Monday, June 22, 2009

Visit many countries ... without leaving the U.S.!

Why have I never heard of Passport DC before? Passport DC is a 10-day smorgasbord of international events, including Embassy Open House Day, when embassies throw open the doors and let us in to experience their food, music and culture!

Here's a snippet from the Cultural Tourism DC site about the 2009 event: "As a world capital, Washington, DC presents unique opportunities to learn about and engage with world cultures. This spring, Cultural Tourism DC invites Washingtonians and visitors to cross borders and break down barriers, traveling around the world all from within the District’s boundaries. Starting Thursday, April 30, embassies will throw open their doors, drawing in visitors to experience the music, dance, crafts, and cuisine of their nation."

I'm already planning to go next year! You can sign up on the site to receive information about upcoming events and the 2010 Passport DC if you're interested.

Got a short story inside? Let it out!

NPR's got a new short story contest worth writing about: "At NPR, we love to hear, and tell, your real-life stories every day. Now, we want to hear your fiction as well. This summer, we're beginning a contest called "Three-Minute Fiction." The premise is simple: Listeners send in original short stories that can be read in three minutes or less — that's usually about 500-600 words long."

Read the rest, listen to a sample short story, check and the rules and submit your piece at the NPR site.

I've got a few story ideas mulling around ... maybe I'll let mine out, too!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sheep at Clevedon, New Zealand

Beautiful white sheep! It was so neat to see sheep out and about, just doing their thing, while I was in Auckland! Thanks to sister Maria for this and all the other New Zealand and Australia cards I'm posting today! :)

Clevedon, New Zealand

Clevedon, New Zealand, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Clevedon is one of four cities in the greater Auckland area. This scene looks so peaceful, so relaxing ... as I type this I'm wishing I were there! :)

Queensland, Australia

Queensland, Australia, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Now while multiphoto postcards are not my favorite, this postcard is an exception! I love the colors and hues and scenes ... it is my favorite Australian postcard! When I saw it, I knew immediately that I would take my children to the Great Barrier Reef someday. The kids cheered together loudly when I told them! If you like this card as much as I do, then you'll like to know that the images are:

1. Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef
2. 4 Mile Beach, Port Douglas
3. Welcome Bay, Fitzroy Island
4. Spirit of the Outback, Central Australia
5. Millaa Millaa Falls, Queensland

Caesars Head State Park, South Carolina

This card was actually bigger than my scanner; instead of presenting it sideways, I let the right side be cut off a little. But you're not missing much :) This is truly a beautiful place ... how grand it would be to have a home with a view like this ....

Australia - A BIG Country!

Australia - A BIG Country!, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Not much else to be said ... it's BIG! :)

Australian Booties

Australian Booties, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Wait, I lied ... earlier I said that the multi-photo card was my favorite ... but, as a mother, I have to say this card actually ties for first! This scene is so adorable, so precious ... and my kids got a good giggle out of seeing the little kid booties :)

Down Under on Top

Down Under on Top, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

It's funny how countries at the "bottom" of the map like to flip things so that they can see themselves "on top." Actually, who says that it's not really this way anyway ... and we're all upside down? :)

Australian Road Signs

Australian Road Signs, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Now this is TOO COOL. Imagine driving down the road and seeing signs like this? "What a rip-snorter" that would be!

Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane, Australia, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

My sister visited Brisbane for a conference ... and brought me back this (and other!) cards :) The city looks lovely ... I'd love to visit someday!

The Aussie Sheila

The Aussie Sheila, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Another card perfect for a language lover like moi! And I'm not crapping on ya!

The Outback Aussie

The Outback Aussie, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Love this Aussie lingo! I read the saying to my children and then a few days later was surprised to hear my middle child say, "He's flat out like a lizard drinkin'!" :)

Queensland, Australia

Queensland, Australia, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

This is like a heavenly dreamscape. It seems too beautiful, too peaceful, to be real!

Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville, South Carolina, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

Greenville is a little less than an hour away from our home in Hendersonville, North Carolina. We like to visit the Zoo there, as well as to swim and play in Reedy River Falls Park. Neat shops and eateries help make a day of it.

Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area

Located in the South Carolina Upcountry, the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area encompasses two state parks and more than 10,000 acres. The name refers to the two watersheds within its boundaries, the Table Rock and the Poinsett watersheds.

Caesars Head, South Carolina

Caesars Head, South Carolina, originally uploaded by CarolinaRen.

