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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | travel

Saying “Yes!”

Trying new things makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like to take risks; I like the familiar. That’s why when I was asked to give several author presentations at international schools in Beijing, my gut reaction was to shout, “Not on your life!” Sure, I knew other authors who had traveled overseas and had wonderful experiences visiting schools in India and Saudi Arabia, but I’m not as brave or as competent as these friends.

Still, something inside me whispered that I would regret saying no to this opportunity. The whisper continued to nag until finally I told the inquiring school a hesitant “yes.”

It didn’t take me long to imagine all the things that could go wrong. I could miss my flight. The Eastern food could disagree with my Midwestern stomach. My driver in Beijing might not show up.

My brave friends assured me that all of these worries were unfounded.

And you know what?

They were wrong.

All of these worries came true.

My departing flight was delayed multiple times until I was sent home and told to come back tomorrow and try again. When I eventually made it to Beijing a day late, two bites of an innocent looking “pancake” from the hotel’s breakfast buffet left me with instantaneous “digestive issues” (aka explosive diarrhea). And midway into my trip as I waited (and waited and waited) one morning for my driver to arrive, it became clear that he was never going to show, leaving me (without a cell phone) to frantically find a way to contact the school.

David LaRochelle AbroadWith all these setbacks, the trip should have been a disaster for a worrywart like me. But it was nothing of the sort. I brought back incredible memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything: standing on the Great Wall, visiting with preschoolers who had baked a giant cake shaped like one of the characters from my picture books, learning how to make Chinese dumplings from one of the teachers. None of these things would have happened if I had stayed at home.

Version 2

And all those mini-disasters? They turned out to be blessings in disguise. When my worst worries materialized and I found a way to work around them, I discovered that I was braver and more competent than I thought.

Though I’m reluctant to admit it, some of the most rewarding moments of my career have come when I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and attempted things I didn’t think I could do: write for teenagers, illustrate a book with tricky paper engineering, tackle nonfiction. I’ll never be an enthusiastic risk-taker like some of my friends, but I’ve learned that being a little uncomfortable is worth the benefits I reap when I stretch myself.

Recently I was asked to visit schools in Moscow and St. Petersburg. As I remembered my time in Beijing, I visualized all the things that could go wrong on a trip to Russia. Then I swallowed my fears, took a deep breath, and said, “Sure, I’d love to go!”

David LaRochelle in Moscow


How To Make An Apple Pie and See The World

How To Make An Apple Pie and See The WorldA couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to make a really good pie. I asked around—bakers, caterers, cooking store owners etc. and the book The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum came up consistently. One person mentioned How to Make An Apple Pie and See The World  by Marjorie Priceman. I purchased both—one for the how-to and one for inspiration.

The Pie and Pastry Bible is enormous and beyond detailed (like reading an organic chemistry book in some places). It has been extremely helpful. Under its tutelage, I’m proud to say I can turn out a decent pie with a flaky, toothsome crust, and filling that holds together (mostly) and delights the senses in its sweetness and texture.

How to Make and Apple Pie and See The World is something else entirely. Technically, it is also a how-to, I suppose, but a person could get lost in the adventure of it.

Making an apple pie is really very easy.
First, get all the ingredients at the market.
Mix them well, bake, and serve.

Let me tell you, Rose Levy Beranbaum would scream and pull her hair out by the roots reading these instructions; but with a simple page turn, Marjorie Priceman acknowledges the difficulties that can arise.

Unless, of course, the market is closed.

What is to be done then? Well, you go home pack a suitcase. With walking shoes and your shopping list, catch a steamship bound for Europe and use the six days on board to brush up on your Italian. Why? Well, you’ll need it when you arrive in Italy during the harvest (timing is important, Priceman acknowledges) to gather yourself some superb semolina wheat.

Photodune: Happy Cow | by Aruba2000You’ll head to France for the chicken (the eggs! You need eggs!) and then Sri Lanka for the kurundu tree (cinnamon!). Upon hitching a ride to England you’ll “make the acquaintance of a cow”—one with good manners and a charming accent. You’ll take her with you because only the freshest milk will do.

On the way to Jamaica (for sugar!) you’ll nab a jar of salty sea water (simply evaporate and you have the salt!) and then fly home. Ingredients should remain fresh, after all. Both Beranbaum and Priceman agree that fresh ingredients are of the utmost importance. You’ll parachute into Vermont for the apples—you can’t forget the apples when you’re making apple pie.

Once home, there’s simply milling and grinding and evaporating and persuading (the chicken to lay an egg) and milking and churning and slicing and mixing to do!

While you wait for the pie to bake, you simply ask a friend over to share!

I love this book and the kids I’ve read it to love it, too. We spin the globe and find all the countries of origin for the pantry staples. We talk about where our food comes from, and if it is possible to make some of our favorite foods with all local ingredients. We talk about how much work it is to grow and prepare food and how many people we depend on to do that. We enjoy the pictures—the delightful heroine who tirelessly globe-trots so she can make a pie to share with friends.

A quick internet search yields lesson plans and homeschooling ideas for this book—few mention actually baking a pie, which makes me sad. Is there anything more homey than a made-from-scratch pie? I think not.

Apple Pie by robynmac | Photodune

Got some backyard raspberries? A u-pick strawberry farm? Consider a bake-n-read this summer with some kids. It’ll be messy, but fun!


Gifted: Walk This World

Walk This World: a Celebration of Life in a Day Lotta Nieminen, a Finnish-born graphic designer and art director Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press, November 2013 As you consider gifts for this holiday season, we suggest … (book #2 in our Gifted recommendations) … Visit 10 countries in one book! This stylish […]


Best Truck Stop Ever

Summer Reading No. 1 Travel season begins now. Resorts and roadside attractions and Dairy Queens are all spruced up. The OPEN signs are once again flipped to the side that matters. Will you be traveling the highways and backroads, looking for adventure? I’ve read a new picture book that made me look differently at something […]