27 February 2015

A Real Beach Adventure

When you live on an island, going to the beach is easy enough. It's just a matter of walking in a straight line until you hit water.

But we aren't always in the right mood for easy. We decided we wanted more of an adventure in going to the beach, so we loaded up a couple backpacks with water bottles and delicious snacks, and headed out to a remote beach, only accessible either via a hike down rough trails, or a boat ride.

I don't think that ever in my life I've actually hiked to this beach and back, usually I've taken a boat on the way there or back--the hike itself isn't particularly long, it's just over 3 km, and took the 6 of us about an hour and 20 minutes to traverse.

But this is no Mammoth Cave National Park trail (for some reason, that's the park that always comes to mind when I think of smooth, well-maintained trails). I found it challenging!

Let's play--"Spot the Trail!"

Personally, I'm glad that they choose to keep the trail open even though so many of the bridges and stairs are falling apart, instead of closing it indefinitely 'for maintenance'...but this isn't a trail I'd recommend for any but adult-sized people in relatively good shape. For this reason we left all the littles home with Mama and only 6 of us tackled this adventure.

The saddest sight we saw was a dead baby dolphin on the beach--but besides that, we enjoyed our little beach picnic and explored the beautiful seashore and little coves along the shoreline with all the energy we could muster after our long hike!

 Angel and Rebekah decided that since there was a gigantic rock in the middle of the beach, they had to figure out how to climb on top of it. The rest of us shouted "No! Don't do it! It's not safe!" and snapped pictures simultaneously (possibly contradicting ourselves) as they tried multiple methods of rock climbing. I was quite skeptical that they'd both make it to the top, but in the end, a combination of strategies worked: Angel boosted Rebekah up high enough that she could scramble to the top, and then Angel took a running start, jumped onto the rock, and Rebekah leaned over and grabbed his hand so that he could make it all the way up.

Those of us not so fearless were impressed with their feat.

Rebekah is the tallest and strongest of all the girls in my family, and Angel has never met a rock he didn't want to stand on top of, so they were the perfect pair to attempt this daring feat of bravery.

*Warning: Do not try at home, if your home happens to contain gigantic barnacle-covered rocks. Instead, invite me over for dinner, because I want to see a home like that!
23 February 2015

An Old Favorite Toy

About 7 or 8 years ago, some friends gave my family this thing.

I don't know where they bought it, or if it's still made, but it's amazing.

This little dome of blue plastic and its computer brain has provided my family and all of my closest friends with endless hours of hilarity and fun.

What does it do? Simple--it plays 20 questions with you. The machine claims to be able to guess whatever you're thinking of after asking up to 20 yes-or-no questions.

And it's good, it's really good.

Some of our friends have developed the theory that the machine can hear, so in deciding on a word, they make sure to put the machine in a different room so that it can't eavesdrop on the discussion.

My siblings and I usually choose the strategy of choosing things that to us appear to be really random, obscure, and unconnected. In the past week we've tried: doormat, platypus, and faucet--it guessed them all.

One particularly hilarious evening, we thought we had hit upon the perfect word: angel. Not the one I'm married to, but the generic angel.  We giggled as we answered "Yes," "No," "Sometimes," or "Rarely." to questions like, "Can it be purchased?" "Does it bring joy?" and "Is it smaller than a microwave oven?"

(Does anyone have an estimate as to the size of an average angel?)

We were smugly convinced that the machine had no idea what we were thinking until after the 20th question, when the machine said, "You win! JUST KIDDING! Are you thinking of an angel?"

We are in awe of this machine.

Angel claims that he beat the machine with the word showerhead, but because he is Angel and because no one was with him when this supposed victory occurred, we suspect that he may have been a little purposefully vague in the way he answered the machine's questions, and in so doing, the results may not be reliable.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure it's safe to have such an intelligent toy in your house--but our home wouldn't feel quite the same without it.

Besides the 20Q's machine, I also feel great affection for Bop-it Extreme. My affection for other toys--Barbie, Lego, Play-Doh--did not extend beyond childhood.

What were the best toys you had when you were growing up?
19 February 2015

Things I Can Do

Once upon a time, I wrote a post listing a great quantity of things I can't do. That post was very fun to write, and I had a grand time reflecting on my inability to unicycle or parallel park. Today, however, Helen at I Will Bloom asked the question, "What are you excellent at?"

