Wednesday, February 28, 2007

lay not treasures on earth

It has been a tough few months. It is never enough what I do for my job. Lately I have been plotting hard on an exit strategy. I previous days when I felt I still need this job, I would read books like, "How to take this job and love it", plus a whole slew of others on how to enjoy work, how to put more into it, etc. It's hard. Now I read "Your money or your life" plus a whole slew of others on slowing down, on being more frugal so as not to need to work so much. The days ahead are going to be really tough, more is never enough. We can't drink enough coffee (Starbucks); eat enough burgers (McDonald's); drink enough sodas (Coca cola); live in bigger houses with a professional kitchen (Home Depot). These stores need to grow and they are going into every area of this planet earth. Where is the growth coming from? We need more sick people so we can fill more prescriptions (I'm a pharmacist)! The stock market fell more than 400 points yesterday. I'm celebrating, not because I hav no exposure, I do. I celebrate because I know how foolish it is to be so dependent on something so unstable and volatile as the stock market. The time is now to reassess our relationship between work and money. The bible says, "do not lay up treasures on earth which moths can destroy and people can steal, instead lay up treasures in heaven". Doing good for ourselves and others is a divine treasure. I read somewhere that treasures in heaven means our stock of virtue. Increase these stocks- love, kindness, honesty, diligence, patience, wisdom, knowledge, etc- and we can never fail even though the stock market crashes and burn. We can use our wit to climb back up. Emerson said, "There is a silent party to all our bargains". The bible says, "on the mountain of God, it shall be provided- Jehovah-jireh". Emerson also said, "There is no penalty to virtue; no penalty to wisdom; they are proper additions of being.... There can be no excess to love, none to knowledge, none to beauty...." There can be an excess to coffee stores, burger stores, Walmarts and Home Depot's. Decide today how you want to live. Gas prices went up again. Have you changed your driving habits? Are you still deciding on a truck even though you don't need one? Are you still shopping for more stuff? Are you paying for stuff to be stored? Why?

living it up

I used to live my life through Martha Stewart and through magazine spreads. I don't anymore. These days my life is a feast or a magazine spread itself. It is not fancy but it is outright frugal and beautiful. Danny Gregory's philosophy is "every day matters". It does. I have accumulated enough knick knacks which I use in my daily life whether for mealtimes or for leisure and I arrange things so that my life is the epitome of a magazine spread. "Parisbreakfasts" is a blog which has pictures of Paris' stores and coffee shops. Why? Why don't you stage your life as it you live in Europe. A cup of coffee, a few slices of brioch and some freh flowers on a lace draped pine table in my dining room and "viola" I'm transported to France.

living it up

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The time is now!

The time is now, to travel to far away places like China, Tibet or Europe. It is time to save now for such endeavors. The time is now to heal broken relationships. The time is now to plan for a life after retirement. The times is now to prepare to take a year off. The time is now, to be, to do and to take risks. It's another lazy Sunday morning. I love being home, home in this adorable cottage filled with the things I love, my books especially. Books that point the way for me; whether it is the bible or a commentary written by the brilliant theologian, William Barclay or art books or journal writing books or travel guides or travelogues. I love Michel Peissel's books on his travels to the Tibetan plateau or the obscure Himalayan villages. I love Amy Oakley's accounts of her travel in France in the 1920's. I love Robert Louis Stevenson's account of his travel in France with his donkey, Modestine. I love Paul Tournier's book "The adventure of living"; a book that was instrumental in how I live now. Of course the time is now to embark on the adventure of living. The time is now to "think and grow rich" (Napoleon Hill). There's nothing like sitting in a cute coffee or "the" shop in France, it doesn't have to be in Paris though it could be. (Read Parisbreakfasts blog- it's all about Paris). I remember fondly my last day in Toulouse two years ago. I walked around town and found this pretty tea room. I sat down and had a coffee and a croissant and knew that I'm living the life I want to live. When I close my eyes and whisper, Tuscany, I remember the glorious Tuscan countryside and Florence. I was in old town Orange yesterday. It is a sleepy little town in Orange County filled with antique shops. I came home with a picture frame. As I write this piece I'm looking at something I found in a journal writing book, It says: be a collector of all things unique
- thoughts
- ideas
- feelings
-favorite things
- memories
Be your own research project.
A letter from my bank arrived yesterday informing me that they will renew my CD for another three months. That's the kitty for when I take a year off to live in France. The time is now to prepare for that gap year. I am in my 50th decade but the time is still now!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How to afford travel I

