Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Resuming Regular Program

This morning, I woke up when the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m., did my regular morning routines of turning on the altar lights, turning off the porch lights that had been on during the night, having a cup of coffee, feeding the cats, watching a bit of the morning news and getting ready to go to work.  I had packed my lunch to take to the office, last night, so, in the morning, all I had to do was put it in the lunch bag along with a piece of fruit and I was on my way.

I said my morning devotions while I drove to work as usual and listened to the radio, afterwards.  This morning, I also put gas to the car before I got on the freeway. 

The morning at the office passed quickly, attending a regular weekly meeting, and answering the phone messages and e-mails that had come in during the 3 days I had taken off from work.  The afternoon went by quickly, as well.  And then, it was time to drive myself home, again.

Once I got home, I went through the mail, hyperventilated over the water bill (I hate the fact that the bill is now based on estimated use and not actual use), had some iced coffee, put water to the garden, fed the cats again, and chatted on the phone with a cousin.

Then, it was time to make and have dinner, pack my lunch for tomorrow, put away the leftovers, do the dishes, go on-line for a bit, and write this blog post.   

It's amazing how easily one slips back into the regular daily program after being away for a few days, isn't it?

Do you find it easy to resume your regular daily program when you return after being away on vacation?  Or do you find it harder to get back to the daily routines?

Home Again

Daughter and I went on a quick visit to Berkeley, over the weekend.  We explored the campus where she will be studying for the next 2 years and the apartment she will be living in for at least the first year.  We located the bus lines she'll be taking to get back and forth, scouted out the stores where she will be doing her shopping, visited the branch of the public library nearest to her apartment, and got to know the area, just a bit.  Everything felt so different that we felt overwhelmed at times.

We came back home today and I must admit that it feels good to be back home, again, where everything is familiar.  We are such home-bodies!

After I came home, I went grocery shopping, cooked dinner, and mopped the bathroom, where a trail of ants led from a tiny opening in the grout between the ceramic floor tiles to the cat's food bowl!  Washing the dinner dishes and putting away the leftovers and packing my lunch to take to work tomorrow restored the daily routine and it was almost as if we had never been away!

Staying at the hotel during our visit was nice.  But tonight, we'll have the pleasure of sleeping in our own beds again.  It's good to be home again.

Sometimes, the best part of going away on vacation is coming home again. 

Monday, July 28, 2014


There was a time when I used to walk a lot more than I do now.  There used to be a time when I would walk over a couple of  miles, every day.  I walked to classes and back.  I walked to my job and back.  I walked to the grocery store and back.  I walked because I didn't have a car, because it was inconvenient to take the bus, because I needed exercise.   Once I even walked for 20 miles, but that was a special occasion, a fund raising walk to help fight against birth defects.

Walking is not only a form of transportation and exercise, it is also a form of meditation.  Many Buddhist temples contain walkways designed for meditative walks.

Walking is also a wonderful way to discover things one can so easily miss when traveling any other day.  It doesn't matter where I walk - I always find things of interest to me.  A thistle plant, growing in the otherwise bare patch of ground near a sign post.  A sunflower growing along the pavement.  An empty wasps nest that had been blown down from somewhere.  Brambles growing along the banks of a creek, full of tempting blackberries.  I delight in these discoveries.  If I am walking with my daughter, I try to draw her attention to what I see.

Today, I went walking with my daughter.  She was intent on getting from Point A to Point B.  I was, too, but along the way, I saw a place on the pavement where a leaf had left an imprint in the cement, pointed out a stand of  hollyhocks to my daughter, admired the dark blue agapanthus growing in a flower bed (a darker blue than the plants I grew in my garden), tried to identify the tree with red fruit that looked a bit like lychees, but weren't, and noted a hedge of pomegranate trees.  I look forward to walking that route again, later.

Cars and buses are convenient and get you places, faster.  But walking opens up a whole world of discovery.

Do you like to walk?  Are there special routes you take because you enjoy the scenery.  Do you notice things like plants growing along the pavements?


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Favorite Cookies

My favorite cookies are called Lemon Puffs.  2 pieces of flaky puff pastry type cookies sandwiched with a lemon cream filling.  They are cookies from my childhood.  We used to call cookies, "biscuits".   There were the spicy Ginger biscuits, the sweet but mild Marie biscuits, Nice biscuits with flakes of coconut in them and a dusting of sugar on the top, and my favorite Lemon Puffs.  They were always store bought cookies.