Semi-unrelated picture, just because I like this photo. But also, I can read quickly anywhere and anyhow. I've finished 10 books during our trip here, occasionally while being jumped on my small children. 

My answer?

I'm very, very good at strategically and creatively combining seemingly random ingredients gathered from a sparsely-stocked kitchen into a delicious meal.

I have a talent for writing.

I am surprisingly skilled at finish-construction jobs, including roofing, vinyl siding, and exterior/interior painting.

I am a confident public speaker.

I am excellent and throwing junk away. I could never be accused of being a stuff-hoarder.

I'm talented at school--especially as a student, but I'm finding, over the past year, that I actually really enjoy and appreciate being on the other side of the teacher's desk, too (metaphorically speaking, because in any class of mine, you will rarely find me behind the desk).

Regardless of the unusual way I dress, I think I'm a pretty good style-adviser for others. Whether hair or clothing, I take a combined approach of "If you really love it, wear it, whether or not it's cool." AND, when requested, can offer suggestions tailored to face shape, hair type, height, and natural colors.

Going off of that, I'm speedy at haircuts and updos, especially for curly hair.

I throw a really good party--if, by 'really good party' you mean a party involving lots of delicious food and a plethora of activities and games for guests.

I'm awesome at waking up in a good mood really early in the morning. My family has always described me as "jumping" out of bed each morning.

Possibly related, I can fall asleep quickly and easily, even in uncomfortable conditions (i.e. a twin bed shared with the husband in a hostel in a scary part of Hong Kong). I used to be able to fall asleep on a ceramic tile floor, no pillows or blankets needed, but I might not be quite that tough anymore.
15 February 2015

Best Valentine's Ever.

This past weekend was certainly the most festive Valentine's weekend of my life. On Friday night, we had a party with teenagers--the main activity was an assignment to make at least one card and decorate one cookie to give away to someone (and, afterwards, eat as many sweets as you want). On Saturday, with a group of pre-teens, we had a match-the-Biblical-couples game, "pass the parcel," and a game where the goal is to make your stony-faced friends laugh by coaxing them with the phrase, "If you love me, honey, please smile" (if they laugh, they are punished with a forfeit).

On Sunday afternoon, we collected some long-married couples for an edition of the "Newlywed Game," hosted by Angel and I. Many funny revelations occurred, including husbands who forgot how many ex-girlfriends they had (while their wives remembered), wives who confessed for the first time ever how many ex-boyfriends they had, and many a spouse who had no recollection of how they celebrated their first wedding anniversary. My own parents didn't win, but they didn't lose either, and they were the longest married couple playing the game, so we thought they did quite well at remembering things that happened a quarter-century ago.

Unfortunately, I only have pictures of the baking preparations (we did all snack-preparing on one day, and then brought rations of sweets to each party--efficiency at its best!) and of the Friday night party. The other celebrations you'll just have to imagine.

 Rice krispie treats are considered an exotic treat here, they disappear quickly!

 We have never ever before tried any candy or chocolate-making at home, but we bought some heart shaped molds and experimented with different additives (mostly crushed almonds) to create custom-made candies, and we were proud of ourselves!

 Maybe it's because they're a homeschooling family, maybe it's just because there are so many girls--either way, we didn't buy a single new supply for the card-making extravaganza--I just collected whatever craft supplies were in the house. We even had googly eyes and feathers, which made for some highly unique Valentine's cards!

 Giving away cards and cookies is a tiny, tiny thing--but this is my reason for doing it.

 Cookies were decorated with sprinkles, marshmallows, Skittles, and Mentos. We made a mess. Cookie decorating with teenagers is one of those activities that may require excessive clean-up...but it's oh-so-fun!

 We were really proud of the "romantic" atmosphere we set up for our snacks, the scattered rose petals and fake candles included! And the cake was red velvet--we went all out on the "Valentine's" theme.

To close it all off, I thought this was the perfect picture--my own Valentine, and his mischievous face.

It was the best Valentine's Day I could have imagined, and far more festive than last year's (which involved a U-Haul). :)
13 February 2015

10 Unusual Date Ideas

While I might find myself responding to the very suggestion of "romance" with nervous, awkward giggling, I am very rarely against holidays. I have no problem at all with Valentine's Day, and in honor of it, I bring to you a list of 10 of my best all-purpose date plans:

1. Go for a walk at a local cemetery and read the stones.

2. Drive around in fancy neighborhoods and select the features you'd choose for your imaginary mansions ("I'll have the white pillars on the front porch, the red brick facade, and a hot tub in the backyard, but I'll skip the 3-car garage. Boring!")

