Monday, July 31, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"That is the mystery of grace --
it never comes too late."

-- Franois Mauriac

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mondays are for Grace (and Giveaway Winner)

"It's not what you look at that matters.
It's what you see."

-- Henry David Thoreau

And, the Giveaway Winner from Blackberry Ramble's 10 Year Anniversary is BARBARA who commented: "I've enjoyed your blog for years and I hope you keep it up! I'm also a fellow tea lover! Congratulations on your 10 year blogaversary!"

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Westside Art Workshop

This fall I am starting a new venture: art classes for homeschoolers at my house! Check out my Facebook page: Westside Art Workshop and look at the Events section for class details. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Asia: Adventure in Malaysia

I first heard of Malaysia as a 12 year old girl living deep in the heart of Africa. British friends spoke about this unheard of country and the years they spent living in its capital and I never forgot.

It always makes me smile how things from one's childhood re-appear in adulthood. Here I was heading to Malaysia myself!

The church we visited in Singapore hosts a family conference each year in June. Everyone decamps to Malaysia where it is easy to get a reasonably priced facility for everyone. After a 2-hour taxi ride (which included long waits at the border) we arrived at the Le Grandeur Palm Resort. All I could think about was how similar it all looked to Uganda!

Since Michael was the speaker for the week we were upgraded to special rooms (thank you!) which included several sitting areas and an upstairs bedroom.

We arrived a day before the rest of the church so we had a chance to explore.

It turns out there were three other Singapore church groups having their family conferences the same week! How fun is that?!

I loved this more traditional building, and of course I love the palm trees. If it weren't for the ferocious heat and humidity I would have stayed outside for hours.

And the golf course! Where was Rachel when I needed her?! This is the course I want to be riding around on watching her during high school golf this fall.

The resort had plenty of pools -- and they all looked so beautiful.

More palm trees -- there are so many varieties.

The open air seating looked so inviting (again, if only the heat were not so bad).

Over and over again my mind turned to memories of a trip to Mombasa, Kenya when I was young. There were so many similarities, even with some of the food.

 Yes, the pools were beautiful! Even more so with all the palm trees surrounding them. No, I didn't go swimming. I have such a strong allergy to changing temperatures and cold water and pay so severely for indulging that I've finally just about given up swimming. I did attempt to sit outside by the pool, mostly because I didn't want to miss the chance. But, I had to endure the oppressive heat to do so....

The food was so different and fun to experience! So many desserts I could eat! This one was made with coconut milk and tapioca "noodles".

At each meal the organizers made sure I had plenty of food I could eat. At lunch and dinner these bento boxes arrived for me.

Here's another lunch (or was it breakfast?). They both were similar.....

Another dessert based on coconut milk with black glutinous rice. Delicious! I need to make my own here sometime. On the side is a Malay dessert -- I think that one was made with coconut milk as well.

I had a few afternoons to myself throughout the week as Michael spent time preparing for his talks. It gave me the chance to paint, journal, and read.

I even managed to glean little bits and pieces for afternoon tea in my room.

Here's another bento box filled with dinner.

And another sweet dessert soup -- this one made with red beans.

Michael worked hard delivering 6 hour-long talks over the course of the week (which was really about three days).

Another round of Malay desserts -- many based on coconut milk or tapioca or glutinous rice.

This was my painting by the pool afternoon (in the oppressive heat).

And another tea time in my room.

We did have rain and that helped the heat for an hour or two. The rain was heavy and came up quickly. It was always beautiful afterwards.

It was wonderful to have the time to spend working on my painting and journaling. That doesn't happen as regularly as I'd like in "real life."

My last breakfast in Malaysia. I loved all these savory dishes for breakfast!!! If only I could have them in my fridge each morning. There was soup, and curry, and see that pile in the top righthand corner? Those are super tiny dried fish meant to add a nice flavor to your food.

The highlight of the week, of course, was being with each and everyone of the conference attendees, from the little babies (so adorable) to the older members of the congregation. Every meal provided another opportunity to make new friends and share about each other's lives and hear how God is at work on the complete opposite side of the world from where I am. This was a gift!

On Friday we headed back to Singapore in a huge bus, stood in line again at the border, and eventually arrived at the Newton Food Centre where we had plenty to choose from for lunch.

