Sunday, October 15, 2006

rosemary and thyme

Watching last night's show evoked in me dreams of one day buying a house in Nice, in the south of France and living there. This morning I coldn't wait to go to my study and dragged out all the books I have about the south of France and rereading them again. It's visions like this, visions of Europe that keep my juices flowing, that get me out of bed and going to work. I am starring at a section of my boodcases and I see more than 10 books on China and more than 10 books of Italy. When will I get to go to all these places and to think I don't know when I'll return to Venice or Florence. I want to. I have some very old travel books, written before I was born, written around 1936, the quality of writing is different. I tried to look for some more in the same series but they are not available. I hope they are still in private collections and not destroyed. It will be a great loss to humanity if they wouldn't be available anymore. All you people who owns old books, please contact or Please do not burn any book. You don't know who might be interested. I've bought an old book for $125. There's one I would like to own but at $199 I think I'm going to sleep on it. Is anyone out there as crazy as I am.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Rail pass
Toothpaste? I have to call the airlines to see if I can bring any liquids on board, any toothpaste, or I have to abandon them and shop for some when I land in London. The rules of packing have changes again with the recent discovery of terror threat in the form of baby food. It is part of the new travel rules but no matter, I am still going to be traveling. I need a change of scenery, so soon, considering I was in Italy almost 5 months ago. Yes, so soon! Los Angeles, California and the USA are wonderful places to work in; there's lots of work for me, but its work, work and more work. I can only work if I can punctuate work with trips to Europe. Today is the last work day before I leave for London, Amsterdam and Brussels. I can feel the relief; I can feel that I'm tired; I heave a huge sigh of relief. I'm coming back to more work but for the next 2 weeks let me lose myself and enjoy myself abroad, sleeping in strange beds and eating strange food. Friends look enviously at me, what a charmed life. It is; it is also a lot of hard work and brutal budgeting, something I have been accustomed to. We were looking at my pictures of Northern Spain; it was only last year when I was in Santiago de Compostela and the French Pyrenees that I was eating Basque food. Some people haven't even heard of the word Basque. Stuart Wilde said, " rather than look at other people's peregrination, think to yourself, that could be me!". If they can do it, why can't I? Rumi said, " Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold/your own myth...." Now back to packing, I must remember the Pur water filters that Auntie Lili wanted. I won't be staying with her this trip. So I'd probably skip buying the bottle of scotch or the carton of Silk Cut cigarettes for her. Or maybe just a bottle of Bell's scotch from the liquor store near her place. I remember the many trips to London and the endless cups of tea at either Auntie Lili's or Auntie Mary's homes. Being in London means endless cups of tea, scones, strawberry jam, clotted cream, clotted cream icecream, Cornish Pasties, Ploughman's lunch and scotch eggs. I shall be taking the train to Brussels and Amsterdam. I have never been to either cities. It's going to be a lovely and new adventure. With me this trip will be my 13 year old niece, Ashley. We are going to have so much fun, as much fun as is legal. She's excited. When she was 10, I took her to France, at 11, we spent a Christmas in Toronto. I used to listen to travel stories told to me by friends and wishing I had some of my own. Now I have joined that club and have lots of travel stories. It means a very frugal lifestyle so I can afford to travel. I drive an older car and on days off, I take the bus or I walk. I eat lots of leftovers and haven't anything new in my wardrobe for a long time. I don't remember when I was in a mall the last time. Mind you, I still pay extra into my mortgage every month and I send $500 every month to my Schwab One account. It's a matter of priorities. Definitely no Starbucks coffee!

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I love books. I have almost 1000 in my library. I can spend a fortune at any bookstore. I have been known to spend a fortune in used bookstores. Lately I have been trying to get an old book on I saw it offered for sale at $75 which I thought was exorbitant. I thought no one would want to buy it but I was wrong, it got sold under me. So I waited for another copy to be put on the market. It was and I'm paying $125 for it. I've searched the world for another copy and I was willing to pay whatever amount for it. Wow! When I read a book I like to look at the bibiography to see what other books the author consulted in the writing of that book. Oftentimes I find very interesting references and I go on to acquire those books and have been introduced to a whole other world of other authors. I found out what Bob Kiyosaki read and I found a treasure in Jim Rohn's writing. The list goes on. Sir Anthony Blount is an authority on the Baroque movement and I have started acquiring his books. There's another book in one of his bibliography and I'm trying to get that book. It's $149.00. So I'm holding off for just a few more weeks. "A book is a present you can open again and again".

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Traveling with kids

I promised a niece I'll take to her to England. So we are leaving end of August for London. We were to stay with my aunt Lili but I just heard from her, her 50 year old son just broke up with his girlfriend and has moved back home. That's my cousin. I was also to visit his sister in Sussex but that is out also because she and her american husband and children will be in New York and Cape Cod during the time we'll be in England. I called Auntie Mary, my backup place to crash in London. She has been feeling poorly lately and might go to France with her daughter, my cousin, Beci. So I called Beci to see what her actual plans are. If she's going to France, we can take the train from London and be in France too. Cousin Beci just bought a house with a friend in Brittany. I don't mind going there to see it. I've never been in Brittany. Also I'm waiting for news to see if we can crash with cousin Sheena when we visit Amsterdam. At this moment everything's up in the air which is an anomaly with me. All my vacations are planned to the last detail but not this one. It's kind of fun actually. I know when we'll leave for London and when we'll come back. Not what we'll do while there. We'll find something to do.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


When I saw the movie,"The passion of the Christ", I thought the location was so hauntingly beautiful. I did an internet search and found out that it was shot in Matera, Italy - Southern Italy to be exact and I knew in my heart I want to visit this place. I started to research about Matera and found out that it used to be a valley of cave dwellers. The poor farmers carved into the rock surface and made living quarters out of them. Living in caves still goes on in France, Sicily and in China. Matera is special because a lot of these caves have been renovated into modern dwellings. We stayed in a cave hotel which was completely renovated and fitted with all modern amenities, elevators, showers and flash toilets. The Locanda di San Martino is so pretty that it was hard to imagine that a few years ago they were just some dirty caves lived in by poor farmers from the Mezzogiorno. An American lady and her Italian husband started to buy up these caves, one at a time until they had some 24 of them and then the hotel was born. Arriving by train in Matera, I was disappointed because I couldn't see the caves or "Sassi" in Italian. I saw the new town which was some chintzy high rise buildings. The visitors' center pointed us in the right direction, the "Sassi" area is down in the ravine. My first sight was one of total disbelief, it was a sight I'll never forget, it was so surreal and so beautiful. I kept saying, "Oh, my god, oh my god! It was even harder to believe that right in the middle of this mess is this beautiful and modern hotel. It is a breathtaking place, completely unbelievable and must be experienced in person. It took a little planning to get to Matera but it is doable without a car. I took the train to Bari in the Adriatic coast and took the train from Bari to Matera. Bari is a very friendly Italian town. It has 4 rail companies operating out of the same train station. One can take the fast train there from Rome but I took the train from Naples because that was where we were. We had to change trains at Caserta. We stayed the night in Bari and took another train to Matera which had to stop at Alta Mura and we changed trains there. Bari is a good stop to use to visit the region of Puglia, one can go to Alberobello, Martina Franca, Locorotondo, Leece, Brindisi and a host of other places. We left Bari to go to Rome, a 4 hour train ride on a fast train got us into Rome. The Japanese have long discovered Southern Italy and everywhere we went the Italians thought we were Japanese, we are Chinese Americans. The locals were very friendly and truly it showed they have a fondness for the Japanese. We spent a whole day exploring the "Sassi", it is a lot of climbing up and down, some caves have been renovated and lived in, other are still in their decrepid state waiting to be worked on. There were cave churches at every corner, some still has frescoes in them. I shall always remember Matera, it is a truly magical place. I love the mezzogiorno; people are friendlier. Being Asian I have experienced hostility in France. I've never experienced any in Southern Italy. While in Matera we wanted to buy from "frutas", the elderly Italian couldn't speak English and he decided it was easier to close the bus ticket counter, locked up and show us in person the Salumeria next door. That was so sweet.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Invisible guides

