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December 30, 2011

The End of the Year

I hate reading the papers in December! Why on earth would I want to keep the news in my memory for more than a second. I don't want to be reminded of the day that the hurricane drove people out of their homes or that the United States finally killed their #1 enemy. I'm sorry. Those things are already emblazoned in my brain. I do not want to relive them twice.

I am tolerant of the pleasant reminders like looking at what Lionel did when he was 6 months or remembering our lovely Easter dinner. I'll give some thought to my trip to Hong Kong or the lovely interns that I worked with last semester. Those are the reminders that I like, and they do not appear in the news. Instead, I have my nose in a couple of books that I am reading. I just finished V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton and I'm on to our book club pick for January, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. by Tom Franklin. I'm also working on the long, tedious task of chronicling my mystery library. Oh dear! It will take ages.

However, in the spirit of my last blog, I want to talk about podcasts. I used to listen to books on tape in my car. I went through most of the ones that interested me in the library, and I refuse to buy a book on tape that I will discard after one listen. Dani talked me into listening to podcasts instead. I have been thoroughly hooked ever since. I download the podcasts from iTunes into my iPhone. I have a connector in my car to play the podcasts through the radio speakers. If I listen at home, I can simply get the podcast on my computer and hit play. This works with my Mac laptop. I don't know how it works with other equipment. But, there must be a way.

Entering through iTunes, I found that the world of podcasts is vast! I had no idea. Dani introduced me to some of her favorites. I found a few more. I know there are still dozens and dozens I would enjoy, but I had to put on the brakes somewhere. Here are the ones that I love the best:
On Being (used to be Speaking of Faith) with Krista Tippet on NPR explores the world of faith through interviews and discussions of broader faith issues.
Fresh Air (also NPR) with Terry Gross has interviews with interesting and important people and issues.
Desert Island Discs (BBC) with Kirsty Young has interviews of celebrities interspersed with snippets of their favorite musical selections.
Book Lust with Nancy Pearl (NPR) -- Nancy, Seattle's famous former librarian, interviews authors and talks about books.
World Book Club (BBC) with Harriet Gilbert interviews authors and has live questions for them by the audience.

I realize that my favorites are strongly slanted towards books and authors. I never realized how interesting it is to hear the back story from the authors, to hear about their writing habits, and to learn about issues outside of my experience. I take my cell phone and earplugs along on walks and continue to listen. It's nice to know that I am still discovering many new experiences as I age. The world is such a huge and wonderful place.

Posted by Marilyn at 10:49 AM | Comments (2)

December 27, 2011

Blogs and Stuff

On mornings I am not otherwise occupied, I begin by checking my computer after breakfast. I log in and turn on email, Netnewswire and Facebook. I read new posts on Facebook and play a few rounds of Scrabble with friends.

This is important because I have a Scrabble rule. I play with friends that actually keep up the game. The only excuse accepted is vacations or illness. Otherwise, if you want to play Scrabble, you have to actually play Scrabble. That is, you can't play today and then play again in two weeks. So, I play Scrabble with my former neighbor, Joyce, from Woodland Hills who I used to play Rummy and Pinochle with whenever we could catch time out from parenting. She's as ruthless as Scrabble as she ever was in real time cards. Then, I play with Keith and Janet Craswell although Janet usually is somewhere in the stratosphere compared to Keith and me. And, finally, I'm now playing with Dani's friend, MaryKay, who is a librarian and wins more than loses. All of these people will have played the day before leaving me with three games to play every morning. I still am amazed by the cyber phenomena that allows me to play games with friends in three different states across this vast country while sitting in my living room.

Email doesn't take very long since I never read through any ads. I'm pretty fast with the keyboard, so I try to finish off email in a rather short time. Netnewswire is the repository for newspapers and blogs. I subscribe to the Bellingham Herald, the Seattle Times, the New York Times and the Globe and Mail. I scroll through articles to see what I want to read before marking them all read so they will be deleted when I leave the program.

