Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Travelin' (Wo)man

First off, I thought I’d let my cake readers (that’s you!) know that I found out this weekend that my first manuscript, More Than a Stranger, is a finalist in the Show Me The Spark writing contest. Yay! I’ll find out the final results in a month. Okay, on with today’s post :)

I’m getting the itch. No, not camping, that was last time. I speak now of… the Travel Itch. On Friday, while I was supposed to be writing the next best seller, I was on Travelocity pricing plane tickets to Rome for January. Yes I know, that was the sort of thing we did when I had a paying job, but the pull was so strong, I threw prudence to the wind and spend an hour trying to figure out the best week for the best possible price. In the end, I gave up the search, but I hope to head to places unknown sooner rather than later.

I do so love to travel. Growing up, I used to label myself as a ‘wandering soul,’ always looking toward the horizon and all the endless possibilities beyond it. As a child, though I didn’t travel frequently, my range was pretty impressive. By high school I had been to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, up to Montreal, through New England, all over the south, the Midwest, and the southwest.

My goal was to hit all 50 states by the time I’m 50, but I have fallen a bit behind, having so far only been to 29 states. I plan to make up the difference with one spectacular road trip sometime around the age of 45, possibly in one of those lumbering behemoths otherwise referred to as an RV. That way, I can say I’m camping and still have a tangible barrior between me and the suicidal wombats on the prowl. As for the rest of the world, well, as a teenager I put together a list of the places I would like to visit. I may have been a liiitttlle ambitious when I listed Antarctica (I thought I would be a famous researcher, after all), and I have yet to see the sands of Egypt, but other places like Russia and the Caribbean came to fruition.

As a matter of fact, after my freshman year of college, I spent an entire summer in Irkutsk, Russia (yes, we’re talking Siberia, here) working with an international drilling project. As fresh-faced nineteen year olds—without the benefit of Google Earth or Wikipedia—we were wholly unprepared for the culture clashes that would arise on that trip. We were also unprepared for the wonderful, lasting friendships we made, or the lifetime of stories we still laugh hysterically at even today. In fact, every time my friend Jacob and I get together, at least one good Russia story makes it into the conversation. One of these days, I will have to write a blog about the whole experience; I’m fairly certain it will become a classic, if I do.

Near Lake Baikal, Russia. Us three Americans with our Russian friends (so glad my fashion sense improved with age!)

At the end of the trip, I felt changed, as well as both appreciative and dismayed of my life in the US. It impacted the way I looked at myself, my country, and my world. It also made me very glad that dried, salted sardines are not an item often found in my local grocery stores. Bleck, I swear I can still hear the crackle of their bones as our comrades availed themselves of that particular snack. *shudders*

I think it was because of my awesome experience in Russia that I learned to really appreciate the local character and flavor of any given place on earth. On our honeymoon, Kirk and I stumbled upon a beach that was populated only by locals. We ducked in to the little open air honor bar, helped ourselves to Cokes from the fridge and dropped dollar bills into the cigar box on the counter. We talked for hours to some very interesting characters, and posed for pictures on the rusted out old Cadillac the queen was driven in the one and only time she visited the British Virgin Islands. That day was one of our absolute favorites of the whole trip.

In 2007, when my sister and I went to England and France, we had the time of our lives. Why? Because we talked to people! Frolicked like children through parks and museums, got random strangers to pose with us in pictures, then in turn were asked by random strangers to pose in their pictures, made a French cabbie blush one day, and another one gave my sister a foot massage the next (I swear that is totally true - and yes, it was even creepier and more hilarious than it sounds!).

Outside the Louvre, Paris, France

We had locals offer us tips on great tourist spots, and got sulky Parisian teenagers to pause in their brooding long enough to crack a smile and give us directions. Oddly enough, apparently either my sister or I look like someone famous in France, because we were actually followed by an honest to goodness paparazzo at the Louvre. I do feel bad for the guy – a whole day wasted snapping picks of to random chicks from the States. That was when it clicked that some of the people asking to get their picture taken with me earlier that day may have thought I was something special. Sorry, guys!

