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Friday Random Thoughts

Twenty five years ago this week I woke up in my apartment in Moscow, Russia to the BBC announcing a car crash in Paris. Princess Diana was rushed to hospital. I ran to the living room and turned on CNN or BBC or whatever. She was soon declared dead. It was sad and shocking.

Another death this week made me sad. It was only after Mikhail Gorbachev instigated Perestroika and the Soviet Union started to fall apart did we realize we would be able to move to Russia. It had always been my husband’s dream to go live there and Gorbie made that possible. He was the hero of the day. In 1990 I was living on Capitol Hill in D.C. and I had an image of Gorbie in my car window. The hand was on a spring so it actually waved. It was awesome. Three years later I was living in Moscow.

You get the idea…. (these are available on Amazon)

Gorbie did a lot to change the world. I don’t think it turned out the way he had hoped it would but he did make a positive difference. Now, of course, Mr Putin is trying to undo it all. There was an excellent obit in the New York Times this week.

I was reading this weird book that just seemed to be going on and on. It takes place in an airport lounge. One guy is telling a story to another guy. They went to college together but didn’t really know each other well. It feels like Mr. A just wanted to unload on somebody and Mr. B just happened to be there. So the story went on an on about how Mr. A saved a guy from drowning and then he became obsessed with the guy only to find out he probably should not have bothered. Anyway, the book is Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson. The Washington Post compares the author to Tom Ripley – “spinning a mesmerizing yarn”. To be honest I wasn’t mesmerized. I suppose if I was feeling more philosophical I could analyze my way through it and read all kinds of existential stuff into it but frankly I didn’t care enough. I skipped to the end. 

I guess I have not been paying too much attention lately but heard recently that there is another NASA space ship scheduled for the Moon. The plan is to establish a presence on the Moon in preparation of sending astronauts to Mars. It will be called Artemis Base Camp. In Greek mythology, Artemis was a lunar deity and goddess of the hunt. I found another book on my shelf “Russians in Space” that tells about the first manned space trip. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin was sitting in a rocket ship getting ready for this historic journey.

“Before the actual liftoff, Korolev, Kamanin and the first future cosmonauts gathered around the communications station to talk with Gagarin. One used call-sign Zarya.

Zarya: Well everything is normal It’s all going according to schedule. On the machine, everything is going fine.
Gagarin: How about the medical data? Is my heart beating?
Zarya. Your pulse rate is 64, and your respiration is 24. Everything is normal.
Gagarin: Roger. So my heart is beating.
Korolev: How are you feeling?
Gagarin: I’m not worried. I feel fine. How are you feeling? Tell the doctors that my pulse is normal.

At 9:07 am they had lift-off. He spent 108 minutes in space. He commented on how dark the night was and how bright the stars. How blue the earth was.

“At 9:51 when the spacecraft emerged from the earth’s shadow the automatic orientation system went into action. It sought out the sun and ‘locked on’ it to orient the ship. As the sun’s rays came through the earth’s atmosphere, the horizon turns bright orange, then gradually shaded through all the hues of the rainbow, to light blue, dark blue, violet, and even black. Gagarin asked himself: ‘Where have I seen such a combination of colors?’ And then he remembered: on the canvases of Nicholas Roerich and Rockwell Kent.”

At 10:55 the space ship plowed into a field and Gagarin landed by parachute near by. The farm workers gathered around in amazement. Gagarin was in very good spirits.

I received my Snow Emergency pamphlet from the St Paul Public Works today. Apparently St Paul plows more than 1,800 lane miles during the first 24 hours of a snow emergency. They compare it to a trip from St Paul to Anaheim, CA. I have to admit they do a pretty good job. I have lived in places where they do a terrible job (Washington DC).

Looks like a touch of orange is already here.

Random Friday Thoughts

It’s Friday. Another week slipped by. I found a website that is unfortunately no longer active but it is still accessible. It is called TCK Town Magazine. It has five years’ worth of TCK stories. They are well written and engaging.  And if you are a TCK you will definitely relate. 

It is hard for me to think about being in the middle of a draught when I am surrounded by 10,000 plus lakes but there you have it. We have been in a draught. And now it has rained twice this week. Everybody is very happy. I’m happy because it has cooled down a lot. 