I was in my late teens when I first tasted chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies and oatmeal cookies, and learned how to make them.  They were the cookies of my college years as roommates and friends introduced me to them.   Later, I found other delights such as lemon bars.

Through it all, I had a special love of Lemon Puffs.  They aren't generally available in grocery stores, unlike the ginger cookies and the Marie biscuits.  But some Asian grocery stores carry them, and every time I find them, I feel that familiar urge to buy myself a packet.

Today, I went into an Asian grocery store and there on the shelf were packets of Lemon Puffs.  Of course, I bought myself a packet and indulged my sweet tooth.  It's more than just a favorite cookie.  It is also a taste of home and a reminder of childhood.

What are your favorite cookies? 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A First Plane Ride

I had my first plane ride when I was about 5 or 6 years old.  It wasn't a very long ride, but it was in a very small plane and I was not a good traveler to begin with.  I used to get motion sickness when traveling by car, and very often, Father would take the other children and drive to holiday destinations while Mother would take me in the train.  Apparently, I never suffered from motion sickness when traveling by train.  Well, airplane rides caused motion sickness, too.  I cried during the entire flight, and begged my father to tell the pilot to stop the plane!  My family never tired of teasing me about that! 

I've taken several plane rides since that first, rather inauspicious ride.  I've become a better traveler, but flying is still not a favorite method of travel. 

My daughter took her first plane ride, today.  She didn't like flying that much, but, at least, she didn't ask for the plane to be stopped! 

Friday's Doings

Today, I took the day off from work.  That meant I got to sleep in, which was nice.  It was followed by a leisurely morning, drinking a cup of coffee and going on-line, instead of rushing to get on the freeway.

Then, I spent most of the day shopping with my daughter.  She needed a few last items for her new apartment and some clothes and new shoes.  One of the benefits of being at the shopping mall during the afternoon is the air conditioning.  My house is not air conditioned, so it can get quite hot during the day in the summer.

Later in the evening, after it had cooled down a bit, I tidied the house a bit and did some cleaning.  Keeping the house tidy is an uphill battle for me.  I like neat and organized, but I am not always good about putting things away and keeping surfaces clear.  Horizontal surfaces tend to end up piled high with things - books, magazines, yesterday's mail, the latest crafts projects, etc.  I am a very casual housekeeper, at best, with a high level of tolerance for untidiness. 

But it has been a good day and I am now looking forward to a fun weekend.  I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Setting Up a Price Book

A few days ago, my daughter asked me if I would prepare a price book for her.
I had put together a price book for myself, several years ago.  I sat down with a couple of weeks worth of grocery sales ads and wrote down the prices (both regular and sale) for various items I regularly buy, using a separate page for different types of items (meats on one page, produce on one page, etc.)  I noted down the size of the product and broke down the prices to figure out the cost per unit (ounce, liter, etc.) to further facilitate price comparisons.  It probably took me a couple of hours, at the most, to do all that, so, to me, it was worth it.

I found it helpful to become familiar with sale prices. How else would I know that a particular sale was a good deal and worth stocking up?  I tend to shop at certain stores on a regular basis.  I will not go from store to store to buy items on sale, but, use my knowledge of sale prices to know if a certain item is a bargain or not.  Over the years, as grocery prices changed, I updated my price book until I felt I knew the prices well enough to recognize a bargain when I saw the sale price. 
Now, my daughter is getting ready to move up north and she will be doing her own grocery shopping and cooking.  Thus her request for a price book to help her recognize a good sale on various items.  
I've gone on-line and looked at the weekly grocery ads for a major grocery store close to where she will be living and started keeping track of their sales.  The first thing I noticed is that their produce prices tend to be higher than ours.  But there are bargains to be found and I'll make a note of the weekly specials for her.  The next step will be to help her come up with a grocery budget for her.  But that's another post.
Does anyone else have a price book?  Do you find it to be helpful to have a price book?

