09 Mar 2014 1 Comment
Each month we round up the best things we have read. February was cold and snowy. Rachel worked, and Jeff continued to look for a job. We did make it over to Annapolis, Maryland on a really nice weekend, weather-wise. Here’s what we read.
- If you are still going around with bad passwords, check out this article on Fox Nomad for tips on how to make them better.
- The tourist bobsled in Calgary looks kind of thrilling (Hecktic Travels).
- Awesome paragliding video (Matador Network).
- Good credit cards for travelers (Everywhere Once).
- From Cute Overload: slo-mo corgi and Go-Pro pelican.
- The importance of misery in stories (Fevered Mutterings) – and perhaps why you should read or reread my post about theft in Hanoi.
Books – I read 5 books this month.
- At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson – As the title suggests, this book attempts to go over the (modern) history of private life in the UK and US. It does so by going through the rooms of an old country parish, and using each as a jumping off point for a different aspect of history (the kitchen for the history of food and cooking, the nursery for a history of childhood, etc). It’s definitely interesting although I found my interesting waning after a while.
- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – I once read a book called “Riding Lessons.” It was by Sara Gruen also. I read it before I had heard of Water for Elephants. I believe, in fact, Water for Elephants had not yet come out. So I picked up this book, about horses and horse people, because I, too, was a horse person. And it was totally awful. I hated it. I gave it one star on Goodreads, and I almost never do that. But it was basically the worst. So I was extremely resistant to pick up Water for Elephants, for years – based on when Riding Lessons came out it could have been for 10 years. Anyway, I finally caved and read Water for Elephants, and it is as though it was written by an entirely different author. It is engaging, beautifully written, and I devoured it. Simply a lovely book. I totally get why it’s so popular, and I recommend it to anyone.
- The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – I was going to mention the real identity of this author, but for some people it might be better just to pick up the book. I had maybe heard who it was by and it had gone on the to-read list on that merit but by the time I read it, I had forgotten. That left me with no particular expectations in reading it. And I thought it was a great detective novel. Fantastically done. So read it! And then, later, see who this is a pen name for (if you haven’t already heard) and either be surprised or not (I wasn’t, I mean, it’s a talented person).
- Leave the Grave Green and All Shall be Well by Deborah Crombie – The second and third novels in the Duncan Kincaid mysteries. I didn’t like how the author seemingly threw Kincaid at whatever woman was convenient in each book, like, oh, he can’t possibly not be interested in a female (even maybe a dead one) for the course of a book. But they were okay otherwise.
- 100 best restaurants in the US
- The baby-making business
- Surprisingly concurrent events
- On the acquisition of knowledge
- Classic movies as Ottoman art
Books – I read 6 books this month.
- The Briar King by Greg Keyes – This fantasy book about “the terrifying return of the briar king” (cue screaming) followed a few to many fantasy tropes for my liking, but all in all it was… fine. Well, I guess that’s what I get for randomly choosing books from the library.
- Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold – I always love reading new Bujold books. She develops her worlds so well. This case was no different and it was interesting to have a book from an alternate perspective in the Miles universe.
- The Iron Council by China Mieville – This is well written like all Mieville books, but I was left unsatisfied. Maybe the novelty of Mieville’s writing style has just worn of. It felt like more of his usual.
- The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory – This book is eminently forgettable. Like many Mercedes Lackey books, the characters are flat and two dimensional. Never before have I skimmed so much of a book and felt like I missed so little.
- The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter – One day the world realizes that there are an infinite number of parallel earths that are easy to travel to and they are ripe for colonization. It is a good concept that is well executed and it only occasionally suffered from what I like to call Ring World Syndrome: Replacing the plot with descriptions of this totally sweet setting.
- DC/Baltimore Zagat Guide by some editors – Well, maybe I didn’t read it word for word, but I was reminded how much I want to go back to Rasika. Also, Yechon is definitely better than Honey Pig these days!
What did you read this month?
17 Feb 2014 1 Comment
Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It’s a fun little way to shorten National Novel Writing Month, an annual event that takes place in November. You can check it out on their website, here. I had heard of NaNoWriMo sometime in college. It was intriguing – the concept is that you attempt to write a novel in one month. I knew people in college who’d tried and either failed or succeeded. Every year it would come around, and I would think, should I? And then I would think not this year, I’m too busy.
