Travel to Kiev, and pray for the Ukrainians

As we follow the terrible news on TV and pray for the Ukrainians, I pulled my picture album and reminisced about my business trip to Ukraine in April 1997.

Located on the Dnieper River. Kiev (or Kyiv) is the capital and largest city in Ukraine with a population of three million inhabitants. It dates back to 560 AD and enjoys an authentic Eastern European culture.

Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) is on the historical boulevard Khreschatyky. It is the focal point of the Independence Day celebrations every August to celebrate Ukraine’s breakaway from the former Soviet Republic but it is also remembered for the Orange Revolution of 1994.
The Dnieper  is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia, before flowing through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea.

As the program manager for a contract in Ukraine, I flew to Kiev with three people from our lab in Ohio, and met with our Belarusian driver, Sergei, who had driven from Minsk, Belarus, with two chemists we previously trained on analytical equipment.

We spent our first evening in Kiev, strolling through the main avenues, discovering the city, and admiring the beauty of the colorful cathedrals with golden domes, churches, statues and monuments.

Marinskyi Palace that serves as the official ceremonial residence of the President. The palace lies on the right bank of the Dnieper River in Kyiv.

Some of you may remember the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Two explosions resulted in radioactive dust spread around the area, mainly to Belarus which is at 20 km north of Chernobyl and to Kiev at about 130km south of Chernobyl.

In 1997, my company was contracted by the DOD to equip and deliver a mobile laboratory to a military base in Uman, in Central Ukraine, about five hours away from Kiev. The two GC/MS—gas chromatogram/mass spectrometer—and other smaller instruments we installed would allow the detection and analysis of toxic substances in hazardous waste samples.

After a week of work installing and testing the equipment, I left the staff to continue the training and returned to Kiev to fly back to Munich, and then to New York. For my bad luck it was May 1st or Labor Day in Ukraine and Europe. Little did I know that the big avenues were blocked for a military parade with the President heading it. Sergei and I had to use the backroads. I had the chance to visit St. Sophia Cathedral and a fabulous monastery, but I almost missed my plane.

Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra, is a monastery’s cluster of gold-domed Orthodox churches built on top of a labyrinth of ancient caves. 
Closer view of the green dome church in the monastery.
Motherland Monument on the Dnieper River. We could see it from far away.
Saint Sophia Cathedral is a unique monument of
architecture and monumental art of the early 11th century having the biggest preserved collection of mosaics and frescoes of that period.

Kiev is such a beautiful city. The pastry is delicious and the amber jewelry out of this world. I bought amber necklaces, brooches, bracelets.

Pray for the Ukrainians’ safety and for peace.

HEAL MY HEART is set in Belarus. In a far away country, a baby girl, four little boys, and a handsome doctor may teach Dr. Jillian the true meaning of Christmas.

AMAZON

A Cross-Atlantic Cruise

Two weeks ago we heard on TV that the Iceland volcanoes erupted for the first time in 6,000 years. I saw these volcanoes in 2013, during a Cross-Atlantic Cruise!

I live in Florida and have always been fascinated by the ocean. My bucket list included a Cross-Atlantic Cruise —Yes, crossing the Atlantic and other oceans, the way buccaneers  and pirates had braved the high winds and raging waves. Think of Christopher Columbus on his way to India, crossing the Atlantic and ending up on the Caribbean’s shores.

We started our Cross-Atlantic Cruise from Southampton, England and ended in New York. From Southampton, we sailed north to Bergen, in Norway, a thriving North Sea Port where we visited King Haakon’s Hall and the Old Bergen Museum, an open-air museum featuring a collection of 18th and 19th-century houses.

Next our ship headed to Iceland, Land of Fire and Ice. We docked in a modern, spotlessly clean small city, Akureryl. The weather was warm for early September and flowers bloomed everywhere. One-third of the world’s volcanoes are in Iceland. Bubbling geothermal springs and richly colored mineral deposits reminded us that the center of the earth was closer than we would think. Some of the craters we saw were not true volcanoes but rocky basins formed when the hot lava bubbled onto water logged ground. We spent hours admiring the Godafoss or Falls of the Gods.

We continued to the West Fjords, nature splendor. We saw glaciers and springs, and winding arms of the sea, and reach Isafjordur –don’t ask me to pronounce it– where volcanic soil is fertile and productive.

Reykjavik  is the capital of Iceland, a gorgeous city, and a unique place where you find ice fields, boiling thermal unit, geyser, waterfall.

People swim in the Blue Lagoon pool all year round.

The Icelanders use their geothermal energy to heat swimming pools and generate electricity. Geothermal water is used to heat around 90% of Iceland’s homes, and keeps pavements and car parks snow-free in the winter. Hot water from the springs is cooled and pumped from boreholes that vary between 200 and 2,000m straight into the taps of nearby homes, negating the need for hot water heating.

On our last day in Reykjavik we visited a real Viking boat.

Leaving Iceland where the weather was far from icy, we sailed to Greenland through the Arctic Ocean and crossed the Arctic Circle. We met with freezing weather and real glaciers floating in the water. In winter, you can’t navigate through this area. Greenland is part of the North Pole inhabited by Eskimos. The people were friendly and hospitable, laughing with us and entertaining us with songs as if they were trying to make amends for the glaciers with their own warmth. For transportation, they use sleds in winter, and kayaks in summer.

At the end of a two-week cruise, the captain gave us a special certificate and the Statue of Liberty welcomed us in New York. Although the Cross-Atlantic was very different from my expectations, we had a wonderful time and discovered uncharted territories.

A BODYGUARD FOR THE PRINCESS

A princess incognito at Harvard. A roommate killed in a residence of 18 students.