I came across a book called The New Russian Poets 1953-68. My house is full of such things. I usually ignore them but I saw this one and I didn’t ever remember seeing it before so I picked it up just to take a look. I actually found a poem I liked by Yevgeny Vinokurov: 

And In A World 

And in a world, where all is frontier, 
All merely boundary and barrier, 
You are, fathomless infinity, 
At least a consolation. 
…There’s a gleam of blue that shines 
Through a crack in the barn wall – 
Here already is your witness: that 
Not everything is so plain and flat. 

Sitting next to it on the shelf was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I had never seen it before either. It looks like something I would enjoy. I’m going to put it aside for a read later. 

Shifting gears… I recently came across a postcard of a tour my family took in Tokyo. My brother told me we were in Tokyo twice and took tours each time. I dug around and found some more Tokyo photos. It is clear we were different ages. He also gave me a pin he had that the tour group gave out. I looked up the JTB company and it is still going strong.

This first group must have been from 1959.

These two photos are from 1962. You can see that it says “Pigeon Bus Tours”. Hato is “pigeon” in Japanese and stands for peace. These bus tours started in 1949, and have been very successful showing close to a million tourists around each year.

Happy Friday.

Week in Review

Hastings, MN

Did you see it now costs $200 per day above and beyond the regular expenses of accommodation, transportation, guides to visit Bhutan? Will make for a pricey trip. Although I guess you no longer have to go with a guided tour. It is on my bucket list. Have you been there?

I heard a song on the radio the other day that I really liked. It was by Orville Peck. I think he sounds like a cross between Roy Orbison and Jonny Cash. But some say he is reminiscent of Elvis. Anyway, I bought his second album, Bronco. He has kind of a cowboy theme. Orville Peck is an alias/persona for Daniel Pitout. He is South African but left when he was 15 and moved to London and then to Canada. His voice is amazing. 

My internet is out. I love the way you have to go onto the internet to find out if the internet is out. Luckily my cell service was working so I could go on the internet on my phone to my internet service provider’s website for it to tell me the internet is out. Now I have to wait for them to text me to let me know it is working again. I wonder if I will really actually get a text. (I did!) Life is full of surprises. Actually life was much simpler before the internet. It was one less thing to worry about. When it first appeared, I wondered what anybody would do with it. Why would people need something that just looked things up? I suppose it is like any new thing. Once you get used to it you wonder how you ever lived without it. I look things up every five minutes now. 

A young TCK (third culture kid) has written a book about the trials and tribulations of being a TCT (Third Culture Teen), something she apparently coined. I listened to a podcast of her being interviewed. She is Korean and lived in China and other places and went to college in the USA. Interesting that she mostly went to American Schools when she was growing up and identified with Americans and thought she knew about American culture even though she never lived there but when she actually got to the USA, she was clueless. It sounds like a pretty common problem to me, whether you are Korean or American (TCK). Anyway her book is called The Third Culture Teen, In Between Cultures, In Between Life Stages by Jiwon Lee (on Amazon).

Buh-bye to Boris (Johnson). I will miss his hairdo….

Speaking of music… I watched a good documentary on Amazon Prime about Los Tigres Del Norte. Four brothers left their home in Sinaloa, Mexico after their father was shot in the spine. They could not afford an operation so they needed to earn money for the family. They were playing in restaurants wherever they could and in Mexicali they ran into a man who took them to San Jose, California and introduced them to a record distributor. They seemed to have very good luck as well as being talented. Their style is “norteño” music and their lyrics are about the immigrant, the workers, the down trodden. Later they also wrote about the drug traffickers and the movers of contraband. Their concerts could last for six hours or more. They have released 50 albums and received five Grammy awards. They are still going strong and plan to keep going as long as they are able. They are all naturalized US citizens now.

When I went to San Francisco in May, we walked all through Chinatown and I bought some gifts for my great niece and nephew. I went over to their house last night for dinner and to give them their presents. I was greeted by the four year old boy who was very excited about an episode of the dragon cartoon they were watching. So I enjoyed a couple of episodes of dragon adventures. When I was getting ready to leave he told me he wanted to draw me a picture. This is now displayed on my refrigerator. I think it is quite beautiful.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Lindberghs

I just finished reading The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. It is historical fiction about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The author explains that what makes it fiction is her lengthy descriptions of Anne’s emotions and inner turmoil. The facts are there but she is guessing at how Anne felt about the events of her life. She did have an eventful life.

