbread – Naan

I have made the two ingredient flatbread in the past. I love the idea and taste of it. However, following all the recipes I have seen out in recipe land, have not been successful. I always end up tweaking the recipe. ???????

I live in Beautiful Butte Montana where we are a mile high. That factor alone sometimes affects the recipes that I make. Therefore, I always use a scale when measuring out ingredients – especially when I bake.

Traditionally the 2 ingredient flat bread recipe uses self rising flour and Greek yogurt; that’s it. I don’t use self-rising flour, I use regular all purpose. Lately though, I have been losing weight and trying to switch to a healthier foods. This recipe uses stoneground whole wheat and white flour. These turned out fantastically!

Nutritional information for one flatbread:

135 calories, 6 g protein, 24.2 net carbs, 0.6 g fat

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 120 grams all purpose white flour
  • 120 grams whole wheat flour
  • 9 grams baking powder
  • 6 grams salt
  • 345 grams plain nonfat Greek yogurt

Utensils:

  • Stand Mixer with Dough Hook attachment
  • 2 Silicone Baking Mats (for rolling out dough – trust me, these make life so much easier!)
  • Pastry Scraper
  • Rolling Pin
  • Cast Iron Griddle or Skillet (I have not tried using a non-stick skillet as some people do)
  • Spatula
  • Directions:

  • Place the bowl from your stand mixer on your scale and set it to grams.
  • Tare out your scale (this means you press the (tare or zero) button on the scale to make the weight read zero even though the bowl is on it).
  • Using a scoop or large spoon, scoop the white flower into the bowl until the weight reads 120 g.
  • Tear out your scale.
  • Using a scoop or large spoon, scoop the whole wheat flour into the bowl until the weight reads 120 g.
  • Tare out your bowl.
  • Spoon 9 g of baking powder into the bowl.
  • Tare out your scale.
  • Spoon 6 g of salt into the bowl.
  • Stir the dry ingredients together.
  • Tare out your scale.
  • Add 345 grams of plain nonfat Greek yogurt.
  • Turn the mixer on medium and blend until the dough forms a ball.
  • Preheat cast-iron griddle on medium heat (oil lightly if needed).
  • Place dough on a silicone baking mat.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and slightly flatten.
  • The weight of the ball of dough should be around 600 g. Weigh it now. I like to be very accurate so I weigh it.
  • Place the dough back on the silicone baking mat.
  • Using a pastry scraper, cut the dough in half. Weigh each half and adjust so each weighs 300 grams.
  • Cut each half into two pieces. Now you have four pieces. Each of these pieces should weigh 150 g each.
  • Cut each of those pieces in half. Now you have eight pieces.
    Each piece should weigh 75 g each.
  • Using another silicon baking mat, roll one ball of dough out into a circle or whatever shape you like your flatbread to be in. Be sure to use a little bit of flour on the rolling pin and mat to prevent sticking.
  • Note: I cover the dough balls with a flour sack towel while waiting to roll them out to prevent them from drying out.
  • Place on the griddle and watch the little air pockets form – about 30 seconds depending on how hot the grill is. Watch carefully as you may need to adjust the temperature to prevent burning.
  • Flip using a spatula.
  • Continue cooking for another 30 to 60 seconds until the flatbread starts to get little brown spots on it.
  • Your flatbread may pop up with bubbles; that’s fine, they will flatten out once you remove it from the griddle.
  • Place finished flatbread on a clean flour sack type towel.
  • Once cooked and cooled, place them (towel and all) in a ziplock or bread sack and store in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.
  • If you still have any left, they should last several days.
  • I love to use these flatbread’s to make breakfast sandwiches reminiscent of the flatbread breakfast sandwiches you get at Subway.
  • This mornings sandwich had 5 slices of flash-grilled, thin sliced Land O’ Lakes sandwich ham (62 g), some of my husbands homemade smoked mozzarella cheese (40 g), an egg white patty (60 g) and lettuce. All this for 359 calories, 12 g fat, 33 g protein and 26 net carbs.
  • Can you say delicious!?
  • What do you think?
  • How I read a book!

    Some days I am a writer but most of the days, I am a reader.

    A Fangirl.

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    Swooning over the characters like they were real, grieving with their sorrow’s, laughing at their antiques.

    They come alive as I turn pages, much like the diary of Tom Morvolo Riddle, but these are not evil, rather loving, I seek to lie between the pages of these books, curl up and fall asleep, one more time before the book ends, and the last words, bleed me dry.

    As long as I can remember as a reader this has been my habit.

    I am the kind of reader, who sometimes, mid-novel, yearns to know about the author, before reading their writing, read their lives, or at least part of it.

    See their pictures and imagine, how they were struggling somewhere on this very page, deciding to let two characters fall in love, or separate them from their one true love, how they cried on the death of a character they so lovingly build, or how the laugh devilishly as they imagine their pain swooping all our the readers face, that pain.

    I cannot help but imagine someone somewhere so far off, in some other country, someone in some different part of this universe, writing about things that I relate to as if it were my diary entry.

    It’s actually magic, it’s the truth of books I tell you.

    I stop somewhere thinking about thousands of people working over each page the publishers, the editors, so much work, alas creating purity.

    Even if it’s a devilish book.

    I read from page to page, in shoes of other, at times closing my eyes, imagining the face of characters, which I never can, all I can imagine is their form, their skin colour, their clumsiness or the way they carry themselves, the clothes they put on.

    I love to discover somethings mid-book.

    Like how I imagined a girl protagonist had long gorgeous hair. But somewhere, there is a line tucked away “her hair falling just below her ear, whirling across her face, making small thunderstorm of their own” oh the joy of completely challenging one’s imagination.

    I sometimes make notes, put sticky notes, add words to my own dictionary, but most times I too lazy or too involved in the story to really get up and do it.

    Once I finish reading, if the end is sad, I throw the book on my bed, stuff my face in a pillow and cry, or smile at my own tears, but, then I compose myself to write about it, before I forget how the book made me feel, if the books are so good, I cannot help it, I re-read it.

    Imideatley.

    That has happened only with three books so far.

    David Copperfield.

    Harry Potter series.

    The perks of being a wallflower.

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    All the readers in this world are different, they have their own way of reading some read 2, 3, 4, 10 books simultaneously, some read one book and only then start another.

    And then some are,

    They do as they like, read what gives the most feels that day.

    Mid-book abandons it thinking it sucks, pick it up 6 months later and falls in love with it.

    Us the *haywire readers*, not so organized, but I feel reading is for us, it should be the way we like it.

    It should be what we want it to be.

    If it would be therapy or entertainment, it’s on us.

    It’s the beauty of reading that leads to, a ‘life much better spent’ than just a ‘life spent’.

    Tell me how to do you?

     

     

     

    5 Tips to Improve your Wellbeing

    It’s that time of year where exams are imminent and dissertations loom. The third term can get stressful and isolating when you’re working independently. But there are plenty of ways to unwind and look after yourself…By Isla Stroyan

    “Self-care” was a phrase that until recently, I didn’t like. It screamed self-indulgence and thinking of yourself before anyone else. But the last term I took the module Feminist Pedagogy/Feminist Activism and on the reading list was Sara Ahmed’s “Selfcare as Warfare”.  Sara’s blog refers to Audre Lorde’s belief that self-care is about self-preservation: making sure we look after ourselves enough to exist in the world whilst saving our strength for when we need it the most. For lots of us, no amount of bath bombs or avocado on toast is going to make us feel better, but if we find something to do that improves our well-being, then that might go some way.

    Crafting

    Over the past few months, I’ve really got into pom-pom making. I wanted to spruce up the house but on a student budget of course! I got inspiration from Pinterest, and adapted the images to something I thought I’d be able to achieve – I’m really pleased with how it turned out! Crafting is a fab way to switch off from readings and essays, and I feel great that I’m being productive with my spare time, even if I do make them whilst watching the TV! You could even sell on whatever you make as a way to top up your student loan, although I can’t yet part with this one…

    Eating Well

    It’s so important to eat well, particularly in times of stress when you need some extra energy. If you wanted to do your bit in helping the environment and maybe even feeling a bit better as a result, you could switch out a meat meal for a veggie or vegan one. ‘Meat Free Mondays’ at The Bread Oven look amazing, with options changing every week. There’s also the Food Market, held twice a month on the piazza – make sure to check out Fresh Rootz vegan and veggie food whilst you’re there – the pakora wrap is heavenly and the owner is really friendly too!

    The Sports and Wellness Hub

    Have you been to the new sports centre yet? If you haven’t, put it at the top of your list! I went for the first time last week and can’t even begin to describe how amazing it is!

    The climbing wall looks like SO much fun. I’m severely lacking in the arm strength department and would probably give myself a 3-out-of-10 when it comes to heights – so you might well find me wailing from approximately two metres off the ground, but I’ll be there! I’ve got myself a swimming pass; there are always lanes available for free swim no matter what time you go, so you can fit in a session to suit you.