So when it came around last year (2013), I realized I wasn’t too busy. I remembered about it at the last moment because it was mentioned in the online “Future of Storytelling” course I was taking. So I decided to do it – on October 31st.
Luckily, I already had a concept I knew would do for a short novel. I often have romance-novel-esque dreams, and I’ve toyed with making them into real romance novels, to the point that some plots I’ve extended into novel-length concepts. So I just started writing.
To “win” NaNoWriMo, you have to complete 50,000 words during the 30 days of November. Anyone who completes this much is a winner. Now, 50,000 words isn’t much of a novel, only about 130 pages in a printed 6″ by 9″ paperback, but that is long enough to be considered a short novel. Many people write more, or don’t finish their novel in November but just write a large chunk of it.
Since I was writing a romance novel, it wrapped up rather nicely in about 51,000 words. I actually finished a little early. I was unemployed at the time, and writing was my main focus after applying for at least one job a day.
Fifty thousand words in thirty days works out to be 1,667 words a day. I did not, surprisingly, find this difficult. Five hundred words goes by in a flash and doing that about three times would normally take me about 2 hours, sometimes more, sometimes less. Some days the writing came easily, and other days it was a real challenge.
But overall it was extremely enjoyable, and at the end of the month I was thrilled that I had written my first novel. I’ve always enjoyed writing – I started in classes as early as first grade. I wrote poetry seriously throughout high school, and started my first blog in tenth grade, when I interned at NASA in the summer. That first blog was just a boring, journal-type one hosted on ModBlog, which no longer exists (searching for that name brings up a body modification blog). I switched over to Xanga and then to Livejournal, followed by Blogger and finally WordPress. I had a blog for my semester in New Zealand, which I suppose was my first travel blog. I did a terrible job updating it.
I had tried short-form fiction in a creative writing class in high school, and occasionally would start up a new story. But this was the first time I really tried writing fiction and I found I loved it.
Since I had pushed through and finished my novel in a month, I figured I could self-publish it in another month. I would not recommend this to anyone. Editing your own work is hard enough not to make yourself do it so soon after you finished it, and over and over in such a short period of time.
Despite nearly driving myself mad, I succeeded and got my book up for sale in paperback at Createspace, and for ebooks at Smashwords. It’s now also available on Amazon - Wrestling with Love as both a print and Kindle book.
So, here’s my novel:
As you can see it’s called Wrestling with Love. Here is a synopsis:
Rebecca Allston is 27 and still figuring out her life. She has just gotten a job at the Worldwide Wrestling Corporation as a secretary, which in this job market took nearly a year. Rory Burns is one of the stars of the WWC, a heel with eight years in the company. He is ready to leave his job when he meets Rebecca. The chemistry between them is obvious. But will their budding affection survive the demands of their boss, Damon Lowry, that they stay loyal to him?
If you’re interested in reading the book, leave a comment. I’ll email the first 10 people to comment a code to download the ebook for free!
Would you try NaNoWriMo?
12 Feb 2014 1 Comment
Every month we have been rounding up the best things we read. In January, we focused on the job search. Rachel got a full time job at as an office assistant at an Arlington law firm and started working on the 28th. We also both celebrated our birthdays.
- The Featured Creature rounds up the world’s sneakiest animals.
- This advice about webcomics from one of my favorite webcomic authors, Nedroid, can apply to any creative endeavors, including blogging.
- Surprising things about NZ’s South Island over at Go See Write. I totally agree that Wanaka is superior to Queenstown! And now I want to go to Scotland.
- 20 Years Hence went to Mulu, and now I really wish I had gone!
- Drool over Our Tasty Travel’s best eats of 2013. Bring me some of that brindzove halusky, please (Slovakian bacon mac n cheese)!
- Fascinating pictures of where children sleep around the world on Matador Network.
- Alex in Wanderland saw and did some awesome things in the rainforest of Peru.
- A nice guide to squat toilets by Traveling 9 to 5. I hate squat toilets because my legs aren’t flexible enough to squat with my feet flat, so I’m always about to fall over. But they are certainly common around the world!
