There are things I know that will boggle the human mind.  It doesn’t matter if it’s bits of trivia sucked up from life’s convoluted byways, then trotted out on those note-worthy moments.  But it does make  memorable conversation stoppers when these little “gems” are dropped casually into boring conversations.

Then there are things I can’t do that baffled my Grandma and had her muttering in Cantonese, “How can she not do this?”  This, being how to pleat and fold the small mountain of Chinese shrimp and pork dumplings before they were steamed. At that point, I had given up making my dumplings attractive. Instead, I had a platter of plump little “money bags” that actually were very symbolic for Chinese New Year. And no matter what the darn dumplings looked like, every one of them was delicious.

Of course this all leads to my  deep admiration for all those women who pump their own gas and fill their own tires.

I don’t pump my own gas because years ago, I was thoroughly traumatized at the gas pumps. I tell everyone that real women don’t pump gas–well, okay, maybe I just whispered this in my mind since we’re supposed to live in a liberated era now.

I’ve been lucky thus far for the few “full-service” gas stations around. It doesn’t matter if these stations are miles  away from me—I would drive there in a shot, just because there’s someone who can “pump and fill” the gas tank for me.

A few years ago, the service station 2 blocks from me became both a full-serve and a self-serve. It worked well for me since all I needed was someone to fill my tank.

It all went downhill when I discovered that “full-service” did not include filling the tires. My Hubby checks my tires at home on a regular basis—regular being once a month. When it needs a tiny bit of air, he uses a portable tire compressor that pumps in the bit that is needed.  Easy-peasy.

This worked if it was only a psi or two. One tire caused us a problem because for some reason, the compressor attachment did not connect to the tire thingy. AND of course, the longer one tries to connect the air source to the tire, more air is leaking out of the tire. Hubby was getting frustrated so I said confidently, “I can do it. You just have to connect that nozzle thingy with the tire thingy, right?”  Reluctantly, Hubby passed the job over.

And that’s why I had to head down to the service station to fill the tire up. After my attempt, the tire pressure gauge didn’t even register whatever air was left in the tire. AND that’s when I found out “full service” did not include filling the tires for you.

Approaching the two high school seniors, the conversation went like this:

“Could someone please fill my tires for me?”  (Lots of upraised eyebrows and rolling of eyes)

“We don’t do that. We just fill the gas tanks.” (High-fiving each other with big grins)

“Well, could someone show me how to do it?” (More rolling of eyes, then a very reluctant nod)

I put the money into the coin-operated compressor and the one service person connected the air hose to the tire in 2 seconds, allowed the air to flow ’til it reached the proper level and then stopped the flow of air. The entire process took 5 seconds.

“Okay, did you see what I did?”

“No–could you do it again, please?”  Heaving a huge sigh, the service guy demonstrated which part goes where, but he was smart enough not to actually tackle another tire. At least I had him fill my almost flat tire first as that was my biggest worry.

What happened next? Well, I managed to stop a burley guy taking his laundry to the laundromat. He was helpful and very patient. I put in more change for the air machine and he did the entire set of tires in under two minutes. Yes, he also re-checked the tire that was just filled and made sure all the tires had the same amount of air. When I offered to buy him a coffee and a snack, he laughed and said to pass the good deed along. I have and I will gladly do something helpful again—anything except putting air in tires and pumping gas.


Mature Wines, Aged Cheese and Me

I love hearing my friends with the vineyards, extolling the superior taste of a mature wine accompanied by a tiny crumb of aged brie. There is something magical when sampling a wine paired with something that brings out the essence of its flavour–a flavour that develops over time.

My birthday is fast approaching and I like to think of myself as ageless. After all, Orientals are known to have this gene that hides their true age. Grandma had it and so did my Mom. All my 95+ years aunts, including my 102 years aunt, truly don’t look ancient; neither do my cousins–hopefully that includes me as well.

The other day, I took a good look at my fitness class. We’re either all retirees and/or grandparents who are staying fit to keep up with the grandkids—not keeping fit to ward off problems like heart disease, diabetes or osteoporosis. The ladies plus 3 men were all older than me and definitely more agile.  There was nothing wrong with their memories as they remembered the names of each muscle in the exercises and why it was beneficial stretching them. Being the new kid in the class, I had the undivided attention of everyone as most of the attendees had already taken the same class three times. This was good  because it made everyone feel warm and fuzzy by demonstrating to the newbie the correct way to stretch and pull.