    If you just want to use the swimming pool and sauna or squash and badminton courts, as a student you can join for £28 for three months. If you want to use all the facilities, it’s £110 for everything, which is still an amazing deal considering you get all of this: swimming, gym, classes, squash, badminton, tennis, climbing AND you can book courts further in advance. Or if you don’t want to commit straight away, you can always pay as you go: the staff there are really welcoming and are on hand to answer any questions you may have. Or if you’re on campus, Warwick Sport has a list of walks/runs in the area, all different lengths and routes to suit you.

    Sleeping Well

    Now, I may not be the best person to advise on this…I have always struggled with sleeping. Some days I drift off straight away whilst others are a real nightmare (pun intended). There are a few things that I’ve found that can help – one of which is flipping your pillow. This means the pillow is cooler on the flipped side which can prove useful as a first attempt. If that doesn’t do the trick, I move my pillow to the other end of the bed…I have no idea what the science is behind this, but it sometimes works! If all else fails, I put on a podcast, shut my eyes and eventually, the morning comes. Going to sleep at the same time every night can also be useful to keep you in a good routine.

    It’s really important to keep on top of your wellbeing and check in with yourself – knowing when you need to take a break is vital this time of year as exams and dissertations are on the way. Remember to check out what’s on this term with Study Happy – they’ve got creative and sports events, mindfulness spaces and lots of biscuit breaks, so you can find the event for you. If you’re still stuck on how to find ways to de-stress, take a look at Ciara’s blog on the best ways to take a break from your studies.

     

    What does self-care mean to you? How do you de-stress? Tweet us at @warwicklibrary, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.

     

    Don’t forget to share this post! #studyblog

     

    Cover image: Advertisement / creativegangsters / CC0 1.0

    Image 1: own photo

    Image 2: fruit-salads-in-plate-1640774 / ella-olsson / CC0 1.0

    Image 3: own photo

    Image 4: own photo

    Image 5: a cat sleeping / kstonematheson / CC0 1.0

     

    Alien Testing

    Alien Testing 

    Years ago, a friend was going to visit a psychic. I decided to go too, for the adventure of it.  Most of what this woman had to say seemed reasonable…even accurate…until she got to the part about alien testing.“Have you ever noticed those tiny red spots that simply seem to appear overnight, out of nowhere? That’s where aliens are performing tests. But don’t worry, they’re benign.”

    Which…the aliens or the tests?

    Honestly, any credibility she might have had up until then went right out the window.

    Now, all these years later, I realize she just might have been on to something. It’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with for what is happening, as I age.

    This once supple body suddenly seems to be conducting sound from an alien world full of creaks and pops. Some days, it’s like a virtual orchestra! I might not mind so much if they’d throw in a little real music, once in a while.

    And why else would this formerly svelte figure suddenly emulate the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s body on a bad bread day? Enough with the leavening agent, guys!

    Then there’s the issue of hair. Alien testing might just explain why hair that wasn’t there before is, and hair that was there isn’t. And as for that color testing?  In my book, gray will never be the new black.

    It also occurs to me that aliens just might be using my once-smooth skin as modeling clay. In fact, when I see the once-flawless faces of actors my age, I realize I’m not alone. It seems quite possible there’s a competition as to which alien can most accurately replicate the craggy, mottled surface of their planet. Oh, we try to fight their handiwork with money and moisturizers, but believe me…the aliens are winning. It’s just a matter of time.

    So just think…the next time you have a  bad hair day, or put on a little weight, or creak from sleeping wrong, if someone has the bad manners to comment that you seem out of sorts, just retort, “Alien Testing gone wrong.”

    I guarantee it will either leave them thunderstruck mute or laughing out loud.

    Written as Editor of the BeyondtheNest.com newsletter and published in the June 7 issue of the Newsletter.
    Image: The Scream, by Edvard Munch (1893)

    My Five Favourite May Reads

    My5FavouriteMayReads

    Rather surprising myself, I managed to read fifteen books in May. You can find details of my five favourite of the books I read last month below.  Click on the book title to view the book description on Goodreads.

    You can keep up to date with all my reading in 2019 here with links to my reviews.  If we’re not already friends on Goodreads, send me a friend request or follow my reviews.


    First up is memoir Where the Hornbeam Grows by Beth Lynch.  Subtitled A Journey in Search of a Garden, the book describes the author’s move to Switzerland and her struggles to make a life – and a garden – in a new country.

    Next up it’s historical fiction in the form of Storm of Steel by Matthew Harffy.  The book is the sixth in his ‘Bernicia Chronicles’ series set in 7th century Anglo-Saxon Britain.  I described it as ‘action-packed, dramatic and realistic: historical fiction at its best’ but you can read my full review here.

    Staying with historical fiction but with more of a romantic feel, my next pick is Stealing Roses by Heather Cooper.  Set in 1862, in the seaside town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight, its heroine is Eveline Stanhope whom I described as ‘independent-minded, intelligent, bookish and with a little bit of a rebellious streak’.  Eveline rebels against the social expectations that seem to limit her life finding romance and a ‘different sort of freedom’ along the way.  Read my full review here.

    Past and present combine in my next pick, The Lost Shrine by Nicola Ford, the second in the author’s ‘Hills & Barbrook’ series. With its mixture of archaeology and crime mystery, I playfully described it as the intriguing love child of TV’s Midsomer Murders and Time Team. Read my full review to find out why.

    Finally, and perhaps fittingly on the day we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, there’s The Long Take by Robin Robertson.  One of the books shortlisted for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2019, it tells the story of Walker, a young Canadian recently demobilised after active service, including at the Normandy landings. A novel in verse, it’s haunting and atmospheric (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it scooped the prize).

    What were some of your favourite books you read in May?  Have you read any of my picks?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Red, White & Royal Blue

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    Photo: Macmillan Books

    Like many others around the world, I’ve become fascinated with Meghan Markle joining the British royal family. It’s been so interesting to learn about her background, to watch her and Harry fall in love and marry, and to follow their adventures as they tour the world and start their own family. The romance between a modern American and a member of one of the most prominent monarchies also occurs in Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue (2019).

    Alex Claremont-Diaz, the President of the United States’ son, is a Texan, half-Hispanic, and part of the White House Trio, comprised of his sister, June, and the granddaughter of the Vice President, Nora. The President of the United States is Ellen Claremont, the first female US president, elected in 2016 because McQuiston’s novel takes place in a fictional present-day world. She’s running for re-election, so any and all press needs to be as positive as possible. When the paparazzi photographs Alex fighting with HRH Prince Henry of the United Kingdom, at the prince’s brother’s wedding, the Claremont administration needs some damage control. The solution is planning several highly publicized events where Alex and Prince Henry hang out together to show off their friendship, and the strong bond between their countries. As the two smile and joke in front of the press, Alex and Henry soon realize that they can’t stop thinking about each other even when on different sides of the Atlantic.

    Red, White & Royal Blue incorporates the young men’s emails and text messages, which made me slow down and pay a bit more attention as I quickly became absorbed in Henry and Alex’s stories. One aspect of McQuiston’s novel that threw me a bit was that Prince Henry’s sister is Beatrice and his brother is Phillip, as these are the names of the real Prince Henry’s (who we all know as Harry) cousin and grandfather.

    The most interesting part of Red, White & Royal Blue was thinking about the logistics, obligations, and sacrifices that Alex and Henry face as the sons of highly public figures. Could their romance ever be possible outside of fiction? Whereas the majority of the novel was from Alex’s point-of-view, I would’ve been curious to learn more about Henry’s feelings surrounding his duty to his family. Henry will always be royal, unless he decides to completely depart from his role but Alex won’t always be the son of the POTUS. The First Son’s life is also a lot less protected and secretive, probably because people in US public office, along with their immediate family members, try to portray themselves as relatable, as smart yet approachable, driven yet cool. Nevertheless, McQuiston’s novel provides a lot of detail about Alex’s experience with persuading White House aides for a bit more freedom, trying to avoid being photographed by paparazzi, and working on projects for his mother’s re-election campaign.

    If you feel like you can never avoid American politics or the updates on the royals’ activities, you might just appreciate Red, White & Royal Blue‘s story about two political and royal families in an alternative yet recognizable United States and Great Britain.

    Gimme all the candy

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    I love sweets. Not really cake or chocolate, but candy. Especially fruity or sour gummy candy. I could have a chocolate bar sitting in my cabinet for months, but a bag of Sour Patch Kids won’t even last a day. And forget about sharing. Seriously, gimme all the candy.

