duck, cable car, fishing village

Another full day of adventure with my friends J&T. Met them for lunch at Spring Deer. They told me that they like sake so I asked about it when I called to make a reservation. The lady said just ask the wait staff and they’ll take care of it. The problem is, I can’t be sure what sake they get and I don’t want to drink 7-eleven sake, which is more than likely the outcome. So I went out earlier to citysuper and got a bottle. I didn’t know if my friends like hot or cold so I asked for a recommendation. The one I got was really good, medium dryness, Junmai Daiginjō-shu from Niigata. The wait staff at the restaurant were wonderful, they put it in a traditional wine jug and warmed it up for us. Corkage only local$50 so well worth it. Basically, we only had hot & sour soup and peking duck. The soup was well balanced but the star of the meal was the duck. We managed to finish it all and I took the carcass with me. I thought the sake went extremely well with the duck, the smoothness and flavour cutting back the fattiness of the duck.

I gave my friends the option of going to the beaches or the fishing village and they opted for the fishing village. To get to the fishing village, we took the famous cable car to the big buddha first. It’s a first for me, and i actually enjoyed the trip. I thought it was all going to be a tourist trap, but it was okay. I get a discount by showing my ID card and most people had opted for the ride with the transparent floor. Honestly there is no advantage to the transparent cable car as most of the view is out of the windows. They crowd so many people in the transparent cars, we’re seeing 10 people inside each one whereas we only needed to share with 2 Thai ladies.

The cable car ride was very long and the scenery pretty good. Lots of greenery around and underneath us, and we could see a hiking path too. The airport in distant view. Eventually we went over yet another hill and saw the big buddha. It’s probably the #1 tourist attraction and is supposed to be the biggest buddha of some sort. Between the cable car station and the buddha is what can only be described as an artificial village that is full of shops and restaurants. Nothing authentic about it. We stopped at a couple of shops though, and T bought a fridge magnet. It was a nice walk anyway.

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We were just in time to catch the bus to Tai O, the bus arrived just as we walked up to the bus stop. And there were feral cows at the bus stop too. It was only 10mins, when I’d read somewhere that it’d take 20mins. We walked around the stilted houses of the villages, declined the offer of boat trips to see dolphins, and ended up at the Three Lanterns café. This time there was no thunderstorm and we got to sit on the terrace with a direct view of the river. Nice to relax and have a couple of beers. The nice owner lady remembered me and gave us a pot of lavender tea too.

Lucked out again with buses, only 5mins wait. The ride was long, back to the train station but comfortable. I was quite tired and we were all still full so I said goodbye to my friends on the train, got off at an earlier station to catch the bus home.

We covered a lot during the few days my friends are here. I hope it wasn’t too hectic for them. We did lots of walking, ate lots of food, chatted away and I for one had a really wonderful few days out and about.

walk, tram, ferry, minibus…and feral cows

Early start, was over at the flat to meet my friends J&T at around 9.45am. I did some research for hiking yesterday but decided against going on the ones that are too strenuous. J actually walked up to the peak yesterday and said it was really nice, but crowded.

Instead. I took them on a gentle stroll on Bowen Road, just a little past the park in the middle and turned around at the shrine. Walked down the steep path back to town. They commented on how quiet and peaceful it was, and yet we were right bang in the city with buildings and roads within view. Ended up at the Stone Nullah Tavern for a quick refresher and I took them to Crystal Jade for dumplings. I think I definitely over ordered! And I feel bad because T grabbed the bill and paid it while I was in the loo.

Took the tram then ferry then train then minibus to sai kung. Quite a long trek, but I thought they might want to see the countryside. We walked all the way to the beach and they took off their boots to dip their feet into the water. They told me it’s a tradition, to put their feet in different seas so this is a new one for them. How wonderful. I love how they are racking up experiences, rather than materialistic souvenirs.

It’s a weekday so the place was more civilised and less crowded. There were the usual fishing boats at the pier where customers pick out their seafood and the fishing people used a net to send it up and collect money on return. I had planned to take them for seafood but the harassing salesladies and remembering the last time I went with Mum how disappointing it was–cold food, small portions, mediocre quality put me off. We had happy hour at Classified and went to a Thai restaurant instead. This is the place mm and I went to and is Michelin mentioned. The food was really great but the portions way, way too large. I was quite stuffed so I had green curry veg. We even got a free yellow curry chicken that none of us could touch so I took it home.

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Oh, cows. On the way back from the beach next to the car park we saw 4 cows grazing on the grass where people normally fly kites or walk their dogs at the weekend. We saw collars on the cows so figured they must belong to someone although we couldn’t see any farmers or someone who looked like they were herding cattle nearby. I googled when I got home and found out that they are feral cattle descended from animals that were abandoned in the 1970s when industry transitioned from agriculture to manufacturing. There are over 1,000 cattle and water buffaloes scattered around, mostly inside country parks but some venture out to built-up areas. The government has been putting GPS collars to track them. They are not protected wildlife but the government recognises that they are more tourist attraction now. From the AFCD website:

cattle and buffalo are part of the heritage of rural Hong Kong and that it brings pleasure to visitors and locals alike to see these animals in a natural environment.

hosting friends

My friends J&T from London are travelling around the world and I’ve been following their adventures through Europe, Africa and SE Asia. I PMed them a few weeks ago to see if they were planning on coming this way and if they were, the flat’s empty. They originally weren’t coming this far north, but they took a special detour from Vietnam to come to visit me. How wonderful!

Between Sis and I, we managed to set up the flat so there is basic accommodation. I borrowed my niece’s camping stuff, a couple of sis’ fleece blankets and her garden chairs. From home I took a couple more blankets, pillows, towels, hairdryer, kettle and small kitchen stuff. I got them crisps, beer and wine in the hope that I can get them drunk enough to ignore the very, very basic setup. I met them at the airport express station and we took the train for 2 stops–the queue for the taxi was so long that it was quicker by public transport. I did the brief tour and told them where the important stuff were. Since they’ve been travelling so much, the least I can do is to offer the use of my washing machine. Except I forgot to bring the drying rack, so they will have to improvise with hangers and the pullup bar the tenant left behind, hahaha.

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Walked down the escalator to show them shops and the like. My plan was to go to the Globe in case they were homesick, but it turned out they were much more adventurous and they had turkey and trimmings for Thanksgiving the other day. So whilst we chilled with beers, I called ahead to Lin Heung to see if they had availability. 7pm on a Saturday night, hmm. We lucked out, we only had to wait around 5-10mins for a table. We were looking at what other people were eating and decided on roast pork and a healthy looking mix veg pot. I added stuffed crab claws (one each) and what looked like their signature fried rice. The rice was brilliant, it’s Hokkien fried rice which came with a thick sauce that was just right–not salty, not overly oily, not stodgy. It’s been many, many years since I was at this restaurant last (2009, that’s the pic above) and I’m glad the quality is still there. The restaurant originated in 1889 when it opened in Guangzhou and came to HK in 1926, so almost 100 years. It remains one of the few places that has trolley dim sum and still a favourite with locals and visitors. The type of traditional place that families go generation after generation.

