December 30, 2013

Project Life 2013: Week 48a

This is week 48, and I am still playing catch up. In addition to the insert I created for this week, I decided to make two double spreads for the week. We jammed a lot in, and I wanted to capture the sense of how packed it was. Highlights of this week included exploring the Ancient Cities, all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As always, click on images to view larger.

Here is the two page spread:

Left side:

Right side:

Additional freebie supplies used this week:
Explore element by Rhonna. Journal card by Melissa. 4x6 collage templates by Liz.

Recent Reads

142. A Monster Calls
Thirteen year old Connor has nightmares. And if that wasn't bad enough a monster comes calling, or in this case walking. 

This short fairy tale is targeted for the middle grade reader, and explores illness, loss, grief, anger, the power of stories, and how we live through terrible times that we can survive. 

There is much I liked about this book, and yes tears were shed, but unlike other reviewers I did not love it. I am reading this while traveling, so the fault might be all mine. I would love to read some reviews written by young readers. I wonder how they connected to the story. As an aside, I loved the art in this book. Rating: 3 stars.

143. The Blood Gospel (The Order of the Sanguines #1)
Archeology, relics, religious conspiracies and vampires are right up my alley, so imagine how disappointed I am that I did not love this book. Thoroughly enjoyed the premise, but the writing is clunky, the romance read like a high school kid wrote it, and the character development was non-existent. This is not a book I would have finished at home, but I guess my vacation brain is more forgiving. Rating: 2 stars.

144. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Small Southern town writ large indeed. We meet the characters and learn about the story through flashbacks, flash forwards, news articles and present time. A fun read. Rating: 3 stars.

145. The Godfather
I loved the Godfather movie trilogy. Actually I loved the first two and found the third not as thrilling, but I have watched that trilogy more times than I care to count. We used to have back to back viewings in college, and I felt like I could speak Sicilian at that end of those sessions.

Well, it is time for another viewing of the trilogy, and I realized that I have yet to read the book that launched the movies. Yes, the writing is a little dated and repetitive, and the way women and African Americans are portrayed is not acceptable in our times, but this is historical fiction that captures a place and time really well. I got more of the back story of the characters, and craved Italian food and wine the entire time. A fun (for a mafia story) fast read. Rating: 4 stars.

December 29, 2013

Project Life 2013: Week 48 Insert: Saf Story

I decided to capture a hilarious moment with my sister as an insert. As always, click on image to view larger.

Additional freebie supplies used this week:
Layout template design by Becky. Love this story element by Ali. Hello and journal cards by Tina. Numbers by Northern Elements.

December 27, 2013

Project Life 2013: Week 47

This is week 47, and I am still playing catch up. No pressure, will get done when I get done. In the meanwhile am enjoying the trip down memory lane.  Highlights this week include hanging with my sister, getting to know her new hubby, exploring Hikka and Galle, taking local trains, walks on the beach, figuring out local money, and warm ocean swims. As always, click on images to view larger.

Here is the two page spread:

Left side:

Right side:

Additional freebie supplies used this week:
Title background map paper via the web. Good times element by Ali. Brad by Shabby Princess. Hello card by Leslie. Journal card by Melissa. 4x6 collage templates by Liz.

December 25, 2013

'Twas Christmas Eve

And not a mouse was stirring. Probably because it is so dang cold!

We are having a lovely, quiet holiday at home. Reading, long outdoor walks, napping, drinking copious amounts of tea, and eating really good food. Susan is in recovery from a month of no cooking, and whipping up the most delish meals. Main course was lobster mac n cheese. Lobstah baby!

Left some for Santa on his most busy night of the year. I hope the rumor that he is Vegan these days is not true ....

December 24, 2013

Project Life 2013: Week 46

This is week 46, and I continue to love this project. I'm still rather jet lagged from my trip. Am keeping vampire hours - up at night and asleep for much of the day. Does not help that daylight hours are so short at the moment. I have some catch up to do on my project life, so here goes. Highlights of this week include trip planning, packing and the anticipation of a month away in warmer climes. As always, click on images to view larger.

