One of the countless blessings of traveling is being able to eat unique or unknown-to-many dishes. In California, Tony and I were treated by our daughter-in-law, G, to tri-tip steak salad in a restaurant by the Marina called Garlic Brothers.
We were told that tri-tip is a small, triangular cut from sirloin. It was popularized in Northern California but is now becoming widely marketed. It is also known as a triangle steak or bottom sirloin steak. I looked it up and I got more details:
The tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut. It is usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. (675 to 1,150g) per side of beef.
Its scientific name is m. tensor fasciae latae, inserted in the fascia lata, the connective tissue covering the quadriceps extensor, a group of four muscles which in turn insert in the patella, or kneecap, of the animal.
Except for the balut (also called feathered egg, a Filipino delicacy), which I love, I have never researched any food I eat as much as I read up on tri-tip.
That’s what traveling does—it frees your mind from your daily passions and leaves enough space for you to relish what may be perceived as banal or mundane. And there lies grace.
And there lies tri-tip steak salad with taste no less than magnifique.
My love affair with bath soaps persisted as son #2, his dad, and I resumed our road trip. From Hilton Hotel in San Diego, we hopped to Bakersfield, a city nestled in the southern Central Valley of California. It was our halfway stop toward home in Stockton.
This time, our overnight resting place was Marriott Hotel. Here, as I researched on odd bar soaps, I stumbled upon (perhaps because of guilt) a soap with a role:
Me: Are you taunting me?
Soap: Writer’s Block!
Me: I refuse to have writer’s block. It’s just that I haven’t had time to write because my husband and I are having too much fun bonding with son #2 and on a long road trip, there are just so many distractions and so little time.
Soap: Writer’s Block!
Truth to tell, I came to the US with the printed manuscript of my latest book. While packing all 12 chapters (so far tweaked and almost as good as finished) with my laptop, I told myself that it would be a cinch to write in California where the climate is cooler.
But I still had a 13th and last chapter to polish before finally sending it to my editor. Every time I attempted to work, however, something came up—like an invitation to try out a new restaurant, visit a museum or a historical site, go to the library, etc. etc. And now, because of all the scheduled hotel hopping, I was preoccupied with bath soaps?!
And a special one to taunt me?!
The deadline given by my publisher was the month of May, and the month was about to end. Yet I refused to listen to the voice breathing inside my mind, Beg for a deadline extension.
So I shrugged off my bar-soap-with-a-role-to-taunt-me fixation and trashed my trivial thoughts. Odd or ordinary in shape, structure, or name, a bar soap is a bar soap is a bar soap.
Next stop (two hours from Bakersfield) would be San Miguel de Tolosa mission.
Meanwhile, I curled up under the all-white comforter for a restful sleep and I woke up refreshed, grateful for the grace the new day would bring.
“I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the LORD was watching over me." Psalm 3:5 (NLT)
In California, everything about Carlsbad is good. Extremely good.
Well, except for the weather (15°C at this time of the year, Spring). To someone used to an average of 36° in the Philippines, this is very brrr cold.
Carlsbad is a seaside resort city occupying a seven-mile stretch of Pacific coastline in northern San Diego County, California.
It is also where Legoland is.
A virtual oooh-and-ahhh paradise for an adult like me (who in childhood thought Lego was the ultimate toy and joy, in the same league as jig-saw puzzle) and children like Adrian, our only grandson whom we love to (gazillion of Lego) pieces.
There we celebrated his 10th birthday.
Imagine all the animals and flowers (big and small), buildings, people of various persuasions in the world, all interesting movie characters, and anything you could imagine shaped with Lego bricks!
I couldn’t click my camera fast enough. Even if I did in freezing weather, I had no gigabytes left to store all the photos and grace that emerged with every shot.
Here are some of them:
I am in awe of Lego artists.
They remind and make me wonder how the Lord knitted all the billions of inward and outward pieces that comprise one breathing and living human being.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV)
I thought I had seen the oddest when I blogged about the soap with a hole. What do you know?
From Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad, we hopped to Hilton Hotel in San Diego. There I was greeted in the bathroom by a soap that bears a strong resemblance to the non-slip sole of my sneakers.
Why would a soap bar have a sole?
Just like sneakers, this bar soap’s equipped with non-slip embossed dots. They give you a good grip while washing your hands or taking a shower. If wet and placed in the soap dish, the water drains quickly, preventing the bar from being soaked and melting.
It’s some kind of soap engineering to solve a consumer problem. What will they think of next? (smile emoticon here) When you’re on a rare, month-long vacation, you are licensed to be think and act hollow and shallow—but deeply grateful.
I find myself blogging about soaps and other little thingies I ordinarily don’t pay attention to on a busy, stressful day (when sometimes I intend to pick up my phone but pick up a book or a plate instead).
Isn’t that what busyness does? It makes you ignore the grace that comes in small packages.
“Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.” Timothy 4:4-5 (NLT)
Son #2 took a break from his patients and patiently took his dad and me on what his GPS said was a seven-hour road trip to Carlsbad, California.