I think my friends liked the food. Afterwards, we went to M&S and they walked back up the escalator. Hope they have a good visit.

kcl group drinks

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KCL drinks tonight, at B’s office, ie the office I worked at for a little while. We ended up being 6 people and simply sat around the conference table and chatted. Drank 2 bottles of wine, and ate up snacks people brought: baguette, cheese, prosciutto, salami, melon, grapes, tomatoes. B made fresh bread rolls too, she has a bread maker and small oven in the office.

Our aim is to continue the meetup streak so we tentatively agreed the next meetup will be in January.

uncle H (2)

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The actual funeral for Uncle H. Only Mum and I went, it’s a school day for G so Sis couldn’t come.

After a short service led by the same priest as yesterday, we went in a coach to the crematorium. The priest talked a little about green burial (yay us) and how our bodies and physical objects will remain, only in different states. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

The lunch afterwards was at one of Uncle H’s favourite restaurants. Auntie F says there are fixed dishes that had to be eaten, and fixed number of dishes too. She had been heartbroken the past 2 days and I’m glad to see her smiling, joking and talking to everyone. All her siblings were there (except those in other countries). I sat next to her sister and they were telling stories of when they were kids.

A family kind of day.

uncle H (1)

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We said goodbye to our family friend Uncle H today. He’s not actually related but we call each other uncles and aunties out of respect. Both our families moved to the UK at around the same time; they are just a few years younger than us, not so much younger that we couldn’t play together as kids.

We went with Uncle H and Auntie F on our first ever cruise to the Mediterranean, so they are the “guilty” ones who introduced us to cruising. I won’t say I was impressed with that particuar cruise, but there were some new experiences. The last time I saw Uncle H was about a year ago when mum and I met them for lunch.

Their son J used to be this nerdy kid we made fun of. He is now owner of his own architecture firm and he has won numerous prizes. He looks exactly the same as Uncle H. It occured to me that we are now older than my parents and J’s parents when they moved to the UK with their young families.

There were many people paying their respects for Uncle H. A priest and a group of kind volunteers from their church came to conduct a service. It started off with a reading of Psalm 23, always appropriate. The choir sang Amazing Grace and a few other hymns.

Sad all around. Sis and I agreed we did the right thing not having this for Papa. It probably gives people closure and comfort, but we would have hated it.

visiting friends

We drove up to the city to visit our friends C and A, who had recently moved into their new home in Jefferson Park, which they say is like living in the suburbs but still in the city. Their house is on the corner and the cross street is Balmoral, what a coincidence. They have just begun to decorate it and it’s already looking homely and comfortable. Lots of beautiful artwork. There is the front room with modern fireplace, a cosy library with books, books, books, stainless steel white goods in an open kitchen. Two bedrooms upstairs and tv room in the basement. Plus a porch and a two-car garage.

We chatted and chatted and chatted. Played with their friendly cats too.

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Made a simple choice for dinner, ordered from an italian place to pick up and eat at their home. Much more relaxed than eating out. I shared a full slab of ribs and got a side order of spinach. The ribs were good. Tasty and tender. On the way to pick up dinner, we stopped at a bakery and got cakes that looked delicious.

Long day, including a 2hr traffic jam when going there, but really nice.

kcl group lunch

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One of the kcl group is here for a quick visit. She is now in India, having been to 8 countries over the years (her husband is in the diplomatic services). Everyone is a lot older now, although physically the change is subtle, all are recognisable.

Had lunch at a chiu chow restaurant. We were one of only 2 tables there so we had a great time. Good food too, ordered the set for 12 people. Assorted starters, soup, pepper prawn, black cod, whole chicken, really great vegetable with soup, fried rice, sugar & vinegar crispy noodles and a dessert of deep fried taro strips which are then covered in sugar.

Met mm afterwards, looked at fridges, bought some dvds then camped out for almost 3 hours at dan ryan’s. Two glasses of wine, complimentary olives and a hummous plate snack. Proper dinner was at the supermarket foodcourt of chirashi.

bbmm+dutch friend

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Our friend lily is visitng from amsterdam, we met for lunch today. The consensus was for thai so mm and I searched and decided on the area near the old airport that has a lot of thai restaurants. Google map tells me it’ll be 37min walk or 35mins by bus so I decided to leave earlier and walk there. I can cover the parks between home and there and do some pokehunting. I walked past what used to be the infamous walled city, which was bulldozed in the early 1990s and is now a park. The streets nearby haven’t all been developed, although patches now have tall apartment blocks. How much longer will these old houses last?

We went to a casual restaurant called mini bangkok that is #2 on the tripadvisor list (#1 is in the food court of the wet market and we disregarded it as we wanted somewhere we can sit longer). We were too busy eating to take pictures; plus casual food never look good. We had pomelo salad, greens with balachan, grilled squid and oyster pancakes. The two veg dishes were outstanding and the oyster pancakes (more like battered oyster omelettes) were filling.

We decamped to dan ryan’s to chat and take advantage of their happy hour. Mostly, mm and lily talked about cosmetics and occasionally our upcoming trips to Japan. I had a couple of beers and watched the football on the tv.

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Lily brought tons of goodies for us. Last time she brought this brilliant dark bread, this time she brought herb & pepper flavoured foccacia. Smoked eel, calvé peanut butter (head and shoulders ahead of skippy), seasoning to make herb butter. And a huge block of reypenaer vsop cheese, a gouda using milk from grass-fed cows and matured for 24 months in 100 year old warehouses. It’s an artisanal cheese from a family business that has been making cheese the traditional way. We’re so blessed to have such a thoughtful friend.

ex-colleagues dinner

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Yesterday we met up with the ex-office girls for dinner at a thai place. There was a slight panic when we were told we can only have the table for 1.5hrs, but in the end it was an empty threat–there was no one in the queue after 1.5hrs so no need to return the table. Nice food, the place has the same name as a dingy, crowded place I’ve been a few times, wonder if they are the same.

Satay, spicy chicken feet salad, green curry chicken, pad thai, pineapple fried rice. We had beer and the girls had lime soda. I’d actually gone out earlier to run errands and attempt to pokehunt. Errands took quicker than expected, coudln’t lot into pogo and it rained very hard so I spent more than an hour at a happy hour place nearby and had 2 beers already. Too much beer!