Polly Evans travels and every trip she takes is turned into a book; whether it's cycling in Spain (It's not about the tapas) or a few months in China (How to eat a fried egg with chopsticks). I have to find a way of paying for my wanderlust besides working at my job. I don't just travel alone, I want to bring along my 2 teenage nieces. Ashley has already made me promise to take her to Tuscany in 2008. So I have to find ways to make more money and also to save more. I'm already so frugal, pinching the penny so tightly that the president on the penny is wincing in pain. I love reading stories of frugal people to see if I can learn new ideas on saving money. Affording foreign travel starts at home:
- brown bagging lunches
- walk, run, no expensive gym memberships
- thrift shops or garage sales for clothes and furniture
- less TV, TV watching increase our need to buy and own
- limit Internet surfing, surfing the net takes up a lot of time
- work more, take up another job
- hold a garage sale
- read more
-write in a journal
- look through old photos
- don't go to the mall
- no movies
-no eating out
- use the car less, walk to get groceries
- wash your own car
- color your own hair
- use drugstore cosmetics, no expensive cosmetics
I am already doing all these and more and it is working.
Now I am going to stop my Internet use. I'm going to sell my Amgen stocks and buy Wells Fargo.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


It is not being fearless. I have courage and have felt fear in my life but have gone on to do the things I fear. I have moved out of state thinking it was what I want to do, only to find out I didn't like the state I moved to. I have found the courage to move back. I have traveled to unfamiliar places, with great fear and trepidation, only to realize there were no grounds for my fears. Courage and fear goes hand in glove. Many people are paralyzed by their fears and have not been able to move ahead. They entertained the many unanswered questions,"what if?". Most of the "what ifs" never happen. I have constantly felt fear in my life but have gone on to do the things I want to do, never letting my fears stop me. I plunged into marriage and have found the courage to end it when I felt it will never work the way I want it to. I've quitted my job a few times when the going was too tough and have returned to the same job each time. It's a gutsy move, maybe not a smart one. Life takes guts; it's gutsy people that move ahead. I have invested in stocks not knowing a thing about stock analysis and have done well. Years sgo I decided to move up in my neighborhood. I went to the bank and qualified for a $350,000 home loan and bought a house for $500,00. It was scary; I wasn't sure if I bought at the height of the market. One can never be sure. If we wait to be sure, opportunity will pass us by. Even in today's housing slump the house has doubled in value. I have shown it off proudly to friends who were always too afraid to buy a home. The trick is not to buy too much home and have the payments overwhelm us. There should be the apportionment of funds to varying activities, eg: living and house expenses, gifts, books and travel. This makes for a fun life. Courage takes faith, faith in time. It is hard to get rich quick but it is easy to get rich slowly. Faith in time is the most important ingredient. We are impatient. We refuse to put seed into good soil; nurture our crops and work at it till harvest. As surely as harvest time follow seed time, prosperity will follow diligence. "THe mills of the gods grind slowly but they grind very fine." I have struggled with patience but nonetheless, I need to continue to be patient. Every day is a struggle to go to work; I struggle to be frugal; I struggle to be positive and the list goes on. I'm winning the battle because I do go to work, I do save and I do remain positive and patient. I'm surprised by the struggle. I'm surprised at how tough it still is after all these years; that it doesn't get any easier. Enough time to allow seedlings to grow and fruits to ripen for the harvest. Enough time to make a big mistake seem small as time goes by, like losing $90,000 in a business venture. There are no failures if we are willing to learn. We feel such fools but everyone gets burnt sometimes. They overcome by learning from the mistake and allowing time to rebuild. I have grown and I forgive myself and have the courage to move on and up again.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

old books

I own some old books printed in 1910, 1927, 1936, 1945, well before I was born; books written before and just after WWII. Travel books, no less, it's hard to imagine travel in those days but people did travel and wrote about it. Amy Oakley, an American went all over France with an illustrator. I guess it was hard hauling around trunks full of luggage and a chunky camera; it was easier to bring your illustrator with you; he can walk on his own. No matter, the descriptions of their trips were no less enchanting than modern travel. In fact, they were more delightful. She went to more places; more off the beaten path places; I guess in those days, most places are off the beaten path. In the introduction to her book, "Hill-towns of the Pyrenees", she wrote,"The impressions recorded in this book have been amassed by the author and the artist during three summers in these mountains, before, during and since the world war." Places like Amelie-Les-Bains, Castell'nou, Palalda, Andorra, Luchon, Val D'aran, Lourdes, Pau, Tarbes, St. Jean pied de port, Bayonne and Biarritz are not familiar names. Some of us have heard of Lourdes; Catholics certainly have. So really, till today, there are still places yet to be explored. I'm planning to retrace Amy Oakley's trips to the hill-towns of the Pyrenees. I have been to the Pyrenees on the Atlantic coast. The Pyrenees is the mountain range that divides Spain and France. The treaty of the Pyrenees stated that the tip of the mountain range is the boundary between the two countries. It is an interesting mountain range that stretched between the Atlantic Ocean at one end and the Mediteranean at the other. I was interested in the pilgrimage from St Jean pied de port to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in Spain and that was what brought me to the Pyrenees Occidentales, to Bayonne, Biarritz and St Jean pied de port. This is the Basques area of the Pyrenees and a very interesting and delightful area. While on the same trip I was in Toulouse and had the opportunity to take a day trip to Foix in the Arriege department of the Pyrenees. I do want to see the Pyrenees Orientales (the Mediteranean side). It is amazing what books can do. They can open up a whole new world, places that till today remains much a mystery. There's still a world out there that begs to be explored!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