Roman Baths, Bath, England

Last year, when my husband and I went to Rome for my birthday, we walked nearly the entire city in less than a week, absolutely in awe of every square inch of that place. It was January, and we just about had the whole city to ourselves. The weather was lovely, in the 50’s the whole time, and we just wanted to soak in everything and everyone around us. The ancient connections to the past are actually tangible there – buildings and columns and monuments you can actually touch.

Colosseum in Rome

We stayed in a tiny bed and breakfast, which ended up just being a room a couple rents in their 16th century apartment. 16th century!! And what’s more, it had been in Luciano’s family for three centuries. By staying with a kind-hearted local, we felt as though we were visiting a favorite uncle, someone who wanted nothing so much as for us to get as much as possible out of our visit. Seriously, if you ever need a place to stay in Rome, be sure to send me a note.

So, yes, the bug has bit me again, and after a year and a half spent languishing within my own country’s borders, I am just itching to go somewhere new and spectacular. Top on my list? Scotland and Italy! It’s a good thing I have planned for my upcoming books to feature scenes in these countries. Now, I think it is high time I head out on a business trip, don’t you?

Are you a traveler? Do you itch to travel the world over like I do, or do you prefer staying closer to home? Where do you want to go next?

This week's recipes features an improved version of the very first recipe I posted on this blog...

Apple Pie! This week, my friends and I made this pie using farmer's market honeycrisp apples, and lord have mercy, was it good! I hope you will give it a try. Feel free to substitute pre-made pie crust for homemade.

Glorious Apple Pie


2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup shortening

1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water

Combine the flour and salt, mix. Add shortening, and cut into flour using a pastry knife or two regular knives until mixture resembles coarse, pea-sized crumbs. Add water a little at a time, stirring with a fork until mixture clings together. Taking care not to over mix, divide the dough evenly and shape into 1 inch thick disks, wrap with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.


4 large or 5 medium apples - honeycrisp are my very favorite - Very thinly sliced and cut into small wedges

1/2 cup sugar

1 and 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Combine in bowl, tossing well, set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pull dough from fridge, sandwich between either 2 large pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper, and using a rolling pin work until large enough to cover the bottom of a 9 to 9.5 inch pie pan. Peel away to top piece, then invert dough into pan and peel away remaining piece of wrap/paper. Adjust to fit pan without stretching, making sure no air bubbles are trapped at the bottom.

Add apple filling

Work the top piece of dough the same as the bottom piece. Place over filling, crimp bottom and top pieces of dough together, and cut steam vents into the top. For a shiny crust, beat an egg and brush it over the dough, sprinkling with sugar if desired.

Place on a cookie sheet to catch overflow, and place in oven. Bake 45 to 50 minutes


  1. Yes, dear sister, we are cut from the same cloth! If I go more than a few months without going somewhere -- a hotel, a cabin, a monastery -- I start to feel like a tea kettle about to whistle. Must be the side effect of being born to a stewardess and a pilot;) I can't wait to see Ireland next, hopefully. Antarctica is on my list too -- maybe we'll have to go together! That French cabbie -- HA -- I still have no idea what he meant when he said I have "bread maker's feet"!!

  2. I love to travel! I've crossed the borders at both ends of this Country, and have visited France twice (which I will be returning to in the spring - yea!!!). But, ther are so many other places I want to visit as well. At the top of the list are Greece, England, Scotland, Ireland, Israel, Italy - in that order. I have been in Zurich, but since it was a layover for connecting flights and we never left the airport, I am not sure it counts.

  3. Kara, I can just see us outfitted in matching survival suits, making friends with the seals and penguins ;) And, you know, I never thought about the fact we are progeny of two travel industry parents! Too funny :)

  4. Amy, I could see myself going to any one of your listed choices! Plus, my Papa told me his favorite place on earth was Austria, so I plan to visit there at some point, too. I'm jealous you're going to France again, you lucky girl!

  5. Erin, congrats on being a finalist! That is so exciting! *fingers crossed*

    I'm a wandering soul too, probably because we moved so much during my formative years. I think I've been in all but 6 states, but I haven't seen nearly enough of the rest of the world--YET.