Next I go through my favorite blogs. I get blogs from friends, Collage Clips from KJ Hayes and A Fork in the Road from Michael Guelker-Cone. KJ has a terrific blog about her art and her time in Kuala Lumpur. Michael blogs about food and trips and his boat. I enjoy reading my friend's childrens' blogs. Cathy Belben blogs about her life as a school librarian and talks about books. Karen Riseland Frazier blogs about her writing life and food. Cathy Green blogs about her fiber business.

My favorite blogs are those I've found here and there. Dovegreyreader is a British nurse named Lynne who lives in the English countryside and writes about books. Everytime I read her blog, I take a little mental trip to England, find out about British authors and the mores of the country where my mother was born. Cookus Interruptus is a cooking blog about whole foods from Seattle. It is a humorous video featuring recipes and healthful food preparation centered around a family who is constantly interrupting each other as they cook a meal. The Amateur Gourmet is also a food blog written and produced by Craig Johnson's partner, Adam Roberts. Craig is the son of Julie and Steve Johnson and is a writer who has recently moved from New York to Los Angeles to write for the studios. His partner had a very popular food blog in New York and has a published cookbook. His blog talks about restaurants and features recipes and interviews of cooks. All You Can Eat is a food blog written by Nancy Leson for the Seattle Times. Donel and I went to dinner with her once when she was covering a Seattle restaurant. Nancy has an encyclopedic mind that covers the food scene in Western Washington.

Some blogs are sporadic such as 17 and Baking, the young girl from Seattle who was featured in the Seattle Times before she moved to Boston for her first year in college. Orangette is Seattle's Molly Wizenberg's blog - I'm eagerly awaiting her second cookbook since I loved the first so much. Ruch Reichl, another favorite food writer, previous editor of Gourmet magazine, and a wonderful writer.

These are a few of the blogs that I check on weekly if not daily. There are more, but this is enough for now. Blogs are interesting. You get to know people through reading about their interests and passions. You keep connections with people who are normally off your radar. You learn things about worlds away. I think it is fun to pick a few blogs from the gazillions that are floating in the web, and enjoy them each morning with a good cup of tea.

Posted by Marilyn at 10:50 AM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2011

Winter Solstice

December 22nd was the shortest day of the year. That meant absolutely nothing to me when I lived in California. Neither did the rhythm of seasons. But, when your daylight goes from 16 hours in June to a bit over 8 hours in December, the difference is immense. I no longer have to be up in the wee hours of each morning, but the sun doesn't rise until 8:00 a.m. and then it sets again at about 4:15. In June it rises at 5:00 a.m. and sets at 9:17. We don't even begin fireworks on the 4th of July until 10:30 when it is finally really really dark.

I am pleased to be going in the right direction. The days are getting longer even if it is by short increments. That was enough reason to take a little break from getting ready for Christmas and running down to Seattle to have a solstice celebration lunch with Martin and Christine in the Pike Place market at Cafe Campagne. Since I was finished with buying presents, I could wander through the clogged aisles of the market without worrying about waiting in horrific lines. People from all over the world were perusing the wares, snapping pictures of the flying fish vendors and picking up beautifully huge flower bouquets for $10.00 a pop. I had to stop in my favorite tea shop to buy some fresh crumpets before returning to my car and heading for University Village.

This is my destination Northwest mall, and I was sad to wander through the majestic Barnes and Noble that is stripped bare since it is closing its doors after Christmas. It was shades of last December when my favorite store, Millard Pollard, was closing at the end of 2010. After drooling over the desktop Mac's at the Apple store and fighting the crowds in Fireworks, I spent a little bundle in Crate and Barrel on myself and bought some salted chocolates at Fran's before heading north first to Mt. Vernon Costco for some Christmas food and then home in time for evening activities. First I had to stop at See's Candy to buy my annual 2 lb. Nuts and Chews. They are my favorite much to the chagrin of my children who prefer Bordeaux and Buttercream. But, I notice they don't have trouble finishing the box even after a big meal.

