Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lately It Occurs To Me.....

...What a long, strange trip it's been.

As I stand on the brink of 2010 and gear up to plunge into 2011, I look behind me at the year that was.  I assessed the first part of the year at the half-mark that was my birthday.  Lots has happened since then.  Some of it bad, but most of it good, especially when I think of how much worse things could have been.  The one thing I know is that I am in a much happier place than I was this time last year.  But I realize that none of this would be possible were it not for the people in my life.  This is an acknowledgment of them for who they are to me.

The beginning of 2010 saw the sad passing of Ginger, which inspired the first blog that I felt I should publish.  She touched my heart in a way that I couldn't understand.  I realized how incredibly special a dog Ginger was when I lost it, in public no less, upon hearing that she had to be put down.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that it takes a lot to make me cry.  Anyway, the passing of Ginger saw the birth of this blog.  Every time I post I wonder about how my blog will be received.  I have got some great compliments from people who read what I write.  Thank you so much for the encouragement.  Thank you to my cousin Rachel Jeganathan Gooneratne for a figurative kick-in-the-rear to get me motivated and for almost always posting a comment; Cathy Brydges for hitting the "Like" button on Facebook after reading; Lynne Schnell for promoting my blog in other locations; Liana Morgan for mentioning my blog in hers; Rizwan Bhaldar for his kind words; everyone who has e-mailed me when anything I've written has touched their heart (you know who you are).  And last but not least, Ingrid Solomon.  Ingrid used to be the editor of a woman's magazine.  I used to look up to her.  She had such a wonderful way with words and I admired her writing so much.  So when Ingrid read one of my blogs and commented on how much she liked it, I was over the moon!  Thank you Ingrid, Your words of encouragement meant more to me than you can ever imagine.

My business continues to make huge strides and I can actually see my dreams take shape in reality.  It is so heartening to get affirmation from people who actually pay money for something I love to do.  Again, so many people to thank.  People at work, who show up every month when we celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries.  People who believe that my business will be a success, and who continue to encourage me.  People who don't just pay lip service but actually bring in business.  I won't name names for fear of embarrassing them.  But if I say, "You're a Schmoopie", they'll get it :-)  People who encourage me by acknowledging pictures I post.  Parag Parekh, Mekhela Deva, Nushrat Burhani and Aslam Shaikh, thank you.

A shout-out to my extended family, especially the ones who live around the Greater Seattle area.  We are so blessed to have them here.  I will admit that we sometimes take each other for granted,  but when a crisis comes along everyone rallies together to help each other in a way that words cannot express.  They will go to ANY lengths to help.  They will wake up at unearthly hours of the morning to be there for you.  They will take you into their home and provide food, a warm bed and an ear to listen.  They will have you focus on the crisis at hand while they take care of your needs.  They will organize a pizza party for the kids to help take their mind off what's going on.  That's the kind of family I come from.  My heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the Jeganathans, the Daniels, the Gunasekarans, the Thivyanathans, Suganthi Jeganathan, Santhosh Daniel and Malathi Michael for being there when we needed them.  Thank you to the Hanstads for allowing us the use of their home while they were on vacation.  Although we didn't take them up on their offer, we truly appreciate it.

Then there are my friends, the positive people I surround myself with, who make every day worth waking up to by just being.  Friends at work, friends on Facebook (the ones who are too far away to be in touch any other way), friends on message boards, friends in my life.  Each and every one of them were hand-picked by a divine entity to be a part of my life and I can't thank them enough for the ways in which they make a difference.  I am so thankful to be back in touch with people I was disconnected from for so many years.  The wonderful thing is that we could just get back to being friends without any awkwardness.  That is a true sign of friendship, the ability to pick up where we left off no matter how much time had passed. I have to acknowledge Nick Shah, Abusaad Sheikh and Sameena Ahmed for making it so easy to talk to them over the phone.  I am so grateful for my CC sisters.  I had the privilege of meeting two of them this year, Laurie and Linda.  I hope to meet many more of them in the years to come. I also thank my canuck Secret Santa Tisha Hicks who bowled me over with the care package she sent me.  LeaAnne Ferreira, my friend  at work who I can talk to about pretty much anything because of who she is.  Just watching her live life the way she does is such a blessing.  She give so much of herself to so many around her, I really don't know how she does it.  LeaAnne is God's love personified. 

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge my immediate family.  My dear brother Jonathan who had his own crises to deal with, but who came through and is such an inspiration.  His wife Bini who stood by him and displayed more courage and strength than I had ever seen from her before.  They open their home and hearts to me every weekend.  The only place on earth where I truly feel I belong, other than in my own home, is in theirs.  Their son Nicholas who continues to grow at least 5 inches (or so it seems) every time I see him and who I fear will soon tower over me.  No matter how tall he grows, he will always be in my heart my doodlebug.  Then there's the rest of my family who is far away, they mean the world to me too, although we don't see each other as much as we'd like to.  My older brother David, who at age 3 knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, and followed through.  His wife Melinda who gave up a successful career to put her marriage first.  Their daughters Elizabeth and Rebecca, who are blossoming into beautiful young women.  Finally, my parents, John and Ida Powell.  No matter where they are, I will always be a part of them.  My father, with all his talent, my mother with her grit, her strength and her tenacity.  I don't know anyone else who seized the heck out of every day the way my mother did.  No matter what life threw at her, she'd roll with it.  And how!  She went back to college at age 39.  This was unheard of back in the day and back in India.  She had a heart for teaching and she opened up her own preschool at age 46.  It was a huge success.  Then she left it all behind to come to this country.  She started a new job, learned to drive and lived life on her own terms.  She was WAY ahead of her time in every way.  No wonder I would get an earful from her if I settled for anything less than the best.  Thank you Mom!

If I haven't mentioned you, it doesn't mean that you are any less important in my life.  God Bless you for who you are to me.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed 2011.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

An Attitude of Gratitude

In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.  

As an immigrant to this wonderful country, Thanksgiving was one of the honored traditions I was more than happy to adopt.  For one thing, there was all the food, and I love food.  But deeper than that, there was the acknowledgement of all the blessings I had been fortunate enough to receive.  Our extended family would share our Thanksgiving meal together, a peaceful and wonderful time before the frenzy of the holidays began.  
My cousin Rachel wrote a blog this past week titled Giving Thanks.  As I read the list of blessings that Rachel is thankful for, I began to count the blessings bestowed on me through grace alone, not because I have been deserving of them.  I say this because a couple of months ago I realized that I acknowledged my blessings with no more than a perfunctory thanks, while I focussed all my thoughts on what I didn't have.  Every time I thought about everything I believed was lacking in my life, I would think, "How much longer am I supposed to wait?"  Little did I realize that rather than making things happen I was waiting for them to happen.  I began to seek out daily self-motivational quotes which I would post as my Facebook status to inspire myself.  

Going deep into my thoughts is not a place I like to go, because it brings up feelings and emotions that are easier not to have to deal with.  But this past week I gathered up the courage to make that journey.  Through tears and remorse I came back with a feeling that I needed to be more grateful.  Not just on or around Thanksgiving, but every day of my life.  There was a saying I read once, that goes: "Think not of what you lack as of what you have; of what you have select the best, considering how you would seek them if you had them not."  

Beginning Monday, I am going to write a daily Gratitude Journal. My initial thought was to begin my Gratitude Journal on New Years day, then I kicked my own behind with the thought that procrastination is another vice of mine that I need to shake off Every day I wake up is a day to be thankful, so why wait?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Remembering Dad

25 years ago today, my father passed away.  Although the pain diminishes with time, it comes back on days like today.  I want to share a blog that I wrote on Father's Day 2010, a day that I realized how much I missed my father.   I don't know if the rest of my family had a chance to read it back when I wrote it.

To everyone who does not have their father with them anymore, I know the pain you feel.  To others who do, give your father a hug every day if you can and tell him how much you love him.

Love you Dad.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Top 10 "Office" Moments

Picture: Courtesy
There once was a time when I looked forward to Thursdays, to watch my favorite show, "The Office".  Each one of the whole ensemble of actors brought something to the show.  There was the hot-and-cold Jim/Pam relationship that had us guessing which way it would go.  We all ultimately breathed a happy sigh of relief when they hooked up.  There was the Dwight/Angela/Andy love triangle.  There was Stanley with his health issues, Kelly's obsession with Ryan, Meredith's alcoholism, and of course Michael with his desperate need to be liked and accepted.

Let's face it.  The show "The Office" isn't what it used to be.  It seems like the show has run its course.  The show is trying too hard, even bringing in actors like Kathy Bates.  Unfortunately, that didn't help.

So, harking back to the good old days, here are my Top Ten moments from the show "The Office", some of them with clips included.

Counting down:

10.  Princess Unicorn
I wish I had found the clip I was looking for.  At the end of the episode, Dwight sells the last Princess Unicorn to Darrell.  Toby is desperate to get one for his daughter, so pays Darrell $400 for the one he just bought.  Toby then discovers that he just paid $400 for an African-American Princess Unicorn.

9.  Dwight Roasts Michael
All of the roasts were good.  Pam: "(Michael's genitalia) is so small that if it were an iPod, it would be a Shuffle"; Andy sings, "What I Hate About You"; Meredith goes into a diatribe that includes "You Are The Reason I Drink".

8.  Jan Sings "Son of a Preacher Man"
Michael has the Party Planning Committee host a baby shower for Jan.  She shows up with baby Astrid (Michael thinks the baby's name is "AsTIRD")  At some point during the baby shower, Jan bursts into song while the others are forced to sit and listen to her.

7.  Andy singing "Take A Chance On Me"
Andy sings the Abba classic to Angela, with 3 part harmony backup.  It's too bad I couldn't find a video for this one, but it was truly classic.

6.  "That's What She Said"
Immediately after Michael promises Jan that he will no longer do the "That's what she said" routine, Jim comes up with as many opportunities to break Michael down.  

5.  Jim as Dwight

4.  The Dunder Mifflin Commercial
When corporate sends a couple of guys over to shoot a DM Commercial, Michael comes up with his own.

3.  The Diwali Song 
When Kelly invites the entire office to a Diwali celebration, Michael does a parody of Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song.

2.  Jim Asks Out Pam
I couldn't find a clip, but this is a video shot of the tv while it is being played.  The look on Pam's face at the end is just awesome.

1.  The Wedding Entrance Dance
Based loosely on the youtube video that went viral and was featured on The Today Show, this is one of the truly unforgettable moments on The Office.  

I would like to hear your favorite "Office" moments. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Spooky Little Boy

I had celebrated Halloween only twice in the last 14 years.  The first time I bought a straw hat and a flannel shirt which I destroyed on purpose so I could be  the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz when that was our "Team Theme" at work. The year after that I dressed up for for The Pirates of Finzance.  We were Team Finance so that was our play on words.  Pretty lame, but it worked.  The highlight of that experience was my painted on 5 o'clock shadow.  Most people couldn't help but exclaim, "Susanna!  You forgot to shave today!" Other than that, all I've really ever done is hand out candy to the little dressed up children that came by trick-or-treating either at work or at my door.

This year was different.  I had my nephew Nicholas come in at my place of work, and I took him trick-or-treating.

Nicholas was dropped off at my place of work around 2:30 p.m.  I donned on his costume over his clothes.  He dressed up as the Ghostface character from the Scream movies.  It was a great costume with a very real-looking mask.  During the time he wore it, people asked to see the face under it.   However, because of how the mask was made, Nicholas couldn't breathe even though his parents cut a hole in the nose area.  Somewhere along the line the mask was abandoned, but that didn't take away from any of the fun.  The costume kept everyone guessing because it would have worked well as Darth Vader, a monk, or The Grim Reaper.  

We began with my team.  We did okay on the 7th floor, but the pickings were slim on the 3rd floor where most of my team sits.  They had their Halloween party the previous day.  We made it up and down each of the 10 floors in the building where I work, in no particular order.  Nicholas kept track of which floors we hit and which floors needed to be visited.  On his way he met a kid dressed up as a garbage can.  He commented on how real the costume looked, so real that he felt the need to use it to throw a used paper towel.  Thank goodness he didn't act on his thoughts!  

Nicholas did well with going up to people and saying "Trick or Treat" and then speaking to them if they asked him questions.  He ended each visit with his signature "Thanks".  Not "Thank you", but a quick "Thanks".  I had to keep reminding him to take only one piece of candy from each person he visited.  Most people told him he could have more than one, so at one point he told me "You're the only person who tells me to take just one.  Everyone wants me to have more!"  It didn't help that someone whose desk we stopped at actually came looking for us and gave him her entire stash of candy because she was leaving for the day.  

And so we went, stopping at each floor, his candy bag getting more and more filled.  During one elevator ride, someone told us we should make it a point to stop on the 10th floor.  He mentioned a Treasure Chest of candy there.  This is the floor where the Senior Leadership of our organization sits.  I told Nicholas that when we got there he really had to behave.  No running, no speaking in a loud voice.  Although he hadn't done either of those, I couldn't be careful enough.  When we got to the 10th floor, there was an executive meeting going on, but as we walked by, I could see everyone in the room look at Nicholas and smile.  We made our way around the floor while Nick stopped and each Executive Assistant's desk and collected candy.  Then we saw it, the Treasure Chest we had heard about.  It didn't have the little pieces of candy.  It had large candy bars and large bags of miscellaneous sweets that kids seem to go for.  We headed there.  Once we got to the Treasure Chest, we were told by the Executive Assistant that we needed to wait.  She then went and knocked on a door.  A Senior Vice President and two Regional Vice Presidents emerged.  All three of them wished Nicholas a Happy Halloween, then the Senior Vice President took a picture of him.  He then proceeded to suggest to Nick to pick a bag of candy that were little skulls that oozed blood when you bit on them.  That's the kind of place I work for, where Senior Leadership step out of meetings to make kids feel important.  Nicholas didn't realize the magnitude of this experience, but I definitely did.

When we were finally done visiting all floors, Nicholas sat at my desk with me and handed out candy to the other children who came by.  The children that came by were dressed as a cowboy, some super-heroes I didn't recognize, some Star Wars character, a fairy and a witch.  There was also a baby dressed as a pumpkin.  He couldn't stop staring at Nick.  Then there was the shy boy almost the same age as him.  Nicholas found it particularly interesting to meet someone who was so shy.  I'm not sure why that was.  Nick also met a couple of my friends at work.  This was great because it felt like my two separate worlds - work and personal - were coming together.  We had such a blast!  We left the office around 5:30 p.m.  Nicholas couldn't stop talking about his experience all the way home.  Once home, he continued to talk to his parents about all the things he did and all the fun he had.  It seemed that the candy didn't mean as much to him as the little "extras" that he managed to score, like a spider ring, an eerily real-looking mouse, and a book of stickers.  He also really enjoyed handing out candy to the kids. 

This was another "first" that I got a chance to enjoy with Nicholas.  Halloween looks very different when it is seen through a child's eyes.  To top it all, I got the tightest hug before I headed back home.  

Thank you, my doodlebug, for helping me experience so much fun through you.  

Happy Halloween everyone!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

This month's Readers Digest has an article aptly titled "Make it Stop!"  that lists 31 fads that they believe have to go.  As I read this article, I found myself either nodding my head in agreement or exclaiming "THANK YOU!" as I am known to do when I hear my thoughts expressed by someone else.  But to my own surprise, I found myself disagreeing with some of what I was reading.  Here's are my thoughts on some of the fads mentioned in the article, in no particular order.

ELASTIC WAISTBAND NATION:  I absolutely agree that we have turned into a bunch of slobs that have taken dressing down to a whole new low.  Now I don't necessarily believe we should all dress up to a level of discomfort for any  occasion, but I do believe there is some truth to what the "Pants On The Ground" guy had to say.  We need to get rid of those sweatpants with paint or bleach stains on them, the t-shirt with the tear that we think nobody will notice (trust me, we all see it!) and yes - please - Snuggies!  To quote the Carso Cressley who penned this part of the article, "Adults wearing fleece onsies?  What fresh new hell is this!"

GROUP PRIDE:  I'm not sure I am in full agreement with this fad, if it can be classified as such.  I don't have a problem with people breaking down their heritage (I'm one quarter Cherokke on my dad's side and Jewish, Samoan.....), nor do I have a problem with someone proclaiming themselves as a geek.  I applaud the fact that people have turned aound what was once a disdainful term and choose to wear their geekdom with pride.  As for Croning festivals (apparently for women turning 60, according to the article), I hope I am fortunate enough to live that long.  If I am, I will pull out all the stops to celebrate!

BOWWOW BLING:  Dressing up a dog is stupid.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I love my dog JackJack with all my heart, but he is a dog first.  As a matter of fact, that's all he is.  Dogs are not supposed to be dressed up in coordinating outfits as their owner.  They are not supposed be dressed up at all.  No doggie outfits, no puppy nail color for girl dogs, no nothing.  It does not mean you love them any less.  If a dog had a voice, they'd tell you how much they loathe being dressed up.  The next time you see a dressed up dog, look into their eyes.  When you look deep enough, you will see embarrassment and humiliation.

CALLER ID:  I am not sure I agree with this fad that the article puts down.  I love having the ability to screen calls.  I love that I don't have to listen to a telemarketer while they run their speil by me and choose not to hear me when I tell them I'm not interested.  According to the author, back in the day before Caller ID, you could answer the phone "And it's a stranger telling you something that totally changes your mood, your day, maybe your life."  I'm not sure what parallel universe the author may be residing in, but do you remember this ever happening while you inhabited the real world?  I don't.  The other thing I love about Caller ID is that if the call is from someone dear to me, I smile when I see their number show up and I carry that smile into my conversation with them.  The element of surprise still exists, only a few seconds sooner.  That's a convenience I can live with.

BEYOND ONE'S QUALIFICATION: Again, kudos to the author on nailing it. People honestly believe that they can walk into a management position with absolutely no experience relevant to the job. Wake up, wide-eyed and cluelessly delusional twentysomething!  Your parents may have raised you to believe that every little thing you do is magic, but the real world knows better.  The only people who hire just about anyone are those reality shows on MTV. 

HIPSTER WORDS:  Another fad that makes me want to raise my hands up heavenward and say Hallelujah.  I have always hated words that end in -ista, like the word Fashionista, as quoted in the article.  There are some words and sentences that are so overused you can almost predict their demise.  Remember "Been there, done that"?  How about "You had me at hello"?  Then there was "24-7-365".  Does this one sound familiar: "Whazzup", especially said the way they did in the Budweiser commercials?  Oh, and those two-word mash-ups that became hip when Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez got together.  Those make my head hurt.  Bennifer?  Really?  I think Lake Superior State University comes up with a list of Banished Words every year.  Please LSSU, if I never hear the word Frenemies again, it won't be soon enough for me!

THE DEMISE OF THE LAUGH TRACK:  The article wants the laugh track back in sitcoms.  I disagree with this one.  I don't need a laugh track to help me watch a sitcom.  I am perfectly capable of deciding whether something is funny or not.  Losing the laugh track has made me realize that it was no more than a distraction to begin with. 

HUH?:  The author has a problem with people saying this instead of the more polite "Pardon me" or "I'm sorry, I didn't hear what you said."  Actually this one doesn't bother me as much as the article says it should.  I don't mind someone asking me "Huh?" instead.  I can't stand a "What" thrown my direction in a biting or mean tone. 

THE SHAKY CAM: This phenomenon became popular with the movie "The Blair Witch Project" and has stayed with us much longer than we may have liked it to.  That's true at least for me.  Too much camera movement while the rest of my body is stationary makes me feel dizzy and nauseous.  I don't  like going to a movie and coming out feeling like I want to throw up.  The ticket prices do that to me all on their own. 

SHOULD I FLUSH?:  What if  there is an inconsiderate jerk talking on their cellphone in a public restroom?  Should I flush?  Yes you should.  We all should.  Every time.  You don't owe the schmuck any consideration.  Think about it, what better revenge than possibly creating a situation where they may have to explain the sound of a toilet flushing to the person at the other end of the conversation?

CHURLISH BEHAVIOR = $:  This fad definitely has  to go.  When did we go from being intolerant of bad behavior to accepting, then applauding and now rewarding it?  Eliot Spitzer is a co-anchor on a CNN talk show.  Eliot Spitzer.  This is the same sleazeball douchebag who had his wife stand by his side with a pained look of deep hurt on her face while he confessed his infidelity to the world.  I think that the glorification of misbehavior can be attributed to Reality TV and talk shows.  Bill O'Reilly can bully his guests.  Whoopi and Joy can walk off a set.  Professionalism can be tossed out the window.  A debate is no longer an intelligent exchange of  thought from two different sides of an issue but rather a shouting match of who can get the last word in.  It needs to stop.  The offenders need to be given a permanent time-out.

ANTIBACTERIAL AMERICA:  While I don't think this fad needs to disappear altogether, I do think we have become germophobes to an unhealthy level and to our own detriment.  We do need some germs to give our antibodies something to do.  If not, they become sluggish from non-use.  Also, while there is no scientific evidence of this, I do believe that in some cases there are certain allergies and diseases that are caused by antibodies fighting a person's own immune system.  Another thing I believe is that when we try to get rid of every germ and bacteria with bleach and antibacterial gel, the ones that that survive our obsession only generate organisms that are even harder to kill.  So when you are attacked by one of these super germs, it's like a punch between the eyes.  I am no scientist, but I honestly feel this way because my childhood illnesses come nowhere close in comparison to even a slight cold I may catch nowadays.

As for the rest of the nineteen fads listed in the article (I didn't count, but they said it was 31 and I've listed 12) I don't really have an opinion on them one way or the other.  I do have a list of fads of my own that I think should go.  But that's a different post for another time.  Uh oh, does that last sentence qualify as "Hipster Words"?  I hope not!

Friday, October 1, 2010

22 Blogs And Counting

This is my 22nd post since I first began blogging.  It's been about four months since I began my weekly posts.  Every week, I pull out a new canvas and set it up on the easel of my blog page.  I go deep into my mind and pull out colors of words which I paint into the sweeping brush-strokes of my thoughts.  I know I am neither an accomplished artist nor am I a prolific writer, but I love doing this.  And I thank the people who indulge me by reading what I write.  I thank people even more for the comments they leave me either here or on Facebook.  Feedback is always a good thing.

Here are some updates to some of my blogs.

Ginger's Mom found Barney, a 5 year old male Golden Retriever who was looking for a home.  They bonded instantly.  No dog will ever take Ginger's place in her Mom's heart, but Barney clearly helps fill the void left by Ginger's sudden passing. 

I still eat my cupcake sideways when I do eat one.

Hallelujah!  Fred Meyer in Issaquah actually fixed the stalls in the ladies room which helps make them easier to use.  They didn't move anything around, they just installed smaller toilet paper holders.  What a difference that makes!  I would like to think my Open Complaint contributed in some way, although that is very unlikely!

I got my behind back in gear and started blogging again and more regularly, thanks to Rachel.  She writes her own blog, rachel unplugged, which I love to read!

Family Guy still rocks!  In fact, there is more about this show that I will comment a few paragraphs down, which has to do with another blog post of mine.

With every cake I bake, I get closer to my commitment to go full time into the baking and confectionery business.  And with every step I take toward this goal, the less conundrums go through my head about  my abilities.  Baking is still, and will continue to always be, my therapy.  It's a tremendous boost to my confidence when I get a shout out from my uncle in his Facebook status!

I've had Ho Mok Talay at O'Char in Issaquah twice after the blog I wrote about it.  I still want to go there with both Rachel and with Ingrid St. Claire.  That will happen one of these days.  I hope.  I haven't been back to Sea Thai Restaurant in Seattle.  I have just added this on my list of things to do.

I still miss my Dad terribly.  That blog was one that generated the most number of comments.

JackJack is doing great.  He is such a happy dog!  He is definitely mellowing out as he grows older, but that doesn't stop him from loving life.  He is not a huge fan of Barney though, at least not yet.

I still love music and play the radio at work.  I have to comment on a couple of songs.  The first is a song called "Breakeven" by the Irish band The Script.  The song is so sad because it is about a broken relationship from which one of the people has moved on but the other can't let go.  I don't know if it's the lyrics or the voice of the person that sings it, but I can't help liking the song.  I have been there, but the song doesn't make me sad or make me cry.  I just really appreciate  how well the emotion behind the song has been captured into lyrics, tune and rendition.  The other song I have to comment on, and I'm sure you're not surprised, is "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.  I actually found a version that I enjoy.  I'm sure it wouldn't surprise if I told you it was the Family Guy Karaoke version.  This is the only clip I could find to share, which unfortunately is a video capture of a television screen.  So that's my Family Guy additional reference from a few paragraphs above.

I am looking forward to my next trip to "Facing East" Restaurant.  It hasn't happened yet.  I'm wondering if any of my readers had a chance to go.  I'm still interested in going with anyone if they would like.  Yes Suganthi, I'm talking to you!

I continue to try out new recipes I find on the internet.  As a matter of fact, I have created a separate blog named My Kitchen Table, which I plan to update as and when I can.  The blogs there will be food-related, whether they are recipes, restaurant/food reviews, world cuisine, things like that.  Please feel free to visit, or even better, add yourself as a follower.

My doodlebug nephew Nicholas formally celebrated his birthday at Chuck E Cheese's in Lynnwood on September 18th.  He invited about 15 of his very loud, very rambunctious friends and they had a great time. 

I booked my tickets to see Wendy Liebman on October 23rd.  I can't wait!

People who talk/text and drive still bug the living heck out of me.

So there you are.  Consider yourself updated :-)

Thank you for reading.  Love and peace.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cellphone Etiquette

I was in at a Subway restaurant the other day ordering a sandwich, when I saw a sign that said "Please do not talk on your cellphone while ordering."  Is a sign like that really necessary, you ask.  Would you believe it if I told you that it most definitely is?  While I haven't been made to wait by someone on their cellphone at a Subway restaurant, I have been made to wait at a Starbucks and at a grocery store.  I have also been irked by thoughtless cellphone usage in other situations that have made me very uncomfortable.

Nobody can deny the the cellphone is one of the most useful and important modern conveniences.   With the advent of do-it-all handsets like the iPhone, the cellphone does more than just keep people connected with one another.  There is the convenience of GPS, a camera and the Internet at your fingertips, not to mention an application available for pretty much anything you want your cellphone to do.  Of course, when you put a cellphone into the hands of certain people, their behavior becomes so obnoxious that you wish you could take it back from them right away.  So to preserve the sanity of the rest of us, I thought it may be a good idea to talk about the potentially explosive subject of cellphone etiquette.  I know that some of you are probably thinking, "How DARE she tell me what to do?"  I am going to go out on a limb here even if you hate me for it.  I KNOW I'm not the only one who feels this way about cellphone usage, and I believe I speak for those who don't have a voice or feel too awkward to say anything.

WHILE WAITING IN LINE:  It is perfectly acceptable to talk or text while waiting in line, waiting being the operative word.  You just want to make sure to modulate your voice so we can't hear you.  When it is your turn to order or check out as the case may be, please dispense with all cellphone use until you have done so.  This means you should not get to the front of the line and continue your conversation while the rest of us wait, neither does it mean you continue the conversation between placing an order and paying for it.  Once you get back into your conversation, more often than not you get so absorbed in it that you don't hear anyone around you.  So when you are told how much you owe, you don't hear it, making the rest of us wait longer than we should. 

WHEN YOU ARE WITH PEOPLE:  In this situation, the polite thing to do would be to allow the call to go to voice mail.  If you absolutely have to take the call, first make sure to excuse yourself.  Then retreat to a quiet location and take the call, but keep it short.   Please don't have a long and loud conversation in the presence of the people you're with.  

IN PUBLIC RESTROOMS:  This includes the restrooms at work as well.  Is there really any conversation that can't wait until you're out of the restroom?  Also, if you're comfortable having people listen to your bodily functions as you perform them, good for you.  I on the other hand, feel bad enough that you can hear me go to the bathroom. I don't need your friends to be able to hear me as well.

WHEN YOU HAVE A CRYING CHILD:  The crying child needs your attention.  You are the adult.  Hang up the phone and calm the child down.

WHEN IN PUBLIC ANYWHERE:  No matter where you are, nobody wants to hear the conversation you are having.  Please don't inflict it on us.  It is suggested you observe a 10 foot rule to have a private conversation.  If you can't manage to find a place 10 feet away from everyone in order to have a conversation, then stand in one place, speak softly and have your conversation.  Do not walk around while talking. Also, set your phone on vibrate if you're in church, in a meeting, in a movie theater, at a funeral or any other place where it is inappropriate to have your phone ring. 

WHILE DRIVING:  This is probably my biggest pet peeve.  Using the cellphone while driving has been outlawed by many States including WA, but it still continues.  I know you think that you can drive just fine while using your phone.  However most people can't, and for the safety and well-being of everyone the law has been put in place.  Please obey the law.  Again, there is no conversation that can't wait until you get to your destination.  If it truly can't wait, then pull over to a parking lot, have your conversation and then drive. Don't contribute to the statistic, or worse become a part of it.

I know you have choices.  Choose wisely.  And please consider the people around you.  Please.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Heeeere's Wendy!

Picture: Courtesy Wendy Liebman
 "I wanted to get married at the drive-through wedding chapel. That way if I wanted a divorce, I could just drive in reverse."

That was the first joke I ever heard from Wendy Liebman. She was being interviewed by a local radio station back in 1999. (103.7 FM - The Mountain, Seattle WA.) I have since then had the opportunity to hear Wendy on the radio station's 7:20 and 5:20 Funny. The more I heard this smart, amazingly funny comedian the more I was hooked!

By her own admission, Wendy Liebman has been told that she resembles Ruth Buzzi, Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss and Prince.....Charles, who she thinks looks like a frog that had been kissed but it didn't quite take. That is what I love about Wendy's act, the timing of her delivery. Just when you think you've heard the joke in its entirety, she delivers a zinger of a line that makes you laugh even harder. Wendy also didn't want to go to her 30 year reunion because she had put on 100 lbs....since kindergarten. She loves weddings, but she always cries...because they are not hers. Wendy Liebman has been described as "The Comedian With The Subliminal Afterthought" and "The lady with the time-release punch-line."

If you have never heard of Wendy Liebman, you can watch her clips on YouTube and judge for yourself. Her humor is very self-deprecating at times, but that only comes from her self-confidence. Upon reading her bio, I realized that Wendy is a very down to earth person. There is a section titled "What I learned doing Stand Up", which contains some sage advice that can be carried over to anyone's life. "Prepare, show up, do your best and learn for the next time." Who can argue with that?

This past week I got to experience Wendy in her element. By now, if you haven't seen/heard of the Meat Dress worn by Lady Gaga to the MTV Video Music Awards, you must either be a hermit or living under a rock. Whether you think it was a bold move, or found it totally repulsive, you have to admit that the situation was just begging for a joke or two. My twisted mind took me back to 1984 when the fast food chain "Wendy's" ran the "Where's the Beef" commercials.  "There's the beef", I thought to myself.  I wondered what Wendy Liebman's take on the Lady Gaga Meat Dress situation would be.

Wendy delivered via Facebook. Here are her status messages from the past week about Lady Gaga and the Meat Dress:

"I heard Lady Gaga wore a dress made out of meat to the VMAs and is planning a cover of Who Let The Dogs Out"

"If it had been kangaroo meat, Lady G would have had pockets"

"Lady Gs dress would have looked better with spaghetti straps. (My last update on this.)"

Except that wasn't the last update. There were more:


"I'm just surprised she found a cow her exact size!"

"Gaga is the sound I make when I eat meat"

Each of these status messages generated some really awesome and funny comments.
So Wendy came up with:

"Who wants to compile a book of all of these (and ones from my other updates) and who wants to illustrate it and who wants to publish it, produce it, market it, distribute it, sell it, and go to Fiji with the profits?"

I would so love to be the one to get a book published, but I would need everyone to agree. Besides, I don't have the time. What I did manage to get though, is for Wendy to agree to let me share with you the ones I've posted above.

Wendy Liebman is going to be at the Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland from October 21st through the 23rd. I, for one, just can't WAIT!

Thank you for the laughs Wendy Liebman. Keep them coming. You rock!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tribute to a Teacher

A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others. ~Author Unknown

There I was, four years old, my first day of Kindergarten.  I wore a new white uniform and a new green tie with a diagonal yellow stripe across it.  I wore new white socks and new black leather Mary Janes.  My shoes were a little too tight.  I had a new green school bag, which had in it a new little snack box with four cookies. Everything was new.  My attire was new, the place was new to me, the people were new.   I felt scared and nervous.  It was early morning and I was one of the first students to arrive at school.  I was not quite sure what I was supposed to do, so I just stood at the door of my classroom.  Then a kind face looked into mine, while a gentle voice told me to sit down.  I looked around, wondering where I should sit.  She told me to pick any chair I wanted since I was the first one there.  She took my school bag, set it aside and gave me some toys to play with.  Soon more children began to arrive.  One of them sat next to me and began to chew on a piece of pink-colored chalk.  Some of them began to cry.  I remember one of them cried really loud.  Another one cried until they threw up, while another soiled their pants.  Needless to say, it was quite a chaotic day. 

The next day didn't feel quite so awkward.  I walked into class and the lady with the kind face, I now knew as my teacher, greeted me good morning and took my bag.  She told me that it was good manners to say good morning back when anyone said that to me.  I took her words literally and said "Good Morning Back".  She laughed a happy laugh, held my chin in her hand and told me I was cute.  I felt like somehow my teacher made this a safe place to be.  Her name was Maureen Cordeiro, as I learned at some point.  She was like a mother to me and my classmates.  She gathered all of us around her like a mother hen and we were a her little chickens.  I have no idea how she managed to control all of us without going insane. 

Miss Cordeiro was born to be a teacher. She had so much love to give. She had the patience of Job. She had the gift of making each of her students feel special and unique. She was the cohesive force that brought all of us kids together to help us get to know each other better. She seemed to realize that teaching was not about the academics, but also about helping us tap into our potential and be the best we could be, no matter how young we were. The one thing I hated to do in Kindergarten was to write. For some reasons I didn't have the basic motor skills to hold a piece of chalk and get my hand to move at the same time. Miss Cordeiro used to hold my hand and help me. I then began to depend on my teacher's help for writing exercises, which she soon realized. One day she refused to help me and told me I could try to write on my own. I had made up my mind that I couldn't. I began to cry and ask her to help me. She told me in a calm but firm voice that I had to try. I held my ground but she wouldn't back down. I finally picked up the piece of chalk and held it to my writing slate. "Good," I heard her say, "Now write the letter A." I cried hard, but I wrote anyway, tears and snot dribbling down my face and on my slate. All the while, Miss Cordeiro stood behind me, encouraging me. When I was done she applauded, then wiped my face and said, "See? That wasn't so bad now, was it?" I learned that day that my teacher wasn't swayed by tantrums. I also learned that no matter how much I thought I couldn't do something, I needed to at least give it a try

 My friends and I had so much fun that year in Kindergarten.  We learned funny songs, we played games, we did art and craft projects.  One of our craft projects was tearing colored paper into little pieces and sticking them with glue like a mosaic on a larger piece of paper.  All the kids wanted to be over and done with their project.  I was so fascinated by how pretty a mosaic could look, and realized that if I tore up small bits of paper I would wind up with a prettier end result.  I sat there and tore and stuck and at the end had one of the nicest looking mosaics.  I remember being given a star for accomplishment.  Miss Cordeiro made sure to tell my mother how meticulous I was and how proud she was of me.   That year we also learned Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, which I loved to recite these in front of the entire class.  I don't know if it was the attention I liked from everyone or just the fact that I was told that I was really good, but I loved it.  Of course, none of this was without Miss Cordeiro's encouragement.  I remember toward the end of the year being made to recite every Nursery Rhyme we had learned through the year.  The purpose of this exercise was to see if I would qualify for the prize for recitation.  I cinched it.   To this day, I think the biggest lesson I took away from all those years ago is to be comfortable speaking in a crowd.  I learned that and I learned to be a good teacher.  I don't teach for a living, but whenever I have to impart any kind of training or make a presentation, it is almost always a success.  Of course there were teachers that came along later and fine-tuned these skills I have developed, but I attribute these successes to Miss Cordeiro because she taught me the basics.

Years later my brother had the privilege of being taught by Miss Cordeiro as well. When I would go check up on my brother during recess, I would get a chance to talk to her. Nothing had changed. She was the same loving and affectionate lady as she was when she taught me. At that time she told me that my first day of school was her first day as a teacher. Now that I am all grown up, I wonder how nervous she must have been, but if she were, you would never have known. Miss Cordeiro continued to teach for years and bless so many students with her love, patience and knowledge. At some point she became Mrs. Maureen DSouza and had a family. She is now retired so she can enjoy the fruits of her labor. I am so fortunate to have got in touch with her again through Facebook. She is a also grandmother to a very lucky granddaughter. . .

I am so happy that Mrs DSouza is doing well.  I am so blessed to have been taught by her.  I am filled with so much gratitude that I can write this blog as a tributeAfter all, the first step to make this blog even possible was to be able to hold a piece of chalk and write on a slate.  That's one of the few things my teacher did for me.

Words are not enough to thank you for what you have done for me, Mrs. DSouza.  God Bless You.

This blog was supposed to be published last week because Teachers Day is observed on September 5th in India, to commemorate the birthday of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, an academic philosopher and prolific teacher.  I believe that one week later it isn't any less relevant, because I will never stop being thankful.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Seven Years Ago

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.  Saturday, September 6th, 2003.

I remember waking up thinking, "This is it!"  All of us had waited almost nine months for this day that was finally here.  You were due in five days, but I somehow knew you would be born that day.  I turned my cellphone on.  Sure enough, there was a voice mail from your Ammachi, (My Mom).  Your mother was being taken to the hospital because you couldn't wait any longer to be born.  I quickly showered, threw on some clothes and headed to Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland.  When I got there, my aunt Shanti and uncle Rajan were already in the waiting room.  They told me that your Mom and Dad were in the delivery room.  We sat around for a while, talking while we waited.  Then we saw the hospital staff wheeling a bed into the room that was supposed to be your Mom's.  I continued to look past the hospital staff.  Then I saw my aunt Prema turn the corner and head toward us.  She was walking with my brother, your Dad Jonathan, who had a little bundle in his arms.  

About 30 minutes old
I walked up to Jonathan and hugged him congratulations.  I then looked into the bundle and saw a little scrunched up, newborn face.  There you were, my precious little nephew.  Eyes shut tight, squirming.  I saw the look of pride on your Daddy's face, as I took a picture of his little baby.  You were so beautiful! You began to whimper loudly.  Then you stopped and started again, almost as if you were surprised that you were able to hear the sound you were making.  I don't remember the exact sequence of events, but at some point your Ammachi showed up and so did my cousin Suganthi.  Everyone came into the room and we passed you around, ooh-ing and ahh-ing and cooing while we gently talked to you.  Someone came in and measured the circumference of your head, the size of your feet, your length and your weight.  Someone else came in to give you a bath.  I remember you making another sound of surprise when you were dunked into the warm water.  You really seemed to enjoy your bath.  It must have been so soothing and such a comfort in this strange world you came into, where everyone was passing you around and looking into your face as they talked to you in weird voices.  

3 months
I couldn't stop looking at this little miracle that was you.  You  were so small, but so alive, moving around, lifting your hands, separating your fingers.  At some point I gathered up enough courage to pick you up, this fragile little human being that you were.  I looked at you and distant memories from back in my early life came to me in a haze.  I was about three and a half years old when your Dad Jonathan was born, but I vaguely remember that day.  I remember looking at my baby brother.  I remember how red his face became as he cried.   Now I was looking at my baby brother, all grown up, holding his little son.  Life had now come full circle.  How wonderful it was that all of us were at the hospital for such a happy event!  I think that was your plan all along, to be born on a Saturday, because you wanted to make it convenient for everyone to attend your grand debut! 

6 months old, in Las Vegas
I visited you every day the first two weeks of your life, so I could bring some reprieve to your tired parents and grandmother.  All you did was pretty much eat, sleep and cry.  You had very severe colic and used to be in a lot of pain.  You'd double up from the pain in your stomach and scream out loud.  It used to make us all feel so helpless that there was nothing we could do to make you feel better.  As the days wore on, things got easier.  But every time I visited you, you didn't remember me.  You would cry every time you saw me.  Just when we managed to bond it was time for me to go home.  That was okay though, because I knew at some point we wouldn't have to do this anymore because you would remember who I was and everything would be fine.  Sure enough, when you were around six months, you didn't cry when you saw me, and you seemed to remember who I was.  To my surprise, you actually began to look forward to weekends and spending time with me.  At some point you began to express your love for me by grabbing a fistful of my long hair and tugging at it.  As you grew, you gave up the hair-pulling and you would hug my head and kiss me all over my face.  That was a true expression of love which overwhelmed me, because you were a baby and nobody had taught you how to do that.  

A little over a year old
There are so many memories created with you, and I treasure every single one of them.  There was the time you first called me "Athai" (The Tamil word for aunt).  You were on the phone with me and your little baby voice struggled with the word.  "Ath", "Ath".  Then the whole word came out.  "Athai", you said,  quite happy with yourself.  You began to giggle.  I was beside myself with joy as I laughed so hard, tears were streaming down my face.  As you grew, there was more time spent with you.  You would burst out laughing every time your Dad said the words "Scrubbing Bubbles".  Nobody knew why, but it just endeared you to us even more than we knew was possible.  You were probably too young to remember this, but I still remember the first car ride you took alone with me.  It was a long drive home from the airport, in rush-hour traffic.  I dreaded the thought that at some point during the drive you would become cranky and cry for your Mom or Dad, and I wouldn't know what to do.  As it turned out, you were more than happy to ride along alone with me.  We had such a blast, singing silly songs at the top of our voices, playing peek-a-boo through the rear-view mirror, laughing all the way home.  

Goofin' around
As you grew up and began to speak in full sentences, things became even more fun.  The first sentence you ever spoke to me was "Walk there".  Somewhere along the way I lost my "Athai" status and became Susanna, but that was okay.  I was still your aunt.  You used to love listening to stories, and the stories didn't necessarily have to make sense.  You loved your cars.  You know the names of  the make of cars by their symbols.  You could barely speak, but you could say the words "Honda", "Volks", "Merce", "Sub-ru", and "Totah" for Toyota, You loved teddy bears and your toy train, your singing and dancing Elmo.   You loved music, my how you loved music!  You would stop what you were doing and listen raptly whenever music played, then you would begin to dance.  You were an awesome dancer even before the famous YouTube baby became an international sensation.  I remember the first time you sang "Dani California" for Rock Band.  We have since spent endless hours playing that game.  You make it look so easy when you play the guitar or drums.  You're learning to play the piano now, and you did such a good job at the recital I had the pleasure to attend.  I hope one day you'll pick up and learn to play the real guitar I bought you a few birthdays ago.  

Christmas 2009
I look at all the pictures I took of you as a baby and a toddler.  I can't believe how much you've grown!  I could write a book about all the time spent with you and everything about you that makes every moment so truly enjoyable.  It makes me forget all the stress of the work week and life in general, and it helps me be a kid again when I play with you.  Just when I think there isn't any place in my heart to love you any more than I already do, you say or do something that makes me love you even more.  No matter how old you grow up to be, you will always be my Doodlebug, my only nephew.  I will always be the aunt who loves you more than life itself.  Right now you're probably too young for this blog to be much more than some pictures of you and some words on the computer, but I hope one day you will read this and know how dear you are to me and how proud I am of you.   

Happy Birthday Nicholas, have a great day and a wonderful year! 

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Few Of My Favorite Recipes

This one's for my fellow baking fiends, but feel free to peruse even if baking isn't your thing.  I accept no responsibility if you are left feeling hungry after reading this blog though. 

Have you ever gone to the internet in search of a recipe and then wondered if anybody had tried it before?  Here are some of the dessert recipes I have tried with great success.  I have modified some of them just a little bit to suit my tastes.  Here goes. 

I would have to begin my list with a recipe for Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Chocolate Chip Cookies that has pretty much everything in it.  I make a few substitutions.  Instead of all the spices listed in the recipe, I use 1 tsp five spice powder, and I use dessicated coconut instead of flaked coconut which I find too sweet.  I use Guittard Chocolate Chips which I buy in bulk at PCC Natural Markets.  I've also used the Ambrosia brand that is available at Costco.  The Nestle brand and store variety just doesn't cut it for me.  Once I have the batter ready, I use a wooden spoon to stir in the other ingredients.  Toward the end of the recipe I have to stir in the ingredients using my hands.  Instead of corn flakes I use the Fred Meyer store brand equivalent of Grape Nuts cereal.  This is the only cereal that holds its crispness even after baking.

I often wonder what life would have been like without Martha Stewart.  Love her or hate her, one thing is clear: she knows her food.  Her recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting is a favorite at work.  The recipe can also be used for a standard cake.  I have used cake flour before, but it is quite expensive.  I have found an excellent substitute which I have used often.  I have heard that pudding mix works even better than cornstarch, but I haven't tried that before.  For chocolate cupcakes I use the recipe posted by Trophy Cupcakes.  I have never made the Mint Buttercream or Mint Chocolate Ganache because I feel that mint-flavored food tastes like toothpaste.  I have used the ganache recipe with vanilla extract.  I sometimes make these cupcakes filled with the Cream Cheese Frosting from Martha Stewarts's recipe (above).  You only need half the recipe to fill 24 cupcakes. 

I love making cakes with bits of fresh fruit stirred into it. I found this recipe for an Orange Cake. I add two teaspoons of fruit extract to this recipe to kick up the flavor. I use this as my base recipe and have successfully substituted other fruit for oranges. I try to stick to fruits for which I can find a flavoring/extract, like strawberries, pineapple or mango. You can fill and top this cake with whipped cream and stack it up with some fresh fruit, preferably the same fruit as you use in your base cake. A word of caution: Bananas don't work with this recipe!

If you are looking for a good Chocolate Cake recipe, look no further than the back of a box of Hersheys Cocoa.  The chocolate cake is rich, moist and simply delicious.  If you don't have a box of Hersheys Cocoa in your pantry then shame on you (Just kidding!).  But if you have a better, fancier cocoa in your pantry, you can still find the Hershey Chocolate Cake receipe here.  I have tried this recipe using either Hershey's Regular, Dutch Processed or Special Dark Cocoa.  The chocoholic in me rates the Special Dark as the the winner hands down.  I have used this recipe as a base for Black Forest Cake or a very rich, decadent Death by Chocolate Cake with a Cream Cheese Filling and Chocolate Ganache Frosting. 

Here's my most favorite dessert recipe I've found on the internet and it isn't a recipe for cake.  Go figure!  It's a recipe for Caramel Flan.  It's such a simple recipe with amazing results.  I will admit to having messed up this recipe by using hot tap water for the water bath.  You don't want to do that.  You want to use boiling water.

So there you have it.  Recipes off the internet, tried and tested and really good!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Armchair Travel, One Meal At A Time

One of the wonderful things about living in the 21st Century is that no matter where you are, the world seems to have become smaller.  This can be attributed to the growth of the internet, the global interest in travel, or simply because people move to new places, bringing their culture with them.  You don't necessarily have to travel the ends of the earth to experience different people or cultures.  No matter where you are, you just have to reach a little beyond arms length to learn something new about someone new. 

Being a food lover, I love experiencing new cultures through their cuisine.  Living where I do, it's great that  there are so many opportunities to visit the world through the restaurants within a few miles from where I live.  Today I had my first taste of Taiwanese food from a restaurant appropriately named "Facing East".   I first heard about this restaurant a few months ago, from a  Taiwanese friend of a friend.  It came highly recommended as an authentic bang-for-your-buck type of place serving Taiwanese Street Food.  The restaurant is tucked away in a quiet corner of an unassuming shopping center named Belgate Plaza on Bellevue Way, just about a couple of blocks north of Bellevue Square.  And it does face East.  I had heard that it was a very small but very popular place that didn't take reservations, so the wait for a table was always very long.  I was told the best thing to do was get there before they opened for the day.  When I first went there upon hearing about it two months ago, I was disappointed to find the restaurant closed indefinitely while it underwent renovation.  I could only hope that once they reopened, they would be big enough to accommodate a larger clientele. 

I decided to order some take out food for two from Facing East restaurant today.  They open at 11:30 a.m. and I was there at 11:45.  I walked in and was greeted by the look of a neat and clean restaurant that had obviously seen a recent makeover.  It looked authentically Taiwanese, although never having been to Taiwan I wouldn't really know any better.  The staff were very personable and the restaurant seemed to have sufficient seating for all of its customers.  I ordered the Pork Burger, Sweet Potato Flour Pancakes with Mixed Seafood and Lamb with Barbecue Sauce.  I was told it would be about 15 minutes before my order was ready, so I decided to run some errands in the meanwhile. When I returned, the restaurant was full to capacity, with about 20 people waiting!  So much for sufficient seating.  I had to wait a few additional minutes for my order, but that gave me more time to scope out the place.  What I noticed was that every single dish that left the kitchen looked amazing.  It seemed like presentation was very important.  Whenever a dish is presented extremely well, it raises my expectation of it.  I began to hope I wasn't setting myself up for disappointment.  I also happened to notice that everyone there seemed to be ordering some very interesting non-alcoholic drinks.

The food was still quite warm when I got home, so there was no need to reheat anything.  We tried the Pork Burger.  Oh my word!  It was delicious!  It consisted of grilled onions, ground pork, fresh cilantro and a slice of pork belly inside a folded steamed bun.  The combination of flavors and textures was just amazing!  I could have had two Pork Burgers and called it a day, it was that substantial and that good!  We moved on to the Sweet Potato Flour Pancakes.  The pancakes were translucent and almost glutinous, but were nice and crisp around the edges and on the top.  They were slathered with a light sauce and were filled with the most delightful combination of shrimp, oysters and other seafood, along with some leafy vegetables that I couldn't identify.  Not a big deal really, because everything combined so well and tasted very good.  Finally it was time for the Barbecued Lamb on steamed white rice.  Again, there were some unidentifiable leafy vegetables with really thick stems all through this dish.  And again, it didn't really matter because the dish was awesome!  The thinly sliced lamb combined very well with the vegetables and the sauce.  There were large slices of garlic and red Serrano peppers, which contributed to the bold flavors that combined very well with the steamed rice.  Overall, it was a wonderful meal.  Everything I had ordered was flavorful and delicious, without being overpoweringly spicy.  It seemed to be the perfect meal for a warm summer day like today.  I am not sure if the prices have stayed the same after the restaurant has reopneed, but a decent meal can set you back around a reasonable $20. 

If there was one thing I were to change, I would mke the menu more descriptive so I knew what I was ordering.  I don't know if that will take away from the entire experience, although I don't believe it will.  It is quite possible that perhaps while dining in the waitstaff will be very helpful with explaining the dishes.  However, if I didn't know someone who recommended what to get, I'm not sure I would know what to order.  That being said, I can't wait to go there again.  I will definitely eat in, making sure to order some of those pretty-looking drinks.  If I have room, I would also make sure to order their red bean soup or some of their shaved ice for dessert.  I will also make sure to take pictures of their food.

If any of my local readers/followers would like to join me the next time I go to Facing East Taiwanese Restaurant, please let me know. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Viva La Musica

Mankind has been blessed with so many abilities to enrich life.  My belief is that the greatest gift we are blessed with is the ability to create music.  At some point in the cycle of life, man fashioned basic instruments and as time went by, these were modified into the musical instruments we know today.  Then once the music was made, man wrote lyrics and set them to tune.  It is quite amazing when you think about it, how man discovered that the creativity of music can enhance his life.  There are so many genres of music to choose from, something for everyone.

I took piano lessons, but didn't care much for the fact that I wasn't allowed to explore my own creativity.  Everything I learned was by the book.  C'est la vie.  I also sang in the school choir and later in life, in church.  My low voice earned me a spot as an alto, back in the day when alto voices were difficult to come by.  I don't sing very much these days, but I love listening to music as I always have.  When I was young I used to ask that the radio be playing while I did my homework.  My mother would have none of it, believing that the radio would be a distraction.  I knew back then that music would actually help me study better, but I didn't know how to convince my mother of this.  I now have the freedom to play the radio at work, and I know that I am more productive while listening to music.  I feel like something is missing when the radio isn't playing.  The radio also plays in my car, which helps me cope with bad traffic and bad drivers.

There are so many songs that have woven themselves into the tapestry of  my life.  It started with nursery rhymes and lullabies and then progressed to the more popular music from movies like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music.  These delightful movies were revisited at various stages of my life, and each visit brought a new perspective based on my age at each viewing.  I have always loved movie themes and show tunes.  These songs enjoy continued popularity like no other music can, except perhaps for classical music.  Show tunes are a part of growing up, in the form of singing classes and school concerts.  As for classical music, I don't care who you are, you have to have listened to it somewhere, somehow, possibly without knowing it. 

Then there was the music that my older brother was listening to growing up.  The Beatles, Santana (the early years), Tom Jones and The Mamas And The Papas were a part of my early life.  I listened to the Woodstock album over and over again, never mind that it had the f-word in it, which I don't think my parents realized.  I was introduced to Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie and Sha Na Na.  I knew nothing about the festival being anti-establishment, nor did I know who Max Yasgur was.  Nor did I care.  As I grew older, I developed my own taste in music.  Unfortunately for me, my tweens and teenage years coincided with the disco era.  I wore platform heels and bell-bottoms and listened to the Saturday Night Fever album, the disco band Chic, ABBA and of course, KC and the Sunshine Band.  And no, I'm not ashamed to admit any of this. 

The 80s brought with it the music associated with neon-colored clothes, black lace and those business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back mullet hairstyles.  Some of the music endured the test of time, but most of it came and went.  Some of the music of the 80s enjoyed a resurgence of popularity almost twenty years later.  Which brings me to the song "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.  The song, originally from 1981, is being listened to twenty years later, most likely by the children of the original listeners.  I attribute the song's recent airplay to the hit television show Glee, which resurrected it from the ashes.  The song has also regained popularity as a graduation song and as a testament to the life of Journey's new front man Arnell Pineda from the Philippines, who struggled through life but didn't give up on his hopes and dreams.  As wonderfully inspirational as that story may be, if I never hear "Don't Stop Believing" again, it won't be too soon for me!

The long-haired bands came in with the 1990s.  Poison, Guns 'n Roses, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Skid Row and Exteme, to name a few.  These guys proved to us that under all that hair were hearts that hurt just the same as anyone else, with their rock ballads like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn",  "Love Bites", "More Than Words".  The 90s also gave us Mariah Carey.  That's all I'm going to say about her.  These songs too, they came and went.  Every once in a while they showed up again, but did not leave a lasting impression.  Not like "Don't Stop Believing"!  However, I did enjoy these songs back in the day.

The world of music continues to evolve, offering new genres to its listeners.  My preference continues to be what I refer to as Middle Ground Music, by which I mean not leaning too extremely to either end of the spectrum.  I love listening to the radio.  I think that I like the element of surprise from not knowing what song is going to be played next.  Also, if I don't have to pick the songs I want to listen to, that's one less decision for me to make.  There are songs which make me turn up the volume, songs which I will wait to finish before I get out of my car, songs which make me sing out loud even if I don't know all the lyrics and songs which I will refuse to listen to, no matter how much you paid me.  "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey is one of the latter.

I would be interested to hear what music my readers enjoy.

PS:  The opinions expressed above are my own, and yours may be different. If you like the song "Don't Stop Believing", it is your prerogative to enjoy it, just as it is my prerogative not to.