    I was in Edinburgh years ago, on Halloween, and I'd wandered around by myself. I realized I was further from the hotel than I'd hoped, and it was getting later in the afternoon. I saw a bus stop and thought I'd wait there. A lovely young woman with her two kids must have seen my nervousness, because she started telling me about local customs, even singing a song for me. LOL

    Then a cab came by and I decided to take that since it was quicker. I adore Scottish accents, but some of them can be a bit tricky. The cab driver was a million years old, with no teeth, AND a thick accent -- he was delightful, but I have NO idea what we talked about the whole time. LOL For all I know, I agreed to marry him. LOL

  6. Oh, Donna, that poor cabbie - he's probably still pining for his missing American fiance, lol! That is so funny :) Well, everything I've heard about Scotland - particularly the people - has been very positive, so I can't wait to make my way there sometime soon.
    Now, you, on the other hand, best get on with visiting some more states! ;)

  7. LOL -- I hope he's not still pining for me! I really loved Scotland, even though it was cold and rainy. I would love to go back.

    And I only have 6 states left to visit! One of them is Alaska, which is too cold for me. :) (Don't worry about me trying to sneak along on your Antartica trip!)

  8. Oops! Donna, I read it to say all *of* six states, lol. How awesome that you have been to so many! My hubby LOVED Alaska - maybe try it in the summer one year on one of those awesome Alaskan cruises. I'd say that is definitely the way to do it!

  9. My two favorite things, travel and apple pie! Seriously I can't get enough of either. I think it's so important to do different kinds of travel, which you've done too; alone, with your significant other or friend, and with your family. I've loved traveling alone (East Coast color tour and P.E.I.); and Ireland/Italy with my family was priceless. and the few trips I've done with Kara (Puerto Rico and Santa Barbara) have been such fun.

    Cole and I are always talking about "where to" next; I'm thinking Austria and Switzerland, but also France and England. Ah, so many countries, so little time and money! :)

    ps congrats on being a finalist!

  10. Lindsay, I agree with you one the different kinds of travel - you definitly get something different out of it depending on who you are with - if anybody. I actually did enjoy some solo traveling, though only in occasion.
    I hope that I will have the opportunity to visit every continent at some point in my life :) I hope you and Cole will be able to travel somewhere cool very soon!

  11. I love to travel but family obligations keep me on the eastern seaboard of the US. Once I sign that major NY contract, hubby and I will fly to Germany and Scotland. Friends in one country, heritage in the other. Pie. Yummm!

  12. I like the way you think, Nancy! Maybe we can meet up in Scotland to celebrate our respective contracts, lol! In the meantime, we are blessed to have so many wonderful places to choose from right here in our own state, let alone the rest of the Eastern seaboard!
    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  13. Congratulations!

    That cake on your head banner looks incredibly delicious.

  14. Why thank you, Annah, for both of your compliments. I ducked over to your blog and had to laugh - I am assuming I am the happy recipient of Leave-a-Comment day, lol! Thanks for stopping by, I hope to see you again :)

  15. Marquita ValentineOctober 8, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    I think we HCRW girls need to take a road trip...like Thelma and Louise but without all the violence and jumping canyons in a convertible.

    However, Brad Pitt is optional.

    Sorry it took me so long to get to your blog...I'm furiously working on revisions to satisfy (hopefully) the powers that be.

  16. Too funny, Marquita :) Almost makes me wish I hadn't sold my convertible, lol!
    I hope the edits are going well. I know it sucks when you are in the middle or revision hell, but it will all be worth it!

  17. As a newly minted dad reading congratulatory cards upon the advent of our first-born, your then "new" Mom and I latched on to an important concept versed in one of those delightful cards: "The two most important things you can give your children in life are roots...and wings." I love to hear how you have enjoyed yours...both of them!
    Although I don't remember the trip, my first foray into traveling was with my Mom in a Piper Cub from Gadsden, AL to Chattanooga, TN and back as she took her first cross-country flight while she was working on obtaining her pilot's license...And oh, did I mention that she was pregnant with me?! BTW, that first-born, your sister, had a similar experience flying back with us from South Korea ;-)...guess she can add that country to her list visited!
    Happy Travelin, EK! Gr8 post!

  18. Yes, Dad, I can definitely say that you and Mom provided both roots and wings rather brilliantly for us three kids :) I knew that Grandma had her pilots license, but had no idea you were in on the action, lol! Thanks for stopping by and sharing :)