After soooo many years of seeing photos and hearing about my dear indigenous Ethiopian families and friends from Nairobi, Kenya, Michelle and I made the loooong trek to meet and spend time with them all.

Walla, Dido and family
Buno’s AMA, her husband Shanko and family
Michelle with Buno and her oldest daughter, AMA,
Buno, Mark and AMA’s children
Buno’s daughter, Mimi, with her new son, Marco
Steve Turner, “my prince,” whom his wife so willingly shares with me and who takes care of me as though I’m his mother…in addition, he plans the most wonderful “trips of a lifetime” and they get better each year. He’s the owner and Managing Director of https://originsafaris.com out of Nairobi, Kenya. After 20 years, I still love traveling with him and often, he and his wife. They’re family to me…and now, to Michelle.

Other sights traveling on the Omo River…an extension of the Nile…

Shortly after a pride of lions killed a zebra and had had their first feasting on their kill, the vultures had their turn. You can see one vulture stuck his neck in the neck of the dead zebra to feed…and came out all bloodied.

Climbing up “Pride Rock” (if you saw THE LION KING) was a major task. It was a surprise for us so I didn’t wear the proper climbing shoes (not that I could have climbed such a huge granite rock without help even with the right shoes.) The view from on top was spectacular and the local Maasai people came to entertain us. It was a marvelous surprise and an incredible encounter!! Their dancing and singing were very special! They started singing to us from the bottom of the rock, then climbed up to be with us. (It was easier for them than for us!!) 😁
To see extra photos from each block, check out my Facebook account… under Abby Lazar

BOCELLI in BOSTON, December 2022

GREAT trip to Boston…visiting old haunts like Quincy Market. We stayed in a small boutiquey hotel across from the Market and around the corner from the T. It was easy to get around…and we even had snow! That and the availability of LEGAL SEAFOOD’s lobster PLUS another Andrea Bocelli concert (this time,, with his talented family) made it a perfect long weekend!!


Meeting Walla, Dido, Buno and our interpreter, Lesho’o for 1st time at border of Kenya and Ethiopia…we flew for 2 hours to meet them, they drove for 2 days. We were together for about an hour only, but they got to meet Michael and he met them!

We had been planning this trip ever since Emma and Holly, daughters of longtime friends Ingrid and Andrew DeBruyn, came to visit us in the USA. Their visit was a celebration of Emma’s high school graduation and Holly joined her because it would be several years before she graduated and we weren’t sure how our ability to host her would be years from now. They live in East London South Africa, but I met Andrew many, many years ago when he was our charter pilot in Namibia. Michael had chatted with them all on FaceTime through the years, but this was the first time he met Ingrid and Andrew face to face. It was an ideal visit…and both girls we’re home as well…Perfect!!

Before spending time with the DeBruyn family, we were in Kenya with other long-time African friends, Steve and Jayne Turner. Steve is usually my travel companion and adventure planner (as well as caretaker) and has been for more than 20+ years. Often, Steve, Jayne and I travel to new places to check them out before they offer the trips to tourists. Steve is Managing Director and owner of https://originsafaris.com . (If you want to take the trip of a lifetime to Central or East Africa, OriginSafaris is your best bet.) Here are some photos from our time with them…

I’m so thrilled that my life partner has finally met people that have been so important to me for so many years…people with whom I spend time each year, so far away from Michael. So grateful for the opportunity made possible and planned with so much care by Steve and https://originsafaris.com . Forever grateful…




*The Cloisters (an atmospheric medieval art museum …

*and part of the world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art) with its verdant gardens of lethal medieval plants and non-toxic plants…

*researchers of the Romanesque and Gothic periods with all the mystery and ambience of those eras…

*ambitious, dark academics doing the research…(including Ann)

*and, exploration in the field of divination, the widely used practices in medieval times to predict the future…

…these elements all worked together to create a winning combination for Katy Hays’ debut novel, “THE CLOISTERS.” It also became a winning combination for the grieving and troubled Ann Stilwell from Walla Walla, (having just lost her father,) who landed at the Cloisters for a summer internship. She found her colleagues’ focus on proving a breakthrough theory that tarot cards were not only used as playing cards but were also employed for far more mystical purposes, challenging, exciting and sometimes dangerous…especially when they uncovered a mysterious deck of ancient cards. What seemed like an innocent piece of history quickly became a dangerous game of power, ambition and seduction. With a tangled web of relationships at its heart, “THE CLOISTERS” is also a kind of coming-of-age-in-the-big-city” story.

