Saturday, February 17, 2018

TV Review, Globe Trekker's Tough Boats: The Nile, Egypt

Holly Morris from Globe Trekker

I am home with a cold this Presidents' Day weekend.  Flipping through the channels, I found Globe Trekker featuring Tough Boats: The Nile, Egpyt on WETA UK.  From the Globe Trekkers website (link):

Holly Morris travels back in time to explore some of the most spectacular ancient Egyptian tombs and temples along the banks of the river Nile in Egypt.

Back in 2004, I had the good fortune to travel from Luxor to Aswan on a modern "cruise" ship (not as grand as those floating around the Caribbean).  Holly's tourney is the reserve from Aswan to Luxor.  The program had already started, so I caught her in Kom Ombo.  I borrow a map from to  illustrate the Nile River cruises:

Holly mentioned taking a felluca (wooden sailing boat) from Aswan to Kom Ombo.  Again from Globe Trekkers,

Holly’s next stop is the magnificent temple at Kom Ombo, dedicated to the ancient Egyptian crocodile god, Sobek. Sacred crocodiles were once worshipped in the temple, and the temple’s museum contains over 20 mummified crocodiles that were found buried nearby.

When I visited the Kom Ombo, the temple kept live crocodiles in a pen to honor its history.

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Kom Ombo Temple
Image by  Dennis Jarvis (link)

Upon leaving Kom Ombo, Holly noted that most tourists travel the Nile by "cruise liners", but she hopped about a 1920s steam ship The Sudan (link). Her cabin included a king size poster bed.  My cabin on the "cruise liner" was the size of a king size poser bed.  Indeed, The Sudan represents the golden age of glamorous travel ala Agatha Christie's DEATH ON THE NILE.

The Sudan docked in Edfu, where Holly took a horse carriage to the Temple of Edfu.  Dedicated to Horus, the falcon headed god, it stands out as the best preserved temple in Egypt. Construction began on August 23, 237 (how do they know the exact date?) only to be discovered from its sand burial by Auguste Mariette in 1860.  Holly noted the lack of tourists did not detract the Egyptian government from posting armed guards at its historical sights.  Indeed, we spotted numerous armed guards in 2004.

When my tour group rode the horse carriage from the dock to the temple, we noticed that almost every modern home had a copier machine on the front porch - perhaps Edfu was the Xerox Capital of Egypt.  I no idea why. Most of the Egyptians walking the street also had cell phones; we chalked this up to the lack of infrastructure for landlines.  

Edfu Temple
Image by Ad Meskens (link)

For Holly, The Sudan pulled into its final port - Luxor.  She shared her visit to the Temple of Luxor along the Nile and the Tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings.  

Remember that my group started our cruise in Luxor, giving us time to see all the sights in the ancient city of Thebes:

- Colossi of Memnon, the memorial temple of Amenophis III
- Karnak Temple, reminding me of James Bond in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
- Hatshepsut Temple, the resting place of the Queen who would be King

Our guide suggested we say "Hot-Chicken-Soup" fast if we could not pronounce her name.

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Hatshepsut's Temple
Image by Nowic (link)

Also remember that my group ended in Aswan, where we took a three hour bus trip (one way through the desert) to see the Abu Simbel Temples. Although they stood proud on the Nubian border since 1264 BC, the temples would have been flooded with the construction of the Aswan High Dam in modern time. In 1964, an international group of archaeologists dismantled and moved the temples 65 meters higher and 200 meters father from the Nile River.  Four countries who participated in this effort received smaller temples that would have been flooded. The Temple of Dendur now sits proudly in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. 

Drawing of the Temple of Dendur
Public Domain (link)

Let me tell you - the three hour drive (one way) was worth the trip. Tourists visit Abu Simbel in a caravan of buses which leave Aswan at 6 am with armed guards. We arrived just after 9 am and had only 3 hours to tour the site. We loaded back onto the buses for our caravan back to Aswan. Our bus broke down, requiring us to crowd onto another bus - who wants to be stuck in the desert? 

Putting Ramses together again at Abu Simbel
Public Domain (link)

Holly's adventure ended in Luxor ... but my tour took the overnight train to Cairo. We sat in "first class" car with Western style seats. The restroom was a hole in the floor. Our guide warned us there was no "food car" so we raided the snack shack at the train station before our departure. Sometime during the night, I awoke to see a Bedouin walk through our car with his weapons strapped to his back. 

