Searching for Jimi’s Castles Made of Sand (MultiMEDIA Splice #3)

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Mud in Essaouira Morocco
An expanse of deep mud separated us from our quixotic destination, having been abandoned by the tide hours before.

My husband shook his weary head at me. Surely I didn’t want to drag our boys through the mud on the off-chance that we’d find ruins that may have inspired an old Jimi Hendrix Jimi quotationsong?

Of course I did.

We had arrived in Essaouira, Morocco the day before. I had been terribly ill, and I was depleted and cranky. We all were. I don’t regret our family trip to Morocco, but it was our most stressful, least favorite trip.

A blurb in our guidebook said that some ruins in Essaouira were the inspiration for Jimi Hendrix’s song, “Castles Made of Sand.”

I needed a little magic to get me over the despair of the last 24 hours. I needed a little Jimi.

(Press play above.)

“And so castles made of sand
fall in the sea, eventually.”

I egged my family on–“It will be an adventure!”–and we set out.

Camels on beach Essaouira Morocco collage

As we walked down the beach, we picked our way though a gauntlet of touts selling horseback or camel rides before we reached a deserted area.

Camels on beach Essaouira Morocco 2

Our only clue was the tiny blurb in our guidebook, so we tried to ask for directions from a passerby. He didn’t speak any English, and I briefly considered whether some air guitar of “Purple Haze” would help. Not my air guitar.

We continued on.

Searching for Jimi in Essaouira Morocco

A sickly dog followed us the whole way, wagging its sad, scruffy tail, and I wished I had a snack to share, but I had nothing.

Dog and mud collage Essaouira Morocco

We muddled and slipped our way through the mud. We were low on clean laundry as it was, and if one of the boys fell in the mud, I would never hear the end of it. Although I was the one most likely to fall, I kept reminding the boys to be careful.

(Video link)
You can see us muddling through the mud at 5:46.

As we got into a remote area, I heard people up ahead. I worried for our safety and thought the dog might protect us, but it was just a few people riding horses in the muck.

We blundered on.

And then we found the fragments of a ramp, and, a little further on, the remains of a wall, and then sections of buildings, broken down and covered in sand.

Boy and Man at ruins in Essaouira Morocco collage

I imagined Jimi Hendrix seeing these same stones, collapsed in the sea, like castles made of sand. My mood soared–victory!

Ruins in Essaouira collage

Although, it wasn’t.

Boys at ruins Essaouira Morocco

After I got home, I researched the song a little further. Jimi recorded “Castles Made of Sand” in 1967, but he took his one and only trip to Morocco in 1969. Not only had we probably not been at the right ruins, but the site wasn’t the inspiration for the song anyway.

It seemed a fitting end to my story about Jimi’s song of irony and disappointment.

“And so castles made of sand
fall in the sea, eventually.”

No worries, though. I’d sought an afternoon filled with adventure and family fun. I had found it all right.

sandals covered in mud in Essaouira Morocco

The mud was just a bonus.

Ruins in Essaouira Morocco

Ruins Slideshow

“Shame on those who remain unmoved, whose pace fails to quicken, on entering one of these old habitations, a manor-house falling to wrack and ruin or a desecrated church!”
Petrus Borel

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some of my favorite ruins from my travels.

camels on beach strip

MultiMEDIA Splice #3: Ruins

Bloggers: Welcome to the third week of MultiMEDIA Splice. Please join me by linking up a multimedia post on this week’s theme: Ruins.

(Next week’s theme: Superstition)

Thanks to Jon for linking up last week with his exploration of life underground in a Chinese city: Tunnels.

How to link up:

MultiMEDIA Splice
  • Copy the above code and paste it into the text view of your post.
  • Then link up your post by clicking “Add your link” below. (Link up every Sunday.)
  • One more thing: Please don’t link and run! Try to visit and comment on a few blogs that link up.

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Tunnels of Love (MultiMEDIA Splice #2)

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“Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground.” — Francesca Lia Block

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(Press play above)

I’ve been drawn to tunnels since I was age eight or so, when I first read of giant insects  tunneling their sweet way through a magical peach in James and the Giant Peach. I’ve always been repelled by them too, though, by the claustrophobia, the entry into the unknown, the darkness, and maybe even those same giant insects from James and the Giant Peach.tunnel quotation

In Greece, we walked back to our hotel in waning light after lingering in downtown Athens to view the Parthenon at night. There was a taxi strike, so we had to walk into the darkness. It was only a mile, but to get to our hotel, we had to go by a creepy patch of not-so-family-friendly strip clubs and cross the highway through an underground tunnel. By the time I crossed the threshold, my anxiety had ratcheted up plenty, fearful of any people (or giant insects) who might be lurking down there.