- Nomadic Matt on how to cope with travel mistakes.
- Gorgeous video on Thailand at Go Backpacking.
- Are you ready to start cooking at home? Here are some inspirations at Naturally Ella.
- [NSFW] Reddit’s Ask Me Anything forum is often very interesting. In January, Reddit was abuzz with this AMA from a man with a condition called diphallia. DISCLAIMER: VERY NSFW! The thread is fascinating because the guy is really candid about having two penises. I hesitated with whether this link was appropriate for the blog, but it really was one of the best things I read on the internet this month.
Books - I read 5 books this month – rather lower than usual.
- The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley – A historical mystery with a touch of fantasy, about a woman who can tell the history of certain objects by touching them. Very fascinating, I really liked it.
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (audiobook) – It took us a really long time to listen to this, because it was a 22 hour long audio book and we weren’t driving that much. It was a very epic and sprawling novel. I found it well written but with little plot or urgency to really captivate me.
- Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone – A really interesting steampunk fantasy that makes contract law into dark magic. Definitely different than other fantasy I’ve read.
- Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook – The concept sounded intriguing but the book itself was a bit repetitive. Apparently it was an article that expanded into a book; I’d say it didn’t expand enough to be interesting.
- On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn – The last book in the Bridgerton romance series. Not the best by any means, but also not bad.
- How much snow it takes to cancel school.
- Art made out of food.
- Ghana airplane restaurant.
- Ingredients of beets.
Books - I read two book this month.
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (audiobook) – It enjoyed this book a fair bit, but it isn’t for everyone. I totally forgave it for being slow and meandering because the setting was so interesting. My biggest problem was that parts of the ending didn’t really make sense.
- Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone – The magic system in this book is unlike any other I’ve encountered. It’s really interesting and innovative.
What did you read this month?
26 Jan 2014 1 Comment
What is wrong with this picture? Yes, that’s right, it’s stairs leading up to an escalator. The pinnacle of logic! Bucharest wasn’t the only terrible offender like this we encountered. There were a lot of instances of this in China and Hong Kong. And every time, we would cry “WHY?”
23 Jan 2014 1 Comment
We’ve mentioned before that we generally prefer trains to all other forms of transportation. So after ten months of traveling around the world, we figured we’d tell you a little more about this whole train travel thing. Note that this does not include metro systems, so, for instance, the train from Rome to Ostia Antica does not count because it is an extension of the metro and requires only a metro ticket.
Number of trains we took: 33
Total time spent on trains: 227.5 hours, or 9.48 days!
Total distance traveled by train: 8,778.9 miles
Average speed on trains: 38.58 miles per hour
Total cost of all train travel: $1,847.76 for both of us
Countries in which we rode on a train: 10 (Mongolia, China, Thailand, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Italy)
Longest train: 31 hours, Ulaanbaatar to Beijing.
Shortest train: Only counting intercity trains (not metros), this would be the train from Naples to Pompeii and back (with a stop at Herculaneum) which in total took 1 hour.
Cheapest train: Bangkok to Aranyaprathet and back. 48 Baht per person each way. Third class only.
Most expensive train: UB to Beijing, $269.81 for both of us.
Most comfortable train: Nanning to Hanoi. It was a 4-person soft sleeper compartment that we had all to ourselves. Very nice. Too bad it arrived at 5 in the morning…
Least comfortable train: Cambodian border to Bangkok. Third class only seats may be cheap but they are just hard benches, with no air conditioning.
Fastest train: Bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai – up to 300 km/hr.
Slowest train: The train from Bangkok to the border with Cambodia took 6 hours to go 159 miles, so on average it went 26.5 miles per hour. The train from Bucharest to Braşov in Romania took 4 hours to go 166 kilometers because it stopped at every town. Though at least that train was comfortable… Also, the train from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing went on average 27.2 miles per hour (31 hours to go 843.2 miles) but that is mostly due to the time that border crossing takes. The railroads in the two countries are different gauges so the train actually has to be moved by crane from one to the other (it doesn’t go up high, feels jerky but that’s it).
