Monday, June 30, 2008

How has travel changed me

Treaures of the Louvre, the three muses, Venus de Milo, dinner plates ( these must be banquet plates, probably not for every day use, or maybe they have a different set for the kids).

It has made me more appreciative of the US. I would like to take longer trips instead of the 2 weeks every 6 months,and rather than wanting to move to Europe and forsaking the US. A friend suggested I take 6 months off to backpack around the world. I'm thinking about it. Right now I'll just be happy with the 2 weeks every 6 months.
I love the history and the historical sights in Europe, I haven't been anywhere yet but next year, things will change slightly. I'll expand my horizons next year. I love the food, French, Italian and Spanish food does not taste the same in the US, for sure. Basically traveling means vacation and that accounts for a more relaxed and more pleasant attitude. My nephew said when he grows up, his vacations will be his vocation.
We were asked (Sophie and I) by a German tourist, whom we met in Sicily why we liked living in the US (neither of us are native born). I said, because this country gives women, especially minority women, the opportunities not extended by the rest of the world with a few exceptions. Certainly not in Malaysia where I was from, nor in Hong Kong where Sophie was from and where her father was a pastor .It is not an easy life here but if we are prepared to work hard, the rewards are there. Today, Sophie, also a pharmacist is a VP with a big Health Maintenance Organization in the US.
While it is a long while between trips (a whole 6 months) it is a good thing. I can attend to the mundane details of life, like funding for retirement- funding my social security and 401K contributions (I can live on my social security, it's big enough!), paying off my mortgage, taking care of the business at work, growing the business for a bigger paycheck and a fatter bonus check!
When I first came to this country, I was laughed at because of the funny way I spoke. Even my then husband (now ex) said, 'I didn't speak English'. Today I'm living a life beyond my wildest imagination. While I love sipping coffee in Europe, it only reinforces how great the US is and how tremendous the opportunities are in this country.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Drinking age

Grappa con Mertillo, blueberries in grappa, grappa is a distilled spirit made from the grape mush after the juice has been pressed to make wine. On its own, it is an acquired taste. It is more palatable flavored with something else, supposedly the most popular is blueberries. It tastes fine, I still have almost a whole bottle in the fridge. I brought this bottle back from Orvieto.
'What's the drinking age here?' (In Italy), asked one of the nieces during our trip to Italy in March this year. 'I don't know, do they even have one here?' I replied. She asked, 'can I have a beer?' 'A piccola one, I guess, you may' I said. We ordered lunch and a bierra piccola. It was a small beer and the 3 of us took swigs from it. We see very young people buying cigarettes and smoking. On the train the 14 year old niece was making friends with a cute Italian guy. They were sharing his music, each had an earphone from the same ipod. Sometime during the trip, he got out his smokes and proceeded to the outside of the coach to smoke but not before inviting the 14 year old to join him. She declined.
At work, we have the 'we card' program and it is strictly enforced. While we may admire the laxity of European values, it makes good sense to warn young people of the dangers of drinking and the health risks of smoking. In this area, Europe has a long way to go to catch up with us.
We also admire European values on sex and nudity. Sometimes it is not always bad to be prudes. I have a conservative view on sex and nudity, so on this trip, we talked about it and I gave them my money's worth. I paid for the trip and so it's my show. They listened and was curious and that was good. Teenagers should remain young and carefree and not be sexualized too young. I know they are being so, a lot of them act 24 going on 35, in their dressing and acting, but inside they are kids and I wish they appreciate that in themselves and stay and enjoy their teenage years and not be in a hurry to grow up.
Sooner, rather than later, adulthood will be forced upon them and the responsibilities of adulthood will weigh heavily on them- a job, their own bills, relationships, trust me, they'll wish they were teenagers again.
The world is all about profit and we, as parents, must always be mindful of it. They see and think '$' when it comes to teenagers. Everyone wants a piece of the 'mind of the teenager' to sell them something. They don't care how they do it. Years ago we were horrified about Brooke Shields' Calvin Klein jean ad. Now, we have teenage nudity on the pages of Abercrombie and Fitch catalogs which is tons worse. I'm still horrified. I feel guilty now when I watch explicit things on TV, I think, how can I indulge in these things and yet sanction my teenage nieces. There's always this double standard. The first thing to do is to rid of this double standard.
Guilt is not always a bad thing. I have always been motivated by fear and guilt. When I was 10, my aunt Monica put the fear of God and guilt in me. Today I can still hear aunt Monica's reprimands in my head and I'm still motivated by it. I've become very successful. This fear and guilt has pushed me to do the right thing all the time. I've not reacted by going against it. I've worked with it and it has worked for me and it is still working for me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Panino con Porchetta, it was in Orvieto that I first tasted Porchetta, is it ever so good. I've read so much about it but never had the opportunity to taste it till that day in Orvieto. I love it. Now I need to find it every time I am going to be in Italy. It is like the ubiquitous Paella pan cooking at every fair in the south of France. Every market in Italy is supposed to feature some guy selling Porchetta, it is roasted pork, a huge pig (almost) roasting on a spit. It is so fragrant and moist and extremely well seasoned and tasty.
view from the funicular, of neighborhood yards