What I found, though, was a brightly lit space filled with cheerful graffiti.

For me, tunnels capture the conundrum of having my fear of the unknown right smack alongside my love of adventure.

How do you feel about tunnels?

P.S. Here’s a peek at me as a zombie in a tunnel. Good times.

Tunnel strip

MultiMEDIA Splice #2: Tunnel

Bloggers: Welcome to the second week of a new link party, MultiMEDIA Splice. Please join me by linking up a multimedia post on this week’s theme: Tunnel.

(Next week’s theme: Ruins)

Thanks to Jon for linking up last week with his fascinating post on Meat in China (肉).

How to link up:

MultiMEDIA Splice 2
  • Copy the above code and paste it into the text view of your post.
  • Then link up your post by clicking “Add your link” below. (Link up every Sunday.)
  • One more thing: Please don’t link and run! Try to visit and comment on a few blogs that link up.

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Pork Carnitas: Meatlovers, Prepare to Swoon (MultiMEDIA Splice #1, a new link party)

{Join me in this new “MultiMEDIA Splice” link party. Directions below.}

Pork carnitas
Pork Carnitas: Meatlovers, Prepare to Swoon

First bite of pork carnitas quotationSure, I’ve had some success serving my family root vegetable tagine or butternut squash pasta sauce on Meatless Mondays, but the fact is I live amid a household of meatlovers.

Sometimes, you just gotta give the people what they want.

By far, what they’ve wanted the most lately is this beauty: pork carnitas.

I’ve enjoyed pork carnitas in a few different restaurants, but this version that I made myself, hot from the oven? So much better! The aroma enchanted us for hours, just an extra perk.

  I used Chef John’s recipe. Check out his video for easy to follow, entertaining directions.

First, my husband and I got to work carving up the pork butt.

Carving up the pork butt

(Press play above.)

Some singing is recommended during this step:

“I like big butts and I can not lie.”
–Sir Mix-a-Lot

Yes, a pork butt is really from a pig’s shoulder, but that’s not as fun.

Carving up pork for pork carnitas

Adding spice mix orange peel and garlic to pork

I added a mix of spices, orange peel, and garlic cloves to the pork chunks before dousing them with freshly squeezed orange juice and popping them in the oven to cook low and slow for hours.

Adding orange juice to pork chunks


While the pork cooked, I pickled some red onions to serve on top. Definitely take the time to add these–it’s so easy, and the pickled onions give the perfect burst of sharpness against the richness of the pork.

Pickling red onions

Then, it was just a matter of waiting it out for the entire afternoon.

Pork in the oven

Finally, our wait was over. I stabbed my fork into a chunk straight from under the broiler, barely bothering to protect the roof of my mouth from burning.

The first bite: tender and crispy, rich and spicy, with a touch of sweetness from the orange and an unexpected hint of Chinese five spice giving it that je ne sais quois (literally–I don’t know what it is.)

To the real chefs out there, please forgive me when I admit the silly impulse that flashed through my mind the moment I tasted it: I need to open up a restaurant and serve only  pork carnitas. There will be a line out the door….

OK, back to reality. I made some homemade corn tortillas and served the pork as an open-faced taco with black beans, brown rice, sour cream, cheddar, and vegetables.

Pork carnitas dinner

The men in the house were in heaven, and, OK, so was I.

Before I know it, my sons will be off to college. I know a Sunday dinner that’ll keep them coming back.

Serving pork carnitas dinner
Check out that mound of food my husband assembled. He loved this photo.

Pork carnitas plate

P.S. I also tried making crackling for the first time by broiling up the skin. I was not a fan.

Pork carnitas strip

MultiMEDIA Splice #1: Meat

Bloggers: Welcome to the first week of a new link party, MultiMEDIA Splice. Please join me by linking up a multimedia post on this week’s theme: Meat.

Check out the Daily Post multimedia challenge for some great information about multimedia posts.

(Next week’s theme: Tunnel)

How to link up:

MultiMEDIA Splice #1
  • Copy the above code and paste it into the text view of your post.
  • Then link up your post by clicking “Add your link” below. (Link up every Sunday.)
  • One more thing: Please don’t link and run! Try to visit and comment on a few blogs that link up.

