Today’s Friday Reads post is about Inferno by Dan Brown. We are big fans of Dan Brown, we have read all his books including his first two, which are lesser known, Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Inferno is the fourth book that follows Dr. Robert Langdon, a professor of religious iconology and symbology, and was preceded by Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol.
Inferno was first published in 2013 and we bought it immediately. The paperback edition came out in May 2014 at which time Dan Brown gave an enlightening interview with CBS This Morning, which you can watch below. From it we learned that Brown’s father was a math teacher, textbook author, and was known to write codes to lead his children on a scavenger hunt on Christmas morning. Brown’s mother was a very religious woman who was also the church’s choir director. This explains so much about Dan Brown’s writing.
In Inferno, we are once again taken to a world that is dark and mysterious. It starts with a Prologue told from first person; we are to assume that this is the villain speaking, as is the pattern with Robert Langdon novels. Next, we meet a confused Robert Langdon, sifting through fuzzy memories and scenes that do not make sense to him. He finally realizes that he is the hospital, but has no memory of how he got there.
In usual Dan Brown style, Inferno starts with action and keeps it coming through the whole novel. We are taken on a wild journey through Florence and we also get a history lesson, another Robert Langdon novel standard. In Inferno, Robert Langdon and Dr. Sienna Brooks, his female sidekick in this book, must decipher a modified painting of Botticelli’s Map of Hell. The painting was based on the first part of Dante’s epic poem Divine Comedy, Inferno.
The pair collect clues along the way as to why Robert Langdon is in Florence and why he has no short-term memory. We also continue the adventure of what the modified painting and Inferno have to do with each other. In the end, Robert Langdon must solve the clues and save the world. As with the other Robert Langdon books, Inferno is very long (480 pages for the hardback edition), but with all the action and suspense it really doesn’t feel like it.
One of the reasons we chose Inferno for our Friday Reads post was that today is the American premiere of the movie version of the book. In the movie, Tom Hanks reprises his role as Dr. Robert Langdon. He is definitely the perfect actor to play him in our opinion. Tom Hanks is probably one of our Top 5 favorite actors. In fact, we just talked about another of his movies in Tuesday’s post: A League of Their Own. We have seen all of the Robert Langdon movie adaptations and we hope to see this movie soon. Here is the trailer, if you haven’t seen it yet.
Happy Friday and have an awesome weekend!
First, we’d like to mention that today’s post is our 200th! We love sharing our adventures and interests with you and can’t wait for the next hundred! Now, we are going to celebrate this anniversary with a post that is out of this world!
In our previous dispatches, we were visiting the East Coast and ended that trip in Savannah before returning home. Our next Woof Trek was to the West Coast, aka the best coast. We made a trip to Los Angeles and we drove up to Griffith Park.
Griffith Park is located at the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains and is one of the largest urban parks, covering over 4000 acres. Earlier this year Griffith Park was in the news because a beautiful mountain lion named P22 made a koala his supper one March night. P22 first gained fame in 2013 after Steve Winter snapped an iconic photograph of the big cat with the Hollywood sign for National Geographic.
The land the Park sits on was originally owned by Welsh-born Colonel Griffith J. Griffith in the late 1800s, who made his money in the California Gold Rush. He originally used part of the land as an ostrich farm so he could sell the feathers, which were a popular addition to women’s hats. He also tried to sell the land to home builders but no one wanted the land, so he donated it to the City of Los Angeles in 1896.
In 1903, after a heavy drinking session, Colonel Griffith shot his wife while they were on vacation. While she did not die, she did lose her right eye. He was sentenced to two years in jail. After he was released, he wanted to develop the land he donated to the city, but they rebuffed him and his money due to his criminal past. The rest of his life, he spent designing the park and investing in architectural designs for several building he envisioned on the land. Upon his death in 1919, he bequeathed his designs and money to the city. The city built the Greek Theater and the Griffith Observatory to his specifications.
