Santa Cruz, California, October 28th, 2014

Santa Cruz, California, October 28th, 2014

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Firewood, hogans and WHO?

So, let's step away from the cruise stories and pictures for a few days.  We'll get back to them next week.

On Tuesday, July 2nd, here at TFTR, we're going to dig deep and discuss a very important issue that involves helping those who really need help.
Nope, not my beloved Quechua of Bolivia, but the Diné of the Southwest United States.

Who are the Diné ?

Many of us call them The Navajo. Which is a name the Spanish handed out in the 1600's. 
How nice of those nice Spanish conquerors to hand out a nice name to people who already had one.


But what about them? Don't they make rugs and hang out in the nice warm desert? Where it never gets cold.  

Maybe in the movies.

So, Redheads, what does this stack of firewood?

An Elder like this man who lives in a hogan? Or maybe a house.

And this man...

Have in common?

His name is Jay Tavare. He's a nice guy. He said I could use this photo...seriously, he said I could use pictures of him on my blog. You don't believe me, do you?

I knew it!!

Well, maybe you should come by on Tuesday for the rest of the story?

And The Redhead will explain everything. 

Get ready to warm some hearts.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Europe. Day Dos. TONNES of photos!!

When we last left our intrepid heroines, we were thinking about Roma!

But let's back track, shall we?

We arrived at Barcelona's cruise ship terminal after our lovely stay at Hotel Dante.

The terminal was HUGE!! We made it through all the security and porters and luggage drop offs...

Then...we set sail!! Or "gunned the engines". Whatever. We were leaving port! 

A fortress at the harbour. Totally spelled that properly.

Some flaggy things that mean something.

Maybe they said "Canadian Hillbilly on board! HELLLLP!!"

Sailing past a smaller cruise ship. Waving like maniacs. For some reason, in our culture, making eye contact is frowned upon, but waving like a circus monkey on Red Bull is perfectly acceptable.

I had a song in my head, though. It went something like..."nyah nyah nyah, we're bigger than youuuuuuu!!"

But then it happened...after wandering around and exploring our new digs, it was time to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean. All my life, I dreamed of seeing such a thing. And here we were, mere mortals, in front row seats watching God paint His love for us across the sky. 

Each moment, each second, a new whisper of His glory. 


Good night, Father...and thank you!

Our first full day at sea was a bit rough, but we were headed to Civitavecchia, the deep harbour port nearest Rome.

By late afternoon, the seas calmed and I took this shot of our balcony.  Yes, the sea is that blue. Yes, Mom said the extra money for the balcony was worth EVERY penny. was time to watch God dip His hand in the sun and light the skies with fire. 



But, wait!? Where is this??


And Gwen?? I bit my lip so I wouldn't cry like a baby!!

The Number One Spot on my life long bucket list??

The Colosseum.


Gwen? When I put my hand on the marble, I whispered "Gwennie, this is for you. One day, my friend, you will see this place." 

Then it was off to the Vatican. Where these nice Swiss guys get to serve for 2 years as guards of the Pope. They carry their duty with great honour. But it was about 100F, we all felt bad for them!! And right before this photo was taken, they'd posed with about 6 kids. Nice young men, even though they're dressed like, well, umm, anyway....


Hmmmm...come back and see!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jennifer and Her Mom's Excellent Adventure!!! Part Uno.

Annnnnnnnnnnd we're off!!!

June 7th, Day One of the trip, took me to Toronto on a fairly calm flight. We landed, I got my suitcase and caught a shuttle to a hotel so far off the beaten path that I was STUNNED the shuttle bus driver knew where to go!!

I got there in the early afternoon, checked in, scanned the room and dropped onto the bed. 

Some college friends and I had decided months ago to have a mini-reunion dinner at the hotel. I was somewhat trepidacious, but I remembered that grace grows, whereas memories fade. It was a fantastic time of story-telling and getting caught up with old friends, seeing how God has shaped them and hearing about theri families was great. And so was remembering that who I was in 1982 bears only a genetic similarity to who I am now. 

Mom was due to arrive at 6:30 ish, so I hovered between conversation in the dining room and looking way over at the front desk and seeing if she'd arrived. I hadn't seen her in two years, so when I saw her at the front desk, I hopped up from my chair and flew to her! It was SO great to see her !!