Easiest border crossing: Not counting countries without border control (hello, Schengen Zone), either Mongolia to China or Bulgaria to Romania. In both cases, we had to hand in our passports twice (for exit and then entry stamps) but we didn’t have to leave the train and there wasn’t wasn’t an interrogation or anything.
Hardest border crossing: Turkey to Bulgaria. We guess this is because Bulgaria is in the EU and Turkey isn’t. You had to get out on the Turkish side to get an exit stamp at an actual window (this was true from China to Vietnam too). Then there was a lot of questioning, plus the hand search of our luggage got pretty intense. They also repeatedly woke us up to search the compartment with a flashlight and to check our tickets.
Least on time: The Istanbul to Sofia train got us to our destination 4 hours late. Happily, we had been confused about the time it got in so it only seemed two hours late to us – and to the person waiting to pick us up at the train station.
Closest call: We made the train from the Cambodian border to Bangkok with just three minutes to spare! Then, we made the train from Rome to Naples one minute before the posted departure time – but the train was 5 minutes late so it wasn’t even at the station yet.
Have you had any memorable train rides?
19 Jan 2014 1 Comment
A popular soft drink in New Zealand is L&P, a fizzy lemon soda. Their slogan is “World Famous in New Zealand.” On my Stray bus tour back in 2008, we stopped in the town of Paeroa in the Coromandel Peninsula, where the drink was first made by combining lemon juice with the local mineral water. It’s a bit hard to see, but I’m also holding a normal size bottle of L&P in this photo. This also begs the question, whatever happened to those embroidered pants?
11 Jan 2014 2 Comments
Every month we have been rounding up the best things we read. In December, we spent part of the month job hunting and the rest of the month enjoying holiday celebrations with our families and friends.
- Go Backpacking shares a great video from the Perennial Plate on Ten Things we Love about Italy. I love them too!
- Candice of Candice Does the World ate some awesomely gross stuff at the Calgary Stampede. I would eat all of these (I have already tried some…) and then drool in my food coma.
- Please look at these important corgi pictures on Cute Overload. Also, this camel video is cool too. Finally, here is a beautiful video about pets.
- Fevered Mutterings muses on the morality of crowdfunding.
- C.G.P. Grey lists some great apps to use in 2014.
- Twenty-Something Travel breaks Mexican food down for us.
- Delve into the world of wine with Gimme Some Oven.
- Drool over Adventurous Kate’s food experiences in Emilia-Romagna. Clearly I need to go back to Italy.
Books - I read 14 books this month. I also read the novel that I wrote and published this month, but I won’t count that here.
- Book #1 (The Duke and I) and 3-7 of the Bridgerton romance series by Julia Quinn – This series of regency romance novels (#2 of which I read in November) follows the grown children of the Bridgerton family as they find love. The characters are great and the romances are mostly cute, believable, and pretty steamy. Very enjoyable! Definitely my favorite romance series yet.
- The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald – My friend Amy recommended me this novel about a man who grows up as the practice baby of a home economics program in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The writing is top-notch but the story could have been better.
- Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult – A woman with infertility problems loses another baby which ends her marriage, and then she finds another relationship and if I say much more it’ll spoil it. Well written but man, it made me angry to read… For instance members of the Westboro Baptist Church show up at one point.
- Everything and the Moon by Julia Quinn – Another regency romance by Julia Quinn, but with different characters. Not as good as the Bridgerton series but still enjoyable.
- My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki – An often humorous novel about a documentarian creating a show about meat for Japanese TV. This was great.
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – I liked it at first, and found it intriguing. But after a while I got bored of the concept, and I didn’t find the ending satisfactory.
- The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson – Another Sanderson book for young adults. This one is fantasy, about people who can magically make chalk drawings come to life to fight against the wild chalk drawings that can kill people. Interesting, but the main character is kind of obnoxious. Still, a good read.
- This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith – A young adult romance novel that is basically You’ve Got Mail in the digital age, with a celebrity. Kind of cute.
- Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver – This is the second book in the Delirium series. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next one. Have to say I saw the ending coming.
- Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz [unfinished] – I had read the previous books in Koontz’s Odd series, so I tried to read this one. I hated it and couldn’t get beyond 50 pages. The character, Odd, is so overly moralistic and full of himself that I just couldn’t take it.