It was a lovely day and it was nice to feel free to take it and play. Yesterday was grocery shopping and putting presents under the tree. Today is pie baking and Christmas Eve services. Today is also Christmas in Hong Kong and I'm missing that contingent of the family. All in all, the pace towards Christmas Day is easy and enjoyable. Just the way I like it!

Posted by Marilyn at 8:36 PM | Comments (2)

December 19, 2011

Much Better, Thank You!

I decided that I'd better follow up my miserable post with the fact that I'm much better if not completely well. My nights are better and my allergy (or whatever is was) seems to have abated as well. I missed church on Sunday and an opportunity to go to a luncheon at my friend, Bette's, to greet Steve and Amanda and their darling little girl. I finally felt good enough in the afternoon to make my book group on their special poetry night that Don began about ten years ago. He put together an evening of poetry, supplying the poems himself, and insisting that we all join in reading and discussing them. I think we all went kicking and screaming the first year - then it became our Christmas tradition. Now, we all supply our own poems and it is a highlight of the year at Camblin's beautifully decorated home.

My house is decorated, if less ornate than in previous years. Tonight I'm having my dinner group over for what has to be about our twentieth Christmas together. Christmas dinner with Martin, Christine, Lionel, Jeni, Ron, Allie and Nicole will be at my house. Niece Connie will join us so she can meet Lionel whom she has seen on Facebook and wants to see in real life. She can regale us with her many travels - she just got back from Vietnam. We will definitely miss the Hong Kong contingent of our family - but our thoughts will be with them so very far away.

The weather has been a bit chilly, but very dry - and life is looking up. I have a quiet week until Christmas day and plan to finish shopping and wrapping, and reading, and relaxing. Maybe I'll take a Seattle day to gaze at the big stores. It is a lovely time of year, and it gets even lovelier as I get better.

Fortunately, I'm never miserable for long! Life is, indeed, good!

Posted by Marilyn at 1:33 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2011

Ugh and Yuck!

My night's lately have been hell and my days filled with sneezing and runny nose. I don't have a cold. I think I'm still coming off of jet lag -- but this is ridiculous. I feel like I'm running on half a tank of gas -- which is, if you think of it, a stupid saying that means less energy. If anyone had a half tank of gas their car would run just fine!

In any case, I spend a good deal of time at night reading which is not unpleasant, but Im tired during the day. I don't have a cold, but I am definitely allergic to something. I threw away some flowers that were here when I returned from my trip (thanks to Katie and my sweet neighbor, Leah). I've been dragging around doing various activities and trying to decorate my house -- on half speed. Today, I finally forced my body down to Boulevard Park to walk and then rewarded myself with a lunch at the tearoom. I finished the swags a few minutes ago, and tried to decide how long I can stay up before going to bed again.

Oh dreary, dreary. I hate to be dreary. My mother was often dreary. She often saw the glass half empty. I absolutely refuse to be like her. My dad was a half full guy. My mother always had one ailment or another. My dad was never ill. My mom was afraid of lots of things. My dad was not. Guess who I try to emulate? Maybe I try too hard. Maybe I should just give in when I'm miserable and delight in feeling miserable. But, I don't do miserable well.

Dani says I'm stubborn about that. She is probably right. I'm stubborn about lots of things. Today I'm stubbornly resistant to being down. I'm going to get myself up and go to a movie or shopping. Anything rather than continuing to feel sorry for myself. What do you do to keep yourself from giving in to the doldrums?

Posted by Marilyn at 5:55 PM | Comments (2)

December 12, 2011

Jet Lag

I don't think I experienced a great deal of jet lag in Hong Kong. I had a good night's sleep the first night, woke up a few times at night but fell right back to sleep again, and was a bit tired during the week although I couldn't give in to it since I was walking all over the world. Coming home was another story. I wonder if that is normal?