    But, the thing is, that much sugar is not good for anyone. Some studies have even suggested that sugar may be just as or more addictive than cocaine. I’m not going to debate this or get super sciency (on this post), BUT…we all know that once we start a sugar binge, we end up craving more sugar. So, “I’ll only have five gummies” turns into 10, and then before you know it, you’ve demolished the entire freaking bag. It happens. Don’t judge.

    What about sugar-free candies?

    A certain popular gummy bear producer has made a bag of sugar-free gummies for those watching their sugar intake. In theory, it’s a really great idea – especially if you have a sweet tooth. I mean, in a perfect world everyone sticks to portion sizes and life is good. But, do you know what happens if you eat an ENTIRE bag of sugar-free gummy bears? Candy that’s sweetened with an artificial sugar called aspartame. Well, you could see for yourself OR check out some of these hilarious Amazon reviews (I’d highly recommend the latter or you’re gonna be sitting on your porcelain throne for a good chunk of the day).

    Everything in moderation, friends.

    Kick Sugar, Keep Candy

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    Enter Smart Sweets. This company solves the (fake) sugar problem for us. Smart Sweets candy is so good and replicates many long-time favorites with a lot less sugar – and calories. Their motto is Kick Sugar, Keep Candy, and there’s no aspartame in sight. Can I get an amen??

    Feel free to indulge in peach rings, fruity gummy bears, sour blast buddies, sour gummy bears, and (my favorite) sweet fish. All candy has only 3g of sugar per bag and 0g added sugar, is free from sugar alcohols and artificial flavors and colors, is gluten-free, non-GMO, and made in the USA. Candies are colored with fruit and vegetable juices and sweetened with stevia leaf extract. Plus, a whole bag is under 100 calories. WHAT?!

    But, do they even taste good?

    Yes! Believe it or not, all of Smart Sweets candies are super yummy. And no, they don’t have any weird or lingering aftertaste. Promise!

    Smart Sweets make the perfect movie night snack – at home, the drive in, or the theater. I like to sprinkle mine over popcorn for that salty/sweet, crunchy/chewy combo!

    Order online in bags of 6 or 12, or stop by your local GNC or Whole Foods Market to try a bag of each! You’re sure to go back for more.

     

     

    *This post was not sponsored by Smart Sweets. Above is my honest opinion about a candy company that has awesome products. All opinions are my own. I also will not earn a commission if you happen to purchase sugar-free gummies via the link above. I would not put you through that, dear readers, I’m not that cruel.

    Just go.

    My prayers have changed drastically in the last year. In the last six months, even. I was far from praying earnestly every day (and in full disclosure, I still have days when I don’t), and my prayers lacked any reality. If I remembered to pray, it would be a simple “God, give me a good day today” and that would be it for the next 24+ hours.

    Sometime back in the winter, I was getting more and more frustrated when I prayed for a good day and then had a day where everything seemed to go wrong. Like, hello God, I asked for a good day here. Did you not hear me?

    So a couple months ago, I was driving to work. It was a Saturday morning and I was heading in to work a 12-hour shift. Saturdays are notoriously wild days at work where Murphy’s Law seems to rule. We used to pray against that during our morning meetings but by the end of the first show when we’ve been cursed at by guests multiple times over, those prayers have gone mute. There’s a turn on my way to work that when I’m super disciplined, I’ll turn off my radio and spend the rest of my drive in prayer. This particular morning, I did that and I have this super vivid memory of being in the middle of my prayer and it went a little something like this.

    “God, just give us a good day today and don’t let anything go wrong…you know, no. Today is going to be a crazy day. But everything that goes wrong today will be according to your will and your will is good…”

    And so on. Friends, let me tell what a radical mindset shift it is when you go from praying for ease and instead face the reality of the day. Because I remember then going into work that day and it was particularly chaotic, and instead of griping over why God wasn’t answering our prayers, I felt filled with His grace to face the challenges that did arise.

    There’s this super cheesy Bruce Lee quote that I feel like everyone knows and because it’s a bit of a cliche, I think it’s worth gets overlooked. “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Mr. Lee brings up a good point. Our prayers shouldn’t be for a tranquil day but for the grace and courage to tackle what comes naturally from living in a broken world. Pray for God to cover you in grace to confront the day, and then thank Him for it at the end of the day when you’re able to look back and see how His grace is enough for you in any moment.

    Which brings me to my next point. Are my prayers in the morning the same as my prayers at night? Am I as thankful for the day after living it as I was in the morning when it was just starting? I’ll be honest, my nighttime prayers often get bogged down by things that came up during the day and asking for solutions and I spend very little time actually thanking God for how He answered my prayers from the morning.

    It’s easy to ask God for grace to get through the day before it starts. It’s not so easy to thank him that night for the child that threw up in the aisle right before Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem. So in an effort to be more intentional in thanking God the day at the end and not just the beginning, I’ve stopped praying for anything to do with the next day. Even if it means stopping mid-sentence, as soon as the word “tomorrow” comes to my mind I stop myself and refocus on today.

    I love revisiting the Lord’s Prayer because it is our template for how to pray. I mean, give me all of the books on prayer you want, but I’m going to go to Jesus as my authority for how to pray. Now I don’t know if present tense is a thing in the original language for the Lord’s Prayer, but I love that it is in the present tense in our translation. Because then it blankets the past, now, and future. But it also covers literally everything that we ought to praying for.

    God, you are our Father and you are holy, let your kingdom come and your will be done in our lives as it is done in Heaven. Give us what we need today, and forgive us for where we fall short, as we have done for others. And give us the eyes to focus on you and not be led into temptation, and protect us from the enemy.

    That’s it. Don’t over-complicate prayer, friends. Prayer is meant to be communion between you and Abba, and to be honest, the Holy Spirit does most of the work in our prayers. If God is your Father, you don’t need to dwell on presenting him with solutions to your problems or what words to use for Him to really get it. Jesus says that He knows what we need before we ask Him. Don’t get bogged down by grammar or over-asking or whether you can pray in the shower.

    Go with a grateful heart. Go before Him intentionally. Go because you want to.

    Go.

     

    The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

    The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina
    Knopf, 2019.

    An oblique and confusing YA murder mystery (is it? Is that what this?) set in a remote Australian town looks at issues of identity, heritage and injustice through an Aboriginal lens.

    16 year-old Beth Teller is dead but that doesn’t stop her helping her white father, a detective, who is the only person who can see her. He is investigating a fire in a children’s home which has left one dead (adult) body and a mysterious Aboriginal witness, Isobel Catching. When I was a lot younger, I was very fond of a British TV show called Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), about a pair of detectives, one of whom was dead. I thought this was where this novel was going. I was wrong.

    Though not initially, as Beth’s narration follows her father’s investigation in a relatively straightforward, just the facts, sort of way. But added into that, she  witnesses his grief at her death in a car crash and his refusal to make peace with her mother’s Aboriginal family.

    Then we get to Catching. Her evidence is given in the form of abtruse and symbol-filled free verse. I found it somewhat incomprehensible, but Beth’s dad starts picking out connections to the fire and to the history of the children’s home.

    When Beth died, she had a glimpse of “what comes next” but believes she has to stay with her father until he can accept and move on from her death, and this somehow becomes wrapped up in solving the mystery; in the meantime she is “trapped between two different sides to the world” and this somehow becomes wrapped up in Catching.

    In an authors’ note, the Aboriginal brother and sister team gives some background on the history and culture of their people, before and after brutal colonization, as well as explaining some of the stories that inform Catching’s narrative.

    Though this short novel switches uneasily between a police procedural and an ambiguous fantasy, it brings welcome new voices to American YA literature.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Sitting in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea is the small but charming archipelago of Malta, known to many as the perfect summer holiday spot. But Malta isn’t just nice beaches, good food and a place to party, its so much more. So, here are 10 unique things to do in Malta.

    Visit Malta’s own Stonehenge

    Many do not know this, but Malta has its own version of Stonehenge, called the Hagar Qim Temples. These prehistoric places are known to be some of the oldest temples in history, with some dating to before the Pyramids and even Stonehenge itself. Tourists come from all over the world to witness these coralline and limestone built temples.

