Ten Things to do in South Africa

Today’s guest post comes to you from Sarah Hegger author of Nobody’s Fool. Sarah shares 10 things to do in South Africa. Enjoy!

Author Sarah Hegger I’ve moved around a lot, even as a child, but I mainly grew up in South Africa, so here are ten of my favorite things from there, in random order.

  • Visiting the Kruger National Park and seeing all the animals in their natural habitat
  • The drive along Chapman’s Peak, Cape Town

Chapman's Peak South Africa

Click here for more information.

  • The Drakensberg
  • The incredible weather all year round
  • Lunch Bars (similar to O’Henry but so delicious)
  • Biltong (a bit like beef jerky, but so much better)
  • Jacaranda trees blooming in the spring.
Flowering trees Jacaranda South Africa

Photo by John

Click here for more info on the above.

  • The smell of the bushveld
  • An African sunset
  • The Victoria Falls (I cheated a bit with this one, because the falls are not in South Africa but to the north of us between the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe)

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10 Things to do in Houston

Michelle K. Pickett shares 10 things to do in Houston.

When I first saw the topic for this post, I immediately started writing about Michigan, which is an awesome place to visit. It’s where I was born and raised, so even though I’ve been in Texas for nearly nine years, I still think of it as home. So I can probably give you a handful of things to do without stopping to think… so if you want my take on Michigan, email me. ☺

Everything we do in Houston, or the area, is family oriented, so if you’re looking for fun, nightlife stuff… I got off that train a while ago. LOL.

So here are ten fun things, or places, in Houston or the surrounding area that my family enjoys…

  1. The downtown aquarium. It’s AWESOME. I put it first because I think it’s my favorite place to visit. I love going with my son, who plans to go to school for marine biology. He can narrate the different species of fish in each exhibit. Not only is the aquarium an incredible place for our family to visit (and eat. The dining room is beautiful), but it gives us an opportunity to connect with our son about something he loves… so that makes the aquarium amazing by itself.
  2. Okay, what list of fun things would be complete without visit to the zoo? We buy a yearly membership so we can visit whenever we’d like. We usually pack a picnic to eat on the lawn. Our zoo just opened a new Gorilla exhibit that’s really nice. It has a children’s zoo that is great. There’s a giraffe feeding area (love this!), and finally, the thing I love most, a bat habitat.
  3. Nasa! The Johnson Space center is located near Houston. We love visiting. You can walk into a real shuttle, feel a moon rock, and they always have some kind of exhibit that kids (and adults!) will love. There’s also a Tram ride through the grounds
  4. The Woodlands Waterway is a touristy thing to do. The Woodlands is just a little drive from Houston. It has shopping, restaurants, the boathouse, movies, there’s always something cool going on at the Pavilion and more.
  5. Sea World isn’t in Houston, but I couldn’t leave it off my list. It’s just cool. We don’t make it there often, but we have an awesome time when we do.
  6. Houston Museum of Natural Science has a little bit of everything, including a planetarium, and a butterfly exhibit, which is where you’ll find me hanging out and relaxing with the hundreds of butterflies and the awesomely cool praying mantis. The only thing that would make it better? Bats! Which brings me to number seven…
  7. Want to see 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats? Well, yeah! Every night bats fly from the Waugh Bridge near Buffalo Bayou to eat their fill of mosquitos. I love bats! Oh, and if you go early while people are still out and about, you can scare the crap out of them by making the bayou burp (Located in Buffalo Bayou, beneath the Preston Street Bridge.)
  8. The Children’s Museum is the first place my family visited when we moved to the Houston area. They loved getting to touch and use the exhibits. It’s a great interactive place to take your kids, they get the excitement of things like the robotic station, and you know you’ve taken them somewhere educational.
  9. Walk the Kemah Boardwalk. It has gorgeous views of the water, with awesome restaurants, gift shops, and rides. You can even see fireworks if you visit on a Friday night during the summer.
  10. Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is a great place to spend the day. You can even take your dog! It’s located on the western edge of Memorial Park. I like the birding classes they offer, too. This is a great place to go if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. The five miles of trails are free to walk, and include a pond, forest, wetland and meadow. The Discovery Center has hands on things to entertain the family, and is where my kids want to go. I like spending my time on the trails.

So there you go. My ten things to do while you’re in Houston. But I have one more thing that you need to visit: The Texas Book Festival, held in Austin each year. Yeah, I know it isn’t in Houston, but it’s an awesome thing to do if you’re a book lover, or author, or blogger, or kid, or… well, you know, everyone!