The girls brought a nice green tea cake for dessert. Perfect small size for 5 people. Great to catch up.

kcl88 group dinner

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KCL88 group dinner. This is a group I haven’t seen for a long, long time. One of the members very kindly did all the organising and made the reservation at Chez Moi, a french private kitchen. No corkage so we all brought lots of wine. Some people brought brandy and whisky too.

I shared with Dixon, so we could try more of the menu. Foie gras and scallops for starter, then a mussel, saffron and leek soup and sorbet. For mains we had two steaks, a rib-eye and a sirloin. We ordered rare, the rib-eye came medium rare and the sirloin was more medium. Still tasty. Dessert were walnut tart and pancake french toast. Long evening, lots of very loud talking and a great time. Way too much wine, I stopped after a while. Had a sip of brandy and whisky. It was a Singleton, and it’s a shame I didn’t finish it, didn’t feel like more alcohol.

It was midnight when we finished. Certainly a case of time flies when you’re having fun. Five of us shared a taxi, poor Dixon had a bit too much to drink and a couple of the guys got him home and settled. Wonderful friends.

bbmm l&p again

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Met up with L&P again, this time the starting point was near where they are staying. Took an hour long rollercoaster-like bus journey to our favourite fishing village, with traditional stilted houses. Walked through the village a little, so close to people’s houses where they were preparing food, watching tv or just sitting out.

Ended up at a café called three lanterns. European coffee shop with outdoor seating on a deck overlooking the small river channel. We’d just ordered when it started raining. At first just drizzle then got heavier. There was some cover provided by large umbrellas and large sheeting but there were spots where the water leaked. The owner offered to move us inside but we found dry spots and stayed put. It was actually quite nice, the rain and the breeze made it cooler. Finally the rain stopped and we had our coffees, teas and cakes. Chatted away. The owner gave us a couple of pots of tea free, because we stuck with her and didn’t run away. The rose tea was very good.

Decided against taking the awful bus back, so took a small ferry. Double the price but more than double the comfort. The ferry hugged the coast, so there was no turbulence. Airconditioning and we had comfortable seats. We all agreed it was the better option.

Dinner at a local restaurant at the shopping mall. After saying goodnight, mm and I hung around for another half an hour or so for pokemon go. Got our gym bonuses and caught a couple.

bbmm l&p

Met up with our Dutch friends L & P for tea at HMV café. Didn’t order the afternoon tea set at the end, had a few beers instead. The fire alarm went off and kept ringing loudly for 20mins or more until finally someone from building management came to turn it off. Dinner at the korean bbq place in the same building.

king’s friends dinner

Met up with King’s friends for dinner over the weekend. This is the group where I’m one of the youngest. Everyone has done so well, and most people hadn’t changed even though we haven’t seen some of them in over 20 years. Getting to an age where these types of gatherings are enjoyable and nostalgic.

I realise there are roughly 3 King’s groups I belong to: this one with the oldies, who gradutated before me or a year behind. Most of their kids are in secondary school or college now. The medium group, graduated around 2 years after me or around the time I got my PhD. The younger group, more mm’s age, lots of people and quite active.

pancake cake, hotpot dinner

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Dinner at mm’s brother’s place with his family, sort of at the last moment. It all started when mm showed me a pic of a pancake cake she made at a baking class. Looked nice. She said did I want to try it? So I got invited to dinner. Just a family meal of hot pot, a happy affair with lots of food and lots of fun. I brought some pre-dinner snacks and a bottle of grenache rosé. Cake for dessert, it was light and could taste the raspberry filling.

We were all playing pokémon, just sitting at their flat there were plenty to catch. It’s good to play with the kids. Currently I’ve caught around 30 different pokémons. There are none at home so I don’t bother playing, I try to play when I’m out and about. When mm and I were walking to the train station after dinner, we saw tons of people playing too. If someone suddenly stops and a few seconds later starts swiping at their screen, we know exactly what they’re up to.

dinner with friends

The movers dropped a few boxes in the morning so I could do some packing myself. Books, filing cabinet, desk, stationery, cds, dvds, wii, towels, beddings, bathroom stuff and clothes except for those on hangers are done. I’ll leave hanged clothes for the movers, they will bring large boxes.

Had to run out to the station to hand over half a dozen cups to a buyer. Definitely selling at a loss, the cost of the bus fare back and forth was 20% of the selling price. I wish I can find someone to buy all the candles.

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Dinner with ex-colleagues at a place called lab eats. Nothing experimental about it, fairly standard food. This group tends to share, even western meals. Hmm. One of the ex-colleagues know the owners so we got a 12% discount. Had a nice bottle of wine, beef carpaccio, a great pork chop, wagyu steak, paella, risotto. The group initially wanted the wagyu steak done medium, crikey!! I intervened and ordered it medium rare but it came overdone anyway. Dessert was mango & lychee cheesecake and chocolate fondant.

We were chatting till quite late, it was good to see them. The food was good but not stunning. Mostly expensive ingredients, which I guess is the selling point. How it was cooked IMO didn’t do the quality of the food justice. Just look at the sides for the 2 mains: potato croquette and a sad combo of beans and baby corn. Gravy that tasted like it came out of a packet. My favourite dish was the pork, and also the creamy risotto. Again, they justified the price by adding foie gras on top, but I could have just eaten the risotto on its own. The beetroot crisp on the side was excellent.

a huge box of christmas presents

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The post office left me a card on Friday that I have something to be picked up. I went over today and was pleasantly surprised that it was a HUGE box! It fit perfectly inside my backpack, leaving space for nothing else.

I saw from the stamps that it was from A. Yay!!! Christmas presents.

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Everything inside was perfect. Dutch sweets and biscuits, as well as a packet to make the wonderful apple tart. Even the card was Dutch, a beautiful scene of bikes on the canal.

But wait, there’s more. British stuff!! PG Tips, jaffa cakes, a mini christmas pud and QUAVERS!!! I don’t care that I’m going overboard with the exclamation marks. My friend sent me QUAVERS!!! A is the most thoughtful, most considerate friend ever. Or, I’m so transparent about what I like and don’t like, teehee.

And there’s even a moleskin notebook for Washington DC. Moleskin is the sort of geeky stuff I’ve been hankering after, but never quite bringing myself to buy. Now look what she’s started. Then again, it reminds me that I won’t see her next year. I must remember to include her vicariously in everything I do in DC.

#moransharing

Three weeks ago, on the last leg of our trip back to Chicago from a week in Ptown, in a car park near Penn State University, my friend Carleen took her phone and showed me a fb post from our friend Sandra. Sandra just posted that she had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. It was devastating news, yet she wrote it in a positive and uplifting manner. There seemed to be hope.