3. Walk/bike/drive down a street you've never been to before, just to see what's there.

4. Find an acupressure path (lumpy rocks stuck in cement) and challenge each other to a barefoot race (Guaranteed romance factor: Angel proposed to me minutes after a race on the acupressure path at the local park).

5. Work together to pull a prank (or multiple pranks) on beloved relatives or friends (i.e. write anonymous letters and drive out of your way to mail from an odd post office, booby-trap a car with glitter, move their stuff around). Some of the most interesting pranks are best achieved through teamwork.

6. Go to an arcade. Do this regularly, but never spend all the tickets you win, and eventually blow all of your tickets on over 10 lbs. worth of  candy. You'll feel like the very least, candy -obsessed millionaires.

7. Go to the beach during a bad storm to watch the waves. Dress warm! If you happen to get pulled over for a cracked light cover on the way home, expect that the policeman will find your story of an outing to the beach slightly unbelievable, given the current weather conditions.

8. Find old childhood photos and albums and spend some time listening to and telling stories of the pre-marriage days and laughing at old haircuts (boy, I'm glad we didn't know each other in high school...).

9. Do a science experiment you've always wanted to try. Putting mentos in coke, constructing parachutes and dropping eggs off the balcony (my favorite), growing plants from seed, dissecting organs from the butcher shop (my worst nightmare), whatever sounds like fun to you.

10. Play hide and seek in the dark. This is terrifying. Put away everything precious or breakable first. My strategy is to just hide and never ever ever leave my hiding place until the lights come back on.
11 February 2015

Impress Your Spouse with a Fantastic Date!

Scene: If you know me, you know that I like to ask random hypothetical questions out of the blue. Angel is used to this habit, and always answers my random questions

Rachel: "Imagine if you were single, and you lived in America, and you wanted to take a girlfriend on a date and really impress her, where would you go?"

Angel "Chipotle."

[I found this answer rather strange, but then I remembered that Angel's odd ideas about girlfriends in the abstract, i.e. he believes they are a waste of money. So I changed my question to see what answer I would get next.]

Rachel: "Okay, Imagine you lived in America and we were married and you wanted to take me out on a date and really really impress me, where would you go?"

Angel: "Dairy Queen."

[Honestly, this explains so much...]

Angel turned the question back on me: "Well where would you take me in America if you wanted to make me feel special, huh?"

Rachel: "Old Country Buffet."

Angel: "Wow--I would be really impressed! Great choice!"


We're still college students at heart, I guess. Tune in next time for a few of my not-necessarily-romantic date ideas.

Where would you take your spouse on a date if you were on a mission to make them say, "Wow!"?
09 February 2015

"Staying on Topic is Hard" Now Available as a Paperback!

Whoa. That was a really long title. But I really did need all of those words to tell you everything you need to know.

Staying on Topic is Hard, a volume composed of the best of this blog and as well as some previously un-published work, is still available as an ebook, but if you are staunchly opposed to reading great works of literature on an electronic screen, you're in luck, because it's now available as a paperback book on Amazon.

Detesters of e-readers, you have Carolynn to thank for this development, because it was she who clued me in on how to make a paperback edition possible (hint: use Createspace). It took a little while for me to get the book formatted, and I battled with the software to keep the ebook and paperback cover designs the same (and lost). I will warn you that this new edition of the book is more expensive than the original ebook, to compensate for printing costs.

So, I suppose I could tell you that a choice awaits you today: Which means more to you? A cheaper price, or an actual book that you can hold?

That dilemma presents a difficult problem for me, because I love getting the best deal, but I sure appreciate a shelf full of books....hmmm...

All this to say, if you're curious about my miraculous dream-bending invention (Never have a bad dream again!), need a long list of pranks to prepare for April fool's day, or share my interest in the quirks and problems unique to cross-cultural marriage--you have a choice? Digital or Paper.

I implore you, make the right one.