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Gillian. I really enjoyed sharing the things my family loves to do, and it made me realize just how great my city, and state, is!

Meet Michelle in person

If you live in the Houston area, come see me! I’ll be signing the Milayna Series at the Spook-tacular Book Bash, October 24th from 11am – 3pm, the Grand Palace in Spring, TX.

Bring your own books, or buy them there. I’m scheduled to sign Milayna and Milayna’s Angel, but if you have other books of mine, bring them and I’ll sign them too. Oh, and I’ll be holding a drawing for a HUGH prize basket with books, SWAG, and more!

Milayna Angel book banner

Milayna's Angel book coverMilayna’s Angel (The Milayna Series, Book 2) by Michelle K. Pickett
Published: July 7th, 2015
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Genre: YAm Paranormal Romance
Content Warning: Adult language and violence
Recommended Age: 16+

Synopsis:

Now that the battle with Hell’s angel, Azazel, has ended, you’d think eighteen-year-old Milayna’s life would take a turn for the better. After all, what could be worse than having the angel of Hell trying to steal your soul? Plenty. Abaddon, the demon of destruction, is angry that Azazel failed to convert Milayna before her demi-angel powers matured. Now she’s untouchable… or so she thinks. It seems even in Hell, there are loopholes.

Not only is her life in danger, but her love life is crumbling, too. Just when Milayna and fellow demi-angel Chay get comfortable on their little cloud of bliss, Xavier comes to town. He’s one angel that’s as hot as the very embers of Hell, and he has his sights set on Milayna.

Now she has the demon of destruction out to kill her, Xavier out to steal her heart, and she still has to take final exams before she can graduate high school.

Sometimes life sucks, even if you are half angel.

Purchase on Amazon | Add to Goodreads

Sometimes life sucks, even if you are half angel. #YA #Paranormal #Romance #CleanTeen Milayna’s Angel by Michelle K. Pickett

About the Author

Author Michelle Pickett

Michelle is the bestselling author of the young adult novel “PODs.” She was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, but now lives in a sleepy suburb outside Houston with her extremely supportive husband, three school-aged children, a 125 pound “lap dog,” and a very snooty cat.

Red Bull or Monster Khaos are her coffee of choice, and she can’t write without peanut butter M&Ms and a hoodie. A hopeful romantic; she loves a swoon-worthy ending that will give her butterflies for days. She writes across genres in the young adult and new adult age groups. She loves to hear from her readers.

Michelle signed her new young adult contemporary novel— Unspeakable, with Clean Teen Publishing in 2014.

Connect with the Author: Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Blog

Giveaway

Enter to win a bookmark swag pack, winner’s choice of any Clean Teen Publishing eBook, and a $15 Amazon gift card.

Giveaway is International

 

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Erika Mitchell on North Korea

Today I am joined by author Erika Mitchell author of Bai Tide.

Unless you’re like me and have just spent the last two years writing and revising a book that takes place in North Korea, you probably don’t know much about the famed Hermit Kingdom. That’s understandable. The country is the size of Pennsylvania, and the vast majority of the country does not have access to the Internet.

Throughout the course of my research, I’ve learned some interesting things about this terrible place and so now I share them with you. One of my goals in setting this book in North Korea was to subtly bring attention to some of the atrocities twenty five million North Koreans have to live with, and my goal with this blog post was to not-so-subtly share some things you may not have known. Without further ado, I present to you…

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About North Korea:

