It’s Personal – The Ice Bucket Challenge

I’m taking part in the wave of philanthropy that’s sweeping the nation and the world. The fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

The ice bucket

The ice bucket

MomOn September 4, 2014, it will be 15 years since my mom, DeeLores V Thrall, lost her battle with ALS. Such a terrible disease.

I still miss her so much. There is so much that I wish she were here to witness. Three things especially come to mind. I wish she were here to see the fantastic young woman that Kam has turned out to be. I wish she could see Veronica and what a truly terrific mom she is, and I wish she could have met the sweetest and smartest little boy in the world, her great grandson, Calvin.

I think about my mom a lot since I have been here in Hong Kong, because she would have been the best expat woman here. All the society events and all the afternoon teas and beautiful clothes and volunteering and playing mahjong with the other expat women. She would have loved to be a member of the American Woman’s Association. She would have loved the once-a-year tea at the US Consulate and meeting the Consular General of Hong Kong. She would have thrived and loved every minute of living here. She would have been a far better expat woman in Hong Kong than I have been. These are not the areas in which I excel, but they are so my mom. Drat that ALS, she would have loved to live this life through us, and I would have loved telling her all about it.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is sweeping the world. Today, in Hong Kong, there were photos on the front page of the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong leaders taking the challenge for ALS. So many high-profile leaders all over the world: President Obama, the Kennedys, Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart. And so many ordinary compassionate folks and people that have been personally touched, all coming together to support research to cure this horrific disease.

Needless to say, the challenge is a bit personal for me, and it seems fitting that on the anniversary of losing my mom to ALS that I take the challenge and honor her memory in fun and hope that someday we will defeat this disease.

This one is for you mom!

jen 2 ice bucket copy

 

Okay friends and family…. I am calling out five of you., Let’s get this chain of fun and goodwill going!  Kam Thomas, Gay Reichle, Andrea Bryan, Patti Hansen and Diana Gray…….I am challenging you!

The Streets Where We Live

Considering that I am going to be leaving Hong Kong in just a couple short months, I am trying to see the world around me with the same eyes I had when I arrived almost two years ago. Of course this is not possible. Nothing is permanent. My eyes have changed of course, but the exciting thing about impermanece is that there is change. In Hong Kong, change is a matter of everyday life.

pink Einstein copy

This new wall painting popped up recently and I just love it! I love the pink and I love the Einstein and I love the cactus below. It does make me smile.

These Hong Kong side streets were I live are pleaseant to explore. Many on stairs and on a steep slope.

Evidence of a yarn bomber.

Evidence of a yarn bomber.

yarn 2 copyMore to come.

 

Wok Wednesdays – Stir-Fry Fuzzy Melon with Ginger Pork

Stir-Fried Fuzzy Melon with Ginger Pork recipe comes from page 232 Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge by Grace Young. Check out Wok Wednesdays on Facebook, a group of over 500 members cooking their way through Grace’s fantastic cookbook.

Fuzzy melon in the wet market of Hong Kong

Fuzzy melon in the wet market of Hong Kong

As a Weight Watchers leader, a common summertime theme was to get members to try a new vegetable as there are many fresh options for vegetables available. I was always astounded by the limited vegetable palate of most members. Sometimes trying the zucchini was an adventure.

For me, I struggled to find vegetables that I had not tried and incorporated into my cooking repertoire. Asian vegetables opened a whole new world of things to try. Strolling through the enormous Asian markets in Minneapolis with my favorite Asian cook, Ari, was fascinating. I learned so much. What to buy, how to cook, frozen vs. fresh, canned vs. frozen. Little did I know that her help in Minneapolis would improve my cooking in Hong Kong. And, Wok Wednesdays has guided me along the way in finding new ways to prepare and cook the common Asian vegetable.

Fuzzy Melon

Fuzzy Melon

I have seen the fuzzy melon in the wet markets in Hong Kong. It is available year round. The fuzziness is not detected until you touch. It is a little prickly, but not too bad. These melons were tender and a bit on the small side. I selected two, and they were the perfect amount for the recipe.

Chopped melon

I did not peel them. My mistake but when I realized the recipe called for peeling, I tasted the uncooked piece, and the skin was tender and not bitter, so I proceeded. I actually think that visually, the dish, I think, is more appealing with some or all of the skin unpeeled.

In the wok and very pretty!

In the wok and very pretty!

It is amazing how far protein can go in a stir-fry dish. With only two ounces of pork in the dish, it was still very flavorful and filling. I thought the fuzzy melon was very close to zucchini. It had great texture, and the ginger was very nice with the pork and the melon.

