There’s Music in the Air

I happened to be walking along Notre Dame Street West when I heard someone playing a pretty tune on a piano.  Following the music, I came upon a small park with a piano set in the middle. It seems that Montreal has designated some areas for public pianos and Montreal’s own jazz great, Oliver Jones, donated this particular piano in Parc Sainte-Cunegonde. The public, from beginners to accomplished pianists, are invited to play from 10 a.m. to 8p.m. every day. What a lovely idea!

The portrait of Oliver Jones was painted by Arly Padan.


Moon Cake and Anime

Moon cakes are only on sale once a year, in August, so yesterday I headed to Chinatown to treat myself to a box. I didn’t have to go far into the grocery store to find them. Stacks of boxes were right up front. My favourite is the one with lotus paste and one egg yolk.

As I wandered through Chinatown taking a look at the sidewalk sale (I mentioned it in my post on Friday) you’ll never guess who I met…Ironman! Yes, Ironman, the comic and movie action hero. He’s here for the anime convention at the Palais des congrès which is located in Chinatown. Can you recognize the other characters below?

Chinese Tea Salon in Montreal

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail invitation to a Chinese Tea Salon. The invitation explained that the event was “to meet, eat, drink and exchange about diverse projects in the arts, community and academic sectors. This gathering is inspired from tea houses in China (茶館, cháguăn or 茶屋, cháwū ) traditionally similar to the America Café, but centred on tea and to chat, eat and socialize.”

It sounded interesting and it was potluck. I bought mini chocolate chip muffins at the grocery store after work and headed over to the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University where the salon was being held.

The tea salon was inspired by Montreal artist Mary Wong who has been organizing tea houses for visual artists. This evening, which was organized by Janet Lumb and moderated by Alice Ming Wai Jim, an Associate Professor of Contemporary Art at Concordia University, was an opportunity for Montrealers to talk about their projects.

It was a fascinating evening. Each speaker had an interesting angle on their research and artistic project:

  • Olive Li Hui, a visiting professor, teaches a course about Chinese-Canadian women writers at Sichuan University in China;
  • Tracy Zhang explained how acrobatics is used as an instrument of cultural diplomacy in Taiwan and China;
  • Alan Wong spoke of race and sexuality;
  • Cheryl Sim, a media artist, talked about her project exploring the relationship women have with the cheong sam;
  • Parker Mah presented a trailer for his documentary Être Chinois au Québec (Being Chinese in Quebec). You can see a trailer on Youtube or at Être Chinois au Qué 
  • Leslie Cheung, a PhD student, talked about youth of color, the second generation and their search for identity;
  • Joanne Hui asked and answered the question “How does art teach?”
  • Henry Tsang, an associate professor at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, B.C., gave an impromptu talk on what it is to be Chinese;
  • And yours truly gave a brief talk about the inspiration behind my writing.

I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the speakers by trying to explain their projects, but a five minute video tape of each presenter, including me, will be available soon on the Asian Canadian Wiki site. I’ll post it when its available. To read more about the presenters and the evening itself, click here.

Psssst! Wanna good deal? Sidewalk sale in Chinatown!

I happened to be heading to Chinatown today when I discovered that it’s the August Moon sidewalk sale weekend. I love checking out the tables. It’s like treasure hunting!  I always find something new, interesting, quirky, and most important of all, cheap! They have ladies’ beaded slippers, slippers for men and children, purses, silk wallets, silk coin purses, leather wallets, shiny wallets, watches for adults, beaded jewellery, fake jade bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings, statues of the terracotta warriors, porcelain statues, brass buddhas, dishware, scarves, bras, underwear, umbrellas, Hello Kitty backpacks, Angry Bird backpacks, bamboo plants, iPad accessories, smart phone accessories, Sponge Bob watches, Chinese DVD movies and CDs, sunglasses, straw hats, hats, baseball caps (with or without spikes), cheongsam (Chinese dresses) and a whole lot more! Haggling is optional.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake


My friend at the blog Tranquil Dreams, mentioned a coffee cake that I made for a get-together. I enjoy baking and usually try to find something that is low in fat and sugar. Whenever I’m invited to a potluck or a get-together, I have the habit of baking something I’ve never made before, so I’m never sure how it’ll turn out. I cross my fingers and remind myself that I can run to the grocery store if it fails. The recipe I used for the Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake is from Anne Lindsay’s New Light Cooking.  I have three of her cookbooks and use them often. Her recipes use ingredients I have on hand, are simple to make and fail-proof.