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Thanksgiving Outtakes

Every year for 15 years, I gather my sons in the yard to take a Thanksgiving snapshot. Some years there’s a turkey to baste, some we have to hit the road. Some years snow, some brilliant sunshine. Some years with a fence, some on the sidewalk.

No matter. The ritual is always the same. The boys clown, the boys annoy. I cajole, I wheedle. They smile. We laugh.

Every year love comes through.

I choose one to save and delete the outtakes, but the outtakes tell a story too.

Thanksgiving outtakes 1 PhotosBooth_Template_TipSquirrel Thanksgiving outtakes 2 PhotosBooth_Template_TipSquirrel

15 years of Thanksgiving snapshots 2000-2014

Thanksgiving snapshot 2014 Dan and Dave

Happy Thanksgiving!

Years of Thanksgiving Past:

  • Four Tales of Gratitude
    Skydiving gone wrong, Nina Simone, a Slaughterhouse-Five hobo, and Monty Python were all part of feeling gratitude last Thanksgiving.
  • My Pet Peeves
    This video’s about my (not so very) long list of pet peeves.
  • Benign
    I got good news about a biopsy the day before Thanksgiving.
  • Leftover Turkey Oatmeal
    Sometimes you can only eat so many turkey sandwiches.

Set table Thanksgiving morning

   Multimedia Splice Link Party  Join me on Sunday, Nov. 30, for a new link party, MultiMEDIA Splice. First theme: Meat.

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Do Only Fuddy-Duddies Question Comedians and Interstellar?

Little house and old books

How many times have I been that teacher in the front of the room when the kids are supposed to be working quietly, but wave after wave of suppressed giggles come forward? Does it even matter whether someone really cut the cheese or he was falsely accused when these giggles lift the veil of boredom for scant moments, breaking up the day, and what’s wrong with a little fun, anyway?

Have I entered the old fuddy-duddy phase of my life?

When I stood over my husband’s shoulder to watch Christian comedian Tim Hawkins make fun of atheists, should I have lightened up? Don’t I always love a man with a guitar? Did I just imagine that the whooping laughter from the audience was tinged with hatred for those pathetic atheists who go around thinking they’re so superior?

Am I the only one who sees lyrics like “Reason why, reason why, we exist, but there’s no reason why” as refreshing?

Is it wrong to want to live in reality? Isn’t it good to raise children in the here and now, to show them there is no wizard behind the curtain, and we have all the brains, heart, and courage we need, right here?

Don’t I get it, that people ache to wonder, “Is that all there is?” Don’t I too want a payout after a long investment of time and energy? Wasn’t I the one who watched six seasons of Lost, expecting a finale that would tie it all together, even though it was apparent for ages that there was no way? Were they just making it up as they went along, though?

Do only fuddy-duddies complain when the music’s too loud?

When I got home from seeing Interstellar, why did I jump into a debate about theoretical physics that I couldn’t quite grasp? Why did I bother, when my biggest impression was nausea over how ridiculously loud it was, an assault on not just my ears but my psyche? If someone needs to cause me physical pain to make his movie dramatic, then shouldn’t he have workshopped the script a little more?

Would the kids in the back of the class stop giggling, please? Don’t you know that people are trying to focus on their quizzes, for Christ’s sake?

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Spinning Yarns

Knitting needles bokeh

My favorite storytellers have a zest for life, and they weave their enthusiasm into the smallest of details. Even if they are griping about an annoyance, their wonder at life’s inanities comes through loud and clear. So whether they make me want to laugh or want to cry, they also make me marvel at those little moments that others would miss.

This capacity comes through in some of my favorite books:

  • Ken Kesey in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath
  • John Updike in Rabbit, Run
  • Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart
  • Jack Kerouac in On the Road
  • Norman Mailer in The Naked and the Dead

All of those books have different styles, but they all spun a tale that tuned me into a world I hadn’t known.

  • Linking up today with The Daily Post: Spinning Yarns (What makes a good storyteller, in your opinion?)
  • Please join me next Sunday at a new multimedia link party: MultiMEDIA Splice
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Join me in a new link party: MultiMEDIA Splice

Multimedia Splice Link Party

Bloggers! Please join me

Join me in a new link party starting next week: MultiMEDIA Splice

The first week’s theme: Meat
(Starting Sunday, November 30.)

I invite you to link up every Sunday with your multimedia exploration of the week’s theme. Then, visit the blogs that link up. Hopefully, we’ll all get some new visitors and meet some new bloggers, or at least we’ll all marvel at our multimedia posts.