A large monument stands in the park area in front of the Observatory, called the Astronomers Monument. There are six astronomers on the Monument: Hipparchus, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, and John Herschel. Atop the Monument is an armillary sphere, which was added in 1991 to replace a copper covered concrete sphere which had degraded.
We walked up the stairs on the outside of the building to look back at Mount Lee and the Hollywood sign.
Here is a closer view of the famous sign.
We turned around and looked out over the metropolis of Los Angeles.
The Observatory was opened in 1935 and has this stylish art deco entrance.
Above the entryway is this window protected by an awesome, decorative grill depicting different astronomy icons.
Upon entry into the Observatory, you are greeted by this massive Foucault pendulum, which demonstrates the rotation of Earth. (In case you were wondering, admission to the Observatory building, grounds, telescopes, and parking is always FREE!!!)
Here’s a GIF we made of the pendulum!
The main hall also has murals painted by Hugo Ballin which all have astronomical themes. One of the murals is on the ceiling of the dome and you can see the reflection of that mural in the pendulum.
Here is a picture of the ceiling mural painted inside the dome.
We had a great time nerding out at the Griffith Observatory and especially enjoyed that it was completely FREE and dog friendly! We definitely recommend it if you are in Los Angeles and are interested in space!
Have you been to Griffith Observatory? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments below.
This week’s Wordless Wednesday photograph is of a Female House Sparrow nesting in a Saguaro. House Sparrows are usually very flighty and don’t stay still long enough for us to take great pictures of so this was a pleasant surprise.
If you enjoy this photograph, you can purchase a print of it through our Zazzle store, where you can order prints of our other photographs as well. A card version and postcard version of the this photograph are also available. Happy Wednesday!
Tonight is Game 1 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. Technically, we don’t have skin in the game since neither of our two teams are in the series. Our teams are the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they were terrible this year, and the Washington Nationals, who at least made it to the postseason but alas, fell to the Dodgers earlier this month.
We visited Wrigley Field during a trip to Chicago, but didn’t get a chance to attend a game. It seemed like a lovely place and we enjoyed our time in a nearby store picking out plenty of Cubs paraphernalia. Consequently, we love the Cubbies.
That being said, we also like Cleveland. The Indians’ manager, Terry Francona, is a fellow University of Arizona alum, where he played baseball and along with his Wildcat teammates, won the 1980 College World Series. We have followed his career since his time at the Red Sox.
Baseball is not something that we grew up watching, but rather developed a taste for in college. However, we did spend a lot of time watching movies during our youth. Weekend mornings, we would wake up and eat our breakfast in front of the tv, watching either cartoons or movies. In those times, there weren’t 500 channels to choose from or internet programs to stream, so we had limited options. Movies were always being replayed and two of our favorite movie choices were Field of Dreams and A League of Their Own. Two great baseball movies.
Field of Dreams was released in 1989, starring Kevin Costner and the wonderful bass voice of James Earl Jones. This movie is great not only because it is inspirational, but also because it has some baseball history in it. We love the down on his luck, family man Ray Kinsella played by Kevin Costner who is also a novice farmer. While walking through his fields one night he hears a voice say “If you build it, he will come.” You can see this scene below. We think it is one of the greatest scenes of the movie and the tagline is so relatable.
Ray goes on to plow one of his fields and builds a baseball field. Nothing happens until one night he and his daughter see Shoeless Joe Jackson appear who then brings other players from the 1919 Black Sox Scandal to play in Ray’s field.
The other character we loved in this movie was Terence Mann, a radical author, played by James Earl Jones. At the time, we only knew James Earl Jones from this movie. We were too young for the Star Wars Trilogy and Darth Vader. Plus The Lion King had not been released yet. He is a wonderful actor with a very memorable voice.
The other baseball movie we enjoyed watching over and over was A League of Their Own which was released in 1992. This movie follows a fictional team in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The AAGPBL, however was a real league that existed from 1943-1954. During that time, over 600 women played in the league.