The finished dish! Filling and tasty stir-fried fuzzy melon with ginger pork

The finished dish! Filling and tasty stir-fried fuzzy melon with ginger pork

Ok, I met the summertime challenge of trying a new vegetable. Actually, I meet that challenge a lot living in Hong Kong. Fuzzy melon was new for me. It was nice, and I would cook with it again. Maybe in a soup or fresh on salad. What could be next in tasting new and different things? Durian? Not likely at this time, but one never knows.

 

 

The Kitchen God

Kitchen God for the Year of the Horse

Kitchen God for the Year of the Horse


As the year of the snake comes to a close, and preparations for the new year are in full swing, it is time to pay special attention to a very important member of the Chinese home, the Kitchen God.

The Kitchen God lives close to the stove or hearth in each home. Usually in the form of red and gold sign of his name or in a photo, his purpose is to observe the health of the family throughout the year and return to the Jade Emperor to report what has been said and done in the household over the past year. He is one of the most worshiped and respected of all gods that protect the home and family. Additionally, he can inspire the cook to make healthy and flavorful food for the family throughout the year.

Before the Kitchen God returns to heaven to make his report, offerings of liquor and delectable foods are offered to make him happy and maybe a bit tipsy. Additionally just prior to his return on New Year’s eve, his lips are smeared with honey to “sweeten” his words or to stick his lips together so he cannot report. The effigy is then burned, and a new one is put in its place. If you are lucky enough to have a statue of the Kitchen God, it is removed and cleaned to begin a new cycle.

My kitchen god is in Hong Kong awaiting my return. He oversaw my purchase and seasoning of two good and trusty woks that prepared many a delicious dish. He also inspired my cooking and kept all who entered our home well-fed and happy.

The Kitchen God has been invited into our Phoenix home, and he will preside over the health and happiness if this place. Also, a new flat-bottomed wok found is way here just in time to cook for the beginning of the year of the horse.

A Long, Hot and Sticky Summer With A Fun End That Was Still Hot and Sticky

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThings have finally returned to what is now normal for us in Hong Kong. After five weeks of geographical separation (for Steve and me), three weeks of touring Kam around China, Vietnam and Hong Kong and typhoon Usagi, Steve left for his regular commute to Shenzhen and I settled down to plow through the hundres of photos taken over the summer.

It has been a very hot summer. During the month of August andwhile I was in the US, Steve reported very wet and humid weather. It continued to be hot and humid in September, but we did not have near the reported rain. As much as I wanted to, we had headed out every morning only to return sweat-drenched and thankful for air conditioning.

We did not waste any time when Kam arrived and set out to tackle a fairly long list of activites: Disneyland; Danang, Vietnam; egg tarts; Hue, Vietnam; Celestial Lady Pagoda on the picturesque Perfume River in Hue; vegetarian lunch with the monk; ghost city of Vietnam; visit to schools in Vietnam; sunrise at China Beach; Long’s coffee; a visit to “my school” for Lantern Festival; Ocean Park roller coasters; pandas, egg tarts; monkeys; Sham Shui Po; the Great Wall; Forbidden City; the best breakfast ever in Vietnam for $1.75 USD; Lama Temple; egg tarts; planes; trains; taxis; great Chinese food in Beijing; watching a “foreigner” eat a roasted spider;shopping in Lo Wu; Dum Sum lunch; meeting the all the ladies; mahjong; winning in Macau; eating as much as we could; a trip to The Peak; Star Ferry; hydro ferry ;Fernando’s; really bad air in Beijing; Ozone bar on the 118th floor; Peking Duck; Tiananmen Square; the gate of heavely peace; finding Kam’s “favorite restaurant in the world”.

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Near Sham Shui Po in Kowloon Monkeys in the trees

Near Sham Shui Po in Kowloon Monkeys in the trees

 

Panda at Ocean Park

Panda at Ocean Park

By the way, egg tarts were a hugh hit with Kam. She ate them in several places, including the elevator. Her verdict on who has the best…..Tai Cheong Bakery on Lyndhurst Terrace in Hong Kong. She picked them for the buttery crust. I prefer the egg tarts from Macau at Margaret e Nata alley cafe. I love the flaky crust and the carmelized custard top.

Kam's favorite egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery

Kam’s favorite egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery

Enjoying egg tarts and OJ at Margaret e Nata cafe in Macau

Enjoying egg tarts and OJ at Margaret e Nata cafe in Macau

On the 7th Level of Celestial Lady Pagoda, Vietnam

On the 7th Level of Celestial Lady Pagoda, Vietnam

The photo above shows Kam in the window of the 7th Level at the Celestial Lady Pagoda. This was a rare treat for a vistor. We were allowed to climb all seven levels of the pagoda. the top was about 2X3 feet with this small window. It was a very lucky experience for us thanks to our friend Duong in Vietnam and the kindness and interest of the senior monk. We also were invited to lunch.

