Book Reviews, Poetry & Words, Theology

On Soviet Food and Spiritual Food

I’m currently reading a memoir of Soviet times, a sort of wandering musing on meals and cooking, from Lenin’s own kitchen to the communal cafeterias in Moscow. While I enjoy cooking, I confess I find food to be an inconvenience at times; and, as mother to a child with anaphylaxis, potentially deadly at others. Why did God design food to be so crucial?

On Soviet Food and Spiritual Food

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I’m currently reading Anya von Bremzen’s Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, a sort of wandering musing on meals and cooking, from Lenin’s own kitchen to the communal cafeterias of the author’s Moscow childhood. While I enjoy cooking — and obviously, books about cooking — I confess I find food to be an inconvenience at times; and, as mother to a child with anaphylaxis, potentially deadly at others. Certainly as a parent, preparing, serving, and cleaning up food is a nonnegotiable part of my daily routine. As I go about these chores, I often question why God designed food to be so crucial.

Why does the human body required food, simply to continue to exist? (Or, as I texted my friend the other day, “Why do these people I live with seem to want to eat three times a day?”)

My questioning doesn’t end there.

Continue reading “On Soviet Food and Spiritual Food”

Poetry & Words, Theology

When I was a little girl, I didn’t live on the prairie


When I was a little girl, I didn’t live on the prairie or in the suburbs or in wide-eyed city lit by neon signs. I didn’t know apple pie was supposed to be American. I never saw a baseball game. I didn’t have a picket fence, or a dog, or any of those things that are you supposed to make you American. But I didn’t live in America, either.

When I was a little girl, I lived in the middle of a brown and white house right smack on the edge of a street called Taborska right smack on the edge of a city called Ljubljana. Our front door didn’t have a doorknob. It had a door handle instead, which was long and narrow. It kind of looked like someone had taken a capital L, turned it sideways, and jammed the short side into the door. Our landlady lived downstairs, so we called her Grandma Downstairs. Petra and Alenka, her two granddaughters, lived up the stairs. We called them Petra and Alenka. Much later when I grew up into a lady and lived maybe a million or seven miles from there, I had a daughter too and I named her A. Alenka. It sounds like music. But that didn’t happen yet, because I was still a little girl.

I had one brown-haired mustached dad and one strawberry blonde mom, and a brother who got himself locked in the spare room once. The L-shaped door handles were very good at getting locked and very bad at opening up again, so while I cooked horseradish and dandelion soup in my cardboard kitchen, I prayed for a replacement brother. The original brother was unlocked before I’d finished praying, but God sent me a second brother a few years later anyway.

I didn’t have a dog. Once I had some tadpoles, which sounds nice, but really they looked more like their other name, pollywogs. Sometimes we had a goldfish. He was a very possibly magic goldfish. Sometimes he swam right out of the bowl and was missing for a long time before he popped back into the bowl. My dad was not a goldfish but he had blue eyes on the front of his head and an extra pair of eyes on the back of his head. The extra eyes were just as good at seeing as the forward-facing ones. He had a stack of heavy books next to his bed. Since it was dark when he woke up, I’m not sure which eyes he used to read.

I don’t think my mom and dad could see very far from the middle part of the house where we lived, but as I was still a child and hadn’t yet grown eyes in the back of my head, so I could see for miles. The red clay rooftops sparkled like tiny crests, like little ocean waves in a red sea. Of course, the Red Sea isn’t actually red. I know this because I am very nearly six years old, and I know almost everything there is to know, particularly important truths such as how one person cannot see one’s own face, no matter how tangled up one gets trying to turn one’s eyeballs toward it.  I tasted the sea in Greece once, although I probably shouldn’t have because there was quite a lot of rubbish floating in it. It was a rather green sea. All the books I’d ever read said seawater was supposed to be blue, but I guess they hadn’t been to Greece.

Things don’t always end up the color they set out to be, anyway. There’s a man who sometimes who comes to visit the cats and chickens and sour cherry trees downstairs, and I think his hair started out brown but it’s beginning to have grey bits around the edges. I think to myself that it’s the same kind of grey as the sardines heaped up on the tables near the bridge in the city. The sardines started out with a silvery flash of green, I think, but mostly they end up grey, too. There are big cement columns stuck into the ground at each end of the bridge down by the sardine tables. They are grey, too, like most of the things in our city, but the dragons on the top are a kind of sad, flaky green that looks like it used to be happy. Mom says the dragons are made of copper but I don’t thinks she’s right about that.  I saw a picture of a copper penny once, in an American book, but it wasn’t green at all. Our friend tried to each me about pennies. I didn’t listen. I just looked at her when she talked, and watched my head head bob up in down in the reflection of glasses she wore to cover up her glass eye.