I was awake in the middle of the night most nights last week. I would go right to sleep and then awaken about 2:00 and fall asleep again about 5:00. I began setting an alarm because I was afraid I would sleep half the day away and miss appointments or things I had planned. My normal sleep aids did no good - I can usually take a 1/2 Excedrin PM (which is, by the way, 1/4 dose) or a Benedryl when I have had too much caffeine or I am wakeful - but they did nothing. So, I tried AmySue's idea of 1 slow release melatonin tablet and I stayed awake almost the entire night wired as can be. I looked it up on the web and found no side affects like I experienced, so I have no idea why it happened. I was afraid to add another pill on top of it so I made myself some cocoa at about 4:00 a.m. and finally fell asleep.

Now, I always awaken in the middle of the night to a restroom call, but this was ridiculous. Finally on Saturday night it righted itself and last night also. I did awaken briefly, but fell right back to sleep again. I guess the jet lag has passed. But, it seemed strange to me that it was worse coming back after having been in Hong Kong for 2 1/2 weeks. Why would it be different one way over another?

On another note, I got a Christmas tree up and decorated before having my book group to brunch on Sunday, went to the Whatcom Chorale concert version of Amahl and the Night Visitors and cried all the way through, and saw the Bellingham Theatre Guild's production of Plaid Tidings (a sequel to Forever Plaid) which was enjoyable. Last night I had dinner at the Wepprecht's which was delicious as usual. And, my long time (almost 30 years) birthday group began it's annual monthly birthday ritual luncheon last Friday which goes from December through April each year.

So, life is busy and beginning to right itself. I'm hoping to get a few nativity sets out and do a bit more decorating for Christmas -- but I probably won't worry about a complete re-do. Now, if I can just keep sleeping at night, I will be a happy camper.

Posted by Marilyn at 9:21 AM | Comments (2)

December 7, 2011

Hong Kong Musings

Ok, so I was pretty smug yesterday after a full night's sleep and a full day of errands and feeling pretty good. Last night I went to bed at 11:00 and was awake from 3:00 until 7:00 when I went back to sleep until 9:30. That was my first bout of crazy turned-around time. I was sleepy much of today so I guess I'll just roll with the punches and let it all play out.

I have been thinking about my trip and being home now. One of the advantages of writing the blog is that I can get all my experiences and some of my pictures recorded for me to look back on and remember. One of the drawbacks is that I have written about my experiences and don't particularly need to rehash them over and over again. When someone who doesn't read the blog asks me about them, I want to say "Why don't I just send you to my blog?" It's not that I don't like to talk about my trip, it is that I have already done so and feel like I'm repeating myself over and over. It is a funny phenomena.

I was writing Charles' mom, Margaret, to tell her a bit about my experiences since they are going in April and I thought she might like to know things like the washing machine only has cold water and one must hang their clothes up to dry (as we did in Singapore). But, you can iron them (or have Dani's helper, Marie, iron them for you). I didn't find that out until I got to Hong Kong. It made me think of some things that I found rather quirky from my point of view.

1) It appears that people in Hong Kong never have to sit down and rest. When James was trying on some pants in a department store, there was absolutely no place to sit and wait for him either in or out of the store. So, I began to look for places to sit as we walked along and could not find any places in the malls except for restaurant use. When I was waiting for Dani to finish shopping in the grocery store, I bought a bottle of water so I could sit on a stool at the frozen yogurt store. There were no benches on the walkways to or between malls, no benches or seats outside or inside of the stores, no benches in the hub of the mall where the big Christmas decorations were installed. There were places to sit outside of the ferry landing. Otherwise, forget it!

