Do Not Say We Have Nothing

23 Apr

Blog Post #365

“What happens when a hundred thousand people memorize the same poem? Does anything change?
~ Madeleine Thien, Do Not Say We Have Nothing

China photo

Madeleine Thien’s novel, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, is a sweeping saga of revolutionary China covering Mao Zedong’s rise to power to the 1989 student protests at Tiananmen Square and through to present day Vancouver.

This complicated multi-generational story chronicles a dark, era in Chinese history, where friends and families turned on each other in a frantic effort to save themselves from China’s cruel regime. It was a brutal time for the people, especially students, artists and musicians — a time when their very existence was threatened by their resistance to conform.

Central to this story are historical events including the destruction of the Shanghai Music Conservatory, the vilification of the musicians and teachers there and the Tiananmen Square massacre. Don’t Say We Have Nothing follows the lives of Sparrow, an accomplished composer, Zhuli, his cousin, and a talented violinist and Jiang Kai, one of Sparrow’s most promising students, a brilliant pianist. The book tells the tale of immense loss, unspeakable violence and cruelty that gripped the lives of the Chinese people for over forty years.

Thien expertly weaves together family history, music and math to explore the depths of human emotion that enable us to survive tragedy and loss — even to hold on to love and self no matter the obstacles we face.

The novel follows the characters through the decades as each survives the devastation in their own way. The story travels back and forth in time, moving from Shanghai to Beijing to Vancouver, chronicling the history of the families.

In this novel, Ms. Thien exposes us to great insights into the history of China. With beautiful writing, a compelling story and memorable characters, the author takes us into the dark inhumanity of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution — retelling a story that must not be forgotten.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing is noteworthy novel, haunting, dark, and beautiful in its complexity. Well worth the read.

★★★★★

Colour Me Spring

21 Apr

Blog Post #363

Don’t you love spring? The warmer weather, sunny skies, spring rain… promises of good things to come.

Spring makes me happy — I love to get outside and enjoy the sunshine (or the rain!) and revel in all the colours of this season. After a long, dreary winter, the vibrant shades appearing all around are a soothing balm to the soul.

My favourite spring palette include: the dreamy richness of luscious violet hues, the fresh emergent tints of vernal green, the sunshiny warmth of bright yellow tones, and the bold, sassy bloom of deep pink.

Violet

The purple tones of violet have me envisioning fields of lavender or a delicate crocus opening up in the morning sun. I think of early morning sunrises, painting the sky with glorious swathes of iridescent violet vistas.

Lavender Field

Crocus

Green

Spring means new growth — tiny green buds unfurling on the trees, ready to burst forth in all their fresh, lively tones. Crisp, shiny blades of grass pushing upwards from the fertile ground. Green — ranging from verdant emerald tones of emerging foliage to the quiet hues of velvety moss-covered tree trunks.

Budding Leaves

Grass

Yellow

Is there a cheerier proclamation of spring than a bed of lemony yellow daffodils nodding their heads in the sun? I love this time of rebirth heralded by scampering baby lambs and the soft pastel sweetness of a newly hatched ducklings and chicks. Yellow the colour of happiness!

Daffoldils

Duckling

Deep Pink

One of my favourite colours is deep pink — vivid, whimsical and bold — like the striking blaze as a rhododendron opens its blooms. A pair of playful, vibrant pink rainboots adding a flare of pizzazz to grey, rainy April day.

Rhododendron

Pink Rain Boots

These spring colours are a welcome sight as the world awakens from its winter slumber. I know that I feel joyful, happy, and carefree as all the beautiful shades of spring emerge to colour our world. What about you? What are your favourite spring colours?

Spring is in the Air — A Haiku Poem

17 Apr

Blog Post #359

Today is International Haiku Day — so of course, I did what anyone would do — I wrote a haiku!

It was a gorgeous day and my haiku is a tribute to the season. I love walking outdoors and noticing the budding trees and the blossoming shrubs. It lightens my soul and brightens my day to see flowers poking their heads out of the earth, preparing to burst forth in a showy hue. Soon the world will be awash in the beautiful colours of spring: fresh green, vibrant yellow, deep red and bright pink. I love the vibrancy of Spring!

Tulips

Spring’s beauty unfolds
red tulips wave in the breeze
tree buds unfurl green

Belly Laugh

16 Apr

Blog Post #358

Tonight was a low-key evening. I’m still not feeling 100% so we had an easy dinner (a hearty split pea soup) and settled on the sofa to watch a movie — thank you, Netflix!