What is MultiMEDIA Splice?

Basically, pick 3 (or more) ways to explore each week’s theme, such as with a mix of text, photos, and video.

Some multimedia ideas:

  • Text
  • Video (video blog or other embedded video)
  • Music (an embedded song or other audio)
  • Photograph (new or from your archives)
  • Quotation
  • Gif (animated gif or comic on the theme)
  • Timeline (or infographic)
  • Embedded tweet
  • Other ideas?

I hope to see you next week!

Check out the Daily Post multimedia challenge for some great information about multimedia posts.

An embedded video:

(Video link)

An embedded song:

(If there is no mp3 player embedded above, try here and click the attachment.)

Any suggestions for a future theme? Let me know in the comments or at

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Get mine

Once, he revealed his true core: “Get mine–
God gave dominion over the Earth and animals.”

Speechless, I sputtered empty words: “Shame on you,”
deeply serious, but he laughed.

Later, I was just another pawn to use and discard.
Shame on me.

Elephants painting in Thailand

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Travel theme: Arches

{Linking up with Travel theme: Arches}

Floating Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Arch on floating island Lake Titicaca Peru

One of the more unusual places I’ve visited was a floating island in Lake Titicaca. The ground was spongy under my feet. Visitors were welcomed by walking through this arch, made of the same reeds that made the island, the huts, and the boats.

Elk Antler Arches, Jackson Hole, WY

Elk Antler Arches Jackson Hole WY

Each of the corners of this park featured an arch made from Elk antlers. Don’t worry–they are shed naturally by the elk.

Roman Ruins, Volubilis, Morocco

Arch Roman ruins Volubilis Morocco

It was about 140 degrees F when I toured the ancient Roman ruins in Volubilis, Morocco. The arches were beautiful, but how about some shade?

The Wooster Street Arch, New Haven, CT

Gateway to pizza: The Wooster Street arch

You know how you know you’re about to get some of the best pizza in the world? You spot the Wooster Street Arch. New Haven aPizza: Pepe’s vs. Sally’s

Natural Arch, Inca Trail, Peru

Inca Trail

Hiking the Inca Trail was breathtaking, literally and figuratively. Day 3 of the hike offered the most varied terrain and ecology. Hiking the Inca Trail, Day 3: The Long and Winding Road

Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, NY

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

I was thrilled to walk under the Brooklyn Bridge’s famous arches on a gorgeous spring day. Birthday on the Brooklyn Bridge

View of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn

Golden Arches, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

McDonald's Amsterdam

The architecture in Amsterdam is stunning. They even make McDonald’s look beautiful.

 Have you seen any great arches? Feel free to share a link in the comments.

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What I Ate in Thailand: The Best Food in the World

Thailand map itinerary

{This is part of an occasional series, “What I Ate In …”}

Thai Food

Thai food is delightful–an amazing variety of intensely flavorful fruits and vegetables, seafood, curries, soups with complex broths, noodles, rice, and spices, spices, spices.

Giant prawns Thailand

Giant prawns

I visited Thailand with my family in 2009. All of the food was prepared fresh, and it was usually cut into bite-sized pieces. Food was very inexpensive compared to America. There was so much variety, and we saw changes in the cuisine as we moved from Bangkok to the “Golden Triangle,” the region where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma) meet, to a tropical island. For most of our trip, we were on a tour with G Adventures.

Whole fish Thailand

Whole fish with vegetables

Papaya salad Thailand

Papaya Salad

Curries and Noodles

Curries and noodles Thailand

Curries and noodles, from sweet to spicy

Five curries sweet to spicy Thailand

Five curries, from sweet to spicy

One of my most fun food experiences was when my guide, “Tommy on Tour,” brought our small group to a noodle restaurant for lunch.

Tommy lined up the curries from least to most spicy and told us a little about each one as we sampled them.

We also had Pad Thai at this restaurant.


Pad Thai Thailand

Pad Thai

Curry and rice Thailand

Curry and rice

Hot pot Thailand

Thai hot pot

Curried rice Thailand

Curried rice with egg

Street Food

Street food Bangkok Thailand Chicken and vegetables spicy chilies

Melt your face off chilies accompanied this chicken and vegetables dish. I bought it for 60 cents on the street in Bangkok, Thailand.

There were many cheap, delicious choices of quick snacks or full meals on the streets of Thailand.

