Encore! More 2012 Blog of the Year Awards!!!

Hi friends,

In my last post, I told you all about the 2012 Blog of the Year Award, and thanked the dear friends who nominated me.   I decided to introduce you to my nominees for the 2012 Blog of the Year Award in two batches, so as not to overwhelm you.  Here is round two of my nominations for 2012 Blog of the Year.  They are all great bloggers, more of my followers who I happily follow, and it is my great pleasure to introduce you to them!

I wish you all the very best for the New Year, and look forward to another year of blogging, making new friends, hearing new ideas, going to places I’ve never been, revisiting places I love, and following your adventures!

Kate of Happenence has a delightful perspective, and will charm you with her illustrations and stories of her ‘tribe.’

Elyse of FiftyFourandAHalf is an excellent writer with a great sense of humor.  I really love her voice, and what she has to say.

Tita of Tita Buds’ Blog is a great storyteller, and a traveler, who makes me laugh.  I think you’ll enjoy her blog as much as I do.

Kasia James of Writer’s Block is all about writing, and that includes her new sci-fi novel The Artemis Effect.  When we’re really lucky, we get a peek at her adorable new baby!

Pablo of pablobuitrago365 is one of the most talented photographers in the blogosphere, and one of the nicest guys.  In 2012 he pledged to post a photo a day.  He completed his goal, but his spectacular work is still there to enjoy.

The Wanderlust Gene is a beautiful blog by a fantastic photographer who has treated her readers to an inside look at life in Sri Lanka, including a family of monkeys that sometimes comes calling.

Suzanne of Walking Papers Blog is a former newscaster who uses her considerable talent as a writer to blog about life, family, and her amazing mom’s courageous struggle with cancer.  Come here for inspiration and perspective.

Paula of stuff i tell my sister is a cheerful blogger who loves her sister, her family, and good wholesome fun.  You might be invited along on a drive in the country, offered a cup of coffee at the kitchen table, and sent home with a recipe for cucumber lemonade.

Francis of Niltsi’s Spirit blogs about a place where Frail Realities collide in a World of Hope and Beauty.  He has a little dog named Pumpkin, and a voice that should be heard.   He has asked not to be nominated for any awards, but I urge you to go read his About page, and you’ll know why I follow him.

MOUNTAINMEA has such a fresh honest voice.  Better yet, she is in her 6th decade of life and is still swinging around lamposts!

Knowledgeknut is a delightful blog written by a person with a sense of humor, who is a veritable fount of knowledge about all kinds of things you didn’t realize you wanted to know.

Crazy Train to Tinky Town is written by an adventuresome young woman who is a fantastic storyteller with a great sense of humor.  Hear all about her life in Turkey, her repatriation to life in England, and laugh aloud at the photographs–snatches of life that only she could catch.

Meg Travels is a top notch blog, all about traveling, and spectacular photographs of faraway places.  Very classy!

Judy of jayjaysfavorites tells of travel, shares gorgeous photos and some great stories to go with them.

Laura Stanfill is a novelist who has just published a non-fiction book, Brave on the Page, which is all about writing from the POV of many of her writer friends.  Her blog is a community service, a yellow brick road for writers who are trying to navigate the changing world of publishing.

Julia of Journey with Julia is a wise and gentle person, whose posts sometimes read like poetry.  Join her on her journey on a road that is sometimes bumpy, but she keeps putting one foot forward.  It is well worth a visit, and a follow.

Living the Seasons–I really like this blogger’s style, the photos of her family, her easy natural voice, and that she sees beauty everywhere.

Nae of Nae’s Nest is a spirited and courageous woman whose blog is about “dancing with cancer,”  a subject she addresses through her poetry.  I cannot believe the courage she displays in her battle, and I am amazed at the strength she draws from her writing.  I think you would find it thought-provoking and inspiring, and I think she would love to hear from you.



2012 Blog of the Year Awards!!!

On December 9th 2011, I wrote my first post for Writing Between the Lines.  I’d been told for years to start a blog, because a writer needs a social media platform.  I kept putting it off.  I knew nothing about blogs or blogging.  I felt I had little to say, and why would strangers want to bother reading?  But I took the plunge, because that’s what authors are supposed to do.   It turns out to be one of the best investments I ever made!

