Archive for the ‘ Friends ’ Category

Pick olives in Italy – Fragneto Monforte, Compania

Would you rather pick olives in America or Italy? After weighing the options, I vouched for Italy and found myself in Fragneto Monforte, a small little village (paesce) with family friends, Tina and Michael. I thought all I would do was come pick olives and study my Hebrew textbook, but my two weeks here were better than I ever imagined, and didn’t get to as much of the Hebrew as I had hoped.

After 24 hours of travel from California to Chicago to Munich-Germany to Naples and then a long drive to Fragneto Monforte, I got up the next day, watched Tina (the Chinese-Italian Mama) make an amazing seafood pasta, and went olive picking on the nearby farm. There I met the Venditti family, a fun-loving warm-hearted bunch who embraced me with their big smiles and jovial laughter, and so the adventures began.

Over the course of 12 sunny days, when I wasn’t learning to make Italian cuisine, I joined them almost every day and helped pick olives (cogliere olive). It was hard work, but being out in the brisk mountain air, it was a refreshing experience and I picked olives to my heart’s content. Every day they asked me if I was tired. With the biggest smile, I would always reply, “Nope, not tired! That was fun! See you tomorrow!”

Pretty quickly, I learned lots of Italian words and it all started with my first lesson from Maria “Non lo so. Non ho capito. Ripeti, per favore.” (I don’t know. I don’t understand. Repeat, please.) Every day I learned new phrases and could converse simply by the end of 2 weeks.

But this is what it’s like to pick olives in Fragneto Monforte, Italy. An amazing and unforgettable experience!! I hope I can return some other October and learn how to make wine with the grape harvest. Civediaaaaaaaamooooooo….

Only one way to get to the farm.

Almost at the farm where "work" can begin.

Santino and Giovanni - the dynamic duo.

Black olives, silvery leaves.

Nicola works in the treetops.

So many olives!!

What's a farm without a dog? Diana was really our supervisor.

I picked a whole crate of olives (ok, Maria helped). :)

Santino sends down the treetops and we continue to pick.

I finally graduated from ground floor and got to use the ladder.

Everyone has an olive to pick.

Every so often, it's ok to chill.

Fold the tarp and let's go home.

After the day's harvest, sometimes you find a few lost olives around the far edges of the tarps.

Every day's reward after picking olives. Ci vediamo domani...

After ~30 crates, you spend a day to remove the branches and leaves.

After olives are cleaned they can be sent to the press.

The old farmhouse - storage for olives before they go to the press.

Picking olives is always more fun with friends.

Leaving the farm...until next time.

Da Bing

Based on personal experience, it seems the Chinese scallion pancakes can refer to the da bing (big pancake), xiao bing (small pancake), zua bing (pull-apart pancake), tsong yo bing (onion oil pancake)…but it all boils down to the same essential ingredients of flour, water, scallions and oil. I believe it just depends on the method which probably has to do with geographical origin (i.e. Northern China, Southern China, or any regions or provinces in between and around China) that determines the delectable outcome. This particular da bing was a delicious treat made by my neighbor that even had some black pepper rolled into the dough and was coated with sesame seeds. Spicy! It’s not every day the Lord blesses you with neighbors that share the joy of cooking where it goes beyond just borrowing a cup of milk or sugar when you happen to run out mid cooking. :) No recipe to share on this one though…you’ll just have to pay a visit to my neighbor.

Good Morning, America!

A morning view of the Empire State Building (in the light, on the left)!

At least, this is what it looks like to wake up in NYC if you ever got to sleep that is. It really is a city that doesn’t sleep. The horns are honking all night long (it’s 11:24 pm). The fire truck sirens blare at night and in the morning. Your neighbors might see into your place from across the 14th floor. It’s definitely not a place to be if you’re noise and light sensitive (which I am). But after a full day of Bibles for America (BfA) distributions at the World Trade Center and Columbia University and an evening of Christian fellowship on The Economy of God by Witness Lee with 31 people squeezed into a little studio, and the all-fitting life (2 Corinthians 6:1, footnote 1), all I have to say is NYC is awesome!! :) It’d be so fun to live here…though I think my favorite place would be Central Park for some peace and calm away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The Brownie Trail

Hmm…brownies? Poopoo eh? Read up here for a little chuckle first.