Here is the two page spread:

Left side:

Right side:

Additional freebie supplies used this week:
Title background paper is the Sri Lankan flag via the web. Plane element by Katie. Journal cards by Melissa. Fave memory card by Suzy. Hello element by Jackie. Info element by Michelle.

December 23, 2013

Recent Reads

138. Insurgent
This is book # 2 in the Divergent trilogy, and I am reading the three books in as many days. Kicked this reading jag off by re-reading book #1, and I would recommend doing that if it has been a while since you read it. This book starts off where the first one ends, and there is not much in the way of a recap.

Our gal Tris clearly has PTSD. And really who can blame her after what she has been through? While I did not like this one as much as the first, it is action paced, if a little light on character development. It moves the story forward, we meet new people, there are twists a plenty, and a cliff hanger reveal at the end (which I had already guessed). I am keeping my fingers crossed that the author has given us a satisfying conclusion in the next book, which I plan on starting tonight. Rating: 3 stars.

139. Fables, Vol. 9: Sons of Empire
Book #9 in the Fables graphic novel series is a bit of a disappointment. The Empire does not strike back, so much as have a meeting to discuss striking back. This book is much more fragmented, and while we learn about Bigby's dysfunctional family, there is not much about this one that is compelling. Rating: 2 stars.

140. Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
Over the years I have accumulated several hundred nights of hotel stays under my belt, and I confess to never having given much thought to the staff.

This memoir is an interesting look at what happens behind the scenes, some of which made me smile, much of which made me shake my head - you do not really want to think about where your toothbrush has been while you left it unattended after all.

On a recent trip to Turkey, I was struck at how most of the customer facing, aka tip potential jobs, were staffed by men, while women staffed housekeeping. So the men got tips for helping move bags on wheels a hundred feet, while the women who kept the rooms clean were often stiffed. That same divide was reinforced for me by this book. 

The author narrates the audio book, and captures the snarky tone well, but his voice did not really work for me. Towards the end there is a work rant that felt too much like hanging out with unhappy co-workers for my taste, but overall I found this backstage pass interesting enough to read to the end. Rating: 3 stars.

141. Allegiant
This is the final book in the Divergent trilogy, and honestly I should have stopped after the first book.

The first two books are in Tris's voice, and in this one we also get Four's point of view. Two issues with that: firstly, Four is simply not that interesting once you get to know him, and secondly, the author has the same voice for both Tris and Four. I had to keep reminding myself who was narrating. 

So the real question is why did I finish it? Mainly because I had heard that it had a heart-breaking end, though honestly I was more delighted to be done with it. Such a disappointing end to this series. Rating: 1 star.

December 21, 2013

Holiday Greetings

On this Winter Solstice, I wanted to take a moment to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season, and a fantastic new year.

December 20, 2013

Saf n Chuta Dec 13, 2013

My sister and her hubby. We went to Galle to take pics before the reception.

Isabel, Kim, Saf, Moi and Amanda. You can see more pics from the day here.

December 18, 2013

Home again

Got home around 3 am last night, and it was rather hilarious plowing through knee deep snow to get to the door. A shoe was lost in the snowbank, and recovered this morning. One car shoveled out, the rest can wait until tomorrow.

It is rather surreal to go from shorts on the beach to bundled up with a snow shovel in about 48 hours.

As much as I love traveling, it is great to be home.

December 17, 2013

Delayed in JFK

The good news: we did not miss our connection to Boston.

The bad news: Our flight is canceled due to the winter storm.

JFK is not my fave airport. Where can this weary traveler get a drink around here?


OK, I realize that I have been near the equator for a month, but -4F is simply too cold. While I am really looking forward to getting home, am not happy about those temps. Brrr.