Through blogging I discovered a new way to tell stories, using photographs from my life and travels.  I’ve read so many great blogs, learned so much, met so many people, made so many friends from all over the world.   Some of these friends have nominated me for the 2012 Blog of the Year Award.  They have helped me earn my six stars, and then some.  Before I pass this award along, I want to thank these folks for nominating me for this honor, and tell you about what makes these bloggers so outstanding.

Jueseppi B. of The Obamacrat.com is a passionate blogger who has accumulated well over a million views in the last year.  He is a passionate man who speaks out for justice, champions many causes, but also has a soft spot for poetry and fine cuisine.  He was one of my first followers, and I have been a follower of his since I took my first baby steps into the blogosphere.

Maggi Myklebust of Flyawayhomebook.com is the author of  a memoir Fly Away Home, which reads like a novel.  She has led such an interesting life as an American ex-pat in Norway.  Her blog is many things–read about the writing life, learn about adjusting to life in another country, and get to know a very lovely person.  When she nominated me for this award, she mentioned that I was the first person outside of her family to leave a comment on her blog.  I thought surely she had been writing her blog for years, as it was so well done.  What a fortunate day it was for me to have stumbled upon her.  I hope you will check out her blog, and buy her book!

Anotherdayinparadise is written by a woman who has traveled the world.  She plays piano, shares lovely photos from her travels, and has home bases in three continents.  Her family is large and adorable, and I love the peek into that side of her life too.   She was one of my first followers, and I have truly enjoyed following her blog this last year.  I think you will too.

Marsha Lee AKA The History Gal is a force of nature in the blogosphere.  A retired history teacher, she is interested in everything, and blogs about all her interests, from history to quilting to travel to the pros and cons of a timeshare in Hawaii.  I have learned a lot about the basics of blogging, such as watermarking photos, from her posts about the nuts and bolts of blogging.

Eunice at Living and Loving is another blogger with many interests.  She posts about travel, jewelry and beading, birdwatching, trucking, and photography.  She is a very interesting person, and she writes an interesting, well-rounded blog.

Len Williams-Carver at myownheart.me truly does write from the heart.  Like most people, she wrestles with questions about faith and family, life and death.  She also shares her writing, humorous posts that highlight human behavior, and her take on the world.

Ivonprefontaine of Teacher as Transformer is a teacher, a poet, and a gentle soul with an open mind and a big heart.

The London Flower Lover is a team of flower lovers who are all about flowers.  Poems, photographs, stories that celebrate everything floral.

FIRST OF ALL…to all of the bloggers listed above, I say “Backatcha!”  Just in case you haven’t collected all six stars, I am nominating you for the 2012 Blog of the Year Award.  AND NOW… I would like to pass on the 2012 Blog of the Year Award to the following bloggers…I hope you will take a moment to check out their outstanding blogs.