After bit of a search, we found an old classic, Monty Python’s And Now For Something Completely Different, one of our favourite comedies from way back when. It was just the thing to take my mind off the last stages of my nasty cold.

 

Watching the movie, brought back a lot of nostalgic memories and I still find it quite hilarious. Of course, it is extremely silly — but antics of the British comedy troupe never fail to tickle my funny bone!

Woman laughing

I thought back to the weekly TV show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and some of my favourite sketches. Self Defense Against Fresh Fruit, Vocational Guidance Counselor, Hungarian Phrase Book, and the side-splitting Parrot Sketch. All amusing, entertaining and memorable. One sketch that always has me in stitches is the uproarious Argument Clinic.

If you loved Monty Python and the Flying Circus, check out their YouTube channel and watch many of their classic skits. You’ll be rolling on the floor laughing for sure!

The Best Medicine — Chicken Soup!

15 Apr

Blog Post #357

Battling a cold is never fun. There isn’t any way to “cure” your cold, you ride it through to the end — knowing that in a few days you will be back to your old self. Small comfort when you are aching, hacking and all stuffed up. However, there are things that you can do to alleviate your suffering a little while the virus runs its course.

Drinking lots of fluid does help — water, tea, hot honey, lemon and ginger, all can make you feel better temporarily. I’ve been consuming a lot of these liquids for the past three days but the thing that has really made me feel better is good old-fashioned chicken soup.

I made a big pot of delicious soup based on Easy Chicken Soup with Greens, a Pinterest recipe from The Lemon Bowl. 

This soup is fragrant, lemony and soothing — just the thing to fill your tummy with delicious goodness and help you fight a nasty cold bug. I love the surprising warmth from the addition of the cinnamon and cumin. I think I could live on this soup, it’s that good!

Bowl of Chicken Soup

Do you have a favourite cold-busting soup?

Cold Busting Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

1 onion diced
3 stalks celery diced
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of cumin (optional)
2 cartons chicken broth
3 chicken breasts
1 bag spinach
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
15 oz can chick peas washed and drained
Juice of one lemon

Method:

Cut the chicken breasts into bite size pieces and sauté in olive oil in a dutch oven. Add the onion and celery after a few minutes, and sauté until the chicken is no longer pink and the vegetables are softened.

Add salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cumin, if using. Cook for an additional minute.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the spinach, mushrooms, chick peas and lemon juice.

Cook until spinach is tender and the chick peas are heated through, about 5 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, serve with crusty bread if desired. Enjoy the deliciousness.

Four Favourite Things

14 Apr

Blog Post #356

I have been suffering for a few days with a nasty cold — a wracking cough, aching muscles, snuffly nose, watery eyes and a deep, deep fatigue. Blech!!

So, I have been drinking hot lemon, ginger, honey tea, popping advil, and sucking on throat lozenges for days. And sleeping — lots of sleeping — yep, doing my best to lessen my symptoms and trying to maintain as pleasant an attitude as I can. That’s the hard part.

Luckily for me, my sweet husband makes it easier to be nice even when I am feeling my worst.  He brings me treats, makes dinner and generally tries to make me as comfortable as possible.

As I was enjoying the yummy chocolate-covered twizzlers he brought home, (seriously, have you tried them — they are to die for!) I decided to think of things that make me happy to distract myself from my misery. I came up with a list of five things. Sure, I have more than five things on my favourite things list, but I needed to take a nap so I stopped there.

Macarons

Macarons

These sweet meringue-based confections are made with delectable cream sandwiched between two airy cookies. This French-style pastry comes in many flavours and are delicious bites of joy. My favourite place to get these gems is Bon Macaron Patisserie.  With over 50 flavours it is difficult to choose just one — but I love the White Truffle Sea Salt (savoury) and the Lavender (sweet) are two that I can’t say no to.

1956 Thunderbird

Baby Blue Thunderbird

I love the old style cars like the classic 1968 Rolls Royce Phantom VI, the 1960 Bentley or the 1967 Austin Healy. But my favourite is the Thunderbird — 1956 and 1957 vintage. That car was the perfect size and came in a lovely shade of light blue or pink. The first time I saw one at a vintage car show, I put it on my “wish list”. It’s still there!

Old Music

When I am feeling nostalgic, I love to listen to music from back in the day. One of my favourite albums from the “olden” days is Elton John’s Madman Across the Water. Released in 1971, Madman Across the Water was John’s fourth studio album and considered to be his best. It went platinum in the U.S. in 1993. The track I love best on this album is the title song — it is still one of my faves.