- This guy made thousands of chocolate chip cookies in order to find out how every conceivable adjustment effects the end product and to find the ideal cookie.
- Santa Branding
- Large Vinyl Gender Neutral Asian on Amazon
Books - I read one book this month. It was really heavy though.
- Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson – The second to last book in the Wheel of Time series is one of the best. I really started enjoying the series more once Brandon Sanderson took over. That being said, if you haven’t read this series before, I don’t think it’s worth it.
What did you read this month?
31 Dec 2013 3 Comments
We’ve reached the last and most delicious year-end roundup here at World Flavor. Brought to you with much wistful longing, here are the best things we ate each month.
Rachel’s Pick: The meal we made at Siam Rice Thai Cooking school was definitely the best (and most enormous) meal we ate in January.
Jeff’s Pick: I will also have to go with the meal from Siam Rice. This is the Khao Soi I made.
Rachel’s Pick: We had a really tasty bacon cheeseburger at Ocean Restaurant in Saladan, Ko Lanta, Thailand.
Jeff’s Pick: Eating divine mangoes is basically the number one reason to travel near the equator. I did it at every opportunity.
Rachel’s Pick: Super delicious cheese-filled roti canai at Steven’s Corner in Kuala Lumpur. We also had tasty food in our first couple weeks of being in Turkey, but I didn’t have the picture I wanted, so I’m sticking to roti canai, a favorite of mine.
Jeff’s Pick: Iskender kabob consists of toasted bread covered in thin slices of meat and a tomato-based sauce. It is served with a big pile of yogurt. Butter is poured over the dish when it is brought to the table. Seek out this food of the gods at all costs.
Rachel’s Pick: An awesome plate of mezze at Çiya Sofrası in Istanbul. LOTS of great food in Turkey, and some good stuff in Bulgaria and Romania, too.
Jeff’s Pick: This is part of the spoon tasting menu at The Artist in Bucharest. It was my first time eating a molecular gastronomy meal.
Rachel’s Pick: I couldn’t decide for May! There were SO many delicious foods, even more than you see here. For instance, any of the gelato we ate in Venice or Florence. So, clockwise starting from the top left: langos in Budapest, chocolate and poppyseed ice cream from Eis Greissler in Vienna, cacio e pepe pasta in Rome, and bryndzové halušky (pasta and sheep’s cheese) in Bratislava.
Jeff’s Pick: This carbonara pasta at Ostera La Pergola in Mestre, Italy managed to finally and to the greatest extent clue me in on why carbonara has spread around the world.
Rachel’s Pick: Since June included our last two weeks in Italy, the food was incredible. And I got to have some foods that I’d missed once I got back home, so it was again hard to decide. However, there was a clear winner this month: pesto from Sa Pesta in Genoa. Truly great.
Jeff’s Pick: Real Naples-style pizza is a thing of wonder. On our last full day in Italy we found the very best margherita pizza at Pizzeria Trianon in Naples.
Rachel’s Pick: Blackened bay scallop tortellini pasta at the Coach House Tavern in Cape Charles, Virginia.
Jeff’s Pick: Handsome Biscuit in Norfolk, Virginia will not let you down. This sweet potato biscuit has arugula and frittata on it.
Rachel’s Pick: Are you sick of this photo yet? Because this Muffaleo sandwich at Zingerman’s was, indeed, the best eating of the month.
Jeff’s Pick: TNT Cowboy Reuben with halloumi from Zingerman’s. It’s unfortunate that all the other great foods eaten this month don’t get a chance to shine because Zingerman’s trumps everything.
Rachel’s Pick: Some good choices this month. But the highlight was definitely our meal at Wicked Spoon buffet in Las Vegas, one plate of which is pictured above.
Jeff’s Pick: Okay, I really like sandwiches. Ike’s in San Francisco has some of the best in the country.
Rachel’s Pick: October was really our last month of travel. I chose the traditional poutine at Poutini’s in Toronto as my most delicious food choice.
Jeff’s Pick: It doesn’t look the best, but this pesto and chevre scramble from Nookies in Chicago. is probably the most perfect egg dish I have ever consumed.
