Monday, August 21, 2017

the fragrant harbour

It's becoming very late in the season, but there are still some pockets of nature where flowers are blooming. Yesterday along a shaded path near Chai Wan, SB and I enjoyed the sweet, white floral scent of Vietnamese gardenia or cape jasmine, Gardenia (Kailarsenia) vietnamensis - which is not actually a gardenia at all. The flowers are very delicate and don't last for more than a couple of days, but the scent is very strong, sweet and creamy, much like many white tropical, floral fragrances.

The leaves are a beautiful deep green, waxy and robust in contrast with the delicate flower. The Vietnamese gardenia is one of my favorite flowers in Hong Kong, along with what I believe are Fagraea ceilanica next to the hockey pitches at the Happy Valley racecourse.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

hailing the king

Being  ignorant to local politics, as well and having returned from holiday last night, I was not aware that the “King of New Territories” Lau Wong-fat had passed. I found out after Googling whose funeral was today. My body was still in American time so I woke up early this morning and took a leisurely tram ride to the office in Quarry Bay. I was engrossed in my news reader, finding out about the antics of a certain Cheetos hued leader, when I was jolted into awareness by a strong perfume of lilies. I looked up to discover that we were passing the Hong Kong Funeral Home, which was surrounded to capacity with funeral wreaths. There were so many wreaths that they spilled into a park across the street. Down the road I would see workers from the flower shops approaching, laden with even more wreaths. If you were planning to take note of who paid their tributes, you would be making a long list.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

come along and ride on a fantastic voyage

SB has been on a fantastic voyage, and by fantastic I mean the Merriam-Webster definition 1-C and not in any way excellent.

When I bought the tickets on the United website, I was distracted by the very attractive price, followed by the relatively short journey time, and did not notice what has now become the most important part of the ticket offer: the code share and stopover location. Only after SB got to Airport Express did we start to have misgivings about flying Air China through Beijing. That two hour layover that was so attractive became a source of concern when taken with the fact that 60 percent of all Air China flights to Beijing are delayed by more than 20 minutes, ostensibly due to weather.

SB sat on the plane for an hour and a half due to "weather". When the plane landed in Beijing, it taxied for fifteen minutes before finding a gate. I phoned Air China in the meantime, having found a later flight, but I was told that SB needed to arrange the flight at the airport. He stood in a queue for two hours and was told that the other flight was booked and he needed to spend the night. He was offered a room to share with some other unlucky passenger, which he declined. Air China at least gave him a ride to the hotel that he paid out of pocket for. The ticket agent reminded SB that due to inclement weather, he would not be reimbursed for food or any other expenses incurred. SB wryly noted that it was sunny and calm all the way from Hong Kong to Beijing, but it was amazing that the flight was delayed due to weather. And by amazing, I mean the Merriam-Webster definition and not the common, broadened meaning; there was nothing slightly better than pleasant in the ordeal.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

all those jerks

SB has still not figured out his ring size. He may be getting a piece of string to tie around his finger. At least it won't detract from the watch that I bought for him. I'm more excited about the watch than I was about my engagement ring. I bought the model that is the closest to the original moon watch. SB about had a nerdgasm while visiting the Houston Space Center this past winter so I think that he will like this gift. I need to figure out how to keep it a secret because I'm so excited about it.

SB left this morning for his annual off-grid experience in the Adirondacks. He told me that he wouldn't miss his jerk dog one bit and then proceeded to lift the jerk dog onto the bed for some forcible cuddling. Elsie usually hates being on the bed but this once, she actually laid down and let out a long suffering groan, and proceeded to fall into blissful slumber. Tippytoes circled the bed like a shark, wondering why she was being left out. She doesn't speak English so I couldn't explain to her that Elsie was going to be abandoned for a while and SB needed to cuddle her. For her own good and not for him of course. I noticed that despite not caring one whit, SB was wearing socks to bed so that he could leave something behind that reminded her of his stinky feet.

I may want to strangle SB, especially right now that I am scrambling to mail the signed bar contract because he forgot yet another item, but I will miss that jerk also. Maybe Elsie and I can split the socks.

Monday, July 24, 2017

sunshine in the clouds

We have less than two months until our wedding and a few things have started to go off the rails. One of my bridesmaids can only arrive the morning of the wedding, though I think it is okay because I can just have her walk down the aisle after another bridesmaid and how hard can that be? The florist, an extraordinarily talented woman, has ghosted on me. I was becoming suspicious that this would be the case because I read some recent reviews from other brides discussing how she seemed to have disappeared. I'll figure out something...I hope. My father and sister are both insisting on reading for our ceremony despite SB and I wanting to keep the ceremony short and sweet. We already had a reader and a couple of readings chosen so this will extend the ceremony unless we cut out the reader who we invited.

Three couples who were invited to the wedding are eloping. This does not bother me but I am noting it because I think it's remarkable. I guess that love is in the air.

