Book Review: Felix the Comet by Cathy Coley

When I sent Felix the Comet for review, I was in the middle of moving halfway around the world and had a neglected pile of review books already awaiting my attention.  However, since it was written by Cathy Coley, a friend of mine whose writing I know I enjoy, I moved it to the top of my list, and it did not disappoint.

Felix the CometThis novel, geared towards middle graders, touches on the topics of astronomy and a young boy coming-of-age, as well as the serious and prevalent theme of handling a school bully.  Felix, the main character, had two best friends, did well in school, and shared a close bond with his dog Cosmo.  He was an enthusiastic and optimistic kid until the new kid in school began to single him out and bully him.

While he was trying to figure out how to cope with the bullying on his own, Felix began to bicker more with his little sisters and even push away his best friends.  Like many kids, he didn’t want to alert an adult to the situation, and he tried his best to handle the situation on his own.  In the midst of this stress, he stumbled upon an amazing discovery, but his sense of victory was overshadowed by the bullying he continued to endure at school.

The clock on the wall ticked louder every second. He just looked at the floor, knowing that if he got caught in her gaze, he’d tattle. And that was the last thing he wanted to do. It was just name-calling after all. It was stupid for him to be so upset, right?

What I like about this book is that the bullying and Felix’s reactions to it felt realistic.  Even though Felix’s discovery was a bit fanciful, it was also a fun component to the story that is sure to lure the interest of many young readers.  I appreciated the ending because, again, it had a realistic feel to it.  The bullying situation wasn’t “magically” solved, but it had a more real-world quality of Felix learning to open up to and accept support from those around him.

I have two middle grades daughters, and I will be sure they read this book.  Its topic is not only relevant for most any school-age child as well as their parents, but it’s genuinely a fun story to read.  It inspires the imagination while also dealing with the realities of bullying.

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Farm to Table Guam

VegetablesFarm to Table Guam is starting up a six-week pilot Community Supported Agriculture program which includes a variety of local farmers in addition to the traditional Farm to Table Guam program.  The cost is $300 for six weeks, which will include a weekly share of fresh produce.  The weekly batch will include at least one selection from each of the following categories:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Citrus
  • Herbs & Spices

In addition, one non-perishable pantry item and local eggs will be included for each six-week subscription period.  Tips for storage, information on nutritional value, and recipes will be included as well.

I saw the display table for this new program at the Mangilao Thursday Night Market last night.  They had samples of their vegetables, eggs, and fruit on the table.  The calamansis appeared very large and perfectly ripe.  The eggs were about the size of an average large egg found in grocery stores.  The various lettuces and greens displayed were dark and crisp with very full leaves.  They even had kale on display, which is something I miss from the mainland.  I believe the representative I spoke to assured me that everything was organic, but it doesn’t mention that in the information handout I received.

Much like the Community Supported Agriculture programs throughout the U.S. and Canada, you can’t specify your fruit and vegetable requests.  The produce that’s in season and fresh that week is what shows up in the weekly delivery, and it not only varies by season but often from one week to the next.  However, members will receive an email in advance to give an idea of what to expect that week, so that meals can be planned accordingly.

The deliveries will be available for pick-up at the Mangilao Night Market on Thursday evenings between 5:00-7:30, for those members who have signed up in advance.  The representative I spoke to indicated that they hope to expand to other local village markets.  If members aren’t available to pick up their share at the market that week, they may designate someone else to pick up for them.  The representative I spoke to was eager for suggestions and feedback at this early phase of the pilot program, in an effort to learn how the program might best be tailored to suit the needs of its potential members, in order to make it a success.Farm-to-Table-logo

For more information, call Farm to Table Guam at 671-647-0100, email info@farmtotableguam.org, or visit their booth at the Mangilao Night Market on Thursday evening.

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Saipan: Day 2

Saipan GrottoAfter spending my first day in Saipan getting pampered at the spa, I was ready to get out and explore some of the beauty and historical sites around the island.  I woke up early, grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed out in my rental car armed with a map, bottled water, and a wide-brimmed sun hat.

My first stop was Banzai Cliff, a somber World War II historical site, where many Japanese soldiers and family members jumped to their deaths in the deep rocky ocean below.  The plaques in the area explained that some Japanese soldiers felt it was their duty, while others believed they would be tortured and killed if taken as prisoners of war by the American soldiers.  In 1987, the site was consecrated by Rev. Teruhiko Kawakami, the third Reverend of Shikogakuen, and a couple of years later a monument was erected, in an effort to provide some peace for the souls who died there.Saipan Bonzai Cliff

Many other World War II monuments and memorials are found scattered throughout the small island of Saipan, including the American Memorial Park where the lives of fallen American soldiers are commemorated, the Korean Memorial, the Japanese Peace Memorial, the Last Command Post, the U.S. WWII Soldiers Memorial, the Veterans Memorial, the WWII Japanese Tank and Bunker, the WWII Air Raid Shelter, the Japanese Memorial of the Dead, and several others.  Many of the historic sites found throughout Guam and the Mariana Islands refer to WWII as The War of the Pacific because so much of the fighting, the bloodshed, the horrors of the war, and the battles that eventually began to turn the tide of the war took place in these small yet strategically located Pacific islands.

Saipan Bird IslandInterspersed throughout my stops at historical sites were adventures of a more serene and scenic nature.  I stopped to admire and capture in photographs some of the breathtaking views of jungle terrain, cliffs, and dramatic ocean seascapes.  I hiked down the steep uneven stairs to The Grotto and watched divers brave the treacherous looking entry into the underwater caves, wishing I had my own dive gear with me and could join them.  I took in the magnificent views from the Bird Island Lookout, back towards the Bird Island Sanctuary, turquoise water, and ocean-carved terrain.  I drove from the north end of the island down to the southern tip, admiring the splendid beaches, calm water, and tropical vegetation.  I watched fishermen bring in the afternoon catch and proceed to sell fish straight from ice chests in the marina parking lot.  Much of this beauty can be seen via bicycle or just walking along the stretches of bike and walking paths that surround Saipan.

