Speaking Through the Lens of Affluence – A Wonderful Life?

“I’ve had every kind of rotten job you can imagine growing up and getting myself through school,” said speaker of the house, John Boehner on TV’s 60 minutes, “and I wouldn’t have had a chance at half those jobs if the federal government had kept imposing higher minimum wage. Low income jobs help people get skills and they can climb the economic ladder.”empty pockets

Really? What about the thousands of people who can only qualify for a minimum wage job because of the oppressive hand of poverty, lack of education, family support or disability? Should they be forced to live in squalor or remain in poverty so that more advantaged people can ‘get skills’ and ‘climb the economic ladder’?

homeless man

Should those same ‘ladder climbers’ have to share a couch at a friends house or sleep in their car while they are gaining those skills? Are we as a people so married to our cheap fast food and clothing that we refuse to allow a few pennies rise in the price of that hamburger or pair of jeans so that those who flip that burger, clean those public restrooms and stock the store shelves be given the hard earned right to decent housing and food –no matter their reason or need for working that minimum wage job?

As Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, from the film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” said to stone hearted banker, Mr. Potter, about the everyman in their town “they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?” 

Utterings, such as those by Mr Boehner–  when spoken by people who never lived life without the safety net of family and friends display, at best, ignorance–at worst a repugnant arrogance.

However, Mr Boehner did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth, as you might suspect. Second of twelve children, parents who slept on a pull out couch, modest one bath two bedroom family home, he took seven years to work his way through college. His siblings are blue collar, most still living in the same Ohio small town. He worked hard to climb that ladder.

So why do people who have experienced financial challenges expect everyone to be able to ‘pull themselves up by the bootstraps’? What hardens their heart or averts their eye from the huge numbers of everyday people who, though no fault of their own, find the challenges insurmountable? And why do they think it is somehow beneficial to anyone to allow the upwardly mobile path to remain more difficult than it needs to be—could be— be given a living wage, if those struggling were afforded those ‘couple of decent rooms and a bath’?


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The Timeless Power and Truth of ‘Selma’

I had the honor of attending a screening of the new film, Selma, last night. David Oyelowo is mesmerizing as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Director Ava DuVernay’s powerful and passionately crafted film .

Brilliantly acted, never pious, the humanizing of Martin Luther King without detracting from his timeless greatness make Selma a must see, especially for those who did not live this recent history. That said, Selma is not a biopic of the late Dr. King, rather a look at a pivotal three month span of time in 1964. The chilling blatant racism of the white power structure of the time is forcefully transcended by the raw courage of the everyday people that put their lives on the line in the only way toward meaningful change–non violence– remaining a lesson for our times and generations to come.

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant, most notably in certain areas of the south, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, their efforts culminating in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Do not miss this.


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Glasgow Autumn

DSCN3349From a fabulous bubbly and fruit send off, to soaring over the verdant patchwork of the English countryside, DSCN3355to a quick plane change at Gatwick airport just outside London, my arrival in Glasgow was the culmination of many months of anticipation. Both my friend, Viv, and I had many moments of wondering if finances would fall in place and our health cooperate, but on October 20th we finally met.


Viv took a cab to the airport and escorted me to the West End where her adorable Victorian flat in nestled on a hill just above Glasgow’s Great Western Highway and Byres Road. The neighbourhood is a short stroll away from the gorgeous Botanic Gardens and DSCN3408 DSCN3365Kelvin River. Miles of paved walkway parallel the water. In late October, an autumnal splash of colour paints the trees.

The Kelvin walkway along the river of the same name is welcome respite in bustling Glasgow. Bright autumn foliage and the shush of rushing water soothe.


Ashton Lane’s famous Ubiquitous Chip graces the entrance to this charming restaurant and boutique-dotted street. DSCN3398DSCN3397DSCN3395DSCN3496DSCN3510Along the high street grocers are stocked with Scottish fare ranging from dozens of cheeses, to sausages, Scottish Eggs and, of course, haggis.DSCN3457














A few subway stops away is City Centre where major departments stores lure customers with their gleaming interiors. Glaswegians gather to access some of the best restaurants in town. Downtown “City Centre” shopping pedestrian-only area is full of large name shops. Side streets trendy boutiques.


Princes Place is a beautiful multilevel shopping mall every bit as high fashion as any in Europe. “I Love Glasgow”—indeed.