I got her set up in our room and left her there to chill a bit before she joined us for not bad food, HOURS of lively conversation and lots of laughter.

That night after finally saying our goodbyes to almost everyone at the table, I said to Mom "It feels like we've come to Toronto to visit, and now we're going home."
"I know, dear, it does feel like that, doesn't it?"
It was kind of hard to get to sleep. So I read quite a bit of Beth Vogt's "Catch A Falling Star". Hmmmm. That girl can WRITE!!!

We joined a few of the friends who'd stayed at the hotel overnight, for breakfast, then sent them on their merry ways. Mom and I had a late check out of 2pm, so we hung out in our room, then packed our bags and took a shuttle to the airport. 
Our flight was due to leave at 8:45pm, so we wandered around, then FINALLY went through security and left the real world behind.

After a fairly easy flight and a great time chatting with Vanessa, the awesomest flight attendant EVER, we landed in Spain.

Spain? Say it with me, "SPAIN".  
Thanks to my Kindergarten Spanish, we found a cab and learned that there are honourable cab drivers in Barcelona. Our driver, Juan Carlos, was livid that another cab driver had tried to charge some tourists 100 Euros for a drive into town. The standard rate was 45 Euros. Mom was rather concerned until I explained everything. Score one for Jennifer's very basic Spanish!!

The Hotel Dante was lovely, as was the city. But Jennifer and Mom were WASTED. So instead of touring around on Sunday afternoon, we slept. The hotel dinner was umm, pricey, but what could we do? Nada, that's what. So we ciao'd down on fairly good food that cost an eyeball and used the free Wifi to update our hubbies.

It wasn't too hard to get to sleep, even though we were GIDDY with excitement!!

We had a delicious breakfast and then headed for our ship, the Equinox. 
Okay, look in the middle, where the balconies jut out, go up 3 decks and then go over to the 2nd lifeboat from the right. We were in suite 8227. I highly recommend the middle of the ship for avoiding sea-sickness.

We found the restaurant and had an unbelievable lunch!! 

Which did not include this. 

And guess where our first stop was?
(yes, it technically WAS the washroom at a gas station along the "motorway"...)

But think again...

That's right...The Eternal City herself...


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Leaving on a jet plane....but I DO know when I'll be back again...

...Oh Babe, I hate to (tell you this but umm, I'm not exactly busted up that I have to ) go...

My friends, amigos, amis, shik'is....

I fly tomorrow to Toronto, and then Saturday night, my Mom and I will cross The Pond to catch a ride on this...The Equinox.

And this is our itinerary:

Day 1Barcelona, Spain5:00 PM
Day 2At Sea
Day 3Rome (Civitavecchia), ItalyDocked7:00 AM7:00 PM
Day 4Naples, ItalyDocked7:00 AM6:30 PM
Day 5At Sea
Day 6Santorini, GreeceTendered9:00 AM7:00 PM
Day 7Ephesus (Kusadasi), TurkeyDocked7:00 AM6:00 PM
Day 8Mykonos, GreeceTendered7:00 AM6:00 PM
Day 9Athens (Piraeus), GreeceDocked6:00 AM6:00 PM
Day 10At Sea
Day 11Valletta, MaltaDocked7:00 AM5:00 PM
Day 12At Sea

We return to Barcelona on Day 13 and fly back to Toronto that afternoon. 

I haven't had 2 weeks alone with my mom since, ohhhhhhh, 1989. I have never been to Europe. I've spent the last 4 decades wishing I could see inside the Roman Colosseum. And I've wanted to see Santorini since 1980-something, when my sister went to Greece with friends.And Ephesus??? Ahhhh!!

I'll check in to say hello today, and I'll be updating on Facebook until Saturday afternoon. 

But DO come back in late June, because unless I'm in jail in Europe...there's going to be a few pictures and some awesome stories.


I can't make this white box disappear....and it won't centre, either....

Monday, June 3, 2013

Interview with Carla Laureano, author of Five Days in Skye

All rrrrrrrrighty, I am moving to Scotland!!!

Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she'll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she's sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she'd rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father's dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

~ ~~~~~~~ ~

Okay, I'm not really moving, but I betcha Carla's book has begun the emigration process for more than one reader!!

When I was given the opportunity to...okay, I begged for read Five Days in Skye, I was already squealing.
When it arrived? I sat down and to read and wasn't just drawn in, ohhhh no. I was whooshed into their world like a kilt pin to Gerard Butler's tartan.
Okay, that maybe was not the BEST comparison, but whatever...I was hooked.
Tight writing, great wit, warm temperatures, relevant 21st century issues and a great ending.
I read it in one day. And folks, I quite happily give Five Days in Skye 5 stars out of 5.

I posed a few questions to the very witty Carla, read along , and then she has something to share with you.


1) How do you fit in writing while still being actively engaged as a mom of your very adorable boys?
Well first of all, thanks for calling my boys adorable! I think they are, but I’m admittedly biased!
I write whenever I can: early in the morning, during naps, while the kids are at school (though those hours are pretty slim since my preschooler only goes three mornings a week), after their bedtime. I do best with deadlines, but because I don’t have regular work hours, I have to be very “goal-based.” When I’m writing a first draft, I have a daily word count goal that I must meet. Some days I can get it done in two hours; other days, I’m up into the wee hours of the night.
Unless I make writing a non-negotiable part of my day, it’s very easy to push it aside in the demands of being a wife and mother.

2) What has been the most joyous lesson you've learned as a writer, and the most painful?
The most joyous: learning that God’s plans truly surpass my own dreams. I felt like it was time to start writing again, but I’d planned on going back to commercial copywriting for a while to bring in some extra income. Then I felt the nudge to query a completed manuscript that had been sitting on the shelf since my younger son was born. Within six months, I had an agent. Within a year, I had my first book contract. After years of writing, revising, querying, and trying to break into the business, things happened amazingly quickly. It taught me that “God’s timing” isn’t something we just tell ourselves when things aren’t going our way, but really something we need to pray for and aspire to. I’m still amazed.
The most painful lesson: you’re still the same person after a book contract that you were before. I think the temptation is to think when you reach “the next level,” things will be perfect. The same pressures, insecurities, and doubts remain; they’re just magnified. If anything, the transition from aspiring to professional writer has shown me how impossible it is to do this on my own. Realizing my complete dependence on God has been a truly humbling experience.

3) If and /or when you have those "I cannot do this!!" days, what keeps you going?
Good writing friends. I have been blessed with an incredible circle of friends that run the spectrum from aspiring to published to best-selling. I’m humbled by how often God uses them to deliver the message I need to hear at that particular time. Sometimes the message is “go eat chocolate and take a walk.” Sometimes the message is “whose power are you relying on – yours or God’s?” And sometimes they just provide a hug and a listening ear. The inspirational writing community is really pretty amazing.

4) If you had someone who discouraged you from writing, what would you say to them now?
I guess I’ve been fortunate that I have never really had anyone discourage me from writing. Had there been, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference. I was determined to be a writer from an early age, and I knew it was going to take a lot of years of work to get there. I suppose I’d just say that clearly God had His own plans for me.

5)Who makes you laugh the hardest?
My boys. They are total clowns. The older one has a very dry, sarcastic sort of wit that is completely unexpected. The younger one is just plain silly. Whenever music comes on, they do these goofy little dances around the house, and I just crack up.

6)Do you have a favourite Bible verse? Why this one and what does it say to you?My favorites tend to rotate (some past favorites: Romans 8:28, James 1:2-4). Right now, I’m meditating on Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” It reminds me that while I may not be able to see the whole picture, God has a purpose for every experience, whether success and trial.

To celebrate the release of Carla's book on June 10th, she is giving away a fabulous Scotland-themed gift basket including a paperback copy of Five Days in Skye, a beautiful coffee table photography book filled with images of Scotland, CDs of music that inspired the story, as well as plenty of imported British goodies for your own afternoon tea break! Enter below for your chance to win! A winner will be chosen at random and announced on her blog on release day.

If you want to enter the contest, you MUST do so on her website...because I can't figure out how to load Rafflecopter here...

Carla, thank you SO MUCH for joining us at TFTR!

Remember, go to and click on 'contests' in the upper right  corner of her menu bar.