At the end of my day of driving, walking, and hiking, I pulled into a nail salon that caught my eye.  It’s bright green store front and its name, Natural Nail Spa, beckoned me in for a pedicure and some relaxation.  To my delight, I learned that they had just opened their doors for a “soft opening” before their grand opening soon to follow.  They were offering 50% off their already reasonably priced menu of services.  I was greeted by the owner herself, Merle Hudkins, and learned that they specialize in products with less of the harsh chemicals found in most nail salons.  The salon itself smelled of lavender and tropical flowers, rather than the typical acidic chemical fumes that usually accompany nail salons.  I opted for a spa pedicure with a salt scrub and choice of aromatherapy scents.  As I sipped my complimentary tea and relaxed, my only regret was that I didn’t have time for a manicure as well.  They also offer free WiFi, which is always a perk that I seek out when I travel, though on this particular afternoon I chose to read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane to top off my little escape.

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Saipan: Day 1

Fiesta ResortYesterday, my family and I got up before sunrise to try to catch a flight to Saipan.  Since we travel standby, it’s often a hit-or-miss game.  There was only one seat left, and my husband told me to take it.  He told me to enjoy some “me” time alone in Saipan, and he and the kids would follow on the evening flight.

After the short flight, approximately 30 minutes, I landed in Saipan and picked up my rental car.  I drove to the Fiesta Resort, but my room wasn’t ready that early in the morning, so I explored around the many shops and restaurants within walking distance.  I ate a breakfast burrito at the Cafe at the Park at a table on the front patio, while taking advantage of their free WiFi.

I stumbled upon a beautiful spa right across the street from the hotel, the Hanamitsu Spa.  The prices were slightly lower than the spa at the hotel, and the staff was very friendly and welcoming, yet not pushy, when I was looking at the spa menu.  I opted for a reasonably priced combination treatment that included a choice of body massage, a choice of foot massage, and a choice of a body wrap or scrub.  I asked if they could substitute a facial for the body wrap, and they were able to accommodate me.  It turned out to be one of the best facials I’ve ever had with an amazing peppermint peel at the end that left my skin glowing and helped the dark circles under my eyes.  I left feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.  My hotel room was ready by the time my spa day was complete.  I took a little power nap and then went out to grab some dinner.Saipan Dinner

While I was getting pampered, my husband was at home with the kids, putting them to work doing chores such as sweeping the house, washing the car, and giving the dog a bath.  As a reward for their hard work, he took them to the arcade afterward, and then they headed back to the airport to try for the evening flight to Saipan.  Unfortunately, they didn’t get on that flight either, and the loads for the next morning looked pretty ugly.  They decided to call it a night and head to the Mangilao Night Market.  The kids were troopers, as they always are, even when stand-by travel doesn’t go our way.  Daddy always makes everything fun.  He decided to stay home with the kids, oversee their home school work, take our youngest daughter to her Friday art class and our oldest daughter to her Friday surf lesson, and encouraged me to stay one more day for a “Momcation.”  Yes, I know how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful man for a husband and the father of my children.  I am grateful everyday!Fiesta Resort Saipan sunset

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Hemispheres Magazine Article: “Three Perfect Days in Guam”

Guam coverWhen I got on a plane this morning, I glanced at the United Hemispheres magazine and was delighted to see the article featured on the cover, “Three Perfect Days in Guam: The Next Pacific Hot Spot?”  The article featured several of my new favorite places and also listed a few I have yet to explore.

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Taking a Tumble

Have I ever mentioned how clumsy I can be? I seem to have a habit of falling down stairs.  Someone once referred to me as the most graceful yet klutzy person on earth.  That comment was made in college, after I left a second floor dance studio where we were rehearsing a performance I had choreographed with 20 dancers, only to fall down the stairs outside the studio.

I don’t know what we were thinking moving into a house with three levels!  We’ve been here one month, and I’ve already taken my first tumble down the tiled stairs.  My husband was away at the time, but my two daughters heard the commotion and came running, one with an ice pack and the other with Bactine and a box of band-aids, the same things I use to doctor up their boo-boos.

Nothing was broken, just a couple of bruises and strained muscles.  The heroes of the day were my eight-year-old and eleven-year-old daughters, who not only tended to my injuries with loving care but then got dinner on the table and cleaned up afterwards.  My oldest even took the laundry out of the dryer, folded it and put everything away before bed, without being asked.  By the time my husband got home from his trip, the dishes were done, the house was fairly clean, and we were all safely in bed.

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Daughter’s First Surf Competition

TalofofoMy 11-year-old daughter has been taking surf lessons for three weeks, and she participated in her first surf competition yesterday.  Sponsored by Lotus Surf Shop, this competition for women and kids took place at Guam’s Talofofo Bay.  She competed against other girls her age, all of whom had been surfing and competing for a couple of years.  The girls in her heat were so friendly, welcoming her, showing her the ropes, and helping her wax her new board.  The other parents helped us out too.  It’s such an amazing community!First Surf Comp

The real stars of the day were her coaches, Joe and Demi of Hui Nalu and Stonemoneysurf, who got in the water and cheered her and all their other students on every step of the way.  The minute they showed up, my daughter’s anxiety eased.  Not only was it her first competition, but it was also her first time using her new board and her first time surfing in the ocean rather than the wave pool.  She got right out there, surfed with all her heart, and had so much fun.  Before we left, she was (in her own words) ready to “butter me up so I’d take her back to the beach this week for more practice.”

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