Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I've been thinking about doing a big trip for a little while now, mainly because I had a surfeit of vacation days this year (7 weeks in total), I've an obscene number of reward miles from various programs burning a whole in my figurative loyalty wallet, and also because I'm due - my last big trip was to London/Amsterdam/Barcelona/Madrid in April 2009.  Oh - and with my passport up for renewal in February, I was hoping to get one more stamp in my passport.

I thought my next trip would be a family vacation south, but that's now been pushed to early next year, so with 4 weeks of vacation left, I began browsing Gap Adventures' website again in earnest.

The prospect of visiting Angkor Wat and seeing the ancient temples there up close and personal drew me to Cambodia.  Madagascar was another possibility as it's somewhere I've been wanting to visit ever since reading an article in ROM magazine about it's fantastic flora and fauna.  Argentina/Brazil made the initial cut with Iguassu Falls being the main attraction.  In the end, the red tape of having to apply for a visa ixnayed all these destinations in favour of Morocco - an exotic locale I don't know much about beyond spice markets, lanterns, the desert, brilliant suzanis and pretty wedding blankets.  Random, right?

It was a toss-up between Gap's Highlights of Morocco and Marvellous Morocco tours but upon closer read of the itinerary, the former's camel safari into the Sahara Desert with an overnight stay in a Bedouin tent won me over.  I mean, c'mon!  A camel safari into the Sahara Desert?

My flights are all booked and my place for the tour is being held with the payment due the first of October, pending additional accomodations pre- and post-tour.  I can't begin to tell you how excited I am! :D 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Secret Daughter and Her Fearful Symmetry

I've two more books to add to my "Read" pile: Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry and Shilpi Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter.

On Her Fearful Symmetry - I was disappointed.  I picked it up because I really enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife and I suppose this was similar with its supernatural elements but the main characters weren't particularly engaging.  The most interesting storyline for me was the secondary one involving Martin, the upstairs neighbor.  I was glad for his happy ending. The end.

Oh!  And I want to visit Highgate Cemetery next I'm in London - the way it's described in the book and the fantastic images from its website are compelling.

From the back cover:
Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other.  One morning the mailmen delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt, Elspeth Noblin, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the flat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls' aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons, and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbors: Martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps - their aunt.

On Secret Daughter - the end made me cry and I felt compelled to read it every night before bed since starting it over the weekend. 

This passage from p. 270 struck me:

...her mother always said the key to a successful marriage was for each spouse to give as much as they thought they possibly could. And then, to give a little more. Somewhere in that extra giving, in the space created by generosity without keeping score, was the difference between marriages that thrived and those that didn't. 

It sounds like something my mom would say, although - and maybe this is a matter of it being lost in translation since my mom communicates with me in Cantonese - the way she spins it, it sounds more like I should settle because no one's perfect.  Point is, I really enjoyed this book and am glad it's getting the recognition it deserves.

From the back cover:
On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter's life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.
Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.
Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotial terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnessed through the lives of two families - one Indian, one American - and the child that indelibly connects them.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

History of Love

I finished Nicole Krauss' The History of Love on my flight from Toronto to Vancouver last Wednesday. 

I was wary of it when I first started after so recently finishing Everything is Illuminated - Holocaust books always leave me a bit drained and I find I need something light and maybe a little happy afterwards to ease the mood. 

Anyway, I wasn't sure what The History Of Love was really about so just before starting, I googled it.  And that's when I stumbled onto this article in the NYT and found out that Nicole Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer.  It didn't make me feel any better about reading it since I was rather disappointed by EII, but by then, I was too lazy to get out of bed to pick another book.

In the end, this was a much better read as the story - a mystery that is solved in the end - was more complete in its telling.  While part of it does take place in WWII Poland, the horrors of the Holocaust aren't really referred to explicitly - at least not as far as I was concerned - so I didn't feel as spent.

From the back cover:
Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer is trying to find a cure for her mother's loneliness.  Believing that she might discover it in an old book her mother is lovingly translating, she sets out in search of its author. Across New York, an old man named Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer. He spends his days dreaming of the lost love who, sixty years ago in Poland, inspired him to write a book. And although he doesn't know it yet, that book also survived: crossing oceans and generations, and changing lives....

The Wedding

My sister got married on Friday, which also happened to be my 34th birthday.  I didn't have time for my usual somewhat-moody and self-indulgent "what have I done with my life in the past year" reflection since I was too busy with preparing for the wedding, dealing with family and all the fun drama that comes with the extended family of soon-to-be-in-laws.

There was a relaxing day at the spa Thursday morning/afternoon, the rehearsal, followed by the dinner, and then the set-up of the room.  Remember the faux cherry blossoms and orchids I picked up in Chinatown?  Here they are the night before the big day:

You can't really tell in the photo but the tall vases are flanked by shorter ones with a faux cymbidium orchid at the bottom. These were filled with water and a floating candle. There were also 6 votives atop the mirrored square so with the lights down, there was a lovely glow from the candlelight - and everyone looks better in candlelight! I was off taking photos with the bridal party so don't have any photos of the vision realized.  It looked lovely though!

These urns sat atop Roman-esque pillars that framed the happy couple as they took their vows.  We re-purposed them after the ceremony for the guest book and you can see too our bouquets on the table, which turned out quite nicely thanks to Blossoms 'n Such in Parksville.

And then the cake - M was all for the cherry blossom design which wasn't exactly as in the photo sent but close enough that they were very happy with it.  There's a layer each of chocolate and vanilla with a fake layer on the bottom since they had their heart set on a 3-tier cake.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

J. Crew wish list

Finally flipped through the latest J. Crew catalog and fell for the Tretorn Flannel kicks below, which led me to the website with the though of buying them. Unfortunately, only 11s are left. 
This didn't stop me from browsing though and now I've got my eye on this gorgeous necklace and the luscious leather Brompton purse.  Lovely as they are, they're not nearly as compelling as the sneaks.


One Day

I finished David Nicholls' One Day this afternoon.  This was another recommendation by Lainey - you can read her review here - and it's really that good.

If you've already read the book, you'll understand why I was all "WTF?!?" at the end of Part Four and frustrated and crying through Part Five.

Actually, much of this book was frustrating, not because of the writing - no - the writing was beyond solid, but because the characters were so real.  There were various times that I wished I could step into the book, grab hold of Emma and Dexter's shoulders and just shake them and tell them: "Snap out of it! Why are you doing this? Can't you see what's right in front of your faces?!?"  Dexter especially!

I've said enough because if I say anymore, it may just spoil the story for you.  Go. Read it.   
From the wesbite:

‘I can imagine you at forty,’ she said, a hint of malice in her voice. ‘I can picture it right now.’

He smiled without opening his eyes. ‘Go on then.’

15th July 1988. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.

So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year which follows?

One Day is a funny/sad love story spanning twenty years, a book about growing up – how we change, how we stay the same.
The movie version starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess is currently in production and there's a part of me that's really, really scared that it's going to pale in comparison to the book...but the screenplay is also written by David Nicholls so perhaps not...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...