A League of Their Own has several stars in it, including Tom Hanks, Genna Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell. You can read this news article from Time that talks about a real life group of women who played in the women’s league.
The most famous line from this movie that we love to quote is “There’s no crying in baseball!” which was screamed by Tom Hanks’ character, Jimmy Dugan.
We hope these two movies get you hyped for the World Series tonight and may the best team win!
These days, it seems that the arrival of fall means the arrival of pumpkin spice flavored everything at the supermarket. Pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice cereal, even pumpkin spice lip balm. While some may bemoan this trend, we love pumpkin spice!
However, we’ve noticed that the homemade pumpkin spiced goods seem to taste better than many of the commercial options. This might be because when you make them yourself, you can control how much and which spices are included, tailoring the mixture exactly to your tastes. Commercial options are generally under-spiced for our tastes.
This pumpkin cookie recipe meets all the requirements to be a great cookie. It is moist, well-spiced and still tastes great after a couple of days. The twist to this pumpkin spice cookie is the addition of mini chocolate chips. The small size chips are great in this cookie and are, in our opinion, preferable over regular sized chips. The larger chocolate chips can take away from the pumpkin and spices, which throws off the flavor balance of the cookie.
Try this recipe out this week to celebrate a couple of food holidays: Wednesday, October 26th is National Pumpkin Day and Friday, October 28th is National Chocolate Day!
In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ground allspice, ground nutmeg. Mix to combine and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and both sugars.
Add two eggs and mix.
Stir in pumpkin.
Carefully add the dry ingredients from step one. Stir until just combined.
Add the mini chocolate chips.
Scoop dough onto parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake 9-10 minutes at 375°F. Pumpkin perfection awaits!
Are you passionate about Pumpkin Spice? Let us know with a comment below!
Happy Monday everyone!
November is almost upon us, which means that it is nearly National Novel Writing Month. If you have never heard of this event, the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. This equates to 1667 words a day from 12:00AM November 1st until 11:59PM November 30th.
This event was started in 1999 amongst a group of friends in San Francisco. It originally took place in July, however it was moved to November “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.” We have never participated in this event however, we might try this year.
We have created a FREE printable sheet to help you keep track of your daily and running word counts during National Novel Writing Month in a colorful way! Click the image below for the free PDF printable: NaNoWriMo Tracker!
As some of you may know, as well as being indie authors of three books, we are also sticker makers. We have an Etsy sticker boutique called Armadillo Amore, where we specialize in original, handcrafted fancy planner stickers. We have designed a collection of stickers to help you keep track of and reach your NaNoWriMo goals.
This weekend we are having a 25% off sale using the code: GRATEFUL! We also have cute Thanksgiving and Christmas Stickers up for sale!
Happy Saturday everyone!
We made it through another week and we need some songs to get pumped for the weekend.
We hope you have a great Friday!
After we visited the Outer Banks, we continued our journey down the East Coast and ended our trip in Savannah, Georgia.
One of our favorite cities we passed through was Charleston, South Carolina where we went to our very first Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Here is a photo of us near White Point Garden. We had to keep driving, but the city seemed full of southern cosmopolitan charm.
Savannah is a very interesting city and has a lot of history. James Oglethorpe travelled to the Americas in 1732 and established the Georgia colony for the British. His arrival to the south was important because he was an agriculturist and on his boat he brought several types of seeds to test on an experimental farm in America. One of the seeds he brought with him that was very successful was cotton, thus establishing cotton farms in the south.
We drove through the city and then stopped for lunch at The Pirates’ House, this restaurant was very intriguing. It is located in an old historic building that was built around 1753 as inn for sailors who came to the burgeoning Savannah seaport. The building sits on land that used to be part of the experimental farm that James Oglethorpe established. ?
After lunch, we wanted to explore with our dogs and the city of Savannah is very dog friendly. There are a multitude of Squares (24 to be exact), which are like miniature parks, in the Historic District that are all within walking distance of each other.