Napoleon Hill calls them "invisible princes" or "unseen guides" that guides us in our endeavors. There are invisible guides. I believe in them. I have "seen" them work in my life. Our Lord Jesus said, "it will be done to you as you believe". I believe that the Holy Spirit is more active than we ever imagine or know or understand. With each prayer from the deep recesses of our heart, the Holy Spirit is arranging things in the spirit realm that bring about the thing or event we prayed for. Just as the air we breathe is not inert; it can be stirred up into a powerful force, similarly the spirit realm is not quiet. Prayer stirs up the spirit realm into a powerful force; arranging for events that will bring the answer to prayer. It is comforting to know that every thought, every prayer, whether silent or audible is picked up in the spirit realm. There are invisible guides that carry these desires to the heart of God. I have "seen" them at work in my life. If you believe and let it, you can have these guides work in your life. Your life need not be humdrum and worthless. As we become more spiritually inclined, we will experience things of the spirit more and more and our lives will never be the same. Why don't we enlist their help in our lives? We don't have to struggle. Why don't we let it do for us what it is there for? To assist us in our lives.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

the alhambra 2003

They say the sun shines brighter in Southern Spain. It sure did; I have never seen such bright sunshine before; the cold wind was blowing and I remember the bright chilly mornings in Seville. There were gardens every where and it seems from every vantage point in the city, one could see the minaret of the the Giralda. It is a very pretty and unusual cathedral, especially the climb up the minaret; the way up is a ramp unlike the steps up in all other cathedrals in the world. It was built by the Moors (those parts that survived); they used the ramp to ride up to the top on a horse. There were orange trees all over the city and it being spring, there were orange blossoms. The smell was wonderful especially in the evenings after dinner, my sister and I would sit outside at cafes to eat ice cream. The guidebooks said we needed a reservation in order to visit the Alhambra. I tried to do it on the internet at home but had no success. So I told Janne, since I was arriving ahead of her in Seville I would take care of the arrangements while in Seville. I could go to any of the many BBVA, a Spanish bank and they can sell me tickets to visit the Alhambra which is in Granada. That was easy enough; the morning entry tickets sell out very fast, so I secured an evening entry for the both of us. So the day arrived, we boarded a train bound for Granada at 7am for the 3 hour train ride to Granada. It passed through extensive olive fields between Seville and Granada. That morning we toured the Cathedral in Granada where the bodies of Ferdinand and Isabella were laid to rest. It has a pretty, white and lacy interior. After seeing so many Cathedrals, it is hard to have a favorite ; everyone of the major cathedrals has their own charm; the Duomo in Milan or St Peter in Rome. I would say I rather like the cathedral in Siena with its black and white marble interior and exterior; it holds some major artwork inside and its tiled floor is another major work of art. Since we still had time before we can get in to the Alhambra, we decided to climb up the Albazin and head to the viewing area. The Albazin is the Moorish quarter. It sits on a hill across from the Alhambra. The view of the Alhambra with the snow still on the Sierra Nevada in the background was spectacular and awesome. It is so beautiful and its no wonder it is the eighth wonder of the world. The Alhambra should be right on top of everyone's list of most important places to visit; right on top with St Peter Basilica and the Sistine chapel. A trip to these places would definitely change one's perspective on life. The Alhambra was a palace and a fortress for the Moors and later the home of Isabella and Ferdinand. Words can only do so much to describe it; it ran the whole expanse of our view, seeing it from the Albazin. I was too excited after viewing it from a distance; we hopped into a taxi and headed over to the Alhambra. It did not disappoint, it exceeded all expectations, the various buildings and the Generalife gardens were so beautiful and knowing who lived there before added a whole new dimension. It would take volumes to describe in any detail the Alhambra. It was one of many memorable days in my traveling life. Since then I have been adding a lot more.......

the alhambra 2003

Saturday, July 15, 2006

life is just so daily

It has been an extremely busy week and a very good one. People say '"do what you love". All the time I was thinking, during the rush, to "love what you do". Also this week I changed my classification from being a union pharmacist to being a manager pharmacist. It is even sweeter because I'm going to get a bonus based on gross sales and I got a substantial pay raise. It is really good. I'm really happy. This means I can pay more into my mortgage and finish paying it in 5 years, a total of 10 years. My sister, at 50 has finished paying off hers. This would free up a lot of money to do more traveling and buying more books. I looked at my credit card bill, they're mostly educational charges; payments to features prominently in them and there are some charges to West Los Angeles College. Last week I took a web page design class and thoroughly enjoyed that. I came back and signed up my name as a domain name on the internet. Eventually I want to set up a website, when I've found out what I want to sell on it. Today I started 6 weeks of French for travelers even though I'm only able to attend every other class. What I learned today is invaluable. I had fun. I had wanted to do Italian but the classes kind of clash with my work schedule. I'm looking for a Chinese class. I'm getting ready to visit China. I figure is I lived to 90, I still have another 40 years. If I don't continue to learn, that would mean another 40 years of ignorance. I read somewhere that said, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance".

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The human toll of Opium addiction

