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Part 4: Snippets, teasers and cliffhangers

Frolicking on the lake
Paddle boating on the lake isn’t just kid stuff, I insist. Adults love it and have the best fun, too. Last Saturday afternoon, friends and I went paddle boating on Shoreline lake in Mountain View, my second time ever. Regulation says only four can ride the paddle boat, so one guy had to work the kayak on his own. For some bit of excitement, our boat often crossed path with the kayak, and lightly bumped it intentionally but teasingly. We felt like kids giddy at play.

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The sky was partly cloudy; it wasn’t all glaring as during the first time I went paddle boating on that lake. Light wind was just right for the few wind surfers and sailboats on the water. In the middle of the lake was a boat full of youngsters singing their hearts out. I had the urge to match their singing, but realized I was the only song lover in that group. I recall that once at a party in my home, these young PhD’s and MD from Stanford told me none of them sang or danced. Hmmm … I ‘d like to teach them how to sing or do the cha-cha someday (I did tell them – and remorsefully, I think it sounded like a threat). I’m grateful, though — at least, they loved playing exuberantly on the lake.

Following the boat ride was walking the baylands for a magnificent ocean view. It was a most relaxing and enjoyable afternoon that Saturday.

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Autumn bloom
Autumn is blooming right in my front yard. “Oxy-moronic” isn’t it, to use bloom for autumn? Bloom and blossom – I think of those words to mean a progression, a new growth, a change to a higher plane, a blissful opening. And that’s exactly what is happening. Autumn just started, and I see it progressing right outside my window. A picturesque view catches my eyes: the wild mass of yellow and green shooting off the branches of the large shady tree in front of my house. The green seems to be diminishing before my eyes every day, giving in to the effervescent shade of canary yellow. On the ground beneath the tree is an even thicker mass of yellow and brown leaves.

The gardener comes every Monday, and my hope is that he doesn’t clean off the leaves. There’s beauty in this rustic, rugged sight. I love watching nature in action. Leaves falling off and the wind blowing the fallen leaves on the ground with a rustle. Then, there’s the dramatic crunch-crunch from footsteps of passersby. The funny thing is, as soon as the leaf blower packs off his gear and takes off, more leaves populate the ground. So really, it’s all right. I get back my lovely autumn scene right in front of my house … until the tree gets bare. And when that happens, the picture outside my window morphs into a somber but dramatic scene: nude branches stretched out to the sky. But that’s all right, too, because comes the jolly season of Christmas!

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On the roll for cooking my favorite soup
Sinigang, my favorite soup. I cooked it with pork ribs two days ago, and ate it two days in a row. Some would call it bouillabaisse. Pork was boiled to a tender texture and using the water where it cooked for broth, I added in slices of tomatoes, onions, ginger, plus some Napa cabbage and pea shoots. For the sour sinigang flavor, enough of the powdered tamarind mix was poured into the broth. When the vegetables cooked, the steam exuded a heavenly flavor, and voila! Perfect with rice. But watch the rice portions, I tell myself.

Guess what! I’m having sinigang again tomorrow! But that’s OK – it’ll have vegetables (which I don’t eat enough of, I admit). It’ll be fish sinigang. There’s salmon in the freezer, and cabbage and pea shoots in the frig. I’ll add in yam for a tinge of sweet, and ginger for a spicy flavor and aroma. Hah! I’m on a roll. I’m proud of my cooking urge, and strangely excited – maybe because it’s sinigang – my favorite soup!

I should tell you, for the weekend, it’ll be beef sinigang!

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Young men learning to cook
An impromptu party occurred at home some nights ago. A very pleasant surprise, especially for those of us who love to eat. And that includes everyone in the group. After an unplanned trip to the Asian market, Chinese friends used my kitchen to cook steamed fish and a hot pot mix of pork, shrimps, chicken, tofu and vegetables. The “master chef” is going back to his academic position in China next month after a year’s fellowship at the university, so enjoying his culinary talents is a special treat that we will miss. He definitely cannot be replaced from among the younger scholars in the group. But we challenge the young men to start learning how to cook.

The young men have taken the challenge, but for one who sticks to subway sandwiches every day. One, in fact, declared that he has become an expert in cooking beef oxtail. The others are busy learning perhaps, to show off their newly acquired culinary skill at the potluck two weeks from now, a despedida for the “master chef”. We all look forward to seeing how the challenge has panned out. Several of us are waiting for that oxtail!

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The Bear Dance
Watching my 10-year-old grandson practice piano via Facetime is a super treat. Last Sunday afternoon, he was practicing a difficult piece by Bartok (Bear Dance, mostly on chromatic scales). On his fourth year of piano lessons, he has shown much improvement and great skill. I commented about him being a natural (meaning with innate musical talent), but my son was quick to point out that my grandson works very hard and is serious about learning piano. I am so glad about that. This Lola is certainly proud of this talented boy (who works very hard at honing his talent/s, I should add). My son and my daughter-in-law are faithful to being mentors to their son, not in music alone, but in many other things as well. I am so grateful for that.

I learned something else that Sunday afternoon, as I listened to my son helping his son with his music theory. I often have thought that music of composers of centuries ago can all be loosely called classical. However, music is categorized into four: baroque (i.e. Bartok), classical (i.e. Mozart, Bach), romantic (i.e. Tchaikovsky, Chopin), contemporary (i..e Berlin, Gernshwin). I wonder where Schubert and Elgar fall under. I hear their pieces rehearsed many times by a Japanese friend and her violinist friend. Hmmm … I’ll find out.

Now, back to my grandson’s playing of the Bartok piece — I did envision a grizzly bear heavily hopping and thumping on my living room floor, swaying short and plump arms above his head, and making a slow, belabored whirl before an awkward but cute bow. All these, a little off tempo. The Bear Dance, that’s what it was!

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Making connections in the family of God
Last Sunday morning I was recruited to participate in a new project initiated by a young couple and a few others in church. The project aims to build a network of hosts and invitees to create opportunities to get to know one another better. While people come to church primarily to worship, it is nice to make them feel welcome. One of the many ways is to introduce folks and facilitate opportunities to engage in more than a superficial hello – but to converse, share stories about themselves, and hopefully, pray for one another.

The plan centers on recruited hosts taking any number of persons to lunch or dinner, at home or a restaurant, and devoting time to know the invitees. Hosts and hosted are generally randomly paired. I volunteered to host two — don’t know who I’ll be hosting, but am certainly excited to meet them. Who knows, that just might lead to new friendships – in the family of God.

Linda P. Jacob

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