Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Back from Asia

Michael and I are just back from two and a half weeks in Asia! It was my first time to this part of the world and I thoroughly enjoyed every chance to meet people, experience their culture, and taste the food! I have lots to share.

Here's a rainy photo of Singapore from the cable car ride we took the first Saturday. Singapore is a tiny island-city just south of Thailand and Malaysia. It was originally colonized by the British but gained its independence after World War II. The city is a mix of east and west cultures owing to it being settled mainly by Chinese but colonized by Britain.

I can't wait to show you all the wonderful flowers we saw at the Gardens by the Bay! Their current flower show is "blue flowers" and we spent a delightful morning admiring and photographing all the displays.

You can't go to Singapore without hearing about and tasting the infamous durian fruit. Durian's aroma is so distinctive it is banned in most hotels and buses. Trying exotic fruits became one theme of our trip.

We headed to Malaysia our first week, joining the congregation from Pilgrim Covenant Church in Singapore for their annual Family Camp. The camp was held at a lovely resort. I felt like I'd returned to Africa! I couldn't get enough of the tropical plants and lovely views.

Our trip was most certainly about getting to know the members of the PCC congregation. The young people were particularly friendly and eager to talk. It was lovely to see a group of teens enjoying one another's company.

It was Michael's job to present six talks/sermons at the Family Camp. That meant he did all the hard work and I got to reap the benefits.

After the Family Camp we returned to Singapore for the weekend where we were invited to attend a wedding. It was a memorable day and I look forward to telling you all about it!

Experiencing Asian food was something I looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed. This plate here was the first of 9 courses served at the wedding -- the plate included cuttlefish, jellyfish, lobster, seafood mango salad, and roasted pork.

 It was very exciting to go off on a trip just the two of us! It's hard to believe our kids are old enough to handle a long separation! And we are thankful for the many, many people who made this possible by their willingness to help watch our kids!

After the second weekend Michael and I headed up to Chiang Mai, Thailand to enjoy a few days of vacation. Our hotel turned out to be just the perfect place to relax!

Chiang Mai is filled with historic temple after historic temple. We spent our days wandering the streets and photographing all the beauty.

Observing another religion provided plenty of food for thought. It almost felt like stepping back in time to see the massive buddha structures inside ornate temples.

Thai food was amazing! In her new book At Home in the World, Tsh Oxenreider mentioned a restaurant they loved in Chiang Mai. Having read the book on the plane ride over it was too fun to go and find it for ourselves! (I highly recommend the book. Such good armchair travel. It also cured me of ever wanting to travel the world at length with a bunch of kids in tow!)

Chiang Mai overflowed with artistic beauty. It was everywhere we looked. I couldn't get enough pictures of the patterns, the colors, the gold, the inspiration!

The city was a photographer's dream!

One evening I took a Thai cooking class! It's a very popular thing to do among travelers there. We made five dishes and then ate our creations. Can't wait to show you more!

One afternoon we took a boat ride and along the way learned about many of the different fruit trees and vegetables Thailand grows.

And of course we went shopping in the vast markets that contained everything from tailor-made garments to dried fish, piles of fresh orchids to knock-off Cath Kidston.

Our week in Thailand eventually came to an end and we headed back for one last weekend in Singapore. Friends took us to Chinatown for a Dim Sum feast and then proper Chinese tea at a teahouse (so very exciting!!).

Who could have guessed that there would be a Downton Abbey exhibit just opening in Singapore while we were there. Somehow it seemed just the thing to go to in a fitting east-meets-west sort of way.

Yes, it was a wonderful trip in so many ways!

 And the kids survived!

Jetlag is a nice excuse to try to take life slowly for a little while and reacclimate to life in a busy household, and sip the memories of far-off Asia slowly like a perfect cup of White Peony Tea.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, 
everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature,
 is a help. 

Gardening is an instrument of grace."

-- May Sarton

Saturday, June 3, 2017

May in the Garden

May was a lovely month in the garden. The highlight of course was the "Week of Peonies" which I look forward to all year. But while my attention was diverted to my beloved blooms there was plenty of other things happening at a more subtle level.

The vole-devastated perennial beds have been re-worked and now I start again with the old gardening adage "sleep, creep, leap." I tore out things that had overgrown and turned over the soil where the voles had eaten away the perennials. Black-eyed susan's were taken from other beds and used to fill in gaps as were lilies and hostas and chrysanthemums. The perennial bed looks a bit sparse and young, and I know this year the newly established plants will only "sleep." But I keep reminding myself that gardening is for the long haul and doing this now will result in lovely beds a few years hence.

Speaking of voles, just in the last few days Michael is having great success trapping them. Long may this continue!

The vegetable garden is off to a good start except that something keeps eating our baby plants -- perhaps the cute bunnies we see frolicking a few houses down from us or running out of our bushes in the early morning.

The younger boys were eager to help with the veggie garden and chose to plant onions, watermelon, squash, carrots, and radishes. We've already had a bountiful radish harvest. Pole beans have emerged and before we know it will be scampering up the new stick teepee in the center of the garden. The chives gave a beautiful show of their purple flowers earlier in the month and are settling down for the rest of the season. In a rare spur-of-the-moment decision I bought a blackberry plant for the vegetable garden. It feels so right to have blackberries truly back in our life again. We shall see if I regret this decision in a few years.

My "almost prayer" for a bird's nest was answered in a most exciting way. One Sunday the kids came running to tell me there was a bird in the front room. I ran down immediately and found a sweet little wren hopping about near the bookshelves. We carefully helped shoo her to the front door and out again. The next morning Michael texted me the picture of the wren again -- this time perched on a favorite painting. How was this happening? Then it dawned on us -- she had made a nest inside our front door decoration basket! The said decoration was quickly moved to the side of the door to prevent poor Jenny Wren from flying up into the house every time one of us uses the front door. It really is delightful to have a nest in our yard again!

The lily of the valley bloomed and offered its heady scent. I was glad the voles hadn't eaten all of it. The knockout rose also bloomed but it needs to grow much bigger before I can cut the blooms for vases. Right now we are in an in between stage, waiting on the day lilies and the small remnant of daisies to open up.

Marigold and zinnia seeds have been liberally scattered several times over.

The cherry rudbeckia has one tiny plant growing. I'm too afraid to hope it will establish itself and bloom.

The pansies out front have done so well in their pots. Just this weekend the hot heat has hit and the pansies are beginning to look too leggy. I'm going to replace them with red geraniums.

And we have been eating out on our back patio as often as we can in the evenings. The patio garden will be at its peak in about 4 weeks. Right now there are just large mounds of greenery with hints of the lilies and bee balm to come. The red currant bush keeps the kids with something to pick and eat (whenever they can get away with it). Not only have we been enjoying the patio but we finally have a grill again after far too long. It makes all the difference for easy summer meals.

I can't believe most of the heavy spring garden work is done and now it will be just a case of maintaining the weeding and watching for water needs. Before we know it the next batch of cut flowers will be ready to enjoy!