Layover in Milano

Views out the window as we made our approach into Milan. Completed two of the four legs so far: Colombo to Dubai, and Dubai to Milan.

Next up Milan to New York (JFK), and JFK to Boston. Exhausting, but was delighted to be upgraded on the Colombo to Dubai leg. 

Proceed to have the best Cioccolata at Motta Cafe - Bar that I've had in months.

December 16, 2013

Midnight drinks

At the Colombo airport waiting for our 3am flight out of Sri Lanka. Am I up late, or up early? Having a cup of tea and mug of coffee at the Coffee Bean. Total price: LKR 1010, about 7 dollars. Am I going to have enough rupees left over for chocolate at duty free?

Last day in Sri Lanka

Where the heck did the month go?

Time sure flies, and it is time to start packing for the trip home. Just touching a long sleeved shirt makes me itch!

It has been such a fun trip. Soaking in some final rays and surf before we get locked into the flying metal cans that will take us back home.

December 14, 2013

Group fishing

On our walk this morning ran into a group  fishing effort.

Love the community effort involved.

Unfortunately the haul was not a big one, but no-one seemed too bothered by that.

December 13, 2013

Wedding celebrations

Had a fun evening celebrating my sister and her new hubby in Sri Lanka. Here is a pic with my parents. Even got my Mom out on the dance floor!

December 11, 2013

Fave brekkie spot in Hikka

Another lovely morning on the beach. Having a delish brekkie while watching surfers ride the waves is a fun way to wake up.

Am looking at snowy pics from home, and it seems like a different planet. Must be time for a swim.

December 10, 2013

Back in Hikkaduwa

Back on the west coast for our final week in the Isle of Serendip. On tap this week: long beach walks, morning and evening swims, and enjoying my sister's wedding festivities. 

Polhena Beach, Sri Lanka

This is where we have been hanging out for the past several days. A small laid back beach, perfect for swimming, reading, napping, turtle watching and enjoying local fish dishes.

Above is the view from the dining table. A perfect way to relax before heading back to Hikkaduwa for our final week in Sri Lanka.

December 9, 2013

Recent Reads

135. The Round House
Having really liked two other books by the author (The Master Butchers Singing Club and Shadow Tag), I was looking forward to this 2012 National Book Award winner.

This coming of age story is about Joe, a thirteen year old, whose entire life changes over the course of a summer when his mother is attacked on a reservation in North Dakota. Told from his perspective, we learn about his family and friends, the community he lives in, and the laws that govern people on the reservation. This is a character driven mystery of sorts, and the writing is beautiful in places, but overall I was not gripped by the story telling. Something was missing for me. The chapters seemed disjointed, and many of them could have been standalone short stories. Maybe that was the problem - I never got into the flow of the story, and if I was not reading this for book club, it would have ended up on my Did Not Finish pile. I read somewhere that this book is a prequel to The Plague of Doves, a book I have yet to read, so probably did not help the situation any.

I know most people loved this, so maybe it is just me. Like I said, I have enjoyed other books by the author, and do plan to read the rest of her back list. Rating: 2 stars.

136. Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page
Let me first confess that I have yet to read Moby-Dick. I tried once, and gave up right about the time I hit the word Circumambulate. Don't get me wrong, I love the word, but realized I was not in the right frame of mind to read the book at that time. 

Which brings me to this delightful book. The author has a fascination with Moby-Dick, and created an illustration a day, for each page of the 552 page paperback version of the story, on found papers using a variety of mediums. Each illustration is accompanied by a bit of the original story text, so I've now read a piecemeal/snapshot version of Moby-Dick, which has whetted my appetite for more.

I'd recommend getting the fat, heavy, print version - an ebook will simply not do - surround yourself with colorful creativity, and see if you too get obsessed with whales. Rating: 4 stars.

137. Divergent
Now that the trilogy is complete, and I have all three books in hand, decided to go back and re-read Divergent before diving into the other two books. I looked at my earlier review and have nothing new to add - this is a fast paced YA book for fans of the Hunger Games, with a kick-ass girl protagonist. I look forward to reading how this story unfolds.