My parents lives in Toronto, Canada. They were here for a month long visit. Oh! The feasting and revelry when they were here. I have become an amateur student in Chinese culture. I'm planning my first trip to China scheduled for next fall (07) and besides reading up on the various historical sites, I am also reading up on Chinese history, the Chinese Diaspora(the migration of Chinese) all over the world and my own family history. We were born and raised in North Borneo, then a British outpost and now part of Malaysia. My grandfather arrived in North Borneo from China, like many others, as "coolies", laborers exported from China. Not all arrived as Opium addicts but many picked up the habit while working as laborers. It was to help them cope with hard labor and lack of family and human comfort, most laborers arrived on their own, having left home and hearth. My grandfather picked up his habit while working for a relative who had arrived years before and have made it. His addiction continued till the day he died. My father has a first hand account of the toll and devastation of addiction. I always took the opportunity of plumbing his brain of whatever he remembers and then writing everything down. He is going to be 81. When he leaves this earth, I and generations to follow or maybe even the world would be deprived of this knowledge. What would it do for anyone, I don't know. I know what it does for me- make me appreciate my life, my family and people and country even more. Being appreciative and grateful, I work harder at everything; at my career and even on this blog. I don't know if anyone reads it but I know it is a repository for all this information and for my writing. It is a form of archive for my writing and rambling. This is before I too forget or leave this world. We've been eating so much the month my parents were here. It was not always the case in my father's life; growing up as the middle child of 8 children. He had an older brother who died during world war II.His brother joined the resistance to fight the Japanese; the resistance were made up of more of a Marxist/Leninist ragtag group of Chinese boys who were ill equipped and inexperienced. They were all to perish at the hands of the Japanese. My father's brother died in the jungle of Malaria trying to join up. No one knew where he died, just stories from friends who said they had to leave him because he was too ill. When he was alive he was mostly in school in China. That left my dad to be the only son and to bear the brunt of supporting a family because my grandfather was an opium addict and used all his money on his addiction. They never saw much if any of my grandfather's money. My dad remembered of just one time, when grandfather threw a wad of cash (not very much) on the table. My dad and my grandmother grabbed the money and went to the store to get provisions. Most of the time, my grandmother worked as a Chinese laundry. In those days the British wore heavily starched shirts and khaki pants that require washings and ironing. The irons were heavy and primitive and were heated by live coals. At 8, my dad remembers carrying heavy bags of laundry, both from their owners to be laundered and back to them after they've been washed and pressed. It is hard and back breaking work for a boy of 8 years old. He remembers the constant fighting between his parents. I have first hand knowledge of my grandfather's tactics. We saw it growing up, we also were the brunt of his abuse(verbal). It is a daily affair, when he needs money for his fix. He took money from whomever would give him or he'll throw such a verbal tirade and wouldn't stop till he gets some. Growing up, my dad never remembers a time when he had enough to eat. He was always hungry and all through his adolescence, he was skinny and underweight. They had to move constantly, at least 3 times a year because they never had money for rent. He, hardly had anything to wear other than the clothes on his back. When he was older, he would chop wood for sale or make into charcoal. They use the wood for cooking and the charcoal for the laundry irons. It is extremely backbreaking work. My grandfather was in the same trade, except every cent he made went to the opium den. There were times when he stole charcoal from my dad. It was hard staying in school when one is hungry all the time. Then WWII happened and the Japanese occupied all of Asia. My dad left school and never went back. He reads and writes English; he is self-taught. The existence of the family was dependent on strangers and my grandmother's father, my dad's maternal grandfather. Things got so bad once, they had to move out os state altogether, to a place south called, Miri. Things in Miri did not improve, it was just as dire. They were in danger of starving to death. The rest of the girls were plagued by Malaria; they were so weak all the time; they were bedridden. My dad had Malaria too but had to work through the attacks of fevers and chills. In fact the girls should have died from Malaria but by the grace of God, none of them did. My dad remembers asking a ship captain to let him on board so that he could return to find his grandfather, to tell him of their plight and to seek his help. He had no shoes, all he had were the clothes on his back. He had no money for the passage. The ship captain let him on board for free. Once his grandfather heard their desperation, he chartered a boat to go to Miri to bring them back. Recently I have heard of other families' tragedies because of opium addiction; of families who sold their kids into slavery. I asked dad if grandfather ever considered that. It was considered but word got to my grandmother's father and he put a stop to it. Auntie Mary has never mentioned this. My parents wants to go to China with me. My dad is going to be 82 then, He is still strong; he dropped to the floor and did 24 modified push ups. Pretty good. Now let me try 24 modified push ups!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


What is creativity? I don't know why we associate creativity with mostly the ability to create art- a painting, a sculpture or a drawing. Creativity involves all areas of life- whether it be work, play or relationship. I've been reading a lot of books on drawing and journaling lately. All my life I've been made to think that if I can't paint something that pleases my teacher, I'm a dud, an inartistic or non creative person. One can be creative at one's profession. When we are able to use our imagination to find new and wonderful ways to do things better at our profession, then we are creative. We have the mistaken notion that we've got to feel like being creative. We lie and wait and have a "block", waiting for the creative moment to hit and then are we able to create that major work. These moments could be few and far between. No wonder, artists are often poor and starving. We don;t think that we should be able to create little and lots of minor work and prosper this way. Will we be considered as sellouts? I don't think so. I read about this lady who writes for a living, she said, she makes sure at 9 every morning she's ready to write something. I read somewhere that the best way to overcome writer's block is to write constantly about anything and even write badly. It's the same with drawing, to draw everyday. I have come across books written by therapists who tries to get deep into our subconscious in order to help us in the creative process. It's like taking drugs. Most of the things that appeal to me are done by simple and practical people. When we see ordinary folk like us doing simple things, it is exciting and it stirs in us the feeling, "I can do that" or "I could be doing that". Talking about poor starving artists. Reminded me of a book I read recently of how the author met 2 poor artists in Sicily. They brought the author home to see their work. The author thought they had talent but was put off by their poverty, loneliness and lack of regconition. He, the author, realized he didn't want to end up like them. What does that mean? He was not willing to sacrifice for his craft? I don't think so. I don't think we have to. I have discovered that to be creative one must be focused and discipline everyday whether one likes it or not. Then will we be able to produce. We must be dedicated to the task at hand.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Role models

When we think or speak of role models, we always gravitate towards positive role models. My sister, Dawn, told me the other day, she doesn't have any positive role models growing up. All she had was negative role models. That was the first time I've heard of a negative role model. That was what was instrumental in allowing her to be what she is today. She didn't know what to aspire to; but she definitely know what she doesn't want to end up being- like all the negative role models around her. She may not know what she wants but she knew what she doesn't want. I guess this is as strong if not stronger, a motivation. If we have too great a positive role model, we might be setting ourselves up for failure. If we aspire to be like Tiger Wood, Michael Jordan or Michelle Kwan, a lot of us will fall very short of the mark. On the other hand, if we don't do what our negative role models does, we've already succeeded. She knew she didn't want to a stay at home mum like our mother. Our mother never worked a day in her life even though we were so poor. Dawn went on to have kids and a career. Today at 50, her house in New Jersey is paid for, she is an accountant at a Fortune 500 firm in New York making 6 figures a year, own 2 cars (paid for with cash), has 2 sons, the older one is applying to Yale. Her husband is an out of work Methodist minister. We came from a family full of vices- from Opium addiction (our grandfather); compulsive gamblers, alcoholics, chain smokers, philanderers; you name it. Our close relatives has vices that run the gamut. We knew growing up not to emulate them. We went to church at an early age, a result of attending a "mission" school. Schools, when we were growing up, were started and run by the various world churches and it was their missionary obligation; churches like the Roman Catholic church and the Church of England. Growing up poor, we didn't know what dreams were; "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Questions like that were moot. We grabbed what little opportunities there were for higher education. We, never in our wildest dreams, ever saw ourselves living one day in North America; 7 siblings- 3 in Toronto, Canada, 3 in California and 1 in New Jersey. There, by the grace of God go we. Funny expression but apt.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

art supply stores

Looks like the yellow didn't come out as clear. Oh well, I was experimenting. I know now not to use the yellow.