    Have a stroll around the capital city of Valletta

    Valletta, Malta’s capital city and a World Heritage site, is a living experience of Baroque architecture, quaint cafés and restaurants, priceless paintings shown of in St Johns Co-Cathedral and the most beautiful Grand Harbour in the Mediterranean. The city’s unique setting plays host to a series of cultural events, from theatre plays to open-air concerts.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Eat Malta’s famous chocolate cake at Fontanella in Mdina

    To all the sweet-toothed people out there, Malta has you covered. In the centre of the town of Medina is Fontanella, a terraced café and restaurant with the view of half the island. Here you can enjoy a nice, not too expensive meal, but don’t forget to try the most famous chocolate cake in all of Malta. It’s to die for.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Eat Malta’s famous pastizzi at Serkin in Rabat

    If you don’t think much of sweet things, maybe this one is better suited for you. One of the most relevant delicacies of the Maltese cuisine is its pastizzi, a pastry filled with either ricotta cheese or mushy peas. There are hundreds of places across the island where you can find these, but the best place of all is Serkin in the town of Rabat.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Go on a boat trip to Comino’s Blue Lagoon

    The Blue Lagoon, located by the small island of Comino, is a small bay with shallow, azure-coloured waters. This spectacular place provides one of the best sights of the Maltese archipelago, attracting hundreds of tourists daily (it can get very busy in the summer months, so we suggest heading over in the early morning). You can get here by renting a boat or luzzu or by getting on one of the more touristy cruisers.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Participate in a village festa

    If you are going to Malta in the summertime, this is something you cannot miss. If you want to do as the locals, there is nothing better to do than to join a village festa. Each village celebrates its own patron saint over the summer months with a full day of festivity, with marching bands, food stools, firework shows and many decorations all over town.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Walk the streets of beautiful peaceful Mdina

    The gracious Mdina is a fortified medieval town enclosed in bastions and located on a large hill in the centre of the island. With its narrow streets, few inhabitants and beautiful views over the Island it is a truly magical town.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Have a swim far from the crowds in St Peters Pool

    St Peter’s Pool is a beautiful natural pool ideal to spend a relaxing day away from the busy touristy spots. St Peter’s Pool is one of the most beautiful and stunning natural swimming pools in Malta and is located close to the town of Marsaxlokk. The sea here is crystal clear and offers the perfect opportunity to go snorkelling.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Go to St Julian’s by day and Paceville by night

    St Julian’s is a town on the coast of the Island, very popular with both tourists and locals. The interesting and unique thing about the town of St Julian’s is that there is something going on 24/7. During the day people head over to the beach, to the shops, bowling, to the cinema or to one of the many cafés and restaurants. However, during the night the town transforms and becomes Paceville, the main nightlife hub on the island, populated by nightclubs, bars, strip clubs, pubs and restaurants.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Have a wander through the original Popeye Village

    Popeye Village is a purpose-built film set village used for the 1980 Musical Production ‘Popeye’, now converted into a small attraction fun park. Here you can enjoy a number of attractions, including Santa’s Toy Land in the winter months, boat rides and water trampolines during the summer and shows, food outlets and more all year round.

    10 Unique Things To Do In Malta

    Have we convinced you to take a trip to Malta yet? If you have been before comment down below with anything we have missed and should be added to the list.

    The Storytellers’ Gifts

    Have you ever been so captivated with a great book that it was nearly impossible to put it down? There is nothing like a well written book chock full of intriguing characters and steeped in layers of the complexities of life to hold us captive from beginning to end. A truly great read will have you contemplating about its message long after you have finished that last page.

    Encouraged by my engaging seat mate, Allison, on a recent flight from Chicago, I’m sharing a few of those impactful books that I read most recently.

    In her best selling book, Melinda Gates shares the gut wrenching, inspiring and triumphant stories of women she’s met from around the world. At this critical moment, it will ignite your sense of urgency, leaving you convinced that equality can’t wait. –New York Times

    Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates was so incredibly moving, informative and timely that I highlighted something of significance on almost every page. As a woman, you will even see yourself in some of the stories that she tells about her own life, her career, being a mother and being encouraged by other women who are making a difference. But it is her stories of women and children living under extreme conditions that will open your eyes in a profound way.

    I loved this passage from her book so much it has become a daily mantra for me:

    Love is the effort to help others flourish. It begins with lifting up a person’s self image.”

    An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

    Educated by Tara Westover is admittedly not an easy read. There were times I had to put the book down and simply process what this remarkable young woman had experienced in her childhood. Tara is the same age as my daugher, and I often reminded myself of this as I read her heart wrenching story. I could not imagine not protecting my child from the atrocities she experienced at the hands of her own family members. At the same time, I found her story of survival, resilience and raw determination to change her life to be relatable and inspiring.

    I have watched Tara’s interviews with Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey and highly recommend watching these also. Tara doesn’t flinch at those tough questions about vulnerability and she is very open about how she coped by “normalizing” what was unfolding in her life. Tara has tremendous courage to share so publicly her personal story of pulling herself out of a very toxic family dynamic and building a much better life for herself. Tara’s story provides inspiration and encouragement for anyone who is trying to better their life.

    You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye” — Tara Westover during her interview with Oprah Winfrey

    A charming novel that prompts reflection on the stories we all should carry to the next generation

    The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg was an absolutely delightful and heartwarming read though the message was poignant.

    When Doris was a young girl, her father gave her a red address book and following his instructions she documented everyone she met and loved throughout her years. Now Doris is 96, living alone in Stockholm and reflecting on those who had an impact on her (many who are now deceased). She begins to write the stories of her colorful life (as a maid in Sweden, a model in Paris, fleeing to Manhattan at the onset of World War Two and of the men she loved). Her beautiful memories and her detailed memoir shed light on unanswered questions for her beloved niece (and just in the nick of time).

    “I want to give you my memories. So they don’t just disappear,” Doris says to her niece in her final moments

    Creating a love of learning in your family is as easy as lighting a fire. You just need a book of matches. The Brave Learner is that book!

    My daugher who is home schooling her two small children inspired me to read this book when she exclaimed that she simply couldn’t put it down. The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart had my attention and stirred my imagination from the very first page. You don’t need to be home schooling childen to benefit from the enchanted lifestyle of education that Julie inspires. If you are a parent or grandparent, an aunt or uncle, you will be awakened to the incredible learning opportunities surrounding us each and every day. Most importantly Julie helps us to avoid accidentally dampening a child’s wild-fire interest and instead fan the flames of their unique passion.

    To maximize the value of the practices and attitudes I share, I invite you to be a brave learner yourself. Pay attention to your journey — to what incites your enthusiasm and provokes your skepticism. Be interested in your reactions. Journal. Jot questions in the margins. Recognize the child in you longing for freedom and support. Translate those experiences into empathy for your children’s learning adventure. — extracted directly from Julie’s book.

    As I wrap up my book review for you it seems fitting that I am closing with The Brave Learner. May we all be motivated and inspired to learn all that we can from each other, from books and discussing them and from the experiences that unfold in our lives every day. Happy reading ??

    Recipe: Saffron Rice Stuffed Tomatoes

    A few months ago I told my boyfriend that I really wanted to try saffron, I’d heard about it and seen it in the market. For my birthday he bought me a spice rack filled with all sorts of herbs and spices I’ve never had before including Japanese Pepper, Chinese Peppers, Vanilla Beans, and Saffron. So I did some research and came up with this recipe. Originally, I made it in Bell Peppers, we preferred the Bell Peppers, but this is really good for Tomato lovers.



    Ingredients
    4 Largo Tomatoes (or Bell Peppers)
    1/2 Cup of Dry Basmati Rice
    5 Cremini Mushrooms
    1 Whole Shallot
    2 Garlic Cloves
    2 tbs Vegan Butter (or Olive Oil)
    1 Pinch of Saffron

    Optional: Olive Oil for broiling and Salt and Pepper to taste 

    Step 1: Prep the Rice

    Wash excess starch from your Basmati Rice, and soak Basmati Rice for 30 minutes.

    Step 2: Start Stove Top Ingredients

    During the soak time, finely chop your Shallot.

    Add Shallots, Whole Garlic Cloves, 2 tbs Vegan Butter, and pinch of Saffron to a pan on the stove top. Cook on low.

    Step 3: Hollow out Tomatoes

    Hollow out the Tomatoes with a knife. Get as close to the skin as you can without puncturing it. Take half of the insides of the tomatoes, chop, and set aside for later. Also keep the tops for later.

    After the Shallots are translucent from cooking and yellow from the Saffron, add in the chopped insides of the Tomato. Let this cook on low until the water is cooked out of the Tomatoes and you’re left with the oils and flavors from all the ingredients.

    Step 4: Start Cooking Rice

    While you’re letting all your ingredients on the stove top simmer, start cooking your Basmati Rice. I like to start the Basmati Rice at this time to slow me down and allow all the ingredients slowly cooking on the stove to really take on a nice flavor.

    Step 6: Mushrooms

    About halfway through the cooking time of the rice. Chop the Mushrooms and add to the stove top ingredients (the Shallots, Garlic, Tomatoes etc).

    Step 7: Mix it All Together

    After your Basmati Rice is cooked, gently add it to the Shallots, Garlic, Tomato, and Mushroom mixture on the stove. Lightly mix together you wan to be gentle so you don’t smush the rice.

    After everything is mixed, stuff the 4 Tomatoes with the mixture and put the tops of the Tomatoes back on top. Set Tomatoes in an oven appropriate dish.

