To sweet beginnings…

I attended a wedding on June 18. It was probably one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve been to. The couple in question have been together for a while, and been through a lot together. It’s been a long(ish) journey for them, though a fulfilling one.

I guess one would say that they have their fairytale ending now… but I think I prefer to think of it as a beginning rather than an end in itself, at the risk of sounding terribly sentimental.

The other part that was pretty cool about this wedding was the DIY aspect of it. The bride works as a graphic designer, and she designed the invitations and programs (like the one above) all by herself. The little bags for the wedding favors at the reception were also designed and sewn by her. They were so cute that the other people at the table I was sitting, and I, were all deciding to use them as cell phone cases (see right: my cell phone is inside).

In my church, it’s customary to have a smaller, more informal “reception” with some light refreshments and drinks before the real reception, held in some hotel or castle or something, commences. That part was also DIY in the sense that a bunch of her friends got together the night before and made all the treats. They were pretty fancy: little tiny tart things filled with chocolate and fruit, and some mini egg souffle type of thing with bacon and spinach.

But here’s the most amazing one, and I take credit for this idea: the cake toppers were made the bride as well! Some time ago, I saw some ninja cake toppers selling on Etsy (can’t find the link now), and knowing that the bride was into ninjas, sent a link to her kind of jokingly recommending that she use those. She ended up buying the wood the next day and sanding it down to make them. They turned out looking phenomenal.

The cake toppers were for a cupcake tier, rather than a wedding cake. I think the cupcake tier was a hit.

I also had a great time catching up with friends I don’t see too often.

To my friends Wing and James: Congratulations on your marriage, and may God bless them on the journey ahead.

Postscript

But I have come to realize that if my ceramic heart and all its secrets which are locked away inside slips from my ever-careful fingers, I would have you pick up the pieces.

Not to be careless, like those who drop their hearts in front of unsuspecting lonely strangers who then leave them alone to sweep up the shards as best as they can… or as I have done… but to hold it gently but daringly out to another lonely understanding soul…

Closer to you, one secret at a time.

—–

Happy new year, everybody! I hope that 2011 brings you much joy.

and we called that calculation perfect love

So we made our own computer out of macaroni pieces
And it did our thinking while we lived our lives
It counted up our feelings
And divided them up even
And it called that calculation perfect love

— The Calculation, by Regina Spektor

Speaking of perfect love, I was browsing blogs some time ago when I stumbled on this really intriguing Etsy product, spotlighted on Here Comes the Sun, who found it on tumblr.

The description as written on her blog:

Corezone is a ceramic heart-shaped vessel that you can place your thoughts, feelings and emotions into. Write them down on pieces of paper and put them inside. You must then physically break your own heart to free them.

From the Etsy listing description itself:

An attempt to fulfill emotional needs by the means of an object, a try to withhold immaterial beeing in a material space.

Very interesting! The shop recently reopened, selling this item and they’re selling very fast. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a product like this. It’s like a piggy bank, except you don’t put money into it. You put things that are intangible, like thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Things you might not want people to see. Things you might want to keep hidden away. And if you ever want to find them again, you have to break the heart. It’s like a diary, except that you have to take some drastic measures to read what you’ve written.

These things are, in a sense, more precious than gold or silver. They are little scraps of paper which are wound tightly around our own hearts, and through the pulse and the beat remind us that we are living and breathing. They contribute to who we are.

Makes me think of true love.

Maybe we as human beings speak of finding true love and our “Heart’s Desire.” At the same time, we would protect our hearts so truly, barricade them in a dungeon… protect them too truly till we forget that we once knew what true love meant.

Falling in love is dangerous.

Automatons in glass houses, and paper birds in our skies.

We would hide our true feelings so deeply that we would bypass true love and the things we really need. Simply because true love is a fearsome thing. Deep. And heartbreaking in so many ways. Risky. Like promises made in the dark and a crumbling at the sunrise and a setting into stone all at once.

Or are we are so blinded by our failures that some of us would rather believe that there is no such thing as true love? Because while I hold out my heart to you, you could leave me alone to pick up the pieces when it falls? If I took the biggest risk of loving someone who might never ever love me back, what should I do when I have lost the gamble? Or because I have already held my heart out to someone who walked away with it, and it took me a while to glue it back together?