The only bad thing is that I’ve convinced myself that since it’s low in fat and sugar, I can have a bigger piece. Don’t forget the ice cream!

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake


1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

50 ml

1 cup chocolate chips(6 oz/ 175 g)

250 ml

1/4 cup Packed brown sugar

50 ml

2 tsp Cinnamon

10 ml

1 Egg


1 cup 2% evaporated milk

250 ml

2 tbsp Vegetable oil

25 ml

2 tsp Pure vanilla

10 ml

2 cups All purpose flour

500 ml

3/4 cup Granulated sugar

175 ml

1 tbsp Baking powder

15 ml

1 tsp Baking soda

5 ml

1/4 tsp Salt

1 ml

  1. Toast pecans on baking sheet in 350F (180C) oven for 5 minutes or until golden. Let cool. In bowl, mix chocolate chips, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Cake: in large bowl, beat egg, stir in milk, oil and vanilla. In sieve on top of milk mixture, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, stirring to sift into bowl; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  3. Lightly grease or spray10-inch (3 L) Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon in half of the batter; sprinkle with half of the nut mixture. Spread with remaining batter; sprinkle with remaining nut mixture, lightly pressing into batter.
  4. Bake in 350F (180C) oven for 45 to 60 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on rack. Turn out onto serving plate, chocolate and nuts facing up. Makes 12 servings.

Make ahead: Cover and store for up to 1 day.

A Cowherd in Paradise


May Wong reads from her book, “A Cowherd in Paradise: From China to Canada”

When a friend e-mailed me that May Wong was coming to Montreal to do a reading this past Sunday, I knew I had to go. Her book, “A Cowherd in Paradise: From China to Canada” is about her parents who were separated for years because of Canada’s Exclusion Act which came into law in 1923. My parents story sounded similar to hers and so I went eager to hear what she had to say.

Wong had the audience’s rapt attention as she set the background for her story, explaining the historical details that shaped her parents’ lives. Her father chose her mother from a picture. Her mother didn’t know what her future husband looked like until after the wedding ceremony.  While her father was establishing himself as a restaurateur in Montreal, her mother was in China stuggling to survive natural disasaters and the Japanese invasion. The title of the book is a tribute to her mother who was responsible for the family’s water buffalo when she was a little girl. The book includes old family photos and a copy of her father’s head tax certificate.

While I haven’t read the book yet, I think it would be interesting for those whose parents, like mine, didn’t talk about the past. It is very fortunate that Wong’s mother, not only wanted to tell her stories, but also wanted Wong to publish them. The book is a treasure not only for Wong’s family, but for families of other head-tax payers as well.

A Festival of Cultures


This past Saturday I went to the annual Festin Culturel held by the City of Brossard to celebrate the diverse nationalities and culture of its citizens. There were food stands representing 16 countries and not a hamburger or hot dog in sight! I ate samosas from India, crepes stuffed with meat and cheese, and honey cake from Russia, and a Colombian dish of fried plantain topped with meat. Delicious!

Considering Montreal had been pounded with either rain or hot, humid weather for most of the summer, the weather was perfect for enjoying the variety of outdoor entertainment and displays by local artists. One of the attractions of the evening was Lorraine Klaasen, a South African singer. The 2013 Juno award winner for World Music Album of the Year won the approval of the crowd with her dynamic performance.

Creativity Blooms at the 2013 Mosaicultures Internationales

The Montreal Botanical Gardens is the host of the Mosaicultures Internationales this year. The theme is “Land of Hope” and the living larger-than-life sculptures from around the world are spectacular. Enough from me. A picture is worth a thousand words.


Clown Fish (aka Nemo) (Japan)


Polar Bear sculpture gets watered.


Memoires of a Childhood Dinner (France)


The Bird Tree (Canada)


Comesse’s Butterfly (France)


All In a Row (Madagascar)


Mother Earth (Canada)


Mother Earth (Canada)


Ambassadors of Hope (Canada)


Phoenix (China)


Spirits of the Wood (Canada)


Spirits of the Wood (Canada)


Guardians of the Island (Chile)


The Man Who Planted Trees (Canada)


The Man Who Planted Trees (Canada)


The Crane Girl, a True Story (China)


Park employee waters flowers in a pot.


The Uffington White Horse (England)


Fragile Frogs (United States)

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