I felt I was keeping up quite comfortably even though a few ladies were confused as I had the habit of moving in the opposite direction. If the exercise started and ended with the left foot and left arm, I usually finished with the right foot and right arm. After the first two sessions, my classmates totally ignored me and knew not to follow me. My Aunt B assured me what I was doing was perfectly normal since she does the same thing in her yoga class.

I found out in my first class, the instructor was a “foodie.” It didn’t matter that we were all ready for lunch before our classes even got started. Ian cheerfully remarked as we all did our stretches, “Oh boy, I have to tell you that we had the best darn buffet last night at the “Flying Mongoose.”  If you ever travel near the airport, hang a left and keep going on that road. The buffet has everything including the best dessert table ever.”  As everyone’s tummy rumbled discreetly, mine gave an enormous roar. I made a mental note to myself to avoid lunchtime fitness classes. Another time, we were doing our sit-ups and right in the midst of aiming for 10 of those suckers, Ian reminded us that “Cobb’s Bakery” was now baking the traditional hot-cross buns as well as the chocolate hot-cross buns. I made another mental note to myself to not only avoid lunchtime fitness classes but “foodie” instructors.

If you’re really old, you can get away with a lot of outrageous things. I remember my elderly hard-of-hearing neighbour with the extremely loud voice who could say stuff that would have been considered rude and tactless in a younger person. Commenting on an outfit worn by the granddaughter of her best friend, Mrs. G would trumpet in her raspy voice, “Trisha shouldn’t be allowed out of the house wearing such a trashy outfit!” The young lady in question cheerfully waved and shouted back, “Thanks Mrs. G–that’s what I wanted, to be noticed!”

It’s nice in some ways gaining maturity–discounts to some restaurants and a few coffee bars; discounts to a few bookstores and drugstores; free specialty coffee or a free meal at some franchises on your birthday.

I think the whole point of getting older is to gain some wisdom. I’m not sure what nuggets of wisdom I’ve acquired over the years, but hopefully they are useful bits. I’m not a “list” person, so I’ll simply make a mental tab of stuff I can pass along to the grandkids.  As we get older, I want to keep on enjoying what we do and loving every minute of whatever it is that keeps our minds active and challenged. Like fine wines and “matured” cheeses, I’m convinced we can only get better as the years march past.



Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

italian almond biscotti  As Hubby and  I sip our Christmas morning cuppa and savour my home-made lemon almond biscottis, I would like to take this moment to wish all of my Readers and Followers the Merriest of Christmas. May all the Joys, Happiness and Good Health be yours in abundance in 2020.

Pointsettia, Homer and Ollie



So, You’re a Writer, eh?

Well-meaning people have asked me, “Why do you want to be a writer?”–as if a writer was this poor, unemployed, underfed person, suffering for her art and living in a bare attic room. I must admit I appeared too well-fed and content to look the part of a suffering writer. My other all-time favourite comment, “You’re a writer?” exclaimed in such a tone that I’m never sure if it’s a total revelation that I can write or that it’s inconceivable that I actually do write. Of course this comment has to be justified with a list of what has been written. “What did you write?” is a fair question but if it’s not on any Best Seller list, the New York Times or Globe and Mail Top 10 lists, then I’m not a Real Writer. I’ll bet you all have a tale or two to tell too.

The other day, I was sipping a cup of Timmy’s medium roast and savouring every bite of a  ginormous blueberry scone–as I people watched and did my “character” research. The scone had already been reduced to a few tasty bites as my thoughts jumped from the smart marketing ploy of pairing coffee with baked goods to an elderly man, trying to navigate around several baby carriages to reach a vacant table with his coffee and donut. The young Moms were too busy conversing with each other to notice his difficulty in using his cane, balancing his tray and aiming for the nearby table. Quickly, a young man, wearing paint-stained clothes and dramatically visible snake tattoos curling up both muscular arms, leaped from his seat, steadied the frail man and set the tray on his table. Amazingly, the Moms were too focused on each other to notice a potential accident had been averted.