It is the local shops that provide daily needs and are as charming as they are colourful. Yes, fishmongers nudge up beside cheese shops and pubs. The bakers and butchers live in the area of the people they serve. There is a true, old fashioned feel of neighbourhood.

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Glasgow reputation of grit, soot and working class is but a memory that has made the city strong and diverse.

A couple blocks from Viv’s flat is Glasgow University. Higher education is a Scottish right, enrollment free to all who meet scholastic entrance qualifications. DSCN3523 DSCN3530Architecture the stuff of Harry Potter and dreams, the campus impressive inside as out.


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The Hunterian museum is housed on campus, its Viking ship roof bolstered by sturdy iron columns. DSCN3688







Glasgow University School of Law hides on a side street.DSCN3677







DSCN3706 DSCN3705 A dueling duo I ran across under the ‘cloisters roof’ is something you may not expect to see every day.




Viv’s Victorian tenement’s ten-foot ceilings were the stuff of our disdain as we teamed together to paint her cozy living room. Redecorating is foremost on Viv’s mind as she strives to make her place truly her own.DSCN3581 DSCN3582 DSCN3583


Supermarket highlights include an amazing variety of breads and deli items. Produce is expensive, but abundant.DSCN3584 DSCN3585 DSCN3586
















We spent an afternoon in the City Chambers downtown. It has functioned as the headquarters of Glasgow City Council since 1996, and of preceding forms of municipal government in the city since 1889, located on the eastern side of the city’s George Square. An eminent example of Victorian civic architecture, the building was constructed between 1882 and 1888 to a competition winning design by Scottish architect William Young a native of Paisley. DSCN3632 DSCN3660 DSCN3654 DSCN3658 DSCN3616 DSCN3609DSCN3599 DSCN3600

Short days and long cold nights lent well to good conversation and film festivals at home. The days flew by, the best of which were spent with some of Viv’s family over a curry dinner. Thank you uncle Thomas and godspeed.

From humorous taxi drivers, to the firemen who arrived on our doorstep within minutes of a call about smoke in our close, to the girls serving at the ‘chippy’ round the corner (fantastic fish ‘n chips. Dare I say outshines London’s?) to a pair of street workers who sang to us as we passed…”lovely ladies”… DSCN3752the character of a people comes out in their everyday workers and interactions. Glaswegian accents vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, not all the standard Billy Connolly/ Gerard Butler variety. Some even sound very close to standard American. One thing remains constant across the board–the warmth and good nature of the people of this city by the Clyde.



My farewell dinner at The Bothy was a delicious Sunday roast followed by sticky toffee pudding. Wait staff wear kilts and every table adorned with heather.DSCN3738 DSCN3736 DSCN3733 DSCN3724 DSCN3723


The local pub, Curlers Rest, has been a fixture in Glasgow for centuries.DSCN3742              DSCN3761


Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world and a vast natural history collection. The art collection includes many outstanding European artworks, including works by the Old Masters, French Impressionist, Dtch renaissance, Scottish Colourists and exponents of the Glasgow School. DSCN3766 DSCN3768 DSCN3791  The gallery is located on Argyle Street in the West End of the city, on the banks of the River Kelvin. It is adjacent to Kelvingrove Park and is situated near the main campus of the University of Glasgow on Gilmorehill.

The museum houses Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí. DSCN3784

Natural history displays that speak to adults as well as children, are set low to the smaller set’s stature with interactive features and hundreds of amazing paintings make a visit to the museum a must.  Free organ concerts, examples of Macintosh house furnishings and the gorgeous paintings made for an awe-inspiring afternoon.


The sun made an appearance, so high tea in the museum coffee shop topped off the day with delicious sandwiches and treats.

Autumn in Glasgow–a precious month filled with color, new people, places and good friends. What can be said, but….







Posted in Scotland, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Book Contract–Wow! Or not?

Electronic books are growing leaps and bounds in their market share, but under what burden?


When an aspiring author works thousands of hours at polishing her craft, perhaps even receiving positive feedback from friends and family, she is understandably over-the-moon when a legitimate e-publisher offers to represent her work.


A book contract? Wow!


Much more than visions of sugarplums dance through her head. The potential of building legions of loyal readers, her own corner of the market, reward for all the toil and, the best pay, appreciation of her talent are only the beginning of her dream.