Jan 21, 2012 review:
New author #4. This young adult (YA) book as gotten rave reviews and I needed a quick read - a palate cleanser if you will - so dived in. Dystopian novels seem to be all the rage, both in adult and YA fiction lately. Wonder why. At any rate, I read this book in a day. Stayed up late to finish it. Tris is not as kick-ass as Katniss (Hunger Games), but you gotta root for a girl protagonist amidst all the boy centered books. The next book in the trilogy will be released this spring and is on my TBR list. If you're looking for a fun, fast read, check this one out. Rating: 4 stars.

December 4, 2013

Our Ella Breakfast Nook

Had a delish brekkie in the veranda right outside our room this morning.

Views of Ella Rock, Ella Gap, and Little Adam's Peak. A little slice of paradise.

Ella, Sri Lanka

Today was a travel day to lovely Ella. The train ride from Nuwara Eliya is said to be the prettiest in the country, and before we got fogged in, I'd have to agree.

Checked into our guest house, and this is the view from our balcony.

Simply stunning. Could spent days simply soaking in this view.

It is warmer here than Nuwara Eliya, but still damp. It is off season after all. We have the guest house to ourselves, and just finished up the best dang meal I've had on the island yet. Looking forward to exploring sights and tastes tomorrow.

December 2, 2013

Recent Reads

132. Running in the Family
Another book in preparation for my trip, and if it is indeed true that "in Sri Lanka a well-told lie is worth a thousand facts", I am going to thoroughly enjoy my trip.

To paraphrase the author, this book is not so much a memoir or history, as it is a family portrait, a gesture. Michael Ondaatje left Ceylon when he was about 11, and returned to visit for extended trips as an adult. This book is a journal of those adult visits, and includes vignettes, photos, poems, stories, gossip, and is often both hilarious and heart breaking at once. There is no narrative as such, this is more of an excavation of his family's past and its legacy. Rating: 3 stars.

133. The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great Sharks
From promo material: A journalist's obsession brings her to a remote island off the California coast, home to the world's most mysterious and fearsome predators, and the strange band of surfer-scientists who follow them.

This was our read aloud book on the boat this summer, a perfect time and place to read it. Remember that emotional checklist: happy, sad, mad, glad? Well, I experienced that entire range while reading this one. This is narrative non-fiction at its best - we learn about the environment, the sharks, the researchers, historical events, and the personal journey of the author coming to terms with her place in the world.

If you are a sailor, shark fan, surfer, or simply an armchair adventurer, this book is a really great ride. Rating: 5 stars.

134. The Cuckoo's Calling 
I listened to the audio version wonderfully narrated by Robert Glenister.

The thing about the author (aka J.K. Rowling), is that she knows how to spin a good yarn. Yes, I am a Harry Potter fan, but this is no YA book. It is a good mystery, with an interesting detective, and distinctive characters who are well fleshed out. The story is character based, and unfolds slowly, so if you are in the mood for a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of read look elsewhere. I especially enjoyed the social commentary the author explores: celebrity status and the mania of the paparazzi, wealthy women who starve themselves thin, etc. The writing is cinematic in quality, there was a movie playing in my head the entire time I listened to this book. I look forward to reading another Cormoran Strike installment. Rating: 3 stars.

Rainy day in Nuwara Eliya

So here we are in "Little England", and true to its namesake it is misty and damp. No worries, we brought along rain gear, and I now have the perfect excuse to drink pots of hot tea all day long. 

Today involved strolling through Victoria Park, which is filled with lovely plants and signs that request decent behavior, exploring this hilly town, and starting to think about how to deal with the rainy days forecasted for the rest of this week. Can you say curling up with tea and a good book by a cheery fire?  Indeed I can.