Two weeks ago, again in a car park (this time after we visited an Italian deli), Carleen took out her phone and showed me a second fb post from Sandra. The cancer was even more aggressive than anyone could imagine, and hospice care was the best they could do. The reality sank in. Over the weekend, Carleen drove to Kansas to visit Sandra. She told me she felt bad for leaving me alone. To me, visiting Sandra took precedence over everything else, it was a no brainer.

One week ago, I flew home. Back to being 13, 14 timezones away. I still thought about Sandra. On tv was a program about the Vatican and I prayed to Papa Francis for a miracle.

Sandra passed away Saturday night their time. I was at my niece’s birthday lunch.

I’m not a great displayer of emotions. I only get touchy-feely-huggy at the conference. I don’t cry at three-tissue movies, I didn’t cry at my grandparents’ funerals; it’s not deliberate and it doesn’t mean I have no feelings. Carleen wrote a touching post about Sandra. And when she described her dream:

There was Sandra! Smiling and looking lovely. I swear she was taller. And she glowed.

She said to all of us, “It’s okay. I’m good.”

There, I cried a little. I need that message to keep me going. I commented on the post that I’m going to hold onto the “It’s okay. I”m good.” I’d like to believe—no, I do believe—that it was Sandra telling us she’s okay and pain free now.

There was a massive outpouring of grief and tribute on fb. People deal with their sorrow their own way. In this day and age of oversharing and social media, feelings and reactions that was kept within are often let out.

Me, I didn’t want to post anything, didn’t want to write pointless platitudes like “everything happens for a reason” because in this case, I can’t see the reason. Losing someone so young, so full of life, so well loved, it’s an ambush on one’s faith. But Carleen also told us to share our memories of Sandra. Be sure to share them, she said.

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Sandra’s first con was Dallas 2013. I honestly can’t remember if I met her in person. I left that conference extremely tired. My lasting memories of Dallas 2013 were whisky adventures with Adrian, no time to rest and constantly taking the lift up and down. The only pic I have of Sandra is at the author autograph session. Here she is on the extreme left talking to Andi.

I started reading Letters Never Sent and regretted never having the chance to chat with her. I finished the book, and immediately went back to the beginning to re-read it. I’m not a very retentive reader, I wanted to read the book again carefully, to absorb passages that I missed. Then when I finished, I went back to the beginning again. It’s that good.

I didn’t take many pictures in Portland 2014, but I did get hugs from Sandra. I joined in the well deserved applause when she won two awards.
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Ran into her at registration for NOLA 2015 and, yay, not only a hug but pictorial evidence. I attended one of the sessions she was presenting, a 2-part masterclass, intending to stay for the first part then go to another session. Guess what, I stayed for both sessions, it was that good.

I can’t say we were close friends, but you can’t tell by how she treated me. Always a big smile, always giving me full attention, even if 17 people were waiting to pull her in all directions. She was quick-witted, extremely smart and a keen observer of her surroundings. Who else can make gloves left at the side of the road, or pie charts, or food left in a stranger’s car seem engrossing and interesting in an academic way?

The world is poorer at her departure. Three years of knowing Sandra, it’s more enriching than some friends I’ve known for 30 years. That’s her legacy. She touched everyone she met and I’ll never forget her.

p.s. Sandra’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers donations are made to the gcls scholarship fund in her name.

 

 

#moranstrong: praying, hoping, trying not to worry

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The news from #moranstrong is devastating. Our dear friend has been given 3 months. There are no words, and the focus is to continue to send positive thoughts to Sandra and her family.

I find direction from Padre Pio; San Giovanni Rotondo is one of the places mm and I want to travel for pilgrimage. I want to have faith and take heart in his words, to pray and hope and not worry. Worry is useless. The prayer for his intercession:

Dear God, You generously blessed Your servant,
St. Pio of Pietrelcina,
with the gifts of the Spirit.
You marked his body with the five wounds
of Christ Crucified, as a powerful witness
to the saving Passion and Death of Your Son.
Endowed with the gift of discernment,
St. Pio labored endlessly in the confessional
for the salvation of souls.
With reverence and intense devotion
in the celebration of Mass,
he invited countless men and women
to a greater union with Jesus Christ
in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Through the intercession of St. Pio of Pietrelcina,
I confidently beseech You to grant me
the grace of [state petition].

Glory be to the Father… (three times). Amen.

 

#moranstrong wine in water glass

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The Moran Mayhem for Friday is to post pics of gross food, in honour of Sandra’s posting of bags of pork rinds (what they call scratchings) inside someone’s car. Lots of pics of pork rinds, as well as the usual suspects: offal, pickles, processed food.

I have a whole 101.1001 album of bucket list foods, some of which are in the gross category. Century egg, snail, chicken feet, herring, durian. I’ll leave that for later. I posted a pic of what I was drinking: 2013 cabernet franc from Truro winery outside Ptown. I was hoping to get an eye-roll from a wine expert like Sandra because I was drinking it out of a 1970s water glass. I’m not that particular about what I drink wine and beer out of: water glass, mugs, plastic cups, chipped bowls. At home I use a glass made by chopping the neck off a soft drink bottle. I know I should be using specific glasses, but sometimes I can’t be bothered.

 

 

road trip day 01: chicago to new york state

The alarm was at 3.30am, our aim was to leave at 4.15am. By the time we checked everything and loaded the car, we were close—left at 4.30am. The start of our road trip, with final destination provincetown. The aim today was around halfway, to western new york.

Snacked on hard boiled eggs, leftover pizza and cheese in the car. I also managed to nap for about an hour or so.

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Reached our friend R’s house in western new york state at 2pm. Great to see her and her son, I love their house—typical wooden cladding outside and even more beautiful wooden flooring inside. We also made time to visit the yoga studio of our friend L. More beautiful interiors, the studio is located in what looks like a warehouse and looked quite plain outside. Inside was pretty and peaceful, I can feel how great it would be to do yoga there.

Said goodbye to our friends and continued for about 3hrs. Overnight stop at Syracuse. Had a quick dinner (salmon and 2 sides for me) then spent the evening watching tv and relaxing. Nice to have time and room to veg out after a long day of travlling. I woke up with a swollen left knee and have been hobbling all day, I’m looking forward to putting my feet up—Carleen made me an icepack to ice the knee too.

 

lunch perspective

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Lunch with ex-colleague P with mm, at a restaurant near P’s new place of work. I left the conversation mostly to them. I reminded P that 10 years ago we were flying 2, 3, 4 times a month whilst we set up the service centre. None of that anymore. She is in a role with a smaller scope, and she seems happier. Same with mm. They both had to deal with some personal health issues last year and both seem to emerge with a different perspective. May be it’s age, may be it’s maturity, life changes.