When we were up here, the breeze was KICKING something fierce, which was lovely on a very hot June day!

Wooden Postcard, Caesars Head State Park SC

Love the colors of this card, which I picked up yesterday when we visited Caesars Head.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

15 Memorable Books

"This can be a quick one. Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes."

(Note from Renae: This meme comes from Shelly's Bookshelf at; she reports that she got it from somewhere else. I know others have only posted LISTS of book titles rather than adding book descriptions, so you can do that, too, if you want!)

1. A Room for Cathy, by Catherine Woolley. I read this many, many times as a child and still remember it to this day. It is the story of a young girl who desperately wants her own bedroom. And as the oldest of four girls, I totally related!

2. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. Milo is bored, bored, bored with his life. Until one day, when he comes home from school, to find a strange package in his bedroom. This book dazzles with pun after pun after pun, such as when Milo suddenly jumps to Conclusions (an island). I've read this aloud to my children ... and think it's about time for another family read-aloud of it about now!

3. Mars, by Ben Bova. A young Native American's dreams come true when he finds himself on humankind's first expedition to Mars. What's that he sees? Could it be the remnants of a Martian society? Read it to find out! I bought this in hardback because it's well-loved and well-read.

4. Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke. Wow! The ultimate hard sci-fi tale. Someone is gazing through a long-range telescope when they notice a strange object whose destination appears to be earth. It's man-made. Cylindrical. Like nothing we've ever seen before. This is the story of the people who venture inside the mystery to discover a strange, new, exciting and frightening world.

5. The Incarnations of Immortality, by Piers Anthony. My sister Maria turned me on to this many years ago! From Wikipedia: "The first seven books each focus on one of seven supernatural "offices" (Death, Time, Fate, War, Nature, Evil and Good) in a fictional reality and history parallel to ours, with the exception that society has advanced both magic and modern technology. The series covers the adventures and struggles of a group of humans, called "Incarnations", who hold these supernatural positions for a certain time." I look forward to when my kids are old enough for this series, too!

6. The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis. A scholar from the year 2025 travels back in time to what she thinks is the period right before the Black Death pummeled Europe. But something goes wrong and she winds up arriving in the village only two weeks before the plaque hits—and she doesn’t know it until people start dying. This book opened my eyes to the fact that people throughout the centuries were people just like me—they laughed, they cried, they lived, they died. It also shed light on a fascinating era I knew little about. Because Willis has a way of making you really connect and care for the characters, it’s hard not to feel for and with them—which is why I’ve read this book many times.

7. The Lost Race of Mars, by Robert Silverberg. This was the first science fiction tale I’d ever read, a story about a brother and sister who have to go to Mars to live because their parents are scientists who get stationed there. The children must give up their beloved dog, fight prejudice (they’re only Earthlings, not real “Martians” like the children born on Mars), and learn to live on Martian time. And to make the story really interesting, they also discover the very thing their parents are studying: living aliens, true Martians, what people considered “the lost race of Mars.”

8. Passage, by Connie Willis. Passage explores near death experiences through the eyes and experiments of two scientists. It is most memorable because the haunted, desperate desire to “know” and “understand” experienced by the protagonist became real to me as reader; the feeling builds during the reading and lingers for days after. In fact, I picked up Passage again not because I remembered the story, but because I remembered that feeling and I wanted to experience it again.

9. Believe That I Am Here: The Notebooks of Nicole Gausseron. In these writings, translated from French, a Catholic woman living in Chartres, France records her conversations and experiences with Jesus over a several-year period. This moving, thought-provoking three-part series is a permanent part of my collection.

10. Fine Things, by Danielle Steele. I confess: I love a good Danielle Steele novel, which I can usually gobble down in a few hours. This one, though, about a husband who finds and then loses love, is a heart-breaker; I've read it many many times -- and I always cry! Maybe that's part of the charm!

11. Daddy, by Danielle Steele. My next-best DS novel, also about love but this time lost and found.
12. The Mother Tongue, English and How it Got That Way, by Bill Bryson. Given to me as a gift from my college English professor.
13. The Elegant Universe, by Bryan Greene. A look at string theory, M-theory and other quantum mysteries for the layperson.
14. This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti. Opened my eyes to possibility of a spiritual reality unfolding all around us, impacting us yet unseen.
15. Hinds Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard. A Christian allegory about a girl named Much Afraid who travels to High Places, meeting many others along the way, including cousin Pride, Mrs. Valiant, Mercy, Peace and others.

What are yours?