Katy Hays has certainly woven a creative tale that ended in unexpected ways… I loved the book. Perhaps you will, too!



by Marie Benedict


Victoria Christopher Murray

MY book cover creation

The year is 1905 and Jim Crow is progressively moving north. Belle De Costa Greene is hired away from Princeton University to become the director of American titan financier and industrialist J.P Morgan’s personal library and art collection. It’s not long before she’s charming New York society with her style, personality and intelligence. She’s trusted to attend male-dominated auctions throughout the world to secure the rare books and manuscripts she deems worthy, to complete the prominent collection that will make the Pierpont Morgan Library an unparalleled masterpiece. But Belle has a secret that only her family knows. The revelation of this secret will ruin everything shes gained…her career, her reputation and her relationships will all be in jeopardy…and to make it even more ominous, J.P. Morgan was notoriously known as being racist and anti-sematic (not unusual in the early 1900’s.)

THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, was about allegiance and deceit. It was both captivating and fascinating, depicting the life of a courageous, inventive and resourceful woman, who was virtually unknown historically. A very timely novel as well… although women have certainly made strides in the workplace, men still remain dominant…and racism and equality FOR ALL still remains a big problem that must be resolved!

This was an excellent read and is highly recommended.



We traveled through the mists of time to a forgotten age and a tale of devotion, courage and love…at MEDIEVAL TIMES Dinner & Tournament. We experienced the pageantry and excitement as a guest of the reigning Queen…we traveled back ten centuries to the way it might have been. Screaming cheers for our heroic Blue Knight on his spirited horse

…we ate our “hands-on” feast while watching some amazing athletic feats and challenging swordplay…feats that have become hallmarks of this unique entertainment experience at MEDIEVAL TIMES in Toronto, Ontario. The Queen’s top knights battled with brawn and steel to determine one victor to protect the throne. But the best part of the whole experience for us was the fact that our grandson, Hunter, was one of the Queen’s Trumpeteers who played intermittently, throughout the entire performance.


We also had the pleasure of seeing two shows…one of them on its way to BROADWAY. The first play was “2P4H…Two Pianos, 4 Hands.” Michael and I didn’t particularly care for this one.

But “& JULIET” the next day was another story. Its premise was imagining what would have happened if Juliet had lived after Romeo died. Shakespeare and his wife, Anne Hathaway, were lead characters, among others. The energy was high, the music was fun and the entire production was an exciting spectacle! I hope you have an opportunity to see it!


As always, we treasure our time with our little family whatever we do…precious moments…precious memories…always!





Stunning, extraordinary, profound, thought-provoking and emotional… a must read for all elephant lovers! This is a deftly told epic story that brings the beauty and the wild cruelty of Africa vividly to life. (It also reminds us that humans don’t deserve to live on this planet!) “The Memory of an Elephant” by Alex Lasker tells the story of the elephant, ISHI. In fact, it’s Ishi’s own “first elephant” voice…his perceptions that begin the novel… and a broader, omniscient third person narrative voice that fills in where needed.

Ishi’s journey takes place in a variety of places between 1962 (when his family and his herd were killed by poachers and he was found by a young, local tribal boy who arranged care for him at a Kenyan animal orphanage. We follow characters (and Ishi) around Kenya, London, New York and back again to the plains of his birth in Kenya for his final journey, returning to the place where he was nurtured and cared for as a young, orphaned calf by a family of very caring “two leggers” and specifically by his friend and guardian…the young Kikuyu boy named Kamau who found him. It is in the human lives touched by Ishi and his growth and development over time that this story fully captures the reader. (This novel reminds us that man’s cruelty extends beyond humans and into the innocent animal kingdom…exactly why I give to organizations that protect these awe-inspiring, impressive, sentient beings.) I’ve had the privilege of visiting these elephant orphanages and believe me, it’s exactly like caring for a new baby…requiring constant attention and most of all, LOVE.

