Thankfulness: a commercial

colour run

I was at a festival recently, where one of the speakers said that she does ‘thankfulness commercials’. When her kids start to get grumpy or complain, she makes them stop, and each name five things that they are thankful for.

And you know what? She said that once they start, they never ever can only name five. They just carry on – “I’m thankful for…my mum, my dad, my brother, my house, the sun, the moon, the stars…” etc.

It made me think how mostly, the white noise of my heart is not thankful noise. It is grumbly, complain-y, ‘if only…’ noise.

This week, I am thankful for:

  • A fab weekend away – the Colo(u)r Run, thin-crust pizza, a sandsculpture festival, the sea, and About Time
  • A warm, sunshine-y afternoon
  • Casual weekday badminton (and flexible working)
  • One of my new housemates discovering that he owns a microwave (!)
  • Other furniture gifts still coming in: a dining table, another sofa, a wardrobe, vintage porcelain dishes, money
  • A garden harvest of fat green beans and six beautiful tomatoes
  • A team and job that I love
  • A friend to sit with while reading
  • Winning at this game.
  • Long-distance phone chats
  • Encouragement to persevere, from the book of Hebrews
  • A borrowed umbrella when it was raining
  • This good read
  • The most bombastic crumble ever – plum, peach, rhubarb, fig and ginger
  • My entire church staff helping me to move house
  • My vicar/boss sawing a hole in the back of my bookcase so that I have access to power sockets
  • A helpful contact agreeing to be interviewed for an assignment
  • Cantonese curry. Stroopwafels. Home-baked jam cookies the size of your hand.
  • That man in the queue behind me at Costa, who helped pick up my change that had fallen all over the floor. (He also said it was an ‘omen from the Lord, telling me to relax today’…! Maybe so, Mr. Helpful)
  • My baby nephew. Oh the cuteness, oh the chub.
  • Complete support from ex-housemates (‘do you need any food? Cleaning supplies? Anything at all?’)
  • Indoor picnics with the just-moved-in look

 indoor picnic

And that, my friends, is all.

Have a weekend full of things to be thankful for!

holiday miracles

museum of copenhagen

Miniature model of the city from 16th century, outside Museum of CopenhagenRosenborg palace and rose gardenRosenborg palace and rose garden

My dears, I hope you have had very excellent summertimes (for those of you who do have such seasons) and that the back to work season isn’t hitting too hard.

Just recapping my holiday highlights, and this crazy wonderful thing happened to me in Copenhagen that I really had to share on here:

So when you go to that lovely city, the tourist must-see is this beautiful old amusement park called Tivoli. Everyone wants to go there, especially at night, because of the gorgeous lights, and on Fridays, they have really good free gigs by famous musicians in the park. However, because it also costs an arm and a leg to get in, I just wasn’t planning on it, and neither was the friend whom I was staying with.

Dragor - a pretty seaside town south of Copenhagen

Dragor – a pretty seaside town south of Copenhagen

little mermaid

The entirely underwhelming little mermaid statue (who, incidentally, turned 100 on the day that all this happened)

On my last day in the city, I was on the way to the Museum of Copenhagen to view a Kierkegaard exhibit, and on the way, passed by a square where stalls were being set up for a Singapore Street Food Festival. Now, I am nothing if not hungry, and so went back to check it out for dinner.

I got to the front of the ticket queue, and it turned out that they had stopped selling food tickets two people before me. I had this conversation with the cashier:

Me: (gasp) You haven’t just stopped selling tickets, have you?!
Cashier: You can come back tomorrow…
Me: But it’s my last day!
Cashier: (pause) (maybe realises that I am actually Singaporean and far away from home) Okay. I’m going to sell this girl a ticket.

old archery targets

Old archery targets on the ceiling of the Museum of Copenhagen

So I’m sitting there, eating my chicken rice made by none other than the celebrated Wee Nam Kee, who has flown in for this very occasion, when a Danish couple sit down by me. They’re discussing where to get drinks from, and we get into a conversation. Turns out they heard about the food festival from their Singaporean friend, who then comes over and joins in. I discover that they are all Christians from Hillsong Church Copenhagen.

They start telling me their stories, and it just gets curiouser and curiouser – the Singaporean girl, J, has moved around to wherever she feels God is calling her to for about the past ten years, working for lots of different churches and Christian ministries along the way. She’s the first Singaporean I’ve ever met in my generation who has made such similar life choices to me. We also have a mutual friend (my best friend from primary school). I have the gradually growing feeling that God has set us up…

And THEN. Eventually the Danish couple, who are lovely and radiant and kind and sweet, ask:

“What are you doing this evening?”
“Umm, I don’t really have any plans…”
“Well, this famous Danish musician, Mads Langer, is playing a gig at Tivoli, and we have a pass to take a guest in for free. Wanna come?”

