Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yes, I still own a cassette tape player.

Why?  So I can play two - count 'em - two mix tapes that my friends gave me before I left the Philippines for Canada.

"I hope you remember us and the fun times we've shared whenever you hear this tape," wrote my friend Alexis on the inside cover of one of them.

You bet I do.

I remember the long drives to school, riding shotgun in Alexis' old white station wagon, listening to the radio and singing along, except when it was Mariah Carey's cover of I'll Be There.  When that song came on, Alexis would promptly turn up the volume and we would both listen, rapt and starry-eyed, while everyone else in the car politely kept quiet.  When the final, soul-charged note died away, we would simultaneously release a long sigh, volume turned back to normal, and conversations resumed.

It was like a little piece of heaven on the traffic-clogged highway.

My cassette player is old and clunky, and I guess all those old songs are available in digital format these days, but these mix tapes are keepers.  A lot of love went into them, and you just don't throw that away.

Thank you, friends.

Here are my picks from the combined playlist - have a listen and see if they don't bring back yesterday once more.  (Some of these were retro even for us back then!)

November Rain - Guns N' Roses
I'll Be There For You - Bon Jovi
Love Just Ain't Enough - Patty Smyth
Theme from Dying Young - Kenny G
Theme from St. Elmo's Fire - David Foster
Foolish Heart - Steve Perry
Friday I'm in Love - The Cure
All I Want - Toad the Wet Sprocket
Anything for You - Gloria Estefan
End of the Road - Boyz II Men
So Far Away - Carole King
Sweet Baby - Stanley Clarke and George Duke
Save the Best for Last - Vanessa Williams
Best of My Love - The Eagles
Biggest Part of Me - Ambrosia


Thursday, July 28, 2011

A hundred million miracles ...

... are happening every day.

So the song goes.

Neil Parischa would agree. He's the guy who gave the world, now available in book form.  Unabashedly appreciative of what you might think are the smallest, silliest things, Parischa reminds us that happiness is not found at the end of a mythical rainbow, but precisely in those nitty-gritty details of life here and now - those little moments that could slip away unnoticed if we don't pay more attention.

Like finally finding the start of this stupid roll of tapegrabbing a tissue at the last second before sneezing, or arriving at the bus stop just as the bus is coming around the corner.

And then there are other little things that are really not so little after all:

When someone calls just to say hi;
When your dad checks under your bed and finds no monsters;
Hanging out with your mom;
A long hug when you really need it.

Marguerites make me smile.  They're tiny, perfect, awesome!

So today I renewed one of my resolutions: never to take little things for granted.  And I realized that I had a pretty awesome day.

It started out with some distressing news, about the kind of crisis you know there isn't a mortal thing you can do to help, except pray.  So I prayed.  And it looks like it just might be working.  So I'll keep praying.

That was one awesome thing.

Later on, I was on the phone with the Chapters lady, looking for a travel book by Frances Mayes called A Year in the World. "Travel," said the Chapters lady, "is about transformation. It's only when you get out of your comfort zone that you find out what you are really capable of." I said, "Is that the blurb on the book jacket?" She said, "Nope, that's my personal philosophy."

The Chapters lady's name is Sultana, and you can bet I'm going to give the store some great feedback about her.

That was another awesome thing.

Heck, I guess I had a pretty awesome week.  I found figs at the market and discovered a new herb: Cuban oregano.  A friend told me some great news about what's happening with her.  I talked to my seven-year-old nephew on the phone, and in a few more days I actually get to see him. I greeted a friend Happy Birthday one day too early.  An editor told me that the article I pitched him perfectly fits the theme of their upcoming issue.  I helped a lady carry her stroller down some stairs.  I think there's a good chance that my friend at work will become my friend outside work.

And the last awesome thing is that I have a million things to do and plans to make, but for now it's time for bed, and my pillows are cool and soft and the sheets smell like the sun because I hung them outside to dry.

Good night, and have a wonderful weekend!


Monday, July 18, 2011

A saunter into Gastown

This afternoon the clouds finally parted, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. Perfect timing for my evening saunter into Gastown with my friend Michele. We wanted to try out the Smart Mouth Cafe which, unfortunately, turned out to be closed.  We will have to try and make it there for breakfast or lunch, since they close up at 5:00 pm.

However, our journey there was a destination in itself, because on our way down to Water Street we went along Richards and stumbled on McLeod's Books.

"I'm thinking of buying a Kobo," Michele was just saying as we stepped through the door...and then her voice trailed off.  It was one of those Pearly Gate moments - as soon as we entered we knew we had found Book Heaven.

Imagine floor to ceiling shelves of books....books piled on the floor, on tables and on window sills....aisles and aisles and aisles of books. Old books, new books, books I've read, books I've always wanted to read, and a million more books I never knew existed. We wandered happily and finally had to tear ourselves away with our treasures - a Father Brown anthology for me, and for Michele, Bill Bryson's Troublesome Words.  I don't know if I managed to convince Michele not to buy a digital reader, although I did point out to her that I didn't think a Kobo could render quite the same OMG moment like we had when we walked into McLeod's.

After discovering that the Smart Mouth Cafe was closed for the day, we walked farther down Water Street, past the line-up at The Old Spaghetti Factory, to a little Italian place called Incendio which I remembered seeing on a previous Gastown foray. Michele had the Carnivore pizza (chorizo and prosciutto on a delectable, wood-oven-baked crust) and I had the creamy wild mushroom pasta.

Good books, good food, a good friend - and sunshine.  What more could you want from a day?


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Inspired to love

This is a brilliant little documentary featuring people who have been inspired to change their lives and do everything for love.  No cheap sentimentality here.  As St. Josemaria Escriva said, without love, life isn't worth living.

One woman says in the video, "The best bit you can put in a recipe is love. Do it for love - it does taste different. I'm not joking."

I know exactly what she means. When my late grandmother was sick with leukemia, she lost her appetite and would hardly eat because nothing tasted right. But she loved it when I cooked for her, because she said that my cooking was the only thing that tasted good.

I think of her every time I cook and I always try to add that extra secret ingredient.

Watch scenes from the video and share your own story here.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Toni's Top Three

I had a great time this spring and summer sampling street cart food around downtown Vancouver with my good buddy Toni.

Lining up for street food is a lot more fun when you're with a friend, so I will really miss Toni and our lunchtime gastronomic adventures. Today was her last day of work before she heads onward and upward to pursue her dream to become an architect.

Here's to you, Toni...and to friendships being forged with the help of good food....and to dreams coming true.

In no particular order, here are our top three picks:

Arturo's Mexico To Go. On Cordova and Howe, by Canada Place.

My favourite among Arturo's offerings: the Gringa, a soft taco stuffed with roast pork.
Next up: La Brasserie, corner of Granville and Georgia, by the Canada Line station.
Only one item on the menu, which makes for simple prep and a relatively short wait: a roast chicken sandwich with fried onions, on a delicious white bun. Drizzle of grainy mustard is a must.

Finally, the Roaming Dragon on Burrard and Robson, across from HMV. We didn't get to try all the tempting choices on their menu, but we did like the pork belly sliders and the deep fried rice balls, accompanied by an icy glass of lychee-basil lemonade.

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