I didn’t need to know about American pennies, anyway. I didn’t live in America. Maybe someday I would, and there would be plenty of time to learn about pennies then.

Poetry & Words, Theology, Travel/Moving

When Home Can’t Be Pinned Down

When Home Can't Be Pinned Down - Gina Munsey on OaxacabornWhen I was little, I knew my grandparents through letters and home-recorded cassette tapes. I used to dream of hugging them, of spending long days beside them, of just looking at them and listening to the sound of their voice.

And one day, a long time ago, we showed up from another continent, from across the ocean, and “by the time we were at the bottom of the hill and had parked beside the house, my grandmother, my grandfather, and Aunt Margaret were all outside, looking exactly the way they had in the calendar picture. I ran right into my grandmother’s arms as if I’d been doing this every day.

‘Welcome home! Oh, welcome home!’ my grandmother cried.

I hadn’t known it, but this was exactly what I’d wanted her to say. I needed to hear it said out loud. I was home.” -Jean Fritz, Homesick pg. 138

All those memories came flooding back to me, this month, when I set Aveline down on the airport floor and watched her run at top speed into my dad’s arms. She latched onto him, she threw her arms around his neck, she pressed her cheek to his shoulder, and I felt it again. I felt I was a girl with one foot here, one foot there. A girl to whom home was a many-splendored thing, altogether here and there.

And in between the here-ness and there-ness is a place that can’t be pinned, a place that can’t be caught or ordered around, a place that can’t be pushed into a map’s tight little squiggly lines. It’s a place I can’t visit whenever I want to, but only when the road we’re on lets us go there, and maybe that’s the beauty of it.

Grandma never stopped smiling and Grandpa buckled her into her very own seat in his truck, and we all piled in. Looking at this scene, I didn’t know if it was 1991 or 2013. I didn’t know if she was being buckled into the seat or if it was me. Here and there passed each other so closely they became one, the one thing that can’t be held down.


“I paid no attention to the road. I just kept looking out the window until all at once there on my right was a white picket fence and a meadow, fresh and green as if it had just this minute been created…the whole scene. The perfect greenness. The washed-clean look. The peacefulness. Oh, now! I thought. Now I was in America. Every last inch of me.” -Jean Fritz, Homesick pg. 133

Every last inch.

Thoughts on Grandparents, or, When Home Can't Be Pinned Down - Gina Munsey on Oaxacaborn

Babiekins Magazine, Conversations with Designers

CREATIVE SPOTLIGHT :: Gigi Rose Gray, the Artist Behind the Illustrations

This past year, I’ve experienced the incredible thrill of having my work illustrated. Since the illustrations are arranged by the publisher, I don’t see the art until long after it is completed — and I often don’t know anything about the artist who transforms my words into images. So I was especially delighted to see this interview with Gigi Rose Gray, whose tremendous illustrations appear alongside my childhood tale “The Egg Man” in the current print issue of Babiekins.

When I first saw the two pieces she drew for my story, I was in awe of how someone else could capture the essence of my childhood so well. How could she know what a little girl would see in another country? How could she know what it looked like through my young eyes?

The Egg Man in Babiekins Magazine - by Gina Munsey and illustrated by Gigi Rose Gray

It all made sense when I read what she said about her own childhood: “In Brittany I have memories of a towering armoire teeming with jars of homemade jams, walking along the ramparts of the medieval city. In Normandy I remember the ‘moules frites’ and fisherman hauling in their catch, witnessing a thief make his escape in Barcelona and galloping on horseback through the wild fields of Provence. My work has been strongly influenced by my childhood, as I remember it to be a time of wonderment and exploration which was no doubt largely thanks to my travels.”

How neat is that? This story was illustrated by someone who really gets it. That’s so awesome.

You can see more of her art on sale for a limited time here — and don’t miss the fantastic illustrations she did for another one of my stories here, here and here

Summer Vacation Tour

TRAVEL :: Heidelberg, Germany with Amanda: A Stop on the Summer Vacation Tour

So far on this virtual travel series, we’ve explored two cities in Germany — Frankfurt and Hamburg, thanks to Sylvia (Artsy Ants) and Alyx (Every Day is a New Adventure). Today, we add a third to the list, as Amanda tells us all about living in Heidelberg!