Opium? I had forgotten about Opium; it has been so much a part of my life; not that I am or was every an addict. My grandfather who was from China was an opium addict; he passed away some 30 years ago. There's a belief amount opium addicts that their bodies would be so wrecked by the addiction that there will come a time when it wouldn't respond anymore. They'll suffer withdrawals; withdrawal from opium addiction especially in their case,meaning "cold turkey" would be hell on earth. He felt he has reached that stage or close to it. Rather than face it when it actually arrive, he decided to end it. From what I can gather from stories from family members (I was away in Pharmacy school) he felt it coming and for days he suffered from depression. Finally one afternoon he took the cleaver from the kitchen and tried to disembowel himself. He didn't die right away; he was lying in a pool of blood in the bathroom and was moaning. He died in the hospital from massive loss of blood and a heart attack. He probably didn't feel much pain; he had or always had opium in his system. Why remember grandpa today. In the pharmacy last week, I saw a little boy shopping with his grandfather. I told a colleague, my grandfather used to take me to town; we lived in the countryside. He went to town everyday except Sundays. Some days he would take one of us, kids. We tell the same story; he always have to stop at a certain house first. We would wait outside while he went to the bathroom or that was what he told us. I don't remember how long we waited; as children we had no watch and no concept of time. It was an opium den; he went to use the opium pipe. Opium is either smoked or consumed orally. On Saturdays he would buy opium pills to bring home to consume on Sundays when the opium den was closed. It was when we were older that we found out that the place was an opium den and that he was an addict. It was not unusual for Chinese of his generation to be addicted. Almost the whole population of China became addicted to opium, helped along by the British; that's a story for another essay. When the Chinese men left Southern China as "coolies" to work in hard labor all over the world they brought their habit with them. Opium dens were set up wherever they were. My grandfather left China, not as an addict. He became addicted while working in the fields in North Borneo. He was a typical China man, arriving in the traditional Chinese costume and a long pigtail. He used to say of his pigtail, "we brought our own chains". A relative left years earlier and told of fortunes to be made south of China, "Nanyang" or "the south China seas". He had fields to be cultivated and a contract to blast a tunnel for a railroad. My grandfather left China to join up with this relative; initially as a foreman to oversee the workers. At noontime, he would bring lunches to the workers and also opium. It was part of life, no one thought anything about it. No one knew of the devastation and the human toll of opium addiction. There would be leftovers (of opium) and he would partake of the leftover opium and therefore this led to his addiction and in later years to cause the devastation and the human toll on the lives of his wife and children. We knew him growing up; he lived with us till the day of his suicide. My mother found him dying in the bathroom. Stories of his suicide reached me in college. I remember praying that it was truly a suicide and that my parents had no hand in his death.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


It's been a very busy week. Today was supposed to be my day off but I went to the dentist for my 6 monthly cleaning and checkup. Everything is ok in my mouth. Scott, my dentist, likes to hear about all my trips abroad. It seems every 6 months I have something new to tell him. How did this happen? How is it I can make so many trips abroad? By saving very hard. I haven't even worked any extra shifts. It's mostly by being very very frugal, nothing but. I always pack a sack lunch to work. I cook once or twice a week and eat leftovers all the time, even when I go to my brother's house for dinner. I bring leftovers home and I could eat for days on it. I don't drink Starbucks coffee. It's too expensive, I make my own. I don't go to the mall at all. My biggest expenditure are books but they last forever. A book is a gift you can open again and again. A stack of books did arrive for me yesterday, 3 of them from Dan Price about journaling. I found out about him from Danny Gregory's books; 2 were about China. I'm preparing to visit China next fall. I just finished "Opium, a history" by Martin Booth. I have 2 more on China, "The Taiping Rebellion" and "The Opium wars". Why Opium? I'll write about Opium when I have time. I came back from the dentist and an indication light came on on my dashboard. I called Marina Del Rey Toyota, they tell me I have a blown taillight bulb. I was going to run over there to have them fix it for probable $100 when I saw my neighbor working on his RV. He said he could fix it and he might just have the right bulb for it. He did and I paid him $20. I washed the car and I'm now writing this blog. Next I'm going to cook dinner and go through some of the books that came. Dan Price's books are a lot of fun. It'll keep you busy for a very long time. Nothing in your life will be trivial; you will be more observant; every relationship will be important; you'll notice every leaf that falls- I'm exaggerating. After reading Danny Gregory's books, I notice I don't have the patience and lack concentration. To do more detail artwork requires focus, discipline and concentration. I now know I lack these qualities. Not that I can't change. I can and I want to. It's almost like being lazy. My writing initially was superficial and it's a sign of laziness. So I'm changing. I'm forcing myself to write more details. To do that requires sitting longer at the computer and requires reading a lot more. Phew! I'm only blogging! I guess a lot of us have become lazy. We prefer to unwind in front of the tube where all we do is watch. To participate in life requires involvement and work. It's hard after working at a fulltime job but I'm forcing myself to have a life after work instead of lying on the couch and watching the TV screen. I've cut my TV viewing down a lot. There's nothing on TV, I don't have cable but I've seen cable shows, there's too much superfluous programs just to fill up airtime. So I read some more and save and travel. I have a trip to London coming up and I'm writing down all the things I'm going to do there, food I'm going to eat and places to see. I've been there many times. I love shopping in London even though I can't afford anything. I love the British style; it's more chic than anywhere else.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


I've not drawn anything since grade school; since my art teacher made me cry. She really did a number on me and for almost 30 years I never drew again. I've seen art books, watercolors books and have passed them by, thinking I shouldn't waste my money. She was also my needlework teacher too. I cried in that class too. She would make unpick and redo everything. But in adulthood, I would go on to sew for myself, sew for nieces. I went on to do fancy lacework, smock and embroider. I sewed all the drapes in my house, all the quilts on the beds and all the decorative pillows. I could sew anything. Draw? I never took it up again till one day, in a whimsy moment, I bought Danny Gregory's book, "the creative license". He started drawing pretty late in life and looking at his work and with his encouragement, I made a few feeble attempts and I loved it. Here are some examples. He said, "draw anything, draw what's in front of you". I loved the print on my pajama bottom; its so pretty; it makes me feel pretty when I have it on. I decided to draw the fabric print. I still can't get over baroque architecture. I just realize I'm a very girlie girl. I love pretty things and it stands to reason why I would fall so hard for baroque architecture. I have read guide books denouncing it as "over the top". For me, I can't get enough, the more the better. I've been trying to find an out of print book called, " Sicilian Baroque" by Sir Anthony Blunt. I saw one on for $75. I hesitated and it was sold. When I was ready to buy, it was sold. Maybe there's someone else out there who has discovered their passion for baroque architecture. I am going to Sicily next year. I might have to write my own book........

