Fake baby for a traveling companion. Looks real, feels real.

Here’s an idea for anyone who wants to travel alone, but hates to travel alone when it comes to meal time. These odd thoughts came cavorting through my mind after seeing this story on a Today Show segment. Imagine the scene:

There you are all by yourself while others are paired up or in groups. You are sitting waiting for dinner, maybe reading but feeling a bit dissatisfied. Perhaps you feel like a target to unwanted advances. You wish you had a detractor. Something that lets you know that you are not alone–or at least, if you are alone, you have a way to feel differently. Or perhaps you are a bit shy and wish you had a conversation starter, something that would break the ice when talking with strangers. And if a creepy guy is lurking about, something that would send a signal “hands off.”

A fake baby might be the answer.

According to the segment, the fake babies look and feel real. That downy soft hair. The weight of them. The way they appear in a baby carrier.

Here’s a YouTube video about these fake babies which, for some reason, have a big following in Britain.

One woman interviewed on the Today Show said that holding her fake baby helps her feel calmer. Think about how this might work on the travel scene. Holding a fake baby could give you something to do if a flight is delayed or canceled. Instead of feeling riled up, you can stay calm.

Here’s another way a fake baby might be the ticket to travel bliss. A fake baby in a car seat might help with long drives and cut down on the tendency to talk on a cell phone while driving. The women interviewed said they talk to their babies. You could tell your fake baby your travel plans and concerns which could help pass time as you’re driving down a highway. If you’re lost, telling your fake baby about your direction woes might help you feel better.

Babies can also be people magnets. People will stop to coo over a baby which opens up the channel for other conversations. They’ed certainly be curious about your fake baby.

Dogs can work this way as well, come to think about it, but never mind, this is about babies.

As a person who has traveled with a real baby, I can imagine what it might be to travel with a fake one.

Once I set my son on top of a blanket pallet on a table of a restaurant in Krabe, Thailand when he was three months. He slept while I wrote. I enjoyed having his company, but there was a predicament when, after drinking coffee, water and a smoothie over the period of a couple of hours, I had to get rid of some of the liquid. I wouldn’t have worried about waking a fake baby up–or dropping him on the bathroom floor when trying to rearrange my clothes.

Just like leaving my son sleeping on the table wasn’t an option, leaving a fake baby isn’t an option either. They can cost up to $4,000. A little over $1,000 is common. If someone stole your fake baby, you’d probably feel sad. Angry even.

Actually, a fake baby traveling companion seems a bit odd to think about it–harmless, but odd.

What about dressing up a dog like a person? Now, that’s another thought. Some celebrities do it. You’ve seen the pictures. Nah. That seems as weird to me as a fake baby.

As an aside, yesterday I was talking to a woman who was holding a six-week-old baby. The baby was sleeping soundly, not moving. Guess what I thought of? Fake baby. These days, double check.

Here’s a link to Reborn Babies, a company that makes the dolls. There are several examples of what they look like.

$2,500 sundae (or less? or more?) in New York City–or go for a cheaper version

Yes, there is a sundae that costs $2,500 in New York City–maybe. I think that’s what Kathie Lee Gifford said this morning on the Today Show. I was half-listening, but when she said Serendipity 3, I perked up.

I’m almost sure that’s the dollar amount she quoted. If your wallet is fat enough, you can order one of these whopping treats at the restaurant located on East 60th Street in Manhattan.

Serendipity’s menu says that the Golden Opulence Sundae costs $1,000. At $1,000 it’s still touted as the Guinness World Record holder as the most expensive. Maybe Gifford was eating a version of this and it’s an unpublished secret? Maybe she said it was $25,000. She did say it’s never been ordered. I have searched and searched for this story to no avail. I’ve become obsessed.

I’ve been to Serendipity 3 for ice-cream. No Golden Opulence for us, but I do remember that my husband ordered the Forbidden Broadway Sunday for $13.50.

It was an enormous dessert of chocolate cake, whipped cream, and ice-cream, big enough for a few of us to chow down. For other sundae choices cheaper than that, check out the menu.

My recommendation is to not try going here on a hot summer day on a Sunday. We tried that once and couldn’t wait that long. We were hungry enough to start chewing on furniture. Our sundae success came on a week night after dark–also in the summer–perhaps on a Wednesday.

As Kathie Lee Gifford was eating bites of opulence, letting the flecks of gold slide down her throat, she did mention that it seems frivolous to show off a sundae of such a cost when many folks are having problems putting gas in their cars. Even the $13.50 sundae can buy 3 gallons or more.

The photo, from an article review I came across, is of the $1,000 version. It does not look like the dish Kathie Lee was eating. Oh, well.

