For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I heart being snack monitor

I remember returning home each summer from London to Sunny Singapore with new ideas in my recipe box I could hardly wait to try out for my family and friends. There was bread and butter pudding, fish pie, shepherd's pie, baked lemon chicken, and Italian chicken stew, to name a few. There was even that first summer, when I made Yorkshire pudding, inviting raised eyebrows from mum and sis. Many of these recipes have since won their permanent spots in my cooking sensibilities (not the Yorkshire pudding, though!); they have become my go-to dishes, tried, tested and true. It was very much thanks to my housemates and other friends who I'd cooked with and for, who taught me those recipes, some of whom were influenced by the food of the land - British food.

It's just been a short six months here so far, but long enough for me to suspect that I am going to return home with more recipe ideas to pull out of my apron pockets. This time, it is thanks to my classmates, and something called snack time.

Never underestimate the importance of snack time. This is especially when classes run in three hour blocks, and more so when those three hours are between the hours of 4 and 7 pm. So we take turns bringing snack in, yum!

Snack in Singapore in the middle of a three hour class (I am thinking of PD sessions at work) would be some local kueh, curry puffs, finger sandwiches, and the absolutely necessary teh and kopi. Here, it didn't take me long to find out that snack here is synonymous with chips, dips, cookies, and fruit. It's a simple enough formula to catch onto, but versatile enough to play around with and never yet get bored.

I'm surprised at the variety that can come from so simple a template! For example:
Chips: Corn chips of all shapes and sizes (I like the ones that are in a little bowl shape, made just for scooping chunky salsa dip!), pretzels, pretzel chips, chez mix, crackers
Dips: Salsa (all types!), hummus, greek goddess, baked spinach and artichoke, and even cookie dough dip!
Cookies: Okay, sometimes, this can be in the form of a baked bar, like brownies. We've had pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, Gooey Butter Cake (made by my classmate from St Louis), raspberry jam diagonals, strawberry and blueberry buckle, scotcheroos and peanut butter balls
Fruit: Clementines, apples, bananas, grapes, and baby carrots
Last semester, I thought it'd be fun to prepare something with Singaporean flavor for my classmates when it came to my turn as snack monitor. So, Tim and I made spring rolls for the first time! I also brought in Wang Wang rice crackers from the Asian store and tangerines. (See how I tried to use the template?)

All wrapped up, not yet fried

When my turn as snack monitor arrived again earlier this week, though, I was just not feeling up to learning how to make curry puffs and all the fiddly preparation involved. So, to the template I went:

Chips: Pretzel chips
Dip: Homemade hummus from Simply Recipes
Cookie: Chocolate cake from Smitten Kitchen
Fruit: Celery sticks and baby carrots
I'm finding myself taking quite a liking to the chips and dips idea after all. I've never been one to munch on baby carrots or apple slices for snack, but I have found that raw veggies and hummus can genuinely taste quite good. I've bookmarked quite a few dip recipes on Pinterest, so if you get a dinner invitation anytime soon (read: after August, when we finally get home), you know what's for starters!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A song, nonetheless

Is a glowing flower too little a thing to thank God for? How about a steaming, comforting bowl of soup? What about the clouds, or the sunshine, or snowflakes which melt away once they arrive down to earth? When I remember the days when my spirit is too downcast to notice these things, I know that giving thanks for these things are not just for their own sake, but for a spirit that is able to celebrate and rejoice.

The sky is infinite only to man's mind. Not so to its Maker. 

There are other days, when my thanksgiving song takes on a different tone.

Today, I give thanks in:

..::.. Being wronged by loved ones: For it teaches me forgiveness, and keeps me remembering that I myself have wronged, but was forgiven. It sends my eyes to the cross, and makes me wonder at how I've forgotten the love of my Savior and power of His work on that cross.

..::.. Regrets: For it strengthens in me faith in my Redeemer, whose wisdom is not limited by the workings of a finite mind like mine. With Him I can entrust the questions which creep up on me unawares and only try to scare the daylights out of me. He is the only one who can answer a what if  question, and He is not obliged to give me an answer.

