Ladle Heist

People are inspired by different the same sight differently. For example: the gorgeous Swiss Alps inspire some to write poetry, or paint, or go on long hikes. They inspire ME to rewrite the words to “Edelweiss” from Sound of Music as “Ladle Heist”, the epic tale of spoon-theiving adventures. I am comfortable with who I am and how I react to things.

Ladle Heist (sung to the tune of Edelweiss, from The Sound of Music)

[You must attempt to sing it as you read. it’s no good otherwise. Promise.]

Ladle heist, ladle heist; we stole all of big spoons

Ladle heist, ladle heist; now you can’t serve the au jus.

[now the “blossom of snow” part]

Punch and some soup and the gravy,

all are stuck, in the bowl


Ladle heist, ladle heist; late one night we crept iiiiiinnnn.

Ladle heist, ladle heist; all the beds were all slept in.

[“blossom of snow” part again]

We ran in quickly to kitchen, kitchen for the laaaaadles.

Ladle heist, ladle heist; once we gather them in a sack

Ladle heist, ladle heist; we sneaked off without looking back.

[other part]

We can now scoop to our hearts’ content, while you vent, your frustration, foreeeever.

Ladle heist, ladle heist; we stole all of your big spoons.

Ladle heist, ladle heist;We are the culinariest of all the goons.

[okay, that last line is tough to sing, with all those syllables and stuff. but if you’re committed, you’ll be able to manage.]


The Rices Stand In Line At The Vatican Museums and Fight Off a Line-Jumper with Awesomeness

oh my goodness, guys. I’ve got such a story for you. It’s empowering, and full of drama and daring-do and ultimately either triumphant or super frustrating. (Hint: it’s triumphant. And AWESOME.)
So, to set the scene: we are in Rome, in June, which means that it is freakishly hot and muggy and about 70% of the people you see are tourists, and 25% are people working with, selling to, stealing from, and otherwise engaged with the tourists. The other 5% are very annoyed with the other two groups, who are probably also annoyed with each other. There are lines everywhere. There are massive tour groups, radio headphones in, following their leaders, who hold up some object (a scarf, umbrella, etc) in the air, dragging their masses of people behind them, through other masses of people. All this to line up some more. In the broiling sun. In the heat. In Rome. In June.

Got it?

So, the Rice Band of Six Intrepid Travelers were firmly planted in the line to get into the Vatican Museum, home of the Sistine Chapel, among other things. The line was in the full sun, in between a wall and a fence. The line had easily 150 people in front of us, 100 behind. It was 2.30 in the afternoon, and we’d already traipsed all over the Forum and Palatine Hill that morning. We were tired and not going to put up with any funny business.

All of a sudden, through the packed line of people behind us, a guy started pushing through. “Excuse me. Scuzzi. Excuse me. I need to get through.” He was quite urgent, and when we didn’t let him through very easily, and seemed a little skeptical about his right to shove through while the rest of us waited, he escalated the intensity a bit, “ I work here. I need to get through!” and shoved past us. We let him through grudgingly and he shoved ahead, but then we saw that he had no uniform, no badge, nothing. He might have been a pickpocket, creating a distraction and brushing up against people, or he might have been a running-behind tour guide. Nevertheless, there was a separate line for tours, and he had no right to shove through.

So, of course, THEN we thought of lots of come-backs and witty remarks we could have said to him, things we could have done, ways we could have stood our ground. Isn’t that always the way it is in these kind of interactions? Grr.

If the story ended there, it would just be one of life’s frustrating episodes.

But it doesn’t.

Miffed by that encounter, the Rice Band of Six Intrepid Travelers formed a blockade in our part of the line, standing shoulder to shoulder from the wall to the fence. Some minutes passed, everyone baking in the sun, the line of hundreds of people slowly shuffling forward together.

From behind, again, we heard “Excuse me. I need to get through. Excuse me. Watch out.” We all braced ourselves, shoulder to shoulder, with my arm against the far railing. Soon the middle aged woman, who had perfected the stressed, authoritative, in a hurry voice and manner had reached us, after bullying past other annoyed people. She had reached us, and we weren’t going to move, as she was about to find out. (Can you feel the tension building? It was for us.)

“I need to get through.” She huffs.

“Why?” Mom asks, turning her head, but not unwedging her shoulders.

“I am a group guide. I need to get through!” she huffs again, and tries to physically push between mom and I. we don’t let her through.

“Let me through! I will call security!”

This is escalating quickly.

“Go ahead and call security,” mom says. “there is a separate line for groups, right over there. I think everyone would agree with me,” at this point she gestures to the other people who are quickly tuning in to this escalating situation, [Note: my mom is so clever, to go for the group solidarity.] “that we are all waiting here, and you can wait, too.”

“You don’t understand. I need to get through here!” she continues, and tries to push past again. “Please move your arm from that fence or I will call security!”
She tries a bit more blustering threats, and tries to push past again. We are unmoved, physically and metaphorically. It has actually gotten to that point, a test of wills and physical locations. This is intense.

“Where are you from?” she asks accusingly.

“why does it matter?” mom responds calmly.

“just curiousity,” the woman responds unconvincingly.

“well, we’re in line here, and that’s all that matters. Curiosity solved.” My mom is tough.