Alex Lasker’s book, with its generosity of imagination and it’s spirit of empathy, will re-focus the elephant in your heart. This was a marvelous read that I may, at some point, revisit!



It all started with a notice in a German Catholic periodical, ESPRIT, in 1942. This set in motion the story of THE RAGGED EDGE OF NIGHT by Olivia Hawker…historical fiction about a former friar, a widow with three children and a small rural town during WWII called Unterboihingen in Wuttemberg, Germany. Here’s the cover I created for the novel…

This is a true story about Franciscan friar, Anton Starzmann, who was a music teacher for special needs children. The Nazis took the children, deeming them “unworthy of life” and shut down Anton’s religious order. Stripped of his beloved children and his life as a friar, he responded to a notice in a Catholic periodical (as seen on the book cover I created above,) married the widow who placed the notice and moved to her little town in Wuttemberg, Germany. As Anton adapted to the roles of husband and father, we learned what life was really like in the country, where threats existed but bombs were mostly at a distance. Although filtered through a somewhat religious lens, (as would be expected from a former friar,) it was nonetheless believable. The book focused on relationships and the lives of real people…a touching story of courage and morality in the face of evil. It showed the importance of small acts of defiance from German people who wanted to resist and found ways that didn’t endanger their families.

The author’s writing is lyrical, beautiful, eloquent, poignant and thought-provoking. It contained elements of hope in a damaged world, as Hawker was even able to put a credible, compassionate face on the soldiers who were committing unspeakable deeds (against their will.) Within the pages of THE RAGGED EDGE OF NIGHT, author Olivia Hawker offers us yet another point of view…that of the German people. This book is the most comprehensive and sympathetic coverage of the everyday life of the German people under the Nazi reign that I’ve ever read! Highly recommended!!




My Book Cover Art


It’s 1870 on the eastern Wyoming prairie, in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains. Two families (the Bemis family and the Webber family) with adjoining homesteads eke out a living on their farms, about 20 miles from the nearest neighbor or town.


When Ernest Bemis discovers his wife, Cora, involved in an affair with their only neighbor, Substance Webber, mild-mannered Ernest shoots and kills Substance then surrenders himself to local law enforcement. He’s sentenced to two years in prison, leaving both families without a “man of the house.” With winter approaching, Cora asks Substance’s widow, Nettie Mae, if the two families could share resources. Reluctantly, she agrees to let Cora and her 4 children move into her home, joining her and her teenaged son. It’s a long, hard winter for these two women living under the same roof…with such trauma behind them.


Olivia Hawker’s poetic and lyrical storytelling whisked me away to the raw, gritty pioneering days as she wove a story of resilience, acceptance, forgiveness, family, friendship and survival, jealousy, resentment and guilt… under the most difficult and awkward circumstances possible. Overflowing with beautiful language, lovely images and finely drawn characters, I could feel the cold, the harsh winter winds and even the dirt that came with farm living on the prairie. To say Nettie Mae and Cora wanted nothing to do with each other is mildly stating the situation, but as they stared down an impending Wyoming winter with no men to work their farms and no other neighbors within miles, they realized they must rely on each other and their eldest teen children…Nettie Mae’s Clyde (16) and Cora’s Beulah (13)…both responsible and knowledgeable about the workings of a farm, to survive the brutal winter. This story is all about connections and the long-lasting consequences of the decisions people make when they lose connections: between family members, between neighbors and community members, between humans and the natural world…and the connection of humans with the world after life has ended. It’s an epic novel and well worth the read. Olivia Hawker is at the pinnacle of her storytelling!