  1. North Koreans are only allowed to choose from twenty eight government-approved haircuts.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, North Korea is actually not Communist. Their official political ideology is called Juche, which was founded off the principle of self-reliance. Juche is the reason North Korea is cut off from most of the world politically, economically, and ideologically.
  3. Wearing jeans is illegal in North Korea, as is owning a Bible, watching non-North Korean TV programs, and distributing pornography. Funny enough, marijuana is not illegal and is not even classified as a drug.
  4. There are pockets of North Koreans working in Siberia. These North Koreans are usually forced labor because of offenses to the regime, and very few survive long enough to return home.
  5. Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, is known in North Korea as the Eternal President. His son, Kim Jong Il, is the Eternal General Secretary. Kim Jong Un, the current leader of North Korea, is rumored to have had plastic surgery in order to look more like his grandfather.
  6. North Koreans born after the Korean War are on average two inches shorter than their South Koreans neighbors. Chronic food shortages have led to one third of the country’s children suffering from chronic malnutrition.
  7. North Koreans do not actually call themselves North Koreans. The official name of South Korea’s northern neighbor is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They hold elections every five years, and there is only ever one name on the ballot.
  8. North Korea has the fourth largest standing army in the world, with a 1.1 million people in its military. This is because North Korea has a “military first” policy, wherein most of the country’s resources are allocated to the military first. If you live in North Korea and want to eat and wear warm clothes in the winter, the military is by far your best bet.
  9. Between 150,000 – 200,000 North Korean live in prison camps. These camps are surrounded by electric fences and prisoners are never released. You can be sent to the prison camp for a multitude of reason, and many of the prisoners are there because of perceived disloyalty to the regime. Prisoners are sent with their entire families, and punished for three generations. That means if you were North Korean and your grandfather was sent to a prison camp for saying something critical of the regime, your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters would all be sentenced to the camp as well and worked in freezing, starving conditions until you all died.
  10. Kim Jong Un’s older brother, Kim Jong Nam was arrested in Tokyo in 2001 after traveling to Disneyland using a forged passport.

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10 Fun Facts About Kuwait

Today I am joined by author Nadia Nader. Nadia was born and raised in Kuwait. She shares 10 things you probably didn’t know about Kuwait.

  1. The official name is “State of Kuwait” but most people refer to it as Kuwait. Kuwait is derived from Akwat (the plural of word “Kout”) and means “fortress built near water”.
  2. The national bird of Kuwait is a falcon. You can see images imprinted in many places and on many objects. Falcons are trained.
  3. Theonly make up a third of the population, a minority within their own country. The other 2/3 are composed of expats from all around the world. Kuwait has an interesting societal structure and international community.
  4. Family is important in Kuwait. Single men and women are expected to live with their families until they are married. Once they marry, that is when it is acceptable for them to move out and have their own place. However, due to high real estate prices and not many options for rentals, many families choose to remain living under the same roof.
  5. Kuwait is one of the hottest countries in the world with temperatures reaching up to 50 Celsius in the summer months. That’s 122 degrees Fahrenheit! No one dies during the summer months from the temperature but it advisable not to stay out too long to avoid sunstroke.
  6. Gas is cheaper than water. Petroleum and petroleum-products make up nearly 85% of export revenues.
  7. The flag of Kuwait contains four colors: green, white, red, and black. They symbolize “our lands”, “our deeds”, “our swords”, and “our battles” respectively.
  8. People in Kuwait are early adopters of any technology and trend out there. If something is new, be sure someone in Kuwait already has five of it. It was not a good time when cheetahs were trendy to own.
  9. Wives do not take on their husband’s name upon marriage. The name you are born with is your name from birth until death.
  10. Nepotism is a fact of life and “wasta” gets you anything you need to get done.

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Take a Trip to Rosoy France

Today Elodie Nowodazkij shares with us 10 fun things to do in the town she grew up in. Elodie grew up in the tiny town of Rosoy France. Check out the pictures below I’m packing my bags for a visit! Enjoy.

I grew up in a tiny village, about an hour north from Paris. And I love coming back home.  Here are ten fantastic things to do in my neck of the woods.

Discover Rosoy, the tiny village in which I grew up. Tiny, yes, but of oh so beautiful.

Things to do in Rosoy France

Have a macaroon from the local baker – I recommend the raspberry one, so yummy. Or maybe an éclair? Or a mille-feuille?

Macaroons, éclair, a mille-feuille

Visit Chantilly and his gorgeous castle…Have some Chantilly in the Hameau restaurant.

Chantilly Castle France

Drive to Vaux-le-Vicomte, the castle that inspired Versailles (I think Tony Parker and Eva Longoria got married there…it didn’t help but the history of the castle with his owner being imprisoned not long after inviting Louis XIV isn’t a great omen).

Vaux-le-Vicomte, the castle that inspired Versailles

See Pierrefonds, which used to be the favorite castle of Michael Jackson. Continue reading

Kelly Risser – Top 10 Places to Visit

Kelly Risser, Author

Kelly Risser, photo courtesy Clean Teen Publishing

Today’s Top 10 comes from Clean Teen Publisher author Kelly Risser.

Top 10 Places to visit from Never Forgotten

Cedarburg, WI – picturesque little town with cute, original shops. Annually, they hold Strawberry Fest the third weekend in June, and Harvest Fest in third weekend in September.

Wisconsin State Fair – held in August, you don’t want to miss the any-kind-of-food-you-can-imagine-on-a-stick, the rides, the music, and the farm animals, of course. Racing piglets, anyone?