..::.. Sadness: For overcoming sadness is a triumph in itself. When 'doing the next thing' requires more strength and effort than it normally does, each next thing done becomes more an acknowledged miracle than would have been realized otherwise.

..::.. Misunderstandings: For in the end that whole process of trying to understand helps me see more clearly. Misunderstandings snap me out of that false sense of pseudo-knowledge that deceives me into thinking I do know, when I really do not. Misunderstandings, with the wisdom God provides, can be open the door to a journey toward understanding.

..::.. Delayed, or denied requests: For they teach patience, and trust that the present is the best gift, while the future a God-kept secret, for now. They can also be whispers of a better plan. I am just starting to catch a whiff of that myself.

..::.. The temptation to win others' approval: For in resisting I am affirming my faith in the one in whom my identify is founded. It should be His approval I try to win, and the way to do it is not like the means to win man's approval. For example, He says:
For the Lord sees not as man sees: Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the hears. 1 Samuel 16:7
..::.. Loneliness: For at moments when it seems I am friendless in this world I lean more closely to Jesus, my friend forever, and my heart is urged to cherish my loved ones more dearly. Wrongs are quickly forgiven, just to have them near and dear.
In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

God's Promises

Water - A gift everyday, even more heartfelt with a sore throat

At the end of the day, it's God's promises that matter. Will the plans of my finite mind come to pass? What about my fears? Both melt away in the light of His love and wisdom.

Today, I'm simply thankful for God's promises that saw me through the week. I want to remember these over and over again.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
Psalm 28:7 NIV 
Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.
Psalm 32:10 NIV 
The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
Psalm 33:10-11 NIV 
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
Psalm 33:17-19 NIV 
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 33: 20 NIV
Signs of spring cannot withstand the cold blast of an Arctic frost, but God's love remains unchanging

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winter Wonderment

A few hours ago this afternoon, it snowed. It didn't last very long, and in the words of the meteorological station, there were "no significant accumulations". You know, the postcard-perfect fondant-looking icing over everything: the branches of trees, sloping roofs of brick houses, park benches.

The snow was more like a sprinkling of floating snowflakes. At moments, it looked like a strong fan was blowing the tiny snowflakes around. I was sitting at my study desk at home, facing the balcony, reading an article for school, trying to write a reflection piece, and getting distracted. Reading quickly yielded to snowflake-watching. Thus, the FB status update: Reading by the window and watching snowflakes float down from above. Dear reader, I wonder what image came to your mind, reading that sentence? Would it have made a difference if you had read it without the context I just provided in this paragraph?

The white specks are the snowflakes. Tim took this picture when we had that other 'snowfall' in Jan, but it looked pretty much like this today. Yes, just twice so far. 

I know snow has all these connotations of curling up cozily by the fireplace, snug and warm, and maybe with a cat nearby. But to be honest, this was very much an everyday kind of afternoon. (Furthermore, not long after, I had to leave for a practicum at a school, which involved snow-weather traffic jams.) So when E mentioned snuggling up with loved ones by a fireplace in her comment, I found myself thinking... I wish that too, but it's just not what's happening here now.

So when we found ourselves in Grandpa H and Grandma J's cozy living room later that night, at that very moment Grandma J turned the fireplace on, I thought oh wow... Jaw-dropping wonderment. We were there for pizza and movies, and rambly talk about gardening and more movies and food after. And yes, we were comfortably ensconced in large armchairs, with the fireplace on. So reader, I did end up snuggling with loved ones by a fireplace this winter's day. Presenting yet another perfectly orchestrated moment, where ordinary is transformed into extra-special, simply because of a God who cares to bring delight to human hearts.

Said fireplace, back at Christmas - after all, that was when this all started
.: Grandpa H & Grandma J are friends from church we met through Tim's Bible study class. They've showered us with love and treated us like family - which we are, because we are in Christ.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What I can feel with my hands, see with my eyes

I feel like a little girl, counting my presents. It happened at birthdays, Christmases, even Children's Day. Each would be precious. The one who gets more presents is more loved, maybe a child might think. Is the way to a child's heart through her hands? How about the way to my heart?