At another table, a father and his young son were enjoying their snacks when suddenly the 3-year old tossed his empty cookie bag on the floor and proceeded to have a full-blown tantrum. Aha, I though–either Dad has to get more cookies or he’s going to reason with his son. You know, when parents would say, “That is not acceptable behaviour. Big boys don’t litter. Blah, blah, blah. Instead Dad picked his son up, smacked him lightly on the bottom and pointed to the floor. The tantrum stopped in mid-cry; he looked at his Dad and slowly bent to pick up his litter–as well as someone’s  under a neighboring table. Nodding his approval, Dad hugged his son, whispered a few words in his ear and both calmly walked out of the Food Court. I liked that. This was a well-placed smack that got the child’s attention. The little guy knew he was being naughty. I admired the Dad for dealing directly with the tantrum.

A few tables away, there were 8 men—retirees who appeared to be long-time friends, all wearing flamboyant Hawaiian shirts. Their table was a lively one of laughter, a rumble of voices and more laughter. They were sharing a large box of “Tim Horton” doughnuts along with their coffees. Finally, one of the men, wearing a shirt peppered with enormous pink hibiscus blooms, stood up to make a toast. Immediately, their corner became silent as their heads turned towards an empty chair at the head of the table. In a moment of rare Food Court silence, the man’s words were clearly heard. “This is for you, Benny. We can talk about you and remember all the funny things you did since you’re not here to defend yourself. The guys and I miss you like hell and wherever you are, we hope you’re having a Timmy’s and coffee too.  Here’s to you, Benny!” The clink of coffee mugs and a chorus of voices echoing the toast was a very touching moment.

Now, I know you’re going to say–wait a sec–what happened to being a writer?

Well, Life is what happens. There is so much drama, comedy and things left to your imagination that happens each and every day. Being at the computer can leave you numb ’cause you sat too long or hungry ’cause nothing is happening—so taking a long walk or heading out for coffee or meeting with friends—are all potentials for building a story. After all, most stories start with the ordinary that somehow changes to something extraordinary. It’s hard work to keep up the pace and make it believable. It’s definitely a challenge to have your believable characters do unbelievable things. What better place to pick-up characters than at the mall or coffee bar or grocery store or hardware store or library or. . . . And the imagination supplies the rest of the story.


The simple task of shopping for groceries really isn’t as simple as one may think. There are hazards and obstacles galore when you venture into a supermarket.

When I head for the veggie aisles, I totally detest those thin plastic-like, compostable veggie bags that comes off a roller. How the heck do you open the darn things when squinching it doesn’t work and rubbing it with thumb and finger doesn’t do anything. And, the other indignity is having the bags set high above your head so there’s a really good stretch to reach it. But I must admit it did feel good when another shorter lady asked me to get her one too. Don’t even ask how to grab a twist tie to secure the darn bag if and when you get it ’cause they’re up high too–beside the veggie bags. I finally figured it out. Just check the fresh leafy greens that gets their misty drenching AND THEN open the bag. Wet fingers,–without ee-ew–sticking it in your mouth,— works every time. As for the twist ties, if you’re able to grab one, grab a handful!

I find people are  very nice and very helpful when an item is out of reach. Taller men and taller women are very obliging. If you’re lucky enough to find a shelf-stocker, they are helpful and very polite. But, there are exceptions.

I can only think Mr. Grumpy was having a bad morning. I think his frowning over his ordering list and checking off what needed to be filled was too much without his morning coffee. I can relate to that. When I politely asked if he could reach for an item for me, he was annoyed and didn’t want to be helpful, but he reluctantly followed me to the freezer section.

“Where?” he briskly demanded.

“There,” I pointed, but nervously pointing at the wrong item.

“Here,” he thrust it at me.

“I’m sorry, it was the item two over,” I apologized. Scowling at me, he threw the offending item back in its corner, grabbed the right package tossing it into my cart and then stalking back to his frustrating task. I can only hope his caffeine break was coming very soon.

A few aisles over, I was searching for the coffee filters that use to be on the bottom shelf. I guess there must have been a “make-work” day as the coffee filters were now on the top shelf. Someone had taken the first 6 packages at the front leaving a stack of them at the back of the shelf. I didn’t see anyone who could reach for them so I contemplated Option#2.  I stepped on the bottom shelf and reached up to the top. Nope, still too short. Option#3 would be to climb the second shelf but that made me hesitate because even climbing onto the second step of a step-ladder gave me visions of falling flat on my back, knocking myself unconscious and having strangers gathering around to determine if I was dead.  Darn. . .I went searching for someone to help me. I finally found another shelf stocker who was extremely helpful. He reached up for 2 packages of coffee filters and asked what else was on my list in case they were on another high shelf. Thank goodness, they weren’t.

