In diesem Wetter

In this weather, in this raging wind,
I should never have sent the children out;
Someone carried them away,
I didn’t have anything to say about it.

In this weather, in this tempest,
I should never have let the children go out,
I was afraid they’d get sick,
Now that’s just a futile thought.

In this weather, in this dreadfulness,
I should never have let the children go out,
I was afraid they’d die tomorrow,
That’s not a problem now.

In this weather, in this tempest, in this wind,
They’re at peace as if in their mother’s house,
Frightened by no storm,
Protected by god’s hand.

— Friedrich Rückert, translation Celia Sgroi


Due to medical emergency, I’m back in Seattle.


Beim schlafengehen

Oftentimes, I think of this Strauss song, which may be my all-time favorite classical piece, right up there with Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem and G-major violin sonata; seems I’m unwittingly attracted towards the autumnal and/or elegiac, and maybe it’s fitting to revisit such pieces now.

This is Lisa Della Casa, in her prime — her famous 1953 Decca recording. No one else comes close.

Now that the day has made me so tired,
My dearest longings shall
Be accepted kindly by the starry night
Like a weary child.

Hands, cease your activity,
Head, forget all of your thoughts;
All my senses now
Will sink into slumber.

And my soul, unobserved,
Will float about on untrammeled wings
In the enchanted circle of the night,
Living a thousandfold more deeply.

— Herman Hesse, translation Emily Ezust



Mother’s Day

A little over a year ago:

Awoke with fresh tears in my eyes. Another visitation from my dream-daughter, the one who has haunted my dreams but speaks only of death? But no, I do not remember her: though there was a church, a waterfall, a long fall…

Sometimes I am there again, walking delicately through a rainbow bed of fallen foliage, as soft sunset light falls through the canopy overhead and brushes my hair. There is no noise, nor rustle of breeze, and improbably, the leaves do not even crumple beneath my bare feet. Here is where she appeared first, apparition-like, with her words of love, of loss — soft-spoken, but heavy as a drum. A gift and message from the future. A future, one not mine, but hers.

She says: I wanted to meet you, just once.

Once. The word is what it is: final, fatal, unambiguous.

But there I go again, and wait. Because I do not choose or know where I travel, in dreams, though tears remind me.

Thank you for your well-wishes. Please don’t worry about me. Things will work themselves out, as they must — and maybe then I can talk about things here. But not now.

I promise, promise, to return shortly to crisps and Pocky and hamburgers and pandas…



Green tea, red bean


Followers will recognize a long-standing obsession by the author with exotic varieties of KitKats, so it’s no surprise I had to pick these up when I saw them at the duty-free. These are apparently designed to taste like the local Japanese variety of Asia’s ubiquitous shaved-ice and red bean desserts, with a green tea & white chocolate coating (seemingly identical to that of regular matcha KitKats), and a red bean creme filling between its inner wafers. The taste is creamy and sweet, much like the dessert — distinct flavors of tea and red bean — but maybe a little too much so! They’re good, but I like the standard greens better.

These were 600¥ at Tokyo-Narita for a decent-sized bag of mini-bars.

Also sampled: Häagen-Dazs green tea crispy ice cream cookie — oh, good grief, yes. Sadly, I ate this before an attractive mug shot could be taken. Mustn’t let things get melty, after all. Priorities.


More KitKats


Culture shock


Culture shock: the women in Hong Kong’s version of the Dove Campaign
for Real Beauty
are all super-thin and tiny.

Correspondingly, shopping for clothing there almost requires one to be a US size 4 or smaller.


Macau & the search


The Portuguese egg tart is the Macanese gift to the world. Fluffy, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth — but with that yummy caramelized top — it kicks the pants off your average dim sum egg custard tart. If you haven’t had one, you really don’t know what you’re missing.

New York City’s Chinatown caught onto the fad a couple years ago and, I swear, you couldn’t walk fifty feet between shops without finding them for sale. Heavenly! Unfortunately, I haven’t been out east in awhile, and I’m told this phase came and went long ago in Hong Kong, and so they’re nowhere to be found there. One might come to the conclusion, like me, that the only course of action left to take would be to sample the goods in their home turf. But be warned: Macau’s appeal may be elusive at best.

A decade or more in the past, before the handover to China, I imagine things were pretty charming — with the colorful colonial architecture around Largo do Senado, narrow, hilly alleys lined with Chinese shops, and the Corniche, described in a guidebook of the past as “the most romantic ocean stroll in southeast Asia.” All of it seems slightly perverted now; with acres of reclaimed land growing, tumor-like, out of the coastline, huge hulks of imported Las Vegas emerging from the concrete (“Wynn,” proclaims the new glass-and-steel monstrosity, a perfect copy of the one in Nevada, and further down, a full-scale replica of a Roman fishing port). Even the picturesque, colorful buildings around Senate Square reveal themselves to be mere illusion, as you pass through the doorway of a beautiful, ancient church into an ultra-modern, ultra-generic… Starbucks? McDonalds? Further down the street we see one, a free-standing façade, ready to accept a new heart — the kind that runs on battery power.

Turned off after a couple hours of such exploration in hellish heat, we were back on the ferry before we knew it. As we sailed back over the South China Sea, video screens showed a trailer for Poseidon, and I realized we’d completely forgotten to locate tarts.

Better that bit of Macau not be in me than have any bit of me in Macau, I suppose…

(but I’m still bitter)


The adorable face of authoritarianism

Alas, Beijing was not to be, or I’d have picked up some of these plush cuties as gifts while I was there (seen here in the window of the Hong Kong travel agency where we placed our deposit). These are the official mascots of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, a welcome return to cuteness for the summer games after the weird, weirder, and weirdest of the last three olympiads (don’t even get me started on Izzy).