Secure in my Heavenly Father's acceptance, my heart knows of the constancy and steadfastness of His love, enough to know that that childish equation can never be said of His way of loving. 

Yet, He chooses to greet me in countless unexpected places, right where I can see, touch, taste, feel. He is my Heavenly Father, and whenever He does that, I am a little child again - His little child... 

This is just me, checking in, thanking Him.

1 Feb, Wednesday: Greeted by a red-crowned woodpecker on the walk to school

2 Feb, Thursday: A blue, 18 deg C afternoon, beach umbrellas (I sat under one of them, studying)

3 Feb, Friday: Sourdough toast and orange wedges for breakfast

4 Feb, Saturday: Tim-cooked meal: Baked trout with herb and lemon, salad and pasta with tomato sauce on the side

5 Feb, Sunday: This tender love song on Sunday morning in church 

6 Feb, Monday, Chinese Valentine's Day: Midday Sweet Cece's treat with Tim

7 Feb, Today: Hints of spring along the walk to school

Saturday, February 4, 2012

In the mail...

Look what came in the mail! A sweet lil' package from Laura of Along for the Ride. Laura is so talented with her hands. Check out her etsy shop here

So sweetly gift-boxed - thanks Laura!

A great thing about being in the US for a year is that I get to enter all these really cool blog giveaways that are open to US residents only. I'm going to miss this privilege...

A cabochon hairpin and pendant on a necklace in two of my favorite colors!

This one was a giveaway from Kara of Mine for the Making, in celebration of her blogeversary! Congratulations again, Kara! And a big thank you, Laura, for these lovelies! 

Friday, February 3, 2012

The story of the cookies

It all started with porridge. Sometime, I must have said that I wanted porridge for lunch. Porridge would be incomplete without salted egg, you see, so Tim decided that he should try to make some. We had both assumed then that salted eggs had not yet been introduced to the Nashville food scene. We remembered that our friend Emily had posted a salted egg recipe on her website, though. Armed with a recipe now, Tim was determined to make salted eggs. Apparently, said recipe specified an air tight jar. He looked out for a suitable one wherever we went, and finally managed to find one from TJ Maxx. But lo and behold, the next time we went to K&S, our go-to Asian grocery store, we found salted eggs. And this is the story of how we ended up with a large, air tight glass jar, now transformed into a cookie jar, waiting to be filled.

A few nights ago, Tim came up to me with a recipe pulled from the world wide web for chocolate chip pecan cookies, and asked if it would work. It was from Southern Living, so I gave it the stamp of approval. Wow, I thought, he's serious about this cookie-baking business.

So, I came home on Wednesday evening from school to this.

One gem of a heart-shaped cookie, just for me

There was a whole jar, plus a box full. Now, only a whole jar because the ones in the box have been eaten up. Ahem.

Pecan Brown Sugar Cookies

I was especially blessed, since Wednesday was the day that I finally submitted my proposal for my upcoming capstone project. 

And you know what? The cookies were really good. They had a slightly chewy texture, were just the right sweetness, and had some pleasing salty bits here and there. I didn't even mind that there weren't chocolate chips. In the culinary world, this can be explained by salt, butter, and brown sugar. In the real world, though, it's all because of love. 

I thank God for my husband, and I love him. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Love Circle

With the sunshine calling all day, how could it be possible not to respond? Come out! All day I heard the sun sing. So to Love Circle we went, just half an hour before sunset.

Nashville, Tennessee from Love Hill

The road so named encircles Love Hill, a hidden gem only a few minutes from where we live, from which there is an almost unchallenged view of the city. Love Circle, Love Hill - in my opinion without a doubt a must-do romantic date venue for lovebirds. Like us.

Just us

It was fun just to play with our shadows, and watch the clouds go by overhead.

A certain patch of sky

And finally, to watch the sun set.

Goodnight, sun

Nashville, after sunset
So simple, so sweet.