Peggy’s Cove – this is the town where Meara and her mother move. A small fishing village with a pristine lighthouse and gorgeous views of the ocean.

Chicago, IL – Okay, so Chicago is only mentioned in the book, but this town has everything! Wonderful entertainment, serious shopping opportunities, and fun restaurants to discover.

Museum of Natural History (Halifax, Nova Scotia) – The Monsters of the Deep exhibit was only temporary, but there are plenty of other interesting things to see and do in this museum.

University of King’s College (Halifax, Nova Scotia) – Visit the quaint campus where Evan studied. See the gorgeous brick buildings with the statuesque pillars. Maybe you’ll even learn something behind surrounded by such high academia.

BMO Centre (formerly Halifax Metro Center) – Go and see the Halifax Mooseheads play, and cheer on Evan’s team.

Halifax West High School (Halifax, Nova Scotia) – While not exactly convenient to Peggy’s Cove, this is where Meara finishes out her Senior year. Walk the halls and wonder what it would be like to be starting over – new kids, new teachers, new everything, really – when you are almost done with high school.

Halifax Shopping Centre (Halifax, Nova Scotia) – While back to school shopping, Meara and Katie have a heart to heart. This is also the mall where they holiday shop, and Ula shares a big secret.

Aberdeen, Scotland – Sure you have to cross the pond, but Scotland is David’s home country. Wild and beautiful, Scotland is a not to be missed gem.  Continue reading

Spotlight on New Mexico – The McDonald Ranch House

In 1945, the first atomic bomb core was assembled at the McDonald ranch house in Socorro New Mexico. This is part II of my post on the Trinity Site.

The George McDonald ranch house sits within an 85′ x 85′ stone wall. The house was built  in 1913 by Franz Schmidt, a German immigrant.

On July 12, 1945 two hemispheres of plutonium were carried to the George McDonald ranch house two miles from ground zero. At the McDonald ranch house the master bedroom had been turned into a clean room for the assembly of the bomb core.

The windows were covered with plastic, tape was used to fasten the edges and seal doors and cracks in the wall to prevent dust and sand from getting on the instruments and tools.

Though the explosion was only 2 miles away, only the windows were blown out, the rest of the structure remained intact.  Years later the roof was damaged from rain water dripping through holes in the roof.

The barn, corrals and holding pens were damaged in the explosion.

In 1982 the U.S. Army stabilized the house to prevent further damage. The U.S. Army and the Department of Energy provided funds for the National Park Service to completely restore the McDonald ranch house. The work was completed in 1984 and the house looked like it did on July 12, 1945 (before the bomb testing).

This was one of the most interesting and educational events I had been on with the Meetup group. To be in the place where history was made and reading about all the events leading up to the actual event was beyond fascinating. I have learned so much. I hope you get a chance to visit this historical landmark. It is only opened twice per year –  the first Saturday in April and October. For more information please visit: http://www.wsmr.army.mil/PAO/Trinity/Pages/default.aspx

Now for some interesting facts and quotes.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Farrell said this about the explosion. “The effects could be called unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous, and terrifying. No man-made phenomenon of such tremendous power had ever occurred before. The lighting effects beggared description. The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun.”

At the McDonald ranch house when Brig. Gen. Thomas Farrell was asked to sign a receipt for the plutonium, he later said this. “I took this heavy ball in my hand and felt it growing warm. I got a certain sense of its hidden power. It wasn’t a cold piece of metal, but it was really a piece of metal that seemed to be working inside. Then, maybe for the first time, I began to believe some of the fantastic tales the scientists had told about this nuclear power.”

Dr. Phillip Morrison said (regarding the explosion), “Suddenly, not only was there a bright light but where we were, 10 miles away,  there was the heat of the sun on our faces… Then, only minutes later, the real sun rose and again you felt the same heat to the face from the sunrise. So we saw two sunrises.”

At ground zero, the elements emitting gamma rays, alpha and beta particles are Europium, Cesium, Cobalt, Strontium and Plutonium.

A one-hour visit to the inner fenced area will result in a whole body exposure of one-half to one millirem of radiation.

Trinitite is the green glassy substance found on ground zero. It contains several radioactive elements and is an alpha and beta particle emitter.

For additional reading material check these out:

The Day the Sun Rose Twice by Ferenc Szasz

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Vorm

City of Fire: Los Alamos and the Atomic Age. 1943-1945 by James Kunetka

Day of Trinity by Lansing Lamont.

