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Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sunday clippings 10 February 2013

I’ve always liked the newness of an idea, project, thing, time or interaction. That’s why Chinese New Year is exciting. Wearing something new is a tradition. Each year as kids we looked forward to smoothing out a dress that had sat in the back of the wardrobe, still with price tags attached. Crossing our fingers and hoping that the purchase of a size larger at the post Christmas sales would accommodate for any awkward teenage growth spurt. Now I worry less about growing taller, rather the challenge is growing wider. I guess it happens to the best of us.

Man with mohawk hat sitting on couch

Something new for English Hubby

Last night’s conversation with dad reminded me that there is an order to things. The first day is for family, second is for in laws, third of the new year for friends. Given we are geographically orphaned from our respective families, we had to skip straight to day three. Lunch with friends, followed by the obligatory comatose nap on the couch.

Duck with chef hat on head

Peking duck Chinese New Year feast

If traditions are to be embraced, each new year the slate is wiped clean and luck automatically gets credited. That’s why as kids we never showered or washed our hair on the first day of the year. Who wants to wash away their luck?

Fortune cookies

Fortune cookie declarations

We would also look for auspicious signs. The number 8, something red, a signal of some kind. It would be an inkling that the year would be lucky. We would eat sweets to bring around a sweet year ahead, and accept ang pows with glee. This New Year has started beautifully, phone calls with Crazy Daisy, Dad, Skinny Bean and Squee. Smelly never calls, but I suspect we were in her thoughts nonetheless. Surrounded by fabulous friends like Hurricane Ali and Liverpool Foster. The sky is blue, the snow is white and English Hubby still makes the most delectable cups of tea. Gong Hey Fatt Choi.

Snow on the roof of a beautiful building

Beautiful day after a blizzard

 

 

 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Texture Overload

Baltimore has its many charms. Crab cakes at Phillips, the zealous adoration for the Ravens and the friendliest people ever who work behind the counter at Starbucks. However when it comes to hotel room decor, it falls woefully short. Staying in an over textured room for four days has taken its toll. Indulge me whilst I share…

Texture pillow and seat

Arm chair and pillow combo

Really Baltimore? The squiggly line theme continues.

Texture lampshade and curtain

Straight lampshade lines and curvy curtains

Not to mention the carpet tile juxtaposition

Texture carpet and tile

An example where opposites do not attract

My personal favorite ribbed stainless steel bedside lamps

Texture bedside lamp

Spine like effect

The visual discomfort continues to the bedspread

Texture bedspread

Lucky that it is dark at night

Let’s not forget the bathroom

Texture shower curtain

A shower curtain awash with checks

There is no end in sight to the visual jumble sale that is my hotel room. Is it even possible to feel sea sick on the 7th floor of a hotel? One more day and counting…

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Sunday clippings 3 February 2013

Sundays like this feel as if they should be bottled in time. The essence stored, concentrated and used wisely. Here dear reader are a few snapshots in time to commemorate such a magical moment.

Returning into the warmth from a walk in Central Park.

Portrait of Kate Moss with man walking

Sunday at The Surrey

 

A walk in the park. The chill of the season on the face, enough to awaken and refresh.

Lady walking in along a path

Snowflakes melting in Central Park

 

Nature never rests. The sound of mulching echoing through the park.

Four bins in a row

Trashy, yet beautiful

 

Watching people walk by and buildings stand still.

Little child walking by a frozen lake with buildings in the background

So very New York City

 

No sailing miniature motorized boats this time of the year. So peaceful the lake.

Sign warning of thin ice

Proverbially skating on thin ice

 

Hans sits there reading with his duck. So patient, so quiet, so still.

Statue of Hans Christian Andersen

Timeless stories in Central Park

 

Funny to think that these messages will soon melt away, yet feelings will remain.

Writing in the snow on the wall

Expressions of love

 

A perfect photo to accompany the book I’m currently reading – The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

Beautiful white roses

Sunday roses

 

My other Sunday love is reading the newspaper from e-cover to e-cover. Yes, no more ink stained hands. Awake to the electronic age where The New York Times is delivered wirelessly each day to my iPad, to be consumed in comfort with a decaf soy latte.

Here are the most interesting snippets, worthy or sharing:

 

Getting More Women in Leadership

Absolutely agree with Sandberg’s view that one of the most important career decisions a woman makes is the choice of her spouse. “If a woman is stuck doing all the household chores and child-raising, she just can’t have a top-flight career. The great Rosabeth Kanter of Harvard Business School once was asked what men could do to advance women’s leadership, and she replied: “The laundry.”” Another brilliant blog from Nicholas Kristof, and how we will miss them as he heads off on a book leave to “engage in a cause larger than ourselves”. Words to live by.

 

Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions

Mental health is more than a 15 minute consultation or an 18 question survey. Too many lives, like that of Richard Fee are at stake. When Doctors are nonchalant, and checks and balances are woefully disregarded, it makes it all to easy for vulnerable people to fake symptoms to feed their addictions. “Young adults are by far the fastest-growing segment of people taking A.D.H.D medications. Nearly 14 million monthly prescriptions for the condition were written for Americans ages 20 to 39 in 2011, two and a half times the 5.6 million just four years before, according to the data company I.M.S. Health.” Mr and Mrs Fee, thank you for sharing Richard’s story.

 

Maybe Management Isn’t Your Style

We’ve all known people who were not made for leadership or to a boss. Here Peggy Klaus offers some time honored advice: “When offered a management position, talk to your future boss, to the person you’d be replacing, to team members and to anyone else who can tell you what the job entails. Assess your strengths and limitations by scrutinizing your performance reviews and asking you boss, mentors and trusted colleagues for feedback.” Personal motivations are a window in how people lead, “…do you need for everyone to like you? Want immediate and constant reinforcement? Feel nervous about having legal and financial responsibility for others? Balk at the idea of evaluating of firing someone? Then it’s possible that you’re just not cut out to be a boss.” Takes an enlightened soul to put aside ego, and play to strengths.

 

The Boy With a Thorn in His Joints

How foolish we are to treat the symptoms, when the cause is left to fester. One perspective on juvenile arthritis, ideas about a “leaky gut”, probiotics, alternative therapies and a reminder of how we are our own best healers. “He has had five flare-ups since going into remission a year ago. Two of them followed courses of antibiotics. The other three came on the heels of his accidentally eating gluten.” The age old wisdom of ‘you are what you eat’ holds true.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Eye Spy Upper East Side

The is nothing more beautiful than a Sunday morning walk. As English Hubby and I strolled from the pristine comfort of The Surrey to our lunch spot on 79th and Lexington, I was stuck by the random hidden gems that were hidden in plain sight.

Bench with a deep curve in the middle

One way to meet in the middle…

 

We walked the streets armed only with an iPhone.

Red emergency call box on a corner street

Pre cell phone emergency dialing

 

And now sitting in Candle 79 with my iPad and a very cool Pixlromatic app.

Brass standpipe

Polished to perfection

 

Rustic framing for the photos.

Ornate oval windo

Window on the world

 

And Anne or Amber color overlays.

Two nitrogen tanks on the side of the street

Climate control for NYC infrastructure

 

Beauty is in everything, especially the ordinary. What is it that you see each day?

 

 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Spacation weekend in New York City

Our New York city lives have been chaotic of late, and English Hubby and I have been seeking out ways out time whisk rom the flurry of activity that has made the month of January feel about a week long. Last weekend we focused our frazzled nerves and surfed the Internet for last minute vacations to places that promised warm sun and soft sand.

As much as we craved the warmth, especially after such a chill infused winter season, the thought of spending endless hours on a plane, herded into cattle class was too much of a hardship to bear. It was a magical moment when English Hubby suggested we book ourselves into a luxury hotel, hunker down in our own home town and live it up for a weekend spacation break.

Beautiful bed with white linens and fluffy duvet

Falling in love with fluffy duvets and Egyptian cotton sheets

 

Through the wizardry of websites like hotels.com and TripAdvisor, we found The Surrey. A little oasis in New York City. This boutique hotel is part of the Relais & Chateaux group which is now firmly on the radar for future vacation stays. We checked in and the service was impeccable. Glass of champagne on arrival, beautiful rooms with little touches that just make the world of difference.  Imagine lying in bed, reaching over and with a touch of a button dimming the light settings to a perfect volume for movie watching. Or the option of summoning up to your room a mixologist to proffer cocktails at any time day or night?!

Cocktail placard

Mixologist on call

We had a little teen-like giggle at the selection of bottles in our private bar. A favorite is the Hudson baby bourbon.

Bottle of Hudson Whisky

Hard core drinking recommended for babies?!

As with any hotel getaway, it is always the small touches that matter most. From the fluffy bathrobes, to the high thread count sheets and the fluffy slippers. Delightful.

Hotel toiletries

Little things that make a big difference

So we have caught up on sleep, indulged at Cafe Boulud twice – once for a spectacular dinner last night and a second helping for breakfast this morning – and I now sit quietly in still silence for the first time in about three weeks. English Hubby is away at the pub watching England play Scotland in rugby, and all is good with the world. In three hours time we cross the street to Exhale Spa for 90 minutes of kneading and soothing strokes. The spacation is in full swing.

Window cushion with proverb

Words of comfort

 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year’s Promise

When the clock strikes midnight, all the baggage of the previous year is neatly folded away and new doors open. Doors that lead forward, that swing wide to new ideas and we step over the threshold to a new you and me.

This year is the year of self improvement and growth. What will I become when the clock once again strikes midnight in 365 days time? Well, I’m not really sure. All I can promise is that today, tomorrow and on Friday I will meditate. Three little seeds of calm mindful contemplation will be planted.

Beach sunset

Mindful contemplation

 

Will I continue after that? I sure hope so, but I will make that determination about the future when the future is here. All I can say is that today I have meditated on the path. Thought a little about developing ethical discipline, concentration and wisdom. That is a good start.

 

Addendum ** 2 January 2013

Day 2 and the journey continues. Another step in the right direction. Today’s meditation is about cultivating equal hearted openness to everyone. Equanimity. A word of five simple syllables, yet such depth of meaning – an evenness of heart and mind. Are we truly capable of equanimity? What differentiates people we love, from people we dislike or people whom we do not know, other than prejudices based on how that person treated ‘me’. If we cut through those prejudices, then a stranger is just a friend we haven’t yet met. Like and dislike are migratory and fleeting, leaving everyone naked, bare and true.

 

Addendum ** 3 January 2013

Day 3 and a meditation that contemplates all beings as having once been our parent. I will admit that it took a while to get into it, but my mind finally got there.

So many of our friends have recently become parents. A role that has no end, and knows no boundaries in love, kindness and patience. Today I heard a beautiful story of a father returning from work in the wee hours of the morning, on the day of his daughter’s birthday. Although he was exhausted after too long a day, he woke his sleeping daughter and sat in the garden with her. Silent, at 2 am in the morning which was the hour of her birth, and watched a meteor shower dance across a dark night’s sky.

So many magical moments we have received from our own parents, in countless ways that we will never be able to fully comprehend, yet are able to one day pay forward to our children. Imagine if we saw the world and others in it as our parent or as our child. Would we be more patient? Would we love unconditionally? Would we feel true concern and not apathy? Dear reader, I would very much hope so.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Taught to fly by little angels

Sometimes you can just feel alone. Standing quietly in the line of life waiting. Just waiting. Waiting then turns to impatience. Impatience to frustration. Frustration to anger, then anger ricochets into a million tiny pieces of self pity which can pool quietly in some corner of your soul, and manifest itself in ways so intricately woven into your every day that you cease to recognize the person you are and dislike spending time with the person you are becoming. Over six years passes and on one of the most important days of your life, because of a text message and the cumulative weight of other small happenings, you truly remember that you’ve been surrounded by compassion and love all long, and that you’ve never been all alone at all.

It has been said that “when you come to the edge of all the light you have, and must take a step into the darkness of the unknown, believe that one of two things will happen to you: either there will be something solid for you to stand on, or, you will be taught how to fly.” ..perhaps by little angels.

Thank you Dr P for your meditations, good reiki energy and divine moments of inner calm
Thank you English Hubby for a cup of tea in bed in my favorite heart mug
Thank you Number 3 for giving us matching heart mugs so many Christmases ago
Thank you mum, dad and MIL for listening, asking and always being in our corner
Thank you Fi for our surprise Christmas ornament
Thank you N+C for sharing the journey too and so much friendship and kindness

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Simplicity

It is funny how the stuff you own starts to own you.

Not long ago I splurged on two very extravagant items – a handbag and a wallet – a frivolous ‘investment’ that amounted to our monthly mortgage payment. Was it love at first sight? Yes. Did I feel I deserved it? Absolutely. Did it make me happy? Sure, at first.

The problem is that these beautiful things fade and wear with time. I look at my wallet and the leather has scratches from every day use. My handbag has fared better, only because I’ve been obsessive to the point of distraction every time I take it for a spin. The pinnacle of ridiculousness was when I purposely stayed several more hours at work, waiting for the rain to subside before I went home, all in the vain hope of not getting my handbag wet! These objects of lust are a cause for concern as opposed to comfort. Walking around with a museum piece is getting exhausting, and sometimes you just need something you can throw around.

The same is so true for the stuff we bring into our lives. It has weight. Not just of the physical variety, but an emotional cost that tangles and holds you back. What if it get damaged? Lost? Damaged? Broken? Worn? Dirty? Enough. I look around our apartment and all I see is stuff we have accumulated, precious parts of our lives that we have squandered to earn the money to buy the things we don’t really need. I suspect this is an ample illustration of lunacy.

So here is what I’ve spent Sunday morning doing…

Clothes in box

A good start

 

Filling the first of a series of boxes that will be donated to goodwill. This will be a gradual journey, a journey to simplify our lives.

Getting rid of things we don’t need, and in the process helping others too. Nonetheless, it wasn’t easy parting with goods accumulated over a lifetime, especially the sentimental things with stories attached. Like the first real work shirt I had bought, a blue Thomas Pink cotton number. Even though it is now 13 years old, it still reminds me of our shopping expedition in London where Pickhaver dragged us all to Jermyn St.

This was one of the  most  fancy clothing stores I’d ever been in, where shirts  came in different sizes as well as sleeve lengths, cuff links were the norm and brought with it an air of sophistication that can never be replaced by a mere button. I still remember handing over the visa card in exchange for the signature pink and black edged bag containing an exquisitely tissue paper wrapped shirt and a pair of cuff links. It shouted “…you have arrived…”, you are in the pink (literally) and it felt so very good. But this shirt has outlived its usefulness. Over a decade is a long time for any piece of clothing to stay relevant, and I don’t think I can actually recall the last time I actually wore the shirt! It has moved with me from Australia to Hong Kong to New York. Each time I try to throw it out, the desire to hold onto that special moment in time gets the better of me. So I thought, dear reader, that you can help me out and be my audience, hear my thoughts and through this process of writing I get to share this moment in time with you. I figure, then I don’t need a blue shirt to remind me of that graduate training trip that set a lifetime of friendships and a whole career in motion, because I still have these wonderful people in my life as well as you, dear reader to remind me.

Full clothes box

Time to let go

 

So the box is packed, and sitting by the door. I know it is the first of many, as I learn to really separate experiences and memories from things, and remind myself that there is a freedom in owning less and tending toward simplicity.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Sharp Shooter

Dear reader, today I went over to the dark side. I don’t like guns, let alone ever thought I’d be capable of firing one, but that all changed about twelve hours ago.

C (of the lake house fame) suggested as a lark that we go to the pistol range, and in a swashbuckling moment characterized by speaking before thinking, I had zealously committed us all to a lovely spring morning playing with lethal weapons.

Ordinary people with guns scare me. Judging by the clientele at the pistol range, there are many moms, pops and teenage joes who are packing heat. I still grapple with the need for law enforcement to have a weapon capable of tearing through skin, flesh, bone and anything else that stands in a bullets path. The finality of a gun and bullet combo is petrifying.

Pocono Pistol Club sign on the side of a building

One step closer to the NRA

 

Yet to play at a pistol range requires nothing more than a drivers license and ability to hold back sarcastic laughter as you are filing in a barrage of forms that indemnify the gun club from any type of liability or wrongdoing. Are you a convicted felon? Nope. Are you currently under the influence of alcohol or mind altering substances? Uh…no…but if one was, I highly doubt filling in a form with the utmost honesty would be top of mind. Once the form filling and initialing is complete, first timers are subjected to a gun safety briefing video and short lecture from Alan and Larry.

Here’s where the fun really begins. The video features the ten commandments of gun handling, brought to life by D grade actors with authentic 80’s height of Miami Vice mullet sophistication. I thought I even spied a big haired blonde in a midriff firing a Glock. The clincher was Alan’s description of what amounted to three different ways your weapon could misfire, and cause horrific injuries. Now there’s a vote of confidence.

So the Buddhist in me firmly objected to any paper target that resembled a human being, live animal or faux zombie (left over stock from Halloween?). Shamefully that same  Buddhist moral fibre that should have objected to firing a lethal weapon was quickly surpassed my blatant competitiveness.

After sheepishly donning glasses and ear protection, stepping up to the table, loading the magazine with bullets and placing a finger apprehensively on the trigger, it was time to squeeze. At that very moment a random medley of counter productive thoughts ran through my head in a krubrik like reel. What if the pistol backfires and blows off my hand. The guy in lane two looks a little deranged. Will the bullet ricochet and take out an eye. I should have put someone other than English Hubby as my next of kin, as chances are if something happens, it may happen to the both of us, and how will they know to box our bullet ridden bodies back to the right place?!

Bullet riddled paper target

Firing on all cylinders

 

Thankfully next of kin was never evoked. I squeezed. Bang. Hole appears right in the middle of the target. And here it comes, a wave of satisfaction and pride that I nailed it! A few rounds later, I’m practically elbowing everyone out the way to get a turn at firing at a defenseless piece of paper, clipped to a board about 15 feet away.

Begrudgingly I admit it was a fun sport that requires hand eye coordination and skill. There is something strangely satisfying about hitting a target straight on. However that leap between the abstract of a pistol as sport, and reality of weapons that injure is still too short a bridge for me to be thoroughly comfortable with. I think I’ll give ladies night a miss.

Flyer for ladies night every Tuesday

I’ll be washing my hair on Tuesday

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Who’s not got mail?

 

Email is a strange addiction. You battle with it daily, feel the need to check for replies, get that buzz when something interesting arrives, feel overwhelmed then you have too much of it, yet empty when it gets taken away.

I came to the conclusion that my personal email traffic must be actively reduced. This was about six months ago. Finally I have taken the first step to put it into effect by unsubscribing from BananaRepublic.com, a retailer who has managed to bombard my inbox with enticing emails almost daily.

Clicking that unsubscribe button was not an easy task. BR emails have been my electronic distraction for a very long time. Hard day at work…ooohh, nothing like a 30% off online sale to set it right. I have made an art of time wasting by surfing this and other shopping websites, clicking through on the latest must have shoe, handbag, shiny bauble or must have dress, top, skirt or suit. I have spent a small fortune on feel good pick me ups. Now, my online dealer is cut off. Unsubscribed. Cold turkey.

Let’s see how long I can stay on the program…

================

26 Feb Postscript…

I guess it is true what they say about breaking the seal. Email junk mail purging has continued like an avalanche gathering momentum:

  • New York Times – gone
  • Bed Bath and Beyond – unsubscribed
  • Trip Advisor – no thanks, I don’t need to know how many people have read my review
  • Trulia – this one has saved me from house envy
  • Amazon Local, Groupon – enough of the 50% off the things I don’t think I want until I find out they are 50% off!

Sleeping much easier tonight…

Monday, 20 February 2012

Ode to chair

I found you in a op shop on South Road. They no longer had use for you, but I did. You were the very first piece of furniture I bought. You were the wooden embodiment of the hope that one day I would move out of home, have a place of my own, throw fancy dinner parties with dear friends drinking wine out of real wine glasses.

You became my constant companion. In my little room, you sat beside my bed, holding glasses of water and the books read before I fall asleep, dreaming of a bigger world beyond these four safe walls of home. You graduated to become my telephone chair in Station Street where I would sit for hours sharing the many highs and several lows that would make up my early twenties. I asked so many questions and found so many answers, seated on your hard slats.

Then we moved to Clowes Street, falling in love with the secret life of us. Friends would drop in on a constant basis, and so many would seat themselves on you. You weren’t particularly comfortable, in fact you are still to this day a little rickety, but there was something inviting about your simplicity. You seem to remind us that even when life was getting complicated, we were going to be okay. Simple and plain, it was as if you allowed life to happen around you without fuss.

You earned your sea faring legs when we left Australia for Hong Kong. I was growing out of my own skin, yet you were my constant. My sturdy friend, by my bedside again. Even as I bought my first grown up couch, dining table and all the trappings of adult life, I took solace that each night I would rest my journals on you, and you would keep them safe until the morning. In Caine Road you saw me fall in love with English Hubby. You overheard the many late night conversations I had with my dearest friends. You saw my best ever flat mate, K, come and then go. You’d listen patiently as I recounted adventures to my friends back home and probably even chuckled when I was conferencing S and B for help with that infamous ‘do I make the bed’ predicament!

You earned another stamp in your passport, taking a leap with me to New York. I followed my heart, and I knew even if it ends up broken, you would be there for me to rest my weary soul. For you are my reminder that I am grounded, just like the tree from which you were made. We’ve gone from west side to east side of Manhattan island. You’ve held my handbags over your shoulder, to the point where it is worn smooth. Today you are part of my private space in a teeny tiny apartment. A place mine alone where I can sit and pay bills, write emails and keep life spinning along.

I know you are just a thing, an object. To everyone else you are ugly, worn and about to fall apart. But in spite of the years you still hold it together. Perhaps in some strange way, even hold me together. Somehow when I look back, you’ve helped me stand on my own two feet, sometimes offering four more to keep me firmly planted.

As I write this, I cannot fathom why I’m even considering throwing  you away. Even as your very comfortable replacement has been paid for and is making its way to our apartment as we speak. It feels wrong, like discarding an old passport. Each scratch and scuff is a chronicle of our journey, and I wonder what else you will see in the years to come. I now know I still need the thought of you, and I am not ready to let you go.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

How far can you go with fortune cookie logic?

Every now and then there are words that ring so true that they stop you in your tracks and you feel as if you’ve stumbled across a secret key to unlock your own universe. It is Sunday. I am reading the next installment of The Happiness Project. The words are: “but I didn’t want to be the novelist who spent so much time writing his first sentence that he never wrote his second.”

Oh dagger to thy heart. In one fell swoop this humble pop psychology, change-your-life-by-setting-little-goals-each-month book has summed up my last year. A frustrating year of paralysis and standing still whilst moving. Like reaching a career high, yet feeling none the wiser. Like making a promise to focus more on family, but still only wading into unknown waters without actually taking the plunge. Even mundane symptoms which include starting many blog posts, redrafting them a million times over and then never letting them see the light of digital day.

A first sentence polished and perfected; a second sentence never following, seems like an awful waste of life. So where to next?

Take this post and put it out there. Forget about spell checking, don’t let it sit in the elephant grave yard whilst searching high and low for the right photo, don’t wait until the dishes are done, the bed is made or any other first sentence distraction. Follow fortune cookie logic that declares that many a mis-step was made by standing still.

Stop. Standing. Still.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

My travels to Edinburgh, Long Beach and Seattle all in one night and the synchronocity that brought me there

Tonight I read an article on BBC News about how the internet is changing our memory.  Researchers say that the internet acts as a “transactive memory” that we rely on to remember for us.  This particular study illustrates how our brains have adapted to the technologies around us.  We no longer need to remember the content, we just need to remember how to access it and where it is stored.  This, mind the pun, is mind blowing.

Think about the implications:

  1. Endless data: When online, we have access to a vast bounty of data and know-how that has accumulated over time, and will keep growing as long as there are bits and bytes flowing through the veins of the internet. Data is limited only by the questions we seek to Google.
  2. Framing knowledge:  Because there is so much data out there, the web sites and apps that win will be the ones that package data and know-how into real knowledge, inspire ideas, encourage exploration and learning.  The internet as an extension of our memory is fine, but where it is most powerful is an internet that works alongside our very human brains as a catalyst for wisdom.
  3. Connectors will dominate:  The last part of the equation is us.  Our ability to connect the dots, make sense of the relationships that lay beneath the surface and understand the synchronicity in all things will be the key differentiator in this new world order.  Nothing stands alone, everything is connected, even if they seem discrete.

Let’s explore this state of connected being, here is a replay of tonight

  • Scanning BBC News app for interesting news.  Stumble upon article.  Read article. 
  • Brain notes: Hmmm…interesting
  • Playing with new smart phone and cruising for free apps.  Come across TED Air.  
  • Brain says: have always liked TED, especially their tag line “ideas worth sharing”. Clever.
  • Surfing TED talks.
  • Brain says: ah huh! The article on BBC news talks about internet as an extension of memory.  Can I extend my brain with TED?
  • Watch first talk. Transported to Edinburgh where Tim Harford talks about “Trial, error and the God complex“.  Marmite, vitamin B12, WW2, Unilever’s struggle to create a nozzle to make detergent powder, evolution.  Key takeaway is that trial and error the basis of everything we know, and randomness cannot be contained, we just have to find ways to make better mistakes.
  • Brain logs: Fail fast is good.
  • Watch second talk, Maajid Nawaz: A global culture to fight extremism.  Fascinating idea that democracy needs to be promoted just like extremism is promoted.  Brilliant equation…social movement = idea + narrative + symbols + leader.  
  • Brain contemplates: How can we apply that equation to other things?
  • Watch third talk.  Matt Cutts in Long Beach talks about trying something new for 30 days.  Premise is a Morgan Spurlock experiment to change your life by doing something that you’ve always wanted to do over 30 days.  Key takeaway is that period of time is just long enough to make an incremental difference in behavior, leading to lasting change.
  • Brain asks: Is it possible therefore to change the world in 30 days? Perhaps apply the social movement equation and fail fast?
  • Watch forth talk.  Seattle TED conference where Patricia Kuhl talks about “The linguistic genius of babies“.  Incredible experiments that discovered that babies, in the first 6 months, statistically log the key sounds of the language that is spoken around and to them.  This forms the basis for picking up the language of the culture to which they belong.  The really interesting thing is that babies do not log sounds that are delivered via audio or video channels.  They only seem to learn from people speaking to them, in person, face to face.  
  • Brain thinks: Exposure to as many languages, spoken in person, within the first 6 months is crucial.
  • Brain asks: Maybe changing the world means having a 30 day dialog with people, face to face, (literally)  in a language that they understand?
  • Watch fifth talk.  Back to Long Beach, California where cookbook author Nathan Myhrvold talks about “Cooking as never seen before“.  This guy has put together an amazing cook book which is the intersection of food science and incredible photography and design.  He shows cross sections of food in the very act of being cooked.  This means cutting pots, BBQs, ovens and even woks in half and photographing the cooking process.
  • Brain wonders: What if you could bisect a 30 day social movement and watch the dialog bake, then learn by trial and error how to change the world for the better?

Finally, we come full circle. At 3.33am the dots are connected.  Synchronicity through random surfing of the extended memory of the internet has added one more piece of knowledge to our collective wisdom. This blog post.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Weekend at the Lake House Compound

Our friends N + C have a lake house near the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, and they foolishly invited us over again for long weekend.

Beautiful lake with boats

A lake with a view

 

The “compound”, as it is affectionately known, sits in one of the gated communities that line the shores of a cluster of lakes made millions of years ago as glaciers carved their way back toward the Arctic Circle.  It is far enough away from the urban populace that you could easily start a religious cult that worships pre-Cambrian single cell gelatinous blobs, if that was to your liking.

Thank goodness cult like behavior is not really their thing.  Rather, it has been a weekend indulging in other more delightful past times.

Firstly, the Amazon Kindle.  The best invention since those clever Chinese people hammered together the printing press. You know that technology has managed to weld itself inseparably into our lives when out of the five of us here this weekend, four of us have Kindles.  (English Hubby is the odd one out, but in his defense he does have an iPad with the Kindle app). You would be better off waving a red flag in front of a raging bull than dare try to pry a Kindle out of our eager hands.

Four Kindles on a coffee table

Kindle mania

 

Secondly, this weekend has been an ode to food porn where every meal has been dexterously planned (organic produce, coop shopping and seasonal delights), skillfully prepared and consumed with a furor of uncontrollable passion, followed by a wide grinned guilt that throws caution to the diet winds.

Pie crust dough on a pastry board

A beautiful marriage of flour, butter, shortening, sugar, salt and ice water

 

Rolling pin on pie crust dough

Rolling with the times

 

Strawberry and rhubarb filling in the pie

Filling out

 

Delicious strawberry and rhubarb pie

Delicious strawberry and rhubarb pie…with tasty lattice top

 

We’ve been thoroughly spoilt by a menu that features that infamous man toy, the BBQ.  There is something primal about flame grilled Jerk chicken, rib eye steak and grilled salmon.

Jerk chicken and vegetable kabobs on a BBQ

Lunch being BBQ’d to perfection

 

Homemade coleslaw on a table full of food

Mind blowing coleslaw

 

Chicken bones on an empty plate

Satisfaction guaranteed

 

Not even a severe thunderstorm could dampen the cooking festivities.

Man BBQing in the rain

Man versus wild – nothing can keep him away the BBQ

 

Finally, being at the lake house is like stepping into the Tardis where you are transported back to a place in space and time where board games are still played, ice tea is served, lovers go for evening paddles on the lake, strawberry and rhubarb pies are made entirely from scratch and hours on end are dedicated to the sport of napping and reading (on the Kindle of course!).

Cleaning out the paddle boat

English Hubby and C draining the paddle boat

 

I can’t think of anything better than a weekend of delectable food, fabulous friends and lakeside fun. Wouldn’t you agree, dear reader?

 

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Double the Fun

English Hubby and I have just come back from our a birthday party for our dear friend’s twin 3 year olds, and we are knackered!

On one hand it was great to be part of the raw excitement and circle of fun that always seems to surround three year olds; on the other hand, it is a little depressing to realize when you add up the ages of all the kids in the room, you could still out number them in terms of age (give or take a few).

The afternoon started well with crafts for kids, and the adults were well behaved too.

Two Pooh Bears sitting next to each other

Well behaved

 

Then the entertainment kicked off – a magic train conductor repertoire, with a puppet chimpanzee to boot.  The kids were split on this one.  Some really got into the hand wiggling magic thing, and the rest decided to burst into tears as the deranged looking chimp was a step too far for comfort.  The adults needed a little pick me up by this time.

Two Pooh Bears sitting next to each other with a beer

Party bears

 

As the afternoon continued, I’m starting to wonder how parents have the stamina for this.  Where’s the remote control mute button?

Two Pooh Bears, with bottle of beer toppled

Exhausted!

 

So here are 8 things I have learned today:

  1. Thomas the Tank Engine or any type of train paraphernalia is like kiddie crack
  2. It is harder to make balloon animals than you think
  3. Cold sausages taste delicious
  4. It is useful to have a hand vacuum charged and ready for action
  5. Home made honeycomb is delicious and only needs three ingredients
  6. There is actually a children’s book called “Time to wee” (…sorry K+N, I peeked at your bathroom book shelf. I’m sure it’s wonderfully educational)
  7. Post it notes are handy even in a party situation
  8. Our friends are wonderful, loving parents*

* Technically we did not just learn this today, but it is worth calling out that every kid deserves parents like them

Thomas the Tank Engine

Most popular toy in town


Sunday, 5 June 2011

A Little About Me

My dearest friend B asked me why I started this blog.  Good question.  Honestly, I’m not quite sure myself.  It defies the gravity of logic to take on a new, very public endeavor especially when I barely get a humane amount of sleep each night, have a career that demands more than a pound of flesh and a pint of blood, and have a knack for neglecting family and friends whom I love dearly.

All I know is that I’m a frustrated traveler stuck inside the body of a management consultant.  For way too long, life for me has been mentally compartmentalized into binary buckets – on or off, work or play, week day or week end, everyday or vacation.  Sort of like a demented Morse code, where the exciting dots of travel are separated by the long dashes of the seemingly mundane.  The problem with this mindset is that life passes you by as you are waiting for the next big holiday.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of wasting a perfectly good life.

This blog is my way of bringing everything that I love about travel – the exhilaration of seeing the world in a different way, the rawness of life, the love of learning new things, being charmed by the people you meet, things you do and food you eat – back to the everyday.  Rather than live a life on hold, waiting for the four weeks of every year to embrace that journey, why not live it at every moment?

So, this blog is a small attempt to remind a frustrated traveler (me) that journeys happen every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year and beyond.  You just have to look for these little arcs, and when you start to join them up, life becomes one big vacation.  Some moments will qualify for a stamp in the beloved passport, however most will never need an immigration entry form to experience.

So dear reader and dearest B, let’s raise our glasses to everyday journeys, near and far.  Clink.

Chrysler Building in New York

Many hours spent at work in the Chrysler Building, New York City

 

 

People sitting on the steps infront of Sacre Coeur

Lost in the crowd at Sacre Coeur, Paris

 

 

Me sitting on the edge of a cliff at Muley Point, Utah

One of my favorite places in the world – Muley Point, Utah (…I’ll save it for another post…)

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Luxury of Time

It has been one of those weeks.  Early morning conference calls, followed by back to back meetings and capped off by late night battles with an email inbox that seems to multiply faster than two rabbits on heat.  Final email inbox count = 1,462. Care factor = 0.

How I’ve waited impatiently for the end of week to roll around.  Friday evening, a neat comma that allows us to pause momentarily before flowing into the weekend.  For the first time in a very long while, I find myself sitting still.  Funny things happen when stay inert on the couch.

You start to notice the passing of time.  Like the branches of a tree that brush against our window.  Only one summer ago its height barely reached our sill.

Tree branch in foreground and old school house in background

A room with a view

 

The roof of the old school building across the street.  It is dimmed by the setting sun – yellow, orange, burnt red then brown.  Blink and you could miss it.

Roof of an old school house across the street

Old school across the street

 

How time can be quickly lost when we are too busy to notice its flow.  Therefore dear reader, a moments pause to remember to “take care of the minutes, as the hours will take care of themselves“.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Thunder, Vikings and Norway

I have a dirty little secret – I went to see Thor last night.  Norse legend, big hammer, lots of lightning and thunder, manly vikings saving the world…ring a bell?  Not only was it a voluntary move to see an action movie with English Hubby, but I have to admit that I actually enjoyed it.

All in all, Marval and Kenneth Branagh managed to churn out a reasonable flick (I dare you to connect the dots between comic books and Shakespearean tragedies).  Not Natalie Portman’s finest hour, but right now she can do no wrong.  Antony Hopkins resonates well as the omnipresent wise old King trying to guide is sons – hot headed Thor and ‘second child syndrome’ Loki – through life’s trials and tribulations.  Plus an ample serving of Chris Hemsworth, need I say more?

Which brings me to the subject of Norway.  Just like the movie Thor, you may not naturally be inclined to go, but there are many hidden surprises if you do.  I’ve been to Norway twice.  First time, a fleeting EasyJet visit to hang out with English Hubby’s best friend, Carlito*.  Second time to celebrate New Year’s with an entourage of friends in Carlito’s magical winter wonderland cabin near Lillehammer.

It was one of the best New Year’s breaks I’ve ever had, and it all started with a few loose words. Something like this:

  • Me: “Hey, we’ve got a friend with a winter cabin in Norway”
  • NYC Entourage: “Never been to Norway”
  • Me: “How about going there for New Years?”
  • NYC Entourage: “Sure. I’m in. Let’s do it…booking tickets right now”
  • Me: “Um…(hesitation)…ok…just let me ask Carlito first…”

And so the hammer of Thor swung into action.  A few emails and Skype calls later, lightning struck.  Carlito foolishly agreed to entertain the five of us, three of whom he had never met before – as a meek consolation we did vouch for their characters, and promised they wouldn’t steal any silverware.

So began 5 days of friend fun in Norway, at the height of winter and frankly the coldest place we had ever visited.

Frozen trees

Brrr, it's cold!

 

We rendezvoused in Oslo (very cold), introduced everyone to Carlito (warm), spent a few days walking around Oslo taking in the sights (freezing cold) and frequenting coffee shops and bars to defrost (warm).

Friends walking along the harbor

Only silly tourists would be out and about

 

Norwegians to snow is like duck to water.  Whereas a light dusting of snow seems to bring JFK Airport to a stand still, Norway thrives!  Ten feet of snow, no problems. Blizzard? Bring it on. Minus 20 Celsius with wind chill from the Arctic, sure…just let me take the dog out for a walk with nothing else but a fleece on.  I can see how the vikings were tough and feared.  Their descendents are genetically impervious to the cold.  Life goes on, just with snow tires attached.

English Hubby lying in snow

English Hubby making a snow angel

 

So we pretended to be well-wintered Norwegians as we shivered across town.  Heading to the Opera House for a dose of Nordic high culture.  My friend C, has a love for architecture.  If you’ve ever had a friend like that, you know that you are no longer able to see buildings in the same light.  We admired the use of floor to ceiling glass windows that lets in the harbor views, and how the entire structure is nestled into its space, creating a summer-ready outdoor amphitheater that also doubles as a roof.

View of the Oslo Opera House

Style and substance all rolled into one Opera House

 

We admired how wood has been used to ‘warm’ the otherwise cold steel and glass construction, and gawked at the Guggenheim-esq structure that leads lucky ticket holders to their seats for a night of opera.

Glass and wood structure of the Opera House

Made of glass, steel and wood

 

Other points on the self inflicted sight seeing tour of Oslo included the Nobel Peace Center, the Royal Palace, the Viking Museum and the phallic park (yep, you read it correctly!).  It strikes me that Norway is a peaceful land.  After all, it is the home of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nobel Peace Center

A celebration of peace - Nobel Peace Center

 

If that’s not enough peace loving action for you, just take a look at the Royal Palace.  The only thing separating crazy people and the Royal Family at home is a low hanging chain, stretched regally across a few stone bollards.  My local liquor store in Spanish Harlem has more security than that.  Obviously nobody has tried to jack His Royal Highness’ stash of Akevitt!  We casually strolled up to the palace and looked at the front door in awe.  It did cross my mind to knock.

You can’t go to Norway without going to see the viking ships.  What else is there to say?  We came, we saw, we photographed, we conquered.

Wooden viking ship

Gods of the sea

 

Then onto one of my favorite parks in the world.  I’ve been there twice, and still can never seem to remember it’s official name.  To me it will always be known as the phallic park.  No prizes for guessing why…

Snow covered park with statues

Vigeland Sculpture Park in all its glory

 

Once we had “done” Oslo (…sort of like how American tourists are able to “do” Europe in 3 days), the circle of ‘friend fun’ – led by Vino ferocious guard dog (sarcasm inserted here) – headed to the mountains.

Dog lying on couch

Vino the most popular dog on Facebook

 

A couple of hours in the car and we were transported to Carlito’s magic cabin.

Cabin covered in snow surrounded by trees

Camp Carlito

 

I’ve never seen so much snow in my life.  It really isn’t a surprise to me that Amundsen beat Scott to the South Pole.  This is the perfect training ground for a snow bound expedition.

Snow covered plains with trees

Winter wonderland view from Carlito's cabin

 

The rest of the days in our wonderful white icing wonderland were filled with snowboarding (skiing for the lesser man and woman), hot chocolates at the chalet, and well deserved hot showers and meals back at the cabin.  I’m utterly convinced that the beautiful fair haired, blue-eyed folks here learn to ski before they learn to talk.  Everyone on the slopes is as graceful as a gazelle.  Young and old alike glide their way delicately through trees and hurl themselves at frightening speeds down the mountain.  In comparison, our New York contingent look like knuckle dragging apes with planks strapped to our feet.  As we were shuttled back up the mountain in the most beautiful covered high speed chair lift, I counted less than a handful of tumbles on the mountain side.  I’m sure they were all tourists or Danish.

Mountain with ski slope

Hajfell ski slope - playground of the Norwegians

 

Now for the vacation finale – every year it happens…you get dressed up, say a silent prayer to no-one in particular, asking for strength to get you through the night.  The restaurant/bar/club/party is always a disappointment for one reason or another.  You curse yourself for wearing that new pair of heels, and worst of all you know you are meant to be having the time of your life (which is often far from the truth) as the clock strikes midnight.  Sound familiar?

Well, ringing in 2010 with beloved friends in a small cabin in Norway was, hands down, the best New Year’s plan ever.  Carlito spoilt us rotten with a traditional festive meal. It was a viking voyage of culinary discovery.  Sauteed juicy reindeer (yes, dear Bambi – sorry kids), ligonberry sauce and a whole load of trappings on the side.

Dinner table with food

New Year's Eve dinner fit for a Viking King and Queen

 

To top if all off (…as if it could get any better…) the Entourage competed for the inaugural International Nobel Yahtzee  Championship title.  With Australia, England, United States (U-S-A; U-S-A) and Norway all vying for bragging rights, the competition was stiff.  English Hubby dominated early, but luck seemed to be on my friend J’s side (side note: she is also the Boggle Queen of the Universe).  C + N blew on dice and rolled with the punches admirably. Carlito and his better half hung in there for dear life.  Tactics, calculation, foul play, bribery and orange cake came into play.

Dice game on coffee table

High stakes in the championship Yahtzee tournament

 

When all is said and done, another year (2009) passed into the annals of history and a new one begun.  The sun continues to rise, and eventually the snow will melt, but our adventures in Norway will be frozen in our hearts and minds.

Sun rising over snow capped mountain plains

Sunrise over Norway

 

May lightning strike twice, in fact many times over and bring each of you many more New Years to remember. Crackling fires, delicious food, fantastic friends. What could be better?

*names have been changed to protect the not so innocent

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Mistaken Identity of a Fritatta

Another gorgeous afternoon in New York City.  Especially on a day like this, food should match the sunshine.

In my mind’s eye, there is a simple equation: sunshine + blue skies + light breeze = fritatta for lunch.  I’ve always pictured beautiful people in Spain sitting outdoors, drinking cava and devouring delicious fritattas.  They are all bronzed to perfection, without a care in the world.  Fritatta = magical faraway land of long lunches, followed by serious siestas.

But alas! My fritatta friend is an impostor.  As I’ve only found out today, he is in fact Italian.  It is his close cousin, the tortilla, that actually hails from Spain.

Fritatta cooking in a pan

Fritatta del Giorno

 

What separates the two I hear you ask?  Apparently it is the egg factor and the use of an oven.  The fritatta is dominated by the egg mixture, whereas it is only used lightly to bind the vegetables in a tortilla.  Both are cooked in a pan, but the fritatta is then slotted into the oven to finish.

Technicalities aside, a fritatta is such an easy and delightful sunny day lunch.

Fritatta on a plate with arugula and toasted almonds

Italian fritatta with arugula and lightly toasted almonds

 

As I savor the taste, I can’t help but notice that all roads seem to lead back to Rome.  Perhaps someday soon I’ll stop procrastinating and finally write about last week’s trip to Italy.

In the meantime, boun appetito!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fritatta del Giorno (read: add in whatever is left in the fridge from last night!)

  • 1/2 cup of onions
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of quarter inch thick sliced potatoes
  • 1 cup of diced veges. Red peppers, corgettes, eggplant or similar seem to work well.
  • 4 organic cage free eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of creamed corn (Ah huh! A magic ingredient that keeps it from falling apart)
  • Dashes of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated grana pardano stravecchio or parmesan cheese

In a small skillet on medium low heat, cook the onions and potato slices in a tablespoon of oil for 5 minutes.  Add the remaining vegetables and cook until they soften, but are not fully done.  Remove the filling from the skillet and set the filling aside.  Wipe the skillet clean, add the remaining olive oil and heat on the stove top.  Preheat the grill on low.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, and add the creamed corn.  Season with salt and pepper.  Once the skillet is hot, pour the egg mixture into the pan.  It should bubble around the sides.  Let it cook for 1 – 2 minutes, then add the vegetable filling directly into the pan.  Let it keep cooking on medium high heat until the edges start to firm up, and the center is still a little floppy.

Sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the fritatta, then place the skillet under the grill.  This should firm up the center of the fritatta, and also melt the grana cheese, making a delicious slightly saltier top.  Keep watch, and when the egg mixture looks solid on top but still jiggles a little when you shake the pan, remove from the broiler.  Removing at this point and letting it stand for 5 minutes will allow the fritatta to keep cooking to perfection.

Break out some cava, prosecco or what ever takes your fancy and enjoy!

Serves 2 – 3.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Things We Do For Love

Summer has finally arrived, kissing New York City with glorious sunshine and crystal blue skies.

English Hubby turns to me this morning and sweetly coons, “let’s do something together”.  So, where else would we be but (note a hint of sarcasm here) sitting in our local pub watching football [aka soccer, dear Americans].  English Hubby has lured me to the Champions League Final – Barcelona v Manchester United.

So here we are.  Sitting at the bar watching grown men in tight shorts chase a ball.  I’ve penetrated the sacred man cave.  We sit with others of his species perched at the altar (read: bar), where golden nectar (read: beer) is served by the pint.  All warmed by the glow of the flickering flat screen (read: Fox Sports).

English Hubby sitting at bar

English Hubby worshipping at the bar

 

Here in this cavern, they mutter in man code: “they’re not man marking, giving them too much space”.  He is engrossed in a sacred bond with the person sitting to the left.  I watch like a zoologist studying subjects in their natural habitat.

Observation #1  – Man cave noise crescendos every time the ball gets closer to the goal, accompanied by exaggerated head clasped by hands movement, vigorous shaking and gripping of napkins.  Chugging of precious nectar tends to ease tensions.

Observation #2 – Barcelona scores.  Television coverage zooms in on players leaping into the air and bumping chests.  Pray tell dear reader, what purpose does it serve?  Nevertheless, this action seems to invigorate the man cave spectators.

Observation #3 – It is a myth that men can’t multi task.  Plenty of evidence of simultaneous nectar drinking, conversation, and watching of half time ads.  Appears to be well honed talent.

Observation #4 – Male species has fine tuned communication skills, particularly adept at providing timely, specific feedback.

  • Beautiful, just beautiful, hopefully you’ll actually start playing now
  • Excellent, well played, now get the ball
  • You can’t let him run all that way without tackling him
  • It should never have been a goal from there. We’ve got to start playing properly. Look at this, it’s ridiculous defending
  • Oh, c’mon boys, don’t go backwards, go forwards
  • Ah, get up you big girl!

It’s a pity the Man-U players can’t hear English Hubby.  After all, they are only 5,000 miles out of ear shot.

Observation #5 – Feeding time at the man cave is dominated by fish and chips or bangers and mash, both with ample servings of HP sauce.  Judging by the accents, said food must stimulate pleasant associations of home.

Plate of fish and chips

English nutrition at its best

 

Match is over.  English obliterated by Spaniards.  English Hubby is saddened.  Looks like I will have to take him shopping for a summer dress and shoes to cheer him up.

Yes…the things we do for love.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Tuscan Goddess

Here she is.  Let me introduce to the world…Eve.  She arrived May 25, 2011, early evening.  Perfectly formed, all shiny and new.

Marcato Atlas 150 Pasta Maker

Eve, the pasta goddess

A delicious reminder of last week – under the Tuscan sun, where we learned to turn glorious eggs, 00 flour and water into golden pasta.

Ah, Eve – she who offers up temptation.

A souvenir that will just keep on giving.  Admittedly, said pasta maker was ordered on online to save having to lug 8lbs of shiny love home on American Airlines.

Speaking of 8lbs, if the snug fit of my skirts are anything to go by, resistance seems to be futile in Italy.  Tuscans are all true blooded foodies and locavores by birth.  Farm fresh isn’t a marketing slogan in that part of the world.  Of course it’s farm fresh.  There’s no need to assume or advertise otherwise! Who wouldn’t fall in love with a region where good food is taken seriously, to the extent that restaurants can be shut down for days, just on the back of a complaint?

Mental note to oneself: before turning out the first batch of carb filled goodness, I must remember to roll slices of bread through Eve to absorb leftover grease and oil from the lovely Italians who put this ingenious contraption together.

Is it strange to feel such adoration for a shiny inanimate object?