    You can drizzle some Olive Oil on top if you wish, then put into the oven to broil on the middle rack. Only broil for a couple minutes and keep a close eye on it. I took my Stuffed Tomatoes out when the tops began to blacken slightly.

    Step 8: Serve

    I served my Saffron Rice Stuffed Tomatoes with a Spinach Salad mixed with Cucumbers, Apple Cider Dried Cranberries, Sunflower Seeds, and Cucumber. I went heavy on the seeds to add more protein to this meal.

    IMG_0863 copy


    The Retrospective:

    What I Loved:

    The rich flavor of Saffron with Butter, Shallots, Garlic, and Mushroom. The rice was so good, taking the extra step to wash it and soak it just elevated the rice’s texture.

    I recommend doing a nutty salad along with this dish to add more protein.

    What Needed Improvement:

    I think the rice works a lot better in a Bell Pepper, it’s less mushy overall and if you don’t hollow out the Tomato out really well, it’s a lot of Tomato to eat in proportion with the Rice.

    But if you’re a huge tomato fan, I recommend doing this with the tomato.

    Praying for your Husband #4 – Seeking Him with his Whole Heart

    This is DAY 4 of praying for our husbands with the “Prayers for your Husband” card prompts from The Daily Grace Company

    Pray that your husband will seek the Lord

    Pray that he will spend time in scripture and in the word.

    Matthew 6:33, Deuteronomy 4:29, Psalm 63:1

    person holding heart shaped cut out

    Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

    Prayer/Prophetic Declarations from the scriptures- insert your husbands name in the blanks.

    Matthew 6:33

    As ______________ seeks (aims at and strives after) Your Kingdom & Your Righteousness, first of all and Your way of doing things,  then ALL that he needs will be given to him.

    v.14) _____________ will not be anxious or worried about tomorrow because each day has worries of its own and he knows his needs will be taken care of as he trusts in You.

    Deuteronomy 4:29

    ___________________ will inquire for and require as necessity the Lord his God. He will find You as he seeks after You with all his heart, soul and mind.

    Psalm 63:1

    You are __________________ God, earnestly he seeks You, his inner self thirsts for You, his flesh longs for You in a dry and weary land.

    v.2-4) __________________ looks upon You in the sanctuary to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, his lips shall praise You. So will he bless You while he lives, he will lift up his hands in Your name.

    PRAY THIS WITH ME:

    Lord, I thank You that our husbands will always seek You first and seek You with their whole hearts. They will not be anxious or worried because they put their trust in You. They will always inquire of You and require You as a vital necessity. They will seek after You in a dry and weary land  where only You can satisfy. Their desires will be for You and Your kingdom only. They will seek You out in the scriptures and in prayer daily. They will praise You and bless Your name as long as they live. Amen!

    • Let’s continue to be faithful in praying  for our husbands
    • Don’t forget to journal any thoughts, prayers, answered prayer or additional scripture that you receive while praying
    • all scripture is taken from amplified version unless noted
    • next up #5 – Seeking Clear Direction

    Love & Blessings, Martha

    Illnesses We All Have

    Illnesses we all have make no sense to us as we continue each and every day living the life we chose.  Illnesses keep us from being normal; from getting up to get to jobs or every day activities; from being able to drive, see, think, walk or run, etc.  All these illnesses are just a way to tell you that your body is not in balance.  Not all these illnesses have to kill us!  They really don’t.  The body needs to get back in line like anything else you care about as in animals, vehicles or even your homes.  When they fall apart, we either send them to see someone or bring a contractor over to fix the problems we have.  Why is it that we never use what we learn from our grandparents for eliminating easy coughs & colds?  Your grandparents never had to find someone that brought on miracles to kill a cough or cold.  Why is it that we don’t have time for making sure our bodies are taken care of without the high priced fixes doctors make you think you need?  Let’s say that I am you when you are dealing with cancer.

    Cancer of any internal or external part on your body including anything like leukemia or something that has to do with needing bone marrow can all be taken care of by simply using fruits and vegetables with very dark colors.  Getting bone marrow naturally is by taking the bone from a chicken or beef or maybe pork and softening up the bone so much that the bone itself which after softened is like a fabric you can cut from end to the other.  This has to do with athletes, mothers, children, fathers, etc. in which the body I say again is not in balance.  It is missing nutritional items that people can’t duplicate into pill form and expect the pills to fix you or cure you entirely.  Pills you get from a pharmacy & centers for cancer or anything else is not the answer, but the way to get answers.  They have licensed personnel that handle stuff but should teach others about the choices they make if a patient.  This goes for a lot of children or parents of children who have kids as patients.  Choices of how to get back instead of letting them die to bring hope to parents who are crushed after their kids die.  There is only 1 cure for everything in this world which will bring us all what we want and that is balance in all systems in your body.

    Athletes in sports including families like a mother or wife of a football star, maybe those who fight around the world for our country in the military, or a wrestler who takes on an extreme pain threshold including injuries to the head and neck really need to get a lot of nutrition during their prime.  These are the best performers or gladiators fighting & needing lots of ways to be physically taken care of.  The people in the military are the most who get worked & come out tore up in more suffering than they know.  Therapy for all is needed by way of knowing what the body is missing and finding a way to get to the problem any way you can.  It can also go through people that have been in the military a lot.

    *painmilitarywifeathletesnutritionalbalanceillnessesreformkids

    Elora again

    Elora Mill Inn, Grand River and the “Tooth of Time”

    I FINALLY GOT TO STAY AT THIS PLACE. Elora is probably my favorite small town in Ontario, and I’ve been there a few times now, the last two on business. The Elora Mill Inn & Spa was still being renovated when I visited last year, but I’ve been angling to get a night there since they gave me a tour. A couple of months ago I got my chance.

    The mill is as old as the town, and it’s been the star of its scenic views for as long as Elora has been hosting visitors, for more than a century. It’s amazing to think that the “Tooth of Time” – a little flowerpot island that sits in the middle of the steepest part of the rapids by the mill – is still standing. The spring melt had swelled the Grand River when I visited, so the water was raging through Fergus and Elora the whole time I was there.

    Time was tight while I was in town so I had to do some planning. I already had the postcards, but I needed to nail down sunset and sunrise while I was in town and figure out where the light would be. I knew I wanted to get a long exposure of the water flowing past the mill, and thankfully this time I had all the gear I need to pull it off – a lightweight travel tripod, a cable release and a set of neutral density filters.

    Taking the shot with all the gear

    The sunset was a bit muted when I set up on the patio outside the spa – as close as I could get to the spot where some anonymous postcard photographer set up for their shot over a century ago. I’m still not sure about shooting long exposures, but it’s a look I’ve never seriously tried before with landscapes and this seemed like a good place to give it a shot.

    Room with a view, Elora Mill Inn & Spa

    My room was visible from the patio – on the left side of the new glass addition, just above the restaurant and below the balconies of the deluxe suites. The hotel was nice enough to give me a suite with a fireplace, which I enjoyed the hell out of. I was in town to write a couple of travel features about Elora, but I knew that I’d try to get a post for my own travel blog about the hotel while I was lucky enough to enjoy their hospitality – and the spectacular view:

    I did a bunch of interviews for the travel features, which gave me an opportunity for some portraits. Elora’s been a hub for artists since at least the ’70s, and they’ve formed a community whose work has become a key part of the town’s business and identity. I handed in colour shots for the stories, but I took some versions of my own, pretty sure they’d end up being processed in black and white.

    David Cross, blacksmith and sculptor, Elora, Ontario
    Neil Hanscomb and Gisela Ruehe, glass artists, Elora, Ontario

    The whole Elora/Fergus area is ridiculously photogenic, so I ended up with a lot of “end cuts” even after handing in my two features and posting to my travel blog. My visits to the area, while enjoyable, are always too brief. One day I’d like to spend a few days exploring with my camera, though I doubt if my lodgings will be as luxurious.

    Ruin, Elora, Ontario
    Templin Gardens, Fergus, Ontario
    Grand River in the spring, Fergus, Ontario
    Grand River at Wilson Flats Access Point
    See my published books

    Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp (Part 3)

    Emily's Summer Drawing Camp

    This post is a continuation of a little series which may become part of a book about Amelia’s trip to the moon and back. If you are not a regular reader, you may want to read the most recent post about Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp first. It will help explain the ending to this post.

    Emily had been enjoying her chalks and pastels for long enough to cover the front of my refrigerator with artwork. It seemed like a perfect day to try something new.

    “Would you like this little travel-size watercolor set?” I asked.

    “What does it do?”

    “Well, I thought you might like to try making some pictures with it, paintings really.”

    “Are paintings better than drawings?”

    “That is a question people still haven’t figured out yet. But if you ask me, a painting is a lot like a drawing except it is wet at first. But some drawings, like ink drawings, start out wet too. The best thing about painting is you can make a big colorful shape all at once.”