wolfgang puck

Spring comes early to Southern California. Today is Valentine's day and the farmer's market in Santa Monica was filled with flowers and people buying flowers. I love this time of the year. The sun is shining, it's always shining here but it wasn't too hot. I love going to this market, the wednesday's market because it is lively and busy, reminds me of France. There's always someone with a camera or a group of people shooting a host of some show on a cable show. Today was no different except I knew who the person the camera was pointed at. It was none other than Wolfgang Puck, the famous Austrian chef and chef to the Oscar party. He was shopping for the Oscar party, ordering some 50 bunches of some black radishes which he is going to serve with a caviar dish. I and a whole bunch of other people stood and watched as he chatted with the farmer while his crew was filming. He picked up some pea shoots and started eating and I walked over and said to him, that I didn't know you can eat raw pea shoots. I picked up some and started chewing and remarked how sweet they were. We both laughed and I said I just learned something new today, all on camera. Wow!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

a lazy sunday

A cup of coffee, a slice of Brioche aux raisins and an old English magazine, the backyard deck and a pillow.... mmmmm this is the stuff of a lazy sunday. Today is super bowl sunday and every one is stocking up with wierd food and beer and loud cheering. I'm staying home and am going to think of travels past and be excited about travels in the future especially the very near future.... like next month! It has been a hard week at work and tomorrow is another start to another work day. Please don't remind me. Let me just have today to work with. I'm going to head to the little farmer's market near my house and buy another loaf of Brioche. This french guy makes good Brioche, as good as the ones in France. It keeps well to, I eat it everyday. I love farmer's markets, it reminds me of Europe and I've been to a few in Europe. My first taste was in Aix en Provence 7 years ago. It sold everything including mattresses, I didn't any kitchen sinks. That first encounter sealed my fate forever, now I want to travel to Europe and wonder around farmer's markets all the time. In Biarritz, I followed some locals on their way to market. It wasn't a market but it was a village square where all the shops were. I went into a cheese shop and bought some cheese, a bakery to buy some bread, a deli for local freshly prepared local cuisine, a greengrocer for some fruits and a cafe for some jus and ... viola... I have a picnique lunch! Then I walked to the beach and sat just outside Emperor Napoleon III's palace and laid out my picnic lunch and ate while watching the waves of the Atlantic Ocean as they lap on to the sand. Wow! What's this got to do with a lazy sunday, everything, it's a time to recall a beautiful and delightful past and to look forward to more delights.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I was in Amsterdam in late August, 2006. I took the train, Eurostar from London Waterloo station to Brussels; changed trains and headed for Amsterdam. It is a town of waterways; there is water everywhere. It is pretty in its own way. Did you know there are mosquitoes in Amsterdam? With all that water, there's got to be mosquitoes. It rained the whole time I was there; 3 days to be exact. Thus adding more water to what's already there. The people spoke incredibly good English and were extremely friendly and that makes up for all the shortcomings of Amsterdam. From the pretty train station one walks down a very busy and touristy street. It was a weekend and it was packed with tourists. To see the real Amsterdam one must venture outside the touristy area. You don't have to go far, just turn outside one canal and you are there. It is a quiet and genteel and absolutely beguiling. You begin to feel like you could live there. There are cafes frequented by the locals and life is slow and unhurried. I took my 13 year old niece with me on this trip and all she wanted to do was to shop. I left her in the hotel room to read so I could explore on my own. It was an extremely pleasant stroll away from the madding crowd; away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy areas. We met some Americans; one couple was so helpful, they taught us how to ride the trams to museum square. I had lots of mussels, never ate so many mussels in my life. My niece was bitten by mosquitoes and had all these welts on her arm. We went to the drugstore thinking we could buy a tube of Hydrocortisone cream for the itching. We couldn't without a prescription. The ironic thing was, we could more easily buy marijuana without restrictions. We didn't go to the redlight district. It wasn't something that would interest a 13 year old. We did see some scantilly clad women in shopfronts from the train soon after we left Brussels train station on our way to Amsterdam. I still like Amsterdam and don't mind returning if just to go back to those quiet neighborhoods and just chill......