August 4th, 2010

eating flowers

Le Pain Quotidien

Crispy tofu with haricot veers and pistachios, raisins and lapsing vinaigrette

I'll be honest. I can't pronounce the name of this organic cafe- Le Pain Quotidien and neither do I know what half of the ingredients are! So why did I have a meal here? Well, it was near my hotel and it was quiet and empty and I just wanted a light meal. It actually turned out to be a really good food place.

The philosophy of this cafe is to serve good food and help conserve the earth. Ingredients are organic and high quality and the cafe is made of reclaimed wood and recycled materials. Energy-efficient lamps and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and packaging are used as well.

Most of the food are baked in-house - the bread and pastries are baked daily. You can purchase home-made jams, spreads, granola etc at the little 'pantry' section. Customers might wonder about the long wooden table seating and there is actually a reason for it. Friends and strangers are encouraged to sit together at the communal table to share a meal and chit-chat. I spent quite awhile enjoying my lunch because the decor, the staff and everything about the cafe was inviting and warm.

It was a pity that I wasn't too hungry and only ordered one dish. It was a good choice though. The tofu was pan-fried such that it was slightly crispy and browned yet not oily and inside, it was soft and creamy smooth. I loved how the tofu was paired with roasted pistachios, plumped raisins and skinny long beans in an unusual vinaigrette. I was tempted to order dessert but I was pretty stuffed.

I'm still thinking of that crispy tofu and it was such a waste that I didn't have time to return! That's how much I enjoyed the food. And now I'm feeling rather hungry..

2001 P Street NW
Blaine Mansion
Washington DC
+1 (202) 459 9176
Mon-Thurs : 7am-9pm
Fri - 7am-10pm
Sat - 8am-10pm
Sun - 8am-8pm

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Roppongi Hills

Basilica - National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The entrance of the Basilica

The Basilica is the largest Roman Catholic church in the U.S and North America and one of the ten largest churchs in the world. When I heard about this fact, I told myself that I had to visit it no matter what. I love visiting cathedrals and churches regardless of dominations. However, the fact that this is a Roman Catholic church, makes it all the more special for me. :) Probably, the last time where I was this excited, was when I visited the Vatican City.

The construction of The Basilica started almost 100 years and took years to complete and was done in many stages - also because of World War II and the Great Depression that disrupted the building work.

Compared to the other large Catherdral in Washington D.C - the National Shrine which has a gothic style (I would write a separate entry on later), it's a typical Catholic architecture. It's Romanesque in style with not overly elaborate design details. It is similar to the National Shrine in terms of building composition as it is made entirely of stone, brick, tile and mortar with the absence of steel structures.

Although simple in design, The Basilica is still breathtaking in its own unique way in terms of architecture and details. My favorite part of the tour was seeing the various stained glass and mosaic artwork and the numerous chapels which each had a distinct indentity and trademark.

It's a bit of a trip out to visit (near the Catholic University) but it's near the Brooklyn-CUA Metro station (red line) and definitely worthwhile. I actually spent over 2 hours here!!

400 Michigan Avenue Northeast Washington
DC 20017-1517
United States
+1 (202) 526-4433

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The life that I chose

I seldom share my viewpoints publicly. The last time I did was probably on this. Perhaps it is the fear of being judged, of taking sides especially when there is no distinct black or white. Plus, my blog was never meant to be a forum of viewpoints but mainly for the sharing of my personal life centered around running, food, travels and some photography. But when I do think about something in depth, and I even would mull over it for a couple of days and I will feel compelled to pen it all down.

One of my friends, C, wrote an excellent article on 'The high costs of high living'. It was well-written, well articulated, totally up to expectations from since I have known her. She has always been vocal about her thoughts and beliefs. I recalled spending many days in college debating on topics such as abortion, pre-marital sex and more. It was always thought- provoking and refreshing.

When she told me of her decision to leave the corporate world, I wasn't really that surprised. It wasn't the fact that practising law wasn't up her ally, in fact, she was in every way, suited to be a lawyer. But the C that I've always known, wasn't the kind to live a high life. She did in fact in Hong Kong, New York City and London - every lawyer's dream. She was similar to my other friend, A, and they in fact ventured onto similar footpaths. Both had big hearts that were largely the reasons why they eventually went onto this route of life.

Her article was centered around the question that she was mostly asked - do you miss your previous (high-living) life? She shared about how she enjoyed the wining and dining, comfortable living, luxuries of travel and material possessions but she worked to the bone. Late nights were part and parcel of her life, she missed out on social activities with friends and in short, she was sold to her job. It paid well but nothing in the world comes free and there's a price that comes with everything and anything. It is just a matter of, how much?

