American Girl has a new World Traveller collection for their Truly Me line. I don’t know if they created it because so many people’s travel dreams are on hold due to COVID-19, or if it’s something they would have produced anyway, but the timing is perfect. Even though we don’t have any Truly Me dolls, that didn’t stop us from ordering outfits for our historical characters. So we have Julie (1970s) in France, Courtney (1980s) in England, and Maryellen (1950s) in Ireland:
There are also outfits for Japan (which I’ve put away for summer school, assuming we actually get to learn about Japan during the Tokyo Olympics this summer), and Italy. I think this is a really cool new range, and I wouldn’t mind if they added some more countries to the collection. For a family who watches episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe on pretty much an endless loop, this is another fun way to dream of visiting new places!
OK, first of all, let’s just take London out of the equation. This is not just a place I want to visit…I need to go there, eventually. I’ve said many times that my heart is British, and my British heart is crying out to visit London. It’s simply not fair to put in on a “Top Five” list when it’s so much more than that. So, with that out-of-the-way, and in a category all its own, here are the “Top Five” places I hope to visit someday (yes, the list is again at six…but I figure it’s ok that two baseball locations tie for fifth place!):
- Florence/Pisa–Italy in general, and the Tuscan towns of Florence and Pisa, were not even on my radar before last year. I mean, sure, I knew that Italy has tons of culture and history and good food and architecture (which is really what I’m looking for when I travel), but there was no place there I really desired to visit. Enter Rick Steves’ Europe. After seeing all that region has to offer, it’s now at the top of my list!
- Canadian Rockies–I would love to take a train trip through the Rocky Mountains in Canada. And spend some time in Banff. Yes, I know, it’s pretty cliché, as far as Canadian travel goes, but it’s also, as far as I can tell from pictures, stunningly beautiful.
- Gimmewald–This charming little town in Switzerland is another place I hope to see someday thanks to Rick Steves. He visited there in a regular episode of Rick Steves’ Europe, and went back again for his Christmas special. Gimmelwald was charming and lovely in both, and I’d love to visit that Alpine town someday!
- Germany–This is a tough one. First off, when would I want to visit Germany? There are two main things I would want to experience…Oktoberfest and a Christkindlmarkt. So I guess I’d have to go hang out in Germany for several months? But that leads to the second question of where? Obviously, Munich would be an awesome place to be during Oktoberfest, but what about the Christkindlmarkt? There are so many beautiful towns that have their own version, I’m not sure where I’d begin. The classic in Nuremberg is an obvious choice, although I also really like the idea of going to Köln. So many choices…
- Spring Training–I love baseball. And the return of baseball, after a long, dreary winter brings so much hope. Plus, it’s often still dreary when spring training begins, so a trip to Jupiter to see the Cardinals put their team together would be most welcome!
- Cooperstown–Again, I love baseball. And history. And when you put those two things together, you end up in Cooperstown. I saw the traveling Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit when it passed through St. Louis last year, and it only made me want to visit the Hall of Fame more!
I don’t know if I’ll ever actually get to travel anywhere (but if I do, it better be to London, at the very least!), but I like to keep a list of the places I hope to go, just in case the opportunity ever presents itself! At least we saw the ocean two years ago, because if we hadn’t, that would have taken up a space on this list…that’s one location checked off!
Although the Sisterchicks series of books by Robin Jones Gunn has been around for a while now, I had never read one before Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes, and I quickly realized how little I knew about the books, so I have to address the series in general before I can talk about this book in particular.
First of all, I was worried that because I hadn’t read the first seven books, I wouldn’t be able to get into them, that I wouldn’t be familiar with the history. As it turns out, that isn’t a problem. After a little research, I came to realize that each book is about a different pair of friends, and the books aren’t dependant on each other at all. That makes this the perfect series to pick up partway (or a long way, like me!) in, because you don’t have to worry about not knowing the characters or their stories–it’s all new with each new book.
Second of all, I totally didn’t get that the books are centered around traveling. Now that I’ve look at all the titles, it’s glaringly obvious, but I didn’t realize it when I saw the books individually here and there. The unique settings in each book help to reassure the reader that she’s not missing pieces of information.
I was also a little concerned about reading them because, let’s face it, the main characters are old enough to be my mother. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the story, and really feeling for the characters.
Enough about the series in general, though–on to Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes!
Summer Finely and her pastor-husband Wayne have always taught their children “we do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do.” But when she receives an abnormal reading on a mammogram, Summer decides to throw caution to the wind and fly to Holland to visit her life-long pen pal, Noelle, whom she’s never actually met, but who she feels as close to as a sister.
Summer asks her husband to allow her to stay in denial about the potential medical crisis looming over her head, and he reluctantly agrees, so she sets off, travel book in hand, eager to get to know Noelle, worried about embarrassing herself in a strange land, and anxious to see the fields of tulips in bloom.
As she and Noelle explore Holland, they share secrets and heartaches, and form a closer bond from their shared experiences. Uncertain of what the future holds, one thing is certain–Summer and Noelle have their faith, their families, and their friendship to hold onto.
I really enjoyed this book–it’s interesting to read about life in other countries, the characters were instantly likable, and they were dealing with real problems and experiences. I barely even noticed the age difference between myself and the main characters (although, I imagine if I revisit the book in 15 years or so, I may find it even more meaningful). Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes has made me want to read the rest of the Sisterchicks novels, and now I know I don’t even have to worry about reading them in any particular order!