A bit more about Amanda
I grew up in Ohio and moved to Florida a couple months after I turned 23. I lived there for three years and didn’t really plan on leaving. Then I met my husband, a medic in the Army, who was stationed in Georgia. I moved there the month after we got married. To our surprise, a month later, we found out we had orders to Heidelberg, Germany. Three months later, we were living here. So far, we have explored Heidelberg and several cities in Germany, and we plan to visit several more. We also plan to visit other countries, although we haven’t gotten to do so yet. I blog about our life and travels abroad at Overseas Adventures. Today, I’ll tell you a few of my favorite things about living here.
Continue reading “TRAVEL :: Heidelberg, Germany with Amanda: A Stop on the Summer Vacation Tour”

Guest Blog, Summer Vacation Tour, Travel/Moving

TRAVEL :: Costa Rica with Tico♥Tina: A Stop on the Summer Vacation Tour

You are fantastic, readers — thank you for the great feedback on the travel series so far! Keep the comments, tweets and shares coming. I appreciate every single one!

Today we’re leaving Europe briefly to virtually travel to Latin America. Our guest blogger has a lot to say on the topic, especially when it comes to Costa Rica…


Tico♥Tina - Top 5 Things to Love About Costa Rica

A little more about Tina
My husband is half Tico (Costa Rican), and grew up there until he was 20 years old, when he came to the States and promptly met me! :) Our love story is, of course, a long one with many ups and downs, but we eventually made it! And now we’re a passionately creative multicultural family who believes everyone should live an adventure. We’re on a mission to inspire people to go after their dreams, and we’re sharing our crazy journey on our blog, hoping to encourage others along the way.

Being self-employed and location independent has allowed part of our journey to be Costa Rica, where we have spent two of our winters so far on some pretty great “workations”. I wanted to feature Costa Rica because I hope to someday have dual citizenship there! My husband is already a citizen of both Costa Rica and the United States, and on our trip this past winter we went through the process to make our kids dual citizens as well. So now I am the only one in our little family who isn’t Costa Rican, and I can’t wait to change that :)

Tina’s top five things to love about Costa Rica

Why is Costa Rica a completely awesome and amazing country?

  1. It’s so DIVERSE! You can go to the mountains, the beach, volcanoes, or the jungle all within a couple hours of each other. There is a compelling mix of extravagant luxury and extreme poverty that constantly confounds and fascinates your senses.
  2. It is BEAUTIFUL. Insanely, breathtakingly, amazingly beautiful. God really pulled out all the stops when he created Costa Rica :)
  3. The FOOD. We live for garden season here in the States, so being able to go to the feria (farmers’ market) with its huge smorgasboard of fresh fruits and vegetables every Saturday is one of the highlights of living in Costa Rica!
  4. The pace of LIFE is so refreshing compared to the insanity of living in the US. I don’t really quite know what it is, because it’s not like Costa Ricans aren’t busy, but somehow it’s so much easier to relax there. Just the fact that they tend to have a coffee break every afternoon? Yeah, that :)
  5. It’s SEXY. Seriously … sorry, I don’t know how else to say it :)

Tico♥Tina - Top 5 Things to Love About Costa Rica
Tico♥Tina - Top 5 Things to Love About Costa Rica
Tico♥Tina - Top 5 Things to Love About Costa Rica
Tico♥Tina - Top 5 Things to Love About Costa RicaFeel free to come visit us at Tico♥Tina and follow our myriad adventures!
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This post is a part of the Summer Vacation Tour, a virtual travel series hosted here on To ‘travel’ to other locations while I’m taking a brief break from blogging, click here. (Want to be featured in the future? Email me!)

Guest Blog, Summer Vacation Tour, Travel/Moving

TRAVEL :: Paris with Igor: A Stop on the Summer Vacation Tour

Today’s famed destination is brought to you by the man behind the Happy Interior Blog — take it away, Igor!


A little more about Igor
My name is Igor and I am the blogger of Happy Interior Blog. I was born and raised in Austria to Serbian parents and after a few detours in Athens, Greece, Vienna, Austria and Berlin, Germany, I landed in Munich, Germany where I’ve worked and lived for the past five years. I am an interior design lover and a passionate traveler – and one of my favorite and most frequented destinations is Paris, the French capital. Especially during the past three years I’ve been returning frequently to the City of Lights predominately out of a special reason – love. Apart from this very emotional reason I am lucky enough to have a good bunch of friends in Paris and find myself rather at home in this beautiful city.

