Monthly Archives: January 2013

My Two Versatile Blogger Awards

VersatileBlogger

My first Versatile Blogger Award came from Jaime of Where Does This Road Go and I hereby accept the award by posting the icon and putting a link to the site. My second Versatile Blogger Award arrived the following day from The Temenos Journal. I thank PaulB for her generosity.

According to the rules of the award, here are seven things about myself:

1. I was born in Hong Kong. 2. I am the eldest in my family. 3. Cantonese is my first language, and I can speak also English and Mandarin. 4. I went to school in Hong Kong and England. 5. I come from a big family and I have relatives living in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and England, where I visit and sometimes blog about. 6. I am married. 7. I have three grown-up children.

I have discovered that there is Versatile Blogger Award blog site created by lamskinny, who suggests that when considering a fellow blogger for the Award, one should take into account “the quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page. Or, of course, the quality of the photographs and the level of love displayed in the taking of them. Honor those bloggers who bring something special to your life whether every day or only now and then.”

I have to nominate 15 Blogs/Bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award and I think my nominees have fulfilled more than one of the above qualities. Do check them out. They are:

Add Grain to Earth

After The Kids Leave

Andy:Photographer,Traveller & Chef

Dots Know

Guinlist

Hopping Across Cultures

Love The Secret Ingrdient

Margaret’s Miscellany

Mauldinfamily1

Meg Travels

Peripetatic Eric

Psychic Circularity

Sequins and Cherry Blossom

The Dancing Professor

Where’s My Backpack?

Good luck and blog on!

 

Cemeteries As My Walking Theme

The moment I set foot on my Saturday walk, which is on the same route for the third consecutive week but with an increase of two kilometres per week for race training,  I  get an idea what to write about. My personal walking theme this week is Cemeteries.

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Our walks in Hamilton and Dundas Ontario have often taken us near or through cemeteries. Depending on the weather and our moods, we sometime do not pay much attention to them and yet sometimes, we slow down our pace and peruse the engravings on the tombstones, and have picked out something interesting about the history of the place. Invariably we sense the serenity inside the cemetery grounds and we instinctively lower our voices if we are chatting so as not to  disturb the peace.

The first cemetery we walk pass this morning is the Hamilton Cemetery on York Boulevard, opposite to Dundurn Castle. The tombstone in the shape of a cube balancing on its corner always draws my attention. This morning it stands out even more with the carpet of white snow on the ground. My minds takes me back to several years ago when I power-walked the Around The Bay Road Race (30 Km). When I reached this location, I was being greeted by the legendary grim reaper who towered over me urging me to get on with it in a voice that I cannot forget. This cemetery is near the end of the race and the finishing landmark, the Copps Coliseum, is only a couple of  kilometres away. This morning we start out by retracing the route backwards. Instead of feeling close to exhaustion during my race, my body feels ready to embark on my walk today.

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Down Valley Inn Trail and we are walking uphill along Spring Garden Road with the Woodland Cemetery on our right. The winter sun is beckoning to us, and the mist which still lingers around casts an ethereal touch over the cemetery grounds.

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The cemetery is also a landmark for athletes taking part in Around The Bay Road Race, because it is the 25 Km point. I remember the year when I did the race, a person was dressed up sitting there to offer hugs and handshakes to the athletes before they tackle the final hill on the course.

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We walk by the Bayview Cemetery, and the next cemetery to come in sight is the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery with its expansive grounds. Although it is not part of the route of the Road Race, it is often used by athletes during their training to avoid the busy traffic on Plains Road West.

As I walk along the footpath with the graves only few feet from me, I cannot but feel the proximity between the living and the dead. There is nothing eerie or ghoulish about my surrounding. It is just the sense that we are all living through the passage of time, and at some point, the living phase draws to a close and our bodies will rest in the grounds. Rather than mourning the ephemeral nature of life, I feel comforted by the infinity of our existence in forms yet unknown to me. The wreathes and the flowers lying by the graves brightens the grey tombstones. There is a section for the burial of children. There are colourful toys and ribbons and garlands placed by the graves. The wall for the urns facing the sun signals a new day to both the living and the dead. The celebration of life and the mourning of the past co-exist with each other. I am lost in thought, or perhaps in unity with the universe.

I am awakened to the fact that life is going on, because in front of me is the infamous “heartbreak hill” of the training route. We have already turned around at the cemetery and are now heading back. I have written before about walking as a metaphor of life. Walking uphill and downhill is part of the a walker’s trials and tribulations.  My friend MW must have noticed those moments when I am wrapped in thoughts and she has taken a picture of me climbing the hill…

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and reminiscing about life when I have reached the top.

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Beet-O-Mania

I bought a 5-lb bag of beets at the grocery store because I could not resist the special offer. I told myself, “I love beets, after all, and I am sure I can cook them in different ways, without getting into the tedious routine of pickling them.”  Besides, my friend who taught me how to do pickled beets said that I would require at least 10 lb. to make it worth the work. This was by far too gargantuan a task for me.

I was prepared for the blood bath handling beets. Fortunately, the blanching and peeling all went well. I did not stain my countertop or my clothes and I was ready to go.

I decided to make a Beet Borscht. There was the usual stock base with beef bones, onions, carrots and celery. Into it I added five large beets. I put in one bay leaf, some thyme and a few pepper corn.  When the soup base is ready, I took the beets out, grated them coarsely, and grated two more uncooked beets to add back to the soup for colour. It all turned out well, and i served it with a dollop of sour cream.

My second dish was Roast Beet with Stir Fry Greens. While I was roasting the sliced beet in the toaster oven with grapeseed oil, I cleaned and cut a bunch of red Swiss chard. (I would use beet greens if I had them too.) When the beet was almost ready, I started to stir fry the Swiss chard, adding salt and pepper to taste. I plated the beet and greens together, and it was ready to serve.

The third dish was an experiment, because I had never seen it in any recipe books. The idea came when I was stir frying my Swiss chard,. I wanted to try a scrambled egg with beet as one of the ingredients. I dice a small onion, half a green pepper and one medium size beet and stir fried them until the onions and pepper are soft. I beat five eggs and poured the liquid into the other ingredients, It was a good and quick scrambled egg dish!  I was very encouraged by the results, and I felt ready to add beet to my omelette or my frittata recipe next time.

There were only a few beets left by now. I cut them up into small chunks, drizzled extra virgin olive oil over them and added one teaspoon each of coriander seeds and cumin seeds, half teaspoon of salt and half teaspoon of cumin powder and a little freshly ground black pepper. I stirred the beets to make sure they were coated well, and left them to marinate. They were ready in a few hours. These Spiced Beets were excellent if added to a green salad, or served as a side dish.

My Turn to Say Thank You: Reader Appreciation Award

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Liz (aka elleturner4) informed me that she had nominated me for the Reader Appreciation Award. Well aware that these awards work like chain letters without its threatening dire effects for not responding, I am still curious about what these awards are all about, having savoured only recently the sweetness of the Liebster Award.

It was Laawentura of My Sardinian Life who posted about this award for the first time on June 13, 2012 and it’s really amazing how this chain effect spiraled in blog sphere  I quote from Laawentura, “I’m giving an award to those that have made this past year of blogging worthwhile. You have kept me on my toes, left comments, advice and tons of encouragement. For this I am grateful. Thank you.” I am glad I have traced the source.

The rules as laid down include:

  1. Award your top 6 bloggers who have commented the most.
  2. Be thankful.
  3. You cannot award someone who has already been awarded. And you cannot give the award back to me.
  4. Don’t forget to tell the bloggers you’ve awarded.
  5. If you don’t want to pass on this award, that’s okay to. Just admire it.

I thank Liz for considering me worthy of this award, and I am sure as the award has evolved, the responsibilities have changed somewhat along the way. Following Liz’s instructions, I have posted the icon, and put a link to her Blog, where she posts beautiful photography and she has a brilliant sense of humour when she writes. I appreciate her sensitivity to apparently mundane features in the world around her with which she can create a lovely post. By receiving this award, I also have to answer Liz’s questions (somebody must have included them on the way):

1. What is your favourite colour?  Hard to say, right now, blue and some shades of it.

2. What is your favourite animal?   Gazelles.

3. What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?   Tea–and that includes most Chinese tea, such as the Iron Buddha, Ooloong and Jasmine, just to name a few. As for English tea, I enjoy Earl Grey, Darjeeling, and when I am in the mood, Lapsang Souchong (Yes!)

4. What is your favourite number?  Three.

5. What is your favourite day of the week?  Saturday

6. What is your favourite flower?   Carnation

7. What is your passion?    Aging gracefully.

8. Do you watch television?  Not really; only when I exercise on my elliptical machine and I switch to the Food Channel.

9. Who is your favourite author?   Too numerous to list.

10. Do you like 80’s movie?   I don’t know. Firstly, I seldom watch movies, and secondly, what makes movies of the 80’s different from other movies?

11. How do you like your eggs?  Soft-boiled.

12. When did you discover blogging?   May 2012.

Okay, that’s done and what I need to do now is to nominate six blogs/bloggers to pass the baton on. The following have commented, responded to my comments and liked my blog, and they have given me a real sense of belonging that I truly appreciate on blog sphere. The nominees are  (according to alphabetical order):

A New Day by Pat is inspirational as well as refined. Pat is active and takes beautiful photography when she travels and she has come a long way dealing with health issues that she writes under another Blog entitled I Miss Me.

Add Grain on Earth frequently posts interesting photos of plants, artifacts and architectural structure, and blogger Sydney makes his message clear that we must treasure the earth we live on.

After the Kids Leave , in which sisters Karen and Wendy blog to each other respectively from Canada and England, and they write about life’s issues with humour and gusto.

The first thing that I notice in retireediary is the amazing photographs Michael has taken during his extensive travels. I use him as my reference for my travel bucket list.

The Dancing Professor (aka Trophos) is a young English professor who talks about her life teaching and outside of teaching. She is scholarly, witty and really says what she means. I tip my hat to her recent analysis of the Iliad.

Yummy Lummy is written by Gary, who finds a delight in food in his busy life as a doctor in charge of public health. I love his posts which always include the food he is cooking or enjoying at the restaurant, or even in flight.

To my nominees: With this award, I would like to express my gratitude to you. I hope you will accept it, but if you find that there are too many questions to answer–I do too and wonder why they have become longer and longer–I don’t see why you can’t exercise poetic license and just pick a few that are meaningful to you to answer and elaborate a little on them. Happy blogging !

Hiking On City Trails in Oakville

Hiking in in winter can take on different forms. In areas where there is a lot of snow, hikers go snow shoeing or cross-country skiing. I live in southern Ontario and there has not been that much snow around, and I usually do not have the time to spend an entire day with a group to be bused north for the snow. When I hike closer to home, I am still new to hiking and I have yet to try the challenging terrain where “icers” and trekkers are mandatory for safety. My recent hike is around the city trails of Oakville, Ontario.

We entered the trail near the Glen Abbey Recreation Centre on Third Line. We hiked along an interconnected and labyrinthine system of trails which looped around residential areas and at times close the main roads. We were first on the McCraeney Creek Trail. While we had trees and a creek on one side, the other side actually backed onto a school and residential area. I thought how fortunate the people who lived here were, because they had beautiful nature in their backyard.

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Passing the residential area, we found ourselves walking not far from the Queen Elizabeth Highway (QEW) along Indian Ridge Trail. The industrial buildings and the highway would be hidden behind the tress in the summer and one could only tell one’s proximity to the city by the road noise. However, on this winter day, the buildings and roads were revealed through the lattice formed by the branches.

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At one point, on Fourth Line, we had to cross the intersection near the ramp to go on the highway to continue the hike.

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The trails linked up with one another and I tried to remember the trail signs: Glen Abbey Trail, Old Abbey Trail, Abbey Creek Trail and I lost count.

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However, the advantage of hiking on city trails was the convenient exit (in case one got lost) to the road by finding a lamp. By design, we made an exit onto Monastery Drive and visited the legendary Monastery Bakery where freshly baked bread, rolls, bagels, cheese sticks, and the list went on tempted our palate. We bought our snacks and carried on.

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I may have written before that there is always something new to learn from a hike, be it a bird sighting, or a rare plant.This time I found out that the trails were being maintained by clearing some trees and they were chopped into wood chips, which were then used to repair the slopes and to pave the trail. What a great way to return to the Earth what has come from the Earth!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: BEYOND

The city of Athens from Mars Hill

The city of Athens from Mars Hill

I am on top of Aeropagues (Hill of Ares in Greek) in Athens, Greece. It is also known as Mars (Roman God of War) Hill. I am looking towards the Hill of the Nymphs, with typical residential architecture in the foreground. I capture mid-distance the Agia Marina Church with its red domes, and the National Observatory with its outstanding black roof. Far beyond lies the city of Athens.

Our tour group makes a special trip to Aeropagus after looking down on it from the Acropolis the day before. This is where Paul delivered the famous Aeropagus sermon, admonishing the Greeks for believing in pagan gods. Standing on top of this hill, looking at the city far beyond, I can only stretch my wildest imagination to visualize what Paul would have seen in his days. The view is breathtaking.The world spreads under my feet. I want to open my arms to embrace everything that comes within my view.

Mars Hill and the City of Athens from the Acropolis

Mars Hill and the City of Athens from the Acropolis

Awards Week…But First Thing First: The Liebster Award

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This has been an unbelievable week!  I found out on Tuesday morning that my lovely blog friend Liz of Dot’s Know  had nominated me for the Reader Appreciation Award. It was my work day and I wrote back quickly to thank her and to accept the award, promising that I would blog back as soon as possible.

On Wednesday, Jaimmers of Where Does This Road Goes? very generously bestowed on me with the Versatile Bloggers Award, which I also accepted within a heartbeat. Oh my goodness, what am I going to do? I have a dark secret here. Trophos, who writes The Dancing Professor, graciously nominated me for the Liebster Award, which came with it some very interesting but soul-searching questions on the auspicious day of December 12, 2012. I have pledged to write a post about it as well after accepting it.

As if three Awards sitting on my lap were not sufficient to propel me into a blogging frenzy, PaulaB, whose blog title, The Temenos Journal (and its posts as well) I find intriguing and interesting,  honoured me by passing on her three awards: the Sisterhood-of-the-World-Bloggers Award, the Versatile Blogger Award and the Sunshine Blogger Award.

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I want to thank all my award nominators for their kindness, support and encouragement. I had initially wanted to write a post about all the awards, but decided against this overwhelming undertaking. (Yes, I am kicking my own butt and cursing Me the procrastinator.) My plan now is to pay due respect to my blogging friends and the awards by individual posts. (Looking at this prospect on the positive side, I won’t be short of material to write about for a while.) My coping strategy when I have to multi-task is to tackle “one thing at a time”. If you think that this is a contradiction, please listen to my explanation. Imagine: I am juggling with three balls, four balls, maybe five balls. I keep my eyes on all of them, but I can catch only one ball at a time. If I pause to think about which ball to catch, or attempt to catch more than one, probably I’ll drop all the balls.

So, first thing first: The Liebster Award, which has opened for me the door to the colourful world of blogger awards in this community. I have tried to look up more about the Liebster Award, but the consensus on the internet is that its origin is a mystery other than the fact that “liebster” is German and means “dear, or favourite”.  It is awarded to Blogs which has less than 200 followers. There are also many versions of the Liebster Award, but I shall follow in the footstep of Trophos and does what she has done.

In accordance with the first rule attached to accepting this award, I have posted the icon and I hereby accept with great pleasure the award from Trophos with this link to The Dancing Professor. I have been following The Dancing Professor and I admire her wit, her genuineness and above all, her scholarship. This makes it very heart-warming to receive an award from her. 

My next task—and probably that is why I have been procrastinating—is to answer some questions.

1. What book should every writer read, and what should they notice about it?

There must a reason for James Joyce’s Ulysses to be listed as the top pick of the best 100 English novels published in the 20th century by the panel representing the Board of the Modern Library, a branch of Random House. This may not be my favourite book, but definitely a must read. In fact, ‘reading’ maybe an under-statement of the process, because to appreciate Ulysses, it comes close to ‘studying’ it. Personally, I have made four attempts with Ulysses. The first time and I could not even remember the edition or version was an aborted trial. That happened even after I had read The Dubliners and The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and finding that I liked Joyce’s style of writing. I had also read Odyssey and considered myself reasonably acquainted with Greek mythology in general. The second attempt was a success and I paged through the entire book, but that was a long time ago.  My third attempt was more serious, and I read the Oxford World Classics paperback edition in which Jeri Johnson (1993)  wrote the Introduction, the Explanatory Notes and Appendices. Unfortunately, I was distracted and did not continue for reasons I could not recall. The fourth and most recent read was epiphany. Not only did I notice more about the plot and the writing, I was appreciating more Joyce’s allusions, parodies and the references to the great classics of western civilization. Joyce’s greatness as an author is undebatable. I also give credit to Johnson’s clarity in her Notes. I cannot think of any books, perhaps other than Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies (two volumes) in which the appendices are as worthwhile reading as the text.

I think every writer should read Ulysses, and notice in it Joyce’s craft as well as his scholarship. The details are far beyond this blog to enunciate, but I hope Trophos will accept my answer.

2. Where do you write? What would stand out about that area to a new observer?

I write my blog on my laptop at my small working area in my family room. As I am writing now, I can look onto my kitchen, thanks to the open concept layout, because often times I have something cooking on the stove when I am writing. It also means that sometimes when I become too engrossed in my writing, I burn my food, only to be alerted to the disaster by my olfactory sense. Since this is also my working area at home, the new observer will notice my organized mess–paper and books usually, and my piles of paper consisting of articles I have printed from the Internet, unfiled recipes, waiting-to-be-paid bills, and my to-do lists pinned up in front of me.

3. What do you think about clichés in writing?

I am learning to write again with the help of this Blog. This means eschewing the dry and cautious style of clinical report writing, which I do for my work on a regular basis. I want to write freely, without worrying about referencing or documentation, implicit or explicit, in the event that I have to justify what I have written in court. Clichés are used in clinical writing, as long as I feel safe that there is a mutual understanding between me and the reader. I remember writing a blog post by beginning, ” It is universally acknowledged that…”. I did pause there and then and asked myself, “Need I pay tribute to Jane Austen?” and my immediate answer was, “Forget it; who cares?” I sometimes use a cliché and acknowledge that it is a cliché if it delivers how I feel. For now, please let me get away with it. I just want to write.

4. What is the story behind something that you’re wearing?

I am wearing a very old sweat shirt and a pair of sweat pants which are my lounge suit, so to speak. They were bought in an outlet store in Hong Kong at the time I was shopping to prepare for my move to Canada. My sister-in-law who also immigrated to Canada about the same time came on this trip with me. It was a unique experience of bulk buying, if not panic shopping, because people were telling us that everything would be very expensive in Canada. We were shopping for ourselves, our husband and our children, whose clothing came in different sizes to allow for the time they grew bigger. It was a refugee mentality which made sense only to those who had to leave their home to begin a new life in a land unknown. This is probably the reason why I still have not thrown away some old garments I have brought with me to Canada, as if I am clinging to some part of my past.

5. Twitter, tumblr, facebook, other? And why?

I am on Facebook, under another name, known only to people in a few select groups. I have a Twitter account but neither Twit nor follow. The reason, simple. I do not see the need to be active in the social media, or the need for other people to know what happens in my life all the time. I know I am limiting my Blog exposure by not linking it to Facebook or Twitter, but until I know exactly what I want to do with my Blog, I feel fine with it for now. If you are reading this, thank you very much for finding me and do let me know so that I can reciprocate your visit.

6. What is your alternate-universe self doing with her life?

This is a clever question to go beyond my About page on Opalla the fitness walker, hiker, adventurous food lover, book club member and occasional concert goer. I hope Trophos is not steering me to think a là Stephen Hawking, for that would be a tough call. I live with my husband in a bedroom town in Ontario, Canada. We are empty-nesters performing distant parenting duties— and I owe this concept to my blogging friend Karen— to our three grown up children. I am semi-retired, which is a glorified term for working part-time at my age. Oh yes, something I do that I have not blogged about yet, I sing the alto part in the church choir and I play the piano.

7. What was the first book you loved, or the first moment you realized you loved reading?

I have loved reading as far as I can remember, in spite of a few phases in my life when I cannot pick up a novel even when the thought of reading crosses my mind. I read modern Chinese literature written after the May Fourth Movement in elementary school and was exposed to English literature at that age thanks to the Longman’s Simplified Readers and Abridged Series. I read “real” English novels in Junior High and that was when I was captivated by Rebecca written by Daphne du Maurier. It was the first English book that I just loved. I was enchanted by the mystery and the romance. After that, I read all du Maurier’s books that I could lay my hands on.

I suddenly realize that I have written a very long post and I am enjoying myself responding to all these questions. I have not gone out walking tonight, because it’s snowing but my time has been well spent. Honestly, even if it were not snowing, I would keep on writing than have it interrupted. I shall leave my other tasks associated with the Liebster Award until another post. Sorry to keep my nominees, whoever you are, in suspense, but this is my promise– I may be late, but not never.  Indeed, this is what The Dancing Professor has done. She has split the award blogging in two parts, and this is also my tribute to you, Prof!