 

A Nice Cuppa

Cup of Tea

What can be better than a lovely, steaming cup of tea to lift your spirits or restore balance? I love to have tea in the afternoon for a quick pick-me-up especially at work when I need an energy boost. David’s Tea is a favourite tea shop that I frequently visit — with many varieties of tea to choose from as well as teapots, cups and travel mugs. But I recently came across an independent tea seller at a craft market. I purchased several tins of tea from Karla’s Specialteas. Karla is a certified tea sommelier and offers gourmet artisan blends made with local ingredients. My current preferred tea from Karla’s is Japan’s Treasure — A blend of five highly prized Japanese teas: Kukicha, Genmaicha, Gyokuro, Sencha and Bancha,  married with the flavors of strawberries and red currants. Heavenly!

Cherry Haiku

11 Apr

Blog #353

After our long winter, it is exhilarating to see daffodils sway in the breeze, to notice the budding branches and to find rhododendrons getting ready to explode their colour throughout the neighbourhood. The cherry trees have finally blossomed and Vancouver is swathed in the frothy pink of delicate petals.

Cherry Tree

Morning sun rises
warm spring breezes stir the air
cherry blossoms falls

Om Nom Nom!

7 Apr

Blog Post #349

Lately, I’ve had a craving for Greek food — briny olives, salty cheese, luscious tomatoes. Maybe a Greek salad with a twist — something that would make a light, but satisfying meal. So… I opened up my Pinterest boards to search for the answer to “What’s for dinner?” and I found it — a recipe for Greek Pasta Salad! Om Nom Nom!

The recipe I found is quick, easy and delectable. It held its own as a main course, but if you wanted a heartier meal, you could add grilled chicken or a couple of lamb skewers. I would recommend this dish to anyone who likes Greek food. Give it a try — you won’t be sorry!

Veggies

All the veggies for the salad, chopped and sliced and ready to go in the bowl!

Greek Pasta Salad

(This recipe is adapted from 20-Minute Greek Pasta Salad from Baker by Nature)

Servings: 8 as a salad; 4 as a main course

Ingredients:
For the salad:

1 box of farfalle pasta (or your favourite short pasta)
1 english cucumber (I used 2 of the mini ones)
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 cups romaine lettuce
3/4 cup fresh parsley
1 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
Crumbled feta (8 ounces or to your taste)

For the dressing:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste – I omitted this)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)
1 cup tzatziki

Method:
Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then slice into half circles. If you are using mini cucumbers, simply cut them into rounds. Cut the tomatoes in half, tear the romaine into bite sized pieces, finely chop the parsley, slice the onion very thinly, and slice the olives in half.

Cook pasta according to package directions, until it is al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing.

Combine the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt (if using) and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until combined. Mix in the tzatziki and set aside.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and rinse it under cold water for a minute or two until cooled. Place the pasta in a large mixing bowl and in the tzatziki mixture and toss to coat. Add the cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, parsley, onions, olives and feta. Toss to combine. Serve and enjoy.

Pasta Salad

Om Nom Nom! Pasta Salad

 

Crows — A Six Word Story

5 Apr

Blog Post #347

One early morning when I was waiting for the bus to get to work, I was mesmerized by a large group of crows that had gathered in a tree across from the bus loop. The crows were perched on all the levels of branches, the cacophony of their cries filled the air. Crows would fly in and out, landing on an available branch or leave their spot to soar away, others would jockey for new positions on the tree. Each time a crow would leave or a new one arrive, the members of the group would unleash a loud, raucous chorus.

It was fascinating and I spent my wait speculating about this dramatic display. Why were the birds gathering? Why were they noisily proclaiming their presence? Should we be worried?

This has been happening for over a month — every morning, the crows are perched in the same tree, their convention apparently never ending. What’s going on?

Six Word Story About the Crows

The crows are plotting a murder!

Sleepy Time Haiku

4 Apr

Blog Post #346

I’m tired and the thought of my comfy bed is uppermost in my mind — so why am I still sitting here ostensibly writing a blog post, but browsing through my Pinterest feed instead?

Could that Café Verona I slurped down at 5:00 pm be keeping my brain buzzing with a million whirling thoughts? Or am I a crazy person too stubborn to call it a day and relax into the sweet peacefulness of sleep?

Sheep

Sleep is beckoning
stumble to my bed yawning
sweet dreams are waiting

 

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