Igor of Happy Interior Blog shares Top 5 Things to Love about Paris - Virtual Travel Igor’s top five things to love about Paris

  1. My love & my friends.
  2. The Parisian lifestyle. There is always time for a coffee in one of the many street side cafés.
  3. The yummy food. Nothing beats a fresh baguette, French cheese and a bottle of red wine in Paris.
  4. The Haussmannian architecture. Paris bursts with some of the most beautiful buildings around. Nothing compares to a typical Paris street lined with Haussmannian buildings and cute little shops and cafés.
  5. The sparkling Eiffel Tower. No matter how cliché and touristic this is, it still enchants me every time I behold this spectacular sight.

Top 5 Things to Love about Paris - Virtual Travel - Photo of Bicycle and Theatre de L'Atelier

Eiffel Tower - Top 5 Things to Love about Paris - Virtual Travel Series

Cafe sign in Paris - Top 5 Things to Love about Paris - Virtual Travel Series

Flower Shop in Paris - Top 5 Things to Love about Paris - Virtual Travel Series

Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful photos and tour, Igor! Readers, be sure to check out the Happy Interior Blog, where Igor blogs “everything that inspires [him] for a happy home”. You can also like Happy Interior Blog on Facebook, or chat with Igor on Twitter @IgorJosif.

This post is a part of the Summer Vacation Tour, a virtual travel series hosted here on To ‘travel’ to other locations while I’m taking a brief break from blogging, click here. (Want to be featured in the future? Email me!)

Guest Blog, Summer Vacation Tour, Travel/Moving

TRAVEL :: France with Natalia: A Stop on the Summer Vacation Tour

In between a trip to Switzerland, packing up her place in France, and moving back to California for the summer, my sweet friend Natalia somehow found time to write a post for this series!


A little more about Natalia
My name is Natalia and I grew up in sunny California. After college I married my favorite man in the world and he whisked me off to France where he plays basketball. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but sometimes it’s fun to make it out to be oh-so-romantic! I chose to write about France because with all the ups and downs, I love the country and if I wasn’t attached to my family back home (and I could learn this stinkin language fluently!) I would consider staying.

Natalia’s top five things to love about France

  1. It’s beautiful. Oh so beautiful. The cities are picturesque and old and fabulous and the country is green and gorgeous and spacious. Coming from the greater Los Angeles area where all you see is city, I love it!
  2. The history. I am a huge history nerd. I love anything with a story behind it. In France, as in most of Europe, there is a ton of history! It is so amazing to learn about something and then go to where it took place!
  3. The lifestyle. The French seemed more laid back, the love to take breaks and relax. They understand the importance of vacation. It is refreshing coming from America where everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere! It’s nice, but then in a sense when you need something done and they’re always on vacation, it stinks!
  4. Location. I absolutely love that we are pretty central Europe. I have been able to travel and see quite a few other places on the cheap!
  5. Pastries. Duh! You thought I was going to leave them out, didn’t you? They are fabulous. And if you find a boulangerie (bakery) that makes a good baguette, oh man they are to die for! Oh and the choux – oh my goodness, I could have one every day!

Since I am doing a whole country it was kinda hard to narrow it down to just five photos! We have Cannes, Eze (all in the south), Parc Tête d’Or in Lyon, St. Etienne (where we live), and Paris — because you have to include Paris in France!

Beach in Cannes - Virtual Travel Tour - 5 Reasons to Visit FranceBeach in Cannes

Eze, France - Visit France - Top 5 Things About FranceEze in Southern France

Parc Tete d'or - France - Five Best Things about FranceParc Tête d’Or in Lyon

St Etienne - Virtual Travel Series - 5 things to love about FranceSt Etienne

Paris France - Top 5 Reasons to Visit FranceParis

Want to read more about Natalia’s life in France? Check out Ma Nouvelle Mode, where she blogs with her friend Christie about fashion, beauty, travel, and much more. You can also like Ma Nouvelle Mode on Facebook, or chat with Natalia on Twitter @MaNouvelleMode.

This post is a part of the Summer Vacation Tour, a virtual travel series hosted here on To ‘travel’ to other locations while I’m taking a brief break from blogging, click here. (Want to be featured in the future? Email me!)