30.7.11

a late letter for july

when month of july approaches, a particular subject starts to stain my mind. a bit blue and a bit rusted, the thought grows, drinking on unshed tears. i wish to be easy, laugh and tell you happy birthday, give you a hug and a bunch of flowers, just like the way they do on television.

realistically, here i am, writing and erasing, dropping pencil and picking up a new pen.  taking another new card then soon to fold it in half, starting again.  a pile of discarded attempt.  am i being too complicated? or such subject naturally requires such efforts? i cannot tell anymore.

so here it is, your birthday greeting, way behind, dripping into the lateness of days, weeks.  but perhaps it is all alright. if it creeps up, like the weeds in the most attentively tended garden, may be it needs to come up, breath, live, even when it may be an inconvenience, like a lone dandelion in pristine green lawn.

you live a hard life.  busy in the middle of the bustle, especially with your husband and mother- a mother, who simply became your own, rather than being folded into a social grace of 'in-law.'  the customers from the store. your own kiddies. you live a life of a iron man. an iron mother theresa.

i wonder if you have lost yourself in the middle of the maelstrom. though i have no courage to tell you so in person.

i cant fill in the space gabe left you. i dont fit into the space you want, as i am molded in a different shape, much like a sqaure peg for a triangular hole. since ive left home, i remained and fostered myself as an individualist.  a reactionary, a mirror reflection of you, an altruist.

i have left you with friction burns.  of small scars and cuts, from sharp exchanges of words and looks. i have put in the big nails on your heart, the nails that shuts and dents the shapes of your own self.  i slammed them on with my own weight. my own life's weight.  your heart is no longer just cozy and warm, as it once may have been, before us.  it's alive, warm yet i see the scars i have left on your heart.  and like the heart, the scars move and breath, cracking and healing, like liver of prometheus.

i can no longer claim your heart as mine. i can no longer ask a piece of it easily, because i have trodden on yours, with iron hooves of mad young foal, running, running, running.

but like a foal, i do look back and i do come back.
near you, not daring to be with you.

i wish i can tell you the things i wish to tell you.
uncomplicated.
impossible.

the simple truth may be that i love you.
as a daughter, i love my mother.

tired, worn, sick, aged. you barely have enough to make to your hairdresser once a month. you have to make time to see your acupunturist.  your own flesh, you want to hold and mold, but this individualist always moves slightly to the side, insisting and expressing quite different world. so you have to stretch your limbs out, as far as they could go, to hold me and also to hold our differences, which spills over our lives.

the weight of your young one, sunk to the bottom of your heart, buried on cold ground, out of reach, regardless of how far you may stretch your tired arms.

i am nothing special. no fancy name cards. i own a few frazzled things, which holds only a sliver of value for others.  without ownership, i float like a feather, here and there, going where i want to, leaving me not much to offer to you.

i find it hard to call you. i find it impossible to give you my love in little chunks, though all i want to do is to offer you bits of my love, as if i would offer you a free dip in my pocket, probably full of candies- nothing grand and nothing precious.

but i do carry you.
in my heart.
i do believe i am blessed.

you are my mother.

i cant dare tell you.
it takes me ages to write to you.

you are disappearing under the weight of life.
beauty, laughter, time,
you need them.
you dont have them.
you cant have them.
you are busy and worn.

you do carry bits of me in your heart.
even when your heart is packed with demands of life.

like a gold mine,
you keep knocking pieces of you from self,
digging deeper each time,
sending them out to the world,
knowing that you wont have them
once youve share them with others
leaving you less each time.

that's you, mother.

and i love you.

hotter than the smelters of gold mine.


28.7.11

nourishing in alpha road

lamb chop with anchivy-tomato sauce

cook (n.):
O.E. coc, from V.L. cocus "cook," from L. coquus, from coquere "to cook, prepare food, ripen, digest, turn over in the mind" from PIE base *pekw- "to cook" (cf. Oscan popina"kitchen," Skt. pakvah "cooked," Gk. peptein, Lith. kepti "to bake, roast," O.C.S. pecenu "roasted," Welsh poeth "cooked, baked, hot"). Germanic languages had no one native term for all types of cooking, and borrowed the Latin word (cf. O.S. kok, O.H.G. choh, Ger. Koch, Swed. kock).
There is the proverb, the more cooks the worse potage. [Gascoigne, 1575]
i think while i am in my english greenhills home, i spend majority of the time doing something very specific: cooking.  i spend the most time physically in the kitchen (which gets the lovely late sun till the dusk and since it's been recently scrubbed, it's even more pleasant to be here).  i often walk to the local shop or the next town to pick up random groceries.  the chinley shop, the one and only general shop in the village, sells most things with a bit of premium (understandable, it being a small shop) along with their daily changing specials: i think they are overflow stocks from local farms and small independent sellers as they come in crates and boxes, with ridiculously low prices, with no solidified planning/specials.   and yes, these specials often determine what i would cook.

