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About Karen Kao Family ghosts Los Angeles

Montebello

Montebello, California: once upon a time the home to Franciscan monks intent on Christianizing the local Indians. From ranchos to citrus farms to oil fields, Montebello is a microcosm of how Los Angeles developed. Even William Mulholland, the infamous water developer, had a hand in naming my hometown after its beautiful hills. Our hill In […]

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About Karen Kao

Looking back

Looking back has never seemed like a healthy thing to do. It smacks of false memories, a twee sort of nostalgia that renders yesterday so much more golden than the palette of today. But looking back is what writers do at this time of the year and so I heed the call. On the road […]

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About Karen Kao Amsterdam Food Travel

My Favorite Things

I’ve never felt homesick before. Not when I went to China for the first time. Not when I moved to the Netherlands. Sure, there were people and places I missed but I never felt sick to my stomach or anxious or unable to repress a desire to return. These are, apparently, all common ways of […]

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About Karen Kao Family ghosts

The Smell of Memory

Last month, when I was home in Los Angeles, my mother gave me a set of place mats and napkins. She thought she had bought them, though she couldn’t remember when. I thought they would look nice with my table runner. So I took the set home, washed them and laid them out for ironing. […]

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About Karen Kao China

Year of the Pig

I am a pig. In the colloquial sense but also according to the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese assign a different animal to each year in a cycle that runs for 12 years. Starting 5 February 2019, it’ll be the Year of the Pig. That sounds like a long way off but in China, new year’s […]

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About Karen Kao Travel

How to Get Lost

I have done a fair amount of traveling in my time. Most of Europe, parts of Asia, the United States, of course. But a round-the-world trip is a whole other thing. Our plan is simple. To start from home and keep on going until we make it back. Easy, right? Yes, if you’re a free […]

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About Karen Kao Food Travel

2018 | My Year in Food

In 2018, I published no books and made no book tours. What the hell did I do with my time? I wrote and traveled, read and gardened. But above all, I ate. So why not take a look back at 2018 and a sneak preview of what’s to come in 2019 by way of my […]

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About Karen Kao Amsterdam Chinese-American

Fork & Knife

The other day, I had a chat conversation about the word sommelier. One chat member had never heard it and went to look it up. Then the guy who introduced the term into the conversation confessed that he, too, had looked it up before using it in our chat. The subject of that chat was […]

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About Karen Kao Craft

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Thus intones the website mindfulness.org. Google the word mindfulness and you’ll find a world of coaches and retreats, a series of TED Talks and […]

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About Karen Kao Family ghosts Los Angeles

Family Photos

This week, my mother sent me a poem. She didn’t write it herself and I don’t know who did. Like most of Mom’s emails to me, she forwarded something a friend had sent to her. Usually Mom sends photos, recipes, cleaning tips and YouTube films about China. Last weekend, I was looking at old family […]