The first Square we visited was Chippewa Square. In the center of this Square is the James Oglethorpe Monument. The square was built around 1815 and in 1910 the Monument was added. The Square is named after the Battle of Chippewa in Canada where the Americans defeated the British in 1812.
This Square is also an important part of American History, as it is where a significant portion of Forrest Gump was filmed. The monument is visible behind Tom Hanks in every bench scene.
There is a replica of the bench at the Savannah History Museum, however, we didn’t get a chance to see it.
While the bench is no longer there, we did sit on a bench in Chippewa Square and that was pretty exciting!
We spotted this beautiful flower in Chippewa Square that we had never seen before. This is a Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica) and can be found across the south. It is the state flower of Alabama.
In all the parks, the giant trees are draped in Spanish moss. It was so beautiful, we had to take a photo.
The next area we visited was Forsyth Park. When it was originally built in the 1840s and was only 10 acres, but now it is a massive 30 acres. We only explored the north end where the Forsyth Fountain is located. The fountain was built in 1858.
Two blocks north of Forsyth Park is Monterey Square which was built in 1847 and is named in honor of the capture of Monterey, Mexico in 1846 by the Americans. The home of Jim Williams, of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, is located on the west side of the square. The home is known as the Mercer-Williams House. The focal point of this Square is the Casimir Pulaski Monument. Casimir Pulaski was born in Poland and was a revolutionary for both Poland and America. In Poland he fought for the freedom of Poland against the Russians and when their uprising failed, he took the advice of Benjamin Franklin and came to America to help the British in the American Revolutionary War.
This panel on the Monument depicts how Pulaski was killed during the Siege of Savannah. He led an American cavalry unit into battle however he was mortally wounded and the British won this battle.
After grabbing some ice cream at Leopold’s, we departed Savannah and ventured out to Tybee Island, a barrier island east of the Savannah. We arrived just in time to see the sun set which resulted in a beautiful scene.
It was incredibly windy and cold while we walked on the beach. However, the view and crashing waves made Tybee Island extremely memorable.
We hope you enjoyed this little sampling of Savannah. It is a beautiful city that we definitely hope to visit again. Happy Thursday!
Today’s Wordless Wednesday photograph is a juvenile Greater Roadrunner. We normally only see large, adult roadrunners in our area, so this was a first for us.
Roadrunners are members of the cuckoo family and can be seen as far west as California and as far east as Louisiana. You can read more about them and hear their castanet-like rattle and other unique calls at Allaboutbirds.org.
If you enjoy this photograph, you can purchase a print of it through our Zazzle store, where you can order prints of our other photographs as well. A card version and postcard version of the Juvenile Roadrunner are also available. Happy Wednesday!
The character of Doc Martin was originally born in the 2000 movie, Saving Grace, starring Vera‘s Brenda Bleythen, and former The Late Late Show host, Craig Ferguson. However, the Doc Martin of television fame, played by Martin Clunes, is completely different from his original big screen inspiration.
I first came upon Doc Martin while channel surfing. I saw a burly plumber resting and chatting away while his son fixed the plumbing and a man in a suit with piercing blue eyes and plump cheeks interrogated them in a rather rude way. The burly plumber was in no way disturbed by the man in the suit and the son was not disturbed by his father’s apparent slothfulness. Everyone was in their little own world; this was interesting television.
The plumbers turned out to be Al and Bert Large and the man in the suit was Doc Martin himself. But those three characters are only a small part of the big cast of Doc Martin. There is also Louisa Glasson, played by Caroline Catz, an elementary school teacher and Doc Martin’s long-suffering true love. Mrs. Tischell, played by Selina Cadell, is the town’s pharmacist whose zealous obsession with Doc Martin is apparent to all but her beloved.
Not to be forgotten are Doc Martin’s aunts: first Joan, played by Stephanie Cole, a farmer and later bed and breakfast proprietor through series 5; then Ruth, played by Eileen Atkins, a retired psychiatrist for the criminally insane whose dry wit adds a lot to the show. Both Ruth and Joan act as emotional touchstones for Martin, to whom social niceties and nuances are often viewed as irrelevant until he has a word with one of these matriarchs.
