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.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Decade of Blackberry Rambles

"Never lose an opportunity for seeing anything beautiful...." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's now been ten years since I started this blog! Considering those ten years amount to 1/4 of my life, it's a little scary how fast they went! It's been fun to have a place all my own to publish photos and quotes, book reviews and thoughts about life. I also find it special that some of the bloggers I met during my first few months of blogging are still friends!

Of course this kind of a milestone calls for a Giveaway! -- Just a little something I can tuck into a padded envelope and send someone's way. Leave a comment and I'll choose a winner on July 24th. (And I'm afraid the cost of postage is going to limit this to the USA and Canada.)

Thanks to all of you who have encouraged me over these years of blogging!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Asia: Arrival in Singapore

Although Michael has been to Singapore and other parts of Asia before, it was my very first time in Asia and there were plenty of firsts for me! First, we flew west, not east! And the flights were so very long -- long enough to have flown from New York to London and back again without stopping. It sounds long and hard, but without children it seemed nearly a piece of cake.

The food wasn't a piece of cake though. I informed Michael on the first flight that I'd ordered him gluten free meals and vegetarian meals for myself -- hoping that between the two there would be something I could tolerate. (I think he was disappointed.) We ate, but I was disappointed too. No points here for airline food.

 But the airline did have decaf coffee (albeit instant). I didn't know when I took this picture that it would be my last cup of coffee for 2.5 weeks -- I guess decaf coffee isn't a thing in Asia.

We flew from Indy to Chicago and then across to Japan where the joys of Airline Lounges were revealed to me. How did I not know about this beautiful, quiet, relaxing place? Probably because it costs a lot to join these clubs and we just happened to have two free entrance passes. If I travelled regularly for business, a pass would be the first thing I would buy!

The lounge had a delightful assortment of Japanese appetizers and treats. Little cakes, fruits, sandwiches, all kinds of drinks, Asian nut mixes, and rice crackers. This helped the layover time pass quickly!

We arrived in Singapore around midnight and were greeted by all the pastors and elders as well as other friends from the congregation there. This was new to me as well -- everyone making the effort to travel all the way to the airport to welcome us (in the middle of the night)! How special!

We were whisked away to the apartment of friends and this is what we saw out the window when we woke up the next morning:

Two of the pastors and their families hosted us for lunch at a mall (it seems most shopping and even a lot of eating is done at malls). The food court held lots of options! There was hardly time to investigate each food:

It would be fun to taste everything! (almost everything)

We let our friends order for us and were given these drinks to try. Delicious and refreshing!

And lunch was so good! There were soups and a "carrot cake" which is not a cake at all but a pancake made with white radish, and we had curries and cooked vegetables like baby bok choi and cabbage. I wouldn't mind a bowl of this showing up on my desk right now!

For dessert one friend bought a large bag of lychees and we all grabbed a handful to peel and pop in our mouths. Such a lovely flavor -- very sweet with hints of floral to it.

After lunch we were taken for a ride on the cable cars that cross over to Sentosa Island which has become a resort island. We could see rain moving in at a distance.

By the time we hopped into our cable car the rain was coming down in torrents!

Out we started over the harbor area and towards Sentosa only to have the cable car stop in mid air. And stay stopped. For 25 or more minutes! The rain beat down and the thunder roared and we didn't know why we were still hanging in the middle of the sky waiting. Once the rain moved on we had a lovely view of the city.

And we spent a lot of time closely examining the fancy water park that was directly below us. Best of all we got to make a memory with new friends!

We finally reached Sentosa Island and I was enthralled to find my beloved frangipani trees in bloom everywhere. I've missed those flowers so much since I first came to love them during my years in Uganda. Smelling one can instantly transport me back in time nearly 30 years.

And bougainvillea was also blooming everywhere! Another old favorite!

 We got to see the Merlion up close! (half lion, half mermaid). This is an iconic symbol of Singapore.
Singapore means Lion City and the name Merlion combines the history of Singapore as a fishing village ("Mer" meaning "sea") with lion, the meaning of "singa."

 We opted not to take the cable car back to Singapore proper but rather the quick and easy train. On our way back through the mall we came upon the most entertaining site: the Baby Spa!

Parents pay to let their baby float around in a bathtub!

The babies love it and the parents love taking pictures!! Perhaps because so many Singapore apartments only have showers the Baby Spa provides a place for babies to experience playing in water? Anyone think we can start one here?

Dinner found us at the home of the senior pastor and his family for a delicious meal followed by more tropical fruits such as "Dragon's Eyes," "Chinese Cherries," and "Rambutan." The yellow and red fruits were in a similar family to the lychee. 

 We also enjoyed meeting "Nemo," the family rabbit.

Looking back that sounds like a very full day to me! We probably needed that in order to keep our eyes open all day and try to adjust to the 12-hour time difference! Next up will be our visit to the Gardens by the Bay.