After lunch, mm and I strolled around the mall a bit. There is a display of giant sweets in the central atrium, giant lollipops, sweets selection, giant gummy bears. They even waft a sugary smell as you walk near.

costume shop, baking, faster run

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We went to visit Car’s friend Tom at his place of work. Very interesting, it’s a costume shop at a college where he teaches. There are lots of costumes, dummies, hats, props and several sewing machines there. Haven’t seen a working sewing machine for a while—the one at the retreat house in Florence probably was working too, but we weren’t sure.

It’s always fascinating to visit other people’s place of work, especially if they don’t work at a boring cubicle in an office. Tom showed us boxes upon boxes of different hats and we were having fun trying them on.

Rest of the day was baking some lovely poundcakes. When it wasn’t so hot I went out for a 5k around the field. Feeling a bit better as the wind and cooler weather meant I wasn’t as sluggish. I also think it’s a mental thing, if I know it’s only 5 or 6k I can run faster vs if I know it’s a long run day I subconsciously try to conserve energy.

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Today we take Golo on his final journey. There were set procedures to follow, with small comforts of tried and tested routines. The officials were well organised. The older generation of family and friends will not accompany the group to the “hill” so they sat in one side of the hall. Friends and family who will go to the hill on another side. We lined up for the final viewing, and each placed a flower on the coffin.

Two coaches were provided for the 45min drive to the crematorium. The ceremony was fast, we paid our respects by bowing, and his wife and kids sent him off with us all saying “goodbye.”

The coach dropped us in town for lunch. We all tried to keep the atmosphere cheerful and positive, to remember good times. Some friends took the day off from work so the King’s crew occupied an entire table.

The lunch finished around 2pm and we said our goodbyes. It was a very sad two days, the silver lining was I met up with so many old friends I’ve lost touch with. We promise we’d keep in touch and the next time we meet will be for good reasons. We even have a whatspp group now.

Got a nice message from his closest friend on behalf of his wife:

On behalf of P and Golo’s family, they would like to thank you all for your help, concern and prayers to Golo in the past 4 years especially in his final days. The money for the wrath and education fund for his daughters are most appreciated.

On a personal note, I hope the memorial and funeral services that was organised in such a short time have given you sweet and happy memories we all had with Golo in the past 20 or 30 years! Although sad and unfortunate, we must thank Golo for providing us this opportunity to get together! Some of the faces we have not seen for years have emerged, some of the contacts we have lost have been reconnected!

All the photos that were showed in the memorial video will be uploaded soon in Dropbox or similar website for you to download and the video will be on YouTube. Thanks to those who provided some of the photos but because he just had too many photos, not all your photos could be included, hope you understand!

Finally I hope we can all treasure this great friendship we have had and take care of your health and love your closed ones, these are more important than making money and any other matters!

Tired. Fell asleep on the bus back home.

golo

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Golo 高佬 literally translates to Tall Guy. It’s the nickname of my college friend D, who, at 6’, is tall. With this height advantage, he played basketball, volleyball and was one of the first of our group to take up running. He was also smart, gaining a First and completing the research for a PhD. We didn’t keep in close touch after college, meeting up very occasionally when I’m not travelling or living all over the world. I see pictures of his kids on fb. He likes my posts on food and cooking.

Golo passed away 2 weeks ago. Today was his funeral.

I’ve lost people in my life, family members and friends and acquaintances. Some lived a long and (hopefully) happy life; some left us way too early. It’s been hard to come to terms with losing Golo, because I only knew of his illness and how serious it was on a Tuesday and by Wednesday night he was gone. Technically it was Thursday morning around 1.30am, mm and I were amongst the last few visitors who left the hospital at around 10.30pm. Should we have stayed a few more hours? Would we have intruded?

It’s been hard to reconcile that it was lung cancer. Why would a healthy non-smoker, a runner, a loving father of two, get lung cancer? Genetics? Second hand smoke? Carcinogen from way back when he was working in the lab?

<OT>I’m feeling anger towards smokers again. When I was young, I was quite militant about smoking and was a paid-up member of ash. I swore that I would never, ever, ever, become friends with smokers. I’ve mellowed out a little since then, I have a few friends who smoke and even though I wish they’d stop, I respect their decision and will offer sincere support when they decide to quit. Anyway, people reading this. Stop smoking. Please. Please stop. </OT>

When we went to visit at the hospital, so many old college friends were there, someone said there were more people than at an alumni gathering. Such was Golo’s personality, he had so many friends. There was a memorial segment at the funeral today, when they showed a slideshow of pictures donated by friends and family (I sent a couple myself) and there were eulogies from his oldest friends, his sister and his widow. The hall was packed, standing room only. Three hundred people or more, there to pay their respects to a great friend who will be sorely missed.

Tomorrow morning, we accompany him on his final journey.

europe day 28: london meeting friends

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A day of meeting friends in London. Lunch with our friend CC at dishoom behind King’s Cross. The area had definitely gone through a lot of changes, now full of trendy restaurants and shops. Dishoom is an Indian small street food place that is pretty authentic. A mix of modern and Indian railway/godown type decorations. We had a few shared small plates—lamb kebab, fried okra, calamari, daal, naan, roti and the like.

I left mm with our friend and went off to meet my own friends. Met my ex-intern SM at Waterloo and did a tour of the pubs around the Old Vic. He is still working at my ex-ex-ex company and also had some good news to share with me on the family and house front and we had a fantastic chat. It was as if time hadn’t passed.

Dinner was with my friends JE and TH, more great conversation. We shared a 1.1kg prime rib plus sides at Hawksmoor. It was absolutely lovely to see friends, share recent news, and talk about future plans. Hopefully I’ll get to see them in the near future.

europe day 05: antwerp, brussels, mechelen

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Our 5-country trip will become 6-country. The great thing about living in Central Europe is proximity and ease of travel to other countries.

We started the day at a cash-and-carry supermarket, like costco. Had to be very restrained not to buy anything. We ended up getting ingredients for a picnic lunch of herring, smoked eel, smoked salmon and bread rolls. Herring was fatty and fresh, the eel was the star of the meal, could have just had it on its own.

Driving into Belgium was like driving into another state, there was a sign and here we are. We headed first to Antwerp, to Het Steen, a medieval castle where a tyrannical rich man ruled. He charged toll for people and boats passing by and if they didn’t pay, he’d cut their hands off. Such was the life then. Walked to the central square with the cathedral and cobblestoned streets. Stopped for coffee at a nearby coffee shop.

Next stop Brussels. Our friends go there very often and even know where to park without needing to pay. Yes, it’s a 15min walk, which actually was great after sitting in the car for a couple of hours. Brussels was busy, full of locals and tourists. We quickly took in the sights—main square, manneken pis and the all-important chocolate shops.

Dinner was at Mechelen, a town between Brussels and Antwerp. Hadn’t heard of it before and it was a revelation. So pretty! Again the central square with an imposing church and beautiful architecture. It’s off the tourist trail and looks like a place we will like to revisit.