Source: WSMR

10Q’s with Rita Mosiman Author of Serenity and Beauty

Serenity and Beauty

Cover by Rita Mosiman

Rita Mosiman is an accomplished classical vocal soloist, pianist and now author. I met Rita about 3 years ago on a Meetup hiking trip. She has the type of personality that makes you feel like you can do anything. She is a strong positive role model, yet has a delicate balance of peacefulness and grace. It is only fitting that the name of her latest labor of love is a book called Serenity and BeautyIn Serenity and Beauty nature is the accompaniment to beautifully written inspirational poetic prose. Read the full interview here.

Spotlight On New Mexico – Jemez in Pictures

Since moving to Albuquerque New Mexico in 2008, one of the things I have discovered about myself is that I love hiking. New Mexico’s weather is absolutely perfect for outdoor lovers; mild winters, 358 days of sunshine, picturesque landscapes and the biggest bluest skies I have ever seen, I spend as much time as I can in nature. Luckily I’ve stumbled on to a group of people with the same passion through Meetups. We hike in different towns most weekend. Oh yeah you can find fantastic hiking trails EVERYWHERE in New Mexico.

I’ve been to Jemez Mountains (pronounced HEH-mez) several times and below are pictures from some of my trips.

Highway 4 to Jemez Village

Highway 4 to Jemez Village

When you first enter Jemez via Highway 4, you are greeted by these towering red rocks.

When you first enter Jemez via Highway 4, you are greeted by these towering red rocks.

Oven

Native American outdoor oven

Soda Dam

Soda Dam

Ovr nght in Jemez (8)

Log Cabin

Log Cabin

Shed

Shed

Ovr nght in Jemez (1)

Hiking trail

Ovr nght in Jemez (3)

ASpens

Ovr nght in Jemez (13)

Ovr nght in Jemez (19)Ovr nght in Jemez (20)

Travel Tips and Technology

This year I plan on doing as many international trips as I can. I leave for my trip to the Caribbean next week so travel have been on my mind. Here are a couple of travel tips I’ve picked up that I thought I’d share.

Air hostess

Photo by Wallhunt.com

Hair. Ladies, if you have medium-length or long hair, always wear it up in-flight, so it doesn’t get that tousled spot where your head hits the seat. If your hair is a bob-length or shorter, make sure to spruce it up before deplaning.

Skin.  Exfoliate and apply a hydrating masque the night before your flight, apply more moisturizer than usual the day-of, and re-hydrate with mountains of moisturizer after the flight. Above all, drink lots of water; flight attendants consume over a liter in-flight. Hydrate and re-hydrate is key.

Source: Fodors Travel Blog, Trish Friesen

Ear popping tips

Budget Travel reader (and pilot) Mike Filippell says to avoid ear pain during flights, bring along an apple. When you feel the plane begin to descend (about 25 minutes before arrival), start snacking. The chewing and swallowing will keep ears in good shape. I plan on trying this with nuts since I will be traveling at night and my stomach is sensitive to fruits at night. I’ll keep you posted.

Technology to make travel more convenient.

VUUM – Smart Hanger by Beom-Seok Lee, Dong-Il Kim, Wan-Il So & Ki-Won Song

Dry cleaning hanger

The Smart Hanger is a portable garment care device that doubles up as a dry-cleaner. Volatilized air air-washes off unpleasant smells and kills clothing germs and molds without causing any damage to clothes. Ideal for suits, dresses, uniforms or outdoor jackets that are difficult to wash at home. Smart Hanger offers an instant cleaning option.

Napcabs

napcabsMaking your stay at the airport more pleasant and comfortable is the idea behind Napcabs.

Napcabs sleeping cabins are tailored to the needs of passengers. Located in departure and transit areas, passengers can rent some privacy, and make themselves feel at home between flights.

When you rent a Napcab you get a full bed and work space, 19″ multimedia touch screen TV with a choice of a variety of videos and music, flight information and alarm clock, internet access, air condition, a blind on the front door window and coat hook. Not to mention individual adjustable light settings.

Depending on the time of day you can rent a Napcab for about $13/hr. with a $40 minimum according to Deanna Cioppa via Fodors. Don’t expect to find Napcab in the US so far they are only available in Munich Airport, Terminal 2, Level 4, Gate G06
– Munich Airport, Terminal 2, Level 5, Gate H32. I think this should catch on in the US it’s a great idea! Thoughts?