From the official Beijing 2008 mascot page:

Each of fuwa has a rhyming two-syllable name — a traditional way of expressing affection for children in china. Beibei is the fish, Kingjing is the panda, Huanhuan is the Olympic flame, Yingying is the Tibetan antelope and Nini is the swallow.

When you put their names together — bei jing huan ying ni — they say “welcome to Beijing,” offering a warm invitation that reflects the mission of fuwa as young ambassadors for the Olympic games.

I apologize to the certain (obvious?) someone who would have received Jingjing — i really wanted to get him for you.

I’ve always dreamed of visiting Beijing, since seeing pictures, hearing stories, of the Forbidden City & Great Wall when i was a young girl. Honestly, though, I’m more interested these days in China’s modern political history than its ancient glory. It’d have been fascinating to see a city in reinvention as it tries to put on a good face for the world.

Maybe someday.

xiao long bao


AKA Shanghai soup dumplings — heaven in a bamboo steamer! Dim sum in Hong Kong is so good. even the randomly-picked restaurant we wandered into was miles better than anything I’ve experienced in New York or Vancouver.

If you’re not Lia and don’t live and breathe xiao long bao, here’s a short description: thin, doughy wrapper around a ground pork meatball floating in broth, tied off and then steamed. Put the whole thing in your mouth and let it all come undone in a juicy burst of flavor. Putting the whole thing together is a delicate affair, which is the only reason I can think of for the heinous crime of these being impossible to find in Seattle.

Still, these will tide me over for awhile. yum!

I realize I complained inordinately about Starbucks in my Macau entry, so I really should put in a good word: I admit, Starbucks in Asia rocks my world, because they serve mango tea frappucinos! They’re possibly the best virgin iced drink ever, and doubly so in the sauna-like conditions of southest Asia. Seriously, it’s like they crushed a frozen mango directly into a cup, and if you’ve had mangoes in Asia, you know things don’t get much better than that.

Felt kind of ashamed & very ugly-American, going into a Starbucks every day for a little dose of nirvana. On this trip alone I spent time sipping mango frapps in Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan*, and I’m no coffee drinker but I’d go to Starbucks every day in Seattle if they carried them here. No shame.

Okay, just a little shame.

*in Japan, they only list short, tall, and grande on the Starbucks menu. I didn’t know short was even an option! Short coffees come in the cutest little cups, but this being Japan, they still cost something like forty dollars each.


The easy button

So we ordered a file cabinet from Staples.com. Today, on the doorstep, a 24-pack of bottled water with a packing slip that says “file cabinet.”

Thank you, Staples! Wasn’t that easy?


A gift from Taiwan


Taiwan is apparently mecca for snackers, a melting pot for all foods Asian — very like Hong Kong, but over there you couldn’t find “Korean kimchi” flavored Lay’s potato crisps! And since they also have these in flavors like “seaweed,” “Thai leaf chicken,” “black pepper steak” and “onion crispy crab,” you could probably snack for years without resorting to anything as mundane as “sour cream and onion.”

These are more like Pringles than the lay’s you’ll find in the states, made from shaping dried potatoes into uniform saddle-shaped rounds. They’re positively miniature compared to real Pringles, though, with a stack of crisps fitting inside a box roughly the size of a package of Carr’s table water crackers. But small is good, since i can nibble on a few more per day than i usually allow myself.

Taste-wise, they do a pretty good job of getting the essence of a “young” kimchi, with strong tones of garlic and hot chile flakes. There’s a touch of tang, too, presumably to suggest pickling, though here it comes across more as sweetness. There’s none of the pungent, fermented flavor one finds in a really ripe kimchi, which probably means even people who dislike that may enjoy this. Overall, a good flavor match for a potato crisp. Besides, i just love the novelty of it.

Handily beats the one unusual flavor i tried in Hong Kong, which was an imported Japanese “steak” flavor. Ugh! Completely misguided.

Someday I simply must find Thai leaf chicken Lay’s. Don’t they just sound so good?


Oh, Malan

I am so officially mad at Project Runway today.

This is probably the first and last time you’ll ever see me admit to watching reality TV

(but I do, sigh, I do…)


shaken, not stirred

What’s your favorite drink or cocktail? What’s in it?
Question submitted by charm.vox.com

I’m a sucker for Wild Ginger’s mango daiquiri — heavenly! This should be no surprise to anyone who knows me. Unfortunately, I’ve no idea how to make one at home, but in a pinch a Sapphire & tonic will suffice, anytime.

Oh! Have you heard of sake bombs? Balance some good sake in a sake cup (or a shot glass if you’re without) on two chopsticks bridged over the mouth of a tall glass or mug of dry Japanese beer (e.g. Asahi or Sapporo). Yell, “sake bomb!” and bang your fists on the bar so that the sake, container and all, falls into the beer (this may take two or three tries, depending on the size of your fists, or the bar — just my experience). Proceed to imbibe.

So messy, but verrry smooth. Mrowr.


Fan death, redux

So i slept with the fan on the other night (it’s been hot!), and I’d like to report that I’m still alive.


Sticky toffee


The best dessert ever is now the best ice cream ever! Häagen-Dazs’ sticky toffee pudding ice cream is available for the next six months in all its toffee-laden, cakey, custardy goodness. I just wish they didn’t keep putting out the good stuff as limited editions — I really miss their Di Saronno amaretto and tres leches flavors. but this, this will definitely tide me over for the next half-year.

Also, if you’re looking for the real thing, I’ve found the English Pudding Company’s sticky toffee pudding in the freezer section at Whole Foods, custard not included. Haven’t dared tried a home recipe yet. Anyone have one to recommend?

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