Wednesday, July 18, 2012

ROADTRIP RECOMMENDS: The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree is a straightforward ladies garden club mystery, although the setting -- early 1930s Alabama -- is an interesting departure from the usual. The cast of characters is wonderful, the story easy to follow, but with entertaining twists. Although some sensitive subjects are addressed (adultery and... sugar daddies), they are done well -- and talked about as 1930s Alabama ladies would talk -- and shouldn't be any harm for kids listening. Great first book in what looks like a promising series. *Check your local library for holdings in your area.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ON THE RADIO: Stuff You Should Know

Ever wondered how stuff works? There's a website for that, and this podcast is one of many derivatives. Everything from the ninja to the sun is covered in a fun, entertaining way by hosts Josh and Chuck. They are especially responsive to young fans, so this is a great listen if you are roadtripping as a family. And on the rare occasion there's something not so family friendly (ninja ARE assassins, after all), the hosts are great about giving a heads up. Make sure to take a look at the other offerings from How Stuff Works as well.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Travel writing

My Kindle battery died during a wonderful Walk in the Woods with Bill Bryson, and instead of trying to read a PDF book on my laptop (my laptop is annoyingly old, and the battery no longer works, so I tend to think of it like our family's first VCR, which had a wired -- not wireless -- "remote". I use the word "remote" in quotes because it was more like a really, really close. Only unlike that VCR, I still have to use this laptop), I picked up Eat Love Pray again.

As a person who's now a self-imposed-on-you travel writer, I'm looking at a whole new genre I never really paid much attention to before: of course, travel writing. Even though it's become almost a cliche now, I very much enjoyed Eat Love Pray when I first read it a couple of years ago. And, to be honest, the movie as well. I read the book as part of a mom's book club, and I always remember the woman who led the book club saying she didn't believe the book was a real memoir because who wouldn't just TELL their husband what she wanted (assuming, in her way, that then it would be so). I instantly felt sorry for her husband, but I didn't expect to learn a lot about myself through the book, and I didn't that first time.

Today, I came to the part about each city having a word that describes it. And Elizabeth Gilbert concludes that she'll feel at home where her word matches the city's word. What a fun game. One of the characters asks, What is your town's word? What's your family word? STRENGTH, I think immediately. In my family, strength is everything.

But then my thoughts turned to the only city in which I have ever truly felt at home, and a different word pressed itself on me so immediately and so crushingly, I could have been Kevin Bacon sitting alone in a darkened movie theater.

Instantly, the tears and emotion, the exhaustion, of that word overwhelmed me. I realized my family word -- my word -- is not STRENGTH, but ENDURE.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I-80 Nebraska

I know there's got to be more to Nebraska than what's along I-80 (summed up below). Where should ROADTRIP go when we're there next?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ROADTRIP: Reiman Gardens

This season's issue is about short drives from Des Moines, Iowa, and a great one to take right now is just a half hour north to Iowa State University in Ames, the home of Reiman Gardens and host right now of Sean Kenney's amazing Lego sculptures. Since moving to Des Moines, I've wanted to visit Reiman, but couldn't get The Boy interested; Legos are the answer. A great pamphlet picked up from the Reiman information desk shows where all the sculputures are (you can miss the showier ones, but some blend in amazingly), and tells more about the artist, one of a handful official Lego artists. Photos of all the sculptures are below, but if you are planning on going, it's better if you see them first in person. Just look at the butterflies, which are usually one of Reiman's main attractions.

I noticed in Juice that there was a bluegrass band playing at a winery in Madrid, and now that I'm pretty familiar with Madrid, figured I could make my way over there on the way back. Sure enough, there was a sign pointing the way to Snus Hill Vineyard & Winery right from I-35, so we had a beautiful drive sort of the width of Des Moines but much more north. Highway Home Blue Grass Band was great on a weather-funky afternoon, I now have a nice gift (with the help of a lovely Snus staffer, since I can get excited about everything wine right up until the drinking) for my housesitter, and The Boy met Clive, a gorgeous frog of some sort he named and really wanted to bring home although of course he said he understands that's not ok.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ON THE RADIO: The Gates/The Infernals

The Infernals
If you are traveling with teens or tweens, this is a great selection. Young Samuel and his faithful dachshund Boswell thwart the takeover of our world by demons in hell in The Gates, and are accidentally sucked into hell and have to escape in The Infernals. Both books are extremely funny, take a practical look at good and evil, and explore what it means to be human.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

ON THE RADIO: Radio Lingua

Want to learn a language? Radio Lingua is an excellent, free (with excellent paid upgrades) resource. I have to admit, I started listening to Coffeebreak Spanish many years ago because I liked Mark's Scottish accent, but was soon on to Zulu and a dozen others. I don't practice enough anymore to remember them, but when I was listening every day, these were amazing aids. Awesome for family listening and learning in the car, especially if you're traveling through places with bilingual signs.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ON THE RADIO: The Night Circus

Not only is this a fun, breezy mystery/romance full of magic, it's read by Jim Dale, who's won Grammys for his readings of the Harry Potter series. The story centers on two magicians who were locked in battle as children, but who ultimately fall in love. The setting is very Carnivale, and there are all kinds of wonderful supporting characters, and a secondary love story maybe more compelling than the primary.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

First edition finally published

Years in the making, the first edition of Road Trip International is finally ready for reading. You can download a free PDF or, if you're really ambitious, buy a real, live copy of your very own to hold in your hands instead of stare at on the computer. This was a real test (of me, of computers, of cars; you name it), so if you do take a look through, please leave me any feedback you have. Remember the Golden Rule of Constructive Criticism: "This sucks" doesn't help make anything better.