In the case of the vast majority, disillusionment is the outcome despite many more thousands of hours spent wooing reviews, social media, writing for blog tours, courting local bookstores and out-of-the-box thinking merchants to allow her to hold book events in store, money and time spent of designing and ordering swag, like bookmarks, postcards, key chains, posters etc, etc, etc….


Is the e-publishing company to blame?   No.


By definition, most new authors, whether e-published, small press published or big New York published will not draw large numbers.


So what’s an e-publisher, who may not have a big ‘star’ author to financially depend on,  to do?


They have already put effort, time and money into editing the newbie’s work, formatting it for upload to numerous sale sites, designed a book cover and added the book to their website. E-publishers have varying degrees of creative ways to get their authors work noticed amongst the thousands of new releases. Reality? The sheer volume of new books makes ‘discovery’ by readers more than an uphill battle.


It makes discoverability something close to a shot in the dark.


What’s an e-publisher to do?


Sell more books.


But how?


Each new author, even if she is lucky enough to have friends, family and colleagues who are willing to buy her book, may only sell a handful of books a month, mostly trickling off to one or two here and there, thereafter.


So…our well-meaning e-publisher, in order to pay her bills, must take on more authors. She must participate in the numbers game. She must sell books to survive. So even if that means individual authors make only enough royalties to buy a bottle of wine to celebrate, the e-publisher must rely on that individual’s couple of dollars a month times many authors.


This reality leaves most, even the best, e-publishers drowning in authors. It defacto limits the e-publishers ability to promote any one author. Not only does that mean it puts the burden of promotion in the author’s hands, it pretty much locks the new author into obscurity, no matter her talent, her passion, her promotion.


But don’t authors say social media wide that they ‘have to write’? They are haunted by the voices of their characters. They love the process. It is therapeutic, cathartic, impossible-to-give-up. Yes, they do say this. It has led to the formation of an entire cottage industry set up to help authors improve their craft, network, promote, learn the industry etc… These authors spend far more money on and in this cottage industry than the vast majority can ever hope to recoup in sales.


And all this is fine if aspiring authors only knew that this is the reality. This is the road ahead.


For the most part, they do not.


That dream of dreams—that readership, those fans whose lives are changed for the good by her words, and yes—the potential of making some money to cover her expenses, or more, are a powerful elixir.


Authors love their craft.


Readers love their books.


Only a miniscule percentage of the two shall meet.


And the e-publisher shall keep afloat by selling a few books a month by the many authors in their ‘stable’ to produce a bottom line on which they can survive.


And new authors shall receive the thrill of being deemed talented enough to take a chance on.


We live in a curious, bittersweet world.




*all images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net




Posted in Author Education, Book Biz, Book Cover Art, Book Event, E-books, Traditional Publishing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Veterans Day and My Father’s Eyes

In the sunset of his years, I remember my father lamenting, “World War II sacrifices are being forgotten.”

Courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

In the overwhelming tidal wave of information in our modern world, it can indeed seem that the fading echoes of history, even ones still within our grasp by way of the handful of living veterans, is in danger of being lost.

Dad became an officer and earned his wings at nineteen. The mantel of adulthood weighted boys like him in a hurry when they found themselves face to face with death and carnage.

courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Dad lost a crewmember in the Pacific theatre of WWII, to a piece of shrapnel that tore through the thin skin of his PB4Y bomber, severing the legs of his crewman. He saw the aftermath of Iwo Jima, dismemberment littering the landscape. His crew photographed from far above, the horror of a flattened, smouldering Hiroshima before even they were informed what had happened. They flew into the eye of a typhoon, something not yet done in those days.

Nothing has changed in present day conflict. Still there are those on the front lines—witness to the costs. No wonder the hollow-eyed gaze of boys turned too-soon to men is still reflected in the modern eyes of war.

courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

The rights so dearly won may at first seem ephemeral, but the absence of them unimaginable to a nation formed on the bedrock of freedom. These very concepts of human rights, dignity, liberty, fill the hearts of every American who has tasted the fruits of their sacrifice. It is on the backs of those valiant men and women dad thought forgotten, that we rest. Home in the bosom of free speech, justice handed down by peers, protection from the storms of any other’s religions or ideals, lest it impinge upon our own.

What would the world look like now had Nazi Germany and the tyranny of 1940 Japan run rough shod over not only our shores, but the world? Cold frissons of dreadful imaginings creep up the spine at the thought.