The daughter of the American Ambassador to Mexico, Anne met Charles Lindbergh in Mexico City in December of 1927. In May of that same year he had flown solo, non-stop from New York to Paris. It made him one of the most famous people of the time. He was 25 years old. Two years later, when Anne was 23, she and Charles were married.

I learned that Anne became a pilot, a navigator, the first woman to earn a Glider Pilot license, and a successful writer. Not to mention raising six children and running a household on her own. She lived in the shadow of her famous husband but she was really the star.

The book takes us through the pain of losing her first born to kidnappers and murderers. The trauma of being doggedly pursued by journalists and photographers. The confusion about her husband’s feelings toward the Nazis. The sorrow of seeing her husband spend less and less time at home. And the discovery of his infidelity.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote Gift from the Sea, reflections on life, love, marriage, and how things change over time. It was the top non-fiction bestseller of 1955, and is still enjoyed by many today having sold over 3 million copies and been translated into 45 languages. She also wrote about their flight to the Orient. They were the first to fly from Africa to South America and explored polar air routes from North America to Asia and Europe.

She was extraordinary.

Patient Women

41fWks8wUXLReading Larissa Shmailo’s new book, Patient Women, is like riding a wave. It easily flows from one thing to the next and you want to keep reading and reading. This book has it all. Sex, drugs, alcoholism, suicide, incest, tragedy, love, despair, hope, rebirth. What will the main character Nora do next? She compels you to find out.

Nora starts out as a juvenile delinquent who runs away from home and loses her virginity. From there we see her easily get into two highly respected colleges only to lose interest and drop out. She is a brilliant woman who can’t figure out who she is or what she should be doing. So she tries everything. 

She keeps getting derailed by her own mental illness and her dysfunctional family. She has a therapist who she hates and he really doesn’t seem very helpful. He loads her up with one drug after another. Her parents survived the holocaust and that still haunts them and plays out in several dysfunctional ways throughout her life. They are not a very good support system for her. It isn’t until she joins AA and reunites with an old friend that she starts to understand the meaning of love.

In the end we don’t know if she lives happily ever after but her demons seem to be at bay and she finds her way as a poet.

I first met Larissa in high school. She was intelligent, funny and a wonderful actress. Now she is a brilliant writer as well.

 

 

About the Author

Larissa Shmailo is the editor-in-chief of the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry, poetry editor for MadHat Annual, and founder of The Feminist Poets in Low-Cut Blouses. She translated Victory over the Sun for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s landmark re-staging of the Futurist opera; the libretto is available from Cervena Barva Press (2014). Larissa also has been a translator on the Bible in Russia for the Eugene A. Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship of the American Bible Society. Larissa’s collections of poetry are #specialcharacters (Unlikely Books 2014), In Paran (BlazeVOX [books] 2009), the chapbook, A Cure for Suicide (Cervena Barva Press 2006), and the e-book, Fib Sequence (Argotist Ebooks 2011); her poetry CDs are The No-Net World (SongCrew 2006) and Exorcism (SongCrew 2009), for which she received the New Century Best Spoken Word Album award .

Available on Amazon

 

 

Birthday Swag Bag – Blog Hop

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I was asked to participate in this “blog hop” by Angela, at Amsterdam Oriole. Angela is an Englishwoman married to a Dutchman living in Amsterdam. She writes about events in and around Amsterdam and everything Dutch. She is a prolific writer of flash fiction and short stories.  Be sure to visit her swag bag!

SWAG has several definitions.  According to the Oxford American dictionary SWAG can mean any of the following. I am assuming the relevant one is highlighted in red.

My friend tells me it really just stands for Stuff We All Get.

  • A curtain or piece of fabric fastened so as to hang in a drooping curve
  • A carved or painted representation of a swag of flowers, foliage, or fruit: fine plaster swags
  • Money or goods taken by a thief or burglar
  • Products given away free, typically for promotional purposes
  • Marijuana, typically of a low grade

My mission is to fill a virtual goodie bag with my birthday wish list and must include a book, beauty product, snack food, music, and ‘my choice’. My birthday is next month, so listen up!