Mads Langer in Tivoli!

Mads Langer in Tivoli!

At this point my jaw is on the floor and my eyes are bugging out of my head. But I still decide that, heck, when life is crazy good why not make it better still for someone else.

“Umm – I don’t suppose you can take TWO people in for free, can you?!”

(They talk among themselves in Danish)

“No – but we can pay for one of you!”

So this is how my friend, whom I’ve been staying with, and I get to see Tivoli and go to this incredible gig on our last night in Copenhagen.

These things, you just can’t make them up! How like God – fun, funny, surprising, overwhelmingly good and incredibly last-minute.

*

In other news, these. Are great.

Also, does anyone know where you can watch Ilo Ilo in the UK?

summer in full swing

Hello my dears, I am off gallivanting to Copenhagen (holiday) and Kent (retreat) and West Sussex (music festival) this couple of weeks, but thought I’d document some summer memories so far:

Went to see this amazing exhibition a few weeks ago, and was moved to tears by the compassion, sense of humour and all-round sparkly wonderfulness of Quentin Blake. What a genius.

This has also been happening in Coventry recently – lots of outdoor sports activities, including cycling round the (in)famous ring road, and one of my friends dressing up as Skippy (a kangaroo, what else)! Fun times. Making me feel proud of Coventry, especially its design and manufacturing heritage.

It was a real-life steam train! That you could actually travel on! Enough to turn any adult back into a child.

Perfect summery dishes: here and here (works just as well with pork, by the way).

Saw this movie a couple weeks ago – so much food for thought.

And, my summer reading.

Finally, a very beautiful, moving video piece: (Edit 5/9/13: Sorry, this link doesn’t seem to be working anymore. You can view the video here however: http://www.simonchristen.com/adrift.html)

Happy weekend! Hope you have some barefoot, hanging out-y fun.

a song for your summer

For the sound of your summer, there can be no other than the esteemed Ben Howard. What an awesome music video!

Have a summery, hanging-out-y, playful weekend.

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In other news, a friend has demanded to know what exactly my community house‘s “season of high challenge” consisted of, as soon as possible – so, here’s the reveal…

Some of us in the house were really challenged by this story, particularly Jesus’ words to “sell what you possess and give to the poor”. So we gave away all our income for a month, keeping it a secret from most people, and lived ‘by faith’, i.e. just on what we happened to receive.

At the same time, we also really wanted to keep being more and more hospitable as a house, so we decided that we would keep having friends over and feeding them whatever we had. We also didn’t want to start behaving in a poor way, i.e. just hoarding and trying to make whatever we had last as long as possible, since that doesn’t require any faith, so we ate as much and as good quality as we normally would.

Some things I learnt during this time:

  • ‘Not having anything’ (or rather, thinking we don’t have anything) is immensely freeing and a great stimulant to creativity. It is nowhere near as scary as I thought it would be. It did, however, feel nasty, all stripped down like fasting (which I am really bad at). Which leads me to…
  • My spirituality is flabby. Quite often my comfort does not come from God; it comes from new clothes and £3 hot chocolates in cafes. Loving money and ‘stuff’ is a stronghold that needs to be contested regularly
  • However, God can totally be trusted to provide. Quite a lot of free stuff appeared during this time…
  1. Petrol – the few people we had told decided to fill up our tanks! So we had enough to go places
  2. Food – always enough to feed ourselves and any friends we had over; lots of timely leftovers from various shindigs
  3. A replacement bedframe and mattress when I had bedbugs! – my parents had promised me a new mattress ages ago, so it was time to cash in; my housemate had a spare bedframe
  4. Lifts – quite a lot of them just when they would have been nice (and sometimes necessary); from people that we knew, who happened to be driving by
  5. Fun! – Charlecote Park, a cool art installation project, Coventry cathedral secondhand book sale, a barbecue, getting kidnapped to go and see As You Like It by the Royal Shakespeare Company, seeing Watford FC play live (!) etc etc
  • Manifestly, God is in the business of providing beyond the stale-crusts-and-water lifestyle
  • He is also a big fan of hospitality
  • If your finances aren’t in shape, it’s hard to bless other people
  • I don’t tell God nearly enough what I want
  • These things are better done in community. Much better. It’s amazing how powerful community is to keep people alive and happy.