2) Speaking of sitting, while waiting almost an hour for my flight to leave Hong Kong, they had the empty seating area blocked off and would let no one in to sit down at the two gates near our plane. There was seating at the next gate over but it was packed with passengers for that flight. People on my flight tried to duck under the barricade to sit down including handicapped people, but they were rudely sent away. Some younger folk were sitting on the floor but I wasn't so inclined. Finally, the flight began to board and they wouldn't allow the handicapped or parents with small children to board first. They sent them to the end of a long, long line. It was very curious. My flight mate was a woman traveling with a child and she told me later that she bawled out the people who were in charge, but I don't think it made a difference.

3) When James and I were shopping, I bought a latte at Starbucks, and as we were walking through the mall I realized that I was the only person carrying something to drink. I began watching carefully and, sure enough, no one was ever walking and carrying food or drink. I thought maybe I was doing something rude -- but on another day I did see one other person carry a cold drink while walking somewhere. However, it was not a usual sight to see. I guess the protocol is to drink and eat at an establishment only. It also might be that everyone always seemed to be in a hurry to go from one point to another. Perhaps it is just big city efficiency where people do not waste time wandering and sight seeing.

4) I mentioned before that there is no heat in the houses in Hong Kong. There is air conditioning however. Of course, that is pretty important during the summer months, but it was beginning to get a bit chilly outside before I left although the inside was plenty warm enough. I'm not sure what Dani and family will do during the winter months although they do have a little space heater. I can tell you that it is getting cold outside here and I'm very glad for central heating. I guess that is why Charles suggested that parents visit in spring or fall.

5) I've also mentioned this, but I found it amusing that it was hard at times to get a taxi because many drivers do not understand English It must be frustrating for both driver and rider not to communicate. Of course, Charles could communicate by speaking mandarin which helped in some instances but not when the driver spoke cantonese. However, he usually could make them understand. Dani simply showed them a map or a business card with the street name. I suppose sign language also helps. It is annoying, however, to flag down several taxis in a row who begin to slow and then speed away when they see an ex-pat.

6) Which brings me to the point that I was somewhat surprised by all the non Asians that were living on Lamma or taking the ferry to and fro. I rather expected Hong Kong to be an international city, but it still surprised me that so many people were not Asian. Of course, Nico's preschool is quite international with his buddy, Alan, from Sweden, and another darling little girl from Russia. I met these parents - but there are only 8 or 9 students from all over the world.

7) I guess I'm always surprised by the small world we live in where there are Dairy Queens, Starbucks and McDonalds in the tiny shop-lined streets of Macau as well as peppered all over Hong Kong. International designer brands fill the malls and market shelves carry non-Asian products. Bookstores feature the latest American best sellers. Even the tiny Lamma Island stores carry familiar brands.

These are just a few of the curiosities for a fairly unsophisticated international traveler. No matter where you are in the world, you are never too far from home.

Posted by Marilyn at 5:05 PM | Comments (0)

December 5, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jig!

It's nice to be away and it's nice to be home. I don't know what's nicer, but I enjoy both. My flight home was smooth and almost three hours shorter than the flight to Hong Kong. We left Lamma Island at noon on the ferry and I found that the big IFC mall had an airport check-in. So, I bought an airport train ticket, checked in my two big bags, and printed out my boarding pass. With reluctance, I sadly left the McClellan/Wheeler clan and boarded the fast train which whisked me to the airport in 30 minutes.

At the airport, I had one last Chinese meal and went to the boarding area. There were lots of people milling around waiting for the flight and an entire section of empty seats, but for some unknown reason, no one was allowed to sit down and wait. People kept trying to go under the rope and the guards would sternly throw them out of the section. We got ready to board, and the guards would not let anyone with a baby or handicap board first. You had to stand in a long line according to seat numbers -- however, they never changed the numbers so others began just getting in line. Somehow, we all got onto the plane and everything seemed fine.