In other author-related news--now that I'm a published writer, I've discovered that writers really do love reviews. Thank you, all of you, who have supported me both by reading my book and reviewing it on Amazon or Smashwords or your own blogs. It means so much to me that you're willing to invest your own time and money into my writing. Ya'll are the best. Blogging has inspired me to write more regularly than I ever have before--thanks for being a part of this journey!
04 February 2015

Angelisms, part 8

Angel asked me to take this picture, and then told me: "I'm going to post this on Facebook and write a caption saying that this says something random like no swimming on Tuesdays and no smoking and no dancing."
I replied, "But a lot of your Facebook friends know Chinese. They will know you're just lying."
Angel, "So?"
He did it. No one called him out on it.


Scene: We were reminiscing about Morphine (Our former cat who now lives with our uncle)

Angel: "When we move to Malaysia, can I get another cat?"
Rachel: "Probably not, because we'll be renting an apartment. Landlords don't usually let you have cats."
Angel: "Can I get a hamster, then?"
Rachel: "No, they are smelly. You can have a fish if you want."
Angel: "No, fish are boring."
Rachel: "OK, you can have a turtle instead."
Angel: "YES! I will have a turtle and I will start a blog about all of his turtle adventures!"
Well that just escalated...


Scene: Just hanging out on the couch.

Angel: "You should give me your blog password so that if you die I can write a blog post to tell your followers what happened to you."
Rachel: "Um, okay. But you should wait for a while after I die before you post anything, you know, wait a few months until you're not so sad anymore."
Angel: "And I'm going to put a picture of you in that blog post to prove it."
Rachel: "Wait, you're going to put a picture of me DEAD on the blog?"
Angel: "Yeah, why not?"
Rachel: "No."


Scene: "God is With Us" by Casting Crowns starts playing on the computer as we're getting ready for work in the morning.

Angel: "Aww, this was our wedding song!"
Rachel: "What? It was? No. I don't remember this. When?"
Angel: "It was when you walked down the aisle, because I can remember the beginning of the song very clearly, and after that it all goes blank."
Rachel: "Why did we choose this song? It seems so random."
Angel: "I don't think there was a reason, we just wanted to be done with picking out songs."


Scene: We're waiting for the bus, and Angel has been thinking very hard.

Angel: "You know, I noticed that women never seem to want to put balloons under their shirt and joke around like they are pregnant so they have a big belly. I feel like that's something guys would do, but not girls, because girls take that kind of stuff very seriously. I mean, would you ever put a balloon under your shirt and pretend to be pregnant?"
Rachel: "Nope."
Angel: "See?"


Scene: In my parents' home in Malaysia, where the littlest ones have strewn toys all over the living room.

Angel: "When you have kids, is have a messy house?"
Everyone else: *laughs*


I'm calling for a vote, who agrees with me that it's probably in everyone's best interests to NOT give Angel the password to this blog? If I disappear forever, just assume either the worst or the best, according to your pessimistic or optimistic personalities, respectively.

02 February 2015

The Dress I Almost Didn't Buy

A couple days into our trip, we visited the mall, and while wandering down one hallway, I spotted this dress on a manikin in a store window and was magnetically drawn to it. My sisters were all with me, encouraging me to buy it--but I've avoided buying any new clothing for so long, and I'm trying not to add any to our possessions, so I resisted. I left the mall, dress-less.

But my firmness of will turned out to be not quite so firm after all. This dress was still on my mind 5 days after I first saw it, so I returned to the mall, tried it on, and bought it.

Dress, 1. Rachel, 0.

My reasoning for weakening enough to buy it was that you hardly ever actually come across a dress which screams your name, and your name alone. There are many pretty dresses in this world, but there are fewer "you" dresses. This, is, unabashedly, a "Rachel" dress. It called me. We were made for each other. The day I wore it, multiple people asked me if I made the dress, which further confirms in my mind that it looks like precisely the kind of dress only a Rachel could conceive.

Now, what does it say about me that the dresses that call to me look like they could just as easily be worn by clowns? I don't know.

Please forgive the awkward hand shot, but I was so proud of my actually painted nails. I hadn't painted my fingernails ever since we moved to China, but I've been making use of my sisters' nail polish stash here...and I also picked up two rings which seemed to be unappreciated by their rightful owners while I was cleaning their room, bringing my current number of rings worn at all times to 8. I'm still on the lookout for a ring for the index finger of my left hand. I've come to the conclusion that rings are the best jewelry investment for me, since they never merely sit in storage, they're always on me!