The woman turns to the people behind us who’ve been following this whole exchange, because what else is there to do in line, and also it’s really intense. She starts speaking to them in Spanish, complaining about us, and ends with, “No entienden nada. No entienden.” [They don’t understand anything. They don’t understand.]

Rising to the occasion, to defend my family’s honor, I turn back to her, just like you always imagine doing, and I retorted, “Si, entendemos todo. !Todos nosotros estamos esperando aqui en la linea!” [Yes, we understand everything. All of us are waiting here in the line!] and I turn back around. She gives it one last shot, trying to push past me again, but I don’t budge, and say firmly, “No me empuje. Por favor no me empuje.” [Don’t push me. Please don’t push me. (I didn’t say it with entirely correct grammar. Oh well, she got the message.)]

And, conceding defeat in the face of the Rice moral and physical fortitude and linguistic ability, she slunk away. And no one else tried to jump past us in the line again.


BAM. Guys, isn’t it just everything you always play back in your head and wish you’d done after an encounter where someone takes advantage of you, or thinks you’re stupid?

1. We didn’t let her shove by us and everyone else who was waiting in the sweltering sun, even when it was awkward and escalating and high-stakes not to give in. 2. I retorted to someone in Spanish who was assuming that we were stupid Americans who couldn’t understand them. 3. We stood for justice and not jumping in lines when everyone else has to wait, so you should, too.

We are awesome.

London with Kirsty. And a blue bridge.

Languages are SO cool.

See?? These were in the British Museum. Which is the fanciest loot-cave for robbers that I’ve ever seen…

(as are most museums, to be fair.)

Picnic-ing with Kirsty!

(you’re famous! again! some more!)

Guys, the cable-things on the Tower Bridge are BLUE. That is crazy to me. They are BLUE. All the time. I really didn’t expect that.

(Kirsty: “….Karen, that’s the strangest reaction to the Tower Bridge that I have ever heard.” )

(Kirsty [five minutes later]: “You know, it is really strange that it’s blue. Why would they do that? That makes no sense.”)

(I win.)


Karen Does Science

I know, you may be asking yourself, “Why would Karen need to do Science?” and the answer is: there are some questions which can only be answered through empirical testing.

one such question:

How thick/strong is the ice at the edge of this frozen pond by the Presidential Palace in Tallinn? 

This is clearly a question that can only be answered through experimentation.

I am not a total idiot. I did not jump onto the ice or anything.

I just pushed on it with one of my feet, as I sat on the edge of the pond. That’s way different.

The answer to the question How strong is the ice? is Not very. 

But there is another question, which it turns out I was testing at the very same time. That question was:

Can Karen react quickly enough to pull her foot up before it gets soaked in ice cold water? 

Experimental testing indicates…






Today I had to switch hostels, because the one I was staying at was booked out for tonight by the time I booked it last week. Not a big deal, I just booked one night in another hostel fairly close in Tallinn, packed up my stuff this morning, and set off to switch locations.

Well, after two days of cold but sunny, it was raining and windy and cold. Someone called it “Soviet Weather” if that gives you the picture.

Oh well, I am a hearty traveler, and am firmly of the opinion that a little rain never hurt anyone. So off I set.

Below is the route that I looked up beforehand from one hostel to another:

Not a bad walk, just a little over a mile, not too complicated.

…If you know me, you know that this story is about to take a twist.

Thanks to my patented Never Fail, Always  Trustworthy, Generally Quite Impressive Ability to Be Directionally-Challenged, THIS was the route I took:

This turned out to be a 3+ mile scenic tour (in the rain and wind, mind you) of “the other side of town”. The buildings alternated between concrete block apartments and wooden buildings that looked like they were about to fall down. If it had been night time, I would have said it was decidedly “sketch”. I don’t know if this is true, but it felt like closer to what Tallinn might have been like while it was Soviet-controlled, than Old Town does. It was cool to see that, but by the end of my walk, I was reeeally ready to be there.

I manage to go precisely the wrong way, and thereafter have awful instincts about getting back on track. It’s a powerful combination, and one that gets more much more exercise than I am really looking for, a lot of the time.

And this is why I should never be in charge of directions for anything, any time.

Cool Things About Estonia #7

There’s a restaurant named “The Garlic Restaurant”.

To quote Liz Lemmon: “I want to go to there.”

Also advertised elsewhere in Tallinn:

“Worthy Elk Stew, Full of Flavor Experience”



This is what I said on facebook about Carl’s and my clubbing experience:

Last night Carl and I went to a real, live Spanish nightclub. With gold chairs. And absurdly loud music. and Spanish guys sharking on all the girls. yeah. it happened. Cultural Experience, man.

and then I had to clarify:

Unfortunately “sharking” is NOT a goofy dance move in which one does the “baby shark dun dun dun dun dun dun dun” dance, and it is in fact “hitting on in a particularly sleazy or aggressive way”. It’s British slang.

Well, we didn’t take any pictures in the club (because that would have been so unbearably, immeasurably uncool as to cause my future children to hide in mortification at some random moment in 25 years), so this will have to do:


the couches weren’t gold when we went, but the chairs up top still were.

and that stamp on my hand is proof that I was there.

oh yeah.