The chicken and vegetable dish pictured above was delicious, but I ignorantly added a generous spoonful of a chili condiment. It was the most spicy thing I ever ate in my life! I think in the restaurants, the owners knew that most tourists could not handle spiciness like the locals, and they would serve tourists food that was relatively mild even if they ordered it spicy. That little bowl of chilies was definitely for the locals.

Streetfood Thailand chestnuts

Street food: hot chestnuts

Streetfood Thailand dumplings

Street food: dumplings

Street food Bangkok Thailand Squeasel Balls

Lost in translation: My son David had squeasel balls on the street in Bangkok, Thailand

My son David had squeasel balls on the street in Bangkok. Don’t know what squeasel is? We didn’t either. (Years later, I saw an Anthony Bourdain episode where he was served a “forest creature” called squeasel in Vietnam, and it turned out to be porcupine.)

Bangkok, Thailand

Freshly squeezed dragon fruit juice and orange juice from a street vendor in Bangkok, Thailand

Hilltribe Village

Northern Thailand hilltribe village guesthouse

A village guesthouse in northern Thailand

We hiked to a hilltribe village where we spent the night in a rural guesthouse. The cooks put us to work wrapping spring rolls while they prepared an amazing meal that we ate gathered in a circle on the floor. They also kindly prepared some “KFC,” fried chicken drumsticks for my younger son, the picky eater (not in the picture below).

Make springrolls northern hill tribe village Thailand

Wrapping spring rolls in northern Thailand

Rural village feast northern Thailand

Village feast in northern Thailand

Restaurant on street Singha beer Thailand

Singha, an inexpensive local beer, enjoyed at a restaurant with tables on the street, Thailand

Smelly Fruit

I had to try durian, a notoriously smelly fruit. It was smelly, but I have an oddly weak sense of smell, and it really didn’t bother me as much as it bothers others. It had a mild flavor and a creamy texture.

Durian in Bangkok Thailand

The notoriously smelly fruit durian

Night market fruit vendor Thailand durian

A fruit vendor at a night market in Thailand

Barracuda on the Beach

Food choices on the beach Thailand

Food choices on the beach, Ko Samet, Thailand

On Ko Samet, a small island a few hours from Bangkok, fresh ingredients for various dishes were assembled and wrapped in plastic. I would point to my selection, and the chef would barbeque it right on the beach. I was able to fulfill my decades-long desire to have “barracuda on the beach.” (It’s a long story. I wrote about it here: Barracuda on the Beach.)

Barracuda on the Beach

Barracuda on the beach, Ko Samet, Thailand

Ko Samet, Thailand

Barbecuing on the beach, Ko Samet, Thailand

 The World’s Best Bus Depot Food

Thai soup at a bus stop

Thai “fast food”–a delicious soup from a bus depot

Even the “fast food” was delicious. We stopped in a bus depot for a quick bite. My kids headed for American fast food, but my husband and I chose one of the most delicious soups I have ever had. We pointed to the noodles and meat that we wanted, and before we knew it a steaming bowl of rich, flavorful soup was being slurped down by us. If only they had fast food like this in American bus depots.

American Fried Rice?

American fried rice in Thailand

American Fried Rice in Bangkok, Thailand

One of the stranger meals I saw was called “American Fried Rice,” a dish my husband ordered out of curiosity at our Bangkok hotel. (I wrote about it here: American Fried Rice and Mother’s Day Brunch.)


Breakfast porriage Bangkok Thailand Chok

Jok, a thin rice porridge, in Thailand

During my first few days in Thailand, I had a traditional breakfast of jok, a thin rice porridge topped with a variety of condiments. It was delicious, but I was eating a lot of adventurous meals, and I ended up giving my system a little break by eating a simple American-style breakfast at each hotel. (I did, though, make a savory oatmeal inspired by jok when I got home.)

Snake Whiskey: Chok De!

Snake whiskey

Getting the strength of a cobra in Laos: Snake whiskey

Finally, I had to summon up my courage, but I was excited to try snake whiskey when I went across the Mekong River into Laos for a quick visit to a tourist shop. (I wrote about it here: Getting the Strength of a Cobra in Laos.)

I’ve had some incredible meals all over the world, but if I had to pick my favorite cuisine during my travels, Thailand’s was the best.

What was your favorite meal while traveling?

Related Thailand Posts:

What I Ate In…:

Temple in Bangkok Thailand

Timid No More front cover Read about my quest to complete 101 things in 1001 days: Timid No More.

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