At the Vancouver airport, I was one of the last to get my luggage, and then was directed by some official standing by the exit to go down an elevator to a section that I knew was wrong -- but they wouldn't let you reverse your direction -- so I ended up walking down a very, very long corridor where another attendant agreed that I was sent to the wrong place - and then I had to walk through all the ticketing sections to get back to the place where international flights usually come out. Two unusual airport experiences in one day (well, actually two December 5ths - the Asian one and the Canadian one).

Now I'm home and unpacked and trying not to fall asleep before evening. I'm still basking in a lovely experience and already missing my family in Hong Kong. Maybe I'll post some afterthoughts when my head can work again. In the meantime, I'm going to go make myself a cup of tea!

Posted by Marilyn at 4:42 PM | Comments (0)

December 4, 2011

Macau Days 14-16

We've just returned from three days in Macau. Macau is a fascinating blend of China and four centuries of Portugal rule reflected in the language and the architecture of the city. Similar to Hong Kong, sovereignty returned to China in 1999 and both countries are Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China with their own governing bodies.

Our Turbojet boat took about one hour to reach Macau and then we traveled by taxi to the University of Macau on the island of Taipa. We had this weekend adventure because Charles delivered a lecture on piracy on Friday evening. They housed us for two nights in a rather sparse three bedroom apartment with a combination of beautiful views over Macau and the hardest beds in the universe. It was less than comfortable, but we spent most of our time sightseeing (except for Saturday night when we played a rousing game of Eurorail while huddled in sweaters and blankets to keep warm. The weather had turned cool and buildings in this end of the world have air conditioners but no heaters).

The three days were a whirlwind tour that included wonderful Portuguese meals and walking through temples and churches and narrow shop-lined streets. We began by visiting the ruins of 17th century St. Paul's cathedral where we mingled with hundreds of visiting Christians from mainland China. Across the street was the wonderful Macau Museum and a lovely set of shops in the square, Macau Creations, where we bought tea and cheese and Portuguese wine. Charles' colleague, Robert, invited us to the buffet lunch at the Clube Militar de Macau.

That afternoon we accompanied Robert and Charles to Kun Iam, Macao's oldest temple, which figures in Charles' research about an early monk, Dashan, who traveled between China and Vietnam. Then, Dani, James, and I went to the Museum of Art before joining Charles and Nico for dinner at a fantastic Portuguese restaurant where we feasted on several delectable dishes. It was the culinary highlight of the trip.

On Sunday, we returned to the St. Paul area to wander the square and the myriad shop-lined streets. We visited the 17th century Church of St. Dominic before we taxied into the island of Caloane to a beautiful restaurant high in the hills overlooking a sandy beach where we met Robert and his wife for another Portuguese buffet.

I love the way life's adventures intersect. Our host on Macau, historian Robert Antony, is cited in the acknowledgements in Amitav Ghosh's new book "River of Smoke," the second in a trilogy about the opium trade in the early 19th century. The setting in much of the book is Hong Kong, Kowloon and Macau. I was 2/3 through Dani's copy before going to Macau. Although fiction, many of the characters, such as the British painter, George Chinnery, are historical figures hence our excitement on visiting his drawings in the Macau Museum of Art.

Macau has become the Las Vegas of the East, a gambling mega resort, in the past several years. Several glitzy casinos sit on fairly new landfill that didn't exist when Charles first visited the country. Signs are in Chinese and Portuguese and few taxi drivers speak English (and appear not to want to deal with foreigners since they passed us by with empty cabs). Dani, is good with having her map handy to show when we finally got a taxi to stop. We stood in line with hoards of people to go through customs which was a fairly easy process. I was delighted to find shorter lines for "senior citizens," and Dani and family could go through easily as Hong Kong residents. But, it is clear that traffic is constant between Hong Kong and Macau.

It was a fascinating experience to add to my Hong Kong trip.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Macau Museum



Cathedral View From the Square
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Shops Around the Cathedral


Club Militar

The Oldest Casino on Macau

Kun Iam Temple


Church of St Dominic



Posted by Marilyn at 5:04 AM | Comments (2)