Saturday, June 24, 2006

proverbs 16:20

"He who gives heed to the word will prosper and happy is he who trusts in the Lord". The word of God is a goldmine. Everyday I mine the word of God for nuggets of gold in the form of spiritual nourishment and encouragement. To set me up on the right relationship with the Lord and therefore the right relationship with the world. The right relationship with the world leads to an industrious life which leads to more and more money in the bank. It is actually very simple. I didn't say easy. We must be diligent in reading and meditating on the word of God. We must be diligent in applying the word of God to every area of our lives. Our life's work would be one of excellence. This leads to promotion and a bigger paycheck. I started writing 6 years ago. It started with reading the word of God and living it out in every area of my life and documenting everything. I have accumulated an immense collection of books. I have reread all these books many times. This is a labor of love; a love for God and a love for the life He has given me. We need a diet of words everyday. This is more important than food and clothing. We need a diet of bible verses everyday that empowers and embolden. Without it, we will be lost in this world of negativity. The word of God becomes your shield to protect against negativity and becomes a weapon to rid our lives of negativity. God then inhabits us to bring into our lives the fruits of our labor. We then become spiritual warriors.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Life is so daily

My prayer- not for ease, for fulfilling work, for interesting travel, for compelling and exciting leisure, for enlarged group of friends-all encompassing. This is my life, my daily life; all my prayers are being answered, daily. I have nothing to rant about, but everything to be thankful for. Every negativity is dealt with in prayer- to squeeze out of it every benefit. Napoleon Hill said, " every adversity carries the seed of equivalent or greater benefit". Everyday is different, no one day is the same as another. Every day brings its own gifts. Be open to receive daily. Daily life doesn't have to be boring or bland if we have a life plan. A life plan, an unlimited life plan, is a fantastic way to get through each day. How do we want to live our lives? What would we rather do for a career? Where would we rather go? Who would we rather associate with? What classes would we take? For those out of school, has learning stop? Each day then is a step or a few steps in the fulfillment of our life plan. Enjoy each day while we're at it because they say its the journey of getting to our destination that counts. Stop and smell the roses or the coffee. Enjoy and savor each day for however awful or good the day is, it is soon gone and we cannot have it back. Enjoy each encounter with everyone and every situation. Someone said, "time flies whether or not you're having fun". To that I say, "try to have fun always". Today begin with a blank sheet, "tabula rasa".... Write down your life plan. While being realistic, don't be too timid. When I bought this house, I told myself to be a little more ambitious and looking back I'm glad I did. Choose the best location you can afford- I asked myself where I'd really want to live, the answer, as close to the ocean as possible. Friends had advice for me but beware of well meaning friends. At $491,000, it was scary. What if I bought at the top of the market? Today (after 5 years) its more than doubled. When we reach beyond our comfort zone, its scary and hard. We don't know our resilience or our adaptability. Your life is too important to just leave to chance. This is the only life we'll ever have. Be careful what you wish for, you might get it. How wonderful!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A 5 year plan

I have just mailed off a resume. I thought I'd explore the prospect of changing jobs. Anyway the prospect of making $170,000 a year was too good to pass up. I don't know if I'll take the job if it's offered to me. It's with a correction facility; but I've decided I will go as far as the interview process. I'm not sure if I'm ready to give up my current position, even for that kind of money; about $40,000 more. There must be something about that job if they're willing to offer such a lot of money; something not good. Anyway I was thinking about the interview process. What questions would be asked? Do you have a 5 year plan? My answer would be "No!" I only have a 5 day plan. I have a sort of plan to get through the week. Things are changing too fast in the world; today with more information I think differently from yesterday. What I liked yesterday, I've already disliked today. What was important yesterday is not important today. Yesterday I was sure I'll change jobs but yesterday the boss has already implemented a pay and bonus structure for me that a new job is not so attractive today. Yesterday I was sure I'll take the job if it's offered to me. Today I'm only willing to go as far as the interview process. Who knows how I'll think tomorrow. I'm not flighty but some jobs are worth keeping and staying at. Not all jobs require a grand 5 year plan. Some jobs would prefer you to stay and grow with. With stability comes consistent service. I can't even say when I'll retire. I'll take it one day at a time. I'll continue to be prudent with spending; continue to invest in upgrading my skills; continue to save and invest; continue to travel and have fun doing all these things.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

italy on my mind

I can't help it. I still have Italy on my mind. The visit to the Baroque city of Lecce in Southern Italy was an afterthought. When I got to Bari on the Adriatic coast I still wasn't sure if I was to take the daytrip to Lecce which was a 2 hour train ride away. Rough Guide described the Baroque as "over the top". Every building in the old city was in the Baroque style that one can gag. I didn't. In fact I fell in love with Baroque, with the moldy, honey colored old buildings. My only regret was I didn't spend enough time there or even spend the night there. I heard there are a lot of Baroque style cities in Eastern Sicily and I'm really excited. My digital camera ran out of power in Lecce added to my regret.

hakka- on being hakka

My Chinese ancestry is Hakka. There are thousands of different Chinese dialects and the people of the same dialect usually are found together in different parts of China-each speaking their own dialect and eating their own cuisine. There is an official dialect which is mandarin and only one form of written Chinese. The amazing thing is the written form could be read in any dialect. It is not a special thing to be Hakka, in fact, it is almost shameful. Hakka people are peasants and are classless. Growing up, I have other Hakka people who told me in whispers they were also Hakka and in the same breath, say that they don't speak Hakka. If possible, you'd rather not be Hakka. Who are the Hakka people of China? Lynn Pan, in her book, "A history of the Chinese Diaspora" said it the best that I can't improve on it. "The Hakkas, whose name means 'guest families', have been described as the gypsies of China, people who live side by side with speakers of different dialects in enclaves scattered across six Southern Provinces, without a homeland of their own. They were a rugged lot and even their women had to be hardy. Little wonder that the Hakkas were the only Chinese to refrain altogether from binding their daughters' feet into the 'golden lilies' that were de rigueur everywhere else. One thing Hakka women were not was dainty". These remarks, rather than incensed me, actually excited me. I am proud to be of Hakka stock. I am a Hakka woman, a hardy Hakka woman, as Lynn Pan called us. She is Shanghainese, from the North. Northerners always felt more superior to Southerners. It gave her more confidence growing up. She has gone on to be a successful author. I have some of her books. Apart from being both Chinese, we share a more common background in that we spent a good part of our lives in than British North Borneo.

A Bat mizvah

It's Ashley's Bat Mizvah today. It's a beautiful Saturday morning. I came early to the Synagogue and am right here at the venue about 5 minutes drive from where I live. What is a Bar Mizvah or a Bat Mizvah? It is a rite of passage for Jewish children. At 13, they pledge their taking a personal interest in the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible ascribed to Moses' authorship). The Torah is the central part of the Jewish faith. It is the word of God given to the Israelites.
......... It was a beautiful service. Being Christian, this is the first time I've attended a Shabbat service. They were very successful in creating a sense of community by incorporating families into the Torah reading. The whole focus was God, His word(Torah) and the community. Everything was in Hebrew. My sister-in-law, Rivka, is from Israel. She read part of the designated Torah passage in Hebrew, so did other relatives, as did my other niece who is raised here but spoke only Hebrew before she went to school. Ashley read her part of the scripture passage in Hebrew and gave a little speech on what it meant to her. She did well, she's a natural born perfomer with no fear of an audience. She loves being in the spotlight. There was a kiddush reception after Shabbat and I found this congregation to be very warm, friendly and welcoming. I was impressed. One of Rivka's aunt is a holocaust survivor. She was 12 when she was in Auschwitz. Being christian, I am grateful we share the same God and a common heritage, the Old Testament,