Nikki of imayfly.com is an excellent writer with a fresh voice, capable of eliciting laughter and invoking profound thought.
Scilla of Scillagrace is another writer of exceptional talent.  She loves history and photography, but whatever topic she addresses, she does so with a grace and wisdom that inspires.
Jamie of The Poet By Day is one of the most talented poets in the blogosphere, with a depth and wisdom to her words that is often breathtaking.
Sarah of sarahpotterwrites is a novelist, a talented musician, and a poet with a fresh voice and a sly sense of humor.  Her mastery of the haiku is a wonder.  Now she is organizing a novel-writing support group to help fellow writers their first draft from start to finish this winter.
Grace of Czech the Flip is a Filipino mom married to a Czech and living in the Czech Republic.  I really enjoy learning about the history and culture of the Czech Republic, as well as snatches of every day life in another country.  The bonus: watching her little boy Jakob growing up!
Lisa at Zebra Designs and Destinations has created a blog rich with color and full of zest.  An artist, a traveler, a photographer, and an observer!  Now go check out her latest post on the hatching of a nest of sea turtles!
Carol of Wanderings of an Elusive Mind is a wise and gentle woman who lives her life with a grace I can only aspire to.  I like to go with her on a morning walk.  She might give you a tour of the garden, or a peek at the birds that flock to her yard.
George Weaver of She Kept a Parrot is another gentlewoman who has a way with both words and a camera, and  a great eye for a story.
Sabrina of Sabrina Garie is a mom, sci-fi geek, and an author with a fresh new voice and a great sense of humor.  Check out her blog for an excerpt from her exciting new book, Fires of Justice.
Madhu of The Urge to Wander has a classy blog featuring stories of her travels, and amazing photographs of exotic and enchanting places.  She has been EVERYWHERE!  She gave me my first award, The Leibster Award, which was welcome encouragement for a newbie blogger.
Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack? inspires a global blogging community interested in travel and photography by offering a weekly travel-related theme to which bloggers throughout the world respond.  Many of my favorite posts were written in response to her prompts.
Jake of Jakesprinter is a great guy who also encourages and inspires the blogging community with a weekly challenge called Jake’s Sunday Post.
Frizztext of Flickr Comments is a musician, a photographer, and a storyteller.  He too challenges his readers to contribute stories to his blog–everything from A-Z, one letter at a time!
Island Traveler of this man’s journey is a man with a heart full of love.  He inspires the community to think about life and love and family through a weekly challenge posed to a global blogging community.
Kourtney of Kourtney Heinz’s Journal is a writer who writes, attends writing conferences, and is sharing, step by step, the process with readers the process of marketing a novel.
Pat of  A New Day writes of living life fully with Fibromyalgia.  Get inspired by her strong spirit, beautiful photographs, and observations of life.
Tess of How the Cookie Crumbles will give you an irreverent view of life after 65.  She is a talented writer who will treat you to some striking samples of Flash Fiction.
Lesley of Inspiration Import: Lesley Fletcher Art and Words–Spirit and Soul says it all in the title of her blog.
Cee of Cee’s Photography is a great photographer.  She poses another weekly challenge, the Fun Foto Challenge, which attracts many participants from all over the globe.
Elizabeth of Mirth and Motivation is an intelligent blog that features great photography, poetry, and insight on life.
Elisa of Fun and Fabulousness for great photos and a great perspective.
Cathryn Wellner of This Gives Me Hope, a blog which always inspires, entertains, and makes me smile.
Winners, if you don’t have time to pass this on, that’s okay.   If you’d like to thank and acknowledge the friends and followers who have enriched your life and the blogworld this last year, check out this link for official 2012 Blog of the Year rules.

Never Too Late!

At our house we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, and we also give a nod toward the Solstice.  This year we planned to observe the Solstice with a bonfire, and burn twenty years’ accumulation of tax receipts in our firepit, but it never stopped raining long enough to light a match.

Eli and I told Christmas and Hanukkah stories at the Renton History Museum.  One cannot properly tell stories without feeling the spirit within, so we were primed for both holidays.

Afterwards we went to Farmer Brown’s Tree Farm to cut our own Christmas tree.

Then we went home to light the menorah.

 We had company this year, cousins of my father, the son of Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine.  June Aptekar Allen Smith and her husband Haskell traveled to Seattle from Texas to celebrate their first Hanukkah ever.

They played dreidel and sang the blessings for the first time, just as June’s ancestors had done for nearly two thousand years.

At 88 and 89, they are still fascinated by the world around them, by history, travel, current events, and the stories of strangers they meet in their every day life.  We reconnected with June and her daughter Leslie ten years ago, at an Aptekar family reunion in Tucson.  They introduced us to June’s niece Nancy and her husband Ian, who happened to live right here in Seattle, and who we now love like, well… family.

We compared notes and stories about our Aptekar roots, taking into account June and Haskell’s meticulous research, papers and letters from my mother’s attic, my Grandma Rose’s recently rediscovered autobiography among them.  Cousin Bryan drove up from Portland to represent the descendants of Dave Aptekar, yet another branch of the family tree.  We pieced together all our snatches and snippets and scraps of information into a more comprehensive family history, from before the pogrom of Odessa in 1905 to my great grandparents’ subsequent immigration through Ellis Island, and on to Detroit.

In 1905, the Aptekar family huddled in the cold and the dark, listening to the screams of horses and the crash of breaking glass, as Cossacks charged down the street, burning the businesses and homes of Odessa Jews, killing 800 Jewish men, women and children, and causing 2, 500 casualties.  Trapped inside without food or fuel for the fire, the Aptekar family huddled in their winter coats, and broke through ice in the water pail to drink.  With tears streaming down his cheeks, my great grandfather Jacob Aptekar chipped tiny pieces of sugar from the sugar cone to feed to his hungry children, promising them he would find food for them soon, while making a silent promise to himself to move his family far from that hateful place forever.  Jacob’s hair turned white overnight, and my Grandma Rose’s little sister Clara died in her arms.