Book

Having recently returned from Lake Como, my current dream is to live there and wake up to that view morning after morning. I often troll expat/memoir books looking for something to read and happened to come across this. She sounds like an interesting person.

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Going Solo on Lake Como by Ciara O’Toole

“Sometimes flying by the seat of your pants is the best thing you can do …

When Ciara O’Toole and her husband move to Lake Como, Italy, they make plans – to run their own businesses, to learn the language and to immerse themselves in the Italian way of life.

But just a few months into the adventure Ciara’s marriage ends and she finds herself alone in a country where she doesn’t speak the language. She is faced with a choice: return to Ireland or stay in Italy and make her new life work.”

 

New favorite snack – White Cheddar popcorn

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Back in the 1980’s I went to visit my boyfriend who was doing a summer internship at the Boston Globe. We took a road trip up to Maine. On that trip he turned me on to something I had never seen before – Smartfood. Cheese covered popcorn. I was immediately addicted. Not only was it delicious but the packaging was always entertaining. It would say things like, “We don’t drown our kernels in preservatives. That wouldn’t be fair. They can’t swim.” They told silly stories about the product’s origins and would claim things like “more than twelve billion kernals popped”, mocking McDonald’s.

Then they sold out to Frito Lay and I thought, ugh, that changes things. But even though the packaging got boring, the taste was still good. Now they have a “lighter” version that isn’t quite as cheesy or salty but still states good.

Beauty product

I love nail polish and always have way too many of it. It is fun finding new colors and textures. This one caught my eye.

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Arabella PixieDust by Zoya

 

Music

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Blondie is one of my all time favorites. Debbie Harry is always so cool. They just released their 40th anniversary double CD called ‘Blondie 4(0) Ever’. It includes their old hits, new material, and a dvd of one of their live performances.

 

 

My Choice – Just for fun!

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BMW Z4

A mere $57,000

Need I say more?

 

Next week please join our continuing blog hop over to see Jennifer at the ever creative and amusing Expat Lingo site. She describes herself as a serial expat and is in the process of moving from Hong Kong to the Netherlands.

 

 

Trailing: A Memoir

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There has been much discussion lately about the term “trailing spouse” and whether it is appropriate or even polite. It projects a sense of “other” rather than something that makes up a whole. I usually conger up a vision of a dog’s tail. Other terms being used are “accompanying partner”, “expat wife”, “support partner”. Expat Lingo says she had been called a ‘stakeholder at home’. I have used the term ‘world juggler’ before.

But in the end, whatever you call it, the trailing spouse is usually the support system, the glue that holds it all together. Sometimes the glue falls apart and life can be rough.

In Trailing: A Memoir by Kristin Louise Duncombe, things fall apart.  Kristin grew up all over the world so when she met her Argentine husband, the thought of moving overseas didn’t seem so strange. Although she did have her reservations about putting her career on hold, she didn’t have a passion about what she did and had not clearly defined what she wanted to do. Her husband, a doctor with Doctors Without Borders was passionate about what he did and had no questions about what he was going to do. She was in love. She married him and went to Kenya.

Being a TCK (Third Culture Kid) myself, I also thought following my husband overseas would be no problem. Even though you have lived in many places around the world, the child TCK and the Adult TCK have different experiences and challenges. I had no support system behind me as we just up and moved. Kristin had a small “family” of doctors but it did not help much since most of them were single and always on the road. Her husband was gone much of the time.

On the other hand, I think she showed remarkable resilience. She found herself some work at a Nairobi hospital helping teens and eventually found a position with USAID at the US Embassy. Unfortunately the Embassy was bombed and she lost her job but by that time her husband had taken a position in Uganda. After having a baby, she finds a job in a small village outside Kampala. She never sees her husband and the marriage starts to unravel.

I found myself identifying with this book on several levels. I had a difficult adjustment when I moved to Russia. My husband was a freelancer. There were no benefits or perks. As soon as I landed I was expected to find a job and help with financial support. If found jobs mainly doing clerical administrative work but I also fell into a writing position for the American Women’s Club and was able to improve my writing skills and help other expat women at the same time. I edited and produced a newsletter that helped to build a community.

