Of Pies and Pranks

“Ha ha Paul, your mom made us a Gooseberry pie, and it was yummy”

As a newly-wed, were you the recipient of a wedding ‘prank’ (or two) ? Perhaps you were the perpetrator?

This cute story found it’s way to me and I thought it would be fun to share. It might stir up old memories. If it does, I hope you can remember the ‘fun’ and laugh about it all now as this person does!

“Anna made us a gooseberry pie the first year we were married, and if you have ever used gooseberries before, you know how much labor stemming and prepping them is. When it came out of the oven and I had the first bite. It was awful!  It was salty and not sweet. We checked the sugar bowl she had gotten the sugar out of for the pie… it was SALT. When we had gotten married, someone — “PAUL”– had gotten into our house and tricked out our house. They took all the lights out of the fixtures, put potatoes under the couch to rot, put raw egg in the shampoo bottle, powder sugar on the sheets, pulled labels off all the cans. And the one that really pissed [ticked] me off ruined my pie by putting salt in the sugar bowl!  Some of the things we found immediately. Other things like the rotted potatoes, and egg in the shampoo took time.

Oh well kids will be kids.

It has made me laugh and have something to “remind” my nephew about. My brother had the key to my house, and I think he was in on it too, especially since his wife chastised him for bringing it up, again. He at least harvested the berries and stemmed them to make the pie.”

a love letter to China

Dear China,

How are things? I know, I know, I should have written sooner. After all, we’ve been together for five years now – can you believe it? As they say, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. We’ve definitely had some fun together.

I remember when we first met (almost by accident). I never imagined that we’d hit it off like we did. Back then, everything about you seemed magical to me. You were so different than what I’d known before. You were so full of surprises – and every day I spent with you seemed surreal and wonderful.

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing on my very first trip to China in 2005

Remember the day I saw a woman carrying a baby in one arm and using her free hand to help push her husband’s three-wheeled truck (filled with plywood) up a hill? Or the time a man carrying an unsheathed, giant meat cleaver stood next to me on a crowded bus and I was the only person who seemed to notice? Remember the long bike rides I used to take out into the countryside west of Zhengzhou? Those rides always made me feel like an explorer – and each new village I rode into felt like a discovery.

Remember my English students back then? The freshmen wore their over-sized camouflage uniforms while they marched around the campus, looking as if their nervous energy might cause them to combust. Remember the first day of class when they began cheering and applauding the moment I walked through the classroom door? I felt like a Rock Star.

And the food. China, you’ve always seemed to understand the way to my heart. You’ve given me noodles…unbelievable noodles. Fried noodles served in flimsy Styrofoam bowls on the street. Giant bowls of thin noodles in salty beef broth. Thick noodles, handmade by young men in track suits attempting to hip-hop dance, stretch noodles, and entertain large crowds of noisy customers simultaneously. And my favorite – noodles covered in mud-colored, salty, garlic-laden, bitter sauce. Yes, I love your noodles.

But beyond noodles, you’ve opened my eyes to a world of food I never knew existed. You stretched my palate – no, stretched is the wrong word – you destroyed my palate, and rebuilt it China-size; bigger, wilder, better. You taught me to love tofu. And fresh yogurt served in glass bottles with paper lids. And wheat gluten marinated in oil, vinegar, sugar and spices. You served me baked duck heads, deep fried eel bones, barbecued dog, pickled chicken stomach, stir-fried flowers, roasted pig snout, grilled scorpion, and so much more. When I didn’t love the flavor, I loved the ingenuity of your cuisine.

With my friend, Cole, during my first trip to the Great Wall in 2005. I've been back four times since.

For me, China, your food typifies what I love about you. Over the past five years, I’ve never known what to expect. Sometimes you frustrated me with your unpredictability, but I was never bored. As with your food, your people, culture and language have also stretched me into someone new; someone more patient, open-minded, and concerned with the World beyond my own neighborhood. To borrow a term I know you love to use – You’ve truly made my life so much more “colorful”.

As you know, China, I’m in America now. I’ve been here for about a week, and it’s been great seeing my family again. I love America – but you already know that. America is my home – it’s where I’m most comfortable, and where I’ll always fit in best. But, that doesn’t change my love for you. Life isn’t found in comfort.

I’ll miss you while I’m away, and I’ll think of you daily.



Aaron Carmichael is an author of short stories and was both a teacher and a student in China.

While in Panama…

What do you think this curious little place is?  Would you believe a ‘Veggie Cafe’?

Well…while in Panama, Simon and Erin, (a couple who ‘sold everything’ to ‘travel the world forever’) were wandering around the island of Isla Carenero;  and…

“ we came across this small shop/cafe advertising veggie burgers. We ventured down the rickety wooden bridge and discovered a hippy home on stilts over the water. The couple serve a few vegetarian snacks right from their living room. There are no tables – just choose from a couch in their living room or a cushion on the deck out back (we opted for the latter) . It was a random find and the burgers were seriously tasty. If you find yourself on Isla Carenero look out for this sign for Mukunda…”

Read more about their Panama adventures

And follow their travels on their delightful website:  Never Ending Voyage !

Gourmet Eating on a Wild Africa Trek?

Check this out: a three-hour Wild Africa Trek – deep into the most-remote reaches of Disney’s Animal Kingdom  and you get to snack on gourmet food!  http://bit.ly/dV6TPz

And … the blog includes a recipe for the Curried Chicken Salad!


Since most of my journey’s these days are to the Phoenix area, and so most of my shared discoveries are from that area, when this post came to my attention, wanderlust kicked in and I found myself dreaming and wishing I could share similar discoveries from exotic lands. Don’t misunderstand:  Phoenix is a fun place! But it lacks a bit of the intrigue of the exotic places we might find abroad, such as a restaurant named “W by Wanlamun” in Thailand.