The Sphinx in 1878 during the the Big Dig
Library of Congress (link

Once we arrived in Cairo, we toured the Pyramids at Giza, the Sphinx, and the Cairo Museum with King Tut's stuff. We ended the day at the Hard Rock Cafe ... we just wanted an American meal!

As Holly shared on Globe Trekkers, Egypt was magical. I would return to the land of the Pharaohs.

Have you visited someplace exotic ... in your neck of the woods or overseas?  One randomly selected commenter wins book swag from my romance conventions.  Comments are open through Wednesday, February 28, 10 pm in Baltimore.  I'll post the winner on Thursday, March 1.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

The Pyramids at Giza
Public Domain (link

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Aloha to the RWA in Denver ... and sightseeing opportunities in Colorado Springs

RWA2018 Logo

Registration is now underway for the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual Conference, July 18-21, in Denver, Colorado (link).  I look forward to hobnobbing with those creative personalities who bring humor and warmth into my life through the pages of their books.

My family is heading out on Saturday, July 14, for pre-conference sightseeing in Colorado Springs.  Colorado Springs is an hour's drive south of Denver, brimming over with Mother Nature's own majestic beauty:

Garden of the Gods - From its website (link),

Explore Colorado Springs' paradise in one magical stop. Garden of the Gods Park is a registered National Natural Landmark. Imagine dramatic views, 300' towering sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak and brilliant blue skies. 

Admission is free and the beauty is unlimited. 

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Manitou Springs - From its website (link),

“Manitou,” a Native American word for “ great spirit,” describes this beautiful mountain community. Eight naturally carbonated mineral spring fountains, located throughout this historic town, run free for all who wish to enjoy their healing benefits.

Manitou Springs is a vibrant artisan community, home to world class art, music, theater, and sidewalk sculpture displays. Manitou springs is also home to internationally famous historic restaurants as well as many favorite neighborhood dining establishments. 

Manitou Springs is the home of Miramont Castle (link).

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Pike's Peak - From its website (link),

The most visited mountain in North America and the second most visited mountain in the world behind Japan's Mount Fuji, Pikes Peak forms a stunning backdrop for Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods. At an altitude of 14,115 feet above sea level, Pikes Peak is the 31st highest peak out of 54 Colorado peaks. It is the farthest east of the big peaks in the Rocky Mountain chain, which contributed to its early fame among explorers, pioneers and immigrants and made it the symbol of the 1859 Gold Rush to Colorado with the slogan, "Pikes Peak or Bust".

The easiest way to reach Pike's Peak is the Cog Railway (link),

This 3 hour and 10 minute trip spans over 8.9 miles of track. The first third of the trip is along Ruxton Creek in Englemann Canyon. Right near the Minnehaha switch, where the down bound trains pass the up bound trains on many trips, is Minnehaha Falls.

Once we climb above timberline, the views become more expansive. Here passengers frequently see yellow-bellied marmots and Bighorn sheep.  The last 3 miles of the trip are all above timberline. 

Upon arrival at the "peak" station, travelers will marvel at the beauty in all directions.  The Summitt House offers coffee, hot chocolate, and "high altitude" donuts plus restrooms and souvenirs.

Aspen Peak

United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) - From its website (link),

The Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center serves as the gateway to the United States Air Force Academy for hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. The center provides information on Academy history, cadet life and campus attractions.

From the visitors' center, tourists can take a self guided tour along the Nature Trail to the iconic Chapel. From the chapel, you will see the cadets' "quad" and other static displays honoring pioneers in aviation.

USAFA is free and open to the public.

If you are attending RWA and interested in joining me for pre-conference sightseeing in Colorado Springs, please contact me by email at

I am giving away swag to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1.  Leave a comment about Colorado - have you visited the Centennial State?  If not, what do you now about the 38th State?

2.  Comments are open through Wednesday, February 28, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3.  I'll post the winner on Thursday, March 1.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City
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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Aloha to Kate Collins and MUM'S THE WORD (Flower Shop Mystery Series)

Can you believe it is February?  Even if  Punxsutawney Phil predicted more weather, we can enjoy "warmth" through books!  I discovered another cozy mystery series - MUM'S THE WORD:

I don't meddle, honest! But can I help it if my nose for injustice is as keen as my green thumb? Now I, Abby Knight, law school dropout, am the proud new owner of Bloomers, my hometown flower shop. I'm devoted to making my business grow, but I'm no shrinking violet if someone needs my help to right a wrong - even if that person is already dead...