Everybody has a different experience when they live overseas. I knew couples who were both professionals in their own right. I knew women who moved around the globe on their own and met their husband along the way. One woman was a very successful diplomat and her husband did his own thing in another country but was able to work remotely. Some people take the time to write books. There is always something to do. I found my way and started writing and wrote a memoir.

The current challenge for international organizations is to find the balance and provide options for accompanying partners. With today’s technology, there are much more possibilities available.

Kristin’s happy ending was her husband accepted a position in Paris and she managed to set up a successful counseling practice working with expat families who are trying to cope with life overseas. After having gone through the worst of it, she now had all the tools necessary to help others in similar situations.Trailing: A Memoir is well written and engaging. It makes me want to know more about her. It is available on Amazon.com.

 

 

The Burmese Coconut Tree

 

A friend of mine is married to a chef. He was recently invited to do a cooking presentation in Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar).  I would love to know what he is preparing for them. Perhaps it includes coconut.

 

The Origin of the Coconut

Many hundreds of years ago a raft with three people on it reached a city on the Burmese coast. The three strangers were taken before the king. In answer to the king’s questions, the strangers said that they had been set adrift on a raft on the orders of the king of their own country across the sea, because they were found guilty of certain crimes. One of the strangers was a thief, another a witch, and the third a mischief-maker who harmed people by his tittle-tattle.

The king gave a house and one thousand silver coins to the thief, and allowed him to settle in Burma. “He was a thief only because he was poor,” explained the king, “and now that he is no longer poor, he will make a good subject.” To the witch also the king gave a house and a thousand silver coins and allowed her to settle in Burma. “She bewitched people merely out of jealousy,” explained the king, “and she was jealous of others only because she was poor and unhappy. Now that she is rich, she will no longer be jealous of other people’s happiness.” But the king ordered the mischief-maker to be executed at once. “For,” said the king, “once a mischief-maker, always a mischief-maker.” So the mischief-maker was taken to the place of execution, and his head was cut off.

The next day one of the king’s officers passed by the place, and to his surprise he found the head of the mischief-maker rolling about on the ground. He was the more surprised when the head of the mischief-maker opened its mouth and said repeatedly, “Tell your king to come and kneel to me here. Otherwise I will come and knock off his head.” The officer ran back to the palace and reported the matter. But nobody believed him and the king was angry, thinking that the officer was trying to make fun of him. “Your Majesty can send another person along with me,” suggested the officer, “and he will surely bear me out.” So another officer was sent along with the first officer to the place of execution.

When they reached there, however, the head lay still and remained silent. The second officer made his repot, and the king in anger ordered the first officer to be excutied at once as a teller of lies. So the unfortunate officer was taken to the place of execution, and his head was cut off in the presence of his fellow officers. When the execution was over, the head of the mischief-maker opened its mouth and said, “Ha,ha, I can still make mischief by my tittle-tattle, although I am dead.” The officers, realizing that a gross injustice has been done to the dead officer, reported what they had seen and heard and the king was full of grief an remorse.

The king, realizing that the head of the mischief-maker would make further mischief by his tittle-tattle if it was to remain unburied, ordered that a deep pit be dug and the head buried inside it. His orders were obeyed and the head was duly buried. But the next morning, a strange tree was seen growing from the place where the head had been buried. The strange tree had even stranger fruit, for the latter resembled the head of the mischief-maker. The tree is the coconut tree. It was originally call ‘gon-bin’, which in Burmese means ‘Mischief-maker tree’, but during the course of centuries, the pronunciation of the name has deteriorated, and it is now called ‘on-bin’ or ‘coconut tree’. And, if you shake a coconut and then put it against your ear, you will hear a gurgling noise for, you see, although now a fruit, the head of the mischief-maker still wants to make tittle-tattle.

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Maung Htin Aung was born on 18 May 1909. He was the great grandson of a military officer who fought in the first war against the British in 1826. There were two more wars against the British and eventually Burma was completely overtaken in 1885.