What finally did me in was on Saturday I discovered that SB had yet to complete any of the items on his list, and finally I experienced wedding jitters. Originally he was going to plan the wedding but I had to take over almost everything in February when I found out that he had done nothing, assuming with no actual, factual evidence that there was plenty of time. We lost the desired venue and desired caterers and I had to take over before we were left with no options at all. When I found out that he had not arranged the bar, had not ordered the custom shirts for his groomsmen, had not visited the tailor to order his blazer or his trousers....well, I freaked out and asked him if he really wanted to get married. This freaked him out and apparently he spent the whole day with a stomach ache at the thought that I wanted to cancel the wedding. He told me that he never for a minute had any second thoughts and why would I think such a thing? Well, let's think about this: if I heard from a friend that her fiance promised to plan the wedding but then did nothing, and then promised to at least sort out his clothing while the bride did everything else and then he didn't, I would advise her to have a serious talk with the groom about whether he really wanted to get married. 

Sunday's T8 weather seemed very fitting with my internal gloom at having had a major wedding fight with SB the night before. I was at the end of my rope with his ADHD related procrastination, more so with his denial of procrastination and completely bonkers justification for why he could't complete any task, which usually happens when he is really far gone down the path to destruction. When things are really bad, as in so low on time that there may be irreversible damage or unavoidable failure, SB will go into this emotional state where he becomes unreasonable and stubborn. He doubled down on his reasons why he can't confirm anything, which is a circular argument that he can't choose the blazer color without having the shirts and he can't order the shirts because he needs to confirm that they match with the blazer. I failed at trying to make him see reason and he insisted that while he has employed outrageous justifications for procrastination in the past, this time he was sure of his rightness. I am sure that he will finally admit that this is another case of procrastination induced insanity after he marries me in his underwear.

At 4pm I couldn't take any more gloom and we headed out into the hills for a short hike. As we reached the reservoir over Tai Hang Road, the sun broke through the clouds for just a moment before setting in a haze of orange. I realized that the bright side of SB showing up to the church in his underwear is that it will distract from my family reading endlessly from the pulpit. I made note to sign the bar contract without waiting for SB because alcohol might be the most important factor of the wedding. At the end of this, I will be married to the man that I love, whether I remember the event or not.

Monday, June 12, 2017


One of the comfort foods that a roommate used to cook was picadillo, a "mince" of ground beef with an assortment of added flavors. Her version of picadillo was influenced by her Mexican heritage and was made up of beef, tomato paste, cumin, onions, garlic, and potatoes. She ate it on tortillas.

It was only in graduate school when I was attempting to recreate her dish that my Cuban roommate told me that picadillo was Cuban, and the ingredient list was supposed to be far more complex. When I asked how to make the Cuban picadillo, he revealed that he couldn't actually cook so he didn't know. I turned to the internet, where I found a large variety of different recipes all purporting to be the authentic Cuban picadillo. I have decided that picadillo is similar to ragu, that there may be a hundred varieties of the "authentic" recipe.

My favorite recipe is the one from the New York Times. It has a perfect medley of savory and sweet. I have only tweaked it slightly, to add potatoes when I don't want to eat it with rice, and to more thoroughly brown the meat to get that delicious crispness.

Picadillo Recipe (inspired by the New York Times' Sam Sifton)

3 ounces dried chorizo, diced
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and chopped
4 medium-size potatoes, cubed (I prefer yukon gold)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ pounds ground beef
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped finely
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 bay leaves
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
⅔ cup raisins
½ cup pitted stuffed olives
3 tablespoons capers

Add the chorizo to a large pan at medium-high heat until the fat begins to separate. There should be at least 2 tablespoons of fat, or you may add extra virgin olive oil if there is less than 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan. Add the onions, potatoes and garlic, and stir fry for around 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and becoming translucent.

In a separate pan, add the ground beef, and allow it to brown, crumbling the meat with a fork as it does. Season to taste with the salt and black pepper. 

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, white wine, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaves, cloves and nutmeg and stir just enough to combine. Lower the heat, and let the picadillo simmer, covered, for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the cover and add the raisins, olives, and capers. Cook for another 15 minutes. You may serve this with white rice (traditional), tortillas, or over a root vegetable mash.

Friday, June 9, 2017

finally, relief

Feedly, the news aggregation app that I use, has unveiled a new filter where you can exclude certain words for a period of time. For example, if you have hit your saturation point with reading about the bleating of a certain bloated, bloviating, nuclear Cheeto, you can select his name and apply a mute filter. Oh, if only this filter worked outside of Feedly!

In other news, my attention was completely focused on the Comey testimony yesterday and I missed that the UK election was going on. I am not educated on the ins and outs of UK politics so I don't know exactly what the exit polls results mean to the future leadership. I did enjoy listening to two colleagues discussing the possibilities. It was a welcome change from discussions over US politics, which have been painful of late.

I'm still hoping that I was hit by a bus and all this has been a bad dream resulting from my six month coma.