Trying New Fruits: Jujube

Today I had the opportunity to try a new fruit: jujube.  Someone at the office has a jujube tree in her garden and brought a bag of the fruit to share.  I've heard of the name, but I've never eaten them before.  They looked like miniature apples and tasted a bit like a not too sweet, somewhat crispy apple.

It reminded me of a challenge a friend set for herself, a few years ago, to try different fruits and vegetables that were new to her.  

How often do we reach for the same familiar fruit at the grocery store?  Week after week, we select apples and bananas and oranges.  Or grapes and pears and peaches.  Even when there are different varieties of a familiar fruit, such as pears, we tend to select the ones we are most familiar with, such as Bartlett or Bosc and pass over the ones we are not that familiar with, such as the cream colored Yali pears.

Sometimes, it is because those other, less common varieties cost more than the more common fruit, and shopping with a budget in mind means we buy what's cheaper.  When regular bananas cost $.69/lb., I find myself reluctant to buy apple bananas at more than double the price.  And when peaches or apples can be purchased at $.99/lb., I am reluctant to buy cherimoya and dragon fruit at $4.99/lb. 

But sometimes, even when the price is the same, I tend to purchase the more familiar fruit: cantaloupe and honeydew melons instead of Galia or Sharlyn melons.

I think we tend to reach for the more familiar fruit because we are comfortable with it.  It is safe - we've eaten it before and we liked it and we are used to it.  There is no risk involved.  Whereas, with something new, there is a chance that we might not like it.  Sometimes, it is simply because we don't know how to tell if it is ripe, or how to eat it, etc.  But it is not too difficult to find out; a quick search on-line will tell us all what we need to know.

I would like to challenge myself to venture out of my comfort zone and try a new fruit every so often.  Maybe I'll visit the weekly farmers market, near my office, tomorrow and see what they have to offer that would be new and different.  A farmers market is a good place to try new fruits because you can ask the sellers how to eat the fruit and often, they will offer free samples to taste. 

Anyone else willing to try new fruits?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mother's Crochet

The other day, when I was tidying up, I came across yet another doily my mother had crocheted.

My mother took up crochet at the age of 52, a year after her own mother, who crocheted bed spreads and table cloths with fine sewing thread and tiny steel hooks, had died.  I wonder if her own mother's passing had influenced my mother to try crochet? She never said, although she did voice her regret that she hadn't taken it up while her mother was still alive - it would have given Grandmother great pleasure to know that one of her daughters had taken up the hobby.

The piece I held in my hands the other day was a small, rectangular doily of individual flowers joined together and a scalloped border crocheted all around. She had made it when she lived in Hong Kong, in the mid 1970s. This was a time when the three of us, my mother, my step-father, and I, lived in 3 different countries. My step-father was in Taiwan, trying to work on his immigration papers to enter the U.S. I was in the U.S., attending university. My mother was in Hong Kong, teaching.

At one time, she had been the mistress of 2 houses. Now, in Hong Kong, she was reduced to renting out a single room in someone else's house. She paid $10 extra, per week, for the use of the kitchen facilities. The houses in Hong Kong are cramped for space. Mother's room probably measured no more than 6'x8'. There was just enough room for a single bed along the long wall, a small table next to the bed along the short wall, a chair and a small cupboard at the foot of the bed for her clothes and other belongings.

Mother would wake up early, make herself a cup of tea and walk to the school where she taught. School started at 7:30 a.m., but teachers had to be there by 7:00 a.m. After school, at 4:30 p.m., she would walk back to her lonely room and make herself another cup of tea. The rest of the evening stretched out ahead of her. There were papers to be corrected and graded, of course, and lesson plans, etc. But she was a teacher with 25+ years of experience and she was very efficient, so these things wouldn't have taken more than a couple of hours.

Her landlady spoke almost no English and Mother spoke almost no Chinese, so, she couldn't "visit" with her landlady. My stepfather's sister lived in Hong Kong (and taught at the same school as Mother), but she had a busy life caring for her own family. The daughter of another of stepfather's sisters also lived in Hong Kong, with her husband and babies, and she used to invite Mother over to her house on the weekends, but week day evenings were not convenient for visits, for either of them.

