Pecan Pie!!!

Okay, so maybe I’m inclined to pursue a joke a bit too far….

A couple of weeks ago, I published a post about my love of the movie When Harry Met Sally and my absolute delight in stumbling across filming locations for the movie in New York City. Much of my excitement lay in suddenly finding myself in the place in which my favourite scene – the Pecan Pie scene – was filmed.

This post led my blogging friend Barbara Pyett to post a recipe of Pecan Pie (partly for my benefit). This in turn led me to make said Pecan Pie for a family dinner this evening.

Pecan Pie

And yes, there were silly voices around the table. (Actually, I told them they couldn’t eat it until they’d said “pecaaaaan piiiiiieeeee”. Possibly cruel but hilariously funny.)

Pecan Pie Slice

So, in turn, here is another post about Pecan Pie. Because it’s funny. And also delicious. (Thanks, Barbara.)

But wait. There’s more. (And it’s not steak knives.)

I’ve just finished appearing in a production of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona. I played Panthina, servant to Proteus’ mother Antonia.

And all the Shakespeare scholars out there are suddenly scratching their heads and thinking, “No, that’s not right. It’s Proteus’ father Antonio who is in the play. And he has a manservant called Panthino.”

Yes, well, let me tell you about non-professional theatre. Men are hard to find. And our little theatre company believes it is better to gender-flip a role and put in a great female actor than put in a terrible male one. (Not that I’m a great female actor. I just happened to be handy.)


Panthina was only in the first half of the play. In the second half I got to play an Outlaw, along with a couple of those great female actors I was telling you about.


Such a frightening rabble.

(Don’t you just love those bearded beanies?!?)

One of my fellow outlaws is another big When Harry Met Sally fan and after my post, there was some hilarity out the back as we replayed our favourite scenes while waiting to go back on stage.

Then things got a little more out of hand.

At one point in the play, we had to run along the outside of the hall in which we were performing making a racket as if we were chasing someone through the woods. One night, my fellow WHMS fan decided she would shout “Waiter, waiter” the whole way. It didn’t really matter. No one in the audience ever had the faintest clue what we were “hallowing” about anyway.

Well, that just seemed like a bit too much fun to me so the next performance, I proceeded to shout “PEEECAAAN PIIIEEEE!” as we ran, trying not to fall over laughing.

I believe on the last night of the play, we not only repeated these phrases but threw in a “I’ll have what she’s having” while we were at it.

Way too much fun from one little scene.

Pecan pie. I love it. In sooo many ways.

Have you ever threaded a favourite movie scene into your life in some way?



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9 Things I Learned In New York City

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain

They say that travel broadens the mind but I think you have to open that mind up first. No amount of travel is going to change your perspective if you arrive expecting (or even demanding) it to conform to familiar territory.

New York City was not my pick. It wasn’t even anywhere on my bucket list after a bad experience in my youth. (It was a much scarier place back then.) I agreed to it because it was what the Husband wanted and these are the kinds of things you do in a marriage.

NY Manhattan

I didn’t want it but I left my mind open to the possibility I might enjoy it.

And I did. And I learned things.

1. New Yorkers like to live on the edge. Either that or they’re all born with a death wish.

NY Crossing

And no, I am not talking about the lax gun laws. They don’t wear seat belts or bicycle helmets and pedestrian crossing lights are merely decorative. Coming from a country that introduced mandatory seatbelt laws in the 1970s, compulsory bike helmet laws in the 1980s and strict gun control laws in the 1990s, this laissez-faire attitude to their safety was concerning.

2. If you want to drive in New York City, your vehicle must be either a yellow cab or a black Suburban.

NY Traffic

I don’t know why anyone would want to drive in New York City but those who do (and who are not taxi drivers) almost all seem to drive large black vehicles. Grey or silver is also acceptable and white is tolerated (but could be mistaken for a delivery vehicle). Driving a colourful car (say, red) is stepping way outside the line.

3. The best way to see New York City is on foot.

Yeah, sure, the subway is a useful way to get from one end to another. And I get that you may need to be somewhere in a hurry and jumping in a cab works for you. But if you’re there as a traveller (as opposed to a mere tourist), the only way to really experience New York City is to take Shanks’ pony. It’s the only way to notice the differing architecture, to recognise the iconic places, to stumble across the quirky and bizarre.

4. A bagel goes a long way.

NY Bagel

Baguettes in France, Würst Im Brot in Germany, wherever we travel we find the one thing that is cheap and filling to eat and pretty much live off it. In New York, that was the bagel. I’m going to miss that bagel shop.

5. New Yorkers don’t really understand customer service.

I don’t know if it’s the prevailing tipping culture (more on that here) but New Yorkers just don’t seem to ‘get’ the concept of customer service for the customer’s sake. If they think they’re likely to score a large tip, then yes, they will turn on the charm, pay attention, make sure you have everything you want. But I lost count of the number of cashiers and ticket sellers who conducted a conversation with their workmate whilst serving me. I found it horrifying and, frankly, insulting. Dear Customer Service Representative: You are being paid (lowly, I admit) to serve me. Not to glance at me, tell me how much and then proceed to ignore me and talk to someone else while I pay my money and take my goods. Just saying.

6. They don’t drink wine in New York City.

Well, yes, that’s a sweeping statement and obviously untrue but it was certainly more difficult to find a shop selling wine than it was to find one selling beer. Fortunately, we tracked one down eventually and tried a bottle of the local drop as is our wont.

NY Wine

7. New York City is really just one big television/movie set so things may not always be as they seem.

NY Movie Set

Like the crashed FBI van outside the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.

8. Good coffee in New York City is hard to find.

NY Starbucks

I don’t care if there is a Starbucks on every corner. I said good coffee. Thankfully, several Australians – actually, more importantly, Melburnians* – have opened Aussie-style – actually, more importantly, Melbourne-style – cafés in New York City.


