Morocco Library Project

Every Friday morning, my wonderful place of employment, Readers’ Books, here in Sonoma, publishes a newsletter to all who are on its email list.  The newsletter features a calendar of store events and a weekly essay penned by our smart, insightful and very humorous owner.  In early August, I was allowed to contribute the following essay for the newsletter about a project that is very near and dear to my heart:


Morocco Library Project, LogoInspiring Literacy, Building Friendship

In America, many children have easy access to books in their schools and homes.  As a bookseller here at Readers’ Books, I love seeing parents come in with their children.  From early on, the lives of these children are being enriched by a world full of books.

This past March I had the trip of a lifetime to Morocco.  Day after day, I took in the beautiful culture, geography, food and hospitality of this Muslim country.  During my time there, I got to know Mohammed AitRhanimi, our local host and guide.  Mohammed grew up in Rissani, a remote town in the Sahara Desert region, and is of Amazigh (Berber) descent.  As a young boy, he and his classmates did not have books at their schools. Rather, the teachers used photocopies of book pages that were shared among the students.  Unlike the majority of his classmates though, Mohammed went on to university, became fluent in 5 languages and now is a professional tour leader.

Mohammed spoke of his wish to give back and help the young students in his hometown.  In those conversations with him, the Rissani, Morocco Library Project was born.  I returned home to Sonoma, determined to do what I could to bring books to the students back there.

I have been in contact with the Headmaster and English language teacher at Princess Lalla Salma High School in Rissani.  The school has an English Club for highly motivated students who are learning English.  It is for these students and their dedicated teachers that I wish to establish an English language library there.

Here at Readers’ Books, there is a display of books that have been chosen for these students.  I hope you will consider joining hands with me, and our fellow global citizens in Morocco, by buying and donating a book(s) for the English learners in Rissani, Morocco.  All purchases come with a 10% discount.

Additionally, I have set up an online fundraising page for this project.  If you would prefer to make a tax deductible donation instead, please visit

for this option.  The online platform functions under the Morocco Library Project, a non profit organization founded in 2014 by Barb Mackraz of Palo Alto.  If you are on Facebook, please type Morocco Library Project in the search bar and “like” its page.


Barbara Hall


I am happy to report that thus far, over 50 books have been purchased and donated by the bookstore’s customers.  Additionally, the online donations have been coming in.  Moreover, I am so excited to be joined on this project by a young student here at Sonoma Valley High School — Lena Mallet.  As part of her required Senior Project, Lena must participate in some type of service project.  I will mentor her through this and it is the plan that Lena will accompany me to Morocco in the Spring of 2017 to deliver the books.  Lena plans to get her fellow high schoolers involved in the book donation process.  I am thrilled to be part of a cross cultural endeavor between American high school students and their counterparts in Rissani, Morocco.

Morocco Library Project, Display, Lena

Since launching this fundraising initiative, I have contacted my friends and family through a personal email and also on my own Facebook page (as well as the Morocco Library Project Facebook page).  If this is the first time you are reading about this project, I hope you will consider making an online donation (any amount is so helpful!) using the link above.  Or if you live in Sonoma, perhaps you will consider purchasing and donating a book from the Morocco display in the store.

The following photos are of Princess Lalla Salma High School in Rissani, Morocco and the students in its English Club.  I cannot wait, inshallah, to deliver the books next year to them!!

Princess Lalla Salma HS, Rissani, Morocco

Princess Lalla Salma HS, Students, Rissani, Morocco

Princess Lalla Salma HS, Students, Rissani, Morocco

Princess Lalla Salma HS, Students, Rissani, Morocco

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Princess Cake


August 9, 2016:  Mr. Sean Hall turned 21.  My god, how did that happen so quickly???

After spending the entire month of July in Moscow, immersing himself in the Russian language, Sean returned home for only 2 weeks, before then returning to the East Coast for his final year of college.  In those 2 weeks, the business of turning 21 was at hand, and probably most importantly, a week long visit from his girlfriend Dominique.

Dominique, or Dom, as she is called — beautiful, intelligent, warm, confident (I could go on and on with the superlatives!).  I so enjoyed meeting and getting to know her.  But even more, my heart constantly sang as I saw the chemistry and connection between her and Sean.


Coinciding with Dom’s visit, was a reunion with Alexis Legendre, Sean’s “frere” — the now young French man who lived with us during his year long stay in Sonoma, 6 years ago.




(Sean and Alexis; 2010 in Sonoma — such little boys back then!!)

Sean and Dom were always accommodating when I brought out my camera and allowed me the pleasure of photographing them.  The following images are my favorites!

