Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Disney's Food & Wine Festival

The time has come when my brain caves in, when red pens make scars on my fingers and I can't seem to figure out what day it is. It is the end of October. The next month is so close that I can almost taste its smokey scent. I'm not ready to slam down the gas and go speeding into the end of this school year, but it's gaining on us. So what is there to do to calm the nerves? Well, if any of you have been following my long enough, you know that I'm a huge Disney fan. Especially of the parks. Considering that I live a short distance from Disney World, it seemed only appropriate that I drown my stress in good food, plastic utensils, and large crowds. So me and the 'rents embarked on our official romp at Epcot to enjoy the Food & Wine Festival. 

The festival is a bundle of fun, drawing in food enthusiasts, chef celebrities, and excited Disney regulars to enjoy some great food that, until this moment, seemed only visible on the other side of the television set (aka Food Network). I've been going to the parks for years and have traversed the many country-themed booths. However, this year was the year we'd really focus on the festival itself. 

Some new stuff this year included little things. On the picture on the left, of the Ireland booth, you'll notice a stand under the armpit of the plaid-shirt guy. That's a brand-new utensil dispenser! Instead of awkwardly snuffling around the booth, knocking over the fork holders, all you have to do is find the utensil of your choice and press the red button. Like one of those put in a quarter and turn the dial dispensers, the utensil of your choice comes clattering out. It was pretty fun and I totally wasted a lot of plastic by doing that at every booth we stopped at. Luckily, Disney has not, as of yet, thought of charging a quarter for said utensils. That's good. Let's keep it that way, haha. 

There was also a new exhibition called Discover the Cranberry:

Can you believe it? Right in front of the big fountain (on your way to  the World Showcase) Disney placed a cranberry bog. Just like on those cranberry commercials where the two guys stand in the bog. There's totally one here. It was pretty sweet to see. And the sign is funny too - warning you not to climb into the bog or eat from it, haha.
Here's a photo I took from Germany's miniature train village. One of my first posts on this blog was about the village and how it changes, even in subtle ways, throughout the years. Check it out here. For the Food & Wine Festival, a few booths were put up, including some people enjoying food on those tables and a musician playing under that vined canopy. 

To top it all off,  checked the weekly schedule (only handed out one week at a time, so you never know who's coming) and found a delightful surprise. I'm a big Food Network fan, even though I confess I don't cook much myself. But I'm more than familiar with all the shows and so my heart almost popped out of my throat when I saw Robert Irvine listed in that day's event listing. Woah. I've seen his shows for a while now, but his new one, Restaurant Impossible, has be gasping in awe. He was scheduled to give a culinary demonstration (of which you must pay for in order to eat said food he makes) and then a book signing after. That's it. I knew I'd be visiting the festival center to see him (I'll talk about that later in the post). 

Foods I Ate:

We skipped lunch completely and just wandered about, trying anything that seemed or smelled remotely delicious. And here's what we tried (and, 10 times of 10, loved). 

Grilled Lamp Chop with Potato-Goat Cheese Salad and Shiraz Reduction
Australia  Booth
Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup
Canada Booth
Lobster & Scallop Fisherman's Pie
Ireland Booth
*My Favorite*
Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Baileys Ganache
Ireland Booth
Calamari Salad with Fennel, Smoked Paprika and Olive Oil
Portugal Booth
Lamb Slider with Tomato Chutney (Half eaten by the time I fished my camera out, haha)
New Zealand Booth 
Seared Scallop with Kumara-Red Curry Puree and Apple Radish Salad
New Zealand Booth
*Second Favorite!*
Shrimp Cake on a Sugarcane Skewer with Singapore Noodles
Singapore Booth

The Robert Irvine Experience

Or not. When we arrived at the festival center, a long line was already zig-zagging around. I suppose I should have expected that, but, ah well. Still, I could hear his British accent floating through the air - he wasn't yet done with his demonstration. I wriggled through the line and went to see Robert Irvine as he stood on a small stage with two hosts, talking about what he had cooked up. The people who paid to have wine and food were sitting at tables near the stage, while the rest of us (and I wasn't the only one) stood outside the little stage area and gawked. 

He looks just like he does on TV... a point that, no matter how many times I do see someone from television, is still is surprising. 
Here's a bit of video I took when Mr. Irvine was speaking about his experience with Restaurant Impossible. I apologize in advance for the low volume and shakiness - I was standing a good distance away, haha. But it should come up clear enough, I think. 

I had feeling this would be true, considering the time, but I couldn't stay to wait in line. The middle of the afternoon had bloomed with hot weather cranky babies in strollers. With a bright and early school day awaiting me, and much work to do beforehand, it was time for me to go home. Yet still, I had a great time at the Food & Wine Festival. If you happened to be around before it ends, you shouldn't definitely go. You won't regret it :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dear You

Dear You,

I remember how rough my jumper felt during the summer, how the grey plaid stuck to my skin under the hot lights of the cloudless sky; the asphalt shivered like the sandy hills of a desert. Recess ended with the flick of a wrist, setting off the big gold bell to call across the parking lot and tug at our ears.

But then I'd walk through the hallways, blinking furiously to adjust to the dark, cave-like atmosphere. Your room was a haven, filled with pillows smelling of attic and shelves of children's books just waiting to be read. You sat us in a circle at a little faux wood table. We'd open our textbooks and begin.

I could imagine the lessons going on upstairs, in the classroom I should have been sitting in had I not shown a lack of improvement in my reading skills. But I was happy to be with you - to gently decipher a story with both laughter and furrowed brows. Even then, your face was a translucent map of green-veined highways. Sometimes a curl of your hair would peek out of the veil. The cross that hung from you neck tapped the table whenever you bent over table to sound out a word.