With a huge sigh of relief, I zipped down another aisle, heading for the cashiers. Unfortunately, a mini-munchkin was zipping along with his “shopper-in-training” mini-cart coming in the opposite direction.  My surprised shriek and his equally surprised yell of “Look out, Lady!” made us each swerve at the last second. He hit the display of paper towels that bombarded the aisle behind me.  I kept on going.

Hubby merely lifted an eyebrow when I eventually got home. I must have looked frazzled, holding my huge “go-cup” of caffeine.

“Grocery shopping, right?”


The following day, Walter  Young joined Charlie Swanson at his round Moka-House table.  Sipping his dark roasted flavor of the day, he said, “I’m not sure what happened yesterday.”

“What happened my friend, is that you got side-whacked by two women who have a mission proving fat mirrors exist.”  Charlie grinned and asked, “When is the shopping trip?”

“Today,” was the succinct reply.

Charlie missed a day with his coffee friends due to his long-awaited visit with his cardiologist, but he heard all about fat mirrors the next day.

“Missed you yesterday, Charlie,” Muriel Long greeted him. “You missed hearing about the whole fat mirror research excursion. Walter went with Annie and Violet to visit several boutiques and unisex clothing shops. Checked out the mirrors in each shop and came to a conclusion. He’s not telling us what he concluded but it’ll be in his article in Sunday’s ‘Around Our Town’ section of the ‘Victoria News’.”  At that moment, Walter Young set his latte and mocha fudge brownie on the other side of Charlie. Violet Whitfield sat beside him with her almond croissant and Americano coffee.

“Missed you yesterday, Charlie,” Violet commented. “Did all go well with your specialist?”

“Annual checkup and I’m still ticking along like that Timex watch commercial.”

“Did Walter tell you about the shopping trip? He’s keeping it a secret on whether or not fat mirrors exist.”

Charlie smiled. “I must admit I’m curious about the plausibility of fat mirrors.”

“I have to tell you, Charlie,” Walter mumbled as he bit into his brownie. “Initially, I didn’t believe the ladies, but there’s nothing like a bit of research to prove or disprove a theory. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying my free desserts for a week. . .”

Charlie looked at him expectantly. “Surely you can give us a hint on whether fat mirrors actually exist?”

Taking another bite of his mocha fudge brownie, Walter chewed, swallowed and finally managed a comment.  “I did get to visit a mirror shop and talked to the experts about the quality and tint of the glass used for mirrors. It was quite an education.” Shaking his head, Walter continued.  “I can tell you that the quality and thickness of the mirror; the way it’s displayed;  the size of the change-room and the lighting in the room all influences whether or not a customer looks great.  Does the mirror have a delicate tint? Is it tilted or flat against the wall? These things are all part of the looking terrific game of selling.”

“We tried to get him to declare that fat mirrors do exist, but he won’t admit it yet,” Violet laughed. “Would you like another one of those mocha fudge brownies, Walter?”

“Yes, thanks Violet. I’m enjoying all my desserts but. . .” and making the familiar motions of zipping and locking his lips, Walter grinned and said, “But keep the pastry bribes coming, Violet. Everything will be explained in the Sunday article that I decided to call, “The Skinny on Fat Mirrors.”

“Catchy title, Walter. I’ll look forward to reading the piece on Sunday.” Smiling, Charlie  collected the sections of newspapers he wanted to re-read, grabbed his sturdy walking stick, tipped his hat to his Moka-House coffee mates and cheerfully departed with a “Enjoy your day, my friends, but don’t stand in front of any fat mirrors!”







Annie Soo set her cup of decaf cappuccino and her napkin wrapped chocolate fudge brownie on Charlie Swanson’s table. Muriel Long grabbed the chair on the other side of Charlie, plonked her cup of dark roasted coffee down and replied to Annie’s earlier question.

“I’ve never heard of “fat” mirrors—have you Charlie?”

“Are you talking about mirrors that are thicker than regular mirrors?” was the puzzled answer.