There was the famous Singapore Chicken Rice:

Or all kinds of other dishes (that included foods I shouldn't be eating):

The pancake making stall:

 The cold dessert stall:

And my lunch! Pancakes, roasted duck, chicken rice and pork.

The fruit stall!

And the perfect way to end -- a young coconut!

 So that was our adventure in Malaysia. In the next post I'll take you to a Singapore wedding!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"Tears are often the telescope by which men see far into heaven."

-- Henry Ward Beecher

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Asia: Singapore's Gardens by the Bay

Our next adventure in Singapore was a trip to the beautiful Gardens by the Bay. This is a relatively new attraction in Singapore involving outdoor gardens, fake trees known as "Supertrees," and huge glass domes in which are housed even more gardens.

At first I thought we would walk around outside and see some native plants. It only took me about three minutes to realize that the plan of touring one of the glass domes would be much more weather appropriate!

On our way to the dome we passed a long walkway of colorful orchids. Orchids are everywhere in Singapore (and Thailand too). The very hot, very humid weather just makes them sing for joy.

Inside the dome we could sing for joy too at the relief from the oppressive heat. And there was a nice view of the city out the windows.

A number of flowers from Australia were on display at one end of the pavilion.

Palm trees grew to great heights and huge swathes of geraniums cascaded over high walls.

I loved this fluffy wall of tiny pink daisy flowers.

The glass dome was so large there were two levels with pathways and landings all over the place.

Of course it was fun to people-watch! I was surprised on our journey how few westerners I saw. Here in America I am used to a great deal of racial blending and a large population from Asian countries. Singapore did not have the same proportions.

The roses in the dome were being grown in ideal conditions with no pests. The rose bushes were so happy they almost looked fake!

The flower show on at the moment was a celebration of blue flowers! Blue is a rare color in the flower world so it was fun to see which flowers they collected.

I especially enjoyed this fake little English cottage they used as a centerpiece for the exhibition.

These incredibly large hydrangea blooms fascinated me. They were so large as to be unbelievable.
They were the real deal!

Michael and I both enjoyed the driftwood sculptures scattered throughout the building.

And there was a tree full of delicate camellia blooms. Such a beautiful ombre affect on these petals!

Upstairs we visited the cactus and succulent exhibit.

We wanted to bring this dragon sculpture home for James.

The baobab trees were so cute!!!

We were just fascinated with this furry cactus! Yes! That is supposed to look like fur and it sure does!

This succulent arrangement was so well done. Too bad I can't have one in my house. :)

Because of limited gardening space these wall gardens are apparently becoming more popular!

And here's one last English rose.

It was hard to leave the flowers but of course a food adventure is always exciting to me. We headed for lunch and on the way passed this bakery.

Many familiar foods but definitely an Asian twist to them: green tea red bean bread, chocolate bread with Chinese characters on top, curry donuts, etc.

 The best part was the trip to the fruit market!!! We were after the famous durian but along the way I had to look at everything else: mangos, papaya, oranges, bananas, pineapple, jackfruit, lychees, dragon fruit, and other exotic fruits.

These little biscuit-like treats intrigued me. But we walked by because they were definitely not gluten-free.

We passed a Chinese sweet shop filled with bags and bags of all kinds of preserved plums. But they were not at all like the sweets I'm used to (think bitter, sour, with a large pit included) and I have to stay away from dried things anyway so on we went. 

We found piles of durian! Isn't it a strange looking creature (er, fruit)? Durian has such a strong, distinct odor that it is banned on public transportation and in hotels! 

Our hostess, Amy, picked out a dish of already peeled durian and we took it back to the apartment to see what we thought!

Here I am trying my first bite. It has a custard skin-like texture on the outside with a curdled custard texture inside around the large seed. The pungent smell, along with the strange texture, and the strong taste made me decide that perhaps I could learn to enjoy this fruit but at this point I wasn't willing to pay money for it (and it's not cheap). There is something odd about the taste -- it almost has a touch of onion flavor to its very sweet, tropical flavor. It was not revolting, but it was odd.

Durian is known as the "king of fruits." Fortunately, there is also a "queen of fruits" -- the mangosteen. And the mangosteen is so delectably delicious. It's hard to describe but has elements of  mandarin orange and almost rosewater while bursting with sweet juice. It might be my favorite of all the fruits I tried!

With the all-important durian tasting behind us it was time to pack our bags and head to Malaysia! Next time I'll tell you about our week at the Le Grandeur Palm Resort.