poor small fishes, ready for grilling

another thing is being far away from the city centre, it makes more sense to actually cook many specialties at home, rather than making a tedious trek to manchester for (in my opinion, as a spoiled toronto food enthusiast) expensive and not-so-authentic ethnic food.  though the local pub in the next village does excellent beers and great food (if you make it before 9pm that is, which sounds easier than done)- their fish/chips is one of the best things i always look forward to when im coming back here.

the city life in toronto makes it rather difficult to cook the same way i do here. the abundance of cheap (and good) options to eat out and the bother of hauling groceries on bicycle, up the elevator to 32nd floor, the boringness of my grocery store ( the nearest ones are either metro or rabba's, not brilliant), time constraints, conscious effort of eating healthy (for self and roomie), all these things usually led to nutritious yet predictable variations on a few themes: brown rice/pasta, a bit of meat, loads of greens. as much as i would like to vary the cooking pattern, it is quite difficult!

growing up a transplant of asian descent in north america gave certain advantages, a few being useful and practical (ie. work ethics), along with a few built-in indulgences (learning how to cook from mom/granny).  during my grad studies years, i was lucky enough to learn some seriously authentic cooking techniques from many different people- especially for latino food.  and yes, it is funny in a sense that i can still whip out more authentic chinese food at home than in a restaurant in manchester.  things that were learned through mealtime and through heart, i am sure.  a well-made food certainly does more than just providing calories: nourishment.

behold, bacon-fried egg buttie!

we had some really nice meals here in our kitchen, whether it's between minnow and i, or with company of local friends- and this year has been rather colourful, with great summer bounties, chinley store specials and a couple trips to the ethnic grocers during frequent trip to manchester during dr. dee days, the tag-along city days with minnow (in studio, working, haha).  and yesterday was a particularly nice one, as we were able to create a nice evening not in 3 alpha, but in good friends' house.  since steve had a freak fall that involved open-leg surgery, minnow and i thought it would be lovely to do something nice, like a dinner.  however, him still recovering from the surgery, we thought it may be nice to go to theirs to cook and eat, so if steve wants to pass out after a meal to sleep, to heal, it'll be much easier.

so around 7pm, with a bustle,we brought a few things in the car, to do roll-your-own sushi (called temaki), some fat okonomiyaki (fat savory japanese pankaces) with kaiso soup while the young daughter had the comfort of home to entertain herself rather than being tied to the dining chair.  and last but not the least, a bottle of moet from damon albarn, for the last day of dr. dee production for the manchester international festival (minnow was leading the pit orchester; what a talented and diversified man)-  if steve did not fall, he wouldve gotten one himself anyways, but unfortunately he had his accident and was not able to play his cello- instead, he was quietly recovering back at home, in haze of painkillers and fatique. but at least he is recovering- so why not share such nice gesture from damon with even nicer people? (moet was actually quite nice, thanks damon, a bit rounder than my usual veuve cliquot). the night lasted well close to midnight and it was so nice, to be able to share and present something authentic and unsual (for here in rural uk).

day before was a bon-voyage dinner for minnow's offspring no. 2, as him and his gf are heading to poland for a shot vacation with his mom.  knowing that they are game for pretty much anything, we did thai red curry, with loads of veggies and nice stock.  the plates were polished with eagerness and yes, there really isnt anything like clean plates for satisfying a cook. yay.

making some veggie inari sushi (in tofu pockets)

it always takes a bit more resource and planning ahead to pull of kitchen stunts here (for instance, to get some sushi rice, it took us couple trips to different shops, finally finding some in manchester, not in any local shops). and i do find it amusing that i do make many eastern asian dishes, though my own heritage food, korean, making the least number of entries.  i would like to make more, but the scarcity and rarity of korean ingredients makes it difficult to do so. most of the time, korean foods in 3 alpha has been somewhat modified.  oh how i wish i could make some authentic things! haha. at least the audiences have enjoyed every bit of the food.