 

 

Snakes and Dengue Fever….Oh My!

City, clouds and jungle

City, clouds and jungle

We have lived in Hong Kong now for 10 months. A day rarely passes that I don’t marvel at the reality of living here. With social media and FaceTime, my bouts of homesickness are infrequent and mostly centers around the missing of my daughter. Otherwise, I am very happy living in Hong Kong and having this experience.

When you make a move like this to a place that is so very different from where you have ever lived, I think you block out the things that have the potential to scare you or make you worry. Seeing unpleasant sights in the markets, the reality of getting shots for dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and large spiders top my list.

Last week I had a dose of reality. While playing mahjong with friends that have lived in Hong Kong for many years the subject of snakes, specifically cobras, came up. I balked at the idea of a cobra being outside a zoo and within a hundred miles of me. I had seen a snake or two, three or four in the markets, but not a cobra and not outside of a cage. Of course I am not in denile of the fact that jungles do contain snakes, I just did not want to think about them. Yet,my friends insisted that there were cobras in Hong Kong and several other deadly snakes.

The next morning, I did a search of the South China Morning Post archives and low and behol,d I found many and recent articles on the numbers of snakes living in and around Hong Kong. And yes, cobras topped the list. The only comfort that I found was that most of the snakes that are dangerous don’t live in the dense jungle and hilly area that I frequent. They like the flats and near the water.

The second reality for me was also delivered by the South China Morning Post last week. Because we have had  well-above-average rainfall this year, there is a major outbreak of Dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis due to the high numbers of misquitos.

Even though these diseases seemed so very out of reach for me, I am glad I got the entire series of recommended shots for living in Hong Kong, which included Dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis. Now I guess I better start carrying a snake-bite kit! Do they make those for cobras?

Did you feel the earth move a bit last week?

 

Mahjong Tiles

Mahjong Tiles

Last week in an international mahjong competition held in Toulouse France, the Chinese were given a “French Lesson” according to the South China Morning Post. French players won gold, silver and bronze prizes. Fourth, fifth and sixth place were taken by two Italians and a Dutch player. The closest Chinese player ranked seventh out of 108 players. Thirteen of them were Chinese. This is like an all-Chinese team from Beijing winning the World Series of Baseball.

I guess the Chinese did not see it coming. On Sina Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter), the news went viral. Most were in disbelief. There was even a comment that stated “we cannot let foreign devils beat us!” That comment surprised me. Although I could not beat many at mahjong, I guess I am a “foreign devil!”

Hundreds of years old, Mahjong is a game of tiles and is mostly a gambling game. To me, it reminds me a bit of rummy and dominos. It is addictive and after taking a class, I enjoy a game which can go on for hours.

Steve shared the news of the Chinese defeat at the office and they were in disbelief. Several people in the office are mahjong players, and one is reported to be very good. Excuses were made that the rules must be odd and allowances given. However the most interesting question/observation came when Steve was asked if he read this in “an expat newspaper.”

I’ll take the word of an “expat newspaper” any day while we are living here.

That is a whole other topic for a post.

The Dangers of Running in the Jungle

This fell from a tree this morning and hit me on the head while I was running to the top of The Peak. It knocked me silly and and knocked me down. Not sure what kind of fruit it is, but I heard it disconnect from the branch above and it fell some 30 feet. It cracked open on my hard head.

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Visitors!

“Nothing says Easter like a trip to the monkey park!” Our first visitors to Hong Kong left just one week ago today. Jim and Marcia returned to Boise, ID wearing the special badge as our “first visitors to Hong Kong.” Put that in your Foursquare stats! They came with just one request, and that was to visit Kam Shan County Park in the New Territories to see the wild monkeys roaming freely. Easy enough, and we planned to fit it in on Easter Sunday.

Drinks at Sugar- Mar 2013

We made many a memory that week (besides visiting the monkey park). Starting with the fact that the Lyons arrived on the stormiest night we have had since our arrival in Hong Kong.  Thankfully, the storm paused long enough for them to make a safe and on-time arrival. The storm resumed later that night with pounding rain and so much lightning and thunder that the sky was white with light. Even though Hong Kong is experiencing an uncharacterically cool and wet March, we had many a moment of nice and dry times which made for an enjoyable week weather-wise.