There is also the town’s policeman: Mark Mylow, played by Stewart Wright, in series 1-2, and then Joe Penhale, played by John Marquez, since series 3. Both police constables have a knack for incompetence at the worst possible moment. Lastly, there is Doc Martin’s assistant, played by Lucy Punch, Katherine Parkinson, and most recently, Jessica Ransom. The assistant is always a local girl whose big personality strikes a strong contrast with the Doc’s more stuffy and formal nature.
Doc Martin used to be available to watch for free as a perk of Amazon Prime membership and with that, I was able to watch seasons 1-5. Unfortunately, Amazon has since removed Doc Martin from it’s Prime list, probably due to it’s popularity. Luckily, last Christmas, I received the box set of Doc Martin from Costco, and Season 7 from Acorn TV before it aired on our local PBS station. That was a real treat.
Season 8 is set to air in 2017. It is supposed to be the final season, which of course is sad, but the show has really progressed over the seven seasons so far and it does seem it would be a good place to wrap up the series. The conflict between Doc Martin and Louisa can be quite wearisome to watch, perhaps because it is too much like real-life.
That being said, Doc Martin is a must-watch for any fan of quirky British television. It has changed my life for the better, allowing me to spend hours doubled over in laughter at the antics of life in a tiny town in Cornwall.
While we love a good hamburger bun from the grocery store, after a trip to Fuddruckers last month, we decided to try to make some hamburger buns of a similar caliber.
The brioche buns at Fuddruckers had a glorious sheen on them that you just can’t get from Sara Lee. Brioche is a French dough based on eggs and butter which give this bread a smooth texture and rich taste.
We made our brioche buns free form, but you can use a pan like this one to make the buns completely uniform. The buns turned out to be fantastic and although it is a two day process, it is definitely worth the effort.
Here’s what you will need.
Start by mixing the eggs, warm water, yeast and half of the flour.
Mix one minute, until smooth.
Cover bowl with tea towel and let rise 45 minutes. Mixture will have risen slightly and have lots of little bubbles on the surface.
Add remaining flour, salt and sugar. Use dough hook to mix for 8 minutes on level 4.
Dough will be moist, don’t add more flour. Add cubed butter, a little at a time until it has all been incorporated. Takes 7-8 minutes on level 4.
Dough will be shiny and still moist at this point. Place dough into oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The dough will have doubled during its time in the fridge.
Portion out the dough and form into flat disks. Cover with tea towel and let rise 30-45 minutes until doubled in size.
Mix egg yolk and water to make egg wash.
Gently brush egg wash over the tops of the buns.
Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned.
Slice the buns in half.
Add your favorite burger recipe and top with delicious toppings!
It’s FRIDAY! Woohoo! We made it through the week and that means it’s time for Friday Reads. Today’s Friday Reads choice is The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery.
As you can tell from my previous Friday Read posts, I really like books about dogs. I initially picked up this book because the pig on the cover looks very dog-like, just oozing personality.
The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery is part memoir of the author and part memoir of Christopher Hogwood, the pig she adopts as a piglet. We join Christopher’s adventure starting as the sickly runt of the litter, and follow him all through his life until the ripe old age of 14.
Ms. Montgomery lives with her husband in rural Maine in a house that is over one hundred years old and has an accompanying mini farm. After they nursed Christopher back to health, he became mischievous and would escape from his enclosure. However, he wouldn’t just escape and stay home; instead, he would take a jaunt to town and thus, everyone eventually came to know him and where he lived.
I read this book while still doing my bachelor’s degree. My school work at the time mainly focused on cattle. I took this book as a preliminary education in chicken and pig behavior. Ms. Montgomery paints life with chickens and pigs as a classic pastoral romance. Once I got to graduate school, and I met chickens and pigs for myself, I discovered that Ms. Montgomery’s chickens and Christopher Hogwood were very unique.