We shared a white asparagus starter made apparaently in the flemish way—with what tasted like hot egg mayonnaise sauce. It’s similar to hollandaise with poached egg. For mains we both opted for the horse steak. Ordered rare, came medium rare. Very, very lean and tasty. There’s a stigma with meat other than beef, lamb, pork—our thinking is that if the locals eat it, it’s good enough for us.

uncle wong dinner take 2

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Totally unexpected but a pleasant surprise, we had another gathering with Uncle Wong’s family. He took us to the market and bought lots of fresh seafood again. The dinner banquet had winkles, clams, abalone, prawns, chicken and vegetables. We bought him a chestnut chocolate cake to celebrate his 70th birthday, which was last time but it didn’t matter that it was a couple of weeks late, everyone enjoyed it. Uncle Wong is the most generous, most optimistic and thoughtful person. He is going back to Canada soon and due to his health, we’re not sure when we will see him again. I wish him the best of health.  

uncle wong’s homemade birthday dinner

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Original plan was to visit mm’s family friends for a bit, then do our own thing. We ended up visiting with them all day. It was uncle wong’s 70th birthday, and he was preparing his own birthday dinner. He took us all over the place to shop—specific shops for chicken, roasted meat and seafood. It was a veritable feast that was better and healthier than what you’d get at a restaurant. Lots of seafood, mostly steamed and the chicken and meat were from outside.

He made steamed sea prawns, steamed abalone, winter pickle steamed lion fish, steamed lung dun fish, scallops with vermicelli, vegetables, chicken, chicken feet, roast suckling pig. Delicioius, the sign of someone who loves cooking. 

portland day 01: food carts, powell’s, distillery, rose garden

My friends M and C picked me up from the hotel in the morning; they moved to Vancouver WA, just across the river from Portland and I hadn’t seen them in years and years. We hung out at their house for a while, catching up.

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They took me to lunch at the food carts, street food is distinctively Portland—there are over 500 food carts all over the city. At this spot, carts are lined up along 4 sides of a square and there was a great selection to choose from: japanese, thai, vietnamese, indian, mexican, mediterranean, kebab, hawaiian, sausages, waffles. Originally I wanted to try the ethiopian truck but at the end I decided on the one offering georgian food. I’d never tried food from georgia, and it turned out to be typically eastern european. I had the combo plate — eggplant roll, mushroom dumplings, cheese flatbread, bean-stuffed bread, tomato salad. Very nice, the meatless option felt healthy.

After lunch, we walked a few blocks to Powell’s, one of the largest bookstores in the country. It was big. Bookshelves filled with all sorts of books in different sections they called rooms. I took a quick tour around most of the rooms, then settled at the cookery and food section. Lots of selection.

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After Powell’s we did some tastings around distillery row. First stop at eastside distilling where we tried potato vodka, spiced rum, marionberry bourbon, cherry bourbon and their premium double barrel bourbon. I really liked their double barrel bourbon but at $55 was too expensive for a bourbon.

The second tasting was at stone barn brandyworks, the smallest distillery in Portland and located at a small warehouse unit in a commercial block. The very friendly and knowledgable person there generously let us sample straight rye (clear, very strong), oaked rye, spelt whiskey, grappa and various fruit liqueurs including rhubarb, quince, apricot. I did buy a bottle of the quince liqueur, it was very special and I couldn’t resist.

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Took a break from the alcohol and visited the rose garden. It is a test garden where different species of roses are cultivated. Very pretty, and we were just in time to catch the blooms.

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Early dinner at bridgeport brew pub. I had a strong (9.2%) but delicious old knucklehead ale, a much needed spinach & salad and hummous. Everything was yummy. My friends were telling me about their adventures, in particularly going hiking and travelling around this part of the country. So wish I could live here. I already know I love Seattle, and now I can add Portland to the list.

Back at the hotel, I was just in time to help out with unloading conference materials. Joined a couple of people for dinner, only had salad. Without intending it, I ended up with an all vegetarian day. Well, vegetarian plus lots of whisky and beer day. Went running on the treadmill for 5k to compensate for the beer.

30in30 #26: new author

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Task #26 in 30 in 30 is to read a new author. The author is Sandra Moran and the book is Letters Never Sent.

For some reason I didn’t manage to speak with Sandra at Dallas last year, although I obviously saw her and took this pic. I was running around too much and too focused on getting pics I guess. I certainly hope she will be at Portland this year. I found out that we both run, so hopefully we have something in common to talk about.

One of the first things Carleen told me to do after the con was to get Sandra’s book and read it. Part of it was set in Chicago against the backdrop of the World’s Fair; she told me how realistic the description was and how I would recognise the street names, buildings and the atmosphere of Chicago in the 1930s. She also said (and read her review) that it’s a must read book and I always listen to her recommendations.

Here’s the blurb:

Three women, united by love and kinship, struggle to conform to the social norms of the times in which they lived.

In 1931, Katherine Henderson leaves behind her small town in Kansas and the marriage proposal of a local boy to live on her own and work at the Sears & Roebuck glove counter in Chicago. There she meets Annie—a bold, outspoken feminist who challenges Katherine’s idea of who she thinks she is and what she thinks she wants in life.

In 1997, Katherine’s daughter, Joan, travels to Lawrence, Kansas, to clean out her estranged mother’s house. Hidden away in an old suitcase, she finds a wooden box containing trinkets and a packet of sealed letters to a person identified only by a first initial.

Joan reads the unsent letters and discovers a woman completely different from the aloof and unyielding mother of her youth-a woman who had loved deeply and lost that love to circumstances beyond her control. Now she just has to find the strength to use the healing power of empathy and forgiveness to live the life she’s always wanted to live.

I usually pick thrillers or paranormal stories before ones that have historical elements, mainly because I’m not that interested in history. That said, I thought the way the book weaved between the 1930s and 1990s was done brilliantly. I loved that the 1930s wasn’t written as flashback, or as told by a storyteller in the 1990s. There were more details and we learned more about the characters and interactions of the older MCs, Katherine and Annie. And then we come back to the 1990s and we see how the daughter, Joan, was affected by the story of her mother. I also loved how the story unfolded, there was so much depth that it was a delight as each layer was revealed.

So often, we get characters who are tall, dark and impossibly beautiful, who are CEOs in their twenties, live in huge mansions and can walk on water while juggling. Ugh. We don’t get this in this book. America in the 1930s was economically and socially a very different time from now, and the hardships and social pressures were depicted realistically. Some of the actions and decisions made by the characters weren’t stellar either, and that makes them so real and so compelling to read.

There was a twist at the end of the story but I figured it out quite early — very shortly after Joan arrived at her mother’s house. The middle part of the book I wasn’t quite sure I’d gotten it right, and I was so happy when it turned out to be true. (I’m trying to be vague and non-spoliery here). I wasn’t obsessed with the clue though, I was busy being caught up with the story itself.

I have a couple of small criticisms. There was a mention of London Times, just in passing. It’s one of my pet peeves because there is no such paper. Secondly, there were two tiny, minute geographical inaccuracies about Chicago that only someone who is OCD will notice. Or perhaps streets were different in the 1930s and therefore I am wrong. Sometimes I get caught up with these small things and I end up not liking or even finishing the book, but it wasn’t the case here.

It’s a testament to the quality of the writing that I finished it, and immediately scrolled back to the beginning to read it again. It’s one of those books that stay on your mind long after you finish, and you can’t help but think about the characters or the setting or a particular scene.

lunch with college friends

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Lunch with college friends. It’s been over 20 years, but it seemed as if very little time had passed, today we behaved just like we used to, back when we were college kids. We hadn’t seen each other often, a couple of them for me a few years. At the table there were: a regional head of sales, a management consultant, a bank manager, a legal department head, a partner in a law firm and…me. Officially unemployed, hoping to be semi-retired me. Hahaha. Topic of conversation ranged from aspiring to be OAPs to new developments in the real estate front.

The menu was salad or parma ham & melon to start and spaghetti bolognaise, salmon, prawn risotto or rib-eye steak for mains. I had the prawn risotto. It was one grilled prawn and some fairly ordinary and too salty risotto. The parmesan shavings stuck to the shell of the prawn, it wasn’t completely appealing. The problem with dishes like this, I inevitably feel like I can make it more suited to my taste. In reality, I’ll probably do okay with flavours but fall short on presentation.

Walked with mm back to the office, then went shopping at the market for lemon curd and chocolate pudding ingredients.

dinner with friends

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Dinner with mm, RM and our friend W. RM has a 30% discount for certain restaurants and we went to one of those, newly opened quite posh. Peking duck two ways, lotus root cake, stuffed bitter melon, roast pork. Good service, good food, good value with the discount.

The Peking duck in particular, normally people go to Peking Gardens. My family goes to the more traditional Spring Deer. If I have guests I want to impress, I’d think about taking them to this new place. Two ways mean first the normal wrapped in pancake with vegetables and hoi sin sauce and then the meat is sautéed with vegetables and served with a lettuce wrap.

I was even persuaded to try the stuffed bitter melon. I don’t like bitter melon, I find it too…bitter. But this was okay. Not too bitter. And the stuffing was prawns, all prawns. High standards.

I’m not a huge Chinese food fan. Chinese food in the US is crap; in London it’s better, but the dishes are different from the ones in Asia. Most people in HK do eat it of course and I will go if it’s with friends. It’s good to have a place to go to.

whisky monkeys

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Told RM that I created a monster in mm, that she’s now incredibly into whisky too. So we created a whatsapp group for socialising, whisky monkeys. Our logo is a photo of the Caol Ila 18 that RM and I enjoyed at the Scottish pub yesterday.

drinks with RM

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Haven’t seen RM in months and months and months. Finally managed to find time to meet up. Went to my favourite Scottish pub. Had munchies (sliders, chorizo, nachos) and started with cider. How we miss going to pubs and having cider.

Tons to catch up in term of work and recent interests and stuff. I don’t have many friends, I’m glad I get in touch with a good friend.

gathering

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Went to mm’s friend M’s place for a small gathering — only 4 of us plus her helper. Potluck where our friend, mm and I all contributed something. For starter, I made warm roasted peppers, courgettes and butternut squash on green salad. Used the juice from the roasting as dressing plus a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. The butternut squash was a bit sloppy but tasted nice. The peppers were roasted the safer way, in a hot 200°C oven. The skin was nicely charred but the insides were beginning to melt due to too much cooking. Normally I roast my peppers directly in the hob but mm was horrified. I think I’ll go back to the risky way next time.

For second course M made a bacon, asparagus and mushroom quiche that was simple and tasted great. We agreed the pastry could have been thinner but we were just being deliberately picky, it was great. M also made sangria, quite a lot of soda as she didn’t want too much alcohol for her other guest, I.

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Mains was roast lamb rack and stir-fried green beans, cherry tomatoes and mushroom made my M’s helper. Good stuff. For dessert, I made the french apple tart that didn’t quite work last time. Better this time, I made sure everything including the pastry and filling were chilled for 2 hours and the oven was set at over 200°C. Needed some glaze, but I forgot. Served with vanilla ice cream that, ah, M’s helper mistakenly put in the main compartment in the fridge so it was more like semi-frozen cream. Tasted fine. I really need to work on presentation.

Played mahjong for a bit. Tea time was provided by mm who made cranberry & orange and raisin scones. Very good. Light and fluffy, not too sweet. She was up till 4am last night making them, poor thing.

We all agreed it was a successful gathering and already have plans for our next time. It’s not too common for people to entertain at home here (most people have helpers and don’t know how to cook) but we much prefer this method than going out to a restaurant. More relaxing. Better food.

drinks, dinner and dogs

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Met up with mm for tea. Then her friend called, they were meeting for dinner but she was ready early. We all ended up going for drinks and dinner together. Afterwards we went to the friend’s house and met her dogs. Ugh. Not well trained, barking, following everyone around, reaching up to your legs. Lucky they are small so I can ignore them. Stupid things.

great friends

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I met JE and T for dinner at Hawksmoor. It’s totally my fault for not being aggressive enough to arrange to meet up, leaving it till my last week in London. Silly me. I remember meeting them at PTown 3 years ago. I’m so happy that we caught up and had a fantastic evening of conversation and good food. We’ll keep in touch online of course, I hope we don’t need to wait another 3 years to see each other again. Didn’t get a picture, this is the crumble I made in 2009 that brings back good memories.

parkside with friends

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Took the bus to Golders Green to meet up with CC and M for lunch. CC picked a family-styled Korean place at the roundabout. Afterwards we went back to their house for wine and snacks.

Rested a bit then headed off to Parkside at Enfield for strawberry picking. Also got some really nice beans and spinach.

drinks and small plates

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Started the day at 8am for the drive back to Chicago. An uneventful drive until I got to the I-80 and all the traffic and aggressive trucks. There’s something about Chicago that brings out the crazy in drivers. Gained back an hour to unload and see if my purchases fit into the suitcase. Then drove downtown, again having to negotiate crazy drivers on the Ryan and the huge traffic ham on the Kennedy. All so that I can go back to my old haunts to meet up with ex-colleagues. The office was pretty empty, people keep leaving. I got to see the people I wanted to though.