Victims of 1905 pogrom in Odessa

Over the next two generations, time, geography, estrangement, and self-imposed exile tugged at the threads of the Aptekar family tapestry.  But more than a hundred years later, the descendants of Jacob’s children, Reuben, Rose, and David, gathered around one table for latkes, applesauce, and Hanukkah sushi.

Broken threads can be repaired and rewoven…

…and it is never too late for a happy ending.

All words c2012 Naomi Baltuck.

How I Survived Turkish Cooking Class

My specialty is grilled cheese sandwiches, with the burnt side scratched off and served charred side down.  If it’s really burnt, I serve it with wine.  Lots of wine.  But cooking is my son Eli’s passion, which is how I happened to sign up for a Turkish cooking class while we were in Istanbul last October.

Eveline, owner of A la Turka, is a Dutch woman who followed her bliss to cooking school in Paris, then to Istanbul, to open her own cooking school and restaurant.  Feyzi, her master chef, is an excellent teacher.  Surprisingly, he manages to impart his wisdom without uttering a word.

Feyzi  had me with his first demonstration on the importance of presentation, as shown below.

We were cooking a five course dinner–red lentil soup, stuffed eggplant, zucchini fritters, stuffed grape leaves, sweet cakes, and even Turkish coffee.  Eli was jazzed; I was in it for the two glasses of Turkish wine they promised us with our dinner.   I waited for a task fitting my limited repertoire of culinary skills–scraping the burnt crust off grilled cheese sandwiches, and popping the cork off wine bottles.  Peeling and cutting up tomatoes for eggplant stuffing fell to Eli and me.  We took up our knives and jumped into the proverbial frying pan.

Cooking is like magic.  You start with raw materials…

…wave your magic wand, or stir it with your spoon, to be more precise.

And abracadabra!  You have crisp tasty zucchini fritters!

When I volunteered to stir the eggplant stuffing…

…I didn’t know Feyzi wanted me to do it with my hands.

Next we took eggplants, peeled them and gutted them.

  Am I the only one who thinks this looks like a breeding nest of baby space aliens?

Oh no! They’re getting away!

Eveline suggested I use paper toweling to clean my hands, instead of my apron.  I looked down and noticed the mess of red tomato-gut handprints on my front.  Dang!  And everyone else’s aprons were spotless.   Meanwhile, Eli was sprinkling pistachio crumbs over the sweet cakes too far from the plate, and he was relieved of that duty.

I decided I couldn’t get into trouble if I took a job stirring the pot on the stove.

As you can see above, I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that my oven-mitted left hand had caught fire.  I did finally notice in time to save the hand, and the kitchen, if not my pride.

Eli says we were the ugly stepchildren in that class, but we did learn lots of tricks…like washing oniony hands in lemon water, or how to chop great quantities of herbs with a blade resembling a Klingon Bat’leth.

Among other things…

We were the stars of our own little cooking show, at least in our own minds.

We learned how to turn this…

…into this!

I also learned that I prefer white over red wine.  Nobody got killed.  And I’m thinking of starting my own cooking school.  Maybe I’ll call it “Cooking a La Turkeys.”

All images and words C2012 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinnertime.

A Peace of My Mind

Last September my son Eli and I went on a great road trip with my daughter Bea, to deliver her, an incoming freshman, to Stanford University.

Then all of a sudden Bea was at school…

…and Eli and I were back in the van on the long drive home to Seattle.

For our trip down, we’d booked nice hotels in advance.  It was all about our last hurrah before saying goodbye to Bea.  Maybe because we didn’t want to think about coming back without her, we forgot to plan the trip home.  We were unprepared, disorganized, and we both kept looking around for Bea.

It was after midnight when we pulled into Redding, CA.

We found a place that simple, but clean, and woke refreshed and ready to move on–from Redding, and from Stanford.  We were going to write ourselves a new story.

We explored a delightfully shabby gold rush town, browsed its antique stores, and bought some dusty old tomes.  Back on the road, Eli read aloud from  The Last of the Plainsmen, Zane Grey’s 1908 memoir of a Western adventure–about the end of an era and the start of a new one.

Perhaps inspired by Zane, Eli suggested swinging by Crater Lake National Park.  It was out of our way, and we didn’t know how far because we hadn’t brought a proper map.  We hadn’t been since the kids were young enough to earn Junior Ranger Badges.  I recalled Crater Lake as a one trick pony, with one view of a lake, gorgeous, but unaccessible.  If we couldn’t get there before dark, the trip would be pointless.