Rachel’s Pick: In November we were more frugal and didn’t eat out a lot. I did have this tasty pasta pizza at Mione’s in Ocean City, Maryland though.
Jeff’s Pick: Once per year the Metro Cooking and Entertaining Show comes to DC. You can walk around for hours eating countless gourmet free samples. It’s like a dream come true.
Rachel’s Pick: For our anniversary, we went out to Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, Virginia. We got Thai fried okra and beet salad, and then I got beef cheek while Jeff got duck confit. Then we shared the chocolate dumplings pictured above for dessert. It was an excellent meal.
Jeff’s Pick: Every year during the holidays my family goes overboard with our traditional meals. This is the Christmas “snack.”
What was your best food of the year?
30 Dec 2013 1 Comment
So I lied… back in 2011, I said I would not read 100 books again. And here I am, at the end of 2013, and I’ve read 111! Of course, there’s a difference between having a goal of reading 100 books, and just reading 100 books because that’s how many books you wanted to read. This year, I didn’t have any sort of goal, I just ended up breaking a hundred again. Unsurprisingly, I read way more books in the months after we finished traveling. Somewhat surprisingly, my largest book month was November, at 15 books read. That was the same month in which I wrote a novel. So I guess I was just absurdly productive that month…
I did attempt a challenge posed by my friend Mary, but I failed because I quit. The goal was to read the last 15 winners of the Man Booker Prize and then one book by each of the last 5 International Booker winning authors. I got nearly halfway there (9/20) when I realized that I didn’t particularly like any of the books, except Midnight’s Children and Blind Assassin. So I quit, since I didn’t want to force myself to read more books I probably wouldn’t like. Sorry, Mary…
Anyway, have a look at my best and worst reads of the year! By the way, “On Writing” by Stephen King was a strong contender for the best list, but I decided not to include it. It was definitely the most influential book I read this month. It inspired me to get cracking and start writing fiction! Also, I just noticed that all of my best books were young adult fiction.
5. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
The premise of this book is DRAGONS! Dragons who can take on human form! They have a peace with humans and have ambassadors and stuff. It’s super wicked cool! And the characters are very likable. So go on, read it.
4. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
In Prentisstown, everyone can hear each other’s thoughts (including those of women), and there are no women. But one day in the swamp, our hero Todd finds a girl, and many interesting things happen! This is a really gripping read. I could not put it down. I recommend the whole trilogy.
3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Beautiful writing about two teenagers dying of cancer who fall in love. Yeah, okay, I don’t think teenagers talk like that either. But it’s a great book, plus John Green is super awesome. Be warned, though: the premise is inherently sad.
2. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
In the world of Steelheart, there are people with superpowers (Epics). But they’re all evil. It’s unclear whether this is because only evil people were ‘chosen’ for the powers or because absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is the first in a series, so hopefully we will know more. Anyway, the book is about David’s vengeance quest against the Epic named Steelheart who killed his father. I devoured it. It’s a great read.
1. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
This book is devastatingly sad, and heartbreakingly beautiful. Samantha is kind of a bitch, and one day she dies. Then she keeps reliving her last day, and learning things, and trying to change things. I loved this book. I know that I have put two super-sad books on my top 5. I don’t know what that says about me. But this is a great read.
- The Sea by John Banville – This was one of those Man Booker Prize books! Practically unreadable.
- Zoo by James Patterson – Hilariously bad! So at least it was enjoyable. What would happen if all animals started attacking all people? Because of… cell phones and stuff. Yeah, science! Also the main character was dumb yet depicted as brilliant.
- The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt – This is a book in which our hero kidnaps our heroine and rapes her a bunch, and later (years later to be fair) she falls in love with him. Oops, sorry, spoiled it for you. But not really, because now you never ever have to read it. Seriously, not cool.
- Kill the Messenger by Tami Hoag – In this book, there is a murder and everyone suspects the bike messenger. Which is not surprising, because he keeps acting ridiculously suspicious. Wait, are we supposed to feel bad for the guy? Just talk to the police, you jerk!
- Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow – Disney World in the future. But… actually, the whole book is largely about factions and politics and it’s kind of a snoozefest.
What were your best and worst books this year?