At the  Ruins of St. Paul Church, Macau

At the Ruins of St. Paul Church, Macau

I did my research before Jim and Marcia arrived and came up with a pretty comprehensive plan. The List of everything we wanted to show, experience and eat was aggressive, and we managed to check off  a “Lyon’s share” of the items. Highlights included: the city-bus ride to Stanley; turbo jet ferry to Macau; the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church; rain and more rain; The Museum of Macau; a bright colored parade of umbrellas; a visit to our favorite Macau bakery; dim sum at the Lung Wah Tea House; taxi ride to Hac Sa beach; dinner at Fernando’s (accentuated by being inside to watch a gully-washer of a storm while we stayed warm and dry and well fed); a ride on the Star Ferry; rain and more rain; bus ride to the monkey park; Easter Sunday stroll through the monkey park; Easter supper at The Pawn; a visit to the Hong Kong film archive; a movie, A Fishy Tail, presented during the Hong Kong Film Festival; drinks at Sugar; dinner at Feast; breakfast buffet Hong Kong style (with wi-fi password) at the YWCA Garden Inn restaurant; checking in on Foursquare and Instagram; numerous photo ops; pursuit of the free wi- fi; walking through the Hong Kong Zoological Park and the Botanical Gardens; a trip on the Tram to The Peak; shopping for gifts; beef brisket noodles; a walk on The Peak trail; reading The Hungary Ghosts; wok-stir-fried dinner at our flat; visiting temples and cemeteries during Ching Ming; spiral incense; ash in the air from the burned offerings; spying a dog in Chuck Taylor’s; martinis; gin and tonics; Jenny Bakery cookies; Walled-City Park of Kowloon; a visit to the bird market; a visit to the flower market; navigating subways, taxi’s, buses, trails and hills. We even managed a nap or two in the midst of all this.

How about a pig knuckle or two? Dim Sum at Long Wah Tea House, Macau

How about a pig knuckle or two? Dim Sum at Long Wah Tea House, Macau

Bringing out the incense coils at Kun Iam Temple, Macau

Bringing out the incense coils at Kun Iam Temple, Macau

Marcia and Monkey- Mar 2013

“Say Cheese,” but don’t get any ideas. We don’t have any cheese! I’m not staring!!!

Our Monkey Friend- Mar 2013

 

Umbrellas of Macau- Mar 2013

Not icicles, just a good Macau gully washer.

Not icicles, just a good Macau gully washer.

 

Come out of the rain!

Come out of the rain! At Fernando’s.

What a delightful week it was. We so enjoyed showing off our new/temporary hometown. We are to so lucky to have such good friends that are willing to make the long journey to visit AND to bring a suitcase full of our requested US goods.Thanks Jim and Marcia! Thanks for the great memories. Thanks for being such great visitors! Thanks for your friendship; We love you guys! We loved the monkey park too!

 

This is Facinating to Me – Construction and Refurbishment

There is one thing about Hong Kong you can count on; no matter where you go in the city, there is some type of construction or refurbishment taking place. Just outside our building there is a skyscraper under construction. Luckily, it is not too noisy and it is not directly in our view.

Building under construction outside Jing Tai Garden

Building under construction outside Jing Tai Garden

And just up the street, there is a building being refurbished.

Remodel visable from our balcony at Jing Tai Garden

Remodel visible from our balcony at Jing Tai Garden

For refirbishment on the a building of any size or shape, an outer skeleton of bamboo is erected. It is then shrouded in a mesh-type fabric. Yes…..bamboo!

Recently in the South China Morning Post, an article appeared titled High-Wire Kings of the Last Frontier describing the men and the process for erecting these bamboo structures. It is an ancient trade and also a form of art. “It takes strength, skill and, most importantly, intellect to be a bamboo artist, erecting intricate webs of sky-high walls and platforms strong enough to hold a legion of construction workers.”

A load of bamboo waiting for construction of outer skeleton.

A load of bamboo on Queen Road being used for construction of outer skeleton.

Bamboo going up the outside of a building on Shelley Street.

Bamboo going up the outside of a building on Shelley Street.

The bamboo is lashed together with a strap material. The men that build these structures are highly trained by fellow workers on site and over a period of years. They start measuring and cutting the bamboo and work up to designing the overall structure. In the past, these men were not educated for the job in any other way than by on-the-job experience. It is a surprisingly low accident rate and the use of bamboo, if it were to fall, does not cause as much damage as steel Usually, you must know someone already in the profession to get in and start training.. Starting salaries are around HK$350 (US$44.00) per day. Experienced hands make around  HK$10,000 (US$1,265) per month according to the South China Post article.

Workers assembling the outer structure on Wyndham Street.

Workers assembling the outer structure on Wyndham Street.

Men crawl around on the structure, working on the construction or the refurbisment. If the building is just getting a facelift or painting, then the business remains open during the process. The scaffolding is constructed around doorways and signs.

This building is probably over 20 stories tall.

This building is easily over 20 storys tall.

shrouded building 2

The days may be numbered for this profession and use of bamboo. Availibility of bamboo worldwide has increased, making it difficult to get bamboo supplies; and new governmental regulations now require new workers to complete a year-long course in a classroom and not through on-the-job training. It is less appealing to new trainees.