    “Don’t I have to travel to use it? I don’t think I can fly and carry that all at the same time even though it is small.”

    “It’s only called that name because when artists travel away from home sometimes they like to take a little set of paints and a brush with them. But they can use it at home too.”

    “Those colors are pretty and brighter than chalk. Do I pick them up like chalk?”

    “They have pigment in them like the chalk, and a very weak kind of glue. You add some water with the paintbrush to loosen up the pigment and glue, and then you have paint.”

    Emily couldn’t quite imagine how this would all work. She looked as if she was going to tell me she’d rather just stay with her chalk drawings, but I wanted her to at least try.

    “By the way, Emily, did you know that many years ago some artists started using the clear part inside eggs as a stronger kind of glue when they mixed their paint colors. The clear part of the egg made the paint last a really long time and kept the colors extra beautiful.”

    “You are serious about that?”

    “Absolutely serious. It’s called egg tempera, and some artists still use it. The paintings are small because they take so much time to make, but they are worth it because they are small and as beautiful as jewels, just like you.”

    Emily had exhausted all of the questions she could come up with, and so there was nothing left to do except make a decision. Chickens can be hesitant about trying new things, even new food.

    “I want to see how this paint works. I will give it a try.”

    “I’m so glad.”

    “But I’m not giving up any eggs for this.”

    “And I wouldn’t ask you to either. You will just need a dish of water. It wouldn’t be good to use everyone’s drinking dish. Nobody wants funny-colored water to drink.”

    I was eager to see how her watercolor painting would turn out. The travel-sized box had a shorter paintbrush that fit nicely in her beak. I showed her how to use it to get water and turn the cakes of pigment into paint. In no time, she was ready to start.

    From the very beginning, Emily developed her own painting style. She enjoyed being able to use her whole body, especially her wings, when she painted.

    Flying and painting worked well together for her. She would load her brush with paint and then touch straight down to make round yellow shapes for flower centers. She would touch at an angle to make white oblong shapes for flower petals. She would touch down then drag and lift up to make green shapes with two pointed ends for flower leaves.

    None of her shapes were exactly the same which made every flower unique, just as in nature. A few times drops of paint went where they weren’t supposed to go, but she was able to turn the drips into more flowers. All in all, her first watercolor painting was quite a success.

    When she was finished she put down her brush and looked up at me. She was delighted to see the approval on my face.

    “Nicely done,” I said. “And I know what you are going to say next.” It was why she had asked if painting was better than drawing.

    “I want to paint Amelia.”

    “Then we will work on that tomorrow. You will need even bigger shapes than what you made today. Let me show you, and then you can imagine how you will do it for tomorrow’s lesson.”

    I opened the paint box all of the way so that the lid laid flat. Emily had been so eager to start, she hadn’t noticed this. She liked how the two sections there could be used to make a larger amount of paint.

    Emily watched carefully as I mixed a special color and outlined a large round shape with watercolor and then filled it in with more paint.

    Then once that was dry, I mixed another special color and added more smaller round shapes on top of the larger round shape.

    “That is the moon! That is where Amelia is going!”

    “That’s right.”

    “So is painting like drawing?”

    “What do you mean, Emily?”

    “Does it also let you do things you would never be able to do any other way?”

    “We will find out tomorrow, won’t we?”

    “Yes. Yes, we will.”

    My Life With Gracie taught me you never know what you can do until you try.

    Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

    Simple Solutions About Travel That Are Easy To Follow

    Many people would love to travel today since they see it being an affordable option, but unfortunately they do not know where to begin planning their trip. When traveling, you must do as much research as possible about traveling the right way, and these tips will help you get started.

    Once you’ve chosen your destination, take the time to get to know more about where you’re going. Buy a good map of the place you are going, and then look it over to learn the general area, as well as places to see. Memorizing a bit about your environment will make it that much easier to navigate when you arrive.

    When you travel, you should only bring along things you need. The less items you have, the less risk of having valuable items stolen or lost. Limit the pairs of shoes you carry, as they are often the largest and heaviest items you will be bringing on your trip.

    Planning ahead is important for any trip, but especially important if you are traveling by air. Most airports are close to major urban areas, making them difficult to get to at busy times of day, like rush hour. Be packed and ready the night before. Make the necessary preparations prior to flying. By being prepared, you will reduce the risk of missing your flight.

    This suggestion is not meant to scare you, but make sure that you are using a recommended taxi service as there is always a chance you could be getting into a bogus vehicle and robbed. Make sure any taxi you get into is legitimate. Any person can throw a “taxi” label on a vehicle, meaning you may have no idea who they are or where you will end up.

    If you are traveling with children be sure to bring a color photo with you and keep it on you at all times in case they become missing. Losing a child in a foreign place can be very stressful and scary. Children can sometimes become lost when traveling due to the crowds or the unfamiliar location. Having a photo you can show people immediately if the child becomes lost could wind up making a substantial difference in getting them back quickly.

    Give the travel itinerary of your trip to a relative. This will allow someone else to see where you are. Stay in touch with that contact to maximize your own safety. If they are aware of your location and you contact them regularly, no one will need to worry.

    Learn the language about food if you are going to a foreign country, so that you can ask servers about ingredients in the food that cause you to have allergic reactions. If you experience severe reactions to certain foods, you must become fluent in the words the natives use when it comes to their food. Doing this, you can tell restaurants what foods you can’t eat or at least be able to tell medical professionals what’s wrong.

    Make sure you get the latest e-newsletters of the airlines you use. These newsletters are often the best way to get exclusive offers and discounts. Yes, they will probably clutter your email, but you’ll save a good amount of money by putting up with this small problem.

    Pack lightly and take only what you need, when traveling. The less items you have, the less risk of having valuable items stolen or lost. Limit the number of shoes you bring along since they are usually the biggest and heaviest items people carry with them.

    To rent a car you must be 18 or older, but some companies go even further and set the minimum at 25. If you’re not yet 25, you might pay a higher rate, and you might have to put down credit card information. If you are older, you may not be able to rent a car. Discuss any age restrictions when you book your reservation.

    You can save time when going to an amusement park by purchasing your tickets online. There is generally a fee associated with an online ticket purchase. However, it is a small one, and the trade off for skipping long ticket lines is a big advantage. For big attractions that have timed entry available, you can use that, too, to get you in faster.

    Jet Lag

    You should know the tipping conventions for the bellboys and housekeepers. Standard tipping rates are a dollar per bag carried, and around $2-5 per day to the maid. Tipping the people who assist you during your stay will help to develop a relationship with the staff, and entice them to provide you with optimum service.

    Stay awake until 8 PM in the time zone you are in if you want to adjust to the time zone you are in. Resist the urge to fall asleep too early because this will only prolong the disorientation of jet lag. Adjusting to local time is best way to defeat the effects of jet lag.

    Bring a book of matches or a business card of your motel with you while traveling about the city. Should you be in a foreign location and get lost, this item can be perfect for getting directions or telling a taxi where you need to get to. This simple precaution goes a long way to make up for whatever you lack in speaking the local language.

    Road trips are boring unless you have activities planned along the way. If you do more than stop for meals and bathroom breaks, you will build anticipation along the road. Give kids the itinerary of the route so that they stay focused on the destination while on the way to the main one.

    If traveling with children, bring a cookie sheet. These sheets make a good surface to write on and to also play cards. If your children are very young, bring along magnetic numbers and letters to provide an educational activity.

    Wear earplugs if you are easily wakened. Some hotels don’t have great sounding in their walls. Earplugs can help block out noise, allowing you to sleep soundly.

    Consider purchasing a yearly National Park Pass if you plan to visit more than a couple times a year. The pass is $50, and it can be used at any of the parks for a year.

    You can have a great deal of fun at travel locations near your home. It is entirely possible to have a great time in your home state. You could always save money by staying in local areas and helping out local businesses. The perfect getaway could be right around the corner.

    When planning a road trip, remember to plan for service stops. During these long road trips you may go for an extended period of time before encountering a service station if your car should need one. While planning your route, look for service stations that offer mechanic services. Make sure you keep the numbers for a few different service stations along the way just in case you need to be towed.

    When traveling to a foreign country, you should bring along bottled water. Drinking water in a foreign country can lead to stomach problems. Make sure you use bottled water when choosing to brush your teeth. The tap water is just as likely to make you sick.

    Traveling to far away places is not the only way to have a wonderful quick get-away or enjoyable day trip. There are plenty of vacation spots in your state or perhaps one that is close by. Save on travel expenses by staying local and supporting local businesses. You might find a gem nearby.

    Bank Atm

    If you plan to travel abroad, try making a couple cards that say what your food allergies are in the destination’s native tongue. If you have a special diet, this tip comes in handy as well. Cards help ensure that your dining experiences are positive ones.