Well, perhaps little man would appreciate this month’s attempt at making brownies look more like a moving truck. Then he wouldn’t be so quick to brownie bash! :)

To help out with a staff send-off, I offered to bake a batch of brownies. So, mustering the hidden elementary school teacher in me that completed a BS and MA in Education, never on the teaching track, I had to channel my unrealized teacher energies into making an unconventional display of brownie bites. So long Russells! God-speed as you move to Billings, MT (perhaps it’d be better not to take my proposed brownie trail).

And I’d say my co-worker’s amazing Frosting’s inspired homemade cupcakes were just the perfect complement. Thanks Paper Rosie! You did an amazing job! :)

X-treme Photography.

Extreme sports. Extreme dating. Extreme eating. Lots of people go to the extreme. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But enough on that for now. I had a chance to go to Joshua Tree for a nice chillaxing weekend with good company and good food. Nothing beats RV camping…that’s a 4-star camping experience for sure!

For a couple of my friends, amazing and passionate photographers, it was their chance to explore dimensions of extreme photography, whether it was climbing jumbo rocks with heels, leaping from boulder to boulder to set up a flash with seconds before all the lighting would change and make the perfect picture obsolete, or trying not to get stabbed with thorns and thistles to get the right shot with the right light… Meanwhile, I had fun taking some shots of my own with my iphone. Not too shabby for a camera phone. :)

Matthew Saville in Action!

Matthew doesn't give up and uses every shred of light there is!

Emily Ivey in action!

I on the other hand very much enjoyed cooking in the posh RV, the hearty breakfasts, s’mores around the campfire, and the easy rock climbing…living the simple life with no access to the internet or phones…learning to live in the present, here, and now. Good therapy for the soul…planning another trip for April. Anyone else want to join?

Going Green.

People up in Nor Cal are way more green than the So Cal folks. When I first moved back to So Cal a couple years ago, I would be heckled for having a bucket of reusable grocery bags in my trunk. Hello?! I’m just trying to save some trees, cut down on landfill waste, and prevent animals from dying on plastic! I’ve been going green ever since I was a kid and made sure back then to cut all the plastic soda pop rings so the penguins wouldn’t get strangled from them! I didn’t even need Happy Feet back then to make me take being green seriously.’s funny how I fit in more with the Nor Cal culture even though I’m totally a So Cal kid.

Stuffed with what WAS on the table!

But as far as green goes, I must say “Yay!!” for the Green Bay Packers on winning Super Bowl XLV. Hmmm…ok…I can’t say I know too much about football…but at least I was spirited enough to wear green…or perhaps I just had a green t-shirt to wear and that was reason enough for me to root for Green Bay…well…I did also work in Wisconsin once as a camp counselor for inner city Chicago kids…so hey…Green Bay all the way! So in perfect Super Bowl form with my friends, the boys watched the game with hoots and hollers coming from the living room while the girls gabbed in the dining room. It was the best Super Bowl game yet!! Next time, we just have to add some spicy chicken wings, celery sticks, and ranch dressing to the mix. But it was a delicious spread prepared by the amazing MT and SWu…and Kenin’s cookies were absolutely scrumptious! Hope to see you all again soon!

Well-oiled Hospitality

Ohio, where it's plain.

Over the last two days, I’ve traveled over the lower quadrant of Ohio visiting friends en route to the Thanksgiving Conference. Columbus – Oxford – Cedarville – Columbus, and many many townships in the middle. My friend Andrew describes it best when he greeted us with “Welcome to the land of NOWHERE! Nothing to see except Jesus.” Coming from the land of the “OC”, Ohio is definitely a vast expanse of nothingness. As we drove over to der Dutchman – an Amish bakery and restaurant in Plain City, I exclaimed “It’s plain city!” to my travel buddy, Laura, on day 2 of our journey. She whole-heartedly agreed not realizing that was the name of the city…but to us OCers, that’s just what Ohio is…plain in its own beauty.

So the two of us stayed with the Cho’s in Columbus for the first night, at Yang’s in Cedarville the second night, and then with about 12 others at the Yang’s in Columbus the third night…. Talk about well-oiled hospitality with the dearest people ever! You just gotta love the Lord and His body as seen in the sweet family-church life.

Tomorrow we’re having an American Thanksgiving with 20 or so others and boy will that be fun! It will be my first American Thanksgiving. Stay tuned to see what that’s all about…