view from funicular

View from Orvieto, this is Umbria, it resembles Tuscany a lot, it is not Tuscany, it is Umbria

There's an old abbey in the distance, we were told it is now a luxury hotel.

Underneath Orvieto is another underground settlement, in the olden days when it became too dangerous to live above ground, the people of the town tunnelled underground and built a thriving settlement there, a lot has been blocked off due to earth movements but some parts can be visited and viewed with a paid admission and a guide.

They pressed olives in mills underground, remnant of an old mill.

Our Italian guide, I forgot her name.


The duomo in Orvieto has a very beautiful and ornate facade, very like the duomo in Sienna. I love the duomo in Sienna, it is one of my favorite, the interior features works by Leonardo da vinci, Michelangelo and others and quite resembles a museum more than a cathedral. The interior in Orvieto duomo is not as impressive. I'm jaded when it comes to interiors, I've seen too many and unless it is truly unique, I'm not impressed.

Orvieto was our last stop during our Easter trip to Italy this March. We took the train out of Rome, arrived at Orvieto train station, crossed the street to take the funicular up to the town. Orvieto is a hilltown, it sits high on top of a hill. This is to ward off the enemies in the old days. Up on top, a free shuttle takes you to the city centre in front of the duomo. It was raining and pretty cold.
On the way back to Rome, the train was crowded. From the train I could see, in the distance, other hilltowns, some looked absolutely ancient and therefore inviting. There's still so much exploring to do.
We left Rome the next day for home. That concludes the Easter 08 trip to Italy. Next trip is September 14, 2008, it'll be a longer trip, covering more places. I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The garage

What's so interesting about a garage or garages? They're usually packed with old cars and filled to the brim with junk. Not so fast, they could be incubators of the next big thing on the Internet. Lots of big Internet revolutions got started in garages, the Hewlett Packard people started in a garage and look at where they are now. Microsoft was started in a garage by a geeky 17 year Harvard U dropout.
I watched a BBC interview on Bill Gates a few evenings ago. It was his last week at Microsoft, he is retiring from the company he started in his garage. It showed the same geek, he hasn't changed much, in a very modest office. They made do this funny skit, imagine this is America's richest man. They showed him packing up his things into a cardboard box, walking to a car, place the box on top of the car, getting in and driving off and the box of his stuff sliding off the moving car. I love this man, I've made a lot of money from Microsoft's stocks in the past. In fact I tell friends Microsoft bought me this house. I still own stocks in Microsoft, in fact, a huge part of my private portfolio is in Microsoft's stocks.
I think of another project started in a garage, Jeff Bezos and his wife was packing and sending out books from their garage. What's the market cap for today? I don't know but I own stocks in the company. I like because I love the concept of shopping on the Internet. I do like the company, it has become an important brand. Imagine it was started in a garage.
This morning when I opened my garage to come in to work on this blog, the idea came to me. Maybe this is another incubator for something big. What? I don't know, I'm working on it.
What's in your garage?

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I eat a lot of Cool Whip in summer with berries, any kind of berries. These are 'fraises' or wild strawberries or Alpine strawberries, mmmmmm, love them. Continuing on our 'red' theme, the red fruits of summer.