Knowing his dad to be a history buff, he said we’d drop by the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa mission (founded 1772) along the way. It was going to be our second tour of an old Spanish mission, the first being San Juan Bautista (founded in 1797) during our vacation in California about this time last year.
The red clay roof tiles we see all over California today were first made at the San Luis Obispo mission. Going through the photos and artifacts in the museum, we went back over 200 years.
This was how Christianity was brought to California and how the American Indians were converted and therefore called Mission Indians.
The tour took an hour, with plenty enough time to get to Carlsbad before supper.
But we were assaulted by bad traffic in some areas. The better for me to enjoy the breathtaking scenery: beaches, forests, valleys, plains, deserts, farms, landscaped cities, and mountains so high we were up in the clouds, making one think of having reached heaven.
We passed along many santa places: Santa Barbara, Santa Paula, Santa Clara, Santa Fe, Santa Monica, Santa Ana, Santa Gertrudez, and because we were still a long way to our destination, I counted myself in—Santa Gracia.
And why not? I mulled over the Bible’s definition of saints.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 2-3 KJV), “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
Indeed all female believers are santas, just as male believers are santos.
All told, our road trip took 14 hours instead of seven—more than the length of a plane ride from the Philippines to San Francisco.
Although the travel was overly long, the joy was overly longer.
It looked a bit weird at first. What's this doing in our bathroom? I thought it might have been a bone of some strange animal I have yet to meet. But it was sitting on a soap dish in our room at Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad, California.
On closer look, you can sniff its fresh scent. It actually is a bath soap! Curious, I looked for the box and there I read the rationale for its strange shape.
It's ergonomically shaped to reduce waste—to eliminate that unused, leftover sliver at the center of a traditional soap bar we have bathed/washed with for years. Ingenious!
While travelling with my husband, big and little things never cease to fascinate me. Even while still packing our luggage for our vacation in the US, I vowed to treat each day like the first day of my life: look out for new things and re-visit old ones with new eyes.
First days are always the most unforgettable; they stay in your memory for life—like a stunning, in-your-face encounter with grace that makes you endlessly grateful.
"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)
Celebrating Resurrection Sunday with a solemn worship service at dawn—followed by a fellowship breakfast, then a painting session—has been a tradition in our church for a few years.
The art session is usually done on one side of the church’s sprawling lawn. About 50 children, men, and women participate—the rest walk around chatting, gawking and gushing over the progress of each canvas. Many (or all) of us are amateurs who probably touch brush and canvas only this one day of the year.
But it is always an exhilarating experience. We try to replicate God’s creation the way we individually see it, and in our own minds, we are successful.
This one’s mine this year. I didn’t do it with the group as I forgot my apron at home (I am a sloppy "painter"), but I took the rest of the day romancing it at my painting space by our terrace. It’s a futile attempt at abstract painting and a stubborn fascination with flowers and butterfly.
But ah, many of those who behold it say, “Wow!” My husband says, “. . .”
So, yeah, I’ll take the “Wow!” Thank you.
The “Wow!” rightfully belongs to the original flowers and butterflies created by the One Who resurrected three days after dying on the cross for us, but His grace allows me to borrow it once a year.
Wow, it was a joyful Sunday!
"He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” Luke 24:6-7 (NLT)
Eighty is considered a very old age in these modern times. Many people in their 80s are practically doing nothing, suffering from ailments, and depending on caregivers to take them around.
This wasn’t so in Bible times. The good Book is littered with old, active people doing rigorous jobs for God—Moses and Noah are just some of them.
I wish it were the same for my friend Ate Miriam. On her 80th birthday, her children threw her a big party with her old-time friends as guests. That night, she was totally made up, dressed to the nines, and looked her best.
Eight of us were requested to pray for her. In my prayer, I thanked the Lord for her once-vigorous life—encouraging times when she modeled for us how to serve God.
I say vigorous because she always found the energy to do something for our faith brethren. Every Sunday, she would donate and cook the snacks for Sunday school students. She drove the women’s group around the village for visitation of members. She was never absent in prayer meetings and other church activities.
And every time she had extra cash, she would either treat out the pastoral staff or ask each one what he needed. She also was an indefatigable donor of church needs—pews, equipment, etc.
Ate Miriam’s biggest dream was for her grandson Moses to become a pastor and to hear him preach from our church’s pulpit.
Alas, before Moses could graduate from Bible School, dementia assaulted her astute mind. Moses is now a full-fledged pastor and a powerful speaker, but sometimes—in her prayers—she would seek God’s favor to please help Moses become a pastor.
We remind her that her beloved grandson is now serving the Lord full-time and she brightens up.
A day after her 80th party, she saw her big birthday poster on her wall. She asked, “When is my birthday?”
She no longer recognizes many of her kin and friends. By grace, she still remembers me; I dread the day she won’t anymore.
But I look forward to that glorious time when she and I, plus the rest of those whose names and faces she has forgotten, will meet again. In that future time, her mind will be as keen as ever—in a world without end.