Why is it important that they are Melbourne-style? Because Melbourne is the coffee capital of Australia. The waves of Italian migrants arriving after World War 2 brought us out of the dark shame of International Roast consumption and into the glorious light of true espresso. Two weeks without proper coffee is too much to ask of anyone. It cost me nearly double what it would at home but that first true cappuccino was oh so worth it.

Coffee and Avocado Smash - An Aussie Café Tradition

Coffee and Avocado Smash – An Aussie Café Tradition

*No, this is not missing an ‘o’. Yes, that is how you spell it.

9. Spring in New York City is colder than the depths of winter at home.

NY Snow

And let me point out that I live in a part of Australia that has a winter. We wear coats and gloves and scarves and complain about the bitter cold (when it gets below 10°C). I’m not sure what I was expecting. I knew it wouldn’t be warm. But I don’t think I expected snow falling out of the sky (even if it didn’t stay on the ground). When the temperature climbed to 15°C one day, we were practically in t-shirts. (Not really, but we did see others in t-shirts and shorts!) I had to keep reminding myself that this sort of weather was the average for the middle of winter back home.


There’s good and bad in that list. But there’s good and bad wherever you go. In the end, I came, I saw and I changed my mind about New York City.


“Give me such shows – give me the streets of Manhattan!” ~ Walt Whitman



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The Flying Beetroot: Scotland The Brave And The Fast

The Flying Beetroot was given the day off today and the Flying Thistle ran in her place.

The Flying Thistle

Today was the 12th annual New York City Scotland Run in Central Park to launch a week of Scottish activities during Scotland Week. Ten kilometres, more than 8,000 runners, bagpipers, highland dancers and the blue and white of St Andrew’s cross everywhere you looked (even the bagels handed out at the end of the race were blue and white).

I didn’t have an official previous race time so I was in the last (slowest) group. This had the advantage of giving me lots of people to pass which can only be good for your ego.

Certainly an experience for a fun run newbie from a provincial city in Australia.

I loved it. And ran a pretty good time given I wasn’t busting myself to break any records. It was technically my Sunday training run and I was just there to have fun.

There were all sorts of runners:

  • The This Could Be Fun Non-Trainers who were walking by the first hill half a mile into the race.
  • The Weaving All Over The Road Slow Runners who drove me up the wall.
  • The I Didn’t Think I’d Get This Hot In A Winter Jacket Strippers. Really?
  • The Let’s Get Into It Scots in their kilts, hats and scarves. That would be me. I wore my father’s Buchanan clan glengarry with great (and somewhat emotional) pride.

Most definitely one of my favourite memories to take home from our visit to the Big Apple.

The Flying Thistle is now retired and the Flying Beetroot is back on track to meet that Half Marathon challenge next weekend.



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They Speak A Foreign Language In America

As an Australian visiting the United States of America, I’ve been brushing up on my foreign language skills.

But you’re both English-speaking countries. Don’t you speak the same language?

Well, I think that’s a debatable point but I wasn’t actually talking about the spoken or written language.

Q: What’s the difference between a canoe and an Australian?

A: A canoe can tip.

If there is one thing that can strike more fear into the heart of an Australian visiting the USA than its lack of gun control it is the concept of tipping.


Who to tip, when to tip, how much to tip…. It’s all a mystery to the average Australian.

It has always amazed me that two countries that began life as colonies of the British Empire could evolve so differently. Perhaps it is because one was founded primarily by pilgrims and settlers and the other by the criminal refuse of the Mother Country.

Tipping does exist in Australia but it is confined mostly to high end restaurants. Cafés have started putting tip jars on their counters but the only expectation is that you might drop in the couple of coins you were just handed in change for your coffee.

Even in restaurants, a tip is not really expected. It certainly is not, as it was for us at a restaurant the other night in New York, included in the bill.

You may, if you felt the food was outstanding and the service excellent, add a little extra when paying. Rounding up to the next five or ten dollars is reasonable.

I often think Americans must excel in the mathematical topic of percentages, given they must constantly work out tips based on an expected percentage.

What I will never understand is the expectation of a tip even if the food was ordinary and the service indifferent.

It is not just the value of the tip that is confusing to Australians, it is how extensive tipping is across American society. Hotels are a particular case in point.

Leaving a tip for the person who comes in to clean your room is, frankly, a bizarre concept to us. There is an implicit understanding that, having paid hundreds of dollars a night for a room, all standard expenses related to that room are covered. Certainly, it is expected that the person who comes to clean your room is being paid a wage to do that job out of those hundreds of dollars you just handed over at reception.

But this is where I start to get an understanding of why tipping is so important in America. In Australia, we fight hard to ensure everyone is earning a reasonable living wage whatever their occupation. To be honest, we have some more work to do on that but the situation is nowhere near as dire as it seems to be in the USA.

The minimum wage in New York State is currently US$8.75/hour. It’s even lower in many other states and six states don’t even have a minimum wage. (Ref.) In Australia, the minimum wage applies across all states and is currently set at A$16.87/hour (US$13.07). (Ref.)

Australia also has universal healthcare, so even though the minimum wage is low, those on low incomes can access free medical care. In America, where much of healthcare is an additional cost to be borne (unless one is lucky enough to have employer-provided health insurance), those on even lower wages must rely on the generosity of strangers and tourists to help them cover these costs.

As an Australian, it’s hard not to see compulsory tipping as a form of legalised begging for the poor.

I hope we don’t see extensive tipping become the norm in our country. I hope we continue to try and ensure every person is paid a liveable wage.

But we will continue to leave a few dollars on the table for the person who comes to clean our room while we are visiting the USA.

Australians can tip. We just don’t understand why.



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