You used to shake your tin of Jolly Ranchers after every lesson, before letting us back upstairs for a grueling mathematics lesson or afternoon prayers. When I stuck my hand into the tin, the wrappers made a sssh sssh sssh sound like moths' wings. You always kept enough cherry and watermelon stocked so that we'd leave the room happy, the hard candy turning our tongues red and creating an orchestra of teeth-clanking all the way up the staircase.

I wanted to let you know how much those lessons meant to me - how, ironically, to everyone but you, I ended up pursuing a life of reading and writing. To see you smile, to hear your voice and feel a shaky hand on my shoulder... but perhaps you're doing that now. I believe that somehow, you do know. And, just maybe, you're smiling at me now.

All the Best,


So this is a post I've been meaning to make for a long time, but it's something I struggled over when trying to come up with who I wanted to write to. The answer came to me in a text message, believe it or not. That message contained information about someone who was very dear to me in my childhood and, once remembered, I put my fingers to the keyboard and began to write.

This idea orginated from Heather, but my blogging pal Melee suggested it - and I'm so glad I've finally written one. I don't have anyone in particular to pass it on too, but please, if you're reading this post, feel free to give it a shot. You must write a letter to someone, but use only pronouns - and it must start with "Dear You."

Picture from here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tidbits: October Edition

Picture / Photo Find

Something I Did

Haha, that's a good one. For the past few days, I've been either chained to a couch or desk, slowly engulfed by papers of dubious origins. I know that, these days, paper anything is considered to be delicate and pretty. Paper planes, paper hearts, paper toilet bowls. You name it. And I'm usually of that mindset. Bring on the paper! But when it comes in the form of stories to revise and / or papers to grade, suddenly I find myself checking my fingers for paper cuts (which are, by anyone's standards, not cute).

My prediction is that by the end of the week, I'll create a patch of time where the paper doesn't haunt me with its pointy corners and angry ink. I suppose this will be Sunday night, in particular, since TCM is playing Buster Keaton movies all month and I'm determined to watch him without multitasking. I'll let you know how it goes.

Aww, he's blushing! So am I.

Quote from a Book I Love

I just finished this book called The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu and it really has stuck with me. I breezed through it, eating up the slim volume as quickly as possible to discover what the ending held in store. And even after finishing it, I still pondered over what I read; the story and its characters continued to echo long after I shelved it. Since the novel is directly translated from French, some of the phrasing tends to come off as strange or childish. However, the story is worth any sentence-bumps along the way.

The novel is told from the perspective of a boy named Jack who was born on the coldest day on Earth and could have died because of it - but Dr. Madeleine saves him by placing a cuckoo-clock in his chest. The clock keeps him alive, but it's a delicate thing; if Jack were to ever fall in love, his clock - and heart - would surely break. Of course, Jack does fall in love - but will he survive it?

"Each beat of your heart is a small miracle, you know, so don't get carried away. It's a fragile, makeshift repair. Things should get better as you grow up, but you'll have to be patient."

"How many times will the big hand have to go round?"

"A few... a few. I want your heart to become a bit more robust before I let you out into nature."

There's no denying that my clock causes me a worry or two. It's the most sensitive part of my body. I can't bear to let anyone touch it, apart from Madeleine. She winds me up every morning using a small key. When I catch a cold, the coughing hurts my gears. It feels as if they're about to poke out through my skin. And I hate the sound of broken crockery they make.

A Writer Thing

Okay. It's official: as if September 30th, 2011, I finished writing my first draft of my novel Birdcage Girl. Woah. It's a strange kind of feeling that comes with finishing something that has been a part of my life for almost a year now. I'll no longer wake up in the middle of the night to jot down a better scene. I won't sneak away to my laptop between classes to write a chapter or two. I suspect my peaked interest in all things birds and cages will greatly decrease... at least until I start writing the next book, haha. My good writing friend Anande Sjoden interviewed me on her blog where I talk a little bit more about how it felt to finally write the last word... and about cardigans, sprained knees, and Apollo busts.

But finishing a novel manuscript isn't the end - at least, when you're me and can hardly wait to start revision. Every writer is different, but I'm not of the school of writers who like to put their MS's away for months or even years before revising; I'm impatient, for one, and I don't feel like being that distanced from my writing will help improve it. I like to put on the surgical gloves right away and make repairs to flabby sentences! So these past few days have been filled with scrolling through the endless pages of my MS, trolling for obvious errors (both grammatical and syntax). After tonight, though, I'll have to sit on my hands for a few weeks while I wait for some trusted friends to read it. Of course, Birdcage Girl still on Figment as it is; I'll be applying revisions to it as soon as I get my final wave of feedback.

This stage of the writing process is, well, less glamorous. There's sweat - all the time - and make up is running and light bulbs are breaking and the coffee in the break room is cold. But it's still an adventure. That's probably the best part.

Video I Watched Too Many Times / Song I Can't Stop Repeating

Mathias Malzieu is not only the author of The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, but also the lead singer of a French band called Dionysos. The book itself is based off of an album he composed titled La Mécanique du Cœur (The Mechanics of the Heart). I listened to the album after reading the book, and I must say that it is an excellent collection of songs. Each song seems to reflect a certain mood or even plot point in the mood and, overall, complements the novel well.

The song I chose to feature (and perhaps the one I've listened to the most) is called "Tais-toi mon coeur." Malzieu's voice is engaging and the range of musical instruments used in the song creates such an interesting melody. A music video had been made to go with it, so here it is! I'm so happy to share it with you - I must have unhealthily refreshed the video page too many times, haha.

Photos from tumblr / TCM