So in the process, we would make our love a small small thing. We’re safe, but are we happy?

Our love would be precise and calculated, give a little of this and take a little of that, and someone to keep the balance and a glass jar full of change. If you offer your heart, strings are attached and they must not break. I like you, but we must live our lives making sure the balances are kept, one on either side of the wall.

We would have it all, and we have nothing.

And we don’t know anything… anything at all. Because we would not reveal too much, or release too much. In a sense, the loneliness of comforting, because the unknown is rather too frightening.

Though we are together, we are actually alone…

Maybe sometimes we do try to lock away our feelings and emotions inside little glass boxes, and attempt to hide the key somewhere so far away that we’ll eventually forget where we put it?

What if you were to one day wake up, and take our little glass hearts, and break them, letting all our buried thoughts and emotions spill out into the daylight? And the wall shall break, and there will only be “green grass where it once stood…”

To find true love, you might have to go deeper.

You might even have to break your heart to get there.

Pictures from Etsy. Song lyrics: The Calculation by Regina Spektor, from the 2009 album Far.

i won’t let go of your hand

Two birds on a wire
One tries to fly away and the other
Watches him close from that wire
He says he wants to as well but he is a liar

– “Two Birds” by Regina Spektor

I was trying to find a Youtube video with the song, and I found this utterly charming music video, filmed and directed by Alex Calleros and starring Adele Watkin and Dan Beckner.

I think it’s absolutely beautiful, not to mention poignant. And it almost makes me want to cry.

Both song and music video illustrate so well what happens when a couple grows apart instead of growing together. Maybe one wants the two of them to keep moving forward in life. However, the other one is, for some reason, afraid. Maybe afraid of what those changes might mean. Afraid that things won’t be the same.

Afraid that if he (using he because of the music video, though it can always be a she) himself were to change, he would no longer be in control of anything.

The sky’s too big.

Exhausted even before he makes the effort, he sits on the couch and plays video games.

Two birds on a wire
One says c’mon and the other says I’m tired

He is the bird clinging to the wire, while the other bird, the one who wants to fly away with him, keeps telling him that he’s slowly killing himself where he’s at.

I’ll believe it all
There’s nothing I won’t understand
I’ll believe it all
I won’t let go of your hand

In retrospect, it looks foolish. His bird companion wants to help him. She takes him as he is and tries to understand where he’s coming from. At the same time, she knows that he can’t stay on the wire. We were never meant to just stay where we are. Birds fly, even if the sky is overcast. We can’t avoid change, however much we’d like to. Even though change is scary.

But when change can be a beautiful thing as well?

She’s even promising not to let go of his hand.

The sad thing is that she can’t sit on the wire with him forever, either. Eventually she will have no choice but to leave him on the wire, if he wishes to stay there. Even sadder, these are two people who have made a commitment to each other, out of love. He delays her journey from the wire as well as his own by leading her on, telling her that sure, he’s going to do it when really he’s not.

He says that he will but he’s just a liar

How many times have I wanted things to remain the same as they ever were? How many times have I purposely kept myself from moving just so things could stay as they were?

We can all be scared little birds sometimes, but we have to move on and let go of the wire if we are to live the full life that we were meant to live.

After all, the sky is a big place.

But we’re not alone.

I won’t let go of your hand. . .

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

If Music be the food of Love

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.  ~Voltaire

I enjoy reading a good manga now and then. Though my tastes run strongly toward shonen or action manga, sometimes I do read shojo or more boyfriend/girlfriend relationship-oriented manga if the premise interests me.

A few months ago, I came across a manga in the latter genre, titled Oishii Kankei (in English, A Delicious Relationship).

The main character is a rich girl whose father suddenly dies of a heart attack, leaving her and her mother destitute. The rich girl tries to find a job to support herself and her mother; a job that doesn’t involve her just decoratively pouring tea for businessmen in an office. But because of her luxurious lifestyle, she and her mother do not have the necessary skills to enter the workforce.

However, she does have one skill. Because her parents always took her to gourmet restaurants when they were rich, her taste buds are extremely cultivated — to the point where she can almost taste every single ingredient in a dish. This is an extremely helpful skill; even though she does not know how to cook, she can taste dishes and tell the cook what ingredients needs to be added (or removed) to make it a truly spectacular dish.

