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.

Contemplation 4

(From four weeks ago. Found it in my drafts box and decided to post it. There’s some good memories here.)

It’s really hard to write uplifting, encouraging posts when I’m not happy with the world around me. When nothing is going right. When I’m not doing too well with the tasks I’m supposed to be good at, like music and writing. When my self-esteem isn’t high, and my self-confidence is at a low.

These days, I’ve been so busy with practicing, and trying to get stuff right, and not getting stuff right, and more practicing, and still not getting stuff right. It’s discouraging.

I need to remind myself that I’m very very thankful to be here. Because I am. I am so glad that I’m here. I’m meeting so many dedicated and like-minded people who are also so talented at their instruments (or composing) in addition to being kind. They are inspiring. Not to mention the really brilliant teachers like Bruce Brubaker or Natalya Antonova. I sat in during a lesson with Ms. Antonova, and I love her. Very firm, but clear corrections and she seemed like quite a kind person. (I still think she might have made me cry, anyway.) I honestly love it here. However, I do feel inadequate. As if my skills aren’t enough, and they aren’t. As if I might never reach where I want to reach. That does worry me.

On the other hand…

I think being around so much maturity (whatever, that sounds weird) is making me grow up a little at a time. I’m trying to do better on the honesty front, at least. It’s making me want to work harder, do things better. I’m still held back by my lack of experience and knowledge, though.

For one thing, I’m learning how to carry on intelligent conversations with people.

But let me tell you, sitting down at a piano and improvising something pretty, if imperfect, is an excellent feeling. Right up there with getting the piece I’m actually supposed to be working on right.

Oh, and I had a day maker. An opera student said to me, “I feel so happy whenever I see you. I see you, and then I just feel so happy and good about life. You make me feel so happy.”

Or something to that effect. It did make me happy.

Gotta love those opera students. 😉

(To clarify, she was not my student. We were both students in different programs in the music festival.)

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

Eat more!

Friends and acquaintances would say that I always look like I’m starving, like I could eat more. I suppose that’s true — I am a very small girl with a very small stomach. My grandma comes to visit from time to time, and often states that I “eat like a bird.”

I love food, though. Sometimes I wish I could eat more. I don’t go out to eat much, and when I do go out to eat, it rarely, if ever, is gourmet. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten gourmet. Usually it’s the little buffet around town, the little dim sum restaurant several towns over, or McDonald’s.

Here are some foods I’ve recently eaten and enjoyed at various restaurants. I didn’t take the photos, but borrowed them off Flickr.

Enjoy the food porn. (Probably I will wake up next morning and find that I’ve gotten hits from hopefuls looking for actual smut.)

One of my church friends took the praise band out to lunch at the little Vietnamese place a few miles from the church. I’d never experienced the awesomeness that is pho before this. The restaurant had a wide-screen TV playing the Food Network while we waited to be served, as well as a large tank with this huge, ugly fish swimming solemnly around and around. My friend ordered an appetizer, fried tofu.

I ordered a “small” bowl of pho, with egg noodles. I didn’t realize that the “small” bowl of pho was actually a HUGE bowl of pho, way too big for one small girl to finish all by herself. And I didn’t. It probably didn’t have as much meat and green onions as the pho in the picture up there, but I recall the broth as very savory. I’ve already forgotten what type of pho I ordered, and what meat it had.

But it was good.

As a Chinese American, it follows that my parents take my family out to eat dim sum on a regular basis. Actually, no. My parents only started taking my family out to eat dim sum about a year and a half ago. We usually go to a small restaurant a few towns over that supposedly was voted to have the best dim sum in our state or whatever. I have a family of seven, so the outcome usually is 10-15 little dishes of sweet or crunchy or spicy or sticky to try. Dim sum heaven, I tell you!

My favorites were always the crunchy things. I always asked if we could order those little crunchy scallops with bread crumbs (yes, my obsession with bread crumbs extends to dim sum), or little crunchy spring roll type of dishes. My father would be the person dissatisfied with the thought of only eating dim sum, and would opt to order some noodles.

And afterwards, the comfortable feeling of being satiated; washing everything down with a little cup of tea.

And then asking for more tea.

We go out for dim sum at least once every year, now.

Panera Bread is a chain, but nevertheless a very nice and inexpensive one. Several years ago, one of my church friends decided to start a mentorship with me. Every week, she’d take me out to Panera and we’d sample a dessert and do a Bible study. If we were in a mood to get a meal, I’d get their two-in-one: a sandwich with some soup and bread/chips. I am very much a soup and sandwich person, and both are superb.

I believe I ordered something different every time I went there. I remember the broccoli and cheese soup, and some sort of barley/mushroom/beef concoction that was excellent.

During the school year, my friends would do Panera runs, and they’d get food for me as well.

I have yet to try the soup in a bread bowl, though.

I would have to say that for me, food and friendship will always be linked. The food itself at these restaurants were undeniably good, but it wouldn’t have been the same if I’d gone alone. It was always the pleasant company that I enjoyed the most, in the end.

What are your favorite places to eat at?

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

Things that make me happy, part two

Finding little unexpected little gems of music. Sometimes I surf Amazon, looking for new music to listen to. Some of these searches reveal little tidbits of free music that they offer periodically to promote new artists. Some of this music is really not my type of music. Others are such that I want to find out about the artist, listen to her songs, and perhaps even buy a CD. Christa Wells was one of those artists. A free song offer led to me finding her website and purchasing her debut solo album, Frame the Clouds, which I have reviewed here. She also has an amazing blog.

Recently, she put a rough draft of a new song she wrote up on Youtube. It’s not the best quality; it’s filmed at her home and is only her lovely voice and her piano. Despite all that, I have been listening to this song almost on repeat ever since I found it: it has an incredibly beautiful melody.

You work to be loved
You love to be known
You know how to hurt
You hurt on your own
But your soul is a desert

The rest of the lyrics can be found here.

To me, this song sounds sad. Someone is dry, barren, stripped down. At the same time, the song is so full of assurance, of hopefulness.

Of faith.

Despite the fact that storms keep coming before the person is ready, despite the fact that the person seems to keep losing what she has and draining all the resources she seems to have, she is coming to a realization that she might already have what she needs. Perhaps she does not know it yet, but she will find out. Despite the fact that she is also hurting, alone, and in need of love, she is gradually learning that that which she needs most is something she will never lose. Something that is there for the taking.

And this is something I can readily identify with. Often times, I do feel alone, hurt, and unloved — that as the days pass the storms keep on coming before I am ready to face them. However, it seems that these storms are wearing me down to a seed, a realization of one truth — that I have been loved from the start.

And that makes me happy.

But your eyes are an ocean flooding over the levy
Storms keep on coming before you are ready
Oh, and they’re taking the whole place down to the seed
Til all that you have…is all that you need

— Christa Wells: “All That You Need”

To be continued…

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