29 Dec 2013 3 Comments
in Uncategorized Tags: 2013, arizona, austria, british columbia, bulgaria, california, canada, hungary, illinois, indiana, italy, kansas, malaysia, massachusetts, michigan, minnesota, missouri, montana, nevada, new mexico, oklahoma, ontario, oregon, pictures, romania, slovakia, south dakota, texas, thailand, turkey, usa, utah, virginia, washington, wyoming, year in review
2013! What a good year! I’ve decided to continue last year’s photo roundup style, as in one picture per country, but for this year I’ll add some US states since we did our big US road trip.
We were actually in Thailand until March 8th, so we spent a good chunk of the year there. Until February 17th, we were living our lives in Chiang Mai. We had a cooking class, and I rode an elephant. We also went ziplining, went to the zoo, and ate lots of tasty food. We met lots of travel bloggers too! Our next stop was Railay Beach, where we explored a lagoon and went rock climbing. Next was Ko Lanta, where we mostly just had tasty food, though Jeff did go snorkeling, and we ran into Steph and Tony of 20 Years Hence. What followed was a quick stop in Phuket to fly on to Malaysia. I chose this adorable baby elephant to represent our time in Thailand, since it is the national animal.
This go-round in Malaysia was rather short: just five days. All were spent in Kuala Lumpur, where we ate and ate and ate, largely with our friend Soraya. We also visited the Islamic Art Museum (the photo is of a beautiful illustrated Koran from the museum), Merdeka Square, the City Gallery, and the National Textile Museum.
Turkey was a wonderful month for us. We started in Istanbul, visiting the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar (pictured above), Taksim Square, and the Galata Tower. Near the Galata Tower we ran into Deb and Dave of the Planet D. Then it was on to Ankara, where we saw the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. Next was magical Cappadocia, where we took some tours, rode in a hot air balloon, went for hikes, and generally had a grand old time. From there we went to Antalya, which was a beautiful town but saw some health problems for me. After that we visited Selcuk and nearby Ephesus, and then Canakkale to see Troy. Finally we wrapped it up with more time in Istanbul eating all the things.
We spent one week in Sofia. We enjoyed our awesome apartment, took a free walking tour, and visited Rila Monastery, pictured above.
In one week in Bucharest, we ate at a molecular gastronomy restaurant and found some nice things to do. Then we spent a couple of days in Brasov checking out a castle and some other historic buildings. Finally we hung out in Sighisoara, often linked with Dracula. Above is the Dambovita River in Bucharest.
Our week in Budapest included a food tour and lots of nice wandering around the city. The above photo looking over the Danube at the Chain Bridge with St. Stephen’s in the background was taken on a free walking tour of the city.
The week in Vienna saw us doing a lot of wandering and bike riding. We used MealSharing and met some locals. We saw the Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School. I couldn’t take pictures, so here’s a picture of some of the carriage horses around the city. Lots of drivers hang around the tourist attractions to sell you a ride around the old city.
We spent one day in Bratislava as a side trip from Vienna. It’s a rather charming city. The picture is of Bratislava Castle.
Our month in Italy was my second visit to the country, and it was just as awesome this time. Maybe more so, since I had more time to eat and enjoy. Italy is truly a foodie paradise. We took a gondola ride in Venice, toured Florence, searched for gelato in Rome, found pizza in Naples, and stuffed ourselves full of pesto in Genoa. Most of the time we traveled with Jeff’s parents. It was wonderful. This photo is from the Forum in Pompeii.
From mid-June to early August, we were back in Virginia at our respective homes. It was very relaxing and great to see friends and family. Here’s a picture of boats at the marina in Wachapreague.
In Michigan, we visited Jeff’s brother Kevin in Ann Arbor. We went to the lovely botanic gardens and devoured sandwiches at Zingerman’s. We also took a short trip to Dearborn to visit the Ford Rouge Factory. You could sit in a brand new F-150 Raptor (pictured here) after you had watched the assembly line.
Our time in Indianapolis was spent at Gen Con, the country’s largest board game convention. We stayed near the convention center in one of the Marriott properties. Above is sunset as we walked to our hotel.