Searching for work, she meets an owner of a small, local French restaurant who is looking for some hired help. The chef of the restaurant is a rather crusty young man with a sad past, and while working with him, she develops a crush on him.

In the beginning chapters, the manga was comedic and entertaining, and I enjoyed the story. The food descriptions (and pictures) were mouth-watering. I enjoyed the rapport she had with the other workers, especially the chef/love interest. Then the manga got all weird and the chef/love interest got a girlfriend who was actually quite an awesome lady, and my brain got confused because I didn’t want them to break up, and then the main character went through some really overblown mental anguish due to that, moved to another restaurant to work, slept with the chef of THAT restaurant while preventing him from committing suicide with a small, sharp knife, and… it got to be too much for me. I couldn’t enjoy it as much, though apparently this manga (published in 1993) was popular enough that it was made into a 20-part Taiwanese drama as well as an 11-part Japanese drama.

At the same time, I noticed something interesting in the story. The main character (or others) would eat a certain dish, and remark, “The chef who cooked this put his heart into it.”

This was also pointed out when the main character switched restaurants. A young, arrogant female chef had just started working at the gourmet restaurant, and she cooked splendidly in spite of her overbearing attitude and scorn toward the main character. Everything was simmered or sauted or baked to perfection. Every ingredient was perfectly in place. However, upon tasting the food, the main character remarked, “This chef does not put her heart into her cooking. She has no love.”

How could she tell?

It’s an interesting idea, one I’ve never thought about it much. I love eating good food, and it’s not hard to find. And almost everyone can cook. Most people can follow a recipe and turn out something that looks good and tastes good. But can people really taste food and tell that there’s some special ingredient, call it love or passion or whatever you will, and say that the food is enhanced by that? Do chefs, like writers or pianists or artists, similarly benefit from the addition of this important element in their cooking? Are their eaters and readers and listeners and viewers able to tell when this important element is absent?

A writer acquaintance from the Absolute Write forums says,

Sure, I could probably follow a recipe EXACTLY and come up with an edible meal. But in cooking as in all arts, there’s a certain Factor X, a ZING, that has nothing to do with getting the notes or the ingredients or the lines or the words right. A kind of magic. Maybe it’s just plain — love. Someone who loves to cook will produce better meals than someone who just uses the right ingredients, times etc.

I think there is truth to this. My mother loves to cook. She puts love into all her meals (and she doesn’t always need a recipe, either!). Whenever I come home from college, she’ll make my favorite food. Tilapia fillets with bread crumbs, chicken fingers with bread crumbs, chicken legs with bread crumbs (can you sense a trend here?), and potato soup.

With love, it’s not just any meal.

Singer/songwriter Brooke Fraser blogged about food recently. Something she wrote in her post stuck out at me.

Food and music are closely related. A beautiful dish has rhythm, notes, harmonies that work together in the same way a good song does.

Cooking is as much of a craft as music and writing is. But it is the musician or chef or writer that uses love to bring magic into the dish or song or poem.

And I now know what an amuse bouche is.

Ricotta and Sweet Pea Tarts and Risotto with Red Wine and Fontina Croquettes

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

This is for you.

Someone was talking about how me watching anime was a waste of my time, and how he should watch it, judge whether it’s a waste of my time, then try to persuade me not watch/read it anymore. I was irritated. Quite irritated. Especially when he started talking about how it was like being addicted to a drug. “What’s the point?”

I think he belongs to the “Fantasy is a waste of time” club.

I would go further to say that I’m pretty picky about the stuff I read and watch, and that I do know when something is a waste of my time. Even though this is fantasy, there’s something about it that somehow resonates with me. Fantasy always has a bit of realism in it, and this [Fullmetal Alchemist] is no different. It depicts humanity at its worse, but also humanity at its best. There’s comedy, sadness, despair, romance, tragedy. There’s mindless rage, injustice, cowardice, and cruelty, but there’s also forgiveness, courage, grace, and redemption. There’s hope. Which is what people desperately need.

Good fantasy is ironically marked by the realism in it.

Stories can also make one inspired to reach for something greater than themselves, right? For me, that’s what makes a good story cross the line into something much much better.

Waste of my time? I don’t think so.

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