On reflection, I have realised that while my feelings associated with this season were of misery and there not being enough, the fact is that there was always enough, and then some. It’s just that my idea of what is ‘enough’ is a lot beyond what is actually needed to have a perfectly adequate, enjoyable life.

We don’t seem to be any the worse for the wear, and it’s definitely gotten under the veneer of my religion (the stuff I say I believe) to show me the condition of my faith (what I actually believe). Feels like just the beginning of a much longer process of faith adventures, cultivating a simple life and growing in trust…

recently

heart leaves

Life has been a lot of fun lately. Now that exams are over, the Warwick campus is full of English summer wonders, e.g. Morris dancing, and local produce markets.

morris dancing on campus

There have been opportunities to play this elegantly simple strategy game, a birthday present from my lovely housemates.

There has been time to make blueberry-lemon cake (delicious) and a beansprout banchan so addictive that I needed the intervention of my younger sister visiting to wrench it from my hands. For about three days it was perfectly acceptable to eat this banchan: for breakfast at 7.30am, for elevenses, with lunch, after lunch, throughout the afternoon, for dinner, for dessert, and in the middle of the night when you woke up thinking about it. By the way, the recipe’s not bad, but if you can, add some white rice vinegar and chilli and garlic sauce — then you’ll really get obsessive.

beansprout banchan

Coventry also had a cycling festival this past weekend, which made me realise that 1. the city does actually have a bit of a cycling culture, hooray, and 2. the bicycle industry has been among those that made Coventry’s fortunes — along with silk, ribbons, watch and clockmaking, and the manufacture of sewing machines and cars. Apparently in the 1890s most of the bicycles in the world were made here. I quite like being part of a city that actually makes stuff.

Also, how cool is this online vintage bicycle museum?

And, there has been a trip to this amazing little place in Leamington Spa. Tea, cake, and live jazz piano? Um YES YES WHY HAVE YOU NOT BEEN IN MY LIFE BEFORE YES.

Leaf piano bar

Speaking of tea, this Sunday is our church’s big family day — every year, people from our four different congregations all get together for a day of hog roast, lawn games, worship and teaching, inflatable slides, baptisms, communion, facepainting, ice creams, thanksgiving for the past year…and a huge afternoon tea baked and served entirely by church people to other church people. Guess who gets to coordinate serving the afternoon tea to a 300-strong family with her housemate 😉 It was crazy the first two years, but now I love it. Pray for sunshine!

Have a good weekend — go find some afternoon tea yourself!

This and that

Companies being disgusting:
Baby health crisis in Indonesia as formula companies push products | World news | The Guardian.

Food giants still flouting code on promoting baby milk formula in developing countries | Business | The Observer.

This was why my university banned all Nestle products on campus, Nestle having infamously promoted baby milk formula in Africa, causing infant mortality rates to RISE.

Eight top fashion retailers fail to sign Bangladesh safety accord | Business | The Guardian.

Ethical shopping: how the high street fashion stores rate | Lucy Siegle | Fashion | The Guardian.

Food:

BBC News – Using tree food recipes to fight off malnutrition.

India's rice revolution | Global development | The Observer.

Funny:

Sats girl takes Michael Gove, the comma chameleon, to task | Politics | The Guardian.

The 10 best words the internet has given English | Books | guardian.co.uk.

because I am in a hungry mood…

…here are some weekend food links:

Peanut butter and chocolate — they sing, they jive, they do a little twirl. You want this fudgey smudgey brownie version.

Three words: O. Kono. Miyaki. I have been down a few streets in Japan where there literally were ONLY okonomiyaki restaurants. Please God, there had better be one of those streets in heaven. BIG LOVE. (Also, homemade yogurt panna cotta with walnuts and honey. WHAT.)

You want something festively weekendy to wash it all down with.

If you get hangry, maybe you need some of these.

And finally, dishes that grandmothers around the world make (including a few surprises!). My grandmother would make these ngoh hiang (Hokkien meat rolls) that were just out of this world. We once asked her what her secret was, and bearing in mind that this is a super traditional Hokkien recipe involving all kinds of only-in-Asia ingredients, she grinned and said…

ngoh hiang

Ngoh hiang (Hokkien meat rolls)

“…Jacob’s cream crackers.”

Cracks me up every time.

Happy weekend, guys!

(Photo from here – and a recipe too. With thanks.)