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Life on the road with Susan Orlean

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Susan Orlean, the New Yorker writer and book author, is on a five-month, North American zigzag to promote The Library Book, her newest bestseller. And in between speaking engagements — while she is idling in hotels or awaiting delayed flights — she is teaching herself to play the ukulele, strumming under the tutelage of YouTube videos and ukulele apps. Her repertoire already includes the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band” and “Ho Hey,” by The Lumineers. “I’m not a great relaxer,” she said over breakfast in a midtown Manhattan hotel on a late November morning, dismantling the impressive heap of pancakes that had been placed in front of her.

The Library Book weaves together the stories of the 1986 arson fire of the Los Angeles Library, the history of libraries and Orlean’s personal connection to these institutions. Reviewing the book for The New York Times, Michael Lewis wrote, “Susan Orlean has once again found rich material where no one else has bothered to look for it.” Orlean is also the author of Rin Tin Tin, a biography of the canine movie star, and The Orchid Thief.

Susan Orlean, currently in the midst of a 35-city book tour for The Library Book.
Susan Orlean, currently in the midst of a 35-city book tour for The Library Book.  (Suzanne DeChillo / The New York Times)

As Orlean travels to cities like Seattle and Dallas, she has shared on her Twitter feed (309,000 followers at last count) the highs and lows of months spent on the road. “Exit row with no one in the middle seat. In a past life I must have done something good,” she wrote one day. “Lemme tell you, book tours aren’t for sissies,” she wrote two days before.

Over an unhurried breakfast, Orlean, who, when she is not on the road, lives in Los Angeles with her husband, John Gillespie, and their son, discussed her travel strategies for doing laundry, staying calm during takeoff and the “transformational” foot rest she has discovered. This conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

You travel. Do you enjoy it?

I went through a period where I became afraid to fly. I was about to begin my Orchid Thief book tour and I thought, “I have to deal with this.” So I went to a hypnotist. The first time I flew after I had gone through hypnotherapy — as the plane was taking off, which had always been the moment I would be gripping the seat and nearly tearing it off the body of the plane — I turned to my husband and said, “I think I’m going to get a pilot’s license.” And he said to me, “What did that guy do to you?”

What do you bring with you on a fight?

Noise-canceling headphones. And this foot sling I just got, which is transformational. You attach it on your tray table and it becomes a foot rest. I can’t recommend it enough.

How do you pass the time on a flight?

Sometimes I’ll do tasks that are usually so tedious that I would never be able to do it at home. I’ll spend an hour going through my contact list and update it. There is a lot of stuff I do on planes that I don’t do anywhere else. I play this little silly game on my phone called “Bejeweled” and that I have never, ever, ever done on the Earth’s surface. Similarly, I have never eaten a Biscoff cookie except at 35,000 feet.

Checked baggage or carry-on?

My husband taught me that bag checking is the work of the devil.

How do you pack for a long trip using only a carry-on?

I have one outfit that I wear for all my public events, a backup in case anything should happen. Then I pack one pair of jeans and two tops. I hand-wash my lingerie. That’s the only challenge. If you only have one day in a particular city, stuff doesn’t have time to dry.

When you are travelling for leisure, do you like to chill on a beach and explore a city?

I’m always happy to be somewhere beautiful, but I’m always much more interested in a place where there is something cultural to do. It’s the reporter in me. I think I do what I do professionally because it’s just a reflection of the way I am in the world anyway. The way I travel for work is not that different from the way I travel for leisure.

When you are on a book tour, do you ever get to see the places you are visiting?

Yes. I had a few extra hours in Tulsa [Oklahoma] and so I got a Bird Scooter and I scooted around downtown and I discovered to my amazement that Tulsa has a beautiful collection of Art Deco buildings. I never would have imagined it, and it was really one of the highlights of my whole trip.

There was a church there called the Boston Avenue Church. I couldn’t get into it, which drove me crazy, and I’m determined to go back. It’s an absolutely stunning building, Art Deco, and it turns out if has a really interesting history. It had always been attributed to this male architect, and years and years and years later it turned out it was designed by a woman. I thought, “What a great story.”

I feel as if we are going to read about this church in a future issue of the New Yorker.

I know! It really is amazing. How many women architects were there in the 1920s? The story of how did it end up finally being attributed to her, I don’t know. Yet.

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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