So, during the week day evenings, Mother would stay in her room. The room was not heated (most houses in Hong Kong aren't; it doesn't get cold enough to snow, but it does get down to about 40F some nights). On cold winter evenings, she would remove the 60 watt bulb provided by her landlady (the electricity was included in the rent) and replace it with a 100 watt bulb - not only for the added light, but also for the extra warmth she fancied she felt from the extra wattage (she wasn't allowed to have an electric heater in the room). In the morning, before she left to go to the school, she'd replace the 100 watt bulb with the 60 watt bulb, just in case the landlady would check and make a fuss. Apparently the landlady was able to enter the room when Mother was not there. Perhaps there was no lock to the door or perhaps she had a master key.

So, after the papers were graded and the lesson plans were made, Mother would write her weekly letters to me (she wrote a little bit each day over the course of the week) and she would crochet. Keeping her hands busy creating something to keep loneliness at bay.

Only once did she write to me about her loneliness. In one letter, she mentioned looking out her windows at the mountains in the distance, and quoted a line from a song in The Sound of Music: "I go to the hills, when my heart is lonely."

All these memories and more rushed to my mind, while I held the doily. This was one of the smallest items my mother had crocheted - I have several table cloths/bed spreads she has crocheted and larger doilies. Yet, I washed it by hand and hung it up to dry.

I have since placed this doily on the mantle (living room fireplace), in front of a photograph of Mother and placed a vase of roses on it, a little to the side of the picture. There are 2 more of her doilies in the living room, as well, on the coffee table and on a side table.

It's close to 9 years since my mother's death, but the items she made remains: cherished heirlooms to be enjoyed every day. 

In the meantime, my daughter has taken up crochet!  Mother would have been proud!

Busy Day

It's been a busy day, today.  My daughter and I went shopping to buy some things for her new apartment.  Things like bed sheets, towels, plates, etc.  In between all the shopping, there was the usual house work - laundry, dishes, watering the garden, cooking, and so forth.  Not very exciting, and yet, a day with many blessings and much for which to be grateful.  Everyday blessings, I call them.

Today, I am grateful for:

- Being able to experience the pleasure of seeing my daughter getting ready to start her graduate studies
- Helping her shop for her first apartment
- Spending time with her
- Being out in the garden

and last but not least -
- A nap on the sofa!

Hope all your days are filled with everyday blessings.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Remembering My Father

My father was a doctor who also loved history.  In fact, apparently he had wanted to study history instead of medicine, but his father (my grandfather) had vetoed that idea.  So he studied medicine, graduated at the top of his class, and built a successful career as a medical doctor.  But his love of history never left him and I recall holidays spent visiting sites of ancient ruins, where he tried to teach us the history behind what we were seeing. 

He was a widower with 5 children when he married his 2nd wife, who became my mother.  I was his 6th and youngest child, born when he was already 48 years old.  The child who, he told my mother in a letter written on their 10th wedding anniversary, would be the "comfort in our old age".

Except he died a few weeks after that letter was written, when I was 7 years old.  My mother gave me that letter, when I was older.  I still have it.  It is the type of letter that makes me wonder if he knew that he didn't have long to live. 

Today marks the 51st anniversary of my father's death.  May his spirit rest in peace.

Getting Started

My first blog post!  I have been persuaded by my daughter to start a blog (so very gratifying that my  child thinks that what I write makes interesting reading!) and she was kind enough to set it up for me (since I am hopeless when it comes to such things).  So, here I am, adding my two cents to the blog sphere!  I must admit that I am rather excited to do so. 

It will be a blog about this and that.  My daily activities, musings, my craft projects, my attempts to be as organized as I'd like to be, etc. I've kept journals and diaries for years; this will be another form of journaling for me. 

These days, I am an empty nester-in-training, since my daughter will be going away to graduate school in the Fall. It's a time of change for us both.  A time of loosening the proverbial apron strings and learning to let go.   Of preparing for her moving away and getting things ready for her to take with her when she goes.

Today, I finished knitting a sweater for her.  It's colder where my daughter will be moving to than here, and she feels the cold.  Daughter designed the sweater, with two hearts on the front.  My love for her is knitted into that sweater.   Each stitch was a prayer for her safety, for her well-being, for her success.  It is my hope that when she wears that sweater, she will feel, not only the warmth of the yarn, but also the warmth of my love.  Each time she wears it, it will be like a hug from me to her.

Looking forward to posting many more blog posts.