    Avoid having to exchange currency with a bank when you travel to a different country. Try getting foreign currency at a bank ATM. Before you travel find out if the area you are traveling to has bank ATM machines available. Bank ATM’s tend to have better exchange rates and are generally less expensive than an exchange.

    Some travel websites off e-tracking options that you can use. It will keep you up to date with the cheapest way to travel. It also emails you when the flights you like have dropped in price.

    Always remember to bring essential medication. A lot of people forget medications and other important items when they are getting ready to go on a vacation. You won’t be able to get the medication you may need.

    Make sure you tip well. When you get on the ship, give your steward $20. There is a good chance the crew you see in the beginning will be the ones taking care of you the entire time, so if you tip them well, you are sure to get good service in return.

    Purchase a good insurance package if you are taking an exotic vacation. This kind of insurance can give you peace of mind when you are far from civilization.

    Try to get a room that is on a high floor. Burglars are more likely to break into a ground floor home. You should also avoid staying in rooms with sliding doors. It’s easier to gain unwanted access to these types of rooms.

    As you begin to understand what traveling involves, you can begin to figure out your destination. Apply what you have just learned here, and enjoy your trip!

    Contact lens cases are a great place to stow a couple of your favorite cosmetics. These can be used to carry small amounts of gels or lotions that you may want, and save you a lot of space in your suitcases.

    The making of Banana fibre sarees

    In today’s day and age, where everything from dark chocolate to rice has become organic, why should the fashion industry be left behind?
    Banana fibre sarees are not only organic and biodegradable, but they also give an exotic, rich look and are completely cruelty-free!

    About 500 grams of fibre is required to create one saree and each banana stem would provide about 150 grams of fibre. While banana stems are available in plenty, the manual extraction of fibres from the stems is labour intensive and time consuming. In the South of India, this is available in abundance. The tree stems used in the making of Banana fibre would otherwise be wasted and thrown away as agricultural dump. So not only does this make a great product, but also plays a role in saving the environment.

    Although this process can be done by machines, they cost a lot more and don’t give the same natural handwoven satisfaction or outcome like manual weaving does.

    • First, the stem of the raw material is dried and scraped to remove dust. The fibre is located primarily adjacent to the outer surface of the sheath and can be peeled-off readily in ribbons of strips of 5 to 8 cm wide and 2-4 mm thick which is the entire length of the sheath.
    • This stripping process is known as tuxying and the strips being called tuxies. They are flattened and the fibre is stripped from the stem by cutting the pulpy portion and pulling away from the tuxy.
    • Then, each strand of the fibre is taken out manually to make yarn. The product is then treated in various herbs, spices and even cow-dung for their antibacterial properties which is good for the skin. After this, medicinal herbs like Tulsi and mint are also used to ensure that skin allergies of all kinds are at bay.
    • The softness of the fibre is due to the fact that each strand is cleaned with softening chemicals and only then woven into fabrics after being dyed into various colours.

    ban

    banana

    One kg fiber cost around Rs. 200/- and roughly 3 kgs of fiber may be utilized to produce 1 kg of yarn. Shirts and sarees made of banana fibre are now popular because of their ability to keep the body cooler by not absorbing heat, which is why they are ideal for summer. The fibres, extracted from the banana pseudo stem (a clustered, cylindrical aggregation of leaf stalk bases), are odourless and can be dyed.

    Banana fibre sarees are easy to care for and can be washed under running water. They do not shrink and the color does not fade after a wash. The fabric’s stiffness, even in the absence of starch, makes it a favourite among masses. Due to the stiff and crisp look, these sarees are widely appreciated in grand occasions and stand out for their uniqueness.

    Banana fibre can be used for various purposes such as in textile, paper or handicrafts industry. Relatively higher tensile strength of the fibre makes it a promising material and longer strands of fibres of banana results in more yarns production. The high yarn strength of banana fibre facilitates the blending with other natural or synthetic fibres for production of textiles almost like magic.

    Banana fibre has an affinity to colours that makes it easier to weave attractive designs from it. Artisans take pride in its making because of the beautiful end result.

    Natural fibres are the next best thing that can happen to the textile industry because they possess several advantages such as high disposability and renewability. Banana plant is also used to make paper, which is stronger than that made of wood-pulp and is also water proof. In fact, it is said that if currency notes were to be made of Banana fibre, they’d last for more than hundred years with no problem at all!

    Lucky for you, The Phoenix Company brings to you a gorgeous hand woven Banana fibre saree with a beautiful flower pattern combined with an iconic red colour. It’s style and distinctiveness make it stand out in the crowd. This saree is a must have in every women’s wardrobe.

    banana sarees

     

    Purchase your own saree now: http://thephoenixcompany.in/index.php/product-brands/fraterniti/sarees/banana-fibre.html

    By Naqiyah Hasan

    Sources: https://www.thebetterindia.com/173294/natural-fibre-sari-weavers-handlooms-tamil-nadu/

    Banana Fibers – Natural Plant/Bast Fibers

    https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/7654/banana-fibre-a-revolution-in-textiles

     

    Book Review: Coldhearted Boss by R.S. Grey

    Synopsis

    I’m desperate and destitute when Lockwood Construction rolls into my small town with an offer too good to pass up: high wages to any able-bodied man willing to join their crew.

    Say no more. I throw on baggy clothes, tuck my long hair under a baseball hat, and apply for a job. Unfortunately, my half-baked idea of disguising myself as a guy is flawed from the beginning. As Shakira says, these hips don’t lie.

    Still, I like to think I might have pulled the whole thing off save for one thing:

    I know my boss.

    Last month, we met at a bar, and after a fiery first encounter, it seems we’re destined to be sworn enemies.

    Ethan Stone is ruthless and arrogant, a man I never would have crossed had I known how much he likes to toy with his prey.

    He should just fire me and be done with it. Instead, he decides to make me his personal slave. Oh right, I think they’re calling it personal “assistant” these days.

    It’s torture, all of it—his bad attitude, his ruggedly chiseled face, his desire to grind me into dust.

    Every one of our friction-filled battles burns hotter than the last.

    A girl can only hold out for so long. Soon, I’m bound to go up in flames.

    My objective? Survive the heat long enough to send home a paycheck.

    My real objective? Stop having X-rated fantasies about my coldhearted boss.


    Review 

    *I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

    This is Rachel’s best book yet! It had everything that I love, hot slow burn romance, witty banter and two amazing characters that you can’t help but fall in love with.

    Taylor is down on her luck and is desperate to make some real money to help out her Mon and Siter, so she decides to pretend to be a guy and get a job on construction site with her cousin, which may have worked if she didn’t already know her boss Ethan, who she met in a bar a few weeks before.

    I really liked Taylor she was so sweet and sassy, I loved how she worked her damn butt off every day and didn’t let Ethan’s shitty attitude get her down, she made the best out of everything he threw at her, and it was glorious. It took me a little while to warm to Ethan because I thought he was a little jerky to start with but I can kind of understand his initial attitude towards Tayler.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this story, I highly recommend it.

    My Rating: 5/5 ??????????

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    About R.S.Grey

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    R.S. Grey is the USA Today bestselling author of thirteen novels, including THE FOXE & THE HOUND. She lives in Texas with her husband and two dogs, and can be found reading, binge-watching reality TV, or practising yoga! Visit her at rsgrey.com

    Website | Twitter | Facebook | R.S. Grey’s Little Reds Facebook GroupNewsletter | Instagram

    Silkway Halal Cuisine

    We were looking for a place to eat before beach v-ball and settled on trying Silkway Halal Cuisine. They specialize in Ningxia food and everything is halal. They’re located right next door to Bubble Fruity.

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    Parking in the rear! Argh, had no idea they had spots.

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    We dropped in on a Sunday evening (around 6:30pm) to an empty restaurant. A couple other small groups trickled in but for the most part, it was dead. The only way to describe the service is condescending. The waitress wasn’t impressed that we didn’t speak Mandarin; commence attitude. Not a big deal but just expect that coming here. At least they bring out a full tea pot and refilled it.

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    The menu is humongous with over 15 pages of options; cold dishes, soup, seafood, fish, lamb, chicken, beef, vegetables, noodles & rice, dim sum and dessert. Tons of classic lamb dishes and their roast local goat chops looked delicious (must pre-order in advance)!

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    Click here to see the full menu (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16). Lunch menu had some real cheap specials (all under $10.00).

    Tea
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    2x Rice ($1.90 each)
    DSC01875We ordered a couple bowls to go with our meal.

    Chinese lamb burger ($8.95 for 2)
    DSC01872These were different than the standard Chinese burgers. Buns were soft and pillowy.

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    Reminded me of a Taiwanese style bun.

    Lamb skewer ($9.95 for 6)
    DSC01882These were dusted with paprika and cumin. Skewers were respectable.