Can Chloe trust her neighbors? Some of them are not who they claim to be. But they all have one thing in common. They’re terrified of being the next victim and strive to discover the killer while going around their daily business—attending classes, lunching together and dating, and even lying to or cooperating with the detective in charge of the case. Danger looms in every corner. Fear sizzles in the building.

Who is the murderer? Who will be the next victim?

Coffee for you…

Like many of you, I can’t function without coffee and drink an average of three cups per day. To reduce my calorie intake, I shifted from cream and sugar to black or with a touch of skim milk. In addition to my regular coffee, I often enjoy a variety of different coffee or designer coffee—cappuccino, mocha, laté, espresso, Turkish coffee or Greek coffee, iced coffee, and my favorite ice cream coffee.

We probably heard of the adverse effects caused by too much coffee, such higher risk of bone fractures, gastroesophageal reflux disease and anxiety, but coffee can also benefit our health thanks to its high levels of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients.

Here are the top 13 health benefits of coffee. *

COFFEE:

1. Can Improve Energy Levels and Make You Smarter.

2. Can Help You Burn Fat and boost your metabolic rate.

3. Can Drastically Improve Physical Performance: Caffeine can increase adrenaline levels and release fatty acids from your fat tissues. It also leads to significant improvements in physical performance.

4. Contains Essential Nutrients-  A single cup of coffee contains: Riboflavin (vitamin B2); Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5); Manganese and potassium; Magnesium and niacin (vitamin B3): 2% of the RDI.

5. May Lower Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is a major health problem, currently affecting millions of people worldwide. It’s characterized by elevated blood sugar levels caused by insulin. For some reason, coffee drinkers have a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

6.  Can Fight Depression and Make You Happier.

7.  Coffee appears to be protective against two types of cancer: liver and colorectal cancer.

8. Coffee may cause mild increases in blood pressure, which usually diminish over time. Coffee drinkers do not have an increased risk of heart disease and have a slightly lower risk of stroke.

9. Given that coffee drinkers are less likely to get many diseases, it makes sense that coffee could help you live longer.

10. Coffee is quite high in antioxidants. Studies show that many people get more antioxidants from coffee than from fruits and vegetables combined.

So enjoy your coffee and improve your health!!!

*Reference: Kris Gunnars in HealthLine

In most of my books, my heroines and heroes can’t resist the warm fragrance of a freshly brewed cup of coffee to clear their heads and help them evaluate their problems. Half a Dozen with Love is part of The Senator’s Family Series

Half A Dozen With Love

When a tragic accident deprived Tammy Fletcher of her loving parents at the age of nineteen, she pledged to take care of her five brothers and sisters, ranging in age from eight months to sixteen years. But she’s up against her greedy step-aunt who wants to get her hands on the children’s trust fund, and the CPS caseworker who insists on putting the children in the foster care system.

Dr. Jack Conan, the orthopedic surgeon treating the children’s grandmother, is both impressed by Tammy’s efforts to keep the family together and irresistibly attracted to the gorgeous and so-serious young woman. Determined to help her, Jack goes out of his way to solve her dilemma. Will his unorthodox solution only complicate Tammy’s problems—or bring her into his arms?

 

Come cruise with me…

It’s difficult to realize how our lives have changed in the last year. How often do you curse the CoronaVirus ? I do it more often than I can count. Probably every time I open my closet and glance at the gorgeous silver sandals I bought specifically for my April 2020 cruise on the West Coast, the cruise that we never took, the cruise that was canceled because of the pandemic.

Some people miss socializing, eating in restaurant, going to movies, shopping at the malls. I miss my cruises. I miss them like hell. Cruises are becoming the most common way to see the world and unwind in an enjoyable surrounding. My husband calculated that it was cheaper to board a ship from Fort Lauderdale and go on a week cruise than pay airfare, hotel, restaurants and entertainments.

Prior to pandemic, my life was divided into two parts, my life at home, a dutiful life spent writing, babysitting, driving the kids, cooking for the kids, inviting friends for dinner, and a carefree life on the ship, pampering myself, indulging in doing what I like, not what I was expected to do, visiting new countries, and far away cities, walking on the deck, showing up at the restaurants to eat meals cooked by the ship cooks, attending shows, writing new stories in a quiet lounge, playing cards with friends,… A useless, uneventful, selfish, boring life that I adored.

Now when I missed my cruises, I look at my pictures neatly organized in folders. I remember the special places with nostalgia and suppress a tear.

Would you like to travel with me around the world? I will take you on my wonderful ship to my favorite places.

In 2006, we started our South American cruise in Santiago, discovered a world of history and culture and reveled in the sights of Viña del Mar, known as the “Chilean Riviera.” We visited the authentic adobe homes once belonging to the Incas. We sailed to a Chilean Patagonia’s maze of fjords, crossing through rivers, steppes and mountains to the north, and observed a colony of delightful penguins, and continued to the Falkland Islands.

In 2014, we explored the East side of South America, cruising from Fort Lauderdale all the way to Brazil. We spent two days in Rio de Janeiro, ascended to the Sugar Loaf Mountain by cable car, and had a peak at the aerial view of Copacabana, the Christ statue, and Guanabara Bay.

Next our ship docked in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina. I fell in love with this European city that reminded me of Paris, and Washington DC with its monuments, parks, statues and architecture. We visited the VIP cemetery and the mausoleum of Eva Peron. Nothing beats the tour of the old city and the lunch in restaurant offering Tango shows. Here is a picture of my husband posing with a tango dancer.

 

 

BETWEEN BABIES AND GIRLFRIENDS is a romantic comedy set in Miami, FL and Buenos Aires, the special romance of Dr. Brian Dutton, a very busy American doctor, and Carla, the sophisticated, passionate and sassy daughter of the Governor of Buenos Aires.