Dim Sum Diaries
We stayed at Grunberb Haus B&B in VT during our vacay. Every morning the innkeeper's wife made this lovely, delicious lemon bread for breakfast. I lubbed it so much that I asked her for the recipe! Its that good peeps!

So I thought I'd share it with you too.



-1 1/2 cups flour
-1 cup sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp baking powder
-2 eggs
-1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup salad oil
-grated peel of one lemon

Prep: Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat together eggs, milk, oil and lemon and add to flour mixture; stir until just blended. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until top of bread is firm and attractively golden brown. Prepare Lemon glaze (recipe below). When bread is finished baking, use a wood chopstick to poke numerous holes all the way to the bottom of loaf. Drizzle hot glaze over top so that it slowly soaks into bread. Makes one loaf.

(Lemon Glaze)
-1/3 cup lemon juice
-/3 cup sugar

Prep: Combine both over heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Muy delicioso!
Things seemed to have calmed down a bit...except for a few hot spots, the area I live in is definitely out of danger. Though I heard the Santa Anas are supposed to be up and about again towards the end of the week. We'll see. Friends and family, some of whom I haven't talked to in years all called me or immed me asking how I was doing. I was a little surprised by the number of people inquiring to see if we were ok. Mom called me EVERY DAY and even my usually quiet sister popped her head out to im/call. Apparently Mom's house was the call and command center of Southern California, all the Canadian relatives and maternal Aunts (one was even on vacation in Japan and called), and she calmly assured everyone that everything was okay.

Then she'd call me right after. "Is everything okay still?"

School was canceled for the week and Hubby's company closed Monday and Tuesday, and you'd hear crazy stories of how in a row of houses, one house would survive the fire while the two to either side of the surviving house were completely destroyed. The radio was inundated with insurance companies ads saying, "WE CARE". One tiny car dealership (they weren't in the danger zone at all) evacuated their entire fleet of cars, so it was weird driving by and seeing an empty car lot. Luckily the businesses in the area were still open, so we could still go to the market and get groceries, pop into McDonalds or something. Spending the week at home with Hubby and the kids (and trying to work but not very successfully) though at times was a little crazy, it definitely drew us closer.

Someone mentioned that this fire evacuation (for SD) was the largest since the Civil War. I don't think the enormity of this whole thing has hit me yet.
I'm sure by now many of you have heard about the massive fires in CA. In San Diego, we live on the periphery of the zone which is or possibly is in danger. Areas about 25-35 minutes away from us in every direction are now under mandatory evacuation, and if the wind shifts a certain way, it could easily come in this direction.

The air is grey and thick with ash, you can actually see ash particles floating in the air. My parents and sister have already invited us to stay at their house in case we do need to evacuate. School has been canceled for the children and Hubby is saying we should pack in case we do need to leave. And what am I doing? I'm blogging about it.

I'm looking outside my window now and wondering how this event...starting one day with the fickle Santa Ana winds could spread so rapidly. It's almost unreal, you are aware of the reports around you, but it doesn't sink into your mind just yet, it's like it's not really happening to you...but it is.

I will keep you informed as things happen, dear readers.

More About Vermont and My Kind of Tourism

(Photo via) Vermont is quite an underpopulated state, much to my surprise. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there, other then some probably fabulous leaf color changing, etc. Compared to California though, VT has a hell of a lot of trees, it's like all forest and mostly agricultural (with all the pretty barns and churches with the white steeple). It's rural roots are somewhat deceptive though (with rural areas one would expect redneckedness), with VT politics being surprisingly progressive, and free Wifi at every rest stop. There is also an absolute lack of Starbucks, MacDonalds and Walmarts anywhere (down the road from where I live there are 3 Starbucks within a block of each other).

In a nod to the absolute miles and miles of hiking and wildlife there were to be found in VT, Hubby and I did walk .3 miles from the parking lot to to view the Quechee Gorge overlook. The real walking was to be done in the endless shopping (poor Hubby)! By talking with fellow b&b'ers at the B&B we stayed at, I'd randomly pick an area in the morning, we'd drive there and grab an area map. I would circle all of the area bookstores and stores of interest and then hand the map to Hubby.

"Engage." I commanded Hubby.

Then Hubby would dutifully drive around to all the places I had circled...though when we hit the 2nd yarn shop on a certain day, he elected to stay outside with all the other exhausted men.

Indeed the week turned into a VT Independent Bookstore Tour of sorts. There was nary a B&N or Borders to be found anywhere. My favorite was Bear Pond Books in Montpelier (there were 3 other bookstores within the same block, LOVELY!). We ended going up there 3x and it was like rediscovering a long lost friend. They featured books I probably would never have found on my own...and omigod, these books I snapped up immediately. They turned out to be great reads (will go into that in a minute).