Maung Htin Aung was part of an aristocratic family and received a Bachelor of Laws from Cambridge Univiersity, a Bachelor of Civil Law from Oxford University, a Master of Laws from the University of London and doctorates in Anthropology and Literature from Trinity College, Dublin.

He wrote books on Burmese history and culture. The above is an excerpt from his book Selections from Burmese Folk-Tales published in 1952 by Oxford University Press.

A later edition: Burmese Folk Tales is available at Amazon.com

 

Burmese Coconut Rice

Serves 8

Ingredients
5 cups rice
3 coconuts
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
1/3 tsp salt
2 onions

Grate the flesh of 3 coconuts. Pour some hot water and squeeze the milk through thin muslin. Repeat till all the milk is extracted. Wash rice thoroughly. Put rice into pot. Add this milk until it stands ¾ inch above the rice. Peel, quarter and wash the onions. Add to the rice, oil, sugar, salt and onions. Stir till well mixed. Cook till the milk is evaporated and the rice tender.

 

Blogging and Chocolate Cake

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“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

I have been blogging for two years now. Seems like just yesterday. I started my blog to promote my book, Expat Alien. I didn’t know what I was doing or if anybody would even read it. What I found was a whole new world. There are millions of bloggers out there. I had no idea. People blog about everything. Some blog a lot, some not so much.

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To mark the occasion I though I might find one of Julia Child’s cake recipes. It seemed appropriate since she was an expat. However her recipes tend to be three and four pages long and that is a lot of work. So here is my favorite chocolate cake recipe that I have made a million times. It comes from the Joy of Cooking 1975 edition.

And keep on blogging!

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Cocoa Devil’s Food Cake

Two 9-inch round pans

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F

Combine, beat until well blended, and set aside:

1 cup sugar

½ cup cocoa

½ cup buttermilk or yogurt

Beat until soft

½ cup butter

Add gradually and cream until light:

1 cup sifted sugar

Beat in, one at a time:

2 eggs

Beat in cocoa mixture.

Sift before measuring:

2 cups cake flour

Resift with:

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

Add the flour in 3 parts to the butter mixture, alternately with:

½ cup buttermilk or yogurt

1 tsp vanilla

Beat batter after each addition just until smooth.

Grease the pans and cook for 35 minutes in a 375 degree F oven.

When cooled, spread the cake with your favorite icing.

 

 

Nomad on the Loose – 2013 Recap

Last year was a busy one. Some challenges and some fun.

My child’s father, Nicholas, died a year ago today after a battle with cancer. In February we traveled to Milwaukee to bury him. We stayed a couple of extra days and saw the IMG_0092 Quadracci Pavilion and the Alumni House at the University of Wisconsin.

 

 

I posted 43 recipes and published my cookbook 52 Food Fridays on Amazon. IMG_1551 Baked Asparagus was my most popular recipe. 

 

 

 

I started writing for the Baltimore Post Examiner. Check it out – there is a good post on Boarding Schools.

IMG_1418In March I spent four days in Miami reunited with old friends.

 

 

 

 

In April it was back to Wisconsin for my parent’s 70th Wedding Anniversary. While we were there we enjoyed a quick tour of the Capital building. P1140558

 

 

 

IITA268I wrote a posts on TCK Patriotism HOME and Facebook and the TCK

 

 

 

P1150226In July we went to Halifax, Nova Scotia. A beautiful amazing place – Public Gardens, Halifax Part Two. This piece was so good somebody stole it and put it on their Facebook page claiming to have written it themselves.   After asking him politely to take it down, I had to write to Facebook to get it off.

 

IMG_2185My local trips included the National GalleryGreat Falls National Park, the Botanical Gardens and Shenandoah Skyline Drive.  

 

CoverShotI had a promotion on Amazon that gave away my memoir, Expat Alien.  I was surprised when 712 people in the US and 103 people in the UK downloaded it. I hope you all enjoyed it!  Write a review on Amazon!! Help me out!   

 

 

20131122-160324.jpgIn November it was a quick trip to New York City.

 

 

 

IMG_0115December took us to Chicago and back to Madison to celebrate some Nomad Holiday Traditions.

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What will the New Year bring? My son graduates high school and goes off to college. I’m going to Europe in June. Anything can happen, and probably will. Let’s hope we all have a great year!