“No Charlie,” Annie answered. “I’m talking about mirrors in dressing rooms that make you look fatter.  Jeff just laughs when I tell him this, but what do you expect when you’re talking to someone who buys clothes every decade or so.”

“To be honest, I haven’t bought anything in quite some time, but I’ve never heard of fat mirrors.”  Charlie tried to supress his grin at the sudden vision of numerous ladies expressing horror as they looked at themselves in these “fat” mirrors.

“What fat mirrors?” demanded Violet Whitfield as she brought her cafe au lait to the table. “I swear they have them at ‘Petra’s Boutique’, since anything I tried on definitely made me look fatter.”  Ed Barnes ambled over to set his cup of mocha latte and cherry danish on the table, snagging the chair beside Violet.

“Ladies, Ladies,” he laughed.  “If everyone dropped their pastries and passed them over, you wouldn’t have to look into any more fat mirrors.”

“Okay, now I get it,” exclaimed Charlie. “This is one of those female topics, right?”

“We may as well get another table, Charlie. Once these ladies get a buzz in their brownies, it’s a lost cause to grab a more serious topic of discussion. For myself, I’ve never encountered a fat mirror  and I’ll be 67 in another two months.”

“Wait, here comes Walter. Let’s hear what he has to say about fat mirrors.”

Charlie, Ed, Violet and Annie took sips of their coffees and bites of their various pastries, watching Walter Young settle in his chair, sip his cappuccino and take a satisfying bite of his pecan tart.  “What’s up?  Want a bite of my tart?” he asked with a puzzled frown. “I could feel your eyes and waves of tension throwing themselves at me across the room.”

There was a collective rolling of eyes around the Moka-House table as the coffee mates looked at their wannabe writer.

“What’s your opinion of fat mirrors in dressing rooms, Walter?” challenged Annie.

“Umm-mm, is this a trick question?”  Walter took  a cautious sip of his cappuccino. “I’ve never heard of fat mirrors.”

“This is one of those ladies’ pet peeves, Walter. Charlie and I were about to move to the next table over so the ladies can bash away at fat mirrors that exist only to drive women crazy.”

“Hey, not so fast—I’m a writer who’s always looking for a good topic and this one may be a ‘winner’, especially if it attracts the female readers,” was the quick response.  “So Ladies, what are your opinions on fat mirrors. Do they truly exist? Or is this another ‘urban legend’ voiced by women who won’t admit they are slightly overweight and that this  excess is magnified by  a mirror.”

“I must admit Walter’s logic is a possibility. We all know that cameras can add pounds, why not mirrors?” Violet thoughtfully remarked.

“See!” Annie triumphantly crowed. “Fat mirrors do exist regardless of what men think.”

“Too bad Peter isn’t here. He has such a geeky logic about most things,” Violet murmured.

“I’m pretty sure if you ladies passed your desserts over, I can save you all from the agonies of fat mirrors,” Walter commented hopefully. Walter was skinny as a beanpole and ever since the Moka-House friends congregated daily, he had the enviable metabolism  that burned off his calories and sugar intake as fast as he ingested them.  Annie and Violet looked at each other and then at Walter.

“What?” he asked. “Are you seriously going to pass over your desserts? There’s only a bite left in each and I usually get them without any bites in them at all.” He paused and added, “It’s like getting a chocolate with a huge piece missing.”

“Walter, come with Annie and me to some clothing stores and check out the mirrors in the dressing rooms. Tell us if they make you look fatter.”  Walter looked at Violet with horror. “I can’t go into a ladies’ dressing room unless it’s with my wife.”

“We’ll pick an unisex store so it’ll be okay.”

“Or, you can go in as Violet’s boyfriend,” Ed suggested helpfully.  “You know, the younger man/older woman? What do they call these women—oh yes, ‘cougars’. . . .”  Violet’s mouth curved into the beginnings of a grin at the thought.

“Honestly Walter, all you have to do is try on something and check in the mirror. Or, come in when I have something on and tell me if the mirror makes me look fat.”  Violet  looked at Annie and getting her nod added, “We’ll buy you dessert for a week if you do this for us.” Annie added, “Consider it research for your article on fat mirrors.”

Walter looked thoughtful, gazed around thetable and reluctantly nodded.

(to be continued)