    Boiled fish in hot chili oil ($19.95)
    DSC01879This came with fish, bean sprouts, cilantro. The crew liked that the broth was spicy and had a good kick to it.

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    Would have been nice to get more fish pieces.

    Sliced lamb with pickled cabbage in hot pot ($18.95)
    DSC01876This was actually delicious. The broth was fantastic; good depth, homey and each sip was a mouthful of sweet, sour. Don’t know how the lamb was so tender but still retained a bite.

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    You can pay by card if it’s $30.00 or more (otherwise, it’s cash only). Prices are on the higher side; bring a group to take advantage.

    Silkway Halal Cuisine
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Silkway-Halal-Cuisine/
    #110, 8188 Saba Road
    Richmond, BC
    (604) 278-6788

    Silkway Halal Cuisine Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Jamie Oliver’s management style leaves much to be desired

    Jamie Oliver presents himself as a man of the people, although he does come across as being holier than thou.

    Yet, the reality is a bit different.

    On May 21, 2019, he made headlines as his restaurant chain went into administration. One thousand jobs are at risk.

    On May 22, the BBC reported that staff were less than pleased with the way his managers terminated their employment in Glasgow (emphases mine):

    … staff at Jamie’s were still hopeful that a turnaround was on the horizon.

    “We knew it wasn’t doing as well as we’d want it to be,” says Lucy, who worked at the Glasgow branch for more than three years.

    Staff, she says, were led to believe that a refit was around the corner, and that taps offering Brewdog beer would soon be installed.

    Instead, they got a simple email.

    “My partner was meant to be on shift this morning,” says Lucy, who asked for her real name not to be used.

    “He was told at the last minute not to come in as the locks were being changed.

    “We were then invited to join a conference call and told we had all been made redundant, effective immediately.”

    Lucy and her partner, who worked at Jamie’s for five years, say they feel there was a lack of transparency at the firm.

    “I wish they hadn’t said to us that it was fine, when it obviously wasn’t,” she says.

    Oliver says his restaurants were ‘effectively franchises’, meaning that he was not involved with their day to day running. Even so, I am surprised he did not insist that the franchise holders show truth and compassion in informing employees of their situation.

    In his documentaries, Oliver has been very critical of people and politicians who do not do right by the ordinary citizen. I thought he would practise what he preaches. Apparently not.

    Oliver’s restaurants are not the only British restaurant chain in trouble. Many others are.

    I am amazed when I go into London and see shopfront after shopfront occupied by these chains. It isn’t at all sustainable.

    There was a time three years ago when we were at the top of the worldwide restaurant boom. No longer.

    The aforementioned BBC article says:

    Once seen as competitors to Jamie’s, Italian chain Strada is down to just three branches, while Carluccio’s has been forced to close approximately a third of its restaurants, after losing tens of millions of pounds.

    Burger brand Byron, French cuisine chain Cafe Rouge, and pizza outlet Prezzo aren’t faring much better.

    Lucy says the writing is on the wall for restaurant chains:

    The market for chain restaurants is dying – there are loads of places you can go in Glasgow that are cheaper.

    That’s great news, because I prefer eating at family-owned restaurants. London used to have a lot, but rising rates and leases put many out of business.

    Family-owned establishments often try harder. Their lives depend on it.

    Comments temporarily off

    Drink, Hike, Drink Day 5: The Haunted Bicycle and Holy Crap Corner

    Ian and I awoke bright and early Saturday morning to head for Yosemite. During the drive, there was point on CA-140 when we came around a bend, and all of the sudden I felt like I was no longer on earth. It looked more like Endor, except hillier. With all the recent rain in the area, the landscape was spectacularly, almost supernaturally, green.

    We got to Yosemite and parked without any problem (hurray for visiting during non-peak season and arriving early!) and found the bike rental stand. The rental bikes are all single-speed cruisers with seats that are not adjustable, so you just have to start trying out bikes to find one that’s a good fit for you. I found it hard to gauge whether a bike was appropriate for me–they all felt weird simply because they were not my bike (single speed, no hand brakes, no cute little bell, etc.), but I chose one as best I could, and we set out on the roughly 12-mile loop of bike path around Yosemite Valley.

     

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    Once I got the hang of riding the rental bike, I realized it was a tad too small for me but decided I could cope with it for the duration of our ride around the valley. However, about a quarter of the way through the loop, the bike began to make periodic scraping/screeching/grinding noises and herky-jerky movements. A few times, I dismounted and wheeled the bike for a stretch to see if I could identify the source of the issue, but, of course, all noises and weird movements then ceased. I told Ian I was pretty sure my bike was haunted. He was skeptical at first, but I think he almost believed me as we finished the final stretch of the loop and the volume of the noises coming from the bike had increased to the point where I pretty much just had to laugh and hope the thing didn’t spontaneously fall apart before we got back to the bike stand. Thankfully, it did not!

    After returning the bikes and eating lunch, we set out to tackle the Yosemite Falls trail. We’d never planned to hike up to the top (which is about 7 miles roundtrip with a 2700-foot elevation gain) but hoped to get to the point about a third of the way up where there is supposed to be a stunning view of the upper falls. We knew the hike was going to be somewhat strenuous. It was doable but a bit harder than we’d expected. After we’d gone through the gazillionth switchback, I began to look with envy at people who had hiking poles–something I’d never even thought about because I live in Chicago, where hills are kind of a foreign concept. Then I saw a guy who was wearing boat shoes and wondered what kind of sorcery he was employing to not slip and kill himself.

     

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    There’s a point on the trail, right before you reach Columbia Rock, where you come around a bend and emerge from the trees to get a view of the valley. I referred to it as Holy Crap Corner because “holy crap” was all I could manage to say, being so stunned by the view.

     

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    We’d not gone far beyond Columbia Rock when we debated the merits of pressing on versus turning back. Our original destination was only about a half mile farther, but right ahead of us was what looked to be a very steep ascent. Our legs were jelly. The skies were darkening, heavy rains were predicted, and the thought of making our way back down in slippery conditions was less than appealing. So, we decided to turn back. Although I’m bummed we didn’t get to the falls viewpoint, I think we made the right decision. As it was, the rain began during the last 15 minutes or so of our descent.

     

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    Once we were back down in the valley, we got out of the rain and visited the Ansel Adams Gallery and the Village Store, where I bought—hiking poles!

    Back in Mariposa that evening, I undid much of my hiking and biking with beer and rich, but incredibly delicious, mac and cheese at 1850. It’s all about balance, people!

    A Tie That Binds

    In my last retail job one characteristic that
    distinguished me from all other male employees in the store was that I wore a
    bow tie every day.  One of the guys I
    worked with whom I’ll call Joe was 6’5”, in his 40s and had a sense of humor as
    irreverent as mine.  When I first started,
    he wore a bow tie but only occasionally. 
    A difference between us was that I tied my tie every day (like a grown
    man) and he wore a clip-on tie.  I never
    tired of telling customers and employees how badly I felt that Joe had to buy
    his clip-on bow ties in the Boy’s Department. 
    If you wanted to buy a bow tie in our Men’s department, you had to be
    able to tie it.  I did consider Joe’s
    feelings a few times and considered ignoring this fashion faux pas.  I also considered not mentioning his fraudulent
    tie to strangers that passed by.  However,
    I decided what the heck, it tickled me. 
    I don’t want anyone to think that I was singularly cruel, because his
    observations were equally painful.  His frequent
    references to my “old man” shoes were particularly vicious.  One day I got a text from Joe on his day off.  Apparently, he had decided he was going to
    remove that “clip-on” arrow from my quiver. 
    He set about teaching himself to tie an adult tie and achieved success.  He sent me a picture as proof of his new
    skill.  The tie in Joe’s picture was tied
    perfectly.  Because he was lounging around
    at home, the picture was a little goofy if you looked beyond the tie.  His bow tie training had obviously taken place
    in bed.  Being in bed, he wasn’t wearing
    a dress shirt which would have gotten wrinkled. Because it was kind of fun, I
    showed the picture to a few of my colleagues. 
    When Joe came back to work the next day, some of the other employees commented
    on the picture and he wasn’t pleased.  I
    always knew Joe had some healthy vanity; we all do.  He is always very well dressed (except for trousers
    he wears that look like harem pants) and the picture did not represent the
    image he feels he projects.  For me this
    was extremely good news.  The previous
    day I had lost the best tool I had to needle Joe when we were joking around because
    he never wore a clip-on tie again.  He
    actually provided me with my replacement tool. 
    From that point on, I showed that photo to our customers showing them what
    a beautiful bow tie Joe could create.  Customers
    had a variety of reactions; Joe’s was always the same.  Months later, after sharing the picture one
    day, I put the phone down for just a moment. 
    That moment was enough time for Joe to scoop up the phone and delete the
    picture.  He was quite pleased with
    himself.  Thank goodness for the Cloud.