We both came from a top junior college - ranked first when we entered. Everyone in our class were straight-A students and most I would say, were naturally talented and smart and didn't have to hit the books hard to achieve the aces. To put things into perspective, my grades of 2 As and 2 Bs for the Cambridge GCE A'Levels, were the worst grades in the class. It wasn't exactly shabby, but imagine how I felt when I got my results :P

After graduation, C moved on to study law and so did a couple others. 80% of my class studied medicine, a few engineering and accountancy. I was the only one that chose to study Business Administration. A move that shocked many, including my parents. You see, I was in the triple science course and I had every intention to study medicine and become a pediatrician. But I changed my mind. It wasn't because I couldn't get into Med School, I hate to say this but the fact that my Dad was involved directly in the medical industry, meant that I could. But I didn't want to live in my Dad's shadow all of my life which I knew, would be inevitable. I didn't want to be known as 'his daughter' and have to live up to that high expectations of being his daughter.

So I chose differently, much to his disappointment. I was asked to study architecture, engineering, law, accountancy and every professional course that you can think of. But I didn't want to face another Science related course so that ruled out plenty options. My Dad, on our family trip to Cambridge, showed me the campus and asked if I wanted to study law here. I decided no. It was too expensive and the local University here was good enough. So I went into Business and I think it took awhile for my Dad to come to terms with it.

Going back to C's article, she mentioned about meeting some of our ex-class mates. Correction, now doctors. He commented that she was brave to have left her high-paying job to move into the charity sector. Though he slogged like a dog, he couldn't give up his luxuries and so he just chugs on every day. C questioned, was it worth it?

I have nothing against doctors, lawyers and bankers and not bitter about my decision of not joining those ranks. In fact, for those that I know that are in this profession and genuinely love it, it's really worthwhile for them. But for the rest, like my doctor friends, that continuously complain about the life of being a doctor, day in day out on Facebook, and how it is crappy etc, then I also ask, Why are you then in it? If you hate it that much, is it worth it? My mantra is always to be happy.

C chose to live a more fufilling life, by doing charity work and writing. Her main viewpoint was that, after having all this high living, it was not worth the time sacrifices and stress. She left because she stopped enjoying her work which is usually the turning point for most. I would say, that most that eventually chose this route, to contribute back to society, is because they no longer felt for what they were doing at work. I call it, hitting a wall. For the author of 'Room to read', he was moved into giving back to society having lived a successful life. It's like what C is doing but he, on a larger scale. I asked myself, if I would do this? My answer is actually no.

You see, when my ex-school mate asked me a few weeks ago, if I regreted my career route, my answer was 'No'. The only regret that I have is not taking up the opportunities to go on the student exchange program to Australia when I was 16, or another one to Europe when I was 20, or to choose studying overseas because I believe those few years of living independently is crucial to the growth of every young adult. But other than that, I don't. I have enjoyed working for the last 8 years or so. Like everyone else, I too hit a career 'wall' after 5 years of handling digital marketing. But I decided to take a plunge and move into my current role and it's been great so far. I won't give up my current life because I have nothing to be unhappy about. I respect C and A for doing what they are currently doing, but I won't pretend and say that I will do the same. Because if I go back to my mantra, to be happy, which is what I currently am, there is no need to change it.

I won't be hypocritical and say right now, that I don't need money. Because I do. I need money to sustain myself, to be financially independant, to buy a house, and yes, termed 'luxury products' like travel tickets, designer goods and all. And above all, I need money to raise a family. It is as simple as that. I don't see my life being compromised in any way with the job that brings in the bacon. In fact, it has opened so many opportunities for me, allowing me to live my life to the fullest. When I have reached the stage where money is no longer of any importance, I will contribute back to society. Not in modest donations, but in a greater aspect. And yes, I have already thought about it and have made plans. But for now, it's not in near future plans.

There are many that I know that want to take the journey that C and A are taking. Perhaps it's also a social trend or purely passion. As long as you are truly passionate about whatever you choose to do, there's no real 'right' or wrong. When that passion is lost though and you are just in it for the money, perhaps it is then time to re-evaluate.

B.T and I spent a few moments exchanging emails on this. Sharing viewpoints and all. I'll be glad to say that we are both on the exact same wavelength. As I directly quote - "Eye to eye, just like your two walnuts in your zen garden (on Plants versus Zombies)" -_- Trust him to make such an analogy but heh, he is right.

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