when i was younger, we always ate as family, with plenty of action across the table. sharing. bickering.  then as i got older, i learned to enjoy food- and the process of cooking. as not-so-wealthy grad students, we always threw resources together to make feasts of all sorts- getting around to get cheap yet good ingredients, teaching one another how to make and eat food from one's own culture. so in a sense, not just the meal itself, but cooking has became a sort of nourishment for everyone involved.  and i am glad to continue that in chinley, as there is something really exciting while describing and teaching cooking tips so simple as making soup stocks (clear dashi style) to seasoning rice for sushi.  it's not just about consumption and nutrition, but of important human social behaviors- communicating, sharing, gathering, expressing.  and i will always be thankful to my mother and granny, for sharing the importance of learning how to cook and the importance of sharing.

crisp salmon skin for making temaki

if you are ever in the area, let me know. let's break some bread and roll some vietnamese rice paper rolls. we could do some chipotle chili pork ribs or make some korean noodle soup.  what a pleasure to eat and to share!

21.7.11

picturesque summer

*roses from treasurer's house, yorkshire

the summer is running away it seems- how does it do that? when i boarded the plane to cross the puddle with PO, i swear that it was going to be long-drawn-out-summer-thing- but here we are, on 21st of july and im only barely making a dent at the blog. thank the lord for digital photography. what would i do without it- except for making stuff up all the time? haha. anyways.  so i had a great birthday dinner, a sunscreen allergy that robbed at least ten days out of me (it was... brutal; clinique sent me a cheque for 17.50 for my suffering. ha...), thoughts on manners and amusement over mother-daughter relations.

*i was a bit unhappy about that.

is that it for the long, restful summer?
well, then there were:

visit to chatsworth with PO and minnow

local walks- yes, sun does come up once in awhile, 
though there seems to be no clue WHEN

the steam train ride on matlock line,

museum of industry and technology in manchester, 

mediacity salford visit with peter and a light-music concert 
(is it me or the cinema tracks getting real hot recently?) 

day out in sheffields and a pint at 16th century pub at edale, 

threads orchestra yorkshire tour (i was the groupie who sold CDs and collected the surveys) 

day out in Llandudno, conwy, welsh cost 

dr dee production for manchester international festival by damon albarn of blur/gorillaz (and minnow leading the pit orch) 

visit to denmark to see my dear japanese sister

some awesome meals in the kitchen of 3 alpha

then... today.

there also was a concert at the small church building of st. mary's, down the road, where i murdered jazz tunes in public for the first time (at least it was classy. i opened with le grand tune: you must believe in spring) (at this point, i must surely believe in spring as summer is not happening; thermostat is set at 20'c and it's been on- ha...), but i forgot to take pics. there are some audio archive which i listened and cracked out laughing.  perhaps one day, i will put it up as well. somewhere. once i can actually do jazz without thinking about how tragically it gets bluer and bluer. 

it is a bit terrible cheat to getaway with such short summary, but at least i do remember and i do continue to enjoy my lazy summer.  this wk, it's down to london town to see some concerts- yep, prom season.  i never been and i am quite excited.  shortly then i will have the company of mr bearcub and his lady from the continent, bit more proming, and a dear friend on gut string making a visit, to round out the arc of this trip- surrounded by people i love.   

meanwhile, there are some news back in home, including notice to get biometrics for the citizenship paper, some late cheques arriving home and work arrangement for the fall etc.  i am grateful that i could have such a contrast in my life- working 14 hours days then to have 14 days (or more!) off.  it is always a bit hard coming back, from long, demanding grind to- open space.  quiet. still, even.  but i am enjoying the quiet groove of the open sky. even when it's full of rain.  much love to you all!

6.7.11

manners, manners!

recently, there has been much noise about etiquette- personal and general. the international sensation withers-bournes was an interesting one, however, unfortunately there is no shortage of manners regardless of location and population.  perhaps it is impossible to underpin why social grace is no longer considered important while everyone, the average joe, knows and gets angry when one perceives lack of 'respect' from another, regardless of the cause.