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Father's day

A few years ago I decided to write my father's life story. Throughout my life I have heard spits and spats of his growing up at the dinner table. It wasn't till a few years ago as I looked at him, a man approaching 80 and still with such physical, intellectual and spiritual vigor that I realized when he leaves this earth, he takes with him these stories. Unless I take up the gauntlet and document these stories for posterity, they are going to be lost forever. I will be too busy doing other things that I, too, who was told these stories, would forget. Even if no one else in the world wants to know of this man, I should memorialize these stories for the next generation and the generations to follow. Were his stories unique? My mother lived in the same village and just a few years younger never has such stories of survival to tell. My father's siblings does not have the s\same stories either. They were unique stories of immense struggle for mere survival. A life of being the only surviving son in a Chinese culture where sons are supposed to be worshipped but wasn't the case in my father's life. It was a life of extreme poverty combined with tremendous abuse on the part of my paternal grandfather and the cherry on the top was WWII with a Japanese invasion and occupation, culminating in the landing and occupation of Allied Forces after the defeat of the Japanese. All these contributed to the hardships in my father's adolescent years, seen by very few in the history of mankind. It reeks of Frank McCourt's tales in "Angela's Ashes". It was shared suffering in Frank McCourt's life. In my father's case, he bore the brunt and the full force of the pain and struggle. Unless we read of survival stories and I don't mean the television series on "Survival", we will continue to sleepwalk through life. We will continue to live a very shallow existence. We will continue to be bored and be boring.There has been lots of holocaust stories and there should be. We must not forget. We must not be complacent. While WWII raged on in Europe, there was another war in the Asian front-the spread of Japanese Imperialism. They had a rhetoric, not unlike the Nazis. In fact, the Japanese Imperialists and the Nazis were collaborators. Here's to my father.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hollywood

I am a Chinese American and in Europe, I am mistaken for being Japanese. I try to tell people I'm from Los Angeles or California but most people don't know where either one is. When I say I'm from Hollywood, then I see the regconition in their faces and everyone will say "Oui" in France or "Si" in Italy or Spain. I was at the train station in Santiago de Compostela last year, waiting to take the train to Hendaye, the French town at the border with Spain. There were a whole bunch of pilgrims taking the same train to go home. I was seated next to one of them. I asked if he finished the 500 mile Camino. He said, "Ja". He sounded German but he said he was from Austria. So I told him I was from California and that our governor is from Austria. He said' "Ja, the terminator" in an accent that sounded exactly like Arnold's. We both laughed so loud that everyone in the train station began to look our way. I use Arnold Schwarzenegger's notoriety all the time in Europe.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The wheel of fortune

All through my house I have little reminders, little pictures and inspirational words to encourage me to continue in this mindset. The feeling of worthiness comes from inside. Emerson said, "Great hearts send forth steadily the secret forces that incessantly draw great events".Someone else once said,"your outer life is a reflection of your inner life. So the question is, "How do you live? Is there beauty in your life? Are you living the life you want? The first thing to change is your thoughts because these thoughts will ultimately become your expressions; Metaphysicians call it "demonstration"- same difference. It is so important to write down our goals. There's a greater chance of achieving our goals if they are more concrete; if we can express them in writing. Another way of memorializing our goals is in the form of a picture; a wheel of fortune. On it we could paint or paste pictures of the house we'd like to own, the places we want to visit; maybe stick on it a check written to ourselves for $1m. If we should get lazy or depressed, we could look at that picture wheel again to remind ourselves of what we want to achieve in this life. I have all kinds of reminders all over the house. I am not a collector of souvenirs but I do have some, 2 cafe au lait bowls from Nice, France; 2 cake plates from London; an embroidered shawl from Seville, Spain. I buy all my shoes from the Doc Marten store in London. They're a daily reminder of the blessedness in my life. I am truly grateful. When things get tough at work I remind myself and I say "Italy" under my breath and I could handle anything!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Laws of prosperity

I have a book by Catherine Ponder called, "The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity" which has been instrumental in my getting into the path of prosperity. I remember one lonely night, after realizing that I've just lost $80,000 in a business venture with some family members, I went on my knees and I prayed, "Lord, I want to prosper, prosper me!" I remember I laid the blame solely on my own shoulders and did not apportion blame on anyone else. I went to and typed in "Prosperity". This book by Catherine Ponder was among the hundreds that stood out. I've read and reread the book many times. It is one of the many books that set me on the path to prosperity. What it did for me was it made me feel worthy to be rich, successful and prosperous. Often times we sabotage ourselves and our success by feeling unworthy. I had to readjust my mindset. Once I did, I was well on the road to prosperity. It's an incredible feeling.

spring is in the air

These are pretty and delicious pictures. The whole idea is to create a beautiful and inspiring blog with everyday life. This is the life I live away from work. Work is very different. I work in Skid Row; the neighborhood is completely the opposite of how I live.
But I bring to my work the same creativity I live with. It only looks different outside. I care very deeply about my work; I care very deeply about the people I serve at work, the homeless, the paroled felons and the mentally ill. Serving them brings great joy to my life. I wouldn't work any where else.

It is finally here, well, in Southern California, it comes early. I spend most of my free time outdoors in my backyard wearing my old straw hat that I bought 10 years ago from Walmart. It's seen me through 2 houses. I just came back from the Santa Monica farmers' market. I bought some flowers (Peonies and Tuberose), raspberries, raisins, baby Brussels sprouts and a loaf of raisin-pecan bread. I went through my old magazines and selected a stack of old English magazines and I'm going to read them again in the backyard with a cup of tea. I love foreign magazines, French or English. I might walk down to Venice beach and hang out there for a bit.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

roughing it- in Europe

I have stayed in expensive hotels in Paris, Venice and Avignon. The European taste is so different and much more charming. American hotels tend to uniformed and stuffy. I've stayed in very cheap lodgings too. By far I enjoyed the cheap lodgings more. Each one is so different; you never know what to expect and that makes it so much fun. One place had the toilet wedged in the stairwell in between floors; you have to watch your step when you leave; you might fall down the stairs. Another place is a big old house run by a very nice young French couple. I always choose places where the guidebooks describe as friendly. The friendliness makes up for the rusticness. Rustic- that's the word for it, it sounds better than dumpy. These pictures were taken in Carcassonne, France. It's someone's loft which was painted pink and had lots of colorful provencal fabrics. It was cheap and delightful. The kids loved it. We stayed right in the center of the medieval city and cheaply too; 64 euros per night for the 4 of us. The balcony looks out into old and moldy buildings and the turrets and crenellations of the ancient city walls. The kids want to return to Carcassonne.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The high cost of vacations