As an aside, there is a lush golf course right by our hotel. It has 10 holes. Not 9. Not 18. 10. Must be a Sri Lankan thing.

December 1, 2013

Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Today was a travel day. We left the Cultural Triangle in the north, and headed south to hill country.

Started at 7am with a two hour bus ride to Kandy. Then a five hour ICE train ride to Nuwara Eliya. The ride has the potential to cause whiplash, but the scenery is lovely.

So love being surrounded by tea estates. Am looking forward to a good cuppa.

It is a rainy night, and here is the funny thing: this girl from Boston is cold at 82F! I've been in the tropics too long.

November 30, 2013

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Took an early morning tuk tuk ride to Sigiriya, the next UNESCO World Heritage Site on our list. So glad we went early. Not only did we beat the heat, but also avoided the crowds.

The soaring pillar of rock called Sigirya does not disappoint. The entire site is quite lovely, and the views from the top are spectacular.

The frescoes are located in a sheltered gallery in the sheer rock face, and are believed to represent either apsaras (celestial nymphs), or King Kassapa's concubines. One of my fave sites of the trip for sure.

November 29, 2013

Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Spent Thanksgiving visiting the Royal Rock Temple complex in Dambulla. Did not miss the turkey one bit.

The hike up to the caves is steep in parts, but offer superb views of the surrounding countryside.

The caves' history as a place of worship is thought to date back to around the 1st century BCE. There are five separate caves with about 150 Buddha images. Delighted to have visited another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Happy Thanksgiving.

November 28, 2013

Mihintale, Sri Lanka

Mihintale is associated with the earliest introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

Started out the day with an early morning thirty minute tuk tuk ride. Good thing we got an early start, climbing those 1843 steps in the heat would have been brutal. 

The views from the top were spectacular. 

November 27, 2013

Rick Hanson on Hardwiring Happiness

I remember reading about how we are negatively biased a while back. A light went on when I read that. It is often so much easier to recall and obsess about the bad than the good. While there is a good evolutionary reason for this bias, it does not help us today. I love this simple way to change our stone age brains.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

November 26, 2013

Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Buddhas, Dagobas and Monkeys oh my! Spent the day biking around this ancient capital, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is so much larger than I expected, and incredibly scenic. Am glad that we decided to stay four nights, giving us plenty of time to soak it all in.

November 25, 2013

Recent Reads

128. Alexandria: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Unfolds
This is the second book in the Morning Star trilogy, and the fifth book of the Griffin and Sabine story. Danger, passion, and romance unfolds, but I did not enjoy this book as much as the others. I love Egypt as the main setting, and the artwork is lovely, but the letters were not as interesting. I hope the author finishes strong. Rating: 2 stars.

129. The Morning Star: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine is Illuminated
This is the final book in the Morning Star trilogy, and the sixth book of the Griffin and Sabine story. As much as I love the idea of the story and the artwork, the final two books in the series did not captivate me. Rating: 2 stars.

130. Fables, Vol. 8: Wolves
Book #8 in the Fables graphic novel series is an ode to wolves. Bigby goes on a mission. A beanstalk is involved. I like Cinderella more and more. Action, adventure, a growing litter, and yes, a wedding. Fun. Rating: 3 stars.

131. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Let me start by saying that I am not a Zombie fan - is fan even the right word? If there are Vampires and Lycanthrope, count me in, but Zombies? Nah. So imagine my surprise when I really enjoyed this audiobook. The Zombie Wars almost eradicated human kind, and after the war, the author interviews people from all over the world to record their first person experience of the battle. The author wonderfully captures unique voices with each character, and I would highly recommend the full cast narration version of this book. Rating: 4 stars.

November 24, 2013

Sri Lankan Breakfast

This is my current fave brekkie - bread with coconut sambal, daal, and the best dang fish curry I have ever tasted. Went to Serendipity Arts Cafe in Galle twice to get me some. So good. My second fave brekkie involves string hoppers. I am in foodie heaven.