The first one was Little Chapel on the River, by Gwendolyn Bounds. As a staff reporter for the WSJ in NY, Wendy survives 9/11, and in trying to piece her life back together, she finds an Irish pub in Garrison NY where she bonds with the folk there, and in doing so, is able to find herself again. The pub owner, Jim Guinan is getting on in years, and the future of the bar is in question. You begin to care about the pub and its denizens almost as much as Wendy does. It's a very nicely written book that is staying on my keeper list.

Also great is Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda, a French author I'd never heard of before. She paints a portrait of four different people who come together and somehow manage to become a family. I'm not doing it justice with my vague description here, but the way she writes is so...French, it's like your reading it in French because you know how to read French but it's in English and you catch all the nuances of the dialogue, etc. I'm 3/4 of the way through it and it's very good.

Finally, another fave of mine is Smoke & Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. This kept me entertained through the long plane rides, each story an amuse-bouche. I think my fave story Shoggoth's Old Peculiar.

In all I think Woodstock VT was my favorite place, it's tiny downtown a group of charming colonial buildings, including an art gallery that sells Sabra Fields prints. I couldn't resist buying that print (inset).

Had a thoroughly enjoyable time, all in all. I only wish I could've stayed longer, but glad to be home now...if only because I miss my kids and back to work to pay off all the bills I ran up. :P
Just got back from visiting the wilds of Vermont, the changing leaf colours are beautiful hues of oranges, golds, reds and yellows. With no access to the Internet (or Starbucks for that matter) it is definitely good to be back. Have been scribbling furiously into my mini moleskine notebook with so many things to say. Then I get back, log on and look at the blinking cursor. What the bloody hell am I supposed to write now?

Besides the interesting changes to traveling by plane...did you know that the Chicago and Burlington VT airports now have toilet seats that are wrapped in plastic like saran wrap? Instead of the traditional paper covers? And you wave your hand over a sensor before you drop trou and the plastic wrap automatically marches itself from left to right (disappearing into a slot on the left and new plastic coming from the right) like so many little ants, or a choo choo train? Technology these days.

Hubby and I stopped in VA/DC and a friend took us to Cracker Barrel, a southern restaurant typical of the region. They also sell a lot of country kitsch goods. I found a lovely quilt that I thought would go well in my Mom's room.

"Oh my god!" I cried happily. "This quilt is so beautiful...what do you think? It was maybe made by Amish women who sang spiritual hymns while they lovingly crafted this at a quilting bee!"

"No dear," Hubby corrected, turning the quilt over and pointing, "See the label? Made in China."

I like my version better (more later).
There is finally some information posted on amazon.com regarding Andrew Pham's The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars (hardcover), it will be out June 3, 2008. His website is also in the process of being updated.

10/14/07 Update from Here: Andrew Pham’s EAVES OF HEAVEN, “the sequel to CATFISH AND MANDALA, about the author’s father, Thong Van Pham, and the reversals of fortune his family suffered during the Japanese occupation of Vietnam, the French colonial era, and finally the Vietnam War before they began a new life in America.” (Farrar, Straus, sold 2004; CATFISH AND MANDALA, published by Picador in 2000, won the Kiryama Book Prize).
Paul, if you didn't get the chance to catch Journey From the Fall, a movie about Vietnamese refugees that has gotten much acclaim, it'd coming out on DVD on October 30, 2007.

Also, Shanghai Kiss looks really good. It has Hayden Pantierre from Heroes in it. I definitely want to get this one, the excerpt below looks promising.

TODAY IS THE DAY. THE DAY..........DEAR READERS!!!!! And what is so special about this particular day, you may ask? Why it's the day that Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas comes out!! I always get excited on these days...ran to Walmart this morning to see if they had it (as soon as the store opened), sadly no. But then I had to do this thing called "work" (insert sarcastic air quote gesticulating here), so I was delayed until lunch. Headed to B&N, the book was not on display either. Became very very peeved...so great was my anger that when I headed to the information desk, all I could say was, "LISA KLEYPAS BOOK. OUT TODAY. HAVE IN BACK?"

The clerk raised her eyebrow at me. "Let me check."

She was gone for a few minutes, which must've irritated the others in line behind me but I didn't care because this was LISA KLEYPAS for god's sakes. Then saw the clerk and I spotted the book in her hand and I said "YES!!!!!!" rather loudly...people must think I'm weird or something. So with my treasure in hand, I also spotted another must have, Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure, by Emma Campbell Webster. Having grown up reading all those Choose Your Own Adventure books I mean come on...CYOA and Jane Austen in one book?? How could I resist??? I will do a review of it after...I get some time to be acquainted with both books....

Driving home w/ da booty, called boss at work to snottily inform him I would be OUT for the rest of the day.

"I got the latest Lisa Kleypas! And a cool Jane Austen-esque book!" I chirped happily.

"Who? Jane Austen? Is she the chick from Bionic Woman?" Boss inquired.

There was a moment of affronted silence. "No," I replied in a very clipped tone.

"Right. She's the Buns of Steel girl then?"

This is when I launched the nuclear missile of pwning to pwn his arse. Smart ass.