With the high cost of fuel every expert is advising the public to take vacations closer to home. I have seen a little of the USA and have loved the sights. Yellowstone comes to mind and it is an absolutely fantastic place; a national treasure. I do strongly recommend visiting Yellowstone. However if one doesn;t go to Europe, One misses out too. Vistas like these are only found in Europe whether it be the Grand Canal in Venice or the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. There are hundreds of years of history in the sights in Europe and it is mind boggling. Venice is so different and so fantastic. You don't have to be on a honeymoon to visit Venice. There's no other place like it. The Alhambra was built by the Moors when they conquered Spain. When Spain was retaken by the Catholic Kings, Isabella and Ferdinand lived there and raised their children there. Their oldest daughter, Catherine was the first wife of King Henry VIII. In historical tales of Henry VIII, they make mention of Catherine as having grown up in the Alhambra. It's so full of historical significance. There are so many other places. One cannot see them all in one's lifetime. Venice was once a very prosperous city as evidenced by the gorgeous palazzos built in the water. I remember my first visit. As the train drew closer, I strained to see the city on the water. I couldn't see it, it took the train a long way into the water before I caught my first glimpse. It was magical. I stepped out the train and on to a vaporetto, a water bus. It zigzagged its way over the Grand Canal and to my hotel stop. I want to be beck there again and soon. There are so many other magical places in Europe.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

the first time

Everybody remembers their first time. I'm not writing about that first time. I'm writing about my first time in Paris. It was the winter of 1998. I remember getting a week off at Christmas. I decided to spend Christmas with family in London. Family members encouraged me to take a couple of days of that trip and head over to Pairs on Eurostar. It takes 3 hours. I remember getting out of my aunt's house at 7 am on a cold, wet and dark wintry London morning; took a bus and the underground to Waterloo train station. Aunt Mary lives in North London. First class on Eurostar is a fantastic experience. During mealtimes, there's a waiter who waits on you and you get proper cutlery. It's very pleasant. I've been on second class since then. You pack a lunch or you buy something from the dining car. Before I embarked on that trip I bought a stack of this Christmas card to send to friends. At the back it read, "The raven" by Monet; courtesy of Musee d'orsay, Paris. I knew I would be near this museum in Paris. I remember rushing over in the late afternoon on my last day. I searched all over the museum for that painting but couldn't find it. Finally I asked for help and found it on the first floor. I still remember that sense of marvel. A few weeks before, the decision being made at a Barnes & Noble to see this painting live and there I was standing in front of it in Paris.......

Monday, May 29, 2006

camino santiago de compostela

It is a 500 mile pilgrimage from St Jean pied de port in France to Santiago de compostela in Northern Spain; one can walk, ride a mule, a horse or a bike. I was going to walk the last 60 miles but changed my mind. I trained for it though. For 5 months I walked for 8 hours, 3 days a week. I started walking 2 hours a day the first few days and by the second month I was walking 6 hours and over the next week' was walking 8 hours, sometimes 2 days in a row. I didn't get any blisters on my feet but I remember my calf muscles took a beating. They were so tense that at a slightest misstep I would feel tremendous pain, so much pain that I limp some days. I just walked and walked, some days with a packed backpack just to simulate the actual pilgrimage. I went to a walking store and got a pair of cute hiking boots that set me back $200 and a cool backpack that cost another $200. I bought a plane ticket and was ready to embark on the adventure when my sister called and changed my mind for me. She was afraid I wouldn't come back. The Tsunami in Asia had just happened and lots of Americans didn't come back from their vacation in Asia. I had to make changes to my itinerary. Since I was booked to fly to Santiago de Compostela, I did and stayed 2 days, visiting the cathedral and watched the pilgrims come in. Then I took the train to Bayone, France and onward to St Jean pied de port from where most pilgrims start their 500 mile walk up the Pyrenees to Spain and across Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. I was on the train with about 2 dozen pilgrims. I went to the pilgrim office and saw them get instructions and off they went. That was last year. I still get pilgrim news from the British Confraternity of St James and American pilgrims on the road. Would I attempt it again? I doubt it. I don't have the patience to train again. Looking back I don't know how I mustered the patience to train. But I need to find another use for my boots and backpack. I need to go on a trek, maybe to Tibet or China or Nepal.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The spirit of adventure

Being an independent traveler, making up your own itinerary and your own travel arrangements takes a lot of motivation. It's very stressful before and during the trip. I'd like to stay longer in some places but time and money doesn't always, in fact, never allow it. There's so much of the world left to see. I started traveling late in life and only in the last 6 years. So I have a lot of ground to make up for. No matter, it is still very exciting and well worth doing. The other alternative is to sit at home and wonder what it is like to be going to those strange, different and wonderful places in the world. I live each day of my life with the same sense of wonder. I am curious about people. I am daring in my profession. If it's not done before, I want to do it. I want to practise my profession in a new and different way. I want to care more about people, put my heart and soul into any task. Even in this blog, I'm putting in a lot of effort; I'm always on the look out for inspirational things to write about. I can spend hours going through old photographs to find inspiration. I remember on a recent trip to Naples' I met 2 young Japanese girls at a hostel. One of them spoke a spattering of English, both spoke no Italian. They were headed for the Isle of Capri and the Blue Grotto. We went sightseeing together for most of the day. They flew in from Osaka into Rome, took the train from Rome and arrived in Naples at 10.30pm the night before. The hostel where we stayed was in front of the train station and was in a seeded part of town. It's scary in the daytime. They arrived at night. They were headed back to Rome that night and onto Venice, Trieste and Llubjana and then Osaka. Wow! I didn't even know where Llubjana was then. Now I know it's in Slovenia. I told Sophie, my sister in law, I want some of their spirit to rub off on me. She said, "you already have that spirit". I love Mark Harris' new song, "Find your wings". Part of the chorus goes like this,
I pray that God will fill your life with dreams
And faith will give you courage to dare great things.
While I try to inspire others, I let others inspire me also.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

creative doodling

I have this book called "Living out loud". Once in a while when I am in need of inspiration I read again. I found some inspiring things in it,

Court uncertainty
Live on purpose
Pretend more
Proceed fearlessly
Laugh recklessly
Invoke magic
start by collecting information, quotes
Living with less and enjoying it more

I added my own doodling

Madrid Salamanca Toledo Avila
Barcelona Montserrat Andorra
Latour de Carol Perpignan Marseilles Nice
Bilboa St Jean de Luz Lourdes Pau
Malaysia Singapore
Tibet Nepal India

creative doodling

farmer's markets- abroad

It's the most fun thing when you arrive at a town in France and their farmer's market falls on that day. I remember my first encounter, it was in Aix en Provence. It had everything; produse, household linens, mattresses, brocante, olives, cheeses and sausages. Then there's that ubiquitous paella. I had paella for breakfast at the market in Sarlat. The saturday market in Sarlat is pretty well known. It's walnuts and goose country. There's walnut everything for sale- walnut cookies, walnut cakes, candied walnuts and walnut wine. I remember a purveyor of walnut wine handing me a sample; he must have been sipping a lot of his own stuff. He was a little tipsy. It was sweet and good. We went round every stall sampling everything walnut. There was duck and goose foie gras as well. We had roast chicken for lunch and we fed the bones and leftovers to a stray dog who followed us around. Sarlat is very pretty. Isle sur la Sorgue has a very big and renown brocante and farmer's market. In fact they have it every sunday but twice a year in April (Easter) and August, they're exceptionally huge. I made it to the Easter market 2 years ago. I've read so much about it. It was fun to actually see it in person. I've been reading about christmas markets in Europe and would love to attend one in the near future. I remember eating the most delicious home made sausage once. It was fat and juicy. I bought some home made rasin walnut bread from a vendor. That was my lunch. I found a park bench and ate them. This was in Aix en Provence. I've had lots of picnic lunches since then while traveling in Europe. I remember the Arancini I had in Naples. Arancini are fried risotto balls. In Siena, my sister and I ate salami, bread and pickles at the famous piazza. Sophie, my sister in law and I went into a Salumeria and loaded up with cheese, Mortadella and Calamari salad. We always pack food when we're on the train evn though most trains have a dining car or they have people puching a cart down the train aisle.