My grandfather was a doughboy, marching European soil in the “Great War” having left his wife of just days behind. It was four long years before his return to American soil, no doubt having witnessed the unimaginable. Could he have ever dreamed that the ‘war to end all wars’ would too soon lead to yet another, diverting the life path of his son from four years of university into the hell that is war? I can only guess at their anguish as they sent him off.

Those are the sacrifices of people who know the meaning and worth of self- determination and human dignity. Loss of the beloved youth of a nation is deemed not too great a price to insure the future remain intact for freedom loving men and women everywhere.

courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Today my daughter works a continent away from her roots and home in California in support of these same values. As a U.S. Marine officer she stands shoulder to shoulder with the best young men and women our country has to offer. Her father served in the United States Coast Guard in protection of home shores. They too were and are ready at a moments notice, to defend the constitution of the United States and listen to those echoes of the past when their father, grandfather, great grandfathers put everything on the line.

This Veterans Day if you see a service man or woman, remember to thank them for the days, weeks, months they spend away from the love and support of their friends and family in service to the larger family of their country. Thank too their wives, husbands, daughter, sons, parents who give up the presence and support of their sons, daughters, fathers and mothers to keep home and family running smoothly in their serviceman or woman’s absence. It is a lonely, often thankless sacrifice.

Most of all— never forget.

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Scot Toast Ta Ye

May the best you’ve ever seen
be the worst you ever see
May a moose ne’er leave yer girnal                         

Courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Wi’ a teardrop in his e’e.
May ye aye keep hale an hearty
Till ye’er auld enough tae dee
May ye aye be just as happy
As I wish ye aye tae be.

-Scottish toast

from Allan Ramsey the Isle of Ayr



*moose = ‘mouse’
*girnal = meal chest

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Dean Koontz and Canine Companions for Independence

I had the pleasure of chatting with author Dean Koontz Saturday in Oceanside California at the Canine Companions for Independence campus.CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 003CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 050

CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 004


Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. It is the largest non-profit provider of assistance dogs, and is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs, and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people. The result is a life full of increased independence and loving companionship.

CCI looks much like a college campus

CCI looks much like a college campus



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Dean is a huge supporter of this amazing non-profit. CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 037

CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 006His donations to date total over nine million dollars. From returning wounded warriors, to a child with autism, to a companion to those in scary situations, such as before testifying in a court case; these highly trained dogs change lives. There is no price to be placed on these miracles. But it all costs money, time and love.CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 020

CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 021





Dean’s latest book, Ask Anna: Advice for the Furry and Forlorn, is written by Anna Koontz, dog.

Ask Anna book cover

“My dad is Dean Koontz. As you might be aware, he is a writer. For years his first Golden Retriever, Trixie, also wrote books, which sometimes made the CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 022best seller list. I vowed I would never be a writer.CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 047

I barely have enough time for all the belly rubs, ball chasing, bird chasing, tug-of-war, and posing cutely that is required of me as a Golden Retriever. Nevertheless, I have written a book of advice for dogs. It’s not a matter of ego, which anyone who knows a Golden retriever will attest. It’s not about money, because I am paid in sausages. CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 048What it’s about is giving back to my community–which I feel obligated to do especially because of all the park grass I’ve ruined with little brown spots.”


Anna Koontz, dog


One hundred percent of what the author receives from the sale of “Ask Anna” will be donated to Canine Companions for Independence. And as Dean says…

“One of the best kept secrets throughout history has been the role that the wise advise of dogs has played in human affairs. Many of the most successful and celebrated would have been forgotten losers if they had failed to heed the counsel of their dogs.”

CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 038

CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 067CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 039


Some angels have wings, others have tails.

Posted in Animal/Pets | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Early Autumn, the Crush and Danish Delight

Summer doesn’t want to let go in California this year. Early October, central coast sweltered under a near century mark (Fahrenheit) on the thermometer, but the autumn fun seekers still visit the vineyards and charming towns.




White wine grapes have been crushed, but the deep purple of the reds still fill the vats at Beckman Vineyard. A small family owned winemaker, Beckman had the honor of being chosen as suppliers to the White House for a recent state dinner. As a ‘club member’ I have the pleasure of tasting every time I’m in the area and taking home two representative bottle of delightful product once each season.






































The nearby streets of Solvang attract those who love the Scandinavian life. 015Shops sell everything Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. Roasted pork and picked beets with a cold Bavarian brew are one of the features on the menu. Candy shoppes, trinkets to artist’s creations fill the shops.

Founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who traveled west to escape the harsh winters of the Midwest, Solvang is part of what was the San Carlos de Jonata Mexican land grant.  017The town is home to many quaint merchant shops, restaurants and bakeries; the architecture reflects traditional Danish style. 023 A  one third scale replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower or Rundetarn  can be seen in the town center.




















Coming home after a long hot day and playing with the pup is a perfect way to cap off a lovely day in the central California countryside.

030Thank you to my friend Donna for hosting us, poolside, at her comfortable seaside ranch home.


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I Dreamed a Dream

200A dream that money would not get in the way of exploration or happiness.

That there are just as many wonders in our own backyard as lie thousands of miles away.

That my imagination is at least as powerful as what is to be mined on Google.

That my ability to open my heart and mind to what another individual is saying; to take in the depth and breadth of their true meaning, not through their words alone, is the basis of all great storytelling–all great communication and relationship.

Image by C London

Image by C London

That I might realize the lesson behind my pain.

That the hidden treasures in the computer memories, the attics and cellars of creative souls might see the light of day so that all of us can be blessed and strengthened by the wisdom and magic of all artistic endeavors.

That pain and suffering of disease and illness overcome, might be allowed the path to teach all of us its lessons. That those so afflicted have the strength. power and platform to communicate that wisdom to those who have not walked in the darkness of that pain and suffering.

That empathy and compassion might trump knee jerk reactions of retribution and revenge.

That the love we receive have the quantum power to expand its influence.

That pettiness, bullying and other cyanid of the soul be seen for what it is: the pain and suffering of its perpetrators and not the intrinsic unworthiness of  its targets.

That the first commandment of life be kindness. Every one of us is struggling and doing the best we can with the internal strength and wisdom we have at any moment. Evil acts are perpetrated by people who have been wounded by evil. Only love can break the chain of evil.sun through dark clouds

That for each of us every tomorrow might contain more light than darkness both of our making and receiving.

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Glorious Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County Wine Country

The eastern side of the Sierra is clearly visible from over seven thousand foot Kingsbury Grade’s Sierra Ridge. The warm summer-like days dissolved into cool evenings when the Milky Way winks, a ceiling above.

View from time share bedroom balcony

View from time share bedroom balcony







Lake Tahoe’s Zephyr Cove has beach recreation as well as a jump off point for the paddle steamers and yachts that navigate the deep blue water.Lake Tahoe Sept 2014 035

Lake Tahoe Sept 2014 036










Paddle Boat “Tahoe Queen” and yacht “Blue Wave” cut through the lapis blue water toward Emerald Bay.

Lake Tahoe Sept 2014 070

The Vikingsholm “castle” nestles in the cove. Constructed in 1929 by 200 workers by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight as a summer home, some parts of the structure contain no nails or spikes, as a result of old-fashioned construction methods. Most of the building was made from materials found at Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe Sept 2014 061


Mrs. Knight is best known for building Vikingsholm, but she and her husband were primary backers of Charles Lindberg’s non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927.


Tiny Fannette Island sports a tearoom on its summit, both locales listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   Lake Tahoe Sept 2014 064






In the foothills of Tahoe lies a sprinkling of wineries a midst the famous Apple Hill region of Placerville “Gold” country. Award winning Boeger wines are on display for the tasting in a warm wood decorated room.

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The grounds dotted with old outbuildings, fruit trees and vines are set against a charming backdrop of golden hills, California oaks and pine.

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Just down the road are the apple and fruit farms of El Dorado County. A bit close for comfort, the King’s fire smoke billows into the azure sky.  

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On the east side of the Sierra just below the Tahoe Basin lies the old west town of Virginia City. Made famous by the television series Bonanza, the town hosts dozens of motorcycle enthusiasts this week as they ride the loop to Reno.

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The town’s St Paul Episcopal and St Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church were both built in the eighteen seventies using rich hand rubbed wood and Gothic style arches.  



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On the last day of touring, autumn blew into the mountains, bringing cold wind and rain—so very needed in drought- parched California and Nevada. It didn’t take too many miles drive down the spine of the eastern Sierra before the rain clouds parted and the desert dry chaparral baked again under the hot sun. Fingers crossed for a wet rainy season to come.Lake Tahoe Sept 2014 156

Posted in Travel, Travel memories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments