Sunday, August 30, 2009

25 Things About Margaret

This is part of the retrospective on pieces I have written in the past that still seems relevant today.  This post was written on March 19, 2009 at 2:28pm.  This was a popular "chain letter" type activity on Facebook at the time.
1. I am a soup monster, particularly with Chinese herbal soup. I was given various soup with medicinal value by my nanny when I was a baby, and I liked it so much she has to wrap the bottle in dark paper when giving milk to fool me into thinking it's soup so I will drink from the bottle. (This is according to my mom. If it's true, I suppose I'm not a very smart baby.)

2. Speaking of nanny ... I've had 3 nannies from when I was born to when I was 5. (Again according to my mom,) I was not very fond of my last nanny (probably because we shared the same bedroom). When she got into an argument with my grandmother & eventually got let go, I asked her while she was packing why she had not left yet. I am regretting that now because she's a really good cook & I could have learned lots of tips & tricks about grocery shopping & cooking from her ...

3. I suppose you figured I like food by now. The most adventurous I've been with food was when I went to Cambodia in 2007. I had a spider (about the size of 2 fingers) and various insects on that trip. Yum yum extra protein!
Various ready-to-eat insects at market

4. I have yet to find something I don't eat. I wish I never would.

5. If I could have my way, I would make everyone get their coffee / lattes / cappuccinos / mochas / at small independent cafes with real baristas serving fair trade organic coffee with organic milk / soy / chocolate milk. My favorite hang-out at this time are The Common & Mercury. The crappy baristas at Starbucks or other chain stores who have to use a thermometer to figure out if they are frothing properly just don't make the cut. 

[Note: My favourite coffee place at this time has switched to Ezra's Pound on Dundas West, Mercury & Zoots.] 

5. Ok, so maybe life is not all about food. Chinese people believe there are 4 aspects in life - Clothing, Food, Dwelling, Transportation. Loosely following my food addiction is my love for cars. My dream since my teenage years is to own a 1971 (year I was born) British roadster like an MGB, hunter green with tan interior & black soft top. * drool *

6. My foreseeable next vehicle is likely a scooter - not the electric mobility one though. I am considering a restored vintage Vespa (surprise surprise!), although I might go for a sportier, more powerful modern version with proper storage for my giant laptop bag.

[Note: After considering that I have to use a manual motorcycle with a larger engine for the eventual motorcycle licence test, my eye is now set on a used naked Suzuki GS500(E).  Any good leads?] 

7. Dwelling is also a love of mine, although I have my ebbs &  flows. I was addicted to HGTV & home related shows for about 10 years after graduating from university. My favorite show for the longest time was Home Day (Thu) of CityLine.

8. My proudest home renovation moment was when I re-did 4 bathrooms of the townhouse I once owned. I spent almost a year researching every part that went into the bathrooms, and almost 3 months working with the contractor (mostly from Vancouver when I was doing a project there) on the renovation. Each room was designed with a theme that suit its purpose - clean chrome & slate that reflect my likes in the master bedroom, modern farmhouse to show some warmth in the guest bathroom, dark wood & stainless steel in the main guest powder room to match the living / dining room, and zen garden in the entrance powder room to match the family room. My proudest "invention" is using a small rectangular planter as the sink in the garden themed powder room - The contractor specifically waited for me to come back from Vancouver so I could watch him drill the hole & connect the pipes.

Garden-themed powder room vanity - planter box with ceramic planter

9. Even though I owned the townhouse for about 7 years, I really only lived there for about 2 years. The 2 jobs I had while living there required a lot of travelling - I was mostly away from Mon to Fri, and if I was working on a project in a fun city like LA, SF & Vancouver, I would stay over some weekends. I also spent a year while I "lived" in the townhouse in Kingston studying for my MBA. Fun times ...

10. The scariest moment I had in the house was when I woke up one day, and saw a squirrel at the end of my bed. I did not have my glasses on so I only saw a fuzzy brown object that occasionally moved. Once I put my glasses on, we stared at each other for almost a minute, scared of what each other might do next. Within seconds, the squirrel disappeared from my sight. The wildlife people eventually came to setup a trap. What I did not expect was that they did not come to collect the trapped squirrel right away. It ended up spending 2 days in the trap on my balcony.

11. Moving from the townhouse to Calgary was one of the most traumatic moment in my life. Long distance moving - enough said.

12. I know I need to get a will and a living will / power of attorney done, particularly after witnessing the chaos when my aunt passed away in 2007. But I am lazy getting paperwork done. (And according to Mandeep, this should go into #12 in the list because it's a constant in life - Don't ask me why.)

13. Clothing ... Even though of the 4 aspects in life clothing is the one I am least interested in, I actually have a long history with clothing. Both my parents work in the garment industry - My dad owned a factory that produced mainly denim & flannel clothing, and my mom both owned a garment factory as well as worked for other garment manufacturers.

14. The end result of growing up with people who know a lot about garments is that I have a strange way of shopping for clothes. While most people pick up a piece of clothing they like to take it to the fitting room, I pick it up to look at the content label & whether the patterns match at the seams.

15. My fondest memory of spending time in my dad's factory has nothing to do with garments. I liked to play with the cardboard cylinders left over from the rolls of fabric. How do I play with them? I used them like staff used in Chinese martial arts, and beat up the rolls of fabric until the cardboard breaks. Pretty fun, eh?

16. Speaking of fashion ... Can I make a plea for people who wear sandles to follow sandles etiquette? i.e. Clean & trimmed toe nails, no sweaty discolored foot print on the sandles, and no socks. Please.

17. It's taking me forever to write this note because I need to always be doing several things at the same time. When I was a kid, I frequently listened to music charts on the radio, watched cartoons on TV and did my math homework at the same time.

18. I love cartoons, mostly Japanese manga (comics) & animes (animation). I still watch them online now, although I am definitely not nearly as up to speed as when I was in my teenage years. My all time favorite is Macross, the original TV series.

19. I know a little bit about a lot of different things. And with things I don't know, I research them to death when I need to know a bit about them. Some people at work call me "Moogle" ... powered by Google. PS: I am very bad at trivia pursuit.

20. Inertia plays a big part in my life. It's hard to get me started doing something. And once I start, it's hard to get me to stop.

21. I watch a lot of films, although not a lot of mainstream Hollywood production. I like watching films from different countries, indie productions, and documentaries. The 3 film festivals in town I usually frequent are Hot Docs, InsideOut & Reel Asian. (That's right - Not TIFF as most people would guess.) My record film watching experience is in 2007 when I got an all access pass to Reel Asian - I spent 4 full days watching over 20 films!

22. People, like online dating sites, often ask me "what's your favorite / top x ?" That's a really difficult question for me to answer. So next time if you want to ask me that, consider asking me "what do you appreciate of ?" instead.

23. That is not to say I am not a loyal person - When it comes to people, I am quite loyal - friends, colleagues (that I like), and not to mention life partner.

24. Over the 30-some years in my life, I have met 3 people whom I have considered as possible life partner. 3 is a lucky number for Chinese people. Hopefully my luck will hit with number 3.

25. Mandeep coached me on writing these 25 things. Otherwise I would still be stuck at #5.

[Note: Mandeep is my colleague at work who has a keen interest in getting to know other people.]

Maximal Food Minimalist?

This is part of the retrospective on pieces I have written in the past that still seems relevant today.  This post was written on April 4, 2006 at 11:54am.
I made a delicious breakfast this past Saturday.  As I ate, it dawned on me how silly the breakfast will sound if I were to put it on a menu:
Poached antibiotic-free egg with certified organic kale sauteed with double-smoked Mennonite bacon served with certified organic kefir with maple syrup and organic 7-grain bread, and organic fairtrade coffee with organic soy milk
But it was just a simple breakfast!
It is laughable that we live in an insane era when eating natural products has become an "alternative" behaviour.  Just as decluttering & minimalism has become a snobbish interior design style, back-to-basics food has become a "new age" trend (hopefully not fad).
I think the main barrier to popularize natural food products is the cost.  It is obviously more costly to farm organically, which logically translates to higher food costs.  What I don't understand is where the higher administrative overhead and transportation costs have gone to.  Since many of the organic products do not have long shelf life, they are generally available in small batches in local farmers market.  Without the middleman and high transportation costs trucking products across the continent, why is the retail costs still so much higher?
[Note: After learning more about the subject since then, I have learnt that most part of the cost comes from lower unit yield.  Commercialized organic food has also become popular where the traditional supply chain & transportation costs are still there if not more to better transport food that is more easily spoiled.]
One time when I was browsing around at T&T, a giant Chinese supermarket chain, I saw a few organic products for sale.  They are sold at comparable prices to similar products, and "organic" is not even prominently displayed as a selling point.  (Case-in-point: My favourite organic non-GMO soy milk Sunrise at $2.99 for 2L.)  How are these companies able to provide these products at such competitive prices?  Products like these make the decision-making process very easy.
I dream of one day having a neighbourhood grocer that sells environmentally-responsible natural products just as they are - eggs, bacon, kale, yogurt, 7-grain bread, coffee, etc.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Crush the fine dining worship!

This is part of the retrospective on pieces I have written in the past that still seems relevant today.  This post was written on March 27, 2006 at 3:38am.  (Interestingly, I also had a pot luck earlier tonight.)

My main motivation for this blog comes from an observation this past weekend while doing grocery shopping.  I greatly enjoy browsing grocery stores, from big box mass market ones to local green grocers.  To prepare for a potluck, I ended up visiting three different grocery stores within a day.  One of them is a bargain grocery store, "every day low price" kind of place.  I was struck by how much pre-processed instant food there is at this bargain store.  Even more amazing is how cheap these boxes of "stuff" are selling for.  It is not that big a stretch to see that these boxes offer not much more than filler to eliminate one's hunger.
So people on a budget do not deserve healthy, nutritious food?  I think the "fine dining" culture in North America is the worst enemy for promoting healthy eating habits.  Yes, this sounds counter-intuitive ... don't most fine dining chefs / restaurants support local suppliers, and some even socially responsible foods (like organic farming)?  It is precisely this type of exposure that leads to an image of healthy food = expensive and laborious.

If you look around the city, many places, especially ethnic ones, offer healthy home cooking at affordable prices.  I am talking about below $10 including taxes & tips for a sit-down, served meal.  For a small household, some of these meals are more affordable than buying the raw ingredients.
And if you want to eat at home?  Ingredients are so very easily available and affordable.  Being Asian, I shop a lot at ethnic grocery stores.  You think health food is a specialty?  Many ethnic groups consider these items basic diet.  Organic soy milk?  Rice crackers?  Pomegranate juice?  Easily 25% or more cheaper at ethnic places.  Stews, soups, even salads can be prepared the night before and be ready to eat coming back from work.  New kitchen appliances like vacuum pots (but no, not microwave) also contribute to home cooked meal with minimal supervision.

I'm sorry ... I can't see why busy schedule & budget can be a reason to eat junk food.  People have to come to a realization that good food is not a privilege of those who can afford.  Being on a budget or in a hurry is not a justification for poor diet.  Only then we as a society can support healthy food production, preparation, and ultimately consumption.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Let's fika!

A new home in cyber space, a new commitment to becoming an active contributor to the web of content.

As great books start with great preface, here is a blurb a wise hermit once wrote for me about my blog:

To my dearest read, you are about to embark on a journey very few have taken and seldom have continued on.  Within these hallowed confines of cyber space you will delve into my world of every day life filled with love, laughter and tears.  I may even reveal the location to a great restaurant, drop a hint about an excellent recipe or revel in a great vacation.  So I ask you with due haste to join me.

Now, let's fika!