farmer's markets- at home

armloads of lilac blssoms at the Santa Monica farmer's market. Sweet peas growing up against a chainlink fence.

farmer's markets... at home and abroad 1

I am blesses to live so close to Santa Monica. They have a bi-weekly farmer's market which are both awesome; the wednesday one is more so than the saturday one. I try not to miss the wednesday market. I go every week with great anticipation as each week or every other week brings its suprises- a parade of seasonal fruits, vegetables and flowers. Last week I saw the first cherries. In France its "le temps des cerises". Here in Southern California the time of cherries comes earlier. There's always the ubiquitous strawberry that California is known for. We've just finishes eating apples and mandarins and we're anticipating the arrival of apricots. Apricots have softer skins and are picked when pretty green and sold in the stores. They are not worth eating. To eat a good apricot you must look for them at farmer's markets where they are ripe, sweet and juicy. For this reason, I never miss a farmer's market during the short apricot season. Next comes the nectarines and peaches especially the white varieties. They are to die for. In fall I eagerly await the "Autumn Royal" grape that is so sweet and awesome. I saw a guy buying 4 lbs once. I asked him how many people he was buying for; he said, for one. Then we see the seasonal vegetables, the baby artichokes, calabrese broccoli, all kinds of salad greens, heirloom tomatoes; the kind you see in seed catalogs. Also we see a progression of seasonal flowers. A few weeks ago most shoppers have been walking home with armloads of lilacs and apple blossoms. I stop every time to smell the multi-hued pea blossoms. As the weather warms up, the different summer flowers will come in season even faster. I see stuff found only in European markets; wild asparagus, white asparagus, purple potatoes, baby potatoes of every shape and alpine strawberries. I love both the red and white alpine strawberries and the red and yellow raspberries. I eat them dipped in Lite Cool Whip. I go through a few tubs of Lite Cool Whip every year. The L Brea bakery makes a brioche that is comparable to the ones I have eaten in France. I am always munching on a brioche when I'm at the Santa Monica farmer's market on wednesdays. I love living where I live; its a short bus ride sway from Santa Monica. It costs $1.25 per ride, a bargain in today's world.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

saints' bones

The folk tales associated with the christian faith is not new but when we hear about the conspiracy theories in the Da Vinci code, we think this is something new. All through the history of the christian church all kinds of tales and fables have been circulated. The remains of saints and apostles are supposed to be sacred and to be venerated and can perform miracles. Therefore the places that housed these bones and remains are places of pilgrimage; Rome is a holy site because the apostles Paul and Peter died there. Venice has St Mark's bones. In ancient times churches even steal bones from each other. There are other tales being weaved about the travels of some of the figures in the bible. Mary Magdalene supposedly left Jerusalem and saied in a boat and somehow landed in the coast in the south of France. She became the patron saint of the gypsies. In a monastery in the Dordogne area of France the remains of a little girl is encased in gold and encrusted with jewels. Her name is St Foy and the place is Conques. Her bones are supposed to be able to perform miracles. All kinds of books have been written about her. This place has been a place of pilgrimages. I have made a pilgrimage there, not because I believed in the miracle properties of bones and remains, but because Conques is a beautiful place. It is remote and still very unspoiled though there are pretty and expensive lodgings next to the church. It's not easy to get to Conques. I took a train to Rodez, a town nearby and hired a car and driver to take me there. It cost me 200 euros. It cost me another 5 euros just to go into the room to see this golden figure. We are right now up in arms over the Da Vinci code. There are numerous other tales and fables associated with the christian faith over the centuries. It will continue till we meet the Lord face to face. Then only will know the completely.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

nice ville

Back to the French Riviera; having been in Nice 3 times, I've seen quite a bit of its environs. I have taken the narrow gauge train from Nice to Digne les Bain to see the lavender fields. It's a long 3 hour train ride each way. It passes Entrevaux, a lovely medieval town. I didn't have time to stop. I've been to many of the hill towns outside of Nice including Grasse, Eze, St Paul de Vence and Vence. I've also been to Monte Carlo and Menton. The coastline between Nice and Menton is spectacular. I love old Nice. I've never stopped and visited any of the towns south of Nice, only saw them from the train as it passes them on my way to Marseilles and beyond, whether it be Avignon or Toulouse. I visited Marseilles in my earlier forays to Europe when I was so scared and unsure of myself. Today I am much traveled and much more intrepid. There is a cute little restaurant in old Nice near Cours Selaya. It's not a fancy restaurant. I can't afford Michelin starred hotels or restaurants. It's decor is down home provencal farmhouse. They have long pine tables with all kinds of confitures laid out. We had breakfast there one morning. I had a cafe noir and muesli with yoghurt. I love French yoghurt. It's creamier. I tried to eat my muesli with yoghurt at home. It just didn't taste the same. We had breakfast there 2 mornings in a row. I still think of that place. I remember my first time in Nice 4 years ago. I walked into a travel agent to inquire about tours around the area. The travel agent told me to go to the bus station across the street. I did and found buses going everywhere in Europe and also local buses that went to all the hilltowns around Nice. For a little more than 1 euro each trip I took the buses all over. What a bargain! Nice has an airport and the train station is a major hub. You can take the plane or the train to anywhere in Europe. The city is not so big. It's manageable. I love Nice. It's got cheaper accomodations around the train station. I've stayed in that area. I remember getting out at 7am to take the TGV to Avignon. It was still dark and cold in March. I had only to walk 5 minutes to get to the train station.

The French and Italian Riviera

Last year I visited the Pyrenees and for months after I came home, I read everything I could find written about the Pyrenees. Since way back I had always wanted to travel the coast from Nice to Rome. In March this year, I actually went from Rome to Nice, spending a little time in a few places along the way. Right now and for the next few months, I'll be reading everything I can find written about the French and Italian Riviera. I know I still want to travel the coast from Nice to Rome, stopping in places I missed on my trip from Rome to Nice. Right now I'm reading Carolyn Mackenzie"s book, "Portraits of the Riviera". It's about a woman from New Zealand who moved to Italy to teach English and who bought an apartment in Ventimiglia, Italy. Ventimiglia is an Italian town near the French-Italian border. She documented the purchase and renovation of the apartment and how she amuses herself by exploring the environs of Ventimiglia, both in Italy and in France. It makes me nostalgic for both the French and Italian Riviera. These feelings will accompany me the rest of the year till I visit another place in the world. Next year I go to Sicily and I've already read, "A house in Sicily", "The Stone Boudoir" and many others. I hope to visit China also and there are books about people who spent extender periods in various places in China.