In Missouri, we visited both St. Louis and Kansas City briefly. We went to a cool sculpture park in St. Louis, and ate at Arthur Bryant’s (seen here) in Kansas City.
On our night in Kansas City, we stayed on the Kansas side. The next day, we drove through the state, stopping in Wichita at the Doo Dah Diner (super good!) on the way.
We spent 5 days in Lawton visiting my brother and my sister-in-law. Here’s a view from the top of Mount Scott. It is ridiculously hot in Oklahoma in August.
We had one night in Amarillo. We visited the American Quarter Horse Museum and walked along old route 66. We also checked out the Big Texan Steak Ranch, a great roadside attraction and home to a 72-ounce steak eating challenge. We didn’t try it.
After Amarillo, we had a night in Santa Fe. We stopped by a very tiny farmer’s market and I got a haircut. We walked around the cute town center, pictured above.
Our time in Arizona was brief but awesome. We saw the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park, stayed in Flagstaff, visited the Grand Canyon (pictured here), and stopped at Navajo Bridge.
In Utah, we stayed in both Kanab and Panguitch. We visited Bryce Canyon, seen above. Truly beautiful.
Las Vegas was fun. We gambled a little and visited the Pinball Hall of Fame. The above picture is from the Fremont Street Experience, which has some of the best neon in town.
California is a big state, and we more or less traveled the length of it. We started with 7 days in LA, then drove up the Pacific Coast Highway and stayed in San Francisco for 5 days. In LA, we hung out in Burbank and then Venice Beach, and visited LACMA and Runyon Canyon. We stayed for a night in San Luis Obispo along the PCH. The picture is of juvenile elephant seals that we saw along the way. San Francisco consisted of yummy food, as well as a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods, and a night visit to the California Academy of Sciences.
We spent 5 days in Portland. We saw the International Rose Test Garden and went for a hike, and did a bunch of shopping (no sales tax in Oregon).
We were in Seattle for a brief three days, staying with Andrea and Matt of World Walk About. We went to Pike’s Place, saw the Fremont Troll, watched salmon swim up the fish ladder at the Ballard Locks, and enjoyed Gasworks Park. Above is the Space Needle.
Our return to Vancouver was nice. We spent 3 days there, walking around Gastown (the gas clock is pictured above), visiting the aquarium, seeing Stanley Park, and hanging out with my friend Gavin’s parents.
We stayed in Bozeman for three nights. One day was spent visiting the Montana Alpaca Farm’s annual open house, and the other was our day trip to Yellowstone, which is mostly in Wyoming. On the way to Rapid City, we stopped at Little Bighorn National Monument at the eastern edge of the state.
Our day in Wyoming was spent in Yellowstone National Park. We also drove through a teeny piece of the state on the way from Bozeman to Rapid City.
We spent two nights in Rapid City, checking out Mount Rushmore (from the road only – the government shutdown meant we couldn’t go closer), the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park. The next day we drove to Sioux Falls, through Wall (home of Wall Drug) and Mitchell (home of the Corn Palace, pictured above).
One night in Minneapolis comprised our time in Minnesota. We visited the Mall of America and, in the morning, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Above is one of the holes in the artist-created mini golf course at the sculpture garden.
We had one lovely night in Madison where we played board games and ate cheese products. On the way to Chicago, we stopped for a tour of the Sprecher Brewery (chosen for the available soda in addition to beer) in Milwaukee as well as at several cheese stores, including the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha.
We had actually spent a brief time driving through the southern bit of Illinois between Indianapolis and St Louis. This time we spent three nights in Chicago. We wandered around, went to the zoo, and ate pizza.
We spent a total of three nights in Ontario: one in London with our friend Max, one in Toronto, and one in Niagara Falls. We ate poutine and wandered around in Toronto, finding the graffiti above. And in Niagara Falls we of course saw the famous falls!
The final stop of our road trip, just before heading back to Fairfax to begin our job hunt, was in Boston, or more accurately, in Cambridge. We stayed with our friend Trevor, played board games, and ate food, mostly. Above is Cambridge’s city hall.
We didn’t make it to Spain like we had hoped, but instead we drove 10,000 miles around the US, so I think that worked out well for us.
Where did you go this year?