So maybe Abby's life isn't the bed of roses she was hoping it would be. She adores her job, but a new low-cost competitor is killing her profits - and a black SUV just rammed her vintage Corvette in a hit-and-run. Determined to track down the driver, she accepts the help of hunky ex-cop Marco Salvare. But their budding relationship is threatened when the trail turns deadly. Now Abby is caught in a tangle of menacing phone calls, police corruption, and murderous road rage. If she's not careful, the next flower arrangement might be for her own funeral...

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Image by Jebulon
Creative Commons (link)

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.” - Lady Bird Johnson

Abby is just looking for some hope after dropping out of law school and breaking up with her fiance.  She sees hope in a downtown flower shop which she buys from the owner ... and hires the owner back to ensure the business succeeds.  No sooner do they learn a "big box" garden center is undercutting their profit, a black clad young man backs into her vintage Corvette.  Abby is not a wilting flower, so she decides to hunt for the perp, only to find herself immersed into a murder mystery.

Kate Collins creates a "down home" heroine with Abby, who may be not be perfect, but she is perky enough to rise above her run of bad luck.  It is easy to laugh with and cheer for Abby as she pokes her nose into police business while delivering rose bouquets to the prosecutor's office.  The secondary characters add an extra dimension for the chaos to follow.   MUM'S THE WORD was published in 2004 ... and 18 novels followed, including YEWS WITH CAUTION in May 2017.  I look forward to reading this series.

Learn more about Kate and her book at  She is a graduate of Purdue University - my husband's alma mater!

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Let's giveaway some "spring" swag to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1.  What's your favorite flower?  Did you expect any other question?

Mine is the Bird of Paradise ... found in Hawaii!

2.  Comments are open through Wednesday, February 28, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3.  I'll post the winner on Friday, March 2.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Aloha to Victoria Abbott and THE CHRISTIE CURSE (Book Collector Mystery Series)


In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared—making headlines across the world—only to show up eleven days later at a spa under an assumed name. During those eleven days, did she have time to write a play? 

Jordan Kelly needs a new job and a new place to live. She’s back in Harrison Falls, New York, living with her not so law-abiding uncles, in debt thanks to a credit card–stealing ex and pending grad school loans.

Enter the perfect job, a research position that includes room and board, which will allow her to spend her days hunting down rare mysteries for an avid book collector. There’s just one problem: her employer, Vera Van Alst—the most hated citizen of Harrison Falls.

Jordan’s first assignment is to track down a rumored Agatha Christie play. It seems easy enough, but Jordan soon finds out that her predecessor was killed while looking for it, and there is still someone out there willing to murder to keep the play out of Vera’s hands. Jordan’s new job is good…but is it worth her life?

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Very few of us are what we seem. - Agatha Christie

THE CHRISTIE CURSE, Book 1 in the series, introduces us to Jordan Kelly Bingham, a resourceful twenty something looking for a respectable job.  She finds such job - with room and board - with Harrison Fall's resident grump, Vera Van Alst.  While her vintage mansion crumbles around her, Vera collects first editions from her favorite mystery authors. She tasks Jordan to procure a copy of the Christie's "lost play" .... and Jordan turns to her not-so-respectable uncles for assistance.  As Jordan hunts for the lost play, she learns that not all of the players in the rare book business are who they seem to be.

Abbott creates a cast of characters who are entertaining and intriguing - a research assistant with gusto, a male librarian on speed dial, an Italian cook with endless energy, several uncles with unlimited resources, and a mysterious cop with a killer smile. Abbott incorporates the Dame's plot devices into THE CHRISTIE CURSE as a tribute to her. THE CHRISTIE CURSE kept my attention throughout its 304 pages.  I was curious enough to find more books in the series.


Jordan works hard to improve Vera Van Alst’s collection of classic detective stories. So when Chadwick Kauffman—heir to the Kauffman fortune—offers a very good price on a fine collection of Ngaio Marsh first editions owned by his recently deceased stepfather, she is thrilled to meet with him at his fabled summer estate, Summerlea.

The next day, Jordan and Vera are shocked to read that Chadwick has died in a fall from the grand staircase at Summerlea. But when the picture in the paper is of a different man, it becomes clear that the ladies are victims of a scam. And they’ll have to unmask the imposter fast, because someone is trying to frame them for murder…

THE MARSH MADNESS is Book 4 in the series (I did not find Books 2 and 3 at the used book store). The same characters welcomed me back to the cozy (but chaotic) world of Jordan Bingham as she balances her "respectable" job while relying upon her "questionable" uncles for assistance.  In THE MARSH MADNESS, Jordan finds herself on the opposite side of the law - and her police boyfriend - as she tries to clear her name in the suspicious death of an reclusive millionaire. 

THE MARSH MADNESS delivered more laugh out loud moments as Jordan morphed into Stephanie Plum meets James Bond - one scene involves her cop boyfriend chasing her with only a towel after he stepped out of the shower to find her hiding in his house.  Jordan has gained more confidence in herself while she finds it easier to blur the lines between "being above board" and "bending the rules."  The cherry on top - Jordan shares her love for Ngaio Marsh books, making them a part of the plot in unexpected places.  The villain is not who I expected. 


On a getaway to the City by the Bay, book collector Jordan Bingham becomes entangled in a mystery with more twists than Lombard Street...

Jordan has been able to swing a romantic trip to San Francisco with Officer Tyler “Smiley” Dekker on one condition—she must return with a rare copy of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest for her irascible employer, Vera Van Alst. For his own part, Smiley is full of surprises. He’s a Dashiell devotee himself—excited to be in the city of Hammett’s hard-boiled heroes like Sam Spade and the Continental Op—and also announces he plans to visit his previously unmentioned estranged grandmother, who lives in an old Victorian on Telegraph Hill.

But the trip goes downhill fast when Jordan is pushed from a cable car and barely escapes death. And when a dark sedan tries to run the couple down, it’s clear someone’s after them—but who? Just like in Hammett’s world, nothing is quite what is seems...

THE HAMMETT HEX is Book 5 in the series, picking up shortly where Book 4 ended.  Jordan and Smiley escape to the City by the Bay only to find themselves embroiled in a series of near escapes - are they trapped in a Dashiell Hammett novel?  Nothing stops them from fulfilling Smiley's secondary purpose of visiting San Francisco - reuniting with his estranged grandmother.  Yet that simple meeting leads to more chaos for Jordan and Smiley.  Why does trouble come her way every time she procures rare editions? 

Jordan demonstrates that she is more than capable of taking care of herself while dodging villains. She relies on the Kelly Family motto - make do with what is handy.  Her antics leads to laughs as well as endearing her to me.  I rooted for her through thick and thin. 

I did not want THE HAMMETT HEX to end. Now I have to find Books 2 and 3 in this series ... and hope Victoria Abbott continues to publish the adventures of Jordan, Smiley, and the Kelly Uncles!

The House on Telegraph Hill (link)

I am giving away book swag to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1. Have you visited San Francisco?  If yes, what was your favorite thing about the City by the Bay - view, food, experience?  If no, what would you want to do?

I have not visited San Fran yet .... I would like to ride a cable car!

2. Comments are open through Wednesday, January 31, 10 pm in Baltimore. 

3. I'll post the winner on Thursday, February 1.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City


Friday, January 5, 2018

Aloha to Nora Charles and DEATH WITH AN OCEAN VIEW


Nestled between fast track Ft. Lauderdale and nouveau riche Boca Raton, the once sleepy beach town of Palmetto is plagued by progress. The latest news has Ocean Vista condo board president Stella Sajak and other residents in an uproar. Developers plan to raze the property and put up a glitzy resort. But when Stella says she’ll go to City Hall and fight this to the death, no one thinks to take her statement literally.

And when Kate begins to investigate the murder, she discovers that this little corner of the sunshine state is cursed with corruption, unsavory characters, and a very dark cloud overhead.

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Every drop in the ocean counts. - Yoko Ono

I found Nora Charles' DEATH WITH AN OCEAN VIEW at a used book store before my trip to Florida.  Published in 2004, it is the first book in Senior Sleuth Mystery series.  Given I grew up in Miami, I enjoy reading novels set in South Florida. The story opens with Kate Kennedy lamenting the death of her husband, a retired NYPD officer.  He died shortly after they signed for their new home in the Ocean Vista condo building overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  I almost gave up as Kate was drowning in her grief.  Then the pace picked up with the murder .... and Kate's sister in law, Marlene, engages in senior antics.  Kate and Marlene become Ocean Vista's version of Lucy and Ethel as they investigate the murder.  

DEATH OF AN OCEAN VIEW is only 198 pages - a quick read that produced many chuckles as Marlene reeks havoc on the retirement community while Kate acts as the level headed sleuth.  In the end, Nora Charles' created memorable characters to cherish.  Her dry wit is the cherry on top.

I was intrigued to read more books in the series ....

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He forecasts the weather on TV to the delight of his many fans. But the residents of Ocean Vista Condominiums are less fond of Uncle Weatherwise—the newest arrival at the condo—especially when a hurricane that he predicted would bypass Palmetto Beach instead heads straight for their town.

The morning after a frantic evacuation, Kate is blown away when she stumbles upon the corpse of Uncle Weatherwise, with a sharpened weather vane pointed in the direction of his heart. Suddenly Kate’s neighbors are her suspects, from a retired Rockette to a former federal prosecutor to a man dressed mysteriously in crisply pressed pajamas. And before she knows it, Kate is hot on a trail of clues that may lead back to the Cold War.

HURRICANE HOMICIDE (aka DEATH STORMS THE SHORE) is Book 4 in the series. Nora Charles turns up the cloak and dagger with flashbacks to the Cold War. The memorable characters continued to entertain as I pieced together how the Red Scare of the 1950s could still impact lives in their twilight years.  Nora Charles accurately portrays the chaos of hurricane evacuations - something I remember vividly from my childhood in Miami and college life in Tampa.  

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Tired of college, Kate Kennedy’s granddaughter, Katharine, drops out and heads for Florida, landing in the apartment of Kate’s best friend. In her quest for a new life, she takes up with a gang of surfers that go by the name “The Four Boardsmen of the Apocalypse.”

But catching waves can be a dangerous pastime. When Katharine’s surfer crush is killed in a shark attack, foul play is suspected, especially by the police. Fingers are pointing at Katharine—including, to Kate’s disappointment, those of her friend Detective Nick Carbone. It’s up to Kate to prove her beloved granddaughter’s innocence or else Katharine’s “new life” will be spent behind bars.

DEATH RIDES THE SURF is Book 5 in the series. Kate's impish granddaughter Katharine, creates waves in Ocean Vista as she follows her heart to a group of disreputable surfers.  As Kate walks the fine line of offering support while encouraging Katharine to act responsible, Marlene breaks the ice for the dynamic duo solve the mystery with a little help from Casablanca.

I am now on the hunt for the two books I missed in this series!

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I am giving away swag to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway,

1. Leave a comment about where you would like to retire - beach? mountains? countryside?

You know my answer .... Hawaii!  Even if we landed in the middle of Oahu, in the pineapple fields, I would be happy!

2. Comments are open through Wednesday, January 31, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3. I'll post the winner on Thursday, February 1.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

December Winners

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We have winners from December's posts:

- Kate Sparks 
- Gretchen
- Big Jimbo (perhaps our first male winner)
- Susan P.
- Catslady
- Debby

Winners, please claim your prize by sending your mailing address to


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Getting ready for the Wise men and camels of Epiphany on January 6 .... 

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Aloha to Cathy Maxwell and IF EVER I SHOULD LOVE YOU - Release Day Celebration!


Greetings from Florida!  I have limited access to the Internet .... but I wanted to celebrate with my good friend Cathy Maxwell on the release of IF EVER I SHOULD LOVE YOU, Book 1 in her new series, The Spinster Heiresses:

Once upon a time there were three young ladies, who, despite their fortunes, had been on the marriage mart a bit too long. They were known as “the Spinster Heiresses” . . .

He’s inherited a title, but not a penny to speak of, so the Earl of Rochdale knows he must find a wife—preferably one tolerably pretty and good-tempered, but definitely wealthy, and who will exchange her fortune for his family name.

His choice: Leonie Charnock, one of the season’s “Spinster Heiresses.” Years before, the earl had saved the dark-eyed beauty’s reputation and she is still breathtakingly lovely, leading Rochdale to hope that their marriage will be more than in name only.

However, Leonie doesn’t want to be anyone’s wife. Nearly destroyed by the secrets in her past, Leonie agrees to their union with one condition: there will be a wedding but no bedding. But it’s a condition the new Countess Rochdale isn’t sure even she can keep.

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Born in Olathe, Kansas, Cathy Maxwell once called Virginia home, noting she is "a Virginian by choice, but a Kansan by nature." She is now learning how to be a Texan and feels like Austin is the perfect place for her to hone her cowboy skills. She worked in television news and spent six years in the Navy, including a stint in the Pentagon. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Washington Romance Writers, and Virginia Romance Writers and she is a frequent speaker at writers' conferences, libraries and special events. You can always reach Cathy at

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I am currently reading ... and loving ... IF EVER I SHOULD LOVE YOU - review to come next week!  I am giving away Florida swag to one randomly selected commenter. To enter the giveaway,

1. Leave a comment for your plans for New Year's Eve ... or New Year's Day!  My family will be traveling home to Maryland on New Year's Eve ... I look forward to my cats!

2. Comments are open through Sunday, December 31, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3. I'll post the winner on Monday, January 1.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Coming in April 2018