It was a gamble.

We decided to go for it.  We had a few ‘Where are we going, Carl?’ moments.  Like at a crossroads, where two roads both had signage pointing to Crater Lake. The sun was sinking, and we couldn’t afford to get lost.  I kicked myself for not stopping earlier for directions.  This was a remote wilderness, without even another car to flag down.

Do you believe in spirit helpers?   I took this handsome creature’s greeting as positive reinforcement.

Upon leaving the endless forest to begin our ascent, we decided that, whatever happened, the view on the way to the crater was worth the drive.

At last we arrived at the crater rim, with sunshine to spare, but not for long.

As the sun sank behind us, the shadows crept up the side of Wizard Island, until it looked like it was wearing a little sun hat.

While we looked down on shadow, on the far side of the crater, the sun still shone.

Our goal was to visit as many viewpoints as possible before we lost the light.

Crater Lake was not a one trick pony.  It was a Horse of a Different Color.  With the constantly changing light, the landscape changed dramatically too.

Each viewpoint highlighted different sights and inspired different insights.

Whether looking from a distance…

…or close up.

We were alone on the top of the world, awestruck by the beauty surrounding us, not just of the lake, but the valley as well.

Eli captured the color and detail of an alpine meadow in this shot….

…while I had to borrow back the camera to photograph the big picture…

Feverishly, we passed the camera back and forth.  Where one of us recognized the stark beauty of an outcrop…

…the other saw a sleeping lady, perhaps turned to stone by an evil wizard.

Eli and I discovered our new superpower…

We had learned to spin straw into gold.

Golden moments.

Golden Memories.

Peace of mind.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

You Rock

The Rock of Gibraltar is a monolithic limestone promontory so strong and sturdy it was known in ancient times as one of the Pillars of Hercules. It marked the end of the known world. 30,000 years ago one of its caves sheltered a little band of Neanderthals. In 710 A.D. a Moorish castle was built by the Berber chieftain Tariq inb-Ziyad, who gave the Rock his name. In Arabic it is Jebel Tariq, or the Mount of Tariq.  It has endured 14 sieges throughout its rocky history.  Against all odds, the British held The Rock against the Nazis in WWII.  It has proven such a stronghold that it inspired the saying, “solid as the Rock of Gibraltar,” and is used to describe a person or situation that cannot be overcome and does not fail.


It makes me reflect upon the people in my life who are as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, who I can count on without fail.

Thank you, Thom, my dear husband, for being my rock. In so many ways, you marked the beginning of my world. Thank you, Con, my dear sister, for the friendship of a lifetime that began with two little Neanderthals sheltering in the shadow of The Rock–but our little tribe has withstood the test of time.

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections.

All images and words c2012 Naomi Baltuck

Hot to Trot!

Last September the kids and I took the perfect road trip down the West Coast.  Travel is my passion, but my nesting instinct is strong.  Those two inclinations might seem to be at odds, but while exploring the  town of Ferndale, CA I saw this hot little vintage set-up parked on the main drag. Bells went off in my head.  Like Pavlov’s dog, I started to salivate, and experienced an almost uncontrollable urge to sidle up to it and polish its chrome.

Check out these digs! I peeked into the windows, and decided where I’d put my bookshelves, what kind of coffee I’d stock the cute little cupboards with, how many pairs of shoes I would bring, where I’d pack my kids into this arrangement.  And, of course, how to charge my laptop.

There is a time to make tracks.  I’ve done the seven countries in five weeks thing, kept up a wicked pace, and lived to tell the tale.  I’ve even spent months at a time on the road in an old VW bus, hauling a beat up Apache tent trailer.

As I get older, I want to stop and smell the coffee.  One day  I’ll take my laptop, and spend a month of the shoulder season at an Italian villa, a thatched roof cottage in the English countryside, or a log cabin in the Tetons.  In the meantime, this combo would be just the ticket!  I wonder if it comes in purple…

I’m an old dog, but I can still learn a new trick or two.   What a wonderful way to cover your miles, fill up your story banks, and crank out that next novel!

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Gloss

Click here for more interpretations of Cee’s Travel Theme: Vintage Cars.

All words and images ©Naomi Baltuck