My two ex-colleague friends, L and E, took me to Maude’s liquor bar at Randulph and Halsted, where all the trendy places are located. A small plates type of French restaurant, we shared a chopped salmon carpaccio starter and at L’s recommendation I had the foie gras pâté with sour cherry jam and sourdough toast. Very, very rich. A small portion, but I was stuffed very quickly and couldn’t finish all the bread. We shared a bottle of white wine and caught up with gossip.

Not wanting the evening to end, we headed over to Isabella’s, a favourite of ours for a cosmopolitan. Then it was time to head back. It was nice to see them again. It’s sad, I’m not sure when if I’ll get a chance to return to Chicago in the next few years. Sigh.

SM leaving, brixton market

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It’s SM’s last day so he, RM and I went with another friend to Brixton market for Friday night drinks and food. He and I sneaked out early, at 4pm. We stopped by a pub before heading over there and ended up at the wonderful seven tapas and cocktail bar. We had nibbles, he had a beer while I had an old fashioned, while we waited for the others to arrive. It wasn’t until past 7pm that our party was complete and we walked around the village looking at the choices before deciding on pizza at franco manca. The queue was long, but moved quickly. Within 15mins we were seated. The pizzas were as good as before. I had the vegetarian special and we ordered a bottle of the house red.

Not wanting the evening to end, we headed back to the village arcade and found a place where we could have wine. In addition to the wine we had limoncello, sambucca and grappas. RM had an apple strudel and the restaurant didn’t mind that I got gelato from the stall around the corner — all very community spirited. Great evening with friends.

much busy about nothing

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Early day, was at RM’s serviced apartment around 9.30am to help him move to his apartment. He called a minicab and we managed to take all his stuff down and upstairs without much problem. Walked around Canary Wharf for a bit, had lunch at Jamie’s Italian. Starter of peas and broadbeans bruschetta was very good. I had cockles linguine, the cockles were delicate but oh boy the pasta was perfectly cooked.

Went out to Carnaby Street, found a coffee & juice place to stay out of the rain. Found a vintage whisky place at Old Compton Street too. Met JA at Foyle’s then to Korean dinner. Went back to RM’s place for a drink at the building’s sky lounge bar. Long day, I wished I could have been home sooner.

bbq

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I was invited to my friend CC’s friend S’s house for bbq. There was another couple with 2 kids, 4 kids in all. Lots of yummy food — beef, chicken, pork chops, lamb meatballs, mushrooms, potato salad. I brought s’mores wrapped in foil. Didn’t have the traditional graham crackers so I used digestives instead. It was a gloriously sunny day to spend with friends.

guest services

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I had a visitor this week, my friend A, who is a regular London visitor and was the first user of the spare room. I hope it wasn’t too weird for her, I now realise I’ve been living in my own place too long and not an easy person to live with. My parents and mm know the rules, but it’s not like I have them written up on a noticeboard in the hallway. Everyone has their own way of doing things in their own home, especially the small things, and it really is a delicate balance when people visit.

One of my American friends here have a revolving door of family and friends visiting, I don’t know how they manage it. Well, I guess that with a house with multiple bathrooms, a whole floor dedicated for visitors and a weekly cleaner they don’t have much difficulty. My flat in London is too small to entertain guests for any length of time. I think in small doses (1 person, 1-2 nights) it’s be fine. More than that and I will get antsy Again, parents and mm are the exception. I could have accommodated all of them in Chicago, but here they’ll have to stagger their visits. Heh, there goes my charge-an-arm-and-a-leg plan for people coming for the Olympics.

let’s take tea

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My downstairs neighbour, a retired lady, invited me for tea today. To an American, it would have been oh so quaint — best china, leaf tea, buttered walnut loaf. So very English.

I’ve lost my feel for the British, I don’t know if she was being neighbourly or wanting to see what i was like. Probably a bit of both. I think I surprised her that I actually am local and brought up in the area. We had a nice chat and she showed me round her apartment. I don’t know if I should reciprocate. In any event, I can’t until the flat is sorted.

lunch drinks

Met up with CC for lunch at nearby pub. She had a club sandwich and I had a steak sandwich. Pretty tasty, came with sweet pickled onions which I even ate. She didn’t have to go back to work so she had an ale. I thought about it for half a second, and joined her. I’m guessing there may be some rules on lunchtime drinking. I didn’t feel any worse for wear afterwards, but I can’t see this being a habit. May be very occasionally.

friends and friends of friends

Met up with cc for a drink after work. At first she said coffee but we ended up having a couple of pints at a pub. She’s more like mm’s friend, but I would still consider her a good friend. It’s all the friends and friends of spouses and friends of friends connections. When we left, she stayed here, and we had a good catch up.

surprise party

I’ve never been to a surprise party before. Today I was invited to Car’s cousin’s surprise party. His family prepared the food, and I was drawing birthday cakes on their driveway with the kids. When he got home, everyone was in the garage and yelled out “surprise!” when he opened the garage door to walk into the house. It was really nice. Good party.

meeting db

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My friend db is flying home from Rochester NY to Fairbanks AK. It’s a long, long journey with many legs, including a 20-hour overnight layover in Chicago. So when she asked, it was very easy to offer accommodation for the night. I went to ORD to pick her up, her plane arrived but they had to wait for a free gate, how silly. Then she picked up the wrong suitcase from baggage claim cos we were too busy chatting. Heehee.

We wanted Japanese dinner but both places around here were closed. We ended up at Hamburger Mary’s. I had the mushroom burger, it was great. I intended to have half and save the other half for lunch tomorrow, but I ended up finishing the whole thing.

Not a lot of fancy stuff at home for guests, I hope she’s comfortable. She’ll have to make her own way to the airport tomorrow. I got her a CTA pass though.

thunderstorm, costco

So we were going about our business on a friday afternoon looking forward to the weekend. And then 3.30pm building management told us of a severe weather advisory that strong thunderstorms were approaching. It was still sunny and dry outside.

Parents were coming downtown so I called them to tell them to call me once they get to our meeting point. I would then come out immediately. We were meeting at Sears Tower. The rain started to come when I met them at 4pm and we were soaked by the time we got to the car. Traffic down the Ryan was slow, 10-15mph all the way down. Windy and raining, but we were safe in the car. Turns out we were lucky, the storm ripped out some windows at Sears Tower shortly after we left the area. Phew.

By the time we got to Car’s house it’d died down somewhat. But they had a power outage. So we went to costco first. Mum was like an excited kid, wanting to buy lots of stuff. Papa too, was intrigued by some fabulous looking alaskan king crab legs. We got those, plus scallops, wild salmon, boxes upon boxes of cereal, cereal bars and other stuff. My boot was stuffed.

Also stuffed in person. Car’s mom fed us homemade spaghetti meatballs. It was such a nice meal. We had to leave in a hurry when the storm returned.