Having enjoyed my vicarious experience of discovering great food in an exotic location while reading this well-written post (which is supported with intriguing descriptions and pictures), I want to share it –and it’s curious restaurant– with you. I hope you find the discovery as delightful as I did.

Who knows– some of you, while traveling abroad, just might find yourselves in Chiang Mai, Thailand. And when you do, PLEASE confirm for me, the Great Food at this Fun Place!

And until I can get a little further away, I invite you to also visit Wanderlust and Lipstick for great travel tips, guidelines, stories and inspiration!

Please enjoy this post:  Local Flavor: W by Wanlamun

Party in the Pantry?

I was hoping to share with you a couple of new ‘favorites’ entrees I just discovered at Pita Jungle, but since a picture is worth a thousand words…well, you will just have to wait… since at the time, I was so hungry and eager to dive right in that I forgot to take any pictures!  Ok, ok …if you must know, it was Wood Fired MahiMahi served over jalapeno hummus with pita chips AND the Island Shrimp Pizza, a lavosh base topped with feta cheese, roasted peppers, pineapple, and a mango glaze with the shrimp. Get the picture? Okay, I promise to return to Pita Jungle , if I must, just so I can take pictures of these tantalizing entrees!

Meanwhile, how about exotic culinary items from travels abroad, a potential “orgy of gustatory delights” ?  Enjoy this fun “Party in the Pantry” post. It is a delightful read with great pictures and definitely feeds my wanderlust to travel abroad.

The author, it appears, has in her pantry many gifted foods from other’s travels as well as from her own. Perusing my own pantry, I realize that I have, over time, been blessed with a bounty of gifts exotica from other’s travels: chocolates from  Belgium; Cherry BBQ sauce from Michigan;  paprika from Hungary. I have even sipped on Burundi coffee…

Read this entertaining post with me. What savory souvenirs do you have or remember having?

VW Beetle House and Restaurant

What a fun discovery! I just have to share these with you…a restaurant and a house built to look like VW Beetles. They look like giant toys!

These are definitely on my ‘Sights to See’ list for my trip to Europe!  I have no idea what the food might be (hopefully not oily or greasy!! – ha ha: joke-) but they will be fun to visit for sure!

Read more about these creative structures and the architect who designed and built them on this Facebook Post here.

Food For Flight?


to arrive the required two hours early, checking your bags, getting through security, arriving at your gate, and THEN you begin to relax, breath normally again and you realize:  it is meal time?

Or it soon will be, and you should get something to eat since no meals are being served on your flight and you’ll be lucky if you even get peanuts!  And if you want to eat at one of the ‘nice’ restaurants, you haven’t arrived with quite enough time for that…can’t risk getting delayed with slow service. So, you give in and walk through the ‘grab it and go’ line for packaged sandwiches or salads that have been prepared who knows how long ago– that look it AND taste it! OR you give in and buy a cinnamon roll (that cinnamon smell is tantalizing but not very nutritious!) or even just a candy bar at the newsstand…YIKES!

Since we have become more focused on healthier nutritious meals, eating at airports is even more of a challenge for us. Some airports’ food service is offering fresh fruit and salads but they are rather pricey and not always fresh looking. To find something substantial to eat that is also quick and somewhat healthy has definitely been a challenge…UNTIL we found ourselves at the Portland Airport.

The food court is inviting and friendly and offers several intriguing options! And it is right there at the ‘front door’ where you walk in after checking your bags, before going through security, so you can even purchase your food and take it to your gate or have it to eat during your flight. Or even better yet – take it to the Atrium…a beautiful area just inside security with a full wall of windows overlooking the runway (for those of us who like to watch the planes landing and taking off) and letting in filtered sunlight (yes, the sun does shine in Portland!) creating a peaceful seating area where semi-private chairs with Internet connections (FREE Wi-Fi!) & outlets for recharging cell phones and computers are placed in a setting of trees and other greenery.   A grand piano sits ‘center stage’ where local musicians entertain for tips and sales of CDs. I didn’t want to leave, and Tommy had to rush me to our gate, arriving just in time to line up for boarding!

OH YES – the FOOD:  PIZZACATO PIZZA!  We had surveyed the establishments at the food court at the Portland  Airport, always looking for a light and fresh, healthy salad option. Not expecting it at a pizza place, Pizzicato Pizza actually offers several choices of delicious sounding salads and other temptations including a Hummus Plate and a Greek Antipasti (fresh tomatoes, cucumber, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, pepperoncini, & red onions with Balsamic Vinaigrette.) along with their equally delicious looking (and smelling) pizzas! We settled on the Spinach Salad with pine nuts, feta cheese, tomatoes, and a Balsamic Vinaigrette (omitting the red onions–I don’t do onions). We have enjoyed this delicious salad twice now while traveling through the Portland Airport (and still haven’t gotten a picture…sorry, I get so focused on eating, sometimes I forget to take pictures!). The first time we ate during our flight, and it was a delicious in-flight meal. The next time, we enjoyed that beautiful serene atrium, and I was so relaxed, we almost missed our flight (thank goodness for those moving walkways!)

We discovered that Pizzicato Pizza is a Portland establishment grown from a ‘tiny hole-in-the-wall to a dependable neighborhood pizzeria” with numerous locations, some are franchises, in and around Portland, even reaching out to Hood River, Lake Oswego, & Bend Oregon, Vancouver, WA, Petaluma CA, and as far away as San Diego and Encinitas CA. Hmmm…. San Diego? I will have to check it out! Meanwhile, for the best airport food yet, YOU should check out Pizzicato Pizza at the Portland Airport or visit any of their other handy locations!