Olympics inspired gift idea. Children’s art is a big hit

When Meredith Vieria from the Today Show was given a tour of the Olympic Village, specifically the housing of the Americans, trap shooter bronze medalist Corey Cogdell showed Vieria a painting in her room that was created by a child in China.

A framed picture of a child’s artwork was given to each Olympic athlete as a room decoration. It’s theirs to keep whether they medal or not.

Vieira was quite moved by the gesture of a child-produced gift. I thought about the excitement that the children must have felt when they were making their paintings knowing their creations would be going to athletes from around the world and how they were contributing to their country’s mega, unforgetable, international event.

It can make a heart feel warm and fuzzy for sure.

Seeing the painting reminded me of the items to buy when traveling that offer more meaning than a production piece souvenir. Any work made by a child has been favorably received whenever I have given them as gifts.

I once bought three drawings by children that were sold in a fundraiser art show for a refugee center that houses families in India who were displaced by strife. I have forgotten the specifics of who received the funding, but I I can see the art clearly. I was touched by its hope and sweetness. The show was at the India International Center in New Delhi, a place that hosts high quality events, mostly centered on the arts. This is where I saw the writer Pico Iyer at a symposium of Indian authors who write in English.

Granted, framed paintings are cumbersome. Another option is handmade greeting cards that can be framed once you get home. Often these cards are used to make money for organizations that are searching for dollars.

Keep your eyes open. Thailand, Vietnam and India are wonderful places to look for such items. I still have cards I bought to give away. Even if the cards aren’t made by kids, or go to charity. handmade cards are helping to support someone.

Pursuing the American Dream in China

Because the Olympics are in China, you’ve probably noticed an increase of stories and news segments with a China focus occupying the airways. For example, The Today Show on NBC is looking at China from a variety of angles.

One story, presented Monday, illustrated just how fluid the world’s economy can be and how there is an interchange between cultures as a result. For example, if you head to China, you can find an Auntie Anne’s, an American franchise that specializes in soft pretzels.

The Auntie Anne’s in Beijing was started by a Chinese American couple whose parents had immigrated to the United States as a way to make a better life for themselves and their children. This couple moved to China to open China’s first Auntie Ann’s after researching what would work in China and realizing that the enterprise was a way to seize a profitable opportunity. They discovered that one way to make money in another country is to export a popular, established brand.

As the segment illustrated, some Chinese Americans are returning to China as a way to make a better life for themselves. One motivation, in addition to making money, is to learn Chinese and also to learn more about the culture of their heritage-something they often pooh-poohed as they were growing up.

As the segment noted, most plan to return to the United States once the money has been made. It’s not that they have an issue with life in the U.S., they are going after financial opportunity in the country where their parents were born.

If you look at the history of the Silk Road, and how goods and services moved from Asia to Europe and from Europe to China centuries ago, the pattern in similar. Now, though, soft pretzels are part of the scenery.

Bring Chinese cooking to your kitchen after your travels

If you are traveling from China and want to replicate some of the tastes at home, Jen Lin Liu, author of Serve the People: A Stir-fried Journey through China, has some tips.

She presented them in a very speedy cooking lesson segment on The Today Show that I caught yesterday morning. Lin-Liu is a Chinese American living in China who moved there to learn more about Chinese cooking.

Here’s what Liu said. For spices, the staples are salt, pepper and sugar. Sugar is an important ingredient because it balances out the salt and pepper. Liu said it’s a yin and yang kind of thing.

Also there are two kinds of soy sauces that she uses: light and dark. The dark is actually a lighter flavor than the light, but both are used-from what I gathered, in the same dish.

Her main utensil is a meat cleaver which she uses for everything-even paring apples. As Liu demonstrated, the cleaver is handy for picking up food and dumping it into the wok for stir-frying. She also uses it to smash vegetables, a technique that releases some of the flavor. A spatula is used for turning whatever is cooking.

The corn starch that is used to thicken the sauce was put into the meat marinade.

One question that came up was the way Chinese food tastes different in the United States, than in China. One reason she gave was that the ingredients were fresher in China. People go to the fresh market every day and buy only what they will cook that day.

My husband’s greatest pleasure when we lived in Singapore was going to the market in the morning on Saturdays or Sundays. He would come back, arms full. Unlike me, he loves to cook.

One thing I enjoyed about this segment and Jen Lin Liu’s brand of cooking is that it looks easy to replicate. The cook book just came out just last month. I’m tempted to buy it. After all, I think we already have a clever tucked back in a kitchen drawer somewhere. I’ll recognize it when I see it.

Here’s a link to the video where Liu demonstrates her techniques.