My experience with chickens was, in a word, AWFUL. Montgomery’s chickens just chilled in her yard and in their coop. The chickens I met chased me, scratched me, tried to jump on my back and wouldn’t let me take their eggs. Furthermore, all the pigs I have met are noisy, flighty and not very willing to go in the direction you want them to go. Christopher seems like a saint in comparison!
I definitely recommend The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery! After reading it, my respect for pigs grew tremendously and despite my unfortunate real-life experiences with pigs since then, I still harbor a secret dream to have a mini farm of my own with a saint-like pig like Mr. Hogwood.
We started going on road trips with our pets about four years ago and were total noobs at traveling with them. Our adventures have taken across the US and we have been sharing them with you in our Dispatch series. We have also published a book, Woof Trekking, about how you too can road trip with your pets.
In our last dispatch, we told you about our adventure around downtown Richmond, VA, and the history of the area. We made our way to the coast and travelled south. We entered North Carolina and decided to check out the Outer Banks area.
The Outer Banks is a string of peninsulas and small islands that cover about 200 miles along the northern part of the North Carolina coast. We were intrigued by this area because of its historical meaning and because of the lighthouses.
Our first stop was the Wright Brothers National Memorial, located in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Wilbur and Orville Wright tested their aircraft on this land from 1900 to 1903 and eventually had their first successful flight on December 17, 1903. At that time, the nearest town was Kitty Hawk, four miles to the north; Kill Devil Hills was not established until 1953.
The Wright Brothers chose this location because of its steady wind. When we visited in January 2013, the conditions were also windy and cold – a very authentic experience.
The Wright Brothers Memorial Tower is 60 feet tall and sits atop the Kill Devil Hill, which is 90 feet tall. The Wright Brothers used the hill to perform many of their glider tests, including their most famous in December 1903. The dome on the top is marine beacon, like those seen in lighthouses.
The inscription on the monument reads: “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Another angle of the Memorial Tower is pictured below.
When we arrived, we were just in time for a Flight Room Talk given by the Park Rangers. We learned about how the Wright brothers developed their planes and saw a demonstration of how the plane for their first flight worked. It was very exciting.
After the talk, the dogs joined us (Dogs are permitted on the grounds if they are on a leash, but not in the buildings). We walked around in the cold, blustery wind. In the distance you can see the Kill Devil Hill and Memorial Tower.
At the base of Kill Devil Hill there is a bronze sculpture garden that depicts Orville Wright on his first flight.
Once we were done investigating the Memorial, we decided to drive further along the Outer Banks and down to Cape Hatteras. We arrived at the Bodie Island Light Station, but it was closed for the season. It was still quite an impressive sight.
We continued our trek along the ocean and it was slightly erie. There was no one around because it was freezing cold. It was peaceful, yet slightly spooky.
Eventually, we arrived at the Cape Hatteras Light Station. This lighthouse was also closed, but we did get the chance to see it lit since we arrived at sunset. In 1999, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse and surrounding buildings were moved 2900 feet inland to protect it from destruction.
When the buildings were placed in their new locations, they kept the same elevation and spatial relationships that they had when they were originally built.
We hope you enjoyed this dispatch from the Outer Banks! Happy Thursday!
This week’s Wordless Wednesday features Billy, the Most AMAZING Cat, lounging on a shelf, cleared especially for him so that he could bask in the afternoon sunshine. ?
This photo reminds me of the Just So Story by Rudyard Kipling called The Cat That Walked by Himself. It is a must read for all cat lovers; a reminder that you are just one in a long line of humans to be outwitted by the feline species.
If you haven’t read it, you can read it and/or listen to it at the University of South Florida’s Lit 2 Go website. I originally encountered the Kipling classic while perusing Cat Stories (Everyman’s Pocket Classics) at Barnes and Noble.
Happy Wednesday everyone!