I love the red. The color red is supposed to symbolise power. The Chinese loves red. Red is the color of all celebrations- New Year, weddings and births, the most important times in life is celebrated with the red color. During Chinese New Year, gifts of money are packaged in red envelops, red firecrackers adorn the door ways, jossticks found in temples are red. Monk's robes are red. On a trip to Italy, on a train from Bari to Rome, I learned about 'Pompeiian red'. The ancient Romans love red and a lot of their homes have plenty of red paneling. When they excavated Pompeii, they found a lot of red paneling, a shade so unique that today modern Italians still use it. We were seated next to a German guy whom we chatted with. He was the one who pointed to the red color of buildings and told us about 'Pompeiian red'. How does he know so much? His first wife is Italian and he lived with her in Naples. He has since dumped her for another Italian mama and now lives in Rome.

A few years ago I started on my list of red cities to visit, I've not gone very far on this list. I'm working on it. Roussillon in France is one of them and the trip was October 2007. The hills around it is red because of the ochre in the ground. It was a really delightful town. Lots of painting groups goes there to paint the town.

This is a shop in Lyon, France, while it does fit the category of red cities, a lot of the shops are painted in this gorgeous red color.

Bologna, Italy, definitely fits into the red cities category. It is so pretty. I love pretty things.

The red fruits of summer, they're coming out fast and furious. Cherries, plums, strawberries, raspberries, peaches- it is so hard to pick what to eat first. I found this raspberry bush spilling over the fence in a Venice, California home. It is so pretty, with the red fruits flowing out between a red fence. This reminds me of a trip to my sister's former high school friend who moved to Southampton, England. The neighbor's raspberry bushes were climbing over the fence and there were ripe raspberries on them. It was fun popping them in our mouths, they were so sweet. I'll always remember that morning, waking up and picking fresh raspberries for breakfast.

I have to locate more red cities and make plans to visit them all. Do you know of any?


Friday, June 20, 2008

Chocolat, the movie

For years, my sister in law has been trying to get me to watch this movie. I finally procured a copy of the DVD from and watched it. I love the deep colors of the set. It's really beautiful. I love 'Minor Swing' by Django Reinhart. I first heard his music on a Youtube video I uploaded on my blog about the Gypsy festival at Les Saintes de le mer in the south of France. I have a CD of his which I play constantly. When I heard him on the DVD, I knew who he was.

Chocolat, the movie

Django Reinhart

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


It started when I bought this book, 'Blogging for dummies', Dummy, that's me. I went through it with a fine tooth comb, checking every link and every site. I found some really interesting things to do for my blog, that's why it has already taken on a new look. ( is one of them. It allows you to catalog all your books and showcase them on your blog. Well, I don't know if I have time to catalog online all my books, these are just the ones in the garage, my muck around room, there's more in the main house. I did try to enter 5 books and there they are on the side of this post. I'll probably use this site to showcase whatever book I want. It's fun especially for some one as tech challenge as me. The post later feature of is also incredible. I can work on a few postings and schedule them for whenever I want them to appear so I won't be tied physically to the computer. I have a few already scheduled for the whole of this week. I'm loving it. Even this posting is scheduled for later.

Monday, June 16, 2008

a good year - the movie

I first saw this movie on an Air France flight going somewhere. The screen wasn't very clear and I couldn't really make out half the movie. So the other night I watched it again on DVD on my laptop since I don't have a DVD player. I'm always the last to upgrade to modern technology or even watch the latest movies. I catch up on movies during flights to Europe. Sad but true. I had to sit upright on on hard chair all through the movie.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Venice 2

I had to have it again, 'spaghetti with squid and squid ink'. It was wonderful the first time I ate it in Catania, Sicily. This wasn't so great. We were told to eat it only in Spring and not any other time of the year. It was at a restaurant in Sicily when we tried to order it during our October 07 trip and was told it's only available in Spring. We ate it at a restaurant in Catania during our March 07 trip. It was to die for. We asked the hotel owner where a good restaurant was, 'dove trattoria molto buono?' He gave us the address of one near the hotel where only the locals know about. When you walk in, you'll see a huge display of seafood on ice, you can pick your fancy and have them cook it anyway you want it. We saw only locals there, plain ordinary folks and others in fancy tailored Italian suits. We saw them eating food we're not even familiar with. I'd love to go back to Catania and especially to that restaurant. I remember where it is and I know how to get back there.
This restaurant in Venice was some touristy joint, it's ok, not great.