there are several occasions in recent years that had grated my nerves to raw.  fortunately most of them does not involve massive collisions of personalities. or is it fortunate? often i feel the most difficult situation is the one that you arent directly involved: there is nothing one could do but to endure.  a former friend who has turned uncivilized, for instance, had created much drama and tears (in 'lack of consideration for her feelings' while i have repeatedly asked her stance and feelings before making certain things public) and after a year of brooding, once congenial relationship is now stuck at a point of avoidance.  i dont really understand what she's thinking but i expect that she feels uncertain (and because she is unwilling to acknowledge any wrong doing, even when the basis for poor behaviors were solely based on her emotions rather than any facts or social protocols), i will be avoided for any interaction that may last longer than five minutes.  awkward? yes... what a waste of time- we could be friends for all those times and the days to come.

and then there are the usual: i want and you will respect me by giving it to me!

at which point, the whole system of social protocols collapse.  the most interesting part? one cannot reason with an insane person.  for every proper lunatic/fanatic, a different world exists. and by definition of lunatic/fanatic, there is no other way to even discourse through the differences. it's a mad situation because there is no resolution available but to ignore the lunacy itself (which makes them even more upset).

often one is held to society's standard (ie. dont punch someone in the face) not because they believe it's the right action (yes it is not right, but 'i' still want to punch in the face) but because the penalty exists ('i' may be arrested for personal battery case, or even punched back worse).  it's a coward way to live, but at least that keeps one out of trouble (of magnitudes one cannot even foresee).  one does not have to agree with the protocol personally, however, in context within a society, it is a selfish AND altruistic gesture to abide by general rule of manners.

i suppose bournes-withers case went viral because it crosses many taboos: the in-law family dynamics, socio-economic class differences, breach of respect for privacy, etc.  many people have noted their 'disgust' for the mother-in-law: stuck-up, old-school, oppressive, etc.  yes, she did make two mistakes, in my opinion.  one was addressing this girl through an email; if you deem her as uncouth as she is, why even use an email to communicate? a serious correspondence in snail mail wouldve been more appropriate for the points she was trying to make- and email is too easy to pass on (and leak out).  the second point is that you cannot take a point of superiority if you have indeed 'sunk' to 'her' level.  if MIL wanted to discuss the lack of grace in DIL, please do so, but one must retain the same level of grace that one preaches about.  soon as she mentioned pity for her son, the game started, i think.

what of all the points MIL made? i think they are all valid.  and silly thing is when one is trying one's best (to please), one does go beyond the usual call of duty and one should.  if DIL knew that MIL has unreasonable expectations for manners, DIL does not provide minimum compliance in order to please- DIL should go beyond the usual protocol.  and yes, this also applies to MIL though she failed to reciprocate- hence everyone claiming her to be a foul, evil person.

manner is a funny thing. one learns about it and one expects it. it is one of the few things that is easily recognized in its absence.  it usually occupies the place for 'extra' in life- ie. if you are a clerk at a store, you are expected to be competent and then maybe 'nice.'  i already see people shaking their heads in disagreement: no, monkey, clerks are supposed to be nice!

actually, no. people are paid and reciprocated for their tasks and responsibility.  a clumsy and unhappy clerk gets paid the same as the next one with bright smile and greetings that is pleasant enough to clear the most rotten sky. shocking isnt it!! and yes, we do assume that they ARE nice by default.

or that they should be.

and there comes the discrepancy: if manners arent expected, why are we expecting it? well, simply because we all like to be treated nicely i suppose.  tis called 'golden rule':  one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

the difficulty comes in when one is not contented, hence, a bit shaken and jarred. when situation is good, it is mighty easy to be nice and courteous.  it's when one is unhappy or displeased, that becomes immensely difficult.  suppose the killer point is that because one is unhappy, one must take extra caution to be courteous to the other party, as one now has the need to resolve the problem and hence return to the happy state.  and yes, it is difficult.

often it is difficult to to be nice at times, especially when it is an expectation and unrecognized.  because one has been treated nicely however without the disclaimer, often they cone to expect it.  so rather than being thankful for the extra revision, one simply ignores it, not because they may be bastards but they are unaware.  at which point, a rude awakening may be in order to restore the value of the care that has been taken place.  though that may involve some screaming and brooding...

aaah manners manners manners. like toilet roll, we only miss you when you arent there.  but boy, just like the peace of mind that comes with that ultimate roll in the cover,  it is always necessary AND nice to have bit more manners than to lack a bit.  so here it goes, another rant.  thanks for reading and love to you all!

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/UK-News/Mother-In-Law-Email-Carolyn-Bournes-Stern-Etiquette-Message-To-Heidi-Withers-Goes-Viral/Article/201106416021513