Happy birthday Sean — I love you — more than you can imagine.























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Part I – Morocco: Portraits

Morocco, Erg Chebbi

Salam alikom (hello).

It is now exactly 3 weeks since my flight safely delivered me back to San Francisco International Airport, from a flight that originated in Casablanca, Morocco.

Before I continue any further, I must put out this disclaimer:  I have a wonderful life in Sonoma and am truly grateful that this is where I live.  Having said that, on my final evening in Morocco, I was in my riad in Marrakech and was………..crying. I did not want to leave.  For so many reasons that still do not make complete sense to me, I was not ready to return to the States — there was still much that I wanted to know and explore about this magical country.  Morocco has simply stolen my heart — its diverse and beautiful geography, its fascinating culture and history, its unique stability among Muslim countries in North Africa, the amazing food, and how welcome I felt by the people I came to know.  I am determined to return again.

My camera was my constant companion and as such, I hope that my images will somehow convey the story of my time spent in Morocco.

I will begin my photographic chronicles with portraits of my fellow travelers and also of Moroccans with whom I encountered.  This trip was a very intense experience, and because of that, it ended up being a very bonding experience between me and my fellow travelers.  We began the trip as strangers, but ended up feeling like an extended family. Lucky, lucky us!

Future posts will feature images of the different geographical areas of Morocco that I visited.  For now, I invite you to click here to view a photo gallery of my extended family, and then here to view some of the wonderful Moroccan people with whom I crossed paths.

Laila saida (good night).






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Hello from Morocco

After 24 hours of flight time and layovers, my journey that began early yesterday morning in San Francisco, has landed me late this afternoon in Casablanca, Morocco — a destination that has been looming high on my travel bucket list.

Casablanca, Morocco

I have only a quick overnight stay here in Casablanca and will press on to outer parts tomorrow.  I arrived exhausted to my hotel but also hungry.  So I decided an evening walk would help keep away the jet lag that was trying to get the best of me.

It turns out that the bustling energy of this, Morocco’s largest city, was just what I needed. I ambled through the medina and my jet lag immediately became non-existent as the myriad of photo opportunities energized me and got me shooting away.  I passed a food stall of different types of sausage and for the equivalent of about $1.20,  I feasted on the most delicious merguez sandwich!!  As I walked through the medina, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the vendors and locals, hearing the chanting of the call to prayer from the nearby mosque, using my rusty French language skills, and eating my sandwich — I felt so alive!

Casablanca, Morocco

There will be a lot to see and process through on this trip:  the centuries old and contemporary culture of this country, its unique beauty, the sound of Arabic and French languages, the wide spectrum of dress for the Muslim women here — and so much else.

Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca, Morocco

I’m expecting to have spotty WiFi ability while traveling here, so there may not be many more (or any more) posts while here.  But for the 10 days that I am here, I will partake, observe and photograph this fascinating country.  I know I’m tired but right now, the enormity of this impending experience has my adrenaline really flowing.  I need to go to bed  though so………….. bonne nuit tout le monde!

Casablanca, Morocco





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Yosemite – Landscapes

Ansel Adams

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.  I know of no sculpture, painting or music that exceeds the compelling spiritual command of the soaring shape of granite cliff and dome, of patina of light on rock and forest, and of the thunder and whispering of the falling, flowing waters.  At first the colossal aspect may dominate; then we perceive and respond to the delicate and persuasive complex of nature.”

Ansel Adams, Photographer

“But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite.  Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life.  Some lean back in majestic repose; others, absolutely sheer or nearly so for thousands of feet, advance beyond their companions in thoughtful attitudes, giving welcome to storms and calms alike, seemingly aware, yet heedless, of everything going on about them.  Awful in stern, immovable majesty, how softly these rocks are adorned, and how fine and reassuring the company they keep:  their feet among beautiful groves and meadows, their brows in the sky, a thousand flowers leaning confidingly against their feet, bathed in floods of water, floods of light, while the snow and waterfalls, the winds and avalanches and clouds shine and sing and wreathe about them as the years go by, and myriads of small winged creatures birds, bees, butterflies–give glad animation and help to make all the air into music.”

John Muir, Naturalist – Founder of the Sierra Club


I love the above image of Ansel Adams:  the artist outdoors at work, capturing the majesty of Yosemite from atop that wonderful vintage car!

It was thrilling and inspiring to have had the opportunity to try to capture some of what Ansel Adams has immortalized in his artistry.  You may click here to view my gallery of Yosemite landscape photographs.

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Yosemite – A Few Scenes

I am a California native and except for 4 years in my 20’s, I have always lived here. However, I am embarrassed to admit that until 6 weeks ago, I had never been to one of this state’s most amazing natural wonder — the National Park at Yosemite.


Along with my brother Tim and his partner Ray, I spent 3 days amid the splendor and majesty of the mountains and valleys that make up this National Park.  In our short stay, we were treated to uncrowded hiking trails, blue, cloudy and foggy skies, some rain and snow, and vibrantly colored trees in fall foliage glory.

As a photographer, Yosemite was pure joy for me.  Having many of Ansel Adams’ masterful images in my mind, I was eager to attempt to capture my own images.  I loved shooting while on hikes and walks with Tim and Ray, but especially loved the quiet solitude at sunset one evening, when I was alone at Glacier Point with my camera and the surroundings.

Yosemite, Barbara, Glacier Point

Clicking here will take you to a short photo gallery of Tim, Ray and myself during our 3 day getaway (you may click on an image to enlarge it or click on the icon to see the images in a slideshow).  A future post will feature the landscape photographs I shot of the incomparable Yosemite.


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2016 Calendar

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving day yesterday!

For the past 5 years I have been creating photography calendars from images I have captured. For my 2016 calendar, I found inspiration rather easily.  My new job in a bookstore is a very satisfying endeavor and so came the idea of creating various still life images of books.

2016 Calendar - Front 2016 Calendar - Back

The calendar measures 5″ x 7″ and can be ordered online by clicking on the link below. Once on the link, you can then scroll on the page to view the images for each month.  (If you live nearby, you can purchase one directly from me as well.)

2016 Calendar

For that person(s) in your life who loves to read, this would make a perfect holiday gift (I know — shameless plug here!!).

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Fall Foliage: Edition 2015

It’s been a dry and drought-filled 2015.  The typically beautiful landscape that surrounds us here in Sonoma has been brown — often dreary to look at and a constant and sad reminder of the lack of rain.

The vineyard leaves bloomed their green and injected some color during the past Spring and Summer.  Thankfully, they are now treating us to an exquisite and most welcome array of autumn hues.

The first 4 images were captured about 10 minutes from my home and the final 2 are from my front yard.

Fall Foliage, vineyards, treesFall Foliage, vineyards, treesFall Foliage, vineyards, barnFall Foliage, vineyards, barn, fence postFall Foliage, leavesFall Foliage, leaves

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It’s been almost 7 weeks, just under 2 months, since the death of my friend, my pétanque partner of the past several years, Narin Garrett.  She was only 36 years of age and the mother of 2 beautiful children, ages 5 and 2.  That she took her own life…………..I still cannot bring myself to adequately write about this.

I’ve often used this blog to express and thereby, work through some of my life’s experiences.  But for this one, I simply cannot……….  How can I put into words something that I don’t understand………I want to comprehend this………..but I cannot.

Dearest Narin, in the recent months, some of us in Sonoma’s pétanque playing community knew that life had been throwing very challenging times your way.  But we didn’t know the horrible depths you felt.  Did you suppress it in front of us that well or did we fail to see it?????

You meant so much to so many of us in our pétanque “family.”  You were a superb pétanque player and I was always honored to be partners with you and Erin McTaggart. Winning the Women’s National Pétanque Championship with the 2 of you in 2012 in Blue Hill, Maine, will always be one of my life’s highlights.  Traveling to Montauban, France, with the 2 of you for the 2013 Women’s World Championship — a dream come true that we shared together.  You were a gifted and generous pétanque player and champion — I learned so much from playing by your side.  You were beautiful, hilariously funny and foul-mouthed, a wonderful mother, a good friend.

The tears I’m crying while writing this are leaving me at a loss for any more words. Instead, I’ll do what I often do here — post photographs  — of Narin, her beautiful children and of some moments over the several years in our pétanque time together.



















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Plenty of Peaches

The peaches on my tree have finally ripened and I couldn’t be happier!  Daily mornings begun with a freshly picked sliced peach, some indulgent evenings with a good vanilla ice cream topped with the sweetness of a chopped fresh peach — savory heaven for me!  I’ve made countless salads of grilled peaches on a bed of arugula, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar.  This weekend a peach pie will be coming out of my oven!

The weight of all this fruit has been too much for the poor tree to handle.  Each morning I go outside to gather all of the peaches that have fallen to the ground.  The other morning I shot this “still life” on my front porch, after an early morning